Friday, February 06, 2015

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 53: Ducks at Capitals, February 6th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals have little time to reflect on their 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night as they head home to face the Anaheim Ducks at Verizon Center on Friday evening.

The name no longer includes the word “mighty,” but the Ducks have been that so far this season.  With a 34-12-6 record, Anaheim holds the best record in the league and is tied for wins with the St. Louis Blues.

The Ducks come to Washington fresh of consecutive wins, beating the Carolina Hurricanes in a 5-4 overtime decision last Tuesday, then beating the Nashville Predators in what for both clubs was a “statement” game, 5-2 in Nashville last night.

In this abbreviated prognosto, here are some random facts with which to beguile and impress your friends…

-- Anaheim has the best record in the league, but you wonder if there isn’t a fun house mirror sort of quality to it.  They do not rank particularly highly in any high-end statistical category:
  • Scoring offense: 2.88 goals/game (10th)
  • Scoring defense: 2.62 goals/game (17th)
  • 5-on-5 GF/GS ratio: 1.07 (14th)
  • Power play: 17.8 percent (16th)
  • Penalty killing: 81.5 percent (17th)

-- What the Ducks do is manage leads extremely well.  They are 25-1-5 when scoring first (fourth in winning percentage) and 21-0-2 when taking a lead into the third period (sixt-best winning percentage, one of eight teams not to lose in regulation).

-- One other thing about the Ducks’ game management.  Good luck against them in one-goal games.  They are 23-0-6.  That is the second best winning percentage, and no other team in the league has fewer than two one-goal losses in regulation time.

-- One thing this Anaheim team has in common with the 2007 edition that won a Stanley Cup, they fight.  The Ducks have 23 fighting majors, tied for fourth in the league.  The 2006-2007 club led the league with 71 fighting majors.

-- Washington played their 33rd one-goal game last night and 13th in their last 17 games.  Over both the season (13-10-10) and this recent stretch (5-4-4) they are playing such games at a coin-flip points pace.

-- Seventeen games is more than a fifth of the season, and over that stretch of games Alex Ovechkin is scoring goals at a 77-goal pace over a full season (16).  Sustainable?  Well, no.  He is shooting to a 19.8 percent pace.  His career shooting percentage before this streak was 12.1 percent.

-- On the other hand, the goal scoring streak is something of a reset for Ovechkin.  Before embarking on it he had 16 goals on 173 shots, a 9.2 percent shooting percentage.  As it is, for the season he is shooting 12.6 percent, well in line with his career mark to date of 12.3 percent.

-- Braden Holtby is now top-five in goals against average (2.14/5th), save percentage (.925/5th), and shutouts (six/2nd).  He leads the league in total minutes played (2,634).

-- Holtby’s minutes number is more than 100 more minutes than New Jersey’s Cory Schneider (2,524), who started the season setting a club mark for consecutive starts at the beginning of a season.

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov (20 points) and Andre Burakovsky (19 points) rank ninth and tenth in rookie scoring.  Kuznetsov ranks fourth in rookie power play scoring (7 points).

In the end…

This will be a benchmark game for the Caps in that they are playing the league’s most accomplished team to date.  On the other hand, this will be the Caps’ seventh game in 11 days.  They are 3-2-1 in the first six games of this stretch, and quite frankly that is not altogether bad under the circumstances (three back-to-back sets of games in there). 

The Caps won their first game when allowing the first goal since they beat Chicago, 3-2, back on November 7th.  It would not be something to count on against the Ducks, though, who are a very skilled team at winning when scoring first.  That might be the key to this whole game.  Anaheim is 25-1-5 when scoring first, the Caps are 25-1-4.  Who do you think we have scoring first?

Capitals 3 – Ducks 2

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 52: Capitals 2 - Senators 1

In last night’s game between the Washington Capitals and the Ottawa Senators, the offense came and went in the blink of an eye.  Three goals were scored in a span of 2:02 for all the scoring the game would have. The Caps spotted the Senators the first one, then scored two of their own and escaped with a 2-1 win.

The Senators scored first when they pinned the Caps in their own end and finished off their good work on a wrist shot by Kyle Turris from the slot that sailed over goalie Braden Holtby’s glove at the 12:15 mark.

Just 73 seconds later the Caps tied it.  Andre Burakovsky won a battle along the wall to move the puck down the right wing wall to Tom Wilson.  After circling around the Ottawa net, Wilson threw the puck out to Brooks Orpik at the left point. Orpik’s drive from the point was blocked in front, but the puck skittered to Evgeny Kuznetsov all alone to goalie Robin Lehner’s left.  Kuznetsov snapped the puck in before Lehner could scramble back into position, and it was 1-1.

The score remained that way only 49 seconds.  It started when the Caps dumped the puck in, but Lehner could not stop it behind his own net.  Marcus Johansson picked it up along the right wing wall and fed it across to Jay Beagle skating down the left side.  Beagle spun in, then threw a backhand shot at the net that Lehner blocked.  The puck popped into the air where Alex Ovechkin, who gained inside position on defenseman Erik Karlsson at the top of the crease, swatted it in out of mid-air.

Braden Holtby took over from there, stopping 25 of 26 shots overall, and the Caps had their 2-1 win.

Other stuff…

-- When Turris scored on Holtby it broke a streak of 225:57 of shutout hockey in regulation time for Braden Holtby.

-- The Caps were awarded one power play, their fewest in a game since they had just one in a 4-3 loss against Vancouver on December 2nd.  That power play was not awarded until there was 3”10 left in the contest.

-- The Caps had unusual balance in their shots on goal.  No player had more than three (four players), and seven players had two shots on goal.

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goal made it points in four of his last six games (2-3-5).

-- The win was the Caps’s first in Ottawa since beating the Senators, 5-3, on December 7, 2011.  The win broke a four-game losing streak in Ottawa.

-- The Caps dominated possession , 50 shot attempts at 5-on-5 to 32 for the Senators and 14 offensive zone starts to seven for the Sens.

-- Speaking of possession, every Capital was even or better in Corsi plus-minus except Mike Green (minus-6) and Jack Hillen (minus-2).  Hillen was the only Capital in negative Fenwick territory (minus-4). 

-- In a space of 6:48 on the game clock early in the third period and the Caps nursing the one-goal lead, they spent six full minutes killing three penalties.  Ottawa got six shots from six different players in those six power play minutes, but none of them found the back of the net.

-- Jason Chimera returned to the lineup last night.  He did not record a point, but he did have three shots on goal, two takeaways, and a faceoff win in 11:33 of ice time.

-- Ovechkin’s 32 goal of the season was his 16th in 17 games.  He has not gone consecutive games without a goal since he had a four-game streak without a goal, December 11-18. 

In the end…

Even if we thought the Caps might break their goal-scoring drought against a goalie who had not yet faced them in his career, this low-scoring result was not surprising in one respect.  Over their last 17 games the Caps have played in 13 one-goal decisions to a record of 5-4-4.  They have not played in consecutive games with a two-or-more goal decision since splitting games with the New York Islanders (a 4-2 loss) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (a 3-0 win) in late December.  They have not won consecutive decisions by two or more goals since beating New Jersey (4-1) and Tampa Bay (5-3) in early December, what is now a streak of 25 games without doing so. 

With the win, the Caps are three points out of the Metropolitan Division lead, the closest they have been to the top spot since October 31st.  Tied with the Rangers for third in division standings points, three points is all that separate the top four teams in the Metro. 

Close margins in games, close packing in the standings.  Hang on.