Sunday, February 15, 2015

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 57: Capitals 5 - Ducks 3

The Washington Capitals made it two out of three in the Golden State, defeating the Anaheim Ducks by a 5-3 margin on Sunday night at Honda Center. 

The game had the look of a drag race early on.  The teams exchanged goals 16 seconds apart before the game was two minutes old.  Andrew Cogliano got it started for the home team when he put home a rebound of a Francois Beauchemin shot 66 seconds into the game. 

Alex Ovechkin tied it 16 seconds later when Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff to goalie John Gibson’s left, drawing the puck over to Ovechkin at the edge of the right wing circle.  Ovechkin settled the puck with his left skate and in one motion fired a snap shot that beat Gibson through the wickets to make it 1-1.

Corey Perry restored the Ducks’ lead at the 5:33 mark when he fired across his body and through a John Carlson screen past Peters’ blocker.  Anaheim could not extend their lead, though, and Ovechkin made them pay on a power play mid-way through the period.  Backstrom circled at the top of the offensive zone and left the puck for Mike Green crossing behind him.  Green laid the puck out to the left wing circle, and Ovechkin pounded it past Gibson on the far side at the 10:26 mark. 

Although the teams would combine for four goals on Despite the four goals on 18 shots in the first 10:26, that would be all the scoring in the first period.  In the second period, the Caps took their first lead in the fourth minute when the Caps took advantage of a slow Anaheim line change.  From the Caps’ blue line, Matt Niskanen found Marcus Johansson in the middle of the ice at the Anaheim blue line, and Johansson had nothing but clear ice in front of him.  He took the puck between the circles, then snapped a shot past Gibson’s blocker, and it was 3-2, Capitals.

Less than six minutes later the Caps put the Ducks in a head lock. Jack Hillen spied Ovechkin skating up the left side with only Cam Fowler back for the Ducks.  Ovechkin circled past him, and as Hampus Lindholm slid across to deny Ovechkin a clear path to the net, Ovechkin sent a backhand pass to Andre Burakovsky skating down the right side.  Burakovsky snapped the puck past Gibson’s glove before the goalie could get across, and it was 4-2.

Andrew Cogliano got the Ducks within a goal with his second of the game, taking a goal mouth feed from Jakob Silfverberg and stuffing the puck into the open side of the net past goalie Justin Peters.

That would be how the third period ended.  The Caps got an insurance goal when Ovechkin and Burakovsky teamed up once more.  It started in the Caps’ end when Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler could not find the puck in his skates.  Ovechkin jumped up and pushed the puck forward out of the zone.  Skating down the left side he waited until Ben Lovejoy tried to brush the puck off his stick and laid the puck off into space where only Burakovsky could get it. Burakovsky deked to the ice, then slid a backhand past Gibson’s glove for the last goal in a 5-3 Caps win.

Other stuff…

-- The four point night for Ovechkin (two goals, two assists) was his second four-point night of the season, the first coming back on November 2nd in a 6-5 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.  It was also his 19th four-point game of his career.  For the Caps it was their third four-point night of the season, Nicklas Backstrom in a 4-0 win over New Jersey on December 20th.

-- It was Andre Burakovsky’s first two-goal game in the NHL.  He is 4-2-6 in his last seven games and moved into a tie for 11th in rookie points scoring (9-12-21).

-- Burakovsky (4) and Ovechkin (7) combined for 11 of the Caps’ 28 shots on goal and 17 of the team’s 55 shot attempts for the game.

-- Marcus Johansson broke a 12-game streak without a goal with his tally in the second period.  He also broke a four-game streak of minus-1’s.

-- Nicklas Backstrom had a pair of assists to take over the assist lead (43) over Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek (42).  It was also his 19th multi-point game this season, tops in the league, and his seventh multi-point game in his last 14 contests.

-- Give Justin Peters credit for his performance in goal.  Early on it looked as if he was going into meltdown mode, giving up two goals on the first eight shots he faced and allowing rebounds on several others.  But, he shut the door, stopping 24 of the last 25 shots he faced to pick up his first win since November 8th.

-- Peters was a perfect 11-for-11 on the penalty kill.  Considering that he stopped only 16 of 25 shots on the penalty kill (.640 save percentage) coming into this game, that was a remarkable performance.

-- Karl Alzner and Mike Green led the team with five hits apiece.  It is probably the first time in a while that Brooks Orpik was not in the top two in that statistic.

-- The defense had four assists for the game, one each by Matt Niskanen, Jack Hillen, Brooks Orpik, and Mike Green.

-- The Ducks outshot the Caps, 33-28, and they out-attempted them by a 69-55 margin.  However, the possession numbers were closer in 5-on-5 close score situation.  Anaheim had a Corsi-for in those situations of 50.8 percent. 

In the end…

It was a solid win and a nice present to wrap up the Fathers’ trip.  The team  worked hard to give Justin Peters a chance out there, something that has not always been the case when he has been in net.  And he made the best of that opportunity, fighting off some early yips to finish strong.  At the other end, Backstrom’s two-point night lifted him into a tie for third in points (with Dallas’ Tyler Seguin), and Ovechkin’s four-point night left him in sixth place in points, one behind Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby.  But the Caps got secondary scoring from Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson and some solid offensive support from the blue line.  They did so while preventing the Ducks from building on an early advantage.  It was not the sort of California trip Caps fans are used to seeing, although this year’s 2-1-0 effort builds nicely from last season’s 2-0-1 left coast record.  All in all, it was not a bad stay in California.

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was -- Week 19

In Week 19 the Washington Capitals hit a pothole on their way through their schedule.  A disappointing loss to a rival, an extra-time win in a place where success has been rare, and a flat performance to close the week made for what was an unusual result for the Caps lately -- a losing week.

Record: 1-2-0

The 12-week streak of non-losing weeks came to an end in Week 19.  Over those 12 weeks the Caps went 21-8-7 and likely cemented a playoff spot.  Week 19 was disturbing, though, for the manner in which the Caps came to lose two games this week.  They were flat as a crepe against the Flyers, a team against which the Caps are just 1-1-1 this season and only four goals scored in the three games (a 3-1 loss this week).  They were similarly flat against the Los Angeles Kings, getting their only goal from Alex Ovechkin and more than a third of their total shot attempts from Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.  Teams go through dead spots over the course of an 82-game season, and a 12-week streak of non-losing streaks might have made Caps fans (not to mention the team) a bit complacent.  The trick will be to avoid another “red” week in Week 20.

Offense: 2.33/game (season: 2.88 /game; rank: 9th)

When Jay Beagle ties for the team lead in goals for the week, it is not a very productive week overall.  No insult meant for Beagle, but fourth line offense is not what the club is going to be able to count on from game to game.  As for Beagle, his pair of goals and an assist against San Jose in the middle game of the week represented his first career three-point game in the NHL.  Alex Ovechkin also had two goals for the week, oddly enough each of them being the only goal the Caps scored against Philadelphia and Los Angeles in losses.  Nicklas Backstrom had three assists to lead the team in that column, but the odd part there was Brooks Orpik recording a pair to tie for the second-highest assist total. He tied with Evgeny Kuznetsov, who provided the primary assist on each of Ovechkin’s goals for the week.

Defense: 3.33/game (season: 2.46 /game; rank: 8th)

It was not the shot totals that did in the Caps in Week 19.  They allowed an average of 28.3 shots per game for the week and did not allow more than 30 in any of them.  They were out-attempted for the week, though, by a 174-164 margin.  It was worse at even strength.  The Caps were Corsi minus-30 at 5-on-5 over the three games and only 44.6 percent Corsi-for.  Fenwick was worse still, minus-28 and 43.1 percent.  It was not an especially good week for either John Carlson or Alex Ovechkin, both of whom were on ice for six of the ten goals against, Ovechkin for five of the eight even strength goals against.

Goaltending: 3.02 / .893 (season: 2.40 / .915 / 6 shutouts)

Braden Holtby did not have the best of weeks.  He had all the minutes played by goaltenders and had what for him was a difficult time of it.  He had a Jekyll and Hyde (and Hyde) week of it.  Stopping all 28 first period shot he faced in three games, he was just 27-for-32 in the second periods of games (.844 save percentage), made worse by allowing three goals on 13 shots in the second period against San Jose.  In the third periods of games he was slightly worse, stopping 19 of 23 shots (.826).  The odd stat for him this week was facing only two power play shots, one in each of the last two games of the week.  He allowed a goal on the first of them, against the Sharks, and stopped the only one he faced against the Kings.  After a stretch in which he was 17-3-6, 1.90, .936, with five shutouts over a 26-game stretch of appearances, this might have been due.

Power Play: 2-for-10 / 20.0 percent (season: 23.2 percent; rank: 4th)

The ten power play opportunities in Week 19 was just the eighth time in 19 weeks that the Caps enjoyed ten or more man advantages.  It was a middle-of-the road sort of week, even with the comparatively large number of chances.  There was a sameness in the goals – Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom had points on both (Troy Brouwer recording a goal and Evgeny Kuznetsov an assist to round out the point total), but otherwise it was a power play that lacked for efficiency.  The Caps recorded only 11 power play shots on goal in 16:15 of power play ice time.  Alex Ovechkin had six of them, while five other Caps had one apiece.

Penalty Killing: 3-for-5 / 60.0 percent / (season: 80.3 percent; rank: 20th)

Part of effective penalty killing, especially for an inefficient penalty kill such as that the Caps have had for most of the season, is limiting opportunities.  Twice in Week 19 the Caps held an opponent to a single power play chance.  Twice they allowed a goal.  Twice they allowed a power play goal on the only shot on goal by the opponent.  Not that it mattered a great deal in the overall scheme of the week.  One power play goal was an empty net power play score by the Flyers in their 3-1 win over the Caps, the other was against the Sharks in what would be the Caps’ only win of the week.  Overall the Caps allowed two goals on five shots on three power plays covering 6:49 of shorthanded ice time.  Given the empty net power play goal scored on them in the first game of the week, it wasn’t as bad a week on the penalty kill as it might seem.  That does not, however, make it good.

Even Strength Goals for/Goals Against: 5-8 / minus-3 (season, 5-on-5 goals for/goals against ratio: 1.08; rank: 12th)

Week 19 turned on the even strength goal differential.  Washington was outscored, 2-0, at even strength by the Flyers and by a 3-1 margin against the Kings in the two losses for the week.  In those games the Caps were outshot by a 50-34 margin at evens.  In their lone win the Caps were outshot by a one-shot margin (29-28) at even strength and outscored the Sharks, 4-3.   The top line was largely absent at 5-on-5, recording only one point for the week, an assist by Nicklas Backstrom against the Sharks (Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kunzetsov combined for an Ovechkin goal against the Kings at 4-on-4).

Faceoffs: 73-172 / 42.4 percent (season: 50.9 percent; rank: 13th)

The Caps lost Week 19 in the circle in a big way.  They lost all three games and both the offensive (31.0 percent) and defensive zones (43.1 percent) for the week.  The offensive zone performance was especially poor, given that their 10-for-24 effort against the Kings was the high-water mark.  The Caps were a combined 8-for-34 against Philadelphia and San Jose (23.5 percent) in the offensive zone.  No Capital taking ten or more draws for the week finished as high as 50 percent overall. Eric Fehr came closest at 22-for-47 (46.8 percent).

Goals by Period:

The Caps were fine for one period in Week 19, scoring the only first period goal over the three games.  The second and third periods were another story.  Even with the second period of the San Jose accounted for (the Sharks outscored the Caps, 3-1), it was a minus week in the middle frame, scoring one other goal and allowing two others.  The third period was utterly forgettable, allowing two goals to the Flyers (one empty-netter), one to San Jose, and two more to the Kings.  The Caps finished the week having allowed the fourth-fewest first period goals in the league (35), but they fell out of the top third in rankings for goals allowed in the second period (11th) and were on the verge of falling out of the top third in goals allowed in the third period (tied for 10th).

In the end…

Week 19 was going to be a difficult week.  They opened against one of their oldest and most bitter rivals, a team against which they have had an odd difficulty scoring against this season (the Flyers are 24th in scoring defense).  Then it was off to California, which has not been kind to the Caps over the years, especially in San Jose and Los Angeles.  The Caps broke a string of more than 20 seasons not beating the Sharks in regulation or overtime with their 5-4 win in overtime, but they fell for the fifth straight time to the Kings in Los Angeles.  The Caps did not play above expectations in Week 19, and given their two month run going into this week probably did not meet them, either.  Week 20 does not get appreciably easier, a four-game week that will include Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, and the New York Islanders, all of which are playoff-eligible.  It might be among their toughest tests of the season.

Three Stars:
  • First Star: Jay Beagle (2-1-3, plus-3, no goals scored against on ice, goals on his only two shots on goal for the week)
  • Second Star:  Alex Ovechkin (2-1-3, points in all three games, 16 shots on goal, 30 of the Caps’ 164 shot attempts for the week)
  • Third Star:  Nicklas Backstrom (0-3-3, recorded his 18th multi-point game of the season (tied for most in the league))

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 57: Capitals at Ducks, February 15th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up their California tour on Sunday evening when they visit the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.

The Caps will be jumping back on the ice after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, while the Ducks will be taking the ice for the first time since breaking a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.

This will be another of those games for the Caps against a team they recently faced.  In this case, the Caps topped the Ducks in a Gimmick, 3-2, nine days ago.  Neither team has been particularly successful since that meeting.  The Caps are 1-2-0, dropping a pair of 3-1 decisions, one to Philadelphia and the other to Los Angeles, while grabbing a 5-4 overtime win over San Jose.  As for Anaheim, the Ducks are also 1-2-0 since meeting the Caps, losing both ends of their trip to Florida – 5-3 to Tampa Bay and 6-2 to Florida – before beating Carolina last Thursday.

For the Caps, the problem since the win over Anaheim has been two-fold.  First, there is just the general inability to generate consistent offense.  A single goal scored in two of the three games is the first time they were held to one goal or fewer in two of three games since mid-November when the Caps lost consecutive decisions to New Jersey (1-0) and St. Louis (4-1) scoring one or fewer goals.

Then there are the late game antics.  The Caps held opponents scoreless in the first period of all three games, but they allowed a total of five goals in each of the second and third periods of those games.  The odd thing about that, however, is that three of the second period goals were scored by San Jose, the opponent the Capitals defeated.

For the Ducks, the problems have been keeping the puck out of their own net and keeping goaltenders healthy.  Against the Tampa Bay Lighting, Frederik Andersen left the game in the third period when the net was upended and landed on his neck.  He left that contest and is out for this game on injured reserve.  Ilya Bryzgalov came in and shut the door for the last eight minutes (more accurately, the defense did the shutting down, allowing only one shot on goal) in the 5-3 loss.  Bryzgalov started the next game for the Ducks and “duck” might better have been used as a verb.  Bryzgalov allowed three goals on eight shots in 26 minutes before giving way to John Gibson, called up in Andersen’s absence.  Gibson allowed three goals on 18 shots in mop-up duty in the 6-2 loss.  He was much better in the 2-1 win over Carolina, allowing only one goal on 36 shots.  On the other hand, the Hurricanes have the second-worst scoring offense in the league (2.15 goals/game), so it is hard to say just how much Gibson represents as a solution in the near term for the Ducks.

Here is how the teams compare overall:

Since there isn’t a lot of movement in the teams’ relative statistics since the last time they met, we will go right to…

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Anaheim: Ryan Getzlaf

Ryan Getzlaf missed the meeting of these teams on February 6th with a lower body injury. Nevertheless, since the all-star game break he has had an interesting time of it.  He is 2-2-4 in seven games, but the points were recorded in consecutive one goal-one assist games.  He also happens to be minus-5 in those games, on ice for 12 of the 25 goals allowed by the Ducks over those seven games (he missed games against Nashville and the Caps in that time).  He is still tied for ninth in overall scoring and is still plus-7 for the season.  Despite playing in his tenth season, this will be only Getzlaf’s tenth appearance against the Caps.  In nine appearances thus far he is 3-7-10, minus-1.

Washington: Justin Peters

Braden Holtby is in, for him, a slump, having lost two of three games, with a 3.02 goals against average and a save percentage of .893.  It might be time to get Justin Peters a start.  With two appearances since November and having been passed over for a start against Anaheim in favor of Philipp Grubauer, Peters has almost as much rust on him as the Titanic.  Nevertheless, Holtby probably can’t play all the back-to-backs (this will complete the Caps’ sixth back-to-back set of games in their last 19 contests).  In his last contest, a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues, Peters tied the most shots faced by a Caps goaltender this season (40), so it wasn’t as if the defense gave him much of a break.  Still, these are the situations for which Peters was signed, and he is going to have to step up against a tough opponent with the Caps looking to avoid back-to-back losses and keep in contact with the three teams ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division. He is 1-0-1, 1.85, .940 in two career appearances against the Ducks.

In the end…

The Caps are seven points behind the New York Islanders for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division and three behind the New York Rangers for third.  The three teams ahead of the Caps have done well recently, all of them on winning streaks.  The Caps are in no imminent danger of being challenged for a playoff spot (they are nine points ahead of Florida, but the Panthers do hold two games in hand), but they do not want to give teams behind them hope, either.  Honda Center is one venue in California where the Caps have had some consistent success.  They take a four-game winning streak on Anaheim ice into this game.  Making it five in a row would keep them in sight of the group ahead of them in the standings.

Capitals 3 – Ducks 2

A NO-Point (NO-Post) Night -- Game 56: Kings 3 - Capitals 1

The Washington Capitals lost to the Los Angeles Kings last night, 3-1.  We missed it because, if you haven't heard, we had some powerful winds blowing through that knocked out power.  It seems as if the Caps sort of missed it, too, based on the subdued comments of head coach Barry Trotz after the contest.

Back on the horse Sunday, boys.