Saturday, March 05, 2016

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 65: Capitals at Bruins, March 5th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals, having wrapped up their three-game home stand by dropping a 3-2 decision to the New York Rangers on Friday night, head to Boston to take on the Bruins on Saturday evening.

The Bruins are making what looks like a late-season push to solidify their standing as a postseason qualifier.  Boston comes into this game with four wins in their last five games and is just two points shy of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers for the lead in the Atlantic Division.

The Bruins have outscored their opponents by a 16-9 margin over their last five games, the scoring led by Patrice Bergeron (3-3-6).  It is part of a longer run of scoring on Bergeron’s part; he is 6-5-11, plus-5, in his last ten games and has not had consecutive games without a point in that span.  Bergeron remains one of the premier faceoff men in the game.  He has gone ten straight games with a winning percentage of 50 percent of better, andhe hasn’t gone consecutive games under 50 percent since late November.  Among players taking at least 500 draws, Bergeron ranks ninth in the league in overall winning percentage (56.9 percent).

Torey Krug leads the club with five assists in the Bruins’ last five games.  He is another player with a longer span of recent success with points in seven of his last nine games (0-8-8, plus-7).  In his three full seasons to date he has been a remarkably consistent half-point-a-game defenseman (0.51/game in 2013-2014, 0.50 last season, and 0.50 this season with 32 points in 64 games).  He is 0-1-1, minus-5, in eight career games against Washington.

Conspicuous by his absence in Bruin scoring over the last five games is defenseman Zdeno Chara.  At 38 years of age, the big guy is clearly slowing down, even if he does remain a formidable force in his own end.  On offense, though, he is without a point in his last six games, and he has just a pair of assists in his last ten games.  Chara is 7-19-26, plus-9, in 62 career games against the Caps.

Here is how the teams compare overall:

1.  It has not been with special teams that the Bruins won four of their last five games.  Their power play was 2-for-14 (14.3 percent), and their penalty kill was 9-for-13 (69.2 percent) for a rather dismal 83.5 on the special teams index.

2.  Three goals for seems like a threshold of success for the Bruins (it might be for most teams).  They have only three wins in regulation this season in 26 games when scoring two or fewer goals (6-17-3 overall).  They are 30-3-1 when allowing two or fewer games, so from the Boston point ofview, it might be “first to ‘three’ wins.”

3.  The Bruins have a knack for taking a lead.  They scored the game’s first goal in 40 of their 65 games so far this season. They don’t have such a knack for holding those leads.  Their 28-11-1 record, while certainly a fine one in those instances, is the 17th-ranked winning percentage (.700).

4.  Boston has the most efficient power play on home ice in the league (24.5 percent).  They do not get as many opportunities to exploit that advantage as they or their fans might like. Their 98 power play opportunities at home ranks tied for sixth-fewest in the league.

5.  The Bruins are one of those teams whose 5-on-5 numbers are inconsistent.  They have a Corsi-for percentage at 5-on-5 overall of just 48.5, 19th in the league.  However, their 5-on-5 goal differential of plus-12 ranks sixth (numbers from

1.  If the Caps win this game, they will become the fourth-winningest team in franchise history, tied with the 2010-2011 and 1983-1984 editions.  Only a trio of 50-or-more-win teams would be ahead.

2.  When Jay Beagle scored last night to make it a 2-1 game, you knew the Caps were going to win or at least get a point out of this game.  The Caps were 22-0-4 in games in which Beagle scored a goal over his career until last night.  Now it’s 22-1-4.

3.  Alex Ovechkin was held to one shot on goal last night, just the third time this season he was held to a single shot on goal in a game (December 3rd versus Montreal and December 12th versus Tampa Bay).

4.  If you dominate shot attempts at 5-on-5 by an almost 2-to-1 margin (66-38), have a big edge in scoring chances (31-16), and control the shots on goal (34-23), you are supposed to win more often than not in this league.  The 66 shot attempts against the Rangers last night was the second highest total posted by the Caps this season (68 versus Calgary on November 13th).  That PDO of 93.9, though, was the 11th lowest of the season.

5.  Two of the Caps’ three highest Corsi-for results at 5-on-5 in a game this season have come at the expense of the Rangers.  On November 3rd they were 65.3 percent to the good, and last night they were 63.5 percent.  They lost both games, 3-2 last night and 5-2 in November (numbers from

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Boston: Ryan Spooner

Folks know the names Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron.  Ryan Spooner might not be as well known to Caps fans.  However, Spooner is second on the club in assists (32) and fifth in overall scoring (44 points).  In this, his first full season with the Bruins, his 12 goals is far clear of his career high of eight set last season, and his 44 points is more than his career total coming into this season (29).  He has been something of a power play specialist for the Bruins, ranking second on the team with 16 power play points, six of them being goals.  In five career games against the Caps, Spooner is 0-1-1, minus-3.

Washington: Philipp Grubauer

If you are trying to identify who might be the best among the league’s backup netminders, here is a little thought exercise.  Among goalies with at least 500 minutes but fewer than 1,200, how many have goals against averages under 2.25 and save percentages over .925?  The answer?  Three.  Jhonas Enroth of the Los Angeles Kings (2.10/.931), Penguins (1.98/.933), Al Montoya of the Florida Panthers (1.96/.928), and Washington’s Philipp Grubauer (2.10/.926).  He has been even better of late.  In his last eight appearances totaling 349 minutes of ice time, his goals against average is 1.72, and his save percentage is .941.  Grubauer has never faced the Bruins.

In the end…

The Caps are a “coin-flip” team at the moment, 3-3-0 in their last six games, each game settled by one goal.  In fact, the last nine games for the Caps have been settled by one goal.  This is not the dominating team of its first 50 or so games.  Perhaps it is a product of it being in that dry patch of games in late winter when teams are either fighting for a playoff spot or fighting through the routine of 60 or more games that can cause focus to wander and intensity to wane.  The Caps, as perhaps one of the latter sort of teams, get a chance to refocus by taking their act to the road for four games, beginning with this game in Boston.  “Road trip” might be just the tonic for a team such as the Caps.

Capitals 3 – Bruins 2