The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals head west for a three-game trip through California this week, starting with a contest against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.
Washington has the best record in the league over the season so far, but their record does not compare to that of the Ducks over the last two months. No team’s record does. As late as January 10th, the Ducks were 17-17-7, fourth in the Pacific Division, and 11th in the Western Conference. Since then they are 20-2-1, first in the Pacific Division, fourth in the Western Conference, and they are on an 11-game winning streak coming into this game.
It has not been a fluke for the Ducks. Of their last 20 wins, 13 were by multi-goal margins, and seven of them were by three or more goals. They have been an overwhelming force at one end, averaging 3.70 goals per game in their 20-2-1 run, and an impenetrable wall on the other, allowing just 2.13 goals per game on defense.
Ryan Getzlaf has been at the forefront of the Ducks’ charge over the last two months. Over a 22 game span from January 8th through February 28th, he had points in 20 games, going 6-22-28, plus-15. Getzlaf has not had a “minus” game since January 23rd, a string of 17 straight games. His personal performance has been a good barometer with respect to how the Ducks are doing, the club having a 26-6-2 record when he records a point, 8-1-0 when he records a goal. Getzlaf is 3-7-10, minus-1, in 10 career games against Washington.
The Ducks might not have a squad of defensemen that are household names, but it is a solid group led in scoring by Sami Vatanen. With nine goals so far this season he is closing in on a career best (12 goals, set last season), and his 37 points ties a career high set last season. Vatanen has not gone consecutive games without a point in more than a month (February 2nd and 4th), going 3-11-14 in his last 15 games. He does not have a point in either of his two career games against Washington.
Anaheim has been rotating goalies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson through the schedule lately, each goalie getting two games on and two games off over the Ducks’ last ten contests. If the rotation holds, it will be Gibson getting the call for Anaheim on Monday night. Now in his third NHL season after being taken in the second round of the 2011 entry draft, he has established career highs in appearances (28) and wins (16). He has been, if not a hot goalie of late, then he has been one capable of doing what is needed to win. Over his last nine appearances he is 7-1-0 (one no-decision), 2.47, .907. Gibson lost his only career decision against the Caps, allowing five goals on 28 shots in a 5-3 loss to Washington on February 15, 2015.
Here is how the teams compare overall:
1. Anaheim’s power play has been a juggernaut. The Ducks have power play goals in 11 straight games, over which they are 19-for-43 (44.2 percent…no, that is not a typo). In their 20-2-1 run they are 25-for-85 (29.4 percent).
2. The Ducks have not lost a game in regulation at home since January 17th (2-1 to the Detroit Red Wings). They are won eight in a row on home ice.
3. Anaheim is 29-1-3 when scoring three or more goals, their only regulation loss in such games coming back on October 27th to the Dallas Stars (4-3).
4. Anaheim possesses a certain balance when it comes to scoring. The Ducks have 17 players with at least 10 points this season (by way of comparison, the Caps – the top scoring offense in the league – have 15 such players).
5. Anaheim is one of the top possession teams in the league, ranking third overall in Corsi-for at 5-on-5 (52.8 percent). They also rank third in score-adjusted Corsi-for (53.2 percent). The odd part of that is that their goal differential at 5-on-5 is minus-7 for the season. They come into this game with numbers that are not indicative of their overall standing, a 40.5 percent Corsi-for over their last three games (numbers from war-on-ice.com).
1. The Caps have the top scoring offense in the league at 3.22 goals per game, but they have gone eight straight games without scoring more than three goals.
2. The Caps have a better all-time record against the Ducks on the road (7-6-1) than they do at home (7-7-0).
3. Only four teams in the league have allowed fewer power play goals on the road than the Caps (18): St. Louis (16), Boston (15), Pittsburgh (15), and the New York Islanders (15).
4. Most Caps fans know that Alex Ovechkin has 30-goal years in each of his 11 NHL seasons. What they might not know is only one other player currently with the team has a 30-goal season as a Capital – Nicklas Backstrom (333 goals in 2009-2010). Evgeny Kuznetsov currently in second place on the club with 20 goals, that number of 30 goal scorers other than Ovechkin since the 2005-2006 season is not likely to change.
5. The Caps have been under 50 percent Corsi-for at 5-on-5 in four of their last five road games, going 48.2 percent overall. They rank 14th overall in Corsi-for in road games (49.1 percent; numbers from war-on-ice.com).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Anaheim: Rickard Rakell
It probably surprises no one that Corey Perry leads the Ducks in goal scoring (28). It might surprise a fair number of people that Richars Rakell is second on the club with 17 goals. Coming into this season, Rakell had just nine career goals in 93 career games, all of them coming last season. What makes it a bit more surprising is that he has done so while averaging a little over 16 minutes of ice time a night, fifth among forwards on the team. It has not been the product of bursts of goal scoring; Rakell has goals in consecutive games only once this season (January 17th and 20th against Los Angeles and Minnesota). And, Rakell has shown little preference for home or road, scoring nine of his goals at home and eight on the road. He does not have a point in either of his two career appearances against the Caps.
Washington: T.J. Oshie
Last week, T.J. Oshie reached the 40-point mark for the fifth time in his eight-year career. His next goal will give him 20 for the second time in those eight seasons. What has been a bit of surprise is his assist total. He has 21 assists in 65 games, his lowest assists-per-game output (0.32) in his career to date and by a relatively significant margin (0.39 assists per game in 2009-2010 with St. Louis). He did have a three-assist game against the Toronto Maple Leafs last Wednesday, but that is the only game in his last nine games in which he has any assists. His assists per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (0.99) is not so much greater than that of Tom Wilson (0.90) than one might have thought. Oshie is 8-7-15, plus-5, in 17 career games against Anaheim.
In the end…
Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau just became the fastest coach in NHL history to reach the 400 win mark. The Washington Capitals are the fastest team to 100 points in franchise history. What many thought might be the Stanley Cup final matchup when the season started will be featured on Monday night, and with the two teams on a fast track to the postseason in what are historic seasons for both, this might be a preview of such a final after all. The west coast has not been kind to the Caps over the course of their history, but last year the Caps did go 2-1-0 on their trip through Anaheim, San Jose, and Los Angeles, and they went 2-0-1 on that trip in 2013-2014. You probably suspect we are thinking along the same lines this season, despite the scalding record the Ducks have posted recently.
Capitals 4 – Ducks 3