Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 4: Capitals at Panthers, October 20th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

After sweeping their short two-game home stand, the Washington Capitals go on the road to try to win their first game away from Verizon Center this season and their third in a row overall when they visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

The Caps and Panthers are similar in different ways.  Both have 2-0-1 records, but while the Caps recorded their two wins after opening the season with a Gimmick loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Panthers lost in the trick shot competition to the Tampa Bay Lightning after winning their first two games.  Both teams have a plus-3 goal differential, but while the Caps have done it with defense and goaltending (not allowing two goals in any game and four in all), the Panthers have had a little more of an offensive emphasis (three or more goals twice, nine in all).  Washington special teams have been good and bad, but it was a case of the “good” finally showing up in Game 3, when they had two power play goals in five chances and shut out the Colorado Avalanche on three opportunities.  The Panthers have been good and bad on a consistent basis.  Their power play (“bad”) has yet to record a goal, while the penalty kill (“good”0 has yet to allow a power play goal.

Florida does bring balance in goal scoring into this game.  Four players account for eight of the nine Panther goals, each of them with two in the early going.  And it is a young group.  Colton Sceviour is the oldest of the quartet at age 27, and he is in his first season with the Panthers after spending five seasons with the Dallas Stars.  His history has been as a modest secondary scorer (28 goals in 170 career games before this season), last year being the first in which he cracked double-digits (11 in 71 games).  What his goal scoring has been is timely.  One was a shorthanded goal in the Panthers’ 4-3 trick shot loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday, and the other was the game-winning goal in Florida’s 4-1 win over Detroit last Saturday.  In five career games against the Caps, Sceviour is 1-1-2, even.

Jonathan Marchessault is the next oldest member of the two-goal brigade (25), and he is with his third NHL team in his four-season career (Columbus and Tampa Bay were his previous stops).  Sticking with an NHL team has been the struggle, evidenced by his appearing in just 49 games over three seasons prior to this one, 45 of those games last year with the Lightning.  With eight goals in those 49 games prior to this season, it remains a question if he can keep up what scoring pace he has shown so far (we’re guessing he won’t), but he was a goal scorer in junior and the AHL (despite not having been drafted by an NHL club), recording 98 goals in 254 games with the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL and 45 goals in 150 games with three teams in the AHL.  He is 0-1-1, even, in three career games against the Caps.

Vincent Trocheck’s early production should come as no surprise.  In his first two seasons with the Panthers, he recorded just 12 goals in 70 games.  Last year, though, he finished tied for third on the club with 25 goals in 76 contests.  He was also tied for second in game-winning goals for the Panthers last season (4), a year he closed with a rush, scoring four goals in his last five games of the regular season and six in his last ten games.  In those last ten games he was 6-6-12.  He seems not to have cooled off, and given he is 2-2-4, plus-1, in four career games against the Caps, he might not be cooling off on Thursday night, either.

Aleksander Barkov is the youngest of the group (21) and perhaps of whom the most is expected.  The second overall draft pick in 2013 took the express train the NHL, and his progress has been persistent and impressive.  He had eight goals in 54 games in his rookie season, 16 in 71 games in his sophomore campaign, and a team-leading 28 goals last season.  He is well-seasoned for a 21 year old, embarking on his fourth NHL season and having represented Finland in international tournaments in each of the last three years, including the just-completed World Cup.  He is not just a wonder at the offensive end of the ice, either.  He received votes for the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward, finishing sixth in the voting last season.  Barkov is 2-1-3, plus-5, in seven career games against Washington.

1.  Jaromir Jagr is the oldest skater in the league, by a lot.  He is 1,699 days older than Arizona’s Shane Doan.  His first game in the NHL (against the Caps…naturally) was on October 5, 1990.  How long ago is that?  It was four days after the first Walmart opened in the northeastern United States (in York, Pennsylvania).

2.  Jagr is the active leader in NHL games played with 1,632.  How many is that?  The entire likely defensive squad for the Caps (John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Matt Niskanen, Nate Schmidt, Dmitry Orlov, and Brooks Orpik) has a combined 1,605 games in a Capitals jersey.

3.  271 skaters who have dressed for games this season (of 593) and had not yet been born when Jagr took the ice for the first time in the NHL.

4.  Jagr is the active leader in career points with 1,869.  He could have sat out every season since 2005-2006 and still have an almost 100-point lead on the second place player.  He would have 1,432 points to 1,346 to Joe Thornton.

5.  If Jagr is getting old(er), he didn’t show it at the end of last season.  In his last 25 regular season games last year he went consecutive games without a point just once and finished 10-16-26, plus-10 in those 25 games.

1.  Jaromir Jagr is the active leader in career power play goals among active players, but he could yield that top spot to Alex Ovechkin this season.  Ovechkin, with 196, is just 13 behind Jagr (209).

2.  Ovechkin and Jagr are tied among active players for the top spot in career hat tricks (15).

3.  Ovechkin has only Jagr and Jarome Iginla ahead of him among active goal scorers (Ovechkin has 525).  Among players whose career began in the same year or later than Ovechkin  (2005-2006), the next leading active goal scorer is Anaheim’s Corey Perry (331).

4.  Ovechkin has only Jagr and Iginla ahead of him in total shots on goal among active players.  Among players entering the league in 2005-2006 or later, Ovechkin has 4,241 shots on goal to Jeff Carter’s 2,698.

5.  There are seven active players who have been on the ice for more goals-for than Alex Ovechkin.  All of them started their careers before 1998 (Ovechkin started his career in 2005-2006).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Florida: Roberto Luongo

Isn’t this guy supposed to be old and washed up? He is 37 years old, for heaven’s sake.  He is not showing many signs of age.   Since returning to Florida for his second tour with the Panthers late in the 2013-2014 season, he is 71-45-19, 2.34, .922, with seven shutouts.  That includes a 2-0-0 record so far this season and only two goals allowed on 46 shots faced (.957).  He is, by far, the leader among active goaltenders in games played (928 to Henrik Lundqvist’s 687), wins (438 to Lundqvist’s 375), and shutouts (72 to Lundqvist’s 59).  And age has done little to affect his consistency.  He has not allowed more than three goals in consecutive games since March 2013, a streak of 187 games.  In 36 career games against the Caps, Luongo is 20-10-0, 2.29, .926, with two shutouts.

Washington: Justin Williams

No Capital has fewer shots on goal so far than Justin Williams – one in three games.  This is not a cause for concern as much as it is an observation.  And, based on last year’s results, it hardly seems to matter.  The Caps were 50-17-6 in games in which Williams recorded at least one shot last year, 6-1-2 in games in which he did not. Higher frequency did not seem to matter, either.  Washington was 25-11-2 when Williams had three or more shots on goal, 21-7-6 when he did not.  It suggests that at worst, the absence of Williams’ shooting activity is not a liability for the club.  The more flattering interpretation would be that he can contribute in other ways than shooting the puck for the Caps to be successful.  We will go with that one.  Williams is 15-16-31, plus-12, in 50 career games against Florida.

In the end…

This will be a good test for the Caps.  Florida has to be considered a playoff favorite off their 47-26-9 record last season and the bevy of good young players with more experience on their resumes.  What this game might come down to, though, is a familiar battle and whether Alex Ovechkin can solve Roberto Luongo a time or two.  Well, so long as the Caps can find a way to keep Jaromir Jagr in his rocking chair.

Capitals 3 – Panthers 2