Friday, November 04, 2016

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 11: Panthers at Capitals, November 5th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Having finished their first ten games of the season, the Washington Capitals embark on their next ten with the second of a three-game home stand on Saturday night.  The Florida Panthers visit Verizon Center for the first of two meetings in Washington this season.

After going 3-1-1 in their first five games to start the season (their only loss in regulation at the hands of the Caps), the Panthers are just 2-4-0 in their last six contests.  Scoring has been an issue in this recent skid.  Averaging just 2.33 goals per game in those six games, the Panthers recorded more than two goals just twice (accounting for both of their wins) and getting shutout by the Buffalo Sabres on October 29th.

Jonathan Marchessault has three of the Panthers’ 14 goals over their last six games.  It gives him six on the season, one shot of his career best of seven goals in 45 games last season.  He has been a rather good indicator of Panther success in the early going.  Florida is 4-1-0 in the five games in which he has goals (oddly enough, he had two against Toronto in a 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs on October 27th). Marchessault had an assist in the Panthers’ 4-2 loss to the Caps on October 20th.

Vincent Trocheck also has three goals in the last six games, all of them coming in the Panthers’ last three contests.  He had one in a Florida 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on October 30th, and he had a pair in the Panthers’ 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils this past Thursday.  Trocheck is tied for the league leads through Thursday night’s games in even strength goals (six).  We did not record a point in the Panthers’ last meeting against the Caps, and he finished a minus-2.

It is early to be invoking the term “slump,” but defenseman Aaron Ekblad is not off to a hot start, either.  He has just two goals so far this season (his only points), one of them in the Panthers’ win over the Devils on Thursday.  Both of his goals so far are of the power play variety.  Ekblad is in a bit of a penalty rut.  He has penalties taken in each of his last three games with a total of eight minutes charged.  He is, however, getting a bigger dose of ice time.  His 23:41 in average ice time so far is two minutes more per game than he averaged last season.  He was blanked on the score sheet against the Caps in their first meeting and finished a minus-2.

1.  The Panthers’ penalty killers are struggling on the road.  Florida is 26th in the league in road penalty killing (68.9 percent).  They have given up four goals in nine shorthanded situations in their last two road games.

2.  Fortunately for the Panthers, the 31 instances in which they found themselves shorthanded on the road so far ranks as the seventh-fewest in the league.

3.  If it’s close, it’s bad for the Panthers, but they are likely to be on the good side of a blowout.  Florida is 2-3-1 in one-goal games, 3-1 in games decided by three or more goals.  They have played only one two-goal game, that being their loss to the Caps.

4.  Florida has just three players with more than two goals.  In addition to Marchessault and Trocheck (six apiece), Colton Sceviour has five.  That is 17 of the team’s 30 goals so far.

5.  Florida has very good possession numbers overall. Their 53.31 Corsi-for at 5-on-5 is fourth in the league.  It doesn’t hold up on the road, though.  On the road, they are 15th (50.37 percent; numbers from

1.  Marcus Johansson has six goals in ten games.  Last season he had his sixth goal in Game 30.  It does not hurt that he is shooting 30.0 percent (6-for-20).

2.  Alex Ovechkin broke a three-game streak without a goal with his two-goal effort on Thursday in the overtime win against Winnipeg.  Even with that three-game streak, Ovechkin has six goals in eight games.

3.  The Caps still rank tied for fifth in fewest third period goals allowed.  But five of the eight goals they allowed so far this season in the third period came in the home-and-home against Winnipeg.

4.  The Caps have seven wins this season when scoring first, second in the league to Montreal (eight).  No team has scored first more often than Washington (nine times).

5. Washington’s plus-5.2 shots per game differential is third best in the league, trailing only San Jose (plus-6.5) and Los Angeles (plus-5.5).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Florida: Jaromir Jagr

Jaromir Jagr scored his first goal of the season in the Panthers’ 4-2 loss to Washington on October 20th.  He does not have a goal in seven games since.  Through his first 11 games last season he already had six goals.  His 1-4-5 scoring line does not compare well with his 11-game scoring line from last season (6-4-10).  And, his shot volumes are down.  Jagr has just one shot on goal over his last three games after putting 24 shots on goal in his first eight contests.  On the road, it has been more troublesome.  He has just one assist in five road games so far.  With this game, Jagr will have played a regular-season’s worth of games against the Caps.  In 81 career games so far, he is 32-61-93, plus-16.

Washington: Andre Burakovsky

Andre Burakovsky scored two goals on Opening Night in a 3-2 Gimmick loss to Pittsburgh.  He has yet to turn on the red light since.  In his last nine games he is 0-for-20 shooting, only four of those shots coming in his last three games.  He does have assists in three of his last five games, although he has just one assist at home so far (his only point at Verizon Center).  It is part of a longer drought on his part.  Including playoff games last spring, Burakovsky has four goals in his last 33 games.  His shooting is 4-for-62 (6.5 percent).  Burakovsky is 2-0-2, minus-1 in five career games against Florida.

In the end…

The Caps are humming along at the surface with four straight wins, but there are blemishes.  There are those five third period goals allowed to Winnipeg in two games.  There are the thin numbers of Andre Burakovsky, Justin Williams (1-1-2 in ten games), and Lars Eller (1-0-1 in ten games.  While both Williams and Eller have contributed in other ways, mostly on defense, getting supplemental scoring from the likes of these players would make one feel more confident about the level of play underlying the recent record.  Being 10-1-0 in their last 11 home games against the Panthers dating back to the 2010-2011 season is perhaps a signal that they could extend that winning streak another game.  Then again, that loss was in the Caps last game against Florida at Verizon Center.  Don’t get cocky.

Caps 4 – Panthers 1

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 10: Washington Capitals 4 - Winnipeg Jets 3 (OT)

The Washington Capitals opened a three-game home stand by wrapping up a home-an-home set of games with the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.  The Caps made things far more dramatic than they had to be, losing a three-goal lead in the third period to send the game to overtime. But the Caps won it in the extra session on an Alex Ovechkin power play goal, 4-3, to record their fourth straight win.

Washington started the scoring late in the first period when Nicklas Backstrom potted his first of the season.  Backstrom started the scoring sequence when he skated the puck into the Winnipeg end and left it for Ovechkin on his left.  Ovechkin pulled up, found a shooting lane, and ripped a shot at the Jet’s cage.  Michael Hutchinson made the stop, but left a rebound in front.  Backstrom settled the bouncing puck and calmly lifted a backhand over the right pad of Hutchinson at the 14:38 mark.

T.J. Oshie added to the lead early in the second period.  Andre Burakovsky beat Julian Melchiori to a loose puck in the corner to Hutchinson’s left and fed Oshie between the hashmarks.  Oshie took a step to his left and backhanded the puck past Hutchinson’s blocker to make it 2-0 just 1:48 into the second period.

Ovechkin made it 3-0 mid-way through the period.  Mathieu Perreault tried to feed a pass to Patrik Laine to get the puck out of danger, but it was out of Laine’s reach.  Dmitry Orlov took control of the puck and slid it to Backstrom high in the offensive zone.  Backstrom turned and fed John Carlson, whose shot was stopped by Hutchinson.  He left a rebound, though, and Ovechkin darted in from the weak side to sweep a backhand under Hutchinson’s left pad at 10:04 to give the Caps the three-goal lead.

Winnipeg mounted a fierce charge in the third period, starting at the 2:11 mark on an odd play.  With the Caps on a power play, Jets defenseman Toby Enstrom broke up a pass in the neutral zone and pushed the puck back into the Caps end where Blake Wheeler gave chase.  Goalie Braden Holtby came out of his net to try to cut off Wheeler, but it just resulted in a three-car pile-up as Holtby, Wheeler, and Caps defenseman John Carlson collided.  With Holtby sprawled on the ice 20 feet from his net, Enstrom picked up the loose puck and fired it past Nicklas Backstrom, trying to cover Holtby’s net.

Three minutes later, Adam Lowry got the Jets within a goal.  Skating down the right wing, Dustin Byfuglien faked a shot, then he carried the puck deep and around the Caps’ net.  When he came out on the other side, he spied Lowry between the hash marks.  His pass was one-timed by Lowry into the back of the net to make things more interesting than Caps fans might have wanted.

Marko Dano got the Jets all the way back at the 11:11 mark of the period.  The teams battled hard for the puck below the Capitals’ goal line, where Andrew Copp sprung it free.  The puck squirted out to the edge of the right wing faceoff circle where Dano jumped on it and wrong-footed a snap shot past Holtby to even the score.

That was how the teams went to overtime.  Mid-way through the extra period the Jets made a team blunder – too many men on the ice. One minute into the ensuing power play, John Carlson controlled the puck and slid toward the middle. From that perch he moved the puck to Alex Ovechkin, who one-timed a shot from the left wing circle over Hutchinson’s glove into the top corner of the net, giving the Caps a too-close-for-comfort 4-3 overtime win.

Other stuff…

-- The game-winning goal was Alex Ovechkin’s 91st of his career, tying him with Wayne Gretzky and Mark Recchi for 16th place all-time.  Jaromir Jagr is the all-time leader with 133.

-- Ovechkin’s two goals gives him 109 multi-goal games in his career.  Since he came into the league in 2005-2006, that is 38 more than second place Sidney Crosby.

-- Nicklas Backstrom had a three-point game (1-2-3).  It was his first three-point game of the season and 55th of his career, fifth among all players since he came into the league in 2007-2008.

-- John Carlson had a two-point game (0-2-2).  That is the 42nd multi-point game of Carlson’s career, good for seventh place all-time among Caps defensemen and putting him one game behind Scott Stevens and Sylvain Cote for fifth place.

-- Ovechkin had eight shots on goal, a season high and the first time in five games he had more than four shots on goal in a contest.  Five of those shots came on power plays, including the game-winning goal.

-- The Caps did not have quite the possession advantage they had in Tuesday’s game in Winnipeg, but the still had the overall edge.  They out-shot the Jets, 32-27.  They out-attempted them, 65-53 overall.  However, Winnipeg had a shot attempts advantage at 5-on-5, 47-40 (numbers from

-- The four-game winning streak is the first for the Caps since Games 55-58 last season.  Before starting this streak, the Caps were just 15-10-5 in their previous 30 games dating back to last season.

-- The win makes the Caps 10-1-1 against the Jets in their last 12 meetings, 5-0-0 at home.

-- Braden Holtby is in the midst of an odd pattern of games. In his last seven appearances, he has allowed, in order, 1-2-3-4-1-2-3 goals.  Beware the next start.

-- Justin Williams gets the coupon for the all-you-can-eat buffet… an assist, plus-1, two shots on goal, two shot attempts blocked, a missed shot, two giveaways, a takeaway, two blocked shots, and he won four of six draws in 16:17 of ice time.

In the end…

Five third period goals allowed in their last two games, even in winning both contests, is not a plan for success.  The Caps turned Adam Lowry, who authored two of those goals (one in each game against the Jets), he with 18 career goals in 154 games coming into this season, into some reincarnation of Brett Hull.  Granted, the first Winnipeg goal was odd, but the last two were just breakdowns in their own end.  The offense struggled early, especially the power play.  That seems to be working itself out, but now, despite the penalty kill being more effective in recent games, the defense is leaking.  The Caps are tied with the Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the New York Rangers for the top spot.  But they won’t hold their place long if the third period defense keeps looking like this.