Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 23: Senators at Capitals, November 22nd

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals hit the ice for the third of their four-game home stand when they host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena. The Caps will be looking to prevent suffering consecutive losses on home ice since they endured a three-game home ice losing streak in mid-October.

The Senators will come to Washington looking for a measure of revenge after the Caps defeated them in Ottawa on Opening Night, 5-4, in the trick shot competition. This will be just the third road game for Ottawa this month and seventh of the season. The road has been a welcoming place for the Senators, who enter this game with a record of 4-1-1 outside of Canada’s capital.

Mark Stone has found the road an especially hospitable place, leading the Senators in goals (four, tied with Mike Hoffman) and points (eight), with a team-leading plus-6 (tied with Derick Brassard). Now in his sixth year with the Senators and fourth full-time season, Stone has become a very consistent goal scorer for the Sens. In his three full seasons preceding this one, Stone recorded 26, 23, and 22 goals. He also displayed an ability to contribute at both ends of the ice, having earned votes for the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward in each of the last three seasons, finishing sixth in the voting last year. He is threatening to demolish his career-best in goal scoring, having posted 13 goals in 19 game so far overall, tied with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for third in the league. Only six of 443 skaters to record at least 20 shots on goal this season have a better shooting percentage than Stone (25.0). He is 3-1-4, plus-4, in ten career games against the Caps.

Erik Karlsson is the gold standard among NHL defensemen in this era. Over the previous six seasons he won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defensemen twice, was a finalist on two other occasions and was in the top-ten in voting five times. Even when he appeared in just 17 games of the abbreviated 2012-2013 season he finished 18th in Norris voting. This season started slowly for Karlsson, missing the first five games due to an injury that he sustained at the end of the 2016-2017 season, two torn tendons in his foot. It took him a while to get into the lineup, but he hit the ice at full speed. His 17 points (1-16-17) is tied for third in the league in scoring among defensemen, despite his having played at least six fewer games than the six defensemen ahead of him or with whom he is tied. If there is an odd quality about his statistical profile this season it is in his ice time. Eight times this season he logged more than 25 minutes, but Ottawa has a record of just 1-3-4 in those games. Karlsson is 2-16-18, minus-6, in 24 career games against Washington.

1..Ottawa opened the season with three straight trips to the freestyle competition and lead the league with five shootout appearances. They are 1-4 in those games.

2.  The Senators deploy rookies in odd ways. Eight rookies have dressed for Ottawa so far this season but have appeared in a combined 21 games (none more than four). By way of comparison, Jakub Vrana has appeared in that many games for the Caps as a rookie by himself.

3.  Ottawa does not beat themselves in one respect. Their 62 minor penalties taken is third-fewest in the league, more than only Columbus (54) and Carolina (48). It means they have been shorthanded just 55 times this season, more than only the Blue Jackets (54) and the Hurricanes (47).

4.  If you can hang close, the Senators can be caught, or at least scored upon late. Montreal is the only team in the Eastern Conference to have allowed more third period goals (26) than Ottawa (25). Oddly enough, the Senators have not lost a game in regulation in which they led at the second intermission, although they do have three extra time losses in those games, tied with Buffalo for most in the league.

5.  One might think the Senators spend a lot of the post-game icing down and in the whirlpool. They are tied for second in the league in blocked shots (319, with Arizona).

1.  How is it that the Caps’ two top scorers for the month of November are “minus” players? John Carlson (2-8-10) is a minus-4, while Evgeny Kuznetsov (2-6-8) is a minus-2. They also happened to be tied for the team lead in power play points for the month (six apiece).

2.  Tom Wilson, who averaged 155 minutes in penalties per season over his first four years, is on a pace to finish this season with a career high 238 minutes.  He is also on a pace to finish with nine goals, which would be a career high.

3.  All eight defensemen to dress for the Caps this season have points, and five of them have at least one goal. All 14 forwards to have dressed for at least five games have at least one goal.

4.  This could be a high-scoring game late. The Caps are tied with Ottawa in allowing the sixth-highest total of third period goals in the league this season (25).

5.  Only Buffalo has lost more games when outshot by opponents (ten times, once in extra time) than the Capitals (nine times, once in extra time).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Ottawa: Craig Anderson

There have been 33 goalies to dress for the Ottawa Senators over their franchise’s history. None have done so more times than Craig Anderson (308 games). He is the all-time franchise leader in wins (158), losses (104), and losses in extra time (37). His .919 career save percentage is second among the 13 goalies in franchise history appearing in at least 50 games (Andrew Hammond: .923 in 55 games). Only Patrick Lalime has more shutouts for the Senators (30) than Anderson (25). Now in his 15th NHL season, Anderson has had a roller coaster of a year so far. It breaks down loosely into three parts. In the first, covering his first four appearances, Anderson was 2-0-2, 1.65, .937, with a shutout. He followed that up with a seven-game stretch in which he was 3-3-1, 4.07, .874. He since recovered, going 2-2-0, 2.01, .914 in his last four contests. What does seem to matter is shots faced. In nine games in which he played the entire contest and faced 30 or fewer shots, Anderson is 4-3-2, 1.97, .923, with one shutout. However, in four games playing the entire contest and facing more than 30 shots, he is 2-1-1, 4.28, .887. OK, small population size. In 20 career games against the Caps, Anderson is 11-7-2, 2.39, .922, with two shutouts.

Washington: Devante Smith-Pelly

Devante Smith-Pelly has had the sort of season – his first in Washington – that fans might have expected. He gets modest ice time as generally a bottom-six forward (13:10 per game), he plays with some edge (32 credited hits, sixth on the club), kills penalties (1:28 in shorthanded ice time per game), and makes the physical sacrifices the team needs from that position (22 blocked shots, most among forwards). But he also has had some time on the top line, a reflection of the very unsettled and inconsistent nature of the Caps lineup these days, where continuity has given way to trying to find chemistry among the lines to allow the Caps to sustain some level of success. He has been shooting in a bit of bad luck, compared to his career numbers. His two goals on 36 shots on goal is, so far, his worst career shooting percentage for a season (5.6 percent). While being a 20-goal scorer is not a requirement of his position, it would be nice for him and for the Caps to see that number tick up a bit. That might be a problem in this game, however. The Senators are one of three teams in the league against which Smith-Pelly does not have a career point (0-0-0, minus-3, in seven career games).

In the end…

We keep pounding on this point, but the Caps really need to stockpile wins and points in this home-weighted portion of the schedule. They currently occupy the second wild-card spot in the standings (pending Tuesday’s results), but there are three teams within a point of them, and all of them have games in hand: Carolina (three games), the New York Rangers (one game), and their opponent in this game, the Ottawa Senators (three games). No team in the East has completed more of their season schedule than the Caps, and at some point, the wasted opportunities to put distance between themselves and the also-rans could come back to haunt them and turn them into one of those very also-rans. The Senators are one of six teams in the league to have scored and allowed more than three goals per game, so for the Caps there is the opportunity of getting untracked offensively, but by the same token, the Senators have the ability to make the Caps pay for mistakes and too many trips to the penalty box, as Calgary did on Monday.

Capitals 4 – Senators 3

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