Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 31: Capitals at Islanders, December 11th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

It has been almost two months since the Washington Capitals played consecutive games against Metropolitan Division rivals.  That streak will end on Monday night when, following up on their 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Friday night, the Caps will visit Brooklyn to take on the New York Islanders.

The last – the only – time that the Caps faced division rivals in consecutive games, they beat the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, in Newark on October 13th before dropping an 8-2 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers in South Philly the following night.

The Islanders come into this game losers of three straight (0-2-1) and coming home after what must seem a disappointing four-game road trip (their only win coming in a Gimmick in Florida against the Panthers to open the trip).

Home is a different story, altogether.  No team has played fewer games so far this season on home ice than the Isles (11), but they have made it count when they did, posting a home record of 8-1-2.  They did not suffer a loss in regulation time until dropping a 6-5 decision to the Ottawa Senators in their last contest on home ice, back on December 1st. 

That they have been successful in their limited home ice opportunities is a reflection of their offense, which has 51 goals in those 11 games (4.64 per game), and that starts with John Tavares, who is 9-9-18 in the 11 home games, the team leader in both goals and points at Barclays Center.  Tavares, who is one of the real bargains in the league with a $5.5 million cap hit, is in the last year of a six-year deal.  Overall this season, he overcame a sluggish start, one in which he was 2-1-3 in his first seven games (all of those points recorded in a 6-3 win in the Islanders’ home opener) to go 15-13-28, plus-4, in his last 22 games.  Over that span he is tied for the league lead in goals (with Las Vegas’ William Karlsson) and tied for fourth in points.  In 31 career games against the Caps, Tavares is 13-15-28, plus-6.

Over that same span over which Tavares has been among the hottest scorers in the league, Anders Lee has 14 goals of his own, third in the league over that span.  Lee had something of a breakout season in 2016-2017, posting 34 goals, tied for tenth in the league.  He might also be shaking off the last of the inconsistency in his game, his goals having swung from 25 in 76 games in 2014-2015 to 15 in 80 games of the 2015-2016 season to that 34-goal total last year.  This season he has 17 goals in 29 games, tied for third in the league overall.  Six of those goals have come on home ice, second on the club, while his 14 points at Barclays Center ranks third with the Islanders this season.  Lee is 7-2-9, plus-1, in 15 career games against the Caps.

Through Saturday’s games, 43 goaltenders logged at least 500 minutes in ice time this season.  Jaroslav Halak ranked 27 in that group in goals against average (2.93) and 30th in save percentage (.905).  And he was the better of the two Islander goalies in that group, Thomas Greiss ranking 42nd in goals against average (3.78) and 39th in save percentage (.890).  Halak’s success, such as it has been this season, has been entirely a product of support on the offensive side of the ledger.  He opened the season with a 5-2-0 record in his first eight appearances this season, with a goals against average of 2.66 and a save percentage of .916.  Decent, if somewhat middle of the road numbers on his own behalf.  But in his last nine appearances he is 3-5-1, 3.17, .896.  He is 8-8-0, 2.75, .902, with one shutout, in 16 career appearances against the Capitals.

1.  If you are going to beat the Islanders, chances are it won’t be a blowout.  Only two teams have had fewer losses by three or more goals than the Islanders (3) this season – Tampa Bay with two and Los Angeles with one.

2.  Score first, and win.  The Islanders are the only team in the league with a perfect record when scoring first in games (10-0-0).

3.  The Islanders are among the least penalized teams in the league, one of only seven teams averaging less than eight minutes in penalties per game (7:57).

4.  The Islanders are the second most efficient team shooting the puck this season, scoring goals on 11.43 percent of their shots so far.  Only Tampa Bay has been better (11.68 percent).

5.  Home cooking has done little for the Islanders penalty killers.  They have the fourth-worst penalty kill on home ice this season (73.7 percent).

1.  Odd as it is, the Capitals have played only seven games against Metropolitan Division teams so far this season.  Only nine teams have had fewer meetings against teams in the Metro through Saturday’s games.  Stranger still, perhaps, three of those teams are Metropolitan Division teams themselves, the Pittsburgh Penguins (6), the New Jersey Devils (5), and the Philadelphia Flyers (4).

2.  Washington is going to have to ramp up its effort on the penalty kill against Metropolitan Division teams.  In seven games they are just 16-for-23 killing penalties against teams in the Metro (69.6 percent).  If there is a silver lining in this game, the Islanders are worse (13-for-20/65.0 percent).

3.  The Caps have the second-best road power play in the league at 27.8 percent.  Only Pittsburgh is better (31.4 percent).

4.  Washington is also an efficient team shooting the puck on the road, fourth in the league with a 10.6 percent shooting percentage in road games.

5.  The Capitals could use improvement in their road possession numbers.  They have the fifth-lowest shot attempts-for percentage in the league in close situations in road games (46.29 percent).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New York: Nick Leddy

Nick Leddy has quietly assembled a rather impressive body of work as an NHL defenseman.  Ove eight seasons, four with the Chicago Blackhawks and now in his fourth season with the Islanders, he has steadily improved his offensive numbers from the blue line.  His point totals have increased in each of the last four seasons, and he is on a pace to do so again for a fifth consecutive season.  Through Saturday’s games, Leddy’s 24 points (6-18-24) ranks second among league defensemen, topped only by Dallas’ John Klingberg (25).  He has been hot lately, going 3-11-14 in his last 13 games with points in ten of those contests.  Leddy is 1-5-6, minus-2, in 18 career games against the Capitals.

Washington: Brooks Orpik

Brooks Orpik has one of the most bizarre statistics in the league since the 2005-2006 season.  In that time, only four players have had more games in which they registered a point without recording a shot on goal.  Orpik has done that 65 times in that span, a number exceeded only by Henrik Sedin (120), Joe Thornton (111), Mike Ribeiro (91), and Bryan Campbell (78).  He has done it 15 times as a member of the Caps, more than any Capital in his four years with the club except for Nicklas Backstrom (22 times), Tom Wilson (20), and Karl Alzner (16).  He leads the club in such instances this season, having recorded a point in five games in which he did not have a shot on goal.  His ice time has made a difference this season as well, the Caps having a 10-2-1 record in games in which he recorded more than 22 minutes of ice time, although he is just 0-2-2, plus-2 in those games.  In 37 career games against the Islanders, Orpik is 0-7-7, minus-9.

In the end…

The Caps have had reasonable success as guest of the Islanders in recent years, although not without effort.  Since 2005-2006, Washington is 13-8-3 in 24 games on the road against the Isles, but seven of those 13 wins have come in extra time.  The Caps have done well to avoid having to resort to extra time to settle outcomes this season, going to extra time just five times, although they do have four wins in those five instances.  So, will the Caps, who have gone to extra time ten times in their last 19 visits to Long Island, need extra time to subdue the Isles?  Given New York’s iffy goaltending and the Caps’ recent success on offense – four straight games with four or more goals – we’re thinking it will not be necessary.

Capitals 4 – Islanders 2

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