The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
After a brief respite from the travel, a 6-1 win against the
Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night at Verizon Center, the Caps head right back
on the road for the second of back-to-back games in Ottawa against the Senators
on Tuesday night.
The Senators are one of those pesky teams that can be really
annoying to play against. At the very least, they have been that for the Caps
so far this season. The Caps have two wins in two tries against Ottawa, but
neither was easy, a 2-1 win on New Year’s Day at Verizon Center and a 1-0
shutout on January 7th in Ottawa.
Since Ottawa lost what were two ends of an extended
home-and-home set against Washington (they had five days off between games as
their league-mandated hiatus this season), the Senators are 5-1-1 and have
climbed into second place in the Atlantic Division. Their recent success has
not resulted in much by way of improvement in their playoff position relative
to other teams. They are still eight points behind the Montreal Canadiens for
the division lead, and despite their recent success, they remain just four
points clear of Toronto, lurking as the number nine team in an eight-team
playoff race with a game in hand on Ottawa.
The Senators have outscored their seven opponents since
facing the Caps by a 27-21 margin. Mike Hoffman leads the goal scorers with
seven in those seven games. Hoffman has had a sustained run of scoring success
going back to late November. Since November 22nd, he is 13-13-26, plus-11, in
25 games. He has established himself as a reliable goal scorer with 27 and 29
goals in his first two full seasons in the NHL, and he is on a pace to finish
with 32 goals this season on 17 in the 41 games in which he has played. Eleven
of his 17 goals so far this season have come on home ice. In eight career games
against the Caps, Hoffman is 1-3-4, plus-1.
For the time being, the debate over who is the best
offensive defenseman in the NHL is settled. Since the 2009-2010 season, his
rookie season in the NHL, Erik Karlsson is the only defenseman to have topped
the 400 point park (424). He is one of just three defensemen to reach the
100-goal mark over that span (107), joining Shea Weber (129), Dustin Byfuglien
(121), and Brent Burns (103). This season, Karlsson is second in overall
scoring (39 points) to Burns (47) and leads the league’s defensemen in assists
(32). He comes into this game on a six-game points streak (0-7-7), but he has
not scored a goal in 18 games, dating back to December 7th, when he had one as
part of a three-point night as the Senators beat the San Jose Sharks, 4-2.
Karlsson is 2-16-18, minus-6, in 23 career games against Washington.
One might have been forgiven for overlooking the trade that
send goalie Mike Condon from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Senators back in
November, but with Craig Anderson on extended absence from the team, it looks
like one of the most valuable deals made in recent memory by the club. He has
been a respectable 13-7-4, 2.52, .914, with three shutouts, but the workload might
be getting to him. He appeared in all seven games for Ottawa since they faced
Washington, and while he is 5-1-1 over that span, his goals against average in
those games (2.97) and save percentage (.905) are trending in the wrong
direction. It resembles the problems he had last season filling in for the
injured Carey Price in Montreal when his numbers started dragging down as the
season wore on. Condon is 1-4-0, 2.45, .912 in five career appearances against
1. When Ottawa lost
to the Columbus Blue Jackets in their last game, 7-6 in overtime, it was the
first time the Senators scored at least six goals in a game and lost since they
lost to the Caps, 8-6, on December 29, 2007.
2. After facing
Dallas on Saturday, the Caps are going to run into another team that does not
work or play well with others. Ottawa is eighth in the league in penalty
minutes taken per game (10:34), and there are tied for eighth in fighting
majors (18). They are also tied for the league lead in bench minors (10, with
3. If there is a
blowout, chances are the Senators will not be on the good side of it from their
perspective. Ottawa is 4-8 in games decided by three of more goals this season,
their .333 winning percentage ranking 25th in such games.
4. You might guess
that Ottawa is not a very good possession team, given two stats that indicate
they don’t have the puck as often as they would like. The Senators are sixth in
the league in hits and fourth in blocked shots.
5. And you would be
right about possession. Ottawa ranks 24th in overall Corsi-for at 5-on-5 (47.80
percent; numbers from Corsica.hockey
), 25th in Corsi-for adjusted for score,
zone and venue (47.20 percent).
1. The Caps are
plus-50 in goals scored and goals allowed at 5-on-5. Their lead on the second place team
(Minnesota at plus-34) looks like Secretariat in the Belmont.
2. The Caps and the
Boston Bruins are the only two teams in the league ranking in the top five in
both Corsi-for per 60 minutes and Corsi-against per 60 minutes, adjusted for
score, zone, and venue (numbers from Corsica.hockey
3. Much is made of
Sidney Crosby, the game’s best playmaker, scoring goals at a career-best
pace. Less is made of Alex Ovechkin, the
best goal scorer of this era, becoming something of a playmaker. He is tied for eighth among left wings in
assists, and he has ten helpers in his last ten games.
4. The Caps go into
this game with power play goals in each of their last five games, tying their
longest streak of the season. The have
power play goals on five of their last seven power play opportunities going
back to the third period of their 8-7 overtime loss to Pittsburgh.
5. Pity the power
play doesn’t get more opportunities. The
Caps have two or fewer opportunities in nine of their last 12 games, and their
minus-28 penalty differential at 5-on-5 is second worst in the league
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Ottawa has eight players with 20 or more points this season.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been making a push to make it nine with five points in
the seven games since Ottawa last saw the Caps (1-4-0). Pageau was taken as a
fourth-round pick of the Senators in the 2011 entry draft, after which he
completed his Canadian junior career in the QMJHL and spent parts of three
seasons with Binghamton in the AHL. He has played in parts of five seasons with
Ottawa, but only last year might be called his first full season in the NHL,
going 19-24-43 in 82 games. His numbers are off somewhat this season, currently
on a pace to finish 9-24-33, his goal scoring down as a reflection of a
regression in his shooting percentage (14.3 percent last season, 6.0 percent so
far this season). Pageau comes into this game with just one goal in his last 18
games. He does not have a point in 11 games against the Caps and is a minus-3.
: Brett Connolly
Over his first 25 games, Caps fans might have wondered if
acquiring Brett Connolly was such a good idea. He was 4-1-5, plus-2, and the
Caps seemed to win as he was largely anonymous on the ice. Ove his last seven games, though, Connolly
has found his scoring touch, going 4-0-4, plus-8, with a game-winning goal
against the St. Louis Blues last week. He, Lars Eller, and Andre Burakovsky
have found a chemistry on the third line that has often made it the most
energetic, if not most effective forward line on some nights. His scoring has
been a contributing factor to the Caps’ success. They are 7-0-1 when he scores
a goal, the only blemish being that 8-7 wild riot of an overtime loss to
Pittsburgh last week. Connolly is 1-2-3, minus-5, in ten career games against
Ottawa, and in two games this year against the Senators he does not have a point,
nor does he have a shot on goal in 20:39 of total ice time.
This is the middle game of a three-games-in-four-nights
stretch that the Caps have heading into the All-Star break, completing a run of
four games in six nights. And what makes the last two games of this stretch
hard – the game Tuesday night against Ottawa and the Thursday night game
against the New Jersey Devils – is that these are hard teams to play against,
teams that would just as soon play in oatmeal as on ice, even though the
Senators’ scoring has ticked up a notch recently. It makes the days off coming
up look a bit more appealing, and again, this will be something the team needs
to have the discipline to set aside if they are to continue their run of
success into the All-Star Game break.