Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 58: Washington Capitals at New York Rangers, February 19th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

After a week without hockey, the Washington Capitals get to play two games in less than 24 hours, following up their 3-2 Gimmick loss in Detroit to the Red Wings on Saturday afternoon with a 12:30 start in New York against the Rangers on Sunday.  This will be the Caps’ first visit to Manhattan this season, having dropped a 4-2 decision to the Blueshirts at Verizon Center in the teams’ only meeting so far this season on October 22nd.

New York has made themselves relevant in the Metropolitan Division race again, putting together a six-game winning streak before dropping their last game, a 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday.  They have inched to within four points of the Columbus Blue Jackets for third place and are five behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in the division.

It has become a cliché to say that the Rangers will go only so far as goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will carry them.  Lundqvist stopped 32 of 34 shots against the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 11th in a 4-2 win to become just the 12th goaltender in NHL history to win 400 games in his career.  Of those 12 netminders, Lundqvist is the only one to record all of his wins with one franchise.  The win comes in a season that has the ominous look of the beginning of, if not the winter, than at least the autumn of his career.  His 2.69 goals against average is the highest of his 12-year career, and his .911 save percentage is the lowest in his career.  It comes off a 2015-2016 season in which no goalie in the league saw as many shots as did Lundqvist (1,944) and in which no goalie made more saves (1,788).  No goalie has had more seasons with 3,500 minutes or more in total ice time than Lundqvist since he came into the league (eight).  He has been much better of late, going 8-2-0 in his last 11 appearances (one no-decision), with a 2.11 goals against average and a .934 save percentage with one shutout.  In 33 career appearances against Washington, Lundqvist is 20-9-4, 2.63, .907, with four shutouts.

J.T. Miller just gets better and better.  At least that is what his year-to-year numbers say.  Now in his fifth season, Miller has improved each season in games played (from 26 in his rookie season to 82 last season and all 57 games this season), goals (from two in his rookie year to 18 – a 26-goal pace – this season), assists (from two to a career-high 28 this season), plus-minus (from minus-7 his rookie season to plus-19 so far this season).  The three shorthanded goals he has this season (tied for the league lead) are the first three of his career.  In the Rangers’ recent 6-1-0 run, he has had a hand in ten of the Rangers’ 23 goals (2-8-10).  He’s been a good-luck charm this season, the Rangers going 29-5-0 in games in which he recorded a point.  Miller is 2-1-3, minus-4, in 15 career games against the Caps.

Seven Defensemen have appeared in more than one game for the Rangers this season.  All of them have at least one goal.  None have more goals than Nick Holden.  Holden, an undrafted free agent originally signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets, came to the Rangers ion June 2016 from Colorado for a fourth-round draft pick in 2017.  The nine goals he has this season is one off his career high, recorded in 54 games with the Avalanche in 2013-2014.  He is one of the unknown commodities on the blue line in the league, averaging as many goals per game over the last four seasons as Duncan Keith and Mark Streit and more than Alex Pietrangelo and Nick Leddy.  However, his goal in the Rangers’ last game against the Islanders was his first goal in 17 games.  In six career games against the Capitals, Holden is 1-0-1, minus-2.

1.  Since being shut out by the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-0, on January 25th, the Rangers have scored four goals in each of their last five straight games at Madison Square Garden (4-1-0).

2.  New York has won four straight on home ice, but not because they limited opponents’ shots on goal.  Calgary (32 shots on goal), Anaheim (44), Nashville (37), and Colorado (34) averaged 36.8 shots on goal.

3.  Caps fans will be concerned if there is any 4-on-4 time in this game.  The Rangers are tied for the league lead in goals at 4-on-4 (six), while the Caps have yet to score in that situation this season.

4.  Only two teams in the league have fewer penalty minutes per game than the Rangers (6:58) – Chicago (6:43) and Carolina (6:15).

5.  The Rangers are not an especially formidable possession team on home ice.  They rank 23rd in the league in home Corsi-for at 5-on-5 (48.87 percent; numbers from

1.  Getting power plays on the road is an infrequent occurrence for the Caps, relative to the rest of the league.  Only three teams have had fewer power play chances than the Caps (77) – St. Louis (74), Columbus (73), and the New York Islanders (71 – and only two teams have spent less time on the power play than the Caps (123:46) – Columbus (114:24) and the Islanders (110:56).

2.  The two goals the Caps allowed in the Gimmick on Saturday made it nine goals against on the road in the freestyle competition this season.  No team has allowed more shootout goals in road games.

3.  The Caps have four of the league’s top seven scorers since the calendar rolled over to 2017,  Since January 1st, Nicklas Backstrom leads the league in points (31), Evgeny Kuznetsov is tied for fourth (25, with Mark Scheifele), T.J. Oshie is sixth (24), and Alex Ovechkin is seventh (23, tied with Connor McDavid and Nazem Kadri).

4.  The Caps are one of four teams in the league to shoot over ten percent on the road (10.1).  The others are Columbus (10.5 percent), Minnesota (10.7 percent), and the Rangers (11.5 percent).

5.  Washington has the third-best save percentage of shot attempts at 5-on-5 in the league in road games (.963).  Only the Rangers (.964) and Minnesota (.966) are better (numbers from

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New York: Michael Grabner

Michael Grabner has worn the number “40” at each of his four stops in the NHL – Vancouver, the Islanders, Toronto, and the Rangers.  This season he is trying to match his goal total to that jersey number.  With 26 goals in 56 games, Grabner is on a pace to finish with 38 goals.  And, he has been coming on stronger of late on home ice.  After going 17 games with just one goal at Madison Square Garden, his has goals in four of his last five contests on home ice and points in all five (5-2-7).  The odd part is that he has goals in just nine of 30 home games he has played this season (12 of his 26 goals).  The Rangers are 8-1-0 in those games, though.  Grabner is 2-3-5, plus-1, in 20 career games against the Capitals.

Washington:  Evgeny Kuznetsov

It is a measure of how deep the Caps are and how talented Evgeny Kuznetsov is that a second line center should be in the top-five in scoring since January 1st.  In 22 games in the new year, Kuznetsov is 9-16-25, plus-15 (a 34-60-94, plus-56 pace), and he is tied with Nicklas Backstrom for the most even strength points in the league since January 1st (21).  The Caps are 13-1-1 in the 15 games in which he recorded points in the new year, 7-1-0 in the games in which he recorded a goal.  He has been doing it with considerable efficiency, too.  He has not logged more than 20 minutes of ice time in a game since December 3rd and hasn’t skate more than 19 minutes in a game in this calendar year and is averaging just 15:54 per game.  Kuznetsov is 2-6-8, plus-4, in 10 career games against the Rangers.

In the end…

The Caps are 19-2-2 since the last time they lost consecutive games, back in Games 33-34 in late December.  They have not lost consecutive games on the same road trip since Games 14-15 back in mid-November.  This is a team that can take care of business on the road and put losses behind them.  The Caps take a 10-11-2 record at Madison Square Garden since the 2004-2005 lockout into this contest but are 10-6-1 in their last 17 visits to MSG, including wins in their last two games there.  If we had a Magic 8-Ball, it might say, “signs point to a win.”

Capitals 4 – Rangers 2

A ONE-Point Afternoon -- Game 57: Detroit Red Wings 3 - Washington Capitals 2 (OT/Gimmick)

If you are a Washington Capitals fan, you might look upon this afternoon’s 3-2 Gimmick loss to the Detroit Red Wings and think, “well, it could have been worse.”  The Caps came back from a two-goal deficit to tie the game late in the third period before coming up short in the freestyle competition.

Detroit opened the scoring mid-way through the first period on a power play. Working the puck from behind the Capitals net around the perimeter, the Wings finally got it to Henrik Zetterberg low on the right side.  Zetterberg fed the puck to the net, between the legs of Justin Abdelkader and to Frans Nielsen to the right of goalie Braden Holtby.  Nielsen’s first attempt hit the post on the near side, but he get a second whack at the puck, chipping it over Holtby’s pad to make it 1-0 8:13 into the contest.

There was no further scoring in the first period, but the Wings got another early in the second.  John Carlson tried to chip the puck forward from outside his blue line, but it was blocked by Anthony Mantha at the red line.  Mantha skated the puck down the left side into the Caps’ end and found Zetterberg to his right.  Zetterberg moved in, but instead of shooting left the puck back for Tomas Tatar filling in late down the middle.  Tatar ripped a shot past Holtby to make it 2-0 at the 3:33 mark.

Late in the period the Caps got one back.  Thomas Vanek tried to play the puck from just outside his own blue line up the middle, but the pass was intercepted by Lars Eller.  Circling to his left to draw the defense to him, Eller saucered a pass to Zach Sanford on the weak side.  Sanford snapped the puck past goalie Petr Mrazek, and the Caps were on the board with 1:14 left in the second period.

Daniel Winnik tied the game for the Caps late in the third period.  Picking up a loose puck in the neutral zone, Winnki fed T.J. Oshie on the right side.  Oshie circled through the right wiing faceoff circle and got off a shot that Mrazek stopped.  The rebound popped into the air, and Winnik swooped in to whack it out of the air and into the back of the net to tie the game at the 15:12 mark.

The teams went through a scoreless overtime to bring the trick shot competition.  Vanek scored in the first round for the Red Wings, and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored in the second round for the Caps.  In the top of the fifthg round, Zetterberg scored for the Caps, leaving it up to Alex Ovechkin to keep things going.  When his shot was gloved down by Mrazek, the Red Wings had the extra standings point, 3-2.

Other stuff…

-- Braden Holtby’sstring of 14 straight winning decisions came to an end.  He still has not lost a game in regulation since he dropped a 4-3 decision to the New York Islanders on December 27th.  He is 14-0-2 since then.

-- Nicklas Backstrom extended his points streak to eight games with an assist on the Winnik goal (4-10-14).

-- The Caps had five power play opportunities, just the eighth time this season they had that many or more.  It was the fourth time in eight tries they had five or more power play chances and failed to record a goal.

-- Washington faced just two shorthanded situations, the eighth time in nine games they faced fewer than four such situations.  They did allow a goal, making the penalty killers just 18-for-24 (75.0 percent) over those nine games.

-- Jay Beagle lost 13 of the 20 faceoffs he took, a high for the season in faceoff losses.  He is 15-for-40 in his last two games (37.5 percent).

-- The loss was the fifth in the Gimmick for the Caps this season.  Only the Toronto Maple Leafs have more (six).

-- Brooks Orpik earned his second fighting major of the season when he took on Steve Ott in the last minute of regulation.  This is the first season he had more than one fighting major since the 2007-2008 season with Pittsburgh, when he had three.

-- Alex Ovechkin skated 21:11, breaking a streak of eight games in which he did not hit the 20-minute mark in ice time.  It was the most ice time he logged since he skated 21:57 in a 3-2 overtime win over Buffalo on December 5th.

-- Marcus Johansson took a penalty, the first time that happened since December 23rd.  He also had five shots on goal to lead the team in this game, his highest shot total for a game this season.

-- The Capitals closed their history visiting Joe Louis Arena with a 16-15-6-4 record.  The Red Wings move to Little Caesar’s Arena next season.

In the end…

They got a point.  That’s better than most teams have done coming off the bye week this season (3-9-1 going into today’s play).  The rust showed early, but the Caps did demonstrate they were the better team late.  It doesn’t get easier, though, having to get right back to it on Sunday in a matinee against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.  Welcome back.

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 57: Washington Capitals at Detroit Red Wings, February 18th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

For the Washington Capitals, the 2015-2016 regular season enters its final phase on Saturday, when the Caps head to Detroit to take on the Red Wings as their bye week ends. For the Caps, their only visit to Joe Louis Arena this season is likely to be the last one as the Wings prepare to move on to Little Caesar’s Arena for the 2017-2018 season.

The Caps, to refresh your memory, will bring a six-game winning streak to The Joe and will be looking to win consecutive road games for the first time since January 19/21, when they beat the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars on their respective rinks. The Caps beat the Montreal Canadiens in their last road contest, 3-2, on February 4th, extending a trend of alternating road wins and losses over four games.

For the Red Wings, the second oldest NHL rink in the league (Madison Square Garden being the oldest) has not been a comfortable home this season. The 11 wins they have on home ice is the second-lowest home win total in the league (Colorado has seven home wins), and they come into this game 1-3-1 in their last five home contests.

Offense has been a clear problem for Detroit this season. The 2.37 goals scored per game is the lowest for the club in the post-2004-2005 lockout era. In fact, you would have to go back to the 1976-1977 season to find a Red Wing club with a more anemic offense (2.29 goals per game for a team that finished 16-55-9).

The Red Wings have one scorer in the top-50 in the league…barely. With 41 points, Henrik Zetterberg (13-28-41) is tied with Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers, Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers, and Mark Stone of the Ottawa Senators for 49th place in points. He did have a goal in the Red Wings’ 6-3 loss to the Caps On February 9th and does have a goal and an assist in three games since that meeting. Zetterberg is 7-6-13, minus-3, in 19 career games against the Caps.

One of the disappointments for the club this season has to be the production of Riley Sheahan. After posting modest, but respectable goal totals in the previous two seasons (13 in 2014-2015 and 14 last season), he has yet to light the red lamp in 55 games this season. No player in the NHL has taken more shots on goal than Sheahan (76) with nothing to show for it. He is one of just ten skaters of 814 to have dressed this season with a plus-minus of minus-20 or worse (he is minus-20). He comes into this game with one point in his last 12 games, over which he is a minus-7. Sheahan is 0-2-2, even, in 10 career games against the Caps.

Niklas Kronwall missed the February 9th game against the Caps, but he has been in the Red Wings lineup in the three games since, returning from a lower-body injury. Kronwall comes into this game having played in more games for the Red Wings as a defenseman (771) than only three defensemen in team history: Nicklas Lidstrom (1,564), Marcel Pronovost (983), and Red Kelly (846). This season, the 36-year old blueliner is having quite a struggle. In addition to being limited to 33 games by injury, he has yeat to score a goal this season (he has never gone an entire season without doing so), has just six assists, and his ice time is under 20 minutes per game (18:26) for the first time since he averaged 13:51 in 20 games in his first NHL season in 2003-2004. And, the Wings are just 11-17-5 in those games in which he did appear so far this season. Kronwall is 1-4-5, minus-6, in 17 career games against Washington.

1.  The Red Wings are tied for the fewest wins in the league when leading at the first intermission (six). Then again, they have taken a lead into the first intermission just 12 times in 57 games. Even so, the .500 winning percentage when leading after 20 minutes is second-worst in the league (New Jersey is .476).

2.  Maybe it is just the playing-with-a-lead thing, but the 12 wins Detroit has when leading after the second intermission is tied for third-fewest in the league, and only Colorado (.615) has a worse winning percentage than the Wings (.667) when leading after 40 minutes.

3.  And, to complete the thought, Detroit’s .455 winning percentage when scoring first is worst in the league. Only Colorado (nine) has fewer wins in those situations than the Red Wings (ten).

4.  Only Philadelphia has fewer wins by three or more goals (two) than Detroit (four).

5.  The Red Wings are not generating much offense on home ice. Their 49.90 shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 is third-lowest in the league (numbers from

1.  You look at the 14 wins the Caps have in one-goal games, which ranks tied for 12th in the league and might think, “wish that number was higher.” Then you look and see that they have just four regulation losses by one goal, a number that is less than all but two teams (St. Louis with two and Pittsburgh with one).

2.  And, chances are you are not going to blow out the Caps. Only five times this season have they loast be three or more goals. That is fewer than all but three teams: Edmonton (four), the Rangers (four), and Minnesota (two).

3.  The Caps have won 30 games this season when leading after two periods, five more wins than Minnesota. Then again, they take a lead into the third period so often – 32 times in 56 games (30-1-1).

4.  Every Capital to have played in more than 25 games this has recorded at least ten points, 18 in all (Zach Sanford has two points in 21 games).

5.  The Caps have the second-best goals-per-shot-attempt on the road this season (4.90 percent). Only Minnesota is better (5.39 percent; numbers from

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Detroit: Dylan Larkin

If there is something to the idea of a “sophomore slump,” it might explain the season Dylan Larkin has had for Detroit. In a loaded rookie class last season that included Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, and Artemi Panerin, Larkin finished third in his class in goals scored (23), 11th in assists (22), and sixth in points (45). His plus-11 tied for fifth in that group, and only Panerin (seven) had more game-winning goals than Larkin (five). This season, he is limping along with a scoring line of 12-7-19, minus-18, in 55 games played. His minus-18 is second-worst on the club, and he has just one game-winning goal. He has not scored a goal over his last ten games and has only one point since then. Larkin is 1-1-2, plus-1, in five career games against Washington.

Washington: Barry Trotz

You have a team scattered to the winds for five days, get one good day of practice, then have to send them out on the ice on the road in their first game back together after the bye. This is one example of where one can see just how much a system and a philosophy has taken hold, the extent to which players play on physical and mental instinct through the rust. It’s not a vote of confidence in the coaching abilities of Barry Trotz, just an indicator of how much of what he has been preaching is now a part of the players’ DNA. Trotz is 6-2-0 against the Red Wings as coach of the Caps. A win would seal his first season sweep of Detroit behind the Washington bench.

In the end…

When you go on a week’s vacation after a long grind at the office, it probably takes you a day or two to get back into the rhythm of work. Now, imagine doing that while your competitors have spent that week grinding away at the job. And the Red Wings are going to be in an ugly state of mind, having lost five in a row (0-4-1), including that loss to the Caps on February 9th. It is a proud bunch that has less and less to play for in any practical sense, being as they are last in the Eastern Conference. This should be all a matter of how ready the Caps are to play after their hiatus. They tied the Red Wings in their first visit to that storied arena on the Detroit riverfront back in 1980.  There are no ties in the NHL anymore, so the Caps will just have to scratch out a win.

Capitals 3 – Red Wings 2