The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals go back on the road on Monday for their only visit to Tampa this season to face the Lightning. Washington will be looking to extend their winning streak to three games, while the Lightning, who split their home-and-home set against the Florida Panthers to start the season, will be looking for their second straight win on home ice.
Alex Ovechkin will be looking to do the next to impossible, posting a third straight hat trick contest. He had only two all of last season, those coming almost four months apart. He had a late November hattie against the St. Louis Blues and then a late March hat trick against the Minnesota Wild.
Tampa Bay will be looking to foil Ovechkin and the Caps despite having allowed eight goals in two games so far (sixth-worst goals against per game in the league). The Lightning are part of a strange “Southeast Division” thing going on in the first week of the season. They, the Panthers, and the Carolina Hurricanes – all former Southeast Division teams – are the only ones in the league averaging four or more goals allowed per game and four or more goals scored.
It is only two games, but the Lightning have spread their goal scoring around. Four players– Ondrej Palat, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point – have two goals apiece in the early going. Point, a third-round draft pick of the Lightning (2014), leads the team with five points.
At the other end, Andrei Vasilevskiy got the nod in goal for both Lightning games to open the season, and he started slowly. He has allowed eight goals on 84 shots (.905 save percentage) with a 4.08 goals against average. It is quite a bit different from his start last season in which he went 2-0-0, 1.51, .952 in his first two contests.
As for the Caps, they will be trying to extend a lengthy points streak against the Bolts. Washington has not lost a game in regulation against Tampa Bay since dropping a 4-3 decision in Tampa on November 1, 2014. Since then, the Caps are 7-0-1, the only blemish being a 2-1 Gimmick loss in Tampa last December 3rd.
1. Last season was the first season in Lightning history in which they recorded more than 40 wins (42) and failed to reach the playoffs.
2. Little things… Tampa Bay had the fourth-worst faceoff percentage in the league last season (47.7 percent).
3. The Lightning finished second in the league in home power play opportunities last season (149; Winnipeg had 152). They did a good job of converting those opportunities, finishing fourth in home power play efficiency (24.21 percent).
4. Tampa Bay finished third last season in penalty minutes per game (10:40). They managed that feat despite being one of just six teams not to be charged with a game misconduct.
5. It’s early, but the Lightning have awful possession numbers. Their 36.14 percent Corsi-for at 5-on-5 is 30th of 31 teams through two games (Vancouver is 33.8 percent; numbers from Corsica.hockey).
1. It’s early here, too. The Caps are dead last in the league in shots on goal per game (25.5).
2. Through Saturday’s games, only one team having played two games has been charged with feweer giveaways than the Caps (10). St. Louis has six.
3. The Caps are second in the league in faceoff winning percentage (57.6 percent). Only Toronto (57.9 percent) outranks them.
4. Odd fact…the Caps are the only team in the league with both a one-goal win and a win by three or more goals. But hey, it’s early.
5. The Caps have the worst special teams time differential in the league. They have spent 9:11 more time on penalty killing than they have on power plays.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Tampa Bay: Steven Stamkos
When Steven Stamkos is healthy, he scores goals. Over the last eight seasons of his career, he played in 70 or more games five times and scored 35 or more goals five times. He topped 40 four times. Even in the abbreviated 2012-2013 season he recorded 29 goals in 48 games, a 50-goal pace. The trouble is, he appeared in fewer than 40 games in two of the last four seasons. He missed 45 games in the 2013-2014 season to a broken leg and 65 games last season to a knee injury. Even so, in those two seasons combined he recorded 34 goals over 54 games, a 52-goal pace. He is the most effective goal scorer (0.55 goals per game since he entered the league in 2008-2009) not named “Ovechkin” (0.59 goals per game over that span) in the NHL. That Tampa Bay is on the short list of Stanley Cup contenders this season is due in large part to the expected contribution – and durability – of Stamkos this season. In 35 career games against the Caps, he is 15-14-29, minus-14.
Washington: T.J. Oshie
If you were asked, which Capital has more career goals per game against the Tampa Bay Lightning than any other Capital, you would reflexively respond “Alex Ovechkin.” Good answer. He has 41 goals in in 63 games against the Lightning (0.65 per game). You would also be wrong. T.J. Oshie has 10 goals in 14 career games against the Lightning (0.71 goals per game), one of four teams against which he has posted at least ten goals and the only one who was exclusively a member of the Eastern Conference (Columbus, Dallas, and Nashville are the others). Oshie had his only hat trick of the 2016-2017 against Tampa Bay at Amalie Arena in a 5-3 win. He also had three goals in three games against the Bolts in the 2015-2016 season with the Caps. Oshie has been something of a road warrior with the Caps, too. In 76 road games with the Caps over the past two-plus seasons he has 28 goals, second on the club to Alex Ovechkin (40).
In the end…
If there is a to-do list early, these teams have them. The Caps will be looking to get more balanced goal scoring. Not that seven goals in two games from Alex Ovechkin is a bad thing, but three from the rest of the lineup could use improvement. The other side of that coin for the Caps is getting other players getting shots to the net. The 8.1 shooting percentage from players not named “Ovechkin” is not bad, but they have to improve on the 37 shots on goal they have in the two games so far. Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Jay Beagle each have only one shot on goal; Nicklas Backstrom has only two. For the Lightning, the task at hand is preventing goals. Eight goals allowed in two games is not a cause for panic, but neither is it sustainable for a contender. All things considered, though, one would rather have the Caps’ “problems,” to the extent they have them.
Capitals 4 – Lightning 2