The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
November got off to a rough start for the Washington Capitals with an overtime loss to the Dallas Stars to start a four-game home stand after coming back from down a goal in the third period. The Caps get to turn things around on Monday night, though, when they host the Edmonton Oilers in a rematch of teams who last faced one another on October 25th, a 4-1 Oiler win in Edmonton.
The Caps are 1-1-1 since that meeting, a record entirely in line with their meandering journey among wins and losses to start the season. On the other hand, the Oilers go into this contest 4-1-0 since that meeting, three of those wins coming on the road in three tries.
As you might expect, Connor McDavid has figured prominently in the Oiler scoring since these teams last met. He has points in all five games since Edmonton defeated Washington (3-4-7, plus-5), and he has points in 12 of the 13 games in which he played so far this season. Only Nashville held him off the score sheet in a 3-0 win over the Oilers on October 20th. McDavid plays for a club renowned over its history for its offensive firepower, but already he is closing in on, if not in the top-20 in franchise history in a number of offensive categories, despite this being only his fourth season in the NHL:
- Goals: 96/22nd
- Assists: 181/18th
- Points: 277/21st
- Even-strength goals: 79/21st
- Power play assists: 54/T-20th
- Power play points: 69/22nd
- Game-winning goals: 20/14th
- Overtime goals: 5/T-2nd
- Points per game: 1.25/4th
Keep in mind, McDavid is not yet 22 years old, and his 222 games played ranks 68th in club history.
Drake Caggiula was undrafted, played junior hockey with the Stouffville Spirit of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, and then spent four years with the University of North Dakota in the NCAA. After his four-year tour with UND in which he scored 62 goals in 162 games, Caggiula signed a two-year entry level contract with the Oilers in May 2016. After two seasons in which he posted 20 goals and 38 points in 127 games, he was signed to a two-year extension by the Oilers last June. He responded with five goals in nine games so far this season, all of them coming in his last five contests, including a pair of two-goal efforts, one in a 5-3 win over Nashville on October 27th, the other in a 4-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks last Thursday. Caggiula has not yet recorded a point against the Caps in three career games played against them.
Once upon a time, Milan Lucic was going to be the next big thing among NHL power forwards. Over a five-season span with the Boston Bruins from 2010-2011 through 2014-2015, Lucic potted 105 goals in 367 games, an average of more than 23 goals per 82 games. Paired with his physical edge (1006 credited hits, 503 penalty minutes), he was earning a reputation for being a player to be feared when on the ice. Then, he headed west to the Los Angeles Kings in a trade for Martin Jones, Colin Miller, and the Kings’ first round pick of the 2015 entry draft. He had a productive season in Los Angeles (20-35-55) before heading to Edmonton as a free agent. His first season there, in 2016-2017, he topped his previous season in goal scoring (23) and posted his fifth career 50-point season (50). Last year, however, his goal total plummeted (to 10), and he finished with only 34 points, his lowest total of any season in which he appeared in more than 50 games since he had 27 points in 77 games in his rookie season in Boston. He has not given any signs of coming out of that slump so far. Lucic is 1-3-4, minus-6 (team worst), in 13 games. In 34 career games against the Caps, Lucic is 7-14-21, minus-6.
1. Since the league instituted the Gimmick, only four teams have more trick shot wins than the Oilers (70) – New York Islanders (75), Pittsburgh Penguins (75), New York Rangers (74) and New Jersey Devils (71). Wonder what it is with the New York area teams.
2. Nine teams went into Week 6 with eight or more wins in regulation and overtime. The Oilers are one of them (eight). Trouble for them is that six of the eight teams in that group play in the Western Conference.
3. The Oilers’ penalty kill is something of which the Caps might take advantage. At 70.8 percent, their road penalty kill is fifth-worst in the league.
4. Edmonton does a very good job of playing within the rules. Their 48 penalties taken so far is tied for the fourth-fewest in the league. Only Vegas (45), Toronto (43) and Pittsburgh (38) have taken fewer.
5. The Oilers can be sloppy with the puck. They have been charged with 163 giveaways so far, fourth-most in the league.
1. No team has scored more power play goals on home ice than the Caps (11), and their 47.8 percent conversion rate on home ice tops the league, almost eight points ahead of their closest pursuer (Winnipeg at 40.9 percent).
2. Only five teams have fewer penalty minutes taken than the Caps (106).
3. The 158 blocked shots recorded by the Caps are 30th in the league, only ten more than the bottom-ranked Florida Panthers, whose 148 blocked shots were recorded in one fewer game than Washington.
4. If the volume of faceoffs is an indicator of game flow, things have flowed rather well in Caps games. Their total of 734 draws taken is fourth-fewest in the league.
5. Trailing after one period continues to matter for the Caps. They are winless in four such instances this season (0-2-2).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Edmonton: Alex Chiasson
As a member of the Washington Capitals last season, Alex Chiasson played a support role, posting nine goals and 18 points in 61 regular season games, one goal and two points in 16 postseason games as the Caps marched to a championship. It was a decent season, quite in line with his previous four full seasons in the league in which he scored 44 goals and posted 99 points in 313 games (nine goals and 19 points per 61 games). Then he signed a one-year/$650,000 contract with the Oilers on October 2nd. That contract has to be one of the most cost-effective in the early going this season. Chiasson has six goals, third-most on the club, while having appeared in only eight of the Oilers’ 13 games played. His 46.2 shooting percentage (six goals on 13 shots) is tops in the league among the 514 skaters with ten or more shots on goal this season. His plus-7 in eight games is tied for third-best on the club, and he has yet to take a penalty. He is one of eight players in the league having appeared in at least eight games with at least six goals, playing at least 12 minutes per game with no penalty minutes recorded. It might be sustainable, but it feels good while it lasts. Chiasson is 2-4-6, plus-5, in nine career games against the Caps.
Washington: Alex Ovechkin
Since he came into the league, Alex Ovechkin has 617 goals, 200 more than the second-place skater on that list (Sidney Crosby has 417). Of that total, 313 goals were scored on home ice, a total that would tie him with Ilya Kovalchuk for 18th place on the total goals scored list. With two more goals, Ovechkin will have tied Jarome Iginla for the most total goals scored on home ice over the last 20 seasons, and if he does it against Edmonton, he will have done it in 229 fewer home games (510) than did Iginla (739). When Ovechkin went without a goal in the Caps’ 4-3 overtime loss to Dallas, it was the first time this season that Ovechkin went consecutive home games without a goal. One thing that has been consistent in Ovechkin’s game is success with high shot volumes. His 47 shots on goal ranks an uncharacteristically low 17th (tied with Claude Giroux and Johnny Gaudreau), but the Caps have not yet lost when he had five or more shots in a game this season (4-0-0). On the other hand, the Caps are 1-4-3 when he had fewer than five shots on goal. Ovechkin is 10-10-20, plus-2, in 17 games against Edmonton.
In the end…
The Caps are closing in on having played 20 percent of their schedule, and they have yet to establish much consistency or rhythm to their game. Their defensive efforts have been spotty, their goaltending uneven, and their special teams tilted far to the power play side of success. As they head into the second of a five-game home stand, the Caps still have an opportunity to take advantage of home ice to jump a couple of rungs on the standings ladder, but they will have to sustain a higher level of effort in all three zones and at every position to make that objective come through.
Capitals 4 – Oilers 2