Monday, October 21, 2019

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 11: Capitals at Flames, October 22nd

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Washington Capitals will look to extend their longest winning streak of the young season when they visit Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Tuesday night to face the Flames.  The Caps have won three in a row, victories over the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks, outscoring the trio of opponents by a 14-8 margin.  On the other side, the Flames have been all over the road to start the season, first alternating wins and losses over their first four games, then piecing together a pair of losses and a pair of wins before returning to alternating a loss with a win, bringing their season record to 5-4-1.

Then and Now

This will be the 98th meeting in the all-time series between the Caps and the Flames.  Washington is 39-43-2 (13 ties) in 97 meetings to date.  They are 13-27-0 (seven ties) in 47 games played in Calgary.  Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 11-5-2 in 18 games played against the Flames and 6-3-0 in the nine games played in Calgary.  They defeated the Flames in their last visit to Calgary, a 4-3 Gimmick win last October 27th.

Active Leaders vs. Opponent

Caps vs. Flames:
  • Goals: Ovechkin (10)
  • Assists: Backstrom (14)
  • Points: Ovechkin (23)
  • Plus-minus: Backstrom (plus-4)
  • Penalty minutes: Wilson (12)
  • Power play goals: Ovechkin (8)
  • Power play points: Ovechkin (15)
  • Game-winning goals: Ovechkin, Backstrom (2)
  • Overtime goals: none
  • Shots on goal: Ovechkin (99)

Flames vs. Caps:
  • Goals: Monahan (7)
  • Assists: Gaudreau (9)
  • Points: Monahan (11)
  • Plus-minus: Monahan (plus-6)
  • Penalty minutes: Giordano (14)
  • Power play goals: Lindholm, Backlund, Monahan (1)
  • Power play points: Tkachuk, Gaudreau, Giordano (2)
  • Game-winning goals: Monahan (4)
  • Overtime goals: Monahan (2)
  • Shots on goal: Monahan (34)

Noteworthy Opponents

The Flames have struggled to put the puck in the net over their first ten games.  Their 2.50 goals per game in scoring offense is tied with the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers for 23rd place in the league through Sunday’s games.  One fifth of their 25 goals have been recorded by Elias Lindholm.  Now in his second season in Calgary after spending his first five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, Lindholm is coming off a career year last season: 27 goals, 51 assists, and 78 points, while going plus-30, that last number tied for second in plus-minus among all forwards last season.  Lindholm had a goal in each of the Flames’ wins this season until he was blanked on the score sheet in Sunday’s 2-1 win in Anaheim over the Ducks.  It was only the second time this season in ten games in which he was held without a shot on goal.  One odd number he has posted is his penalty minute total.  Coming into this season, Lindholm had never compiled more than 24 minutes in penalties in any of his six seasons, but he already has ten penalty minutes in ten games to date.  The unexpected part of that is that the Flames are 3-1-0 in the four games in which he logged penalty minutes.  In 20 career games against the Caps, Lindholm is 5-5-10, plus-1.

When Lindholm was traded to Calgary by Carolina in June 2018, defenseman Noah Hanafin came with him.  Like Lindholm, who was a fifth overall draft pick by the Hurricanes in the 2013 Entry Draft, Hanafin was a fifth overall pick by Carolina in the 2015 Entry Draft.  His four years preceding this one were characterized by steady, incremental improvement – 22 points as a 19 year old rookie in 2015-2016, 29 points in his sophomore season, 32 points in 2017-2018, and 33 points last season, his first in Calgary.  Hanafin is off to a slow start this season, posting two points (two goals) in ten games.  Despite averaging almost 21 minutes a game over his last six contests, he is without a point and has eight shots on goal after going 2-0-2 over his first four games with nine shots on goal.  Those two goals are tied with Mark Giordano for the team lead among defensemen.  He leads the defense in credited hits (18) and takeaways (eight), but he also has been charged with a team high ten giveaways among defensemen.  Hanafin is without a point in 14 career games against Washington and is minus-3.

After a pair of disappointing seasons split between the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers over which he was a combined 42-48-6, 3.15, .902, with two shutouts, Cam Talbot signed a one-year/$2.75 million contract with Calgary as an unrestricted free agent.  He has been effective in limited work, going 1-1-0, 1.75, .931 in three games to date, including a sparkling 29-save effort in a 2-1 win over Anaheim on Sunday night.  But he is backup to David Rittich, who might be thought of as an unexpected number one goalie for the moment.  Undrafted as an amateur, he was signed by the Flames as a free agent in June 2016.  After appearing in 22 games over his first two NHL seasons, Rittich dressed for 45 games last season, posting a 27-9-5, 2.61, .911 record with one shutout, his first in the NHL.  He started eight of the first ten games for the Flames, going 4-3-1, 2.85, .912, with one shutout, a 34-save effort in a 3-0 win over Vancouver on October 5th.  Talbot is 3-5-0, 2.48, .916 in ten career appearances against the Caps, while Rittich has yet to face Washington in his career.

1.  The first 20 minutes matter for Calgary in this respect.  The Flames are 3-0-0 when leading after 20 minutes, 0-4-1 when trailing at the first intermission.

2.  The Flames are second in the league in penalty minutes per game (12:11), trailing only Los Angeles (12:46).  Their 50 penalties taken is by far tops in the league (three teams with 41).

3.  Only the Philadelphia Flyers scored fewer first period goals (three) than the Flames (four, tied with three other teams) through Sunday’s games.

4.  Calgary’s defense, home and road, have been quite different.  The Flames are averaging 3.50 goals allowed per game on the road, but they are averaging only 1.50 goals per game allowed at home and have allowed one or fewer in three of four home games to date.

5.  The Flames are third in the league in shot attempt differential at 5-on-5 on home ice (plus-21), trailing Carolina (plus-29) and Vegas (plus-34).

1.  The Caps have an odd opportunity on Tuesday night of some historical significance.  One could make the argument that the most important event in the history of the club was not drafting Alex Ovechkin, but the trade that brought Rod Langway to Washington from Montreal in 1982.  Here is something to chew on.  If the Caps win this game, and the Boston Bruins lose to Toronto on Tuesday night, the Caps will tie Boston for the most total wins in the NHL since that trade for Langway was made in 1982 (1,467 wins). 

2.  Through Sunday’s games, the Caps led the league in road wins (four).

3.  Only once in five road games have the Caps recorded more than 30 shots, 34 in the season opener in St. Louis.  Washington might need to attend to the matter of shot attempt differential on the road.  In their last three road games they are minus-40 and have a shot attempts-for percentage at fives of 40.91.

4.  The Caps have at least one power play goal in each of the five road games played to date and are 7-for-15 on the power play in those five games (46.7 percent, fourth in the league and best among teams with at least ten road power play chances).  Their penalty kill is 16-for-18 on the road (88.9 percent/seventh in the league).

5.  Very odd fact… Through Sunday, only two defensemen in the league logged at least 175 minutes and had six or fewer total shots on goal – Nick Jensen (188 minutes/five shots) and Jonas Siegenthaler (189 minutes/6 shots).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Calgary: Milan Lucic

Before there was Tom Wilson, there was Milan Lucic.  When Lucic posted 30 goals and logged 121 penalty minutes as a 22-year old with the Boston Bruins in 2010-2011, he was viewed by many as the league’s emerging power forward.  When he posted 26 goals with 135 minutes in the following season, there was little doubt that he was going to be a force of skill and edginess to contend with for the next decade.  Things did not work out that way.  In the abbreviated 2012-2013 season, Lucic posted only seven goals in 46 games.  He rebounded to record 42 goals in 161 games over the next two seasons with the Bruins, he was entering his chronological prime years with declining production and a big price tag ($6.0 million per year with a year remaining on his contract). 

Boston traded him to Los Angeles for Martin Jones, Colin Miller and a first round pick in the 2015 Entry Draft.  Lucic played the remaining year of his contract with the Kings, and then he signed a seven-year/$42 million contract with Edmonton as a free agent.  In three years with the Oilers, Lucic suffered declining goal production, opening with a 23-goal season but ending last year with only six goals in 79 games.  Last July, he was part of a damaged goods trade that saw him going to Calgary in exchange for James Neal, who was having production problems of his own with the Flames.  Things have yet to improve for the 31-year old Lucic in Calgary.  He has one point (an assist) in ten games so far and is averaging just 12:43 per game.  After posting 26 penalty minutes in his first three games, he is without one in seven games since.  Lucic is 7-14-21, minus-6, in 35 career games against the Caps.

Washington: Jonas Siegenthaler

Jonas Siegenthaler got his first taste of NHL action last season with 26 regular season games and another four in the postseason.  It set up a competition with Christian Djoos for time on the third defensive pairing for the 2019-2020 season, a competition that Siegenthaler won (Djoos was waived, cleared waivers, and was assigned to Hershey in the AHL).  While Siegenthaler has not put many marks in the offensive categories of his score sheet (0-1-1) in ten games so far, he is a plus-4 (third among Caps defensemen) and has a respectable personal 50.59 percent in on-ice shot attempts-for percentage while averaging 18:52 in ice time per game.  His 17 blocked shots is tied with Radko Gudas for second among Caps defensemen, while he has averaged 1.0 hits per game over ten games to date. 

As noted above, Siegenthaler has not been a high-volume shooter, and he is looking for his first goal in the NHL having played in 36 NHL games.  This might be among the last elements of his game to be expressed, but for now he is showing a solid game in other areas in his early stage of development.  Siegenthaler is without a point and is even in one career appearance against Calgary.

In the end…

Calgary is an odd team against which to start the western road swing.  It is a team that has had wild swings of fortune over the past half dozen years, posting 35 wins in 2013-2014 and following that with seasons of, in order, 45, 35, 45, 37, and 50 wins last season, alternating seasons of playoff appearances with those absent from the postseason.  If the pattern holds, this will not be a pleasant season for Flames fans.  But this is a team that has been stingy to guests on home ice, and presents a challenge for a Caps team that has scored four or more goals in each of their last three road games and five of their last six games overall.  Consider this game “unstoppable force meets impenetrable object.” 

The Force wins…

Capitals 4 – Flames 3