The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
‘Twas the day before the day before Christmas, and that means one last game for the Washington Capitals before settling in for a four-day winter nap. The Caps will visit Boston on Monday night to take on the Bruins. This will be the last game of the three-game regular season series between the teams, and the Caps will be looking to win for the third time, taking the first two matchups by identical 3-2 scores, the first in Boston in a Gimmick on November 16th and then in Washington on December 11th.
Then and Now…
This will be the 163rd meeting of these teams in the all-time series. Washington has a 64-69-8 (21 ties) record against the B’s, 30-38-4 (nine ties) on the road. Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 32-12-7 against the Bruins overall, 15-7-3 In Boston.
Active Leaders vs. Opponent…
David Krejci has spent most, if not all of his 14 season career in the NHL skating in the shadow of fellow Bruins. But when he takes the ice on Monday against the Capitals, he will play in his 882 career game, all with Boston, passing Rick Middleton for eighth place on all-time Bruins list of games played. He is likely to pass Terry O’Reilly (891 games) for seventh place shortly after the new year. He has done by showing up and giving a consistent effort more than with flash. He has only four seasons with 20 or more goals (a high of 23 twice), has 50 or more assists in three seasons (a high of 53 last year), and posted more than 70 points twice (73 twice, including last season). In addition to his high ranking in games played for the B’s, he is a top-20 player on the all-time list of goals scorers (201/19th), assists (466/eighth), points (667/ninth), plus-minus (plus-129/20th), power play goals (46/20th), and game-winning goals (39/11th).
Through 33 games this season, Kreici is hitting just about all of his career per-game output on the nose. His goals per game is equal to his career number (0.23 this year/0.23 career), assists are up slightly (0.55/0.53), and his points are up a bit (0.77/0.76). He has been more efficient in his shooting, posting seven goals on 43 shots, that 16.3 shooting percentage several points higher than his career 12.5 mark, and in fact on pace to be the best of his career. He has been an illustration of the importance of secondary scoring this season, the Bruins going 10-2-3 in the 15 games in which he had points. Ice time might be an issue though. The Bruins are winless in the four games Krejci skated more than 20 minutes (0-2-2) and are just 7-7-5 in the 19 games in which he logged more than 17:30 in ice time. Krejci is 9-14-23, minus-10, in 38 career games against Washington.
Sometime just after the calendar turns over, Zdeno Chara will play in his 1,000th game as a Boston Bruin, the sixth player in team history to do so. That is amazing in itself, but what makes it more noteworthy is that he played in 530 games in the NHL before he arrived in Boston in 2006-2007. The 1,522 NHL games played that he has going into Monday’s game ranks 19th al-time in the league and sixth all-time among defensemen. No active defenseman is within 300 games of Chara (Jay Bouwmeester: 1,221). How much longer he will play in the league, given that he will turn 43 years old in March, is a matter of conjecture, but before this season is over he is likely to be in the top-20 all-time defensemen in goals (he needs three to tie Larry Robinson for 20th place) and top-five in games played (he needs 42 to tie Nicklas Lidstrom). He could, if feeling especially ornery, challenge the 2,000 penalty minute mark for his career (he needs 72) and become the eighth defenseman in NHL history to hit that mark. His career plus-minus rating of plus-280 is more than 100 points clear of his closest pursuer among active defensemen (Duncan Keith: plus-156).
Chara has been in an offensive slump recently, posting one point (an assist) in his last dozen games after a stretch in which he was 4-7-11, plus-15 over 15 games. He is the minutes eater, though, and for a reason. Nineteen times this season he skated more than 21 minutes, and the Bruins did not lose any of them in regulation (14-0-5). Chara is 7-19-26, plus-1, in 74 career games against the Caps.
Chances are, you are not going to hear forward Chris Wagner’s name announced on a scoring play. In 36 games he has three goals an seven points. But he will announce his presence on the ice. Among 17 skaters dressing for at least 25 games for the Bruins so far, Wagner leads the club in credited hits per 60 minutes (12.40). He also averages more than two blocked shots per 60 minutes, painting a picture of a player who contributes by getting his hands dirty more than using them for highlight goals or fancy set-ups. As much as his physical play having a purpose, hockey being a physical game, it has an effect. In 17 games this season in which Wagner was credited with at least three hits, the Bruins are 9-2-6 (three of the extra time losses came in the trick shot competition). In the nine games in which he had one or no hits, Boston is 4-5-0.
1. No team has earned more standings points on home ice than the Bruins. They have 32 points to 30 for Pittsburgh.
2. On the other hand, no team has more extra time losses on home ice than Boston. Their eight extra time losses are almost as many on home ice as the next two teams combined, New Jersey (five) and any one of four teams tied with four (Nashville, Toronto, Philadelphia, and the Caps).
3. Beware the third period in Boston. The Bruins have the best goal differential in the third period on home ice in the league (plus-15).
4. Boston can give away points late, though. No team has more extra time losses on home ice when leading after two periods than the Bruins (three).
5. The Bruins are the only team in the league that has not lost a game in regulation when trailing after one period on home ice (3-0-2).
1. If the Caps get a lead early on the road, they generally keep it. Six teams have perfect records when leading after one period on the road, but the Caps have the most wins among them (8-0-0).
2. With the best record in the league on the road, it probably surprises no one that the Caps have scored more goals on the road (72) than any other team in the league.
3. The Caps have twice as many wins when outshooting opponents on the road (10) than any other team (four teams have won five times in those situations).
4. The Caps have taken 77 minor penalties in road games this season, the tied with Anaheim for third-highest total in the league behind Carolina (83) and Minnesota (78).
5. Washington has the second best shot attempts differential at 5-on-5 in close game situations (plus-55), trailing only Carolina (plus-108).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Boston: Patrice Bergeron
He has never dressed for every game in a regular season, but he has more than 1,000 NHL games played (1,056). He has never had a 35-goal season, but he is well north of 300 goals for his career (334). He has never had an 80-point season, but he has more than 800 career points (843). He is not generally thought of as a big power play producer, but he has exactly 100 career power play goals.
It is not the offense that Patrice Bergeron brings that sets him apart from most NHLers, at least not just the offense. It is the complete game, perhaps the most complete set of skills in one player in this era. Defense? He is a four-time Selke Trophy winner as top defensive forward and was named a finalist on four other occasions. If you are counting, he’s been a finalist for that trophy in each of the last eight seasons. He is a “gentlemanly” player, receiving votes for the Lady Byng Trophy in each of the last 11 seasons. He is perhaps the best practitioner in the art of faceoffs in this era, his career 57.1 winning percentage tops among all 371 active players who have taken at least 100 draws since Bergeron came into the league in 2003-2004. Among 142 active forwards dressing for at least 100 games, Bergeron ranks tenth in shorthanded ice time per game (2:00), and he is the only player in that group with at least two minutes of shorthanded ice time per game and at least three minutes of power play ice time per game (3:04). He not only plays in all situations, he flourishes in them.
Bergeron has been productive in the offensive end this season. He has 13 goals, 17 assists, and 30 points in 28 games. His average of 1.07 points per game, if maintained over the entire season, would be his second career season over a point per game (last season he finished with 1.22 points per game in 65 games). He goes into Monday’s game with points in 15 of his last 18 games (11-11-22), including a four-point game (0-4-4) at home in a 5-4 overtime win against Minnesota on November 23rd. Bergeron is 12-26-38, minus-12, in 48 career games against the Caps.
Washington: Carl Hagelin
Carl Hagelin remains the only forward dressing for more than three games for the Caps this season without a goal. With the seven games with which he finished last season without a goal, the additional 26 games he has come up empty this season means he drags a 33-game streak without a regular season goal into Monday’s contest. That’s no goals on 49 shots. Only he and Frans Nielsen among NHL forwards have taken that many or more shots over that span (since last March 24th) and failed to record a goal.
But players contribute in different ways, and Hagelin has been part of an excellent penalty kill. In the 26 games in which he has dressed, the Caps penalty kill is 88.5 percent. In the 11 games he missed to injury, it was only 78.4 percent. He has been on ice for only four opponents’ power play goals this season while averaging 3:08 in shorthanded ice time per game, tops among forwards and second among all skaters to defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler (3:13). That lack of offense has not been debilitating for Hagelin. Another example of that is that the Caps are 5-1-0 in the six games this season in which he did not record a shot on goal.
Still, while Hagelin has not been a prolific goal scorer in his career (his high is 17 with the Rangers in 2014-2015), he has never had fewer than five goals in a season, and that took place last season when he played in only 58 games for three different teams. Hagelin is 2-3-5, minus-12, in 23 career games against Boston.
In the end…
It is hard to comprehend the hold that the Caps have had over the Bruins over the last five years and change. Not just overall, where the Caps have a 16-1-0 record over Boston over the last 17 games overall, but in Boston, where the Caps haven’t lost since March 2014 and where they have an eight-game winning streak. When betting, bet the streak, the saying goes, and those 3-2 scores the Caps posted against the Bruins in the first two games of this season’s series are good enough for us.
Capitals 3 – Bruins 2