Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 38: Capitals at Bruins, December 23rd

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…

Noteworthy Opponents…

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

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 12

Week 12 looked a lot like Week 11 for the Washington Capitals. Three games on the schedule, a loss to Columbus, a win over Tampa Bay.  Replace a win over Boston in Week 11 with a win over New Jersey in Week 12, and it was another winning week for the Caps.

Record: 2-1-0

The Caps posted their tenth winning week of the season in Week 12.  Last season, the Caps did not post their tenth winning week until Week 15.  They have yet to experience a losing week, by percentage of standings points earned.  Compare that to last season, when they Caps had two losing weeks among their first dozen of the season.

Washington extended a couple of odd streaks in Week 12.  On the minus side, they lost to Columbus again, and that makes four straight regular season losses to the Blue Jackets (0-3-1).  Of course, the Caps still have that four-game playoff winning streak against Columbus, so there is that.  In beating the New Jersey Devils in the middle game of the week, the Caps extended their winning streak in the regular season to four games over the Devils, and they are 17-1-2 in their last 20 regular season meeting against New Jersey. 

Beating the struggling Devils is one thing, but the win over Tampa Bay to end the week is a horse of a different color.  The 3-1 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday made it four in a row over the Lightning and gave the Caps a 12-2-3 record over the Bolts in their last 17 regular season meetings. 

Offense: 3.00/game (season: 3.54/1st)

Balance was the keyword for the Caps in Week 12 more than volume.  Eight players shared in the nine goals scored, Nicklas Backstrom being the only Capitals with a two-goal week.  The week also featured contributions from the defense, four defensemen posting goals – John Carlson, Jonas Siegenthaler, Dmitry Orlov, and Radko Gudas.  For Orlov, it was his second goal in his last 36 games, since Opening Night.  The odd part of that is that both goals, including this week’s in the last game of the week, came against Tampa Bay, the first two goals he has in his career against the Lightning.  Siegenthaler got his first goal on the road in his career with his tally against New Jersey.  For Gudas, his goal against the Lightning was his first as a Capital.

Backstrom also led the team in points for the week (four), one of 14 skaters to record points in Week 12.  Even an interruption in his appearances due to injury has not slowed Backstrom down.  With the four points in three games this week, he is 4-8-12, plus-1, in his last nine games dating back to November 15th.

It would surprise no one that Alex Ovechkin led the team in shots on goal. He did (18), but it was the runners-up that surprised.  Lars Eller, Jakub Vrana, and Michal Kempny tied for second-most with eight shots on goal apiece.

The blemish on the week was being shut out by Columbus in the first game of the week.  It was the first time this season that the Caps were shut out and the first time that the Caps were blanked on the road since dropping an identical 3-0 decision to the Blue Jackets in Columbus last February.

Defense: 2.33/game (season: 2.76/8th)

Shot suppression was the feature of Week 12 for the Caps.  They allowed a total of 75 shots on goal to the three opponents and allowed none of them more than 27.  The distinctive part of the total was the detail. The Caps opened the week allowing 14 shots to Columbus in the first period and ended it by allowing 14 shots in the third period to Tampa Bay.  That left a total of 47 shots spread over seven periods of hockey the rest of the week.  It was a suffocating effort.

Unsurprisingly, the Caps dominated the shot attempts at 5-on-5. At plus-45 for the week in shot attempt differential, they were fourth-best in the league, and their 59.4 percent in this category was third-best in the league for the week.  Only three teams allowed fewer shot attempts at 5-on-5 than the Caps (96), and all of them – San Jose, Arizona, and the New York Rangers – played only two games this week.

Goaltending: 2.40 / .908 (season: 2.65 / .912)

It was an effective week in goaltending, for the most part.  That first-minute goal in the third period against Columbus to give the Blue Jackets a 2-0 lead, one of two goals Braden Holtby allowed on only five shots in that period, was the low point of the week.  But he rebounded with a solid 26-save performance against Tampa Bay to close the week in what might have been his best performance so far since Thanksgiving.

Ilya Samsonov got the middle game of the week and continued to impress in his rookie campaign.  The 6-3 win might not have been his best effort of the season (only the second time in seven road games he allowed more than two goals), but he won for the seventh time in seven road decisions, the first Capitals rookie goalie to win his first seven road decisions with the club.

Taken overall, one had to like the netminding of the pair over the first 40 minutes of games, where they combined to stop 43 of 46 shots (.935 save percentage).  The third periods could have been better, the pair stopping 26 of 30 shots (.867).

Power Play: 0-for-8/0.0 percent (season: 21.8 percent/11th)

One of these was bound to sneak in sooner or later.  It just was not a good week for the power play.  No goals on eight chances were most chances in a week without a power play goal since the Caps went 0-for-12 in Week 12 last season.  It was the first time in 12 weeks this season that the Caps failed to record a power play goal.  They were getting shots from the right people, well, Alex Ovechkin (seven shots), but not enough of them – 12 shots on goal in 15:48 in ice time.  The week extends a more lengthy dry spell for the power play unit, which is now just 2-for-23 (8.7 percent) over the last nine games spanning three weeks.

Penalty Killing: 11-for-12/91.7 percent (season: 85.7 percent/2nd)

If the power play has lacked power of late, the penalty kill has been lethal.  That the 91.7 percent penalty kill in Week 12 was the worst in the last three weeks says something.  Most impressive was holding what was the league’s second-best power play of the Tampa Bay Lightning to no goals in seven man advantages, including 1:26 of a 5-on-3 advantage.  Overall, the Caps held the three opponents to just 15 shots on goal in 20:41 of shorthanded ice time.  And, with 11 kills in 12 tries, the Caps are now 31-for-33 over the last three weeks, the best penalty kill in the league in December and the only one at over 90 percent (93.9 percent).

Faceoffs: 88-for-184/47.8 percent (season: 49.5 percent/21st)

It was a uniformly mediocre week in the circle.  The Caps did not win more than 50 percent of their draws in any of the three games (they split 54 faceoffs down the middle with New Jersey), and they were under 50 percent in all three zones, albeit only one faceoff loss under 50 percent in both the offensive and defensive ends.

Nicklas Backstrom held up his end – both ends, actually – in the faceoff circle, leading the team with 59 draws taken and finishing 50 percent or better in all three zones, 52.5 percent overall.  At the other end of Caps taking at least ten draws was Evgeny Kuznetsov, who finished 17-for-42 (40.5 percent), but he was over 50 percent in the defensive end in limited chances (4-for-7).

Goals by Period:

The fireworks were largely contained to the third periods of games for the Caps in Week 12, nine of the 16 goals scored overall being registered in the third period, five by the Caps and four for opponents.  The Caps have slowly become a dominating team late in games.  They finished Week 12 as one of only two teams with 50 or more third period goals, their 50 goals trailing only the Nashville Predators (51).

The Caps have been an odd sort of team of late in this category.  On the defensive side, the only teams to allow fewer goals over the first 40 minutes of games than the Caps (13) since Thanksgiving are Toronto (11), and Carolina (12).  On the offensive end, though, no team has scored more goals in the third periods and overtimes of games (20).


The Caps have settled into a profile that resembles last year’s at a similar point in the schedule.  There are important differences, though.  There are of course, the wins (two more than last year through 37 games) and losses (four fewer regulation losses this season).  But underneath that are the shots differential the Caps going from a minus-81 through 37 games last season to a plus-30 this season a net change of plus-111, 3.0 shots per game or one shot on goal per period.  Then there is the penalty kill, which has allowed 11 fewer goals and is more than eight percentage points better in penalty killing efficiency than last season.  Finally, and this might be the most significant change, is the shot attempts allowed at 5-on-5, which have been cut by more than nine percent from this point last year.

In the end…

That the Caps have been as dominant as they have been over as long as they have in regular season games is a temptation to take what they have done, and what they are doing, for granted.  Since 2008-2009, when the Caps had their first 50-win season in the “Rock the Red” era, they have had four 50-win seasons, more than any team in the league in that span.  They have 538 wins in all over that span, more than any in the league.  They are on a pace to continue leading the league in wins over the last dozen season and to post their fifth 50-win season in that period.

It makes a 2-1-0 week seem a bit commonplace, perhaps even disappointing to some Caps fans, especially when the loss came to a struggling team that beat the Caps in consecutive meetings, the Columbus Blue Jackets the only team in 37 games so far to beat the Caps more than once.

But this team has been consistent and entertaining, while piling up wins.  These things should never be taken for granted and should be appreciated as we prepare for the holiday week ahead.

Three Stars:
  • First Star: Nicklas Backstrom (2-2-4, even, 52.5 percent faceoff wins, 900th career point)
  • Second Star: Dmitry Orlov (1-2-3, plus-3, 1 GWG, 1 shorthanded point, 22:24 average ice time)
  • Third Star: Radko Gudas (1-1-2, even, first goal as a Capital, eight hits, three blocked shots)

Captain rates the week…

Three puppers