Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Peerless Playback: The All-Alphabet Team, "The A Team"

While we are "pausing" in the hopes of seeing a resumption of the 20219-2020 NHL season, we're going to look back from time to time and revisit some series we did cover the history of the Washington Capitals.  We start that with a look back at the "All-Alphabet Team," starting with the letter "A" and ask if, in the almost six years since this first went online, there would be any changes.

For the record, the "All-A Team" was:

  • LW: Greg Adams (1983-1988)
  • C: Jason Arnott (2011)
  • RW: Steve Atkinson (1974-1975)
  • D: Peter Andersson (1983-1985)
  • D: Karl Alzner (2008-2017)
  • G: John Adams (1974-1975)
Keep in mind that if you are thinking about players who joined the Caps since this was published (covering players through the 2013-2014 season), no new skaters with the last name beginning with "A" skated for the Caps (Karl Alzner was the only one who dressed), and no new goalies whose last name starts with "A" dressed for the team.  But if you think any of these players should be replaced on the "All-A Team," well, it's a way to pass the time during the pause.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Scribbles During the Hiatus: Ten-Goal Games

Ten.  The basis of the numerical system in which most of the world operates.  A “top” number for purposes of ranking.  A “perfect” number as a means of evaluating things, experiences, and even persons. 

“The number of weeners in a package.”

Yes, Cheerless, commonly the number of hot dogs to a pack.

“So what’s with the eight hot dog buns in a bag?”

Cheerless, can we…

“I mean, what do you do with the extra hot dogs?"


“Feed ‘em to the dog? Make franks ‘n’ beans?”


“And what with the ‘n’ in ‘franks ‘N” beans,’ anyways?”


“…sorry, go ‘head.”

In hockey, “ten” has become an uncommon number.  Over the last ten seasons, including this one, a team scored ten goals in a regular season game only five times.  Only once in almost 30 years has a team scored ten goals in a playoff game (Pittsburgh beat Philadelphia, 10-3, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal in 2012).

Which brings us to the Washington Capitals.  We can get one thing out of the way at the beginning.  The Caps have never scored ten goals in a postseason game (they have been victimized for one, a topic we might get to at a later time).  They have, however, scored ten or more goals on 12 occasions in the regular season.  And did you know that…

1.  The 12 instances of ten or more goals scored in team history ranks tied for sixth among all NHL teams since 1974-1975, when the Caps entered the league.

2.   The Caps tended to do this sort of thing in bunches, calendar-year wise.  They did it twice in 1981, twice in 1987, three times in 1993, accounting for seven of the 12 instances.

3.  Twice in games that the Caps scored ten goals, they won by a double-digit margin:
  • February 6, 1990, Capitals 12 – Quebec Nordiques 2.  Seven different Capitals recorded goals with two-goal games from Randy Burridge, Dino Ciccarelli, and Mike Ridley.  It was Alan May’s goal at 8:03 of the second period to give the Caps a 5-1 lead that chased starting goaltender Stephane Fiset.  Jacques Cloutier also allowed five goals in relief.  Mike Liut stopped 30 of 33 shots for the win.
  • January 11, 2003, Capitals 12 – Florida Panthers 2.  This game was probably the high-water mark of the Jaromir Jagr era for the Caps.  Jagr had a seven-point game, including a hat trick, one of two times in Caps history that a player recorded seven points in a game (Dino Ciccarelli: 4-3-7 vs. Hartford Whalers, March 18, 1989, in an 8-2 win).

4.  Power plays were featured prominently in these 12 games.  The Caps scored no fewer than two power play goals in each of them.

5.  Speaking of power plays in ten-goal games, in the Caps’ 10-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 13, 1987 – Friday the 13th – the Caps recorded seven power play goals, one of only three teams in NHL history to record seven power play goals in a game.  Boston did it in an 8-0 win over the Minnesota North Stars on January 4, 1975, and the Maple Leafs scored seven of their own in a 9-1 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on October 14, 2005.  The last six goals the Caps scored in that game, all in a span of 8:36 of the third period, came on power plays.  For the record, those last six goals were scored by: Craig Laughlin, Mike Gartner, Garry Galley, David Jensen (2), and Ed Kastelic.  The Caps took advantage of the Maple Leafs taking two major penalties for fighting in the last five minutes of that contest (no Capital served a coincidental major), over which the Caps scored five of their power play goals.

6.  That 10-2 win over the Maple Leafs in March 1987 was the second time that the Caps lit up Toronto for ten or more goals.  They beat the Maple Leafs, 11-2, on December 11, 1981.  Toronto is one of three teams against which the Caps scored ten or more goals twice.  They also turned the trick twice against the Los Angeles Kings (a 10-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings in Washington on December 6, 1987, and a 10-3 win over the Kings in Los Angeles on February 13, 1993) and the Quebec Nordiques (a 12-2 win in Washington on February 6, 1990, and a 10-3 win in Quebec on November 10, 1991).

7.  Nine of the 12 ten-goal games by the Caps came on home ice, six of them at the old Capital Centre/USAirways Arena and three of them at MCI Center/Verizon Center (now Capital One Arena).

8. The games on the road in which the Caps scored ten or more goals are the more interesting.  I addition to the 10-3 win over Quebec in November 1991, the Caps beat the St. Louis Blues in a wild 10-6 contest and the Los Angeles Kings by a 10-3 margin.  What is interesting about those latter two games?  They came in consecutive games for the Caps, the win in St. Louis on February 11, 1993, and again against the Kings in Los Angeles two nights later, on February 13, 1993.

9.  As best as we can determine, those two consecutive ten-goal games by the Caps in 1993 were the fourth instance in NHL history of a team recording ten or more goals in consecutive games.  The others:
  • Montreal Canadiens: January 11, 1919 (13-4 over the Toronto Arenas) and January 16, 1919 (10-6 over the Ottawa Senators)
  • Edmonton Oilers: January 12, 1983 (10-4 over the Chicago Black Hawks) and January 15, 1983 (10-4 over the Minnesota North Stars)
  • Detroit Red Wings: November 23, 1992 (10-5 over the Tampa Bay Lightning) and November 25, 1992 (11-6 over the St. Louis Blues)

The Caps and Edmonton were the only teams to win both of their respective games on the road.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Scribbles During the Hiatus: One-Game Capitals II -- The Goalies

One-game Capitals are not just limited to skaters.  The Caps have a history – not a long one mind you, but a history – of goalies who appeared in a single game for the club. Let’s take a look.  For instance, did you know…

1.  Four goalies played a single game for the Caps:
  • Robbie Moore (October 10, 1982 vs. Philadelphia Flyers)
  • Alain Raymond (December 9, 1987 vs. Hartford Whalers)
  • Mike Rosati (November 7, 1998 vs. Ottawa Senators)
  • Corey Hirsch (March 11, 2001 vs. Ottawa Senators)

2.  None of the four started the game in which he played. 

3.  All four did earn a decision, despite not starting their lone game.

4.  Two of the four did not allow a goal in their lone game.  Each of them earned a win:
  • Mike Rosati stopped all 12 shots he faced in 28:07 of relief work in an 8-5 come-from-behind win over the Ottawa Senators.  The Caps trailed, 5-3, in the second period before mounting their comeback.
  • Corey Hirsch stopped all eight shots he faced in the final 20 minutes of a 6-5 win over the Senators.  The Caps trailed, 5-2, when Hirsch entered the game to start the third period but rallied to win.

5.  Both wins by one-game goalies came against the Ottawa Senators.  Both losses came against teams that are now Metropolitan Division rivals (Flyers, Whalers/Hurricanes).

6.  Olaf Kolzig was relieved twice by one-game goalies, both of whom earned wins (Rosati and Hirsch).

7.  For two of the four goalies, their lone Caps game would be their only NHL game (Rosati, Raymond).

8.  For one of the goalies, his lone Caps game would be his last NHL game (Moore).

9.  For one of the goalies, his lone Caps game was the only one he played in the NHL over a three season span.  Corey Hirsch appeared in the 2000-2001 season with the Caps after not playing in the NHL in 1999-2000 and before he would not play in the NHL in 2001-2002.  He finished his career with Dallas in 2002-2003.

10.  As a group, the four goalies combined for a 2-2-0 record, 1.68 goals against average, and a .936 save percentage in 107 minutes of work.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Scribbles During the Hiatus: One-Game Capitals

With the NHL having hit the “pause” button on their regular season due to the Coronavirus situation, one that would appear destined to last for a while, we don’t want you to think all of hockey is going dark.  The cousins and I will try to do our part to keep you entertained during the hiatus, and that means looking from time to time (meaning, "when we think of things to write") at the strange, the bizarre, and the fascinating fun facts from the Washington Capitals history book to impress your friends and confound your enemies.  Today’s topic…”One and Done.”

1.  Fourteen skaters in Caps history dressed for one game with the club.  Only one of them recorded a point in his only game.  Chris Ferraro had an assist on an Ulf Dahlen power play goal in a 3-2 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on October 16, 2001.

2.  For nine off the 14 skaters playing one game with the Caps, it was their only NHL game.  That list includes:
  • Brian Stapleton (March 23, 1976 vs. Kansas City Scouts)
  • Alex Forsyth (November 12, 1977 vs. Chicago Blackhawks)
  • Tyler Larter (February 2, 1990 vs. New York Islanders)
  • Ken Lovsin (December 26, 1990 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins)
  • Joey Tenute (February 7, 2006 vs. Florida Panthers)
  • Jonas Johansson (April 18, 2006 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning)
  • Jamie Hunt (December 29, 2006 vs. New Jersey Devils)
  • Peter LeBlanc (April 13, 2014 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning)
  • Garrett Mitchell (April 9, 2017 vs. Florida Panthers)

3.  For three of the 14 skaters it would be their last NHL game, a list that includes:
  • Chris Ferraro (October 16, 2001 vs. Los Angeles Kings).  Ferraro played 74 games over six seasons for five NHL teams (others: New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders)
  • Barrie Moore (January 17, 2000 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning).  Moore played 39 games over three seasons with three teams (others: Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers)
  • Ryan Stanton (January 19, 2016 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets).  Stanton played 120 games over four seasons with three teams (others: Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks)

4.  For one skater – Shawn Cronin – his one and only game with the Caps would be his first NHL game, October 21, 1988 against the New York Rangers.  He went on to appear in 292 NHL games over seven seasons with four clubs (others: Winnipeg Jets, San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers)

5.  For the 14th skater – Rod Seiling – his only game with the Caps was not his first, last, or only NHL game, but it might be the most unique of experiences among the 14 skaters.  By the time he arrived in Washington, he was in his 13th season, having played as a rookie with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the next 11 seasons with the New York Rangers.  In that 13th season he was placed on waivers by the Rangers and claimed by the Caps on October 29, 1974.  He appeared in his one game – on October 31, 1974 against the Montreal Canadiens – and was then traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 2nd, for Tim Ecclesone and Willie Brossart, his Caps career having lasted four days.

6.  Of the 14 skaters, only three skated for the Caps in wins.  There was the 3-2 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings on October 16, 2001, in which Chris Ferraro skated.  Jonas Johansson dressed for a 4-1 over the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 18, 2006.  Ryan Stanton skated in the Caps’ 6-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 19, 2016. 

7.  Brian Stapleton skated his only game in the only contest to end in a tie, a 5-5 tie against the Kansas City Scouts on March 23, 1976.

8.  One-game Caps were not spared frustration.  Four of the skaters dressed for games in which the Caps were shut out: Rod Seiling (a 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on October 31, 1974), Joey Tenute (a 5-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on February 7, 2006), Peter Le Blanc (a 1-0 Gimmick loss to Tampa Bay on April 13, 2014), Garrett Mitchell (a 2-0 loss to the Panthers on April 9, 2017).

9.  Tampa Bay was the most frequent opponent for one-game Caps (Moore, LeBlanc, and Johansson).  Add two players who played their only game with the Caps against the Florida Panthers (Mitchell, Tenute), and more than a third of the players faced a Florida opponent in their lone Caps game.

Thanks to hockey-reference.com and NHL.com for the information.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 23

We noted last week that Week 22 was an odd week for the Washington Capitals, and that was on the ice.   Week 23 was odd plus bizarre, and that was not limited to the ice.  The Caps lost their only game of the week in a Gimmick to what had been the 14th-ranked team in the Eastern Conference, and then they packed their things away, as did every other team in the NHL, going on a “pause” to await how the Coronavirus situation plays out. 

Record: 0-0-1

Yes, it was only one game, and yes, the Capitals did squeak out a point that technically qualifies as a “.500” week in terms of standings points earned as a share of standings points available.  But it did not feel that way, playing a struggling team and falling behind, 2-0, before mounting a third period comeback.

The Caps went into their hiatus with only four winning weeks in their last 11 weeks of play, posting a record of 15-14-3.  The 33 standings points earned in that span (from December 22nd through this week) are tied for 22nd in the league, and their .516 points percentage ranks 21st.  Over that span, the Caps rank seventh of eight teams in the Metropolitan Division, only the New York Islanders (12-15-7/31 points/.456 points percentage) ranked worse.

Offense: 2.00/game (season: 3.42/2nd)

One game, two goals.  It happens.  But the Caps did it against a club that was on a six-game streak of allowing three or more goals (all of them losses) and had allowed three or more in five of their previous eight home games. Until Alex Ovechkin scored in the third period, the Sabres were on their way to their second shutout on home ice this season and first since October 14th, back when the Sabres might have been entertaining playoff dreams (that shutout brought their record to open the season at 5-0-1). 

The two goals extended a run of feast-or-famine for the Caps who, over a nine game span up to the season pause, scored five or more goals three times and scored two or fewer four times.  In that 15-14-3 run leading up to the pause, the Caps averaged 3.28 goals per game, eighth in the league over that span.

Defense: 2.00/game (season: 3.07/18th)

The Sabres are not an especially prolific offensive club, averaging 2.80 goals per game overall at week’s end (21st in the league), 3.09 goals per game on home ice (19th in the league).  But the two goals allowed by the Caps was an improvement over recent performance in which they allowed five or more goals in two of their previous three games overall.  It was the first time that the Caps allowed two or fewer goals in consecutive games (they beat Pittsburgh, 5-2, in the game preceding that against Buffalo) since Game 47 and 48 (a 2-0 win over Carolina and a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders) in January.

The 26 shots on goal allowed by the Caps was also the second consecutive game allowing fewer than 30 shots and third time in four games after a streak of four games allowing more than 30 shots.  The Caps allowed the Sabres only 34 shot attempts at 5-on-5, the second consecutive game allowing an opponent fewer than 40 5-on-5 shot attempts (they allowed Pittsburgh 39 attempts).  It was the first time the Caps allowed fewer than 40 5-on-5 shot attempts in consecutive games since games against New Jersey (38 attempts) and Carolina (29 attempts) in January.

Goaltending: 1.85 / .923 (season: 2.92 / .903 / 1 shutout)

Braden Holtby had a good game/week.  The 24 saves on 26 shots would be enough to win most games, and the .923 save percentage was the third game in four, and sixth time in seven road games, in which he was over .920 for a game (he did have that stinker against the Flyers, allowing five goals on 29 shots to drag his save percentage down).  Nevertheless, Holtby went into the hiatus with his first career goals against average over 3.00 for a season (3.11) and first save percentage under .900 (.897).

Power Play: 0-for-1/0.0 percent (season: 19.4 percent/17th)

One power play, two shots, no goals. It was the 12th time this season that the Caps had one or no power play chances and the second time in two games against the Sabres.  Oddly enough, it was only the Caps’ third loss in those 12 games (9-1-2) and first instance on the road (3-0-1).  It is part of a season-long series of disappointments on the power play.  The 19.4 percent conversion rate for the season to date is the first time that the Caps have been under 20 percent since they finished the 2011-2012 season at 16.7 percent.

Penalty Killing: 2-for-3/66.7 percent (season: 82.6 percent/6th)

It was just one game, but the wheels have been coming off the penalty kill for a little while now.  Allowing one goal in three shorthanded situations, the Caps went into the hiatus having allowed power play goals in five straight games, going 16-for-23 (69.6 percent) over that span.  Buffalo was not a particularly efficient power play squad (18.9 percent/20th at week’s end), but one goal on six shots in 4:35 of power play ice time made for a bad night for the Caps’ penalty killers.

Faceoffs: 29-for-63 / 46.0 percent (season: 48.3 percent/28th)

If there was one thing that was noteworthy about the lone game of Week 23 in the faceoff circle, it was that the Caps did little with the chances they had.  They had 25 offensive zone draws (21 in the defensive end) and won only ten of them (40.0 percent).  Seven of the ten wins were accounted for by Nic Dowd (3-for-5) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (4-for-10).

Goals by Period:

Not a lot to say here.  It was the first time in four games that the Caps did not score first and the first time in five games that they failed to post a first period goal.  On the other end, it was the third straight game in which the Caps posted a pair of third period goals, but they still lost their second extra time game in three outings in doing so (1-0-2).  A better sign was that the Caps did not allow a third period goal, breaking a streak of nine games in which they allowed at least one, and they allowed two in five of those games.


At the hiatus, the Caps are almost exactly where they were at the same point last season.  Both teams had 41 wins through 69 games, and the clubs are separated by one standings point.  The goals for and against are barely different, as are the special teams indices (102.0 this season, power play plus penalty kill percentages, 101.5 last season).  The improvements in this team over last are in managing shots, with related improvements in hits and blocked shots, which are indicators of possession success.

In the end…

Last season, the Caps were riding a seven-game winning streak through Game 69 of the season.  Through 69 games this season, the Caps are 7-9-3 in 19 games since the last time they won consecutive games in regulation in late January.  But here might be the strangest part of the Caps’ recent performance.  In their last 25 games have played 16 different teams and have a record of 11-11-3.  They have two wins against only one team in that span… the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Strange season.

Three Stars:
  • First Star: Alex Ovechkin (1-1-2, plus-2, six shots on goal, eight shot attempts)
  • Second Star: Dmitry Orlov (1-0-1, plus-1, 26:40 ice time)
  • Third Star: Tom Wilson (0-1-1, plus-2, 21:22 ice time)

Captain rates the week…

 One pupper

Friday, March 13, 2020

And Now...We Wait

Friday the 13th.

It figures.  The first full day we know with certainty that the fate of the 2019-2020 season of the National Hockey League is in jeopardy.  Opinionators will opine, commentators will comment, analysts will analyze.  None of them know how all this ends, least of all some obscure scribbler who occupies these spaces.

The NHL, in concert with other leagues and associations, decided yesterday to suspend play in its regular season for an indeterminate amount of time as a result of the Coronavirus crisis that has swept across the globe.  It would be cliché to say that suspending play in a sports league is a trivial thing in the larger picture of things, and we would agree to a point.  But sports gives a lot of people a release, an escape from the stress and anxiety that such crises often create.  And now, even that is put in isolation as we try to cope with and rebound from this crisis.

We do not have any particularly profound things to recommend that you have not heard before.  Be responsible.  Practice good personal hygiene habits, and practice social distancing where appropriate.  Be vigilant.  Respect the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on steps to take to prevent illness and other frequently asked questions and answers.

Be a good neighbor.  Do you have an elderly friend or neighbor?  A parent or older relative?  If recommendations for social distancing make it hard to look in on them directly, watch out for them, give them a call, let them know you’re thinking of them and are mindful of their needs. 

Think of others in need.  A lot of folks are being and are going to be hit hard as this situation unfolds, especially in service and hospitality industries.  Restaurants are struggling to deal with the situation;   hotels are stepping up their efforts to ensure safety and cleanliness; those who keep our homes and offices clean and orderly have to work that much harder; burdens that will fall heavily on staff of limited economic means.  If you have the means to leave a little extra for good service or at least express your appreciation for the effort, we are all better off for it.

Be respectful.  These are tense times in the public square, even without the added anxiety brought on by the Coronavirus situation.  Viruses are without conscience or compassion.  They don’t care about your politics, your religion, your race, or your station in life.  Realize that we are all in this together and put aside the disagreements to care for one another and respect each other’s needs.

As for what we do here for the time being?  Like a lot of folks who are passionate about hockey and write about it, we are at something of a loss as to how to move forward.  The cousins and I will probably comb through the archives and look back on where we were and what we were doing in happier times.  You’ll probably see quite a few “The Best of…” pieces.  Cheerless will undoubtedly come up with something typically bizarre and head-scratching.

This is a situation we, as hockey fans, have encountered before, and on the other hand have not.  Hockey has gone dark in-season before – 1994-1995, 2004-2005, 2012-2013.  But we could see it coming, the issues were more clearly defined, and we knew what a solution might look like.  On the other hand, we did not get as much warning about this (who knew on Tuesday that the league would be announcing on Thursday it would suspend its schedule?).  The solution, for lack of a better term, will not be found within the sport’s confines.  Even those with whom a solution might reside – scientists, policy makers – seem uncertain as to what a solution might look like or when it might occur. 

So for now, we sit, we wait.  Be good, be safe.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 70: Red Wings at Capitals, March 12th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

After completing their longest remaining road trip of the regular season with a 3-2 Gimmick loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night, the Washington Capitals return home to begin their longest remaining home stand of the regular season when they host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.  The Caps will be trying to generate some momentum to reverse a recent 1-1-2 run, while the Red Wings continue their slow march to the end of one of the worst seasons in their storied history.

Then and Now…

The Capitals and Red Wings will meet for the 121st time in their all-time regular season series, the Caps holding a 54-45-5 (16 ties) record overall and 31-22-1 (five ties) on home ice.  Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 18-5-4 overall against Detroit and 10-2-1 in Washington.  This game will close the two-game series for this season, the Caps having beaten the Red Wings in Detroit on November 20th by a 5-2 score.

Active Leaders vs. Opponent…

Noteworthy Opponents…

If your leading goal scorer – the only one on your club with at least 20 goals – is tied for 63rd in the league in goal scoring, and your leading point producer is tied for 59th, your team has issues on offense.  That is this season’s Detroit Red Wings.  Tyler Bertuzzi is that leading goal scorer, posting 21 goals in 71 games played.  Tyler, whose uncle Todd wrapped up his own 18-year career in the NHL playing his last five seasons with the Red Wings, was a second-round pick (58th overall) by the Red Wings in the 2013 Entry Draft.  That was one of the more productive drafts in recent history with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Seth Jones, Sean Monahan, Bo Horvat, and Andre Burakovsky taken.  Bertuzzi has outperformed his draft slot, ranked 17th in career goals in his draft class (49) and 19th in points (119). When he takes the ice on Thursday night he will become the 36th player in his draft class to dress for 200 NHL games.

This season, Bertuzzi has been more dangerous as a goal scorer on the road, where he has 13 of his 21 goals to date.  But even here, his production is unsurprising for a team that is ground under a poor season.  He had eight of those 13 goals in his first 13 games on the road and posted three multi-goal games in the process.  Since then, though, he has only four goals in 21 road games, only two in his last 16 games on the road.  And it has not matter much, even when he has scored on the road.  In ten road games this season in which he scored at least one goal, the Red Wings are just 4-5-1.  He has points in 15 road games to date, and the Wings are just 5-8-2.  And then there is the time on ice.  Perhaps unsurprisingly for a player who is the leading goal scorer and would be expected to be on-ice when the team needs a goal, the Red Wings are 5-18-3 in the 26 games overall in which he logged at least 20 minutes this season.  He had goals in five of those games, and the Wings went 2-2-1.  Bertuzzi is 0-1-1, minus-5, in six career games against the Caps.

The leading point producer for the Red Wings to date is Dylan Larkin, his 53 points so far ranking 59th in the league through Tuesday’s games.  Larkin was a first-round draft pick of the Red Wings, taken 15th overall in the 2014 draft.  Now in his fifth NHL season, he is third in his draft class in career points (266), trailing only Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (422) and Boston’s David Pastrnak (379), and fifth in his draft class in games played (389).  In a way he has come to symbolize the Red Wings’ frustration over the last several years.  He was the team’s leading point-getter in each of the previous two seasons (63 points in 2017-2018 and 73 points last season), but it was a bit empty in meaning, Larkin finishing tied for 58th in points in 2017-2018 and tied for 42nd last season.  And now, his 53 points rank tied for 59th in the league.  Being the top-ranked scorer on a team that struggles to score is a mixed blessing.

Larkin is one of the few Red Wings on a tear of late.  He is 4-9-13 over his last ten games, those 13 points representing his having a hand in 62 percent of the 21 goals the Red Wings scored over that span.  The Red Wings have almost held their own in games in which Larkin has a goal this season, going 7-8-2 in the 17 games in which he had at least one, and they are 17-20-5 when he had at least one point in a game.  The odd part of his profile this season is the relationship of ice time and result, which is a bit unexpected.  In the 17 games in which Larkin skated less than 20 minutes, Detroit is 3-13-1.  His road production has trailed that on home ice this season as well, with a 9-14-23, minus-13 scoring line on the road compared to 10-20-30, minus-8 on home ice.  Larkin is 2-6-8, plus-1, in 13 career games against the Caps.

Since 2005-2006 through this point of the 2019-2020 season, four players have been minus-40 or worse for a season.  This season’s Detroit Red Wings have two of them.  Andreas Athanasiou, who was a minus-45 with Detroit in 46 games, was traded to Edmonton last month.  Valteri Filppula is still, however, skating for the Red Wings, lugging his minus-42 around the ice with him.  Filppula is in his second tour with the Red Wings, having played his first eight NHL seasons in Detroit after being taken in the third round by the Wings in the 2002 Entry Draft.  He is that rare Red Wing who has memories of playoff glory, having won a Cup with the Wings in 2008 and having played in the 2015 final with Tampa Bay.

This has not been a vintage season for the 35-year old Filppula who, with 21 points in 70 games this season, will almost certainly finish under 30 points for the first time since his first full NHL season, when he posted 17 points in 73 games for the 2006-2007 Red Wings.  It has been an especially difficult season for Filppula at ends of the ice.  He has been on ice for only 25 even strength goals scored by him and his teammates this season, but he has had an up-close-and-personal view of 65 even strength goals scored against the Wings, his minus-40 goal differential at even strength tied for worst in the league (with his former teammate Athanasiou).  It is not even as if Filppula has been a victim of especially awful games.  True, his five instances of being minus-3 or worse in a game this season is tied for third-most in the league, but then again Leon Draisaitl has had six such games, and he is a favorite for Hart Trophy consideration.  What Filppula suffers from, as does the rest of his team for that matter, is a stunning consistency of frustration.  He is a minus player in 37 games this season, most in the league.  But he is one of five Red Wings with more than 30 such games this season.  In 27 career games against the Caps, Filppula is 6-6-12, minus-6.

1.  The Red Wings have 13 standings points earned in 34 road games to date.  If they finish under 20 points earned, they would become only the second team to do so over a full season (not including the abbreviated 2012-2013 season) since 2005-2006.  The 2013-2014 Buffalo Sabres finished with 19 points in 41 road games.

2.  Detroit is the only team in the league averaging fewer than two goals scored per game on the road (1.94), a third of a goal per game less than the Ottawa Senators (2.27), the next weakest scoring offense on the road.

3.  The Red Wings have allowed 4.06 goals per game on the road this season.  If they finish over four goals allowed per game on the road, they will be only the second team since 2005-2006 to do so (Ottawa allowed 4.29 goals per game on the road last season).

4.  Detroit’s net power play (accounting for shorthanded goals scored against them) of 4.4 percent on the road is the second worst in the league since 2005-2006.  Florida was 2.8 percent in 2013-2014.

5.  Detroit is on pace to score 23 third period goals on the road this season (they have 19) and allow 64 third period goals (they have allowed 53).  If they keep pace, they would join the 2014-2015 Buffalo Sabres as the only teams since 2005-2006 to score fewer than 25 third period goals and allow more than 60 on the road in a full season.

1.  Since the Capitals made the postseason for the first time since 2005-2006 in the 2007-2008 season, this club is the only one to allow more than three goals per game on home ice (3.12).  The next leakiest defense in this playoff era was in 2013-2014 (2.76).

2.  This year’s Caps team is the second weakest overall on the power play on home ice since 2005-2006 (16.8 percent).  Only the 2005-2006 club was worse (14.6 percent).

3.  The 2019-2020 Capitals is the best edition of penalty killers in Washington since 2005-2006 (88.1 percent).

4.  Washington is 10-3-4 on home ice when scoring first.  The .588 winning percentage in such games is their third-lowest at home since 2005-2006.  The 2005-2006 club was 5-4-5 (.357), and the 2006-2007 team was 12-5-4 (.571).

5.  This year’s club has the second-best shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 on home ice since the league started capturing the statistic in 2009-2010 (52.7 percent).  The 2009-2010 team finished at 54.6 percent.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Detroit: Jimmy Howard

Jimmy Howard has not started a game in goal for the Detroit Red Wings since February 27th.  Perhaps because he has not finished a game he started since February 7th.  He was pulled in each of his last two starts, once after allowing four goals on 16 shots in 28 minutes of a 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh on February 16th, and again after allowing five goals on 17 shots in 32 minutes of a 7-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on February 27th.  Jonathan Bernier has received all the starts since then.

His recent woes have merely added to a nightmare of a season for Howard, who is flirting with futility on an historic level.  His is one of the worst individual seasons by a goalie in NHL history.  How bad?  He is 2-23-2 in 27 games this season, all of them starts.  If he wins two or fewer game while getting three or more additional starts, he would be the fifth goalie in NHL history to appear in 30 or more games, win fewer than five games, and lose more than 20 games, and he would be the first to do so Jeff Hackett went 2-30-1 for the 1992-1993 San Jose Sharks.

Howard’s collapse has been stunning, even on a team struggling as much as this year’s Red Wings.  As recently as 2016-2017, his goals against average was 2.10, half of what it is now (4.20).  His save percentage that same 2016-2017 was a career-best .927, compared to this year’s career-worst for a full season .882.  True, Howard appeared in only 26 games in 2016-2017 (he missed 32 games to a knee injury), but that season is comparable to this year’s 27 appearances to date.  His “quality start percentage” of 25.9 percent this season (worst among goalies with at least 20 appearances) is ghastly when one considers that the league average is in the low 50’s.  It has been a difficult season for the third-winningest goalie in team history (246 wins, trailing only Terry Sawchuk (350) and Chris Osgood (317)).  In 13 career appearances against Washington, Howard is 4-4-3, 2.80, .901.

Washington: Dmitry Orlov

As an offensive defenseman, Dmitry Orlov seems stuck between two extremes.  There was the player who, over a three year period, averaged eight goals per season on 7.1 percent shooting.  Then there was the player of last year and this one, who has a total of seven goals on 3.4 percent shooting.  That Orlov scored a goal against Buffalo in his last game is an encouraging sign, snapping a 31-game streak without a goal.  The odd part of it all this season is how his goals align with his shooting.  He recorded two or more shots on goal in 31 games and had goals in two of those contests.  He had one shot on goal in 22 other games and had goals in two of them.

One other thing about Orlov recently has been the “high-volume event” nature of his time on ice.  Over his last 25 games, Orlov has been on ice for 57 even strength goals – 30 for and 27 against.  Only John Carlson among defensemen has been on-ice for more total even strength goals (61) – 30 for and 31 against.  Much of that owes to the fact that over those 25 games, Orlov has logged more even strength ice time (519:16) than any other Caps defenseman (Carlson: 498:04).

Another odd feature of Orlov’s performance recently is his power play experience.  Over those same last 25 games he has more power play ice time (47:20) than any other Caps defenseman other than Carlson (100:20), but he does not have a power play point.  This might be a bit unsurprising, given that Orlov’s time is almost entirely devoted to being in the latter half of power plays and closing them out after the first power play unit fails to convert.  On the other hand, over his first 43 games this season Orlov logged 49:58 in power play ice time and still went 1-4-5.  The Caps are 4-1-0 in games in which Orlov recorded at least one power play point.  In 15 career games against the Red Wings, he is 1-2-3, plus-1.

In the end…

This year’s Detroit Red Wings have the lowest points earned percentage of any team since 2005-2006 (.275).  They are the only team over that span to have a points earned percentage on the road under .200 (.191 on a 5-26-3 record).  They have won once in their last 17 road games (1-15-1) and have one road win in regulation since December 14th.  Washington is 10-1-1 in their last dozen games against the Red Wings on home ice.  There is no excuse – none – for the Caps failing to end the competitive portion of this game early and sending fans home happy late.

Capitals 5 – Red Wings 2

Sunday, March 08, 2020

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 69: Capitals at Sabres, March 9th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up their longest remaining road trip of the regular season when they head to Buffalo on Monday night to face the Sabres.  The Caps split the first two games of this road trip, losing in overtime to the New York Rangers and beating the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Washington will be looking to extend its points-earned streak on the road to four games.  On the other side, Buffalo will be trying to end a six-game losing streak that has seen them sink under .500 in standings points percentage for the first time this season.

Then and Now…

The Caps and Sabres will meet for the 163rd time in their all-time regular season series on Monday night.  Washington has a 58-84-5 (15 ties) record against the Sabres overall, 26-46-2 (six ties) in Buffalo.  Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 28-18-4 against the Sabres overall and 11-11-2 in western New York.  This game will complete the two-game season series between the teams, the Caps having won the first meeting, 6-1, in Washington on November 1st.

Active Leaders vs. Opponent…

Noteworthy Opponents…

When Sam Reinhart takes the ice on Monday night, he will do so for the 400th time as a Buffalo Sabre, the 44th skater in team history to dress for 400 games with the franchise.  Reinhart was the second player taken in the 2014 Entry Draft, a solid draft by NHL standards, having produced such noteworthy players as Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Aaron Ekblad (the top overall pick), Brayden Point, Kevin Fiala, and the Capitals’ Jakub Vrana. 

It can be easy for a player, even a highly drafted one, to get lost among franchises among the smaller cities in the league, especially those that have had such limited success as the Sabres have had since he came into the league in 2014-2015.  But in addition to his about to dress for his 400th game with the Sabres, Reinhart is slowly climbing the franchise’s all-time statistical lists.  His next goal will tie Dale Hawerchuk for 28th place on the all-time franchise list (110).  He is four short of 150 assists for his career, and his 255 points ranks 35th on the team’s all-time list. 

What he has not yet become, contrary to what might be expected of a second-overall draft pick, is an elite scorer.  His career high is 25 goals in 2017-2018, although with 22 goals in 68 games so far this season he is on a pace (26 goals) to top that mark.  He has hit the 50-point mark for the third straight season, but with 50 points he seems unlikely to match last year’s career-high mark of 65 points.  He is a minus-15 this season, and while he seems in no danger to match his worst year in that category (minus-24 in 2017-2018), he is one of ten players to post a combined minus-60 or worse over the last four seasons.    Reinhart goes into this game on a cold streak, going without a point in his last seven games and only two points in his last ten contests.  Reinhart is 5-4-9, minus-5, in 13 career games against the Caps.

Sometime later this season, Rasmus Ristolainen will become the 11th defenseman in Sabres’ history to dress for 500 games with the club (he has 492 at the moment).  He has not been an elite scorer from the position, but he has been a consistent one.  It would take a push on his part, but with 32 points in 68 games he has an outside chance of hitting the 40-point mark for the fifth straight season.  If he did so, he would tie Jerry Korab for the second-most 40-point seasons by a defenseman in team history, trailing only Phil Housley, who did it eight times for the Sabres.  As it is, Ristolainen ranks eighth among defensemen in team history in points (226), only two behind Jim Schoenfeld for seventh place.  His 42 career goals with the club are tied for 11th place among defensemen in Sabres’ history with Bill Hajt and only three from tying Schoenfeld and Tyler Myers for ninth place.

Ristolainen is another of the Sabres who have seen their offensive output shrink over the second half of the season.  He has one goal in 22 games since January 12th, and he does not have a goal on home ice since December 21st, a streak of 17 games without one.  He goes into this game with just one point in his last seven games.  One odd part of his game this season is the degree to which his physical engagement, or lack of it, matters.  In nine games in which he was not credited with a hit, the Sabres are 2-6-1; in 19 games in which he did not block a shot, they are 4-12-3.  Ristolainen is 0-7-7, minus-6, in 15 career games against Washington.

Carter Hutton is learning that tending goal in Buffalo is not all unicorns and accordions.  In his second season with the Sabres since arriving as an unrestricted free agent from St. Louis, Hutton is likely to post his second career and second straight season with a goals against average of 3.00 or higher (currently 3.18; 3.00 last season), and he is on pace to finish this season with a career worst .898 save percentage over a full season.  What it has meant is that he has split time with Linus Ullmark in goal, Hutton getting 30 starts this season to 33 for Ullmark. 

Ullmark is in his fifth NHL season after being drafted by the Sabres in the sixth round (163rd overall) in the 2012 Entry Draft.  That happened to be a solid draft for goaltenders, yielding the likes of Andrej Vasilevskiy, Matt Murray, Frederik Andersen, and Connor Hellebuyck.  This is Ullmark’s second straight season with 30 or more starts, and he has improved over last year’s numbers, cutting his goals against average from 3.11 last year to 2.72 so far this season, and he has lifted his save percentage from .905 last year to .914 so far this season.  Ullmark has been hobbled lately by a leg injury suffered when he caught his skate in a rut in a game against the Ottawa Senators on January 28th.  He has not yet been cleared for game action.  Which leaves Jonas Johansson as Buffalo’s backup for the moment.  A third round pick of the Sabres in the 2014 Entry Draft, he has gotten a brief look by the club with six appearances over which he is 1-3-1, 2.94, .894.  If it comes down to Hutton in goal for this game, he is 3-3-2, 3.19, .888 in nine career appearances against the Capitals.

1.  A struggling team might struggle more as the season wears on.  Since January 1st, Buffalo is 12-14-1, their 25 standings points earned being tied for third fewest in the league over that span.

2.  Since January 1st, only the Detroit Red Wings have averaged fewer shots on goal per game (25.4) than the Sabres (27.6).

3.  The Sabres have not dealt with the long change of second periods well, scoring only 19 second period goals in 27 games since January 1st, tied with the New York Islanders for third-fewest in the league.

4.  Buffalo is one of two teams to go 3-0 in overtime games since January 1st (Vegas is the other).

5.  Only four times in 27 games since January 1st have the Sabres out-shot an opponent.  They are 3-0-1 in those games.

1.  The Caps net power play (accounting for shorthanded goals allowed) of 11.4 percent is fifth-worst in the league since January 1st.

2.  Since January 1st, the Caps have the second-worst faceoff winning percentage (46.3 percent) in the league.  The only team that is worse is the Sabres (46.2 percent).

3.  The Caps have scored 38 third period goals since January 1st, second-most in the league (New York Rangers: 44).

4.  The Caps and the Penguins lead the league in wins when trailing after two periods since January 1st (four apiece).  The Caps’ winning percentage in such games (.308) is best in the league.

5.  Washington has played “heavy” since January 1st, their 26.15 hits per 60 minutes ranking third in the league in that span.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Buffalo: Rasmus Dahlin

He was the top overall pick of the 2018 Entry Draft, he is the third leading scorer of his draft class (82 points), and he leads all defensemen of his draft class in goals (13), assists (69), and points.  But playing on a club that would draft such a player first overall also means he is second-worst in plus-minus in his draft class (minus-21).  Rasmus Dahlin might be thought of as being pretty much on schedule as a top draft pick.  Defensemen are not generally drafted first overall in the NHL Entry Draft, he being only the third defenseman over a span of 22 drafts when he was selected (Erik Johnson in 2006 by St. Louis and Aaron Ekblad in 2014 by Florida being the others).  And even that has been a mixed bag of success, Johnson having played in more than 750 NHL games over 12 seasons without receiving votes for a major post-season award, and Ekblad laboring for a club that has made the playoffs only once in his five seasons in the league before this one and failing to win a series in that postseason.

In his second season with the Sabres, Dahlin has had an uneven sophomore season.  After dressing for all 82 games last year and finishing as a Calder Trophy finalist for the top rookie award (he finished third) on a 9-35-44 season in scoring from the blue line, he has dressed for only 58 games so far this season, missing ten games to a concussion and an upper body injury.  When he has been in the lineup, his per-game production is out-pacing last years in assists (fro 0.43 per game to 0.59 this season) and in points (from 0.54 to 0.66 points per game).  His shooting is down, from 2.16 shots per game to 1.53 shots per game, which likely accounts for a drop in goal scoring (from 0.11 goals per game last year to 0.07 goals per game so far this season).  He has run hot and cold lately as well.  After putting up a six-game points streak in February (1-6-7), he has just one point (an assist) in his last seven contests.  Dahlin is 2-3-5, minus-3, in four career games against the Capitals.

Washington: Nicklas Backstom

It has been a bit of an odd season for Nicklas Backstrom.  On the one hand, he has averaged 0.90 points per game for the eighth time in nine seasons (0.90 points per game in 60 games).  On the other, he has a minus-1 rating that, if sustained through the end of the season, would be his first “minus” season since 2013-2014, when he was a career wort minus-20 in 82 games.  His shooting percentage has been off, his 9.1 percent conversion rate being his lowest since he finished at 8.9 percent in 2010-2011.  He has yet to record a game-winning goal, something he has never done over a full season in his 12 seasons preceding this one.  There even seems to be the quiet ferocity in his game missing over past seasons, his 14 penalty minutes in 60 games being his lowest penalty minutes per game (0.23) of his career to date.

One cannot help but wonder if Backstrom is playing through an injury.  Since he went 2-2-4 in a 6-3 win over the New Jersey Devils on December 20th, he has just four goals on 68 shots in 32 games (5.9 percent shooting), putting him on a pace to finish with fewer goals per game over a full season (0.20) since his rookie season in 2007-2008 (0.17).  And, his faceoff winning percentage is just 48.6 percent, an odd turn from a player who is a career 50-percent plus faceoff winner.  He has shown signs of coming out of that slump recently, going 1-8-9 over his last nine games and posting his first goal in 11 games when he netted one against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.  Backstrom is 8-21-29, plus-2, in 41 career games against Buffalo.

In the end…

Good teams take advantage of teams that are young and/or are struggling.  On that basis, the Caps should win this game and should do so with reasonable comfort.  But the Caps and Sabres have alternated wins over their last six meetings in Buffalo.  The losing team in each of the six games has struggled to score, at no time scoring more than two goals.  In that respect, watch to see if the Caps get out to a lead on the Sabres as they did against the Penguins on Saturday.  If they do not, it could be a long and disappointing evening.

Capitals 5 – Sabres 2

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 22

Week 22 was an odd week for the Washington Capitals.  They lost ugly to a division rival, lost in overtime to another division rival while allowing a player to score five goals against them for only the second time in team history, but bookending the week were a pair of wins, including one over their arch rival, to give the Caps a second-straight winning week that felt like anything but.

Record: 2-1-1

A second straight two-win week, while hardly the stuff to inspire handsprings, is encouraging after three straight losing weeks.  The problem, though, is that the Caps went 1-1-1 against Metropolitan Division opponents.  The Caps might be bending that curve a bit, though.  Their overall record against the Metro at the end of Week 22 stands at 11-12-2 with three games remaining (at Columbus, at Pittsburgh, and hosting the New York Rangers).  The Caps’ three games in Week 22 against Metro teams went loss/overtime loss/win.  When added to a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 23rd, the Caps are 2-1-1 against Metro teams after losing four in a row against division rivals.  On the other hand, and in a strange twist of fate, the Penguins are the only Metro team that the Caps have beaten since January 18th, having done so twice.

What should not get lost in the divisional noise in Week 22 is that the Caps beat the Minnesota Wild on the road to open the week.  That win broke a four-game road losing streak for the Caps that had been their longest of the season.

Offense: 4.00/game (season: 3.44/2nd)

It is hard to find fault in a week in which the Caps scored four or more goals three times in four games.  Ten different Capitals shared in the 16 goals scored.  Alex Ovechkin led the club with four goals, posted in two-goal games against Minnesota and the New York Rangers.  His second goal against the Rangers forced overtime in that game and gained the Caps a standings point; it also lifted into a tie with Boston’s David Pastrnak for the league lead in goals (47), although Pastrnak reclaimed the lead with a goal against Tampa Bay on Saturday night.  The two multi-goal games gave Ovechkin a league-leading 13 multi-goal games this season and 145 for his career, fourth all-time.

Three other Caps had multi-goal weeks.  Richard Panik, Nic Dowd, and Garnet Hathaway had a pair apiece.  Dowd had the first multi-goal game of his career when he posted a pair in the Caps’ 5-2 win over the Penguins to end the week.  Hathaway’s two goals gave him goals in three of his last six games at week’s end after suffering through a 24-game streak without a goal.  Panik’s two goals, one to start the week against Minnesota and the other to end it against Pittsburgh, ended a slump in which he went without a goal for 13 straight games.

The Caps had 15 skaters record points for the week, Richard Panik leading the way with six (2-4-6).  The six points over four games gave him his longest points streak as a Capital (four games) and matched his point total over his previous 14 games.  The balance was evident with Ovechkin registering five points (4-1-5), and four different Caps posting four points: Carl Hagelin (1-3-4), Nic Dowd (2-2-4), Nicklas Backstrom (1-3-4), and Ilya Kovalchuk (1-3-4).

In an odd result, Hagelin matched Ovechkin’s shot total for the week (11), aided by Ovechkin not recording a shot on goal in the 5-2 win over the Penguins to close out the week.  John Carlson added ten shots on goal of his own.  He also had three assists to hit the 60 assist mark for the season, a career-high and making him only the second defenseman in Caps history to hit the 60-assist mark.  Scott Stevens did it twice (60 assists in 1987-1988 and 61 assists in 1988-1989).  Carlson became just the fourth defensemen since 2005-2006 to post at least 15 goals and at least 60 assists in a season (15-60-75), joining Nicklas Lidstrom (16-64-80 in 2005-2006), Erik Karlsson (16-66-82 in 2015-2016), and Brent Burns (16-67-83 in 2018-2019).

Defense: 4.00/game (season: 3.09/T-18th)

The Caps have had their problems on the defensive side of the puck.  It went from bad to worse when the Caps started the week allowing three goals to the Minnesota Wild, then five goals to the Philadelphia Flyers, and finally six goals to the New York Rangers, five of those goals scored by Mika Zibanejad, including the overtime game-winner in the Rangers’ 6-5 win.  It was only the second time in Capitals history that the club allowed a player to score five goals in a single game.  Sergei Fedorov scored all five goals, including the overtime game-winner, on December 26, 1996 when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Caps, 5-4 in Detroit.

The 6-5 overtime loss to the Rangers made it ten consecutive games that the Caps allowed an opponent three or more goals and the sixth consecutive game of three or more goals allowed on the road.

The week had an odd twist to it in that the Caps were either stingy, twice holding the Flyers and Penguins under 30 shots (29 and 28, respectively), or generous, allowing Minnesota 40 shots and the Rangers 39 shots on goal.  The Caps have been a bit leaky in this regard lately, allowing opponents more than 30 shots in six of nine games through Week 22.  The Caps did limit the Flyers and Penguins to fewer than 40 shot attempts at 5-on-5 (34 and 39, respectively), ending a six-game streak in which they allowed 40 or more shot attempts at fives.

Goaltending: 4.02 / .882 (season: 2.93 / .902 / 1 shutout)

When the defense struggles, the goalies’ numbers take the hit, and both goalies did just that in Week 22.  Braden Holtby got the call three times for the week, and what distinguished his performance, not in a good way, was how his save percentages deteriorated from period to period -- .929 in first period (26 saves on 28 shots), .909 I second periods (30 saves on 33 shots), and .861 in third periods (31 saves on 36 shots).  The detail was a bit different, though.  Holtby faced fewer than ten shots in five of nine regulation periods he played this week and was perfect in four of them (he allowed two goals on four third period shots against the Flyers).  In the four regulation period in which he faced more than ten shots, he stopped 57 of 65 shots (.877 save percentage).

Ilya Samsonov was in goal for one game this week and allowed six goals on 39 shots in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Rangers.  It was his fifth straight loss over six appearances (0-4-1) in which he stopped 133 of 153 shots (.869 save percentage).  It is quite a reversal from his 11-win streak from November 20th through January 31st over which he stopped 278 of 297 shots (.936).

Power Play: 1-for-10/10.0 percent (season: 19.5 percent/17th)

The Caps are in a serious slump on their power play.  Week 22 was the fifth time in the last eight weeks that they finished under 15 percent for the week.  Over those eight weeks they are 13-for-83 (15.5 percent), 24th in the league over that span.  Only once in that span did they score two power play goals in a game (February 13th at Colorado).

The Caps did not apply a lot of power play pressure in Week 22, at least in terms of shot volumes.  They had 15 shots on goal in 18:15 of power play ice time.  Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson had four shots on goal apiece, although they got to them in different ways.  Ovechkin got his over the first three games of the week, while Wilson recorded all of his in the game against the Rangers.

Ovechkin scored the Caps’ lone power play goal of the week on the Caps’ first power play of the week, that on a 5-on-3 advantage against Minnesota.  They then went 0-f0r-9 over the remainder of the week.

Penalty Killing: 14-for-20/70.0 percent (season: 82.8 percent/5th)

Twenty shorthanded situations faced is quite a volume for a week’s work.  The Caps have not faced that many shorthanded situations in a single week since Week 18 of the 2015-2016 season when they went 17-for-20 on the penalty kill.  The impressive, for lack of a better word, part of the penalty kill in Week 22 was that the Caps spent more than half a game – 34:31 in ice time – killing penalties.  The heavy penalty killing workload pushed the Caps over 400 minutes in shorthanded ice time, the only team in the league to top that mark through Week 22 (409:02).

The Caps went shorthanded five or more times three times this week, bringing their total of such games to 17 for the season.  They are 10-5-2 in those games, but it is a dangerous way to play.

Faceoffs: 104-for-232 / 44.8 percent (season: 48.4 percent/28th)

Another week, another under-50 percent effort in the circle, but Week 22 comes with a twist.  The Caps finished the week over 50 percent in the offensive zone (32-for-61/52.5 percent), but they took 36 fewer draws in the offensive end of the ice than they did in the defensive end, where they were just 38-for-97 (39.2 percent).

On an individual level, there was the good and the bad, and there was a pattern to it.  Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller, and Evgeny Kuznetsov all finished over 50 percent in the offensive zone, but in the other end, they all finished under 50 percent.  On the other hand, Nic Dowd struggled in both ends, finishing under 50 percent in both, but did top 50 percent in neutral zone draws.

Goals by Period:

The Caps did well in first periods, even if they were a bit misleading.  Of eight first period goals scored for the week, the Caps had three of them in the 4-3 win over Minnesota to open the week, and they had three more in the 5-2 win over Pittsburgh to wrap up the week. 

The progress by period of goals against was another matter and not as pleasant to contemplate.  The Caps were leakier as games went on, allowing seven goals in four third periods for the week, almost half of the week’s total goals allowed.  Those seven goals allowed in the third period brought the Caps’ total for the season to 74, placing them in the top-ten in third period goals allowed (tied with Florida, Ottawa, and Los Angeles, ot a neighborhood in which they might want to find themselves).

The saving part of the week is that the Caps did get out of it with 93 third period goals scored for the season.  That is tops in the league, five more than the Rangers.


The recent struggles of the Capitals have brought this year’s team into an almost identical record as last year’s club through an equivalent number of games.  Unsurprisingly, the similarities between last year and this extend to the scoring for and against, this year’s club scoring only four more goals than last year’s club and the scoring defense now being identical for the two years.  The Caps are continuing to limit 5-on-5 shot attempts this year compared to last, and the possession effects appear in the lower blocked shot and takeaway numbers.  Credited hits run counter to that trend, with this year’s club running almost ten percent ahead of last year’s club, an unexpected result if a team is better at dominating possession.

In the end…

Week 22 had a glass-half-full/glass-half-empty quality to it.  The Caps went 2-1-1, which continues the improvement from their three-week streak of losing weeks, but losing twice to division rivals, including the one now in a flatfooted tie with them in record (the Flyers) hurts, and is part of a year-long struggle against Metropolitan Division teams.  But any week that includes a win over the Penguins is not all bad, especially when it is the win that closes a week and leaves fans happy.  But with only 14 games left in the season, the Caps are going to have to show more, especially in the defensive end of the ice, to suggest they have a deep playoff run in the cards.

Three Stars:
  • First Star: Richard Panik (2-4-6, plus-5, one game-winning goal, five hits, three blocked shots, plus-5 on-ice even strength goal differential)
  • Second Star: Nic Dowd (2-2-4, plus-4, first career multi-goal game, nine hits)
  • Third Star: Ilya Kovalchuk (1-3-4, plus-4, eight hits, plus-4 on-ice even strength goal differential)

Captain rates the week…

Two puppers