Monday, February 03, 2020

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 54: Kings at Capitals, February 4th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals continue their four-game home stand with a Tuesday night matchup with the Los Angeles Kings at Capital One Arena.  After losses to Nashville and Pittsburgh at Capital One, the Caps will be looking to end their first losing streak on home ice since mid-November and their first consecutive losses on home ice in regulation this season.  The Kings arrive in Washington a struggling team that has gone 4-11-2 in their last 17 games and have sunk to the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Then and Now…

The Caps and Kings will renew their series for the 114th time on Tuesday night.  Washington is 40-57-3 (13 ties) in the overall series, 23-24-1 (seven ties) on home ice.  Since 2005-2006, the Capitals are 8-9-3 overall against the Kings and 5-3-1 in Washington.  The Caps won the first game of the series this season in Los Angeles, 3-1, on December 4th.

Active Leaders vs. Opponent…

Noteworthy Opponents…

When the Los Angeles Kings took the ice to host the Tampa Bay Lighting at Staples Center on January 29th, defensemen Drew Doughty was not on the ice.  Suffering from an undisclosed injury, Doughty saw his streak of 460 consecutive games played come to an end.  No defenseman in Kings history has appeared in more games (902), and none have more points (494, tied with Rob Blake).  This being a team that has already dressed 11 defensemen this season, Doughty’s absence has been and will continue to be felt.  It puts more pressure on others, such as Sean Walker, who is second to Doughty in points among Kings defensemen so far (20), is tied with Matt Roy for second in goals to Doughty (four), and is one of only two Kings Defensemen (Roy being the other) to dress in all 53 games for Los Angeles this season.

Walker’s journey to the NHL was a roundabout one.  He was undrafted as an amateur and instead spent four seasons in the Bowling Green program in the NCAA.  Even after completing his four years with the Falcons, he was not yet quite on the NHL radar, signing a contract with the Ontario Reign in the AHL in June 2017.  After a season in which he went 7-21-28 in 64 games for the Reign, he signed a two-year entry level deal with the Kings in July 2018.  Walker split time between the Reign and the Kings last season, playing in 22 games for the Reign and 39 for the Kings in his rookie season, going 3-7-10, minus-8.  He started this season with four goals in his first 18 games, but he drags a 35-game streak without one into this contest, failing to hit twine on 68 shots, although he does have 12 assists over those 35 games.  Walker is without a point and has an even rating in his only career game against the Caps.

A team in the position the Kings find themselves have to be looking ahead to the next generation of players, and one of them might be forward Blake Lizotte.  In 48 games this season, Lizotte is tied for the team lead among rookies in goals (four) and leads the seven-member rookie crop in points (15).  Lizotte is another player left undrafted as an amateur, and he, too, spent time in an NCAA program, playing for two seasons with the St. Cloud State Huskies before signing a three-year entry contract with the Kings last April.

Lizotte has appeared in 48 of the Kings’ 53 games so far this season, and his contributions to date are unsurprising for a team with as many holes as the Kings have.  By that we mean that they have  mattered in an inconsistent way in terms of being turned into team success.  The Kings split the four decisions in which Lizotte has goals so far, although they are 8-4-2 when he recorded a point.  Odd Lizotte fact… the Kings are 7-7-1 when he is held without a shot on goal, 11-19-3 in the 33 games in which he recorded at least one shot.  Lizotte has a goal and an even ranking in his only career appearance against the Caps.

Jonathan Quick has appeared in 635 games in goal for the Kings, most in team history and almost 250 more than second-place Rogie Vachon (389).  His 320 wins are tops in franchise history, almost 150 more than Vachon (171).  Among 28 goalies who have appeared in at least 50 games for the Kings, Quick’s 2.40 goals against average is bested only by Peter Budaj (2.22 in 57 games) and Felix Potvin (2.35 in 136 games).  His 51 shutouts in a Kings jersey far outpaces Vachon’s 32 with the Kings. 

However, Quick has been a somewhat brittle goaltender over the past few years.  Since leading the NHL with 68 appearances in 2015-2016, he dressed for only 17 games in 2016-2017 (lower body injury).  Then, after appearing in 64 games in 2017-2018, he dressed for only 46 games last season (lower body and knee injuries) and posted his worst goals against average (3.38) and save percentage (.888) over a full season in his career.  This season, while he has had the majority of the work, he has started only 33 of the Kings’ 53 games to date, Jack Campbell getting the other 20 starts.  His numbers have been better, but not significantly so, his GAA still above three goals per game (3.02) and save percentage still under .900 (.895).  He has struggled quite a bit on the road this season, going 3-10-2, 3.54, .880 in 15 appearances.  If he gets the start in this contest, he brings a 1-7-1, 2.93, .900 record over his last nine appearances into the contest.  Quick is 9-4-0, 2.51, .910 in 13 career appearances against Washington.

1.  Only three teams in the league have a worse net penalty kill (after shorthanded goals scored are accounted for) than the Kings’ 75.0 percent net PK (Detroit (73.4), Buffalo (72.8), and Nashville (68.9)).

2.  The Kings lead the league in shots on goal in road games (34.1), and only Pittsburgh has allowed fewer shot on goal in road game (28.5 per game) than the Kings (29.0).

3.  Outshooting opponents in road games hasn’t mattered much to the Kings, who are just 5-14-2 in games where they do.  Their 14 losses in regulation when outshooting opponents is, by far, the most in the league (three teams have eight regulation losses).

4.  No team has won fewer games when being out-shot by opponents on the road than the Kings (three, tied with Detroit).

5.  Los Angeles has the second-best shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 in road games (52.9), trailing only Carolina (53.3).

1.  Since January 1st, the Caps have the third-best scoring offense in the league (3.92 goals per game), trailing only Florida (4.00) and Edmonton (4.50).

2.  Washington’s net power play since January 1st (6.4 percent, after accounting for shorthanded goals against), is fourth-worst in the league, ahead of only Tampa Bay (5.9), Montreal (5.3), and Detroit (0.0).

3.  The Caps have 19 third period goals scored since January 1st, second-most in the league (Vancouver: 20).

4.  In 13 games since January 1st, the Caps have carried a lead into the first intermission only three times.  They won all three games.

5.  Washington has lost 11 games on home ice this season.  Seven of them were by one-goal, four of those in extra time. The other four losses were by three or more goals. 

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Los Angeles: Dustin Brown

No player has pulled a Los Angeles Kings sweater over his head more times than Dustin Brown, the all-time leader in games played for the franchise (1,166).  He also ranks sixth on the franchise list in goals (292), ninth in assists (350), eighth in points (642), 14th in penalty minutes (694), fifth in power play goals (96), and sixth in game-winning goals (40).  One might have been forgiven a few years ago, when Brown’s diminished production hinted that a lot of hard minutes had taken a toll on him.  After a isx-year stretch from 2007-2008 through 2012-2013, over which he posted 149 goals (a 27 goals-per-82 games pace), he posted only 51 goals over his next four seasons (a 13 goals-per-82 games pace).  However, he experienced a rebirth in 2017-2018 with 28 goals, and he followed that up with 22 goals last season.

Brown’s production this season has dropped – 10 goals and 24 points in 49 games – and his ice time is down as well, from a career high 20:24 in average ice time last season t0 18:26 in 49 games so far this season.  He has become that which he once saw when coming up as a youngster, a veteran helping shepherd a young group trying to become competitive once more.   His production has been another reflection of how contributions can be lost among the other weaknesses in the lineup.  The Kings are just 3-4-3 in the ten games in which he has goals so far, 8-8-3 in the 19 games in which he has points.  He had a five-game points streak snapped against Anaheim in the Kings’ last contest, but Los Angeles won only one of those five games in which he had points (0-4-1).  In 21 career games against the Caps, Brown is 2-8-10, minus-2.

Washington: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Evgeny Kuznetsov is something of a mystery.  A supremely talented player, he has the vague aura on not really having put everything together to become a truly fearsome player.  In fact, there has been something of a slow bleed in his production since he posted a career best 1.05 points per game in 2017-2018.  Last year, that average dropped to 0.95 points per game, and heading into the new week it stands a 0.90 points per game over 50 games.  Still quite good, but not as good as Caps fans might imagine it being if he were to put all those pieces together.

Odd Kuznetsov Fact… since his first full season in the NHL in 2014-2015, Kuznetsov has the fourth-worst faceoff winning percentage among the 114 active players taking at least 2,000 faceoffs (43.9 percent).  The thing is, two of the players below him on that list are Connor McDavid (43.8 percent) and jack Eichel (43.5 percent).  Not bad company.  Jared McCann is the third player (41.6 percent).

Kuznetsov has been streaky of late.  Over his last 23 games, he has a four-game points streak, a seven-game points streak, and he has points in three of his last five games, including goals in each of his last two contests.  He has been more productive on home ice so far this season (10-14-24, plus-4, in 25 home games) than he has on the road (8-13-21, minus-2, in 25 road games).  Kuznetsov is 6-7-13, plus-4, in 13 career games against the Kings.

In the end…

Struggling team comes east to start a four-game road trip, losers of six of their last seven games, a team that has trouble scoring (13 goals in those seven games).  You would have to think this is the kind of team that the Caps can get well against.  However, the Caps are not running hot, either, going 4-4-0 in their last eight home games and allowing 25 goals in those eight games.  This game is the second of a four-game home stand, the remains of which finds the Caps looking for a couple of points that would be inexcusable to leave on the table (against the Kings) before hosting a pair of games against divisional rivals (Philadelphia and the New York Islanders).  But first things first.

Capitals 5 – Kings 2