The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
A four-game home stand comes to an end for the Washington Capitals on Monday night when they host the New York Islanders. The Caps find themselves in the unfortunate position of trying to salvage a .500 home stand with a win that would make them 2-2-0. Meanwhile, the Islanders arrive in Washington in the midst of an almost two month slide that has seen them drop off from once contending for the Metropolitan Division lead to fighting for their playoff lives.
Then and Now…
Saturday will be the 222nd time that the Capitals and Islanders have met in the regular season. Washington has a 111-91-6 (13 ties) record in the series, 56-40-3 (11 ties) on home ice. Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 34-19-6 against New York overall, 16-10-3 in Washington. This is the last of of four meetings between the clubs this season. Washington won both games in New York, 2-1 on October 4th and 6-4 on January 18th. The Islanders won the only meeting in Washington to date, 4-3, on New Year’s Eve.
Active Leaders vs. Opponent…
Josh Bailey is in his 12th season with the New York Islanders. A home grown product, taken by the Isles with the ninth-overall pick of the 2008 Entry Draft, he is second in his draft class in NHL games played (850), trailing only Drew Doughty (905). But it is the seasons that are noteworthy. Bailey is in some rarefied air there. Only four players in Islander history have played in more seasons: Pat Flatley (13), Bob Nystrom (14), Denis Potvin (15), and Bryan Trottier (15). The odd part of his longevity is how unremarkable it is in terms of standout seasons, but how consistent it has been on a year-to-year basis. For example, Bailey has never posted a 20-goal season (and almost certainly won’t this season with 11 goals in 53 games), but he has had ten double-digit goal seasons out of 12. He has never had more than five power play goals in a season, but he has never gone a season without one (that is in jeopardy this season; he has none in 53 games). Last year was the first, and to date only, season of his career in which he did not post a game-winning goal.
The change in Bailey’s statistical progress has mirrored the recent success of the team generally. Until the 2016-2017 season, his high season in points was 41 in 2015-2016. But starting with the 2016-2017 season he recorded consecutive seasons of 56, 71, and 56 points. He is on a pace to finish this season with his fourth consecutive 50-plus point season (he is on a pace for exactly 50). He has been scoring at a quicker pace of late, going 3-6-9 over his last 11 games. In 47 career games against the Caps, Bailey is 5-12-17, minus-16.
When Ryan Pulock assisted on a Matt martin goal in the third period of the Islanders’ 5-3 win over Los Angeles last Thursday, it was his 100th career point. While it might not sound like a lot, he became the 23rd defenseman in team history to record 100 points with the club and only the ninth to do it in less than first five seasons with the club. Pulock is already tied for 12th among defensemen in team history in goals (27, with Vladimir Malakhov) and is 24th in team history in assists among defensemen (73). Making his early career contributions more impressive is that he played in a total of only 16 games over his first two seasons, which he followed up with a pair of 30-plus point seasons. He is on a pace to record his first 40-point season this year (a 42-point pace through 53 games). Scoring is not his only contribution. He is competent in the grittier arts, too, his career totals in blocked shots and credited hits being almost identical in five seasons (344 and 347, respectively).
Pulock has been a reasonable indicator of success, as one might expect for someone at his position who is not an elite scorer. The Islanders have points in all six games this season in which he recorded a goal (5-0-1) and are 15-4-4 in the 23 games in which he has a point. He has been struggling on the road of late, though. In his last 11 road games, Pulock is 1-1-2, minus-2. Pulock is 1-4-5, minus-5, in 12 career games against the Capitals.
Hard to say who will get the start in goal for the Islanders in this one. In 25 road games so far, Semyon Varlamov has had 13 starts, while Thomas Greiss has had the other 12. They have nearly identical save percentages in those games, Varlamov holding a slim .926 to .923 edge. The difference is what has happened in front of them. Varlamov has faced a reasonably comfortable 29.7 shots per 60 minutes on the road so far, but Greiss has had to face 34.0 shots per 60 minutes. This accounts for Greiss’ 2.61 goals against average compared to the 2.18 GAA Varlamov has recorded in road games. If you are looking for recent trends, Varlamov has been in a slump of late, going 2-61, 2.96, .904, with one shutout in his last nine appearances. Greiss is 5-5-2 (one no-decision), 2.98, .910 in his last 13 appearances. The difference is their respective career record against the Caps, and even there it is not much. Varlamov is 4-6-1, 2.74, .924 in 11 career games against Washington, while Greiss is 3-3-1, 2.15, .927, with one shutout against the Caps.
1. On November 21st, the Isles beat Pittsburgh to go 16-3-1 in their first 20 games. Since then, they are 15-13-5, tied for 19th in standings points earned over that period (35) and 20th in points percentage (.530).
2. Over that 33-game slide, the Islanders are a bottom-ten team in scoring offense (2.67 goals per game/24th), power play (17.9 percent/22nd), net penalty kill (81.0 percent/22nd), shots on goal per game (29.9/26th), shot attempts differential at 5-on-5 (minus-28/26th), shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 (47.4/27th), first period goals scored (26th/tied for 23rd), second period goals scored (29/tied for 23rd), third period goals scored (29/tied for 23rd), winning percentage when scoring first (.600/tied for 22nd), winning percentage when trailing first (.231/tied for 22nd), and winning percentage when leading after the first period (.600/tied for 25th). Their drop-off has not been a fluke.
3. Three goals. Islanders are the only team in the league that has not lost a game, either in regulation or in extra time, when scoring three or more goals on the road (13-0-0).
4. The flip side of that is that the Islanders are 12-0-2 when allowing two or fewer goals on the road this season, one of ten teams not to lose in regulation when doing so. Good when scoring, good when not being scored upon. Got it, but still better than most.
5. The Islanders have allowed one or more power play goals in 11 road games this season. Only three teams have done so fewer times: Boston (10), Chicago (10), and Edmonton (nine).
1. The seven goals the Caps allowed to the Flyers marked the tenth time this season they allowed teams five or more goals in a game. They are 1-9-0 in those games, the only win coming in a Gimmick over Vancouver, 6-5, on October 25th. The Caps are actually behind last year’s pace in this regard; they allowed five or more goals 21 times last year, going 2-14-7 (both wins came in extra time).
2. The Caps have allowed 63 goals over their last 18 games. The 3.50 goals allowed per game is tied for second-worst scoring defense (with Ottawa) over that span. Only Toronto is worse (3.63).
3. That weak scoring defense came despite the Caps allowing the second-lowest average of shots per game over that span (27.9, fewer than all teams except the Vegas Golden Knights (27.4)).
4. Over that 18-game stretch, the Caps had the fifth-best shot attempts differential at 5-on-5 (plus-312) and the fifth-best shot attempts-for percentage (53.9).
5. Only seven times in those 18 games did the Caps score first, third-fewest over that span. Nashville had six instances scoring first, Dallas had five. Only three times did they take a lead into the first intermission (winning all three times). Only Dallas had fewer leads after 20 minutes (two).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
New York: Noah Dobson
There always seems to have been a question about the level of trust head coach Barry Trotz places in rookies. It was an issue from time to time in Washington, with Andre Burakovsky appearing to be the most frequent example. This season with the Islanders, Trotz has chosen to dress four rookies, but only defenseman Noah Dobson has appeared in ten or more games. He appeared in only 11 of the teams’ first 38 games this season, but he has dressed for the Islanders’ last 15 games to bring his season total to 26 games played.
Dobson was the fifth defenseman taken among the 2018 Entry Draft’s first 12 picks, the Islanders taking him 12th overall after Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo/first overall), Quinn Hughes (Vancouver/seventh), Adam Boqvist (Chicago/eighth), and Evan Bouchard (Edmonton/tenth) were taken. Dobson has not yet made a splash, though, especially on the road. In 12 road games so far in his young career, he has only one point, an assist in a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on January 21st. His ice time has, as one might expect playing for a head coach with a reputation for leaning heavily on veterans, been parceled out sparingly. Only nine times has Dobson passed the 15 minute mark in ice time for a game, and the Isles are 4-2-3 in those games. He went without a point and had an even rating in his only appearance so far against the Caps, skating 8:12 (second lowest ice time of his season) in a 6-4 loss to Washington on Janaury 18th.
Washington: Jonas Siegenthaler
One might think of Jonas Siegenthaler as the Caps counterpart to Noah Dobson. Siegenthaler does not have Dobson’s draft pedigree, having been taken in the second round (57th overall) in the 2015 entry draft. However, only Martin Fehervary among the nine defensemen to dress for the Caps this season is younger. In fact, of 100 defensemen to dress in at least 50 games this season (Siegenthaler has dressed for 54 games), only 12 are younger.
Siegenthaler has established a benchmark for his further development, posting his first two NHL goals this season (he had none last year as a rookie in 26 games), seven assists, and nine points. His plus-9 rating is a respectable fourth among the nine defensemen to dress for the Caps this season, as is his fourth-ranked hit total (43). He tops all Caps defensemen in blocked shots (87) and in shorthanded ice time per game (3:10, tied for 11th in the league among 208 defensemen playing in at least 25 games).
His scoring, not yet a significant part of his game, has been sparse over the last seven weeks. He does not have a goal since December 20th (18 games) and has only three assists in that span. On the other hand, in the 18 games over that stretch, the eight goals Siegenthaler has been on ice for at even strength are fewest of any Caps defenseman dressing for more than two games. And, whether a product of sheltered minutes or attention to defensive responsibilities, Siegenthaler has been a minus-2 or worse in games only twice this season in 54 games, and not worse than minus-2 in either of them. Siegenthaler is without a point and is minus-2 in five career games against the Islanders.
In the end…
The Caps have been a very ordinary team for going on two months now. They have fallen into bad habits, have been unable (or unwilling) to string together multiple games, and sometimes even period to period, with good effort. A letdown from the torrid start to the season (26-6-5 in their first 37 games) was to be expected. But they are underperforming their talent level, on paper, and they cannot blame the matter on injuries, at least none that get reported. The record has been especially disappointing against Metropolitan Division teams, against which the Caps have a mediocre 9-9-1 record so far. Monday night is an opportunity to address both of these issues at the expense of an old friend.
Capitals 4 – Islanders 2