Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 33: Capitals at Red Wings: December 31st

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up the old year and their season series with the Detroit Red Wings when the Caps pay a visit to Little Caesars Arena on New Year’s Eve.  Washington is coming off a hard fought 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators to end their winning streak at seven games, while the Red Wings have stumbled of late, going 2-4-0 after posting a five-game winning streak.

Despite their recent slump, the Wings remain one of the league’s surprises this season with their 15-13-3 record, good enough for fourth place in the Atlantic Division, three points clear of the Boston Bruins, although the Bruins hold five games in hand on Detroit.  There is no secret to the reason the Wings have improved so much over last year’s seventh place finish in the Central Division (realigned to accommodate the COVID-based abbreviated season).  Detroit has improved their scoring offense by 26 percent per game (from 2.23 to 2.81 goals per game) over last season.

The Red Wings’ scoring improvement has come through balance.  Three players have double digits in goals (Dylan Larkin: 15), Tyler Bertuzzi (12), and Lucas Raymond (10), while 11 players have reached double digits in points.  Larkin, who has an overtime goal against the Caps this season in Detroit’s come from two goals down 3-2 win on October 27th in DC, has shown a dramatic improvement in goal scoring, from nine in 44 games last season to 15 in 27 games so far in 2021-2022.  He appears sure to threaten his personal best – 32 goals in 76 games in 2018-2019. 

Larkin has been a very efficient shooter so far this season, his 19.2 shooting percentage easily being the best of his career to date (11.1 in 2018-2019 being his best before this season).  What is also noteworthy about his output and efficiency is that Larkin is doing it with less ice time (18:56 per game) than he has had since his sophomore year in 2016-2017 (16:09).  He has been especially productive on home ice, leading the team in goals (nine in 15 games), points (16), and tied with Bertuzzi in game-winning goals (two) while shooting 20.5 percent.  Larkin comes into this game fresh off a hat trick in his last home game, potting three goals in a 5-2 win over New Jersey on December 18th.  He is 3-6-9, plus-1, in 15 career games against the Caps.

Bertuzzi is another Red Wing who is likely to threaten his career best in goals.  He has 12 in 23 games to date, a 39-goal pace that would be well clear of the 21 goals he recorded in consecutive seasons (2018-2019 and 2019-2020).  He has been efficient as well, his 20.0 percent marking his second straight season over 20 percent, although his 25.9 percent last season came in only nine games of work due to back surgery that kept him out for 47 games.  He has been streaky in goal scoring so far this season, opening the year with nine goals in his first ten games, then going 11 without one before breaking that slump with three goals in his last two games going into the contest with the Caps.  Odd Bertuzzi fact… he had four goals in the Red Wings’ first home game of the season and has a total of four goals on home ice in 12 games since.  If he has an odd statistic outside of his offensive numbers, it would be his 17 takeaways recorded so far, tops among all Red Wing skater.  On the other hand, his 26 giveawsys are also most on the team.  Bertuzzi is 0-1-1, minus-6, in eight career games against Washington.

Raymond has to be considered among the front runners for this season’s Calder Trophy as top rookie. He leads this year’s rookie class in goals (10), tied with teammate (and fellow Calder candidate) defenseman Moritz Seider in assists (18), points (28), points per game (0.90; minimum: five games played), tied for first in even strength goals (seven), first in even strength points (22), first in power play goals (three), and tied for second in power play points (six).  Despite this being his first NHL season, the former fourth overall pick of the 2020 Entry Draft ranks fourth in his draft class in games played (31), third in goals (10), second in assists (18), third in points (28), firs in even strength points (22), and is one of seven players in his rookie class with at least one game-winning goal.  He also leads all rookie forwards in his draft class in average ice time (17:27 per game).  If there is an odd fact about his stats, especially as a rookie, it is that he has been more productive on the road (5-13-18 in 15 games) than he has been at home (5-5-10 in 16 games).  He has been a reliable producer as well, posting points in 19 of 31 games played to date.  The Wings are 11-6-2 in those contests.  He comes into this game without a goal in his last seven games, but he has six assists in the same span.  In two games against Washington, he is 0-1-1, even.  He is currently listed as day-to-day in COVID protocol, placed there on Sunday.  Given changes in guidance on isolation (five days), his availability on Friday is uncertain.

1.  Detroit’s improvement in scoring offense over last season comes across range of statistical categories.  Their 5-on-5 scoring is up 24.6 percent (1.55 to 1.94 goals per game), the power play is up (from 11.4 percent to 15.7 percent), their shots on goal are up (from 31.9 to 33.5 shots per game), their 5-on-5 shot attempts are up (from 21.4 attempts per game to 23.6 attempts per game).

2.  While their overall scoring defense is worse this year than last (from 3.00 goals allowed per game to 3.35 goals allowed per game), it has improved year-to-year on home ice (from 2.61 to 2.56 goals allowed per game).

3.  The power play on home ice has improved dramatically for Detroit over last year, from 5.6 percent to 14.9 percent).

4.  Only three teams have earned more standings points on home ice than the 24 earned by the Red Wings (Florida: 30; St. Louis: 26; Toronto: 25).

5.  Beware the second period against Detroit.  They have more than doubled opponents’ scoring in the middle frame of games played at Little Caesars Arena (21 to 10 in 16 home games).

1.  This contest with the Wings will be the Caps’ 89th regular season contest of calendar year 2021.  With a win, they would finish 56-21-12; they are currently sixth in winning percentage (.693) for the calendar year.

2.  Going into their last game of 2021, Washington’s 3.40 goals per game scoring offense ranks fourth in the league for calendar year 2021.

3. As bad as the power play has been to start the 2021-2022 regular season, the Caps’ 20.9 power play still ranks 10th in the league for the calendar year heading into their last game of 2021.

4.  Washington’s penalty kill has been stellar in 2021, their 83.3 percent penalty kill ranking third in the league in 2021 with one game left to play.

5.  Only the Vegas Golden Knights have more goals at 5-on-5 in calendar 2021 (217) than the Caps (214).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Detroit: Sam Gagner

It seems like forever ago, but Sam Gagner was once a sixth-overall draft pick, taken by Edmonton in that slot in the 2007 Entry Draft.  The Oilers would be the first of six NHL stops for Gagner, his first seven NHL seasons spent in Edmonton followed by stints in Arizona, Philadelphia, Columbus, Vancouver, and a second tour in Edmonton before landing in Detroit when Edmonton traded him with a second-round draft pick in 2020 and a second-round draft pick in 2021 for Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Kuffner in February 2020.  The well-traveled Gagner is in his third season with the Red Wings, and in 79 games with Detroit he is 12-16-28, minus-13.  With four goals in 31 games so far this season, he has a decent chance to reach double digits in goals for the first time since 2017-2018, when he posted ten goals in 74 games with Vancouver.  With 12 points thus far he could reach 20 points for the first time since that same 2017-2018 season when he posted 31 with the Canucks.  He has stepped up his production a bit of late.  After going 2-4-6, minus-4, in his first 17 games, Gagner is 2-4-6, minus-4 in his last 14 games, a slightly better per game production.  Gagner is 1-6-7, minus-4, in 21 career games against Washington.  He, too, was placed in COVID protocol (his second bout with COVID) but was taken off the day-to-day list on Wednesday.

Washington: Lars Eller

When the Caps suited up for their game against Nashville on Wednesday night, it was the first time in 32 games that the Caps dressed their full complement of centers this season.  No center has appeared in all 32 games this season (Connor McMichael is the only Capital center to appear in 30 games).  Lars Eller has taken the ice 26 times this season and has performed well in a variety of roles, taking turns on the top three lines as injuries and COVID issues mounted among other Capital centers.  Going into Friday’s game against Detroit, Eller is second among the ten centers to play for the Caps this season in goals (six), second in assists (10), second in points (16), second in plus-minus (plus-10), second in shooting percentage (14.0 percent; minimum: 10 games), second in average ice time (17:57), second in faceoff winning percentage (49.1; minimum: 10 games played), second in hits (26), first in blocked shots (16), second in takeaways (15), second in even strength ice time per game (17:14), third in power play ice time er game (1:37), and second in shorthanded ice time per game (1:44).

What makes his performance more impressive is his comeback from a slow start in which he went 0-4-4, plus-2, in his first dozen games.  In 14 games since, Eller is 6-5-11, plus-8, and is shooting 27.8 percent in that span.  Overall, the Caps are 8-2-3 in the 13 games in which he recorded at least one point.  He has been especially effective on the road overall, going 4-5-9, plus-13, with a 21.1 shooting percentage.  If there is a concern, it is ice time and the Caps’ record when he bears a heavier load.  Washington is just 4-3-4 in the 11 games in which he logged 18 or more minutes.  Eller is 2-6-8, plus-1, in 26 career games against Detroit.

In the end…

The Caps have alternated wins and losses on the road since beating the San Jose Sharks in California on November 20th (4-2-1).  In all four wins, they allowed precisely two goals.  In each of the three losses, they allowed precisely five goals.  There is no magic to this.  Play better defense.

Capitals 4 – Red Wings 2

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

A TWO Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 32: Capitals 5 - Predators 3

The Washington Capitals hosted the white-hot Nashville Predators at Capital One Arena on Wednesday night.  The Caps ended the Predators’ seven-game wining streak despite coughing up a three goal lead, emerging victorious in a hard fought, almost playoff intensity level contest, 5-3.


First Period

The Caps dominated possession and position in the early going, and it paid off in the fourth minute.  The Caps did not let the Preds breathe trying to get out of their own zone, and it paid off with a pretty play involving all five Caps skaters.  From the right point, Dmitry Orlov pushed the puck down the right wing wll to Tom Wilson.  From the wall, Wilson fed Alex Ovechkin high between the circles.  Eschewing a shot, Ovechkin slid the puck to John Carlson, who found Lars Eller pinching in on the weak side for a tap-in to make it 1-0, Caps, at the 3:15 mark.

Washington had the game’s first power play at the 7:44 mark when Mike McCarron was sent off for interference, knocking Garnet Hathaway into the Predators’ net.  The Caps could not convert, however, and the teams resumed 5-on-5 play.

The Caps advanced their cause, nonetheless, in the 14th minute.  From below his own goal line, Orlov found Nicklas Backstrom skating up the middle.  Backstrom carried the puck down ice, and reaching the Nashville blue line, he fed John Carlson to his right.  Carlson stepped up and unleached a shot that might have clipped the stick of defender Ben Harpur, but nevertheless, the puck sailed over goalie Jusse Saros left shoulder and in to make it 2-0, 13:11 into the period.

Washington was awarded their second power play of the evening the 16:03 mark…another zilch.

Nic Dowd put the Caps up by three on another sparking passing sequence with 68 seconds left in the period.  Waiting for a line change to be completed, Trevor van Riemsdyk slid a pass to Michal Kempny on the left side.  Kempny upped the puck to Carl Hagelin, who skated it down the left side into the Predator’s zone.  Passing up a shot, Hagelin found Dowd at the far post for another tap-in, and it was 3-0, Caps, at the 18:52 mark.

Nashville went to their first power play in the last minute of the period.  The Caps were hit with a pair of penalties after a scrum in front of the Nashville bench, Garnet Hathaway for high-sticking and Alex Alexeyev off for roughing.  Who he “roughed” will be a matter for hockey historians to figure out, although the official scoring had the victim as Matt Benning.  Benning went off for roughing as well.  Nashville failed to convert in the first 38.8 seconds of their power play, actually allowing a Caps shorthanded chance late, the remining time to carry over into the second period.  Caps led after one, 3-0.

-- The Caps outshot Nashville, 11-6, in the period and out-attempted them, 25-15.

-- John Carlson led the Caps in shots (three) and ice time (8:30).

-- Carlson, Alex Ovechkin and Lars Eller each had four shot attempts.

-- Garnet Hathaway led the team in credited hits (two).

-- Nic Dowd was the only Cap over 50 percent on faceoffs (3-for-4/75.0 percent).  The team went 6-for-10.

Second Period

Nashville did not convert the power play, but they scored immediately after it expired in the second minute of the second period.  Yakov Trenin pounced on a rebound in front of goalie Ilya Samsonov and stuffed it between Samsonov pads to make it 3-1, 1:23 into the period.

The Caps went to their third power play when Tom Wilson decked Ryan Johansen with a check and Mark Borowiecki took exception. No punches were actually thrown in the “fight,” but both players were sent off, Borowiecki give an extra minor for instigating.  Washington did not convert and went 0-for-3 for the evening against the Preds.

The Caps paid for their failure when Nashville closed to 3-2, Eeli Tolvanen saucering a pass to Luke Kunin charging unchallenged down the slot for a redirect tap-in at 7:03 of the period.

The Predators came all the way back when Filip Forsberg redirected a Dante Fabbro drive down and between the pads of Samsonov at the 7:38 mark, the 3-0 deficit wiped out in a span of 6:17.

The teams took coincidental penalties when Nashville’s Ben Harpur and the Caps’ Dmitry Orlov went to their respective penalty boxes for roughing at 13:00 of the period.  Neither team scored, but the Caps went to their fourth power play of the evening when Matt Benning went off for roughing, pounding on Hathaway in the Nashville crease.  Ovechkin had a fine chance with an open look for a wrist shot, but he fired wide, and again with a one-timer chance from The Office, that chance partially blocked in front and then turned aside by Saros.  The Caps went without a power play score for the fourth time in this contest.  The teams went to their respective locker rooms tied at three-apiece.

-- Washington outshot Nashville, 11-8, in the period and out-attempted them, 18-14. 

-- John Carlson led the team in shots through two period with five; Alex Ovechkin had seven shot attempts.

-- Through two periods, Tom Wilson had all four of his shot attempts blocked.

Third Period

Neither team could break the tie in the first 6:15, but the Caps got their chance when they went on their fifth power play of the evening, courtesy of Dante Fabbro skying the puck over the glass in the defensive zone for a delay of game penalty.  But once again, no goal.

The Predators went to the power play when Tom Wilson was sent off for tripping at the 8:24 mark.  It was the Caps who had an excellent chance, though.  As the penalty expired, Wilson took a pss behind the defense and skated in alone on Saros, but he could not convert, and the game remained tied.

Power play number six for the Caps came at the 12:18 mark, Mikael Granlund going off for cross-checking Evgeny Kuznetsov.  Kuznetsov had what looked like an open net for a tap in, but Saros got across in time to get the blade of his stick on the puck and preserve the tie.  The Caps then took a penalty of their own when Tom Wilson was sent off for tripping at the 6:16 mark after the referees mis-identified Conor Sheary as the culprit.

Neither team scored on the 4-on-4, and the Predators went on a power play.  But it was the Caps finding the back of the net when Evgeny Kuznetsov stepped out from behind the net and wristed a shot over Saros’ shoulder at the near post for a shorthanded goal to give the Caps a 4-3 lead 14:24 into the period.  The Caps killed off the remaining time on the penalty and went to evens with the 4-3 lead.

Nashville pulled Saros with more than two minutes remaining for an extra attacker, and they took their time out with 1:46 left.  It would not be enough to keep the Caps from scoring an empty net goal, netted by Carl Hagelin at the 18:57 mark.  It would complete the night’s scoring, the Caps skating off with the 5-3 win.

Other stuff…

  • This was the seventh consecutive meeting between these teams where they combined for seven or more goals.
  • The Caps ended an eight-game streak by Juuse Saros of allowing fewer than four goals.
  • John Carlson had a four-point night (1-3-4), his second career four-point game. His first was recorded on April 17, 2021 against Philadelphia (all assists) in a 6-3 win.
  • The Caps outshot Nashville, 37-19, and out-attempted them, 64-44.
  • John Carlson led the Caps with five shots on goal; Alex Ovechkin has 12 attempts.
  • Alex Ovechkin led the team in ice time (26:01), 11:15 of that on power plays, more than seven Caps had in ice time totals.
  • Thirteen of 18 skaters were credited with hits, Garnet Hathaway leading the team with three.
  • Washington recovered (that being a relative term) to finish 26-for-59 on faceoffs (44.1 percent).  If not for Nic Dowd, though (11-for-13), it would have been a disaster.
  • Carl Hagelin had his first multi-point game of the season (1-1-2).
  • Michal Kempny had a fine game for having not played in a year and a half (August 14, 2020) – 20:57 in ice time, one assist, even rating, one shot attempt (blocked), two credited hits, one blocked shot.

In the end…

This was almost a playoff game on the ornery meter.  Eighteen penalties (ten for Nashville, eight for Washington), two fighting majors (one for each team), two ten-minute misconduct penalties (one for each team).  The Caps continued a disturbing trend of coughing up multi-goal leads, but they ground out a win by being patient against goalie Jusse Saros and finally scoring on a goal Saros might want back (we think he was the number one star of the game, despite allowing four goals…it could have been worse for the Preds, much worse).  It was a fine win for the Caps, nevertheless, coming off the hiatus against a team that gives them fits.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 32: Predators at Capitals: December 29th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

After a 13-day hiatus, the Washington Capitals will resume play on Wednesday night when they host the Nashville Predators at Capital One Arena…maybe.  While the league stands like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz in the face of a tornado bearing down on the Gale family farm, teams will take the ice to try to weather the latest COVID interruption in the schedule.  With three games on this week’s league schedule postponed, the total number of games postponed hit the 70-game mark. The Caps have lost three games to COVID, games in Philadelphia against the Flyers and in New York against the Islanders, and a home matchup with Ottawa on Monday.

For the Predators, the interruption could not have come at a worse time from an on-ice performance perspective.  Nashville went into the pause on a seven-game winning streak, outscoring opponents by a 25-14 margin.  It is that defense, tied for third-best during the streak at 2.00 goals allowed per game, that has fueled the surge.  It is quite an improvement over the 2.83 goals per game they allowed over their first 23 games of the season. 

The improvement starts with goaltending.  While David Rittich has a 2-0-0 during the streak as a backup, he has bee more a passenger than pilot, posting a 2.50 goals against average and a disturbing .865 save percentage.  Then there is Juuse Saros. During the seven-game winning streak, Saros is 5-0-0, 1.77, .931, with one shutout, a 32-save gem in a 1-0 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on December 12th.  Saros might be a smallish goaltender by today’s standards, (5’11”/180 pounds), but it has not stopped him from grabbing the number one goaltending job and hold onto it tightly.  Now in his seventh NHL season, he has an impressive career line of 91-55-18, 2.46, .921, with 16 shutouts.  He has been a consistent performer. In six full seasons with Nashville, Saros never posted a save percentage under .914 and never recorded a goals against average over 2.70.  If there is a lingering question about Saros, it is in his durability over a long season as a number one goalie.  In seven seasons, his high water mark in appearances is 40 games, that in 2019-2020.  He has appeared in 24 of Nashville’s 30 games to date this season, so how his performance changes (or doesn’t) when the calendar moves to February and March will bear watching.  Saros is 4-0-0, 2.75, .908 in four career appearances against the Csps.

So, who leads the Predators in goal scoring over their seven-game streak?  Filip Forsberg?  Nope.  Ryan Johansen?  Nope.  Matt Duchene?  Nope (and he played only three games during this streak; he is “day-to-day” with an upper body injury).  You would go through a lot of the roster before settling on Eeli Tolvanen, who has four goals during the streak.  Tolvanen was taken in the first round (30th overall) in the 2017 Entry Draft.  He broke through and saw his first NHL action in 2017-2018, but he appeared in only three games that season and only four in the next.  He spent the entire 2019-2020 season with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL, and then he split his time between Jokerit in the KHL (24 games) and Nashville (40 games).  Last season Tolvanen had his first season of sustained play, and he did not disappoint, finishing in a tie for tenh among rookies in goals scored (11), tied for 12th in assists (11), 12th in points (22), second in power play goals (six), third in power play points (12), and tied for first in game-winning goals (four).  However, this season his numbers are regressing a bit (5-6-11, plus-8, in 30 games), most notably in shooting efficiency.  Last season he shot 16.9 percent on his way to a tie for 13th in Calder Trophy voting for top rookie.  At the moment, that shooting efficiency is just 6.5 percent.  Tolvanen has never faced the Caps.

Nashville has dressed six rookie skaters this season, but only Tanner Jeannot has appeared in all 30 games for the Preds.  And he is not just a placeholder.  In those 30 games he is 8-9-17, plus-2. Among this year’s rookie cohort, he is tied for second in goals scored (eight), seventh in assists (nine), fifth in points (17), tied for second in game-winning goals (two), and is one of six skaters with at least one overtime goal.  Jeannot was not drafted, signing as a free agent with Nashville in April 2018 after four seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the Western Hockey League in Canadian junior hockey. In the following three seasons he split time between the Milwaukee Admirals and Chicago Wolves in the AHL and the Florida Everblades of the ECHL in addition to 15 games with Nashville last season when he went 5-2-7, plus-6.  Jeannot also plays with a physical edge, racking up 38 penalty minutes in 30 games, third in the league among rookies. He also leads all rookies in credited hits (92) and is averaging 11.70 hits per 60 minutes, third among rookies appearing in at least 20 games.  Fun Jeannot fact…Nashville has not lost a game in the seven games in which he recorded at least one goal (7-0-0).  Jeannot has never faced the Caps.

1.  Nashville is second in the league in road power play efficiency (33.3 percent; Edmonton is at 36.8 percent).

2.  The Predators are consistent goal scorers on the road, at least by period – 14 first period, 14 second period, and 16 third period goals.

3.  Nashville Is tied with Toronto for the third-best winning percentage on the road when scoring first (both with 7-1-0/.875).

4.  The Preds have the best road record, by winning percentage, in the league in one-goal games (7-0-1/.875).

5.  Nashville is one of eight teams that has yet to go to the Gimmick in road games.

1.  Washington has the third-worst faceoff winning percentage on home ice (47.3 percent).

2.  The Caps have been stingy at home allowing shots on goal, the 25.9 shots allowed on home ice being second-best in the league (Calgary: 24.5).

3.  Washington has the best net penalty kill in the league (accounting for shorthanded goals scored by opponents): 100.0 percent.

4.  The Capsa are tied with Philadelphia for most shorthanded goals scored in home games (four, the same number of opponent power play goals allowed).

5.  Washington has carried a lead into the third period ten times at Capital One Arena this season, but their 7-1-2 record is third worst in the league by winning percentage among teams leading on home ice through 40 minutes (.700; Arizona has not yet taken a lead into the third period on home ice).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Nashville: Filip Forsberg

When the Caps drafted Filip Forsberg 11th overall in 2012, they thought they were getting a center who would add depth and skill to the position for a decade or more.  Well, that didn’t quite work out.  Forsberg, who might have been the victim of buyer’s remorse by the Caps, was traded to Nashville in April 2013 for Martin Erat and Michael Latta in a trade that probably will never be highly-ranked frm a value-added point of view among trades in Caps history.  Caps fans’ teeth were clenched even tighter when, in 2014-2015, Forsberg finished 26-37-63, plus-15, fourth in Calder Trophy voting for top rookie, and making the All-Rookie First Team that season.  Since then, he has built a memorable career.  He already ranks second in franchise history in goals scored (191), sixth in assists (216), fifth in points (407), second in power play goals (50), sixth in power play points (119), tied for seventh in shorthanded goals (six), second in game-winning goals (37), second in overtime goals (eight), fifth in credited hits (662), first in takeaways (415), and tied for third in empty net goals (nine).  And, he is still only 27 years old.  If he finishes his career in Nashville, he is likely to hold every significant individual record in franchise history.

This year, Forsberg in on pace to set a personal record for goals scored (13 in 21 games so far, a 45-goal pace), points (22 in 21 games, a 76-point pace), and shooting efficiency (currently at 21.3 percent).  The Predators have a good, but not great record this season when Forsberg posts a goal (6-2-0) or records a point (10-4-0).  He comes into this game with a four-game points streak (2-4-6, plus-3), including a three-game road points streak (0-3-3, even).  He has only two goals in nine games on the road so far this season.  Forsberg has tormented the team that drafted him to the tune of 7-8-15, plus-9, in 11 career games against the Caps.

Good thing that 16th overall pick in the 2012 draft worked out for the Caps... 

Washington: Nic Dowd

Nic Dowd has been pretty much a typical fourth line forward in seven road games this season (0-2-2, plus-1, in 14:46 in average ice time per game).  But at home, he has produced like a scoring line forward – 3-2-5, plus-1, in 13:42 in average ice time.  He is sixth in points-per-game on home ice (0.45; minimum: 10 games), is fourth in goals per game (0.27), and is shooting 30.0 percent.  Strangely, perhaps, he is last among 17 skaters to dress for at least ten games in shots per game played (0.91).  But his production at home has not come at the expense of what brought him here.  He has displayed a physical edge of the sort with which fourth-liners are often associated, his 2.27 hits per game ranking third on the club at home (minimum: 10 games), and his 0.82 blocked shots per game ranks first among forwards having dressed for at least ten games.  Fun Dowd fact… in eight games overall in which he was credited with at least three hits, the Caps lost five times in extra time (four in overtime, once in the Gimmick).  Dowd is 1-3-4, minus-1, in five career games against Nashville.

In the end…

When it come to opponents, the Nashville Predators have become a pain in the ass.  Washington has not beaten Nashville since beating the Preds, 4-1, on March 18, 2016, at Capital One Arena. Since then, the Caps are 0-7-1 overall against Nashville.  And it hasn’t been a slump with much in the way of “moral victories.  Nashville outscored the Caps, 41-23, and scored five or more goals six times.  Some teams just have another’s number, and, at least recently, the Predators have the Caps’.  Clearly, the Caps need to turn off the open fire hydrant that has been the Predators’ offense against them. With players coming and going, and a lineup that is uncertain from game-to-game, that will be a challenge.  It might not be a reliable indicator, though, or where these teams sit in the league pecking order of best teams.

Capitals 5 – Predators 4