Monday, December 06, 2021

A TWO Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 26: Capitals 4 - Ducks 3 (OT/SO)


The Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks played an entertaining, back-and-forth game on Monday night, and fans were treated to extra hockey.  John Carlson sent them home happy with a Gimmick goal in the fifth round of the freestyle competition, and the Caps skated off with a 4-3 win.

 

 

 
First Period

Teams battled back and forth, the Caps having an advantage in quality chances, over the first 13 minutes. Washington broke through when Tom Wilson gave the Caps a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute on some nifty passing.  Evgeny Kuznetsov won a faceoff to the right of goalie John Gibson, Alex Ovechkin picking up the loose puck and skating to the middle.  He found Justin Schultz pinching down the right side, and upon receiving Ovechkin’s feed, Schultz slid it to the middle to a wide open Wilson, who snapped the puck into an open net to make it 1-0, 13:34 into the period.  That would be the only scoring of an entertaining first period.

-- The Caps outshot the Ducks, 11-10, in the period and out-attempted them, 25-16.

-- The 11 shots were spread among 11 Capitals with one apiece; Alex Ovechkin led the team with four shot attempts.

-- Kuznetsov’s faceoff win leading to the Caps’ goal was his only faceoff win of the period; he went 1-for-6 (16.7 percent).

Second Period

It took Anaheim nine seconds to tie the game to open the second period.  Off the opening faceoff, Sonny Milano, who seemed to have a dozen scoring chances in the first period, slammed a shot off the post to the right of goalie Ilya Samsonov, the puck sat behind Samsonov, where it was converted to a goal by Josh Manson steaming down the middle to the blue paint.

Carl Hagelin restored the Caps’ lead when he outfought a Duck for the puck inside the offensive blue line, then charged the net to get into scoring position as Lars Eller and T.J. Oshie exchanged passes. Eller fed Hagelin to the left of Gibson, and Hagelin only had to get his stick on the puck to slip it into the open side of the net to make it 2-1, Caps, 3:58 into the period.

Washington had its first power play of the evening when Simon Benoit was escorted to the penalty box for interference at 11:02 of the period.  The Caps could not convert, and the teams skated on with the Caps still leading, 2-1.

That lead was wiped out when Sonny Milano swatted a puck out of mid-air to the right of Samsonov just inside the near post at the 13:35 mark.

Anaheim took the lead when Troy Terry, skating down the middle, found Cam Fowler on his left in the faceoff circle.  Fowler slid the puck across to Vinni Lettieri, who had nothing but an open net at which to shoot from the low slot, and it was 3-2, Anaheim, 15:29 into the period.

John Carlson took advantage of some shastly defense by the Ducks in the last minute.  With Tom Wilson hounding Josh Manson around the boards to Gibson’s right, Manson threw the puck to the middle where Alex Ovechkin intercepted it.  Passing up the shot, he fed John Carlson skating down the middle.  Carlson’s initial shot was stopped by Gibson, but Carlson followed up his own shot with a chip shot past Gibson’s left pad to tie the game at three apiece at 19:39, the last minute of the period goal feeding the masses with a fast-food promotion.  That would be how the teams went to the second intermission.

-- Anaheim outshot the Caps, 13-11, but the Caps out-attempted the Ducks, 20-16.

-- Alex Ovechkin had four shots and nine attempts through 40 minutes, leading the Caps in attempts, but John Carlson led the team in shots on goal with five.

-- Nick Jensen had three shot attempts, all blocked. Brett Leason had two attempts, both blocked.

Third Period

The teams exchanged chances through the period, and the Caps had chances in the last minute, but neither team could get the tie-breaking goal, and the teams went to…

Overtime

Anaheim had the only shot of the extra frame, but it was foiled, and the teams went to…

The Gimmick

Terry… goal

Oshie…save

Zegras…save

Kuznetsov…save

Shattenkirk…save

Sprong…GOAL!

Rakell…goal

Ovechkin…GOAL!

Milano…miss

Carlson…GAME WINNER!!!

Other stuff…

-- Tom Wilson’s goal was his 100th in the NHL.

-- John Carlson’s goal in the freestyle competition was his second career game-deciding goal in the special period.  He is 3-for-6 shooting in his career in Gimmick Goals.

-- Anaheim outshot Washington, 34-29, but the Caps out-attempted the Ducks, 63-52.

-- Alex Ovechkin led the club with seven shots and 16 attempts.

-- Aliaksei Protas was the only Cap without a shot attempt.

-- Dmitry Orlov led the team with six credited hits, including a gorgeous hip check that sent Rickard Rakell head over heels.

-- Lars Eller was 11-for-16 on faceoffs to lead the team in faceoff wins.

-- Martin Fehervary led the team with three blocked shots.

-- With two assists, Ovechkin has 13 multi-point games this season in 26 games.  He had 11 in 45 games last season.

-- With this win, Ilya Samsonov is 7-1-0, 2.11, .929, with two shutouts in his last eight appearances.

In the end…

It was not quite a game that the Caps “ground” out, but more one of back and forth chances with the goalies playing well, and the Caps shooting in a bit of bad luck (Brett Leason and Conor Sheary hit posts for the Caps; Ovechkin had six missed shots).  Anaheim is an entertaining team to watch, and it one has to guard against the speed among their skill players.  The Caps were inconsistent in stifling the Ducks on rushes, but Ilya Samsonov played a fine game despite some lapses in front of him.  It was a good win, and now the Caps can take a few days and get ready for “that team.”*

 

* Pittsburgh, for the newer readers.

 

Sunday, December 05, 2021

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 26: Ducks at Capitals: December 6th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up their two-game season series against the Anaheim Ducks when the Ducks visit Capital One Arena on Monday night.  The Caps will look to avenge a 3-2 overtime loss they suffered in Anaheim on November 16th.  The Caps snapped a mini-losing streak of two games with a 3-1 win over Columbus on Saturday night, while the Ducks arrive in DC off a 4-3 Gimmick loss to the Calgary Flames after posting a pair of wins.

The Ducks have been a .500 team on the road (4-4-1), which puts them squarely in the middle of the league in road record, tied for 13th with five other teams in points percentage.  Scoring has not been a problem for the Ducks in road games, their 3.40 goals per game tied for third in the league with Calgary in road scoring offense. 

Troy Terry continues his surprising year with a 15-10-25, plus-3, overall scoring line and 7-6-13, even, in road scoring.  His 15 goals overall match his combined goal output over his first four NHL seasons.  And those goal contributions have accompanied Anaheim success, the Ducks going 8-2-3 in the 13 games in which he has goals, 12-4-3 in the 19 games in which he has points.  Terry has been a consistent contributor as well, having posted consecutive games without point only once this season.  He does come to Washington in a position to make that twice, going pointless in the loss to Calgary last Friday.  It would be wise to watch Terry’s ice time.  Anaheim has not lost a game in regulation in which he logged at least 20 minutes (5-0-2).  The Ducks are 2-4-1 in games in which he skated fewer than 15 minutes.  Terry is 0-2-2, plus-3, in three career games against the Caps.

Jamie Drysdale has had a successful sophomore campaign for the Ducks.  The sixth-overall pick of the 2020 Entry Draft is third in his draft class in career games played to date (49), tied for fourth in goals (six), fourth in points (21), and tied for second in penalty minutes (12).  This season he has already matched last year’s goal total (three) while surpassing last year’s assist total (ten versus five last year) and points (13 versus eight) in just one more game (25) than he logged all of last season (24).  Drysdale has been a standout on the road, tied for second in points recorded in road games to date for the Ducks (eight).  He comes into this game 2-4-6, plus-1, in his last seven games and 1-5-6, plus-3, in his last five road games.  He is without a point and has a rating of even in his only appearance against the Caps.

Josh Manson is not the sort of defenseman to put up much in the way of points.  He did not post more than seven games in any of his first seven years in the NHL, all with Anaheim for which he was a sixth-round draft pick in 2001.  Only once did he post more than 20 points – 37 with the Ducks in 2017-2018.  But he does bring a physical edge to his game.  His 987 credited hits over the last seven seasons ranks ninth among the league’s defensemen over that span.  His 1,031 hits in his career with Anaheim is second all-time with the club despite playing in only 433 games.  There is a loose connection to his propensity to deliver hits and Anaheim success.  The Ducks are 7-2-2 when Manson was credited with three or more hits so far this season, 6-6-2 when he recorded fewer.  Manson is 0-3-3, plus-5, in nine career games against Washington.


1.  The Ducks do not lack for offensive contributions from the blue line.  Four of the eight defensemen to dress for Anaheim this season have at least ten points.  Four of them have at least three goals.

2.  Anaheim spreads things around in power play scoring.  Nine skaters have power play goals; 13 have points.

3.  The Ducks have two shorthanded goals this season, both scored by Isac Lundestrom. 

4.  Only Edmonton and Florida have scored more third period goals (34 and 33, respectively) than the Ducks (32).

5.  Anaheim is tied for the league lead in one-goal losses (nine; 0-5-4).

1.  Washington is one of the teams with which Anaheim is tied for in one-goal losses (nine; 0-3-6).

2.  The Caps have the fourth-fewest shorthanded situations faced per game (2.52).

3.  Only Minnesota has more wins when outshooting opponents (12) than the Caps (11, tied with Toronto).

4.  The Caps have the third-best net penalties (plus-13, tied with Pittsburgh) in the league.

5.  Washington gets out in front in games; they are tied for third in first period goals scored (26, with Florida and Minnesota).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Anaheim: Kevin Shattenkirk

Twelve seasons, six teams, including a brief 19-game stint with the Capitals.  It has been a long and winding journey for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.  He has skated for five of those teams over the past six seasons (St. Louis, Washington, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and now the Anaheim Ducks).  He could be on the move again after next season, when his current three-year/$11.7 million deal expires.  For the time being, though, Shattenkirk leads the Anaheim defense in goals (five), assists (11), and points (16) in 25 games.  It is quite a reversal from last season, his first with the Ducks, when he went 2-13-15, minus-8, in 55 games.  He might be returning to the level of production that produced a career year in 2016-2017 in which he went a combined 13-43-56 in 80 games for St. Louis and Washington.  He has, however, been in a bit of a slump lately, going 1-1-2, minus-5, in his last eight games.  Shattenkirk is 1-7-8, minus-4, in 21 career games against the Capitals.

Washington: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Last year was a lost year for Evgeny Kuznetsov.  Two tours on the COVID protocol list, a couple of games lost to an upper body injury, 41 games played overall and a 9-20-29, plus-7, season.  Not bad as much a considerable disappointment.  This year, Kuznetsov might finally be that player whose performance catches up to his skill, the player Caps management and fans have been waiting for since his 27-56-83, plus-3, season in the Caps’ 2017-2018 Stanley Cup year.  He is already 8-20-28, plus-14, in just 25 games so far this season, on an 82-game pace (26-66-92, plus-46) that would obliterate that career best season overall.  

He has shown an ability to score in bunches this season, too.  Kuznetsov has eight multi-point games to his credit through 25 games, including four three-point games.  His performance this year has him jumping up the all-time list in a variety of statistical categories for the Caps.  Kuznetsov needs three goals to tie Dmitri Khristich for 18th place in goals in Caps history, 22 assists to tie Scott Stevens for tenth place in assists in Caps history, 28 points to catch Calle Johansson for tenth place on the Caps’ all-time points list, one game-winning goal to tie Michal Pivonka for tenth place in team history, all milestones being in reach for Kuznetsov this season.  He is 3-6-9, minus-5, in 14 career games against the Ducks.

In the end…

Anaheim missed the playoffs the last three seasons and has not won a playoff series since reaching the conference final in 2017.  The Ducks are not that team, not this season.  Their offense is up more than a goal per game over last year (3.32 to 2.21), and they have shaved almost a third of a goal per game off their scoring defense (3.16 to 2.88 this year).  Their special teams have improved dramatically, the power play up from 8.9 percent to 27.4 percent (third in the league), the penalty kill up from 79.9 percent to 85.1 percent (seventh in the league).  They will be no pushover, and the Caps had better be ready.

Capitals 4 – Anaheim 3

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 8

Week 8 was good and bad for the Caps. The good was another winning week, the bad was losing on a third period collapse and an inability to hold third period leads.  Despite the ups and downs, the Caps still sat atop the Metropolitan Division.

 

Record (2-1-1)

The Caps completed their seventh winning week in Week 8, a testament to their consistency, even in the face of injuries that decimated their second line and punched holes elsewhere among the forward lines.  The consistency has allowed the Caps to occupy the top spot in the Metropolitan Division uninterrupted since November 28th.  It is a good thing, too, the Caps finishing the week clinging to a one-point lead over the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division.

Offense: 3.50 / game (season: 3.52 / 5th)

The Caps had a very balanced offense in Week 8.  Eleven different skaters had goals, three of them with two apiece – Alex Ovechkin, Aliaksei Protas, and Garnet Hathaway.  Sixteen skaters posted points, John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov leading all skaters with four apiece.  Speaking of defensemen, the Caps dressed eight defensemen in Week 8, and five of them had points, three – Carlson, Orlov, and Nick Jensen – recording goals.  Five of the defensemen had plus ratings for the week, let by Carlson and Orlov, each with a plus-4.  Jensen and Orlov finished the week second and third, respectively, in the league’s plus-minus ratings, Jensen at plus-20 and Orlov at plus-19.

Defense: 2.75 / game (season: 2.44 / 4th)

The Capitals, who have been at or near the top of the league in fewest shots on goal allowed per game for most of the season, were lit up for 32.3 shots allowed per game in Week 8, 16th in the league in fewest shots allowed.  The 188 shot attempts allowed at 5-on-5 were fifth-most in the league for the week.

Thirteen of 23 skaters for the week had positive goal differentials at even strength, led by John Carlson at plus five.  On the defensive side of that category, Tom Wilson was the only skater to appear in all four games and not be on ice for a single goal against at even strength.  Trevor van Riemsdyk struggled some in this area, a minus-2 in goal differential at evens and on ice for a team high four even strength goals against. 

Goaltending: 2.70 / .915 (season: 2.48 / .911)

Ilya Samsonov took a tighter grip on the number one goaltending spot in Week 8 with a 2-1-0, 2.39, .917 week.  There was the collapse in the third period against Florida in which he allowed four goals on 27 shots, but that was as much a team-wide collapse in defense as it was Samsonov’s performance.  The real blemish in that game was the last goal, a Panther power play goal in the last seconds of regulation beating Samsonov on the near side inside the post that he likely would want back.

Vitek Vanecek logged one game for the week and stopped 25 of 28 shots in a 4-3 Gimmick loss to Chicago.  The loss left him 0-6 in extra time games this season and the loss to Chicago his first in the Gimmick.  If there is a disturbing element creeping into Vanecek’s play, it is that he has a save percentage under .900 in seven of his last ten appearances.

Power Play: 1-for-9 / 11.1 percent (season: 17.8 percent / 16th).

It was not a good week for the power play, either the frequency with which the Caps had opportunities (2.25 chances per game, tied for 22nd in the league for the week) or in efficiency (11.1 percent, tied for 21st for the week).

The Caps managed only eight shots on goal in nine power play chances in just over 16 minutes of man advantage ice time.  Alex Ovechkin led with three shots on goal, while Dmitry Orlov had the Caps’ only power play goal of the week on his only shot with the man advantage.  The Caps got no shots on goal from the middle of the 1-3-1, a weakness that has appeared from time to time this season.  This might be a product of T.J. Oshie missing 16 games this season to injury while Tom Wilson becomes more acquainted with the role.

Penalty Killing: 6-for-9 / 66.7 percent (season: 82.5 percent / 15th)

It was not any better on the other side of special teams for the Caps in Week 8.  It was their worst week, efficiency-wise, of the season to date.  The best that might be said of the penalty kill is that it did not have much exposure, the 2.25 shorthanded situations per game 12th-fewest in the league for the week.  Nick Jensen led the team in shorthanded ice time (9:09), spending 60.7 percent of the team’s shorthanded ice time on the ice, but he was also on the ice for all three power play goals scored against the Caps for the week, the only skater to do so.


Faceoffs: 107-for-236 / 45.3 percent (46.6 percent / 28th)

Another week, another below 50 percent in the faceoff circle.  This week’s problem was in the offensive end, where the Caps finished at 37.7 percent   it was made worse by the fact that Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller, who took the lion’s share of offensive zone draws, went a combined 18-for-53 in the offensive zone for the week (34.0 percent). Things went better for both players, who finished at 50 percent or better in the defensive zone, going a combined 20-for-37 (54.1 percent).


Goals by Period

First periods…two goals against…fine.  Second periods…one goal against…better.  Third periods…eight goals.  Eee-yuck!  It was not the most third period goals allowed for the week (Anaheim allowed nine in four games), but it was ugly nonetheless.  It looked worse than it was, but only barely.  The Caps allowed eight goals on 54 third period shots, the 14.8 shooting percentage by opponents bad, but not quite in the realm of ghastly.  The result was skewed by Florida strafing the Caps for 27 third period shots and four goals in their 5-4 win over the Caps.  As it is, the Caps still have allowed only 21 third period goals this season, tied for eighth-fewest in the league.


Year-over-Year

The Caps are not much different, win-loss wise, than they were at the 25-game mark last season.  What difference there is, is attributable in large part to improvement in defense, where the Caps have allowed more than 20 percent fewer goals at this point this season than they did at this point last season. That, in turn, could be a product of a significant reduction in shot attempts allowed at 5-on-5 (6.1 percent fewer).  Special teams – specifically the penalty kill – have contributed as well, the penalty kill being called upon 18 fewer times this season than last (22.2 percent reduction).

In the end…

The Caps just keep plugging away.  No extraordinary long winning streaks, but consistent winning trends over blocks of games.  While the New York Rangers have inched even closer on the basis of a six-game winning streak and nine wins in their last ten games, the Caps’ formula, especially in the context of dealing with injuries up and down the forward lines, might be better in the long term, the sort of consistent, if not flashy, winning they have displayed through eight weeks this season.

Three Stars

  • First Star: John Carlson (1-3-4, plus-4, 23:22 average ice time, six shots on goal)
  • Second Star: Alex Ovechkin (2-1-3, plus-3, recorded 750th career goal, 13 shots on goal, 21:38 average ice time, one game-winning goal)
  • Third Star: Dmitry Orlov (1-3-4, plus-4, 20:49 average ice time, ten credited hits)