Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A NO Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 23: Panthers 5 - Capitals 4

The Washington Capitals broke out to a 4-1 lead over the Florida Panthers barely half-way through the contest and looked to make it an early evening.  They might have punched their time cards, but the Panthers did not, charging back with four third period goals, the last of them with 15 seconds left on a power play, and escaped with a 5-4 win over the Capitals.

First Period

Washington jumped on the Panthers early with goals 11 seconds apart six minutes into the game.  Connor McMichael got the Caps off and running 5:52 into the period on a sequence started by Nick Jensen, who slid up the right wing wall in the Florida end to improve his angle to get a shot on net.  He fired at the Panther goal, but the shot was muffled, the puck dribbling to the left of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.  McMichael got two whacks at the loose puck, the second one from below the goal line, hitting Bobrovsky’s left leg and caroming in to make it 1-0, Caps.

Beck Malenstyn posted his first NHL goal 11 seconds later.  Off the faceoff following the McMichael goal, Trevor van Riemsdyk banked the puck off the right wing boards into the offensive zone.  Matt Kiersted could not control the puck for the Panthers, but Brett Leason did corral it.  He cut to the middle, drawing the defense, and then slid the puck to Malenstyn on his left.  Malenstyn one-timed the puck past Bobrovsky, and it was 2-0 at the 6:03 mark.

Florida halved the lead 52 seconds later when off a scramble in front, the puck found its way to open ice to the right of goalie Ilya Samsonov.  Joe Thornton shrugged off Leason and bunted the loose puck past Samsonov’s right skate to make it 2-1, 6:55 into the period.

Washington was awarded the first power play at the 13:38 mark when Frank Vatrano was sent off for high-sticking.  Washington had some good looks, but they failed to convert the man advantage. Neither team could score from there, and the teams went to the first intermission with the Caps holding a 2-1 lead.

-- Florida outshot the Caps, 15-12, and out-attempted them, 23-21.

-- Three rookies – Connor McMichael, Brett Leason, and Beck Malenstyn – had points in the period.

-- Three defensemen – Trevor van Riemsdyk, Dmitry Orlov, and Nick Jensen – had points in the period.

-- Alex Ovechkin led the team with four shot attempts (two on goal, tied for the team lead through 20 minutes).

Second Period

Washington regained their two-goal lead in the seventh minute when Lars Eller steamed down the left side of the offensive zone, curled in and around the flat-footed Aaron Eklblad, and flipped a backhand past the left pad of Bobrovsky at 6:40 to make it a 3-1 game.

Mid-way through the period the teams practiced their playoff orneriness moves, several players squaring off against one another  Martin Fehervary and Jonathan Huberdeau being one pair penalized and MacKenzie Weegar the other, all four receiving two minutes for roughing.

Nick Jensen put the Caps up by three goals when Nic Dowd, from below the goal line, threaded a pass through several players to Jensen alone in the middle of the ice.  Jensen fired, his shot nicking defender Anton Lindell on the way through just enough for the puck to sail high over Bobrovsky and under the water bottle, making it 4-1, Caps, 12:40 into the period.

Tom Wilson went off at 13:03 of the period to put the Panthers on a power play.  Florida had a couple of fine chances late in the man advantage, but Samsonov fought them off, and the Caps maintained their 4-1 lead.  It would be the lead they took to the locker room at the second intermission.

-- Washington outshot Florida, 13-9, in the period and out-attempted the Panthers, 20-15.

-- Ten skaters had points for the Caps through 40 minutes, three defensemen combining for five points.

-- Connor McMichael led the Caps with four shots on goal through 40 minutes; he and Alex Ovechkin each had six shot attempts.

Third Period

The Caps got caught in their own end and playing a bit lackadaisical when the Panthers shave the lead to two goals.  Controlling the puck below the Caps’ goal line, Patric Hornqvist sent the puck out in front to a wide open Ryan Lomberg, who fired the puck into the open side of the net to Samsonov’s right, making it 4-2, 3:23 into the period.

The Caps’ sluggish play caused head coach Peter Laviolette to call his time out at the 4:40 mark and Florida with an 8-0 edge in shots in the period to try to get the Caps bright eyed and bushy tailed once more.

Washington went to a power play when Vatrano was sent off for tripping at the 5:36 mark.  But it was Florida who capitalized when Eetu Luostarinen got behind the Caps defense on a breakaway and beat Samsonov between the pads at 6:09.

The Caps went shorthanded after a wild scrum in front of Samsonov as both teams desperately searched for the puck. Tom Wilson went off for interference at 8:18 of the period.  Washington killed the penalty and recorded a shorthanded shot, their first shot on goal of the period.

Washington went right back to the PK, though, when Dennis Cholowski went to the box for cross-checking at the 11:27 mark.  The second time worked for Florida when an Aaron Ekblad drive was redirected through the pads of Samsonov to make it 4-4, 12:01 into the period.

Florida got one last power play late in the period when Malenstyn went off for goalie interference at 19:03.  Florida converted the man advantage when Sam Bennett one-timed a puck past Samsonov on the short side at 19:45.  The comeback was complete, and Florida skated off with a 5-4 win.

Other stuff…

-- Beck Malenstyn’s goal made it eight-for-eight for Caps rookies.  All eight rookies to dress for the Caps so far this season have points.

-- Florida recorded 26 shots in the third period against a team allowing only 27.3 shots per game, fewest in the league.

-- The Caps allowed 50 shots on goal for the game, the first time they allowed 50 or more in a game since October 13, 2007, when they allowed 53 in a 7-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

--  Florida outshot the Caps, 50-27, and out-attempted them 72-45.

-- Connor McMichael led the team with four shots on goal; he and Alex Ovechkin had six shot attempts.  Neither player had a shot or a shot attempt in the third period.

--  The teams split 70 hits down the middle; Garnet Hathaway and Martin Fehervary led the team with six apiece.

-- Mike Sgarbossa and Brett Leason did not have a shot attempt.

-- Every Panther had a shot on goal except Radko Gudas.

-- John Carlson let the team in ice time…again (23:05).

-- The Caps allowed two power play goals in a game for the first time this season.

In the end…

For 40 minutes, the Caps looked like the best team in the league.  In the last 20 minutes, they looked like a lottery team.  And they paid for it.  Burn the tapes, get ready for the next one.



Monday, November 29, 2021

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 23: Capitals at Panthers: November 30

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up their first regular season series when they visit the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.  The teams split the first two meetings, the Panthers earning a 5-4 overtime win on November 4th in Florida, and the Caps evening the series with a 4-3 win last Friday in Washington.  The Caps head into this matchup winners of three straight and nine of their last 11 contests (9-1-1).  Florida has lost two in a row, including that 4-3 loss to the Caps, after winning four straight.

Florida has been almost unbeatable at home so far.  Their 11-1-0 record at BB&T Center is the best in the league to date.  Much of their success is due to offensive balance.  Sixteen of 24 skaters to dress for home games have goals for the Panthers. While that might be particularly special, their having 11 multiple goal scorers and five with at least five goals in 12 games on home ice qualifies.

Anthony Duclair leads the Panthers with seven goals in 11 home games to date.  Duclair is a tantalizing player in some respects, a player who gave occasional hints that he would be a scorer to be reckoned with.  There were his 20 goals in 81 games in his first full NHL season, in 2015-2016 with Arizona.  He slipped to five goals in 58 games the following season, but he improved his production in each of the next three years, capped with a 23-goal season (in 66 games) in 2019-2020 with Ottawa.  He slipped a bit once more with ten goals in 43 games last season, but he has nine in 19 games overall to start this season, a 39-goal pace.  That would not seem to be a sustainable pace, given he is shooting 25.7 percent, more than six points better than his best season to date (19.0 percent in 2015-2016) and more than double his career shooting percentage (12.3) coming into this season. The Panthers could use his continued production, the team being 7-0-1 in the eight games in which he has a goal this season.  Duclair, who is listed day-to-day with an injury, is 3-3-6, minus-6, in 12 career games against the Capitals.

While Duclair leads the Panthers in goals scored on home ice, defenseman Aaron Ekblad is tied for the lead (with Duclair) in points scored in home games so far – 13 points in 12 games.  Ekblad has not been an elite offensive contributor, but he has been the epitome of consistency.  Starting with his Calder Trophy rookie season, Ekblad has double digit goal totals in six of seven seasons coming into this year and more than 35 points in five of those seven seasons.  He started this season on a pace for a career year, his 6-11-17, plus-16 overall scoring line working out to a 23-43-66, plus-62 pace over 82 games.  All would easily clear his career bests in those categories (16 goals in 2017-2018, 36 assists in 2019-2020, 41 points in 2019-2020, and plus-18 in 2015-2016).  Ekblad had a five-game points streak snapped in the loss to the Caps last week and is without a point in his last two games.  Ekblad is 2-3-5, plus-2, in 18 career games against Washington.

Florida has had little need for dependence on rookies for contributions, only three rookie skaters dressing for the Panthers to date.  Anton Lundell, however, has had a solid start in his rookie campaign, posting a 3-4-7, plus-2, scoring line in 11 games.  Lundell was the 12th overall pick in the 2020 Entry Draft and has outperformed his draft position so far, ranking seventh in his draft class in games (17), seventh in goals (three), sixth in assists (four), tied for sixth in points (seven), and tied for third in plus-minus (plus-2).  Florida is 4-0-1 when Lundell recorded at least one point, but as is the case with many rookies, less ice time is associated with better win-loss results.  Florida is 6-1-2 when he logged 16:57 or less in games, 5-3-0 when he logged more than that.  Lundell is without a point and has an even rating in his two career games against the Caps to date.

1.  Florida’s plus-2.00 goal differential on home ice is best in the league.

2.  The Panthers are a high-volume event team on home ice, the combined 69.9 shots on goal/shots allowed being most in the league.

3.  One thing the Panthers cannot do on home ice is win faceoffs.  Their 45.7 winning percentage is second-worst in the league (Buffalo: 45.3 percent).

4.  Florida’s plus-11 goal differential in first periods of games at home (18 goals for, leading the league) is best in the league.

5.  The Panthers have played 12 games on home ice so far.  Half of them resulted in wins by three or more goals.  Those six wins by three or more goals on home ice lead the league.

1.  The Caps’ special teams have struggled on the road.  Their special teams index of 91.8 (power play: 10.3 percent; penalty kill: 81.5 percent) ranks 22nd in the league.

2.  Washington is second in the league in first period goals scored on the road with 13 (Calgary: 19).

3.  The Caps’ 32 goals scored at 5-on-5 on the road lead the league.

4.  Washington is one of four teams without a loss in regulation on the road when being outshot (4-0-1).  Boston, Carolina, and St. Louis are the others.

5.  Alex Ovechkin has 28 career hat tricks, the most recent of which came in the last meeting against Florida.  His three career hat tricks against Florida is tied for the most he has against any team (Ottawa).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Florida: Sergei Bobrovsky

In 2016-2017, Sergei Bobrovsky went 41-17-5 with the Columbus Blue Jackets and led the league in both goals against average (2.06) and save percentage (.931).  To that he added seven shutouts.  The performance was good enough to earn Bobrovsky the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie.  Then things took a turn.  Over the next four seasons he had a good win-loss record (116-73-15, the 116 wins ranking fourth in the league) with Columbus and Florida, where he arrived as a free agent in the 2019-2020 season, and he led the league in shutouts in 2018-2019 with nine.  

But his underlying numbers left something to be desired – a 2.73 goals against average (28th among 72 goalies logging at least 2,500 minutes) and a .911 save percentage (30th in that group).  He had become a rather ordinary goalie. But this season he seems to have found his spark once more.  Of 57 goalies with at least 250 minutes, Bobrovsky ranks sixth in goals against average (2.03) and fifth in save percentage (.936).  He has been even more impressive on home ice, going 7-0-0 (no other goalie with at least five wins is without a loss), 1.76, .948.  However, he has been on a roller coaster lately, alternating games with save percentages over .935 and under .900 over his last six games (3-1-2, 2.37, .921).  Bobrovsky is 9-13-5, 3.01, .899, with one shutout in 29 career appearances against the Caps.

Washington: Ilya Samsonov

The question in goal for the Capitals as they work through the second quarter of their regular season schedule is, “has Ilya Samsonov turned the corner?”  Samsonov went 29-10-3 in his first two seasons with the Caps, but his underlying performance (2.61/.908) suggested “passenger,” not a goalie to lean on who would steal games.  With the emergence of Vitek Vanecek as a credible alternative as the number one goalie, coupled with Samsonov’s on and off ice adventures (injuries/COVID), Samsonov’s future with the team seemed uncertain.

Even his first half-dozen games this season provided little in the way of confidence.  He was 4-0-1, but he also had a 2.93 goals against average and a .894 save percentage. These were not the numbers of a goalie with Stanley Cup aspirations.  However, in his five appearances he is 5-0-0, 1.60, .942, with two shutouts.  That is a small sample of game from which to draw specific conclusions as to his future this season, but the numbers are encouraging, and the eye test suggests he is feeling more confident and comfortable in the position.  At last, he might be grabbing the job of number one goalie by the throat and holding it tightly.  Samsonov is 1-0-0, 4.21, .850 in two career appearances against Florida.

In the end…

The Caps had the better of play against Florida in Washington in their last meeting, but Florida in Florida seems to be a different animal entirely.  For the Caps to plant the first regulation loss on the Panthers in their rink, they will have to play as close to perfect a road game as possible – simplified, focused, relentless, 60-minutes of effort.  But this is a team that is 7-2-2 on the road, the fourth-best road record in the league.  Do we hear “eight wins?”

Capitals 4 – Panthers 3


Sunday, November 28, 2021

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 7

Week 7 for the Washington Capitals was an odd one, losing to the expansion Seattle Kraken to open the week, but they finished with another winning week with wins over the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers to make it three winning weeks in a row and six out of seven.


Record (2-1-0)

When the Caps opened the week in Seattle against the Kraken, they were wrapping up their second back-to-back set of games in the span of six days on the west coast.  A loss there was not expected, but neither was it especially surprising, given the workload and playing against a team looking to measure itself against one of the league’s elite teams.  With two full days off before taking on the Canadiens, the Caps recharged and made the struggling Habs pay in a 6-3 win.  The Caps continued their good fortune by besting a Florida team that found itself struggling after a 10-0-1 start to the season to stay on the heels of the Carolina Hurricanes in the race for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Offense: 4.00 / game (season: 3.52 / 5th)

The Caps scored only two goals against Seattle, the third of three games on the four-game west coast trip in which they posted two goals.  The offense lit up Montreal and Florida for ten goals total – six against Montreal and four against Florida – the 10th and 11th times the Caps posted four or more goals this season. 

Seven Caps scored goals in the three games in Week 7, led by Alex Ovechkin with four.  Tom Wilson added three more.  Ten skaters recorded points, led by Ovechkin with seven.  Evgeny Kuznetsov and Wilson added six apiece.  With two points against Seattle and three against Florida, Wilson posted his fourth and fifth multi-point games of the season. 

Wilson and Ovechkin also displayed an efficiency in their shooting, Wilson posting three goals on nine shots (33.3 percent), while Ovechkin was 4-for-15 (26.7 percent).

Defense: 3.67 / game (season: 2.38 / 4th)

The Caps have a prolific offense, but their defense has been doing its part, too.  They slipped a bit in Week 7.  The eight goals they allowed at 5-on-5 tied for eighth-most in the league for the week.  The Caps continued to be stingy in allowing shots on goal, giving up 27.0 per game for the week, fifth-fewest in the league.  They also allowed only 115 shot attempts at 5-on-5, eighth-fewest in the league for the week.

As noted, Ovechkin and Wilson had noteworthy weeks on the offensive side of the puck, but both were on ice for five goals against at even strength, most on the team, and Wilson finished a minus-1 in goal differential at even strength.  That minus-1 was not nearly as bad as Daniel Sprong, who was a team worst minus-5 for the week.

Goaltending: 3.38 / .875 (season: 2.44 / .912)

Vitek Vanecek took one for the tired Caps in the loss to Seattle to open the week, allowing four goals on 26 shots in the 5-2 loss.  After that, though, it was the Ilya Samsonov Week.  Samsonov won both of his starts and stopped 38 of 44 shots.  While the save percentage was unimpressive (.880), Samsonov just keeps winning, finishing the week 8-0-1.

Second periods were a problem for the week, the Caps’ goaltending pair combining to stop just 19 of 24 shots (.792 save percentage).  Their combined .929 save percentage in the third periods of games balanced that somewhat, but all in all it was not a particularly efficient week for the goalies.

Power Play: 2-for-8 / 25.0 percent (season: 18.8 percent / 15th).

The Caps are not intimidating opponents with their power play, but they are gradually working their way back to respectability, climbing into the top half of the league rankings overall by week’s end.  Ovechkin and John Carlson were the goal-getters on the power play for the Caps in Week 7.  That they would be the goal scorers is not surprising, Ovechkin finishing the week with four power play goals to lead the team overall, and Carlson sitting in second place with three power play strikes.

If there was anything odd about the week it was in ice time, where Connor McMichael (1:42), Nic Dowd (1:30), and Mike Sgarbossa all were credited with at least one minute of power play ice time.  The biggest surprise here might have been Aliaksei Protas, who averaged 3:16 per game in power play ice time, fifth most on the team.

Penalty Killing: 6-for-7 / 85.7 percent (season: 85.2 percent / 9th)

It was pretty much a typical week for the Caps on the penalty kill, their penalty kill rate for the week almost identical to their year to date rate.  What benefitted the Caps as much as anything was minimizing chances, their 2.33 shorthanded situations faced per game for the week tied for ninth-fewest in the league.  It is consistent with the Caps performance in this area to date this season, their 2.57 shorthanded situations faced per game through Week 7 being the third-fewest in the league.

Faceoffs: 98-for-187 / 52.4 percent (46.9 percent / 28th)

Another week, but a successful one in the faceoff circle.  The Caps were not just on the good side of 50 percent overall, but they were over 50 percent in all three zones – 51.4 percent in the offensive zone, 53.3 percent in the defensive zone, and 53.7 percent in the neutral zone.

Five skaters took at least ten draws for the week, and three of them finished over 50 percent.  Evgeny Kuznetsov was noteworthy here, finishing 39-for-71 (54.9 percent), even with a sub-50 percent effort in the defensive zone (7-for-16/43.8 percent).  Connor McMichael and Nic Dowd each finished the week at 50 percent or better in all three zones. 

Goals by Period

Balance, balance, balance.  The Caps finished the week scoring four goals in each of the three regulation periods.  They did struggle on the other side of the puck in second periods, where they allowed five goals in the three games.  The Caps finished the week with goal differentials of at least plus-10 in the first periods (plus-10) and third periods (plus-13) of games. 


The Caps’ win-loss performance is relatively unchanged, year-over-year, but how they got there is different.  The Caps were lacking in possession statistics through 21 games last season, being on the wrong side of shots taken and allowed, and shot attempts taken and allowed at 5-on-5.  This year’s club is much tighter in both areas.  The Caps are also more effective at playing within the rules, with 14 fewer penalties taken and 32 fewer minutes served.  Special teams continue to go in opposite directions, last year’s team being significantly better on power plays, while this year’s club is superior in penalty killing by a substantial margin.

In the end…

What does not show up in the TWTWTW data we display is the effect of man-games lost.  With as many injuries and illnesses as the Caps have endured so far this season, that they are leading a competitive Metropolitan Division is a pleasant surprise.  It has given others – rookies and bottom six forwards/third pair defensemen a chance to expand their range of effectiveness, and they have done so admirably.  But the season is barely one-quarter completed, and one hopes the Caps get back to full and healthy strength soon so, if nothing else, fans can see what this team is capable of with a full complement.

Three Stars

  • First Star: Alex Ovechkin (4-3-7, plus-2, 15 shots on goal, 27 shot attempts, 26.7 shooting percentage, one game-winning goal, five credited hits)
  • Second Star: Evgeny Kuznetsov (1-5-6, plus-3, 23:12 average ice time (team leader), 54.9 faceoff win percentage, three takeaways (team leader))
  • Third Star: Tom Wilson (3-3-6, even, 33.3 shooting percentage, nine shots, 13 shot attempts, one shorthanded goal)


A TWO Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 22: Capitals 4 - Hurricanes 2

The Washington Capitals visited the Carolina Hurricanes in a Sunday matinee in a battle of the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division.  The Caps took a 2-0 lead into the third period, gave it back, but scored the final two goals to come out of North Carolina with a 4-2 win.

First Period

Both teams had trouble establishing any continuity in what was a back-and-forth game to start. Carolina was awarded the first power play at 8:38 of the period when Evgeny Kuznetsov was sent off for tripping.  The Hurricanes could not convert, but they went a man up a second time at the 13:49 mark when Lars Eller went to the box for interference.  The Caps skated that shorthanded situation as well.  The teams went the remainder of the period at 5-on-5, but neither team could find paydirt, and the teams went to the first intermission in a scoreless tie.

-- Carolina outshot the Caps, 10-7, in the period and out-attempted them, 20-16.

-- Nic Dowd and Aliaksei Protas each had two shots to lead the team.

-- The Caps out-hit the Hurricanes, 15-8, Beck Malenstyn leading the team with three.

-- The Caps were just 6-for-19 in faceoffs (31.6 percent).

Second Period

Protas had a fine chance in the first minute of the period, but was turned aside by goalie Frederik Andersen.  After the save, Teuvo Teravainen was whistled for hooking, going to the penalty box 40 seconds into the period to put the Caps on their first power play of the afternoon.  The Caps were unable to convert, and the teams remained scoreless.

Alex Ovechkin broke the ice in the Caps’ favor 11:58 into the period.  Dmitry Orlov collected a loose puck in the slot, drawing Carolina’s defense toward him.  Orlov slid a backhand pass to Ovechkin to the right of Andersen, and despite Jesper Fast getting his stick on the puck as Ovechkin was releasing his shot, the puck slid past Andersen's left pad to make it 1-0.

The Caps doubled the lead on a fluke play 59 seconds after the Ovechkin goal.  Protas, from the corner to Andersen’s right, tried to center the puck but it hit the skate of defenseman Tony DeAngelo and slid past the left skate of Andersen to make it 2-0, 12:57 into the period, Protas’ first NHL goal.

Washington went a man up late in the period when Brady Skjei was sent to the box for interference at 17:09 of the period.  At 18:19, Tom Wilson and Brendan Smith went off on coincidental minors, Wilson for slashing – a poke at Andersen’s pads as Andersen was covering an Ovechkin shot – and Smith for roughing when he took exception to Wilson’s actions.  With the two in the box, the Caps skated the remainder of their power play without success.  Neither team would change the numbers on the scoreboard in the last moments of the period, and the Caps went to the locker room with a 2-0 lead.

-- Washington outshot Carolina, 11-9, in the period and out-attempted them, 25-15.

-- Aliaksei Protas led the team in shots through 40 minutes with four; Ovechkin had 10 shot attempts, five of them blocked.

-- Thirteen of 18 skaters were credited with hits in the first two periods, Beck Malenstyn leading with four.

-- John Carlson led the team in ice time over the first two periods with 17:48.

Third Period

Washington went to a power play in the first minute of the period when Skjei was sent to the box for holding at the 46 second mark.  Washington posed little threat on the man advantage, and they held on to their 2-0 lead.

Carolina halved the lead off a Caps turnover in seventh minute when Protas could not clear the puck from just inside the defensive blue line.  The puck found its was to Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who rifled a shot past the glove of goalie Ilya Samsonov at the 6:22 mark.

Washington went a man short at the 11:30 mark when Martin Fehervary was sent off for hooking.  Carolina did not convert the power play, but they scored just after the man advantage expired when Nino Niederreiter snapped a shot over Samsonov’s glove from the slot to tie the game at two apiece.

Washington went to a power play at the 15:00 mark when Seth Jarvis was called for holding.  The Caps went to a 5-on-3 power play when Sebastian Aho was called for slashing at 15:30.  It was Dmitry Orlov breaking the tie as the 5-on-3 portion of the power play expired from an unaccustomed location.  From the right wing boards, Kuznetsov found John Carlson in the high slot.  Carlson fed the puck to Tom Wilson, who fed the puck back across to Orlov at the doorstep to Andersen’s left.  Orlov one-timed the puck and Andersen got a piece of it, but not enough to keep it from slithering through his pads and inching over the goal line at the 17:05 mark to make it 3-2, Caps.

Carolina pulled Andersen for the extra attacker with 2:27 left.  John Carlson filled the empty net with 1:41 left to give the Caps a 4-2 lead, the final margin of victory for the Caps.

Other stuff…

-- Carolina outshot the Caps, 32-25 and out-attempted them, 64=52.

-- Aliakset Protas and Alex Ovechkin led the team with four shots apiece, Ovechkin leading the team with 13 shot attempts.

-- The Caps had an uncommon number of skaters without a shot attempt – Lars Eller, Mike Sgarbossa, Dennis Cholowski, Martin Fehervary, and Brett Leason.

-- Nick Jensen led the team with six credited hits.

-- Eller was the only Caps taking more than one faceoff who finished over 50 percent (8-for-15/53.3 percent).

-- John Carlson had a three-point game (1-2-3), his first three-point game of the season.

-- Tom Wilson had a pair of assists, his third multi-assist game of the year.

-- Dmitry Orlov had a goal and an assist, his third multi-point game of the season and first on the road.

-- Carlson led the Caps with 26:54 in ice time.

-- Ilya Samsonov improved to 9-0-1 for the season.  No goalie in the league has as many wins and no losses in regulation.

In the end…

This was a statement game for the Caps.  Carolina has been clinging to a thin lead over the Caps in the Metro for the most part for what seems like weeks, and the Caps went into their rink, beat them, and took over the division lead.  They did not wilt when the Hurricanes tied the game in the third period.  Under the circumstances, it was among the best wins of the season for the Capitals.


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 20: Canadiens at Capitals: November 24

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

It is Thanksgiving Week, and that means Washington Capitals hockey at Capital One Arena.  The Caps kick off their pre and post Thanksgiving set of games with a matchup against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.  The Caps, smarting from a 5-2 loss to the Seattle Kraken to close their four-game west coast road trip, return home for their first game at Capital One in ten days. 

Meanwhile, the Canadiens are hitting the road after splitting a two-game home stand.  To say the road has been unkind to the Habs is an understatement.  Montreal comes to Washington tied for the fewest points earned on the road (three, with Ottawa and Seattle) and lowest road points percentage in the league(.167) with their 1-7-1 record.  What’s more, the Canadiens come to Washington a depleted team with nine players on their injured list and seven of them on injured reserve.

There is no mystery about the Canadiens’ poor road record.  They can’t score (1.89 goals per game/31st in the league), and they can’t keep other teams from scoring (3.56 goals allowed per game/22nd).  The anemic offense reflects a lack of volume production despite a certain amount of balance in goal scoring.  Twelve skaters have recorded goals on the road, but nine of them have a single goal to their record.  Mike Hoffman and Josh Anderson lead the team in road goals with three apiece. 

With Hoffman out for the three-game road trip Montreal will begin in DC with an upper-body injury,  Anderson is left as the leading road goal scorer.  Anderson is in his second season with the Canadiens, working on a seven-year contract paying him $38.5 million over its term.  Anderson was Montreal’s second leading goal scorer last season with 17 in 52 games, but this year his production has dropped off – four goals in 20 games overall – and he is in a slump that sees him with one goal and two assists with a minus-9 rating over his last nine games.  His minus-12 rating to date is already his worst career number in that category.  Anderson is 0-1-1, minus-5, in 16 career games against the Capitals. That zero in goals scored against Washington comes on 41 shots on goal, the third highest number he has against any opponent (he has seven goals on 50 shots against Ottawa and eight goals on 72 shots against Toronto).

Defenseman Ben Chiarot is on a pace to set a career best in goals scored this season.  Granted, he has never cracked the ten-goal threshold in his eight seasons before this one (his career high is nine with Montreal in 69 games in 2019-2020), but his four goals in 20 games is more than the rest of the Montreal defense combined (Chris Wideman has two, and Alexander Romanov has one).  Montreal has had more success in Chiarot’s four games with a goal (2-1-1) than they have had Tyler Toffoli’s four games with a goal (we will get to that below), but with Chiarot, ice time is the thing.  Montreal is 4-6-0 in games in which he skated less than 23 minutes, but they are just 1-7-2 when he skated more than 23 minutes.  Chiarot is 3-3-6, plus-3, in 11 career games against Washington.

1.  Montreal’s special teams are hardly special.  Their road power play (7.4 percent) ranks 31st in the league, while their penalty kill (73.0 percent) ranks 26th.  Their special teams index (power play plus penalty kill) of 80.4 ranks 29th in the league.

2.  Montreal finishes poorly in the defensive end of the ice. Their 24 second period goals allowed are second-most in the league, while their 26 third period goals allowed are most in the league.

3.  Montreal has nine losses by three or more goals, most in the league.

4.  The Canadiens are one of two teams (the New York Islanders are the other) without a one-goal win this season.

5.  If faceoff volumes are an indicator of game flow and pace, Montreal seems to play in quicksand. The 1,133 faceoffs they have taken are most in the league. But practice hasn’t made perfect.  Their 48.0 winning percentage ranks 25th in the league.

1.  This will be the first instance this season in which the Caps had three days between games.

2.  The Caps like wrist shots.  Their 39 goals on wristers lead the league.  Their 11.4 percent shooting on wrist shots is third in the league.

3.  Sixteen of 22 skaters to dress for the Caps on home ice have goals.  The surprises who do not?  Lars Eller and Dmitry Orlov.

4.  Three Caps have been on ice for more than ten even strength goals on home ice.  The “who” is hardly surprising – Alex Ovechkin (13), Tom Wilson (12), and Evgeny Kuznetsov (11).

5.  Garnet Hathaway defends the house from evil doers.  His 13.48 credited hits per 60 minutes at home lead the team by a comfortable margin (Nic Dowd: 7.77 among players appearing in more than two home games).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Montreal: Tyler Toffoli

Tyler Toffoli was Montreal’s leading goal scorer last season with 28 tallies in 52 games, but this season he has four in 20 games, a 16-goal pace over a full season.  His shooting efficient has fallen off a cliff, his 7.7 shooting percentage a full ten points lower than what he posted last season (17.7).  It is out of character for Toffoli, who has been a ten percent or better shooter in each of his three stops in the NHL (10.2 with Los Angeles, 15.8 with Vancouver, and 15.2 to date with Montreal).  Part of the problem for Toffoli might be in shot selection, or more to the point, getting shots on goal.  He is averaging just 2.60 shots per game, the third-lowest average of his career and quite a drop from the 3.04 shots per game he posted with the Canadiens last season, the second-highest average of his career.  Toffoli has had a pair of six-game streaks without a goal this season, the most recent one snapped when he potted an empty netter in Montreal’s 6-3 win over Nashville last Saturday.  His last goal against a goaltender was on November 6th in a 5-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.  But perhaps the strangest fact in Toffoli’s goal scoring this season is that the Canadiens are 1-3-0 in games in which he scored a goal.  They were 14-4-4 in games in which he scored a goal last season.  Toffoli is 2-5-7, even, in 14 career games against the Caps.

Washington: Justin Schultz

In some respects, Justin Schultz is a “was” defenseman.  He “was” a decent goal scorer once upon a time, but he hasn’t topped ten goals since 2016-2017 (he has two ten-plus goal seasons in his career); he hasn’t had more than five goals since that same season (he has four in his career).  He has three 30-plus point seasons, but none since 2016-20187 (51). He had 27 points last season, but that was his first 20-plus point season since 2017-2018 (27 points with Pittsburgh).  He had ten power play goals in his first five seasons, but he has two in his last five seasons, including this one.  He averaged more than 20 minutes in ice time five times in his career, but in no season since 2018-2019 (20:30).  Part of the problem is he is a right-handed defenseman stuck behind John Carlson on the depth chart, but even with that, Schultz has one goal and one assist in 19 games so far this season, the two points being the fewest among the six defensemen to suit up for more than two games so far this season for the Caps.  The goal he has was a game-winner, but there is a “was” quality to that, too.  It came on a power play on Opening Night in the Caps’ 5-1 win over the New York Rangers.  Schultz is 0-2-2, minus-1, in 16 career games against Montreal.

In the end…

No NHL team should be taken lightly, and that means the Caps need to pay particular attention to detail and effort.  They will be facing a team beaten up by injuries, including both goaltenders – Jake Allen and Carey Price – listed as “day-to-day” with injuries, and their road schedule in which they have not scored more than two goals in more than a month (a 4-0 win in San Jose against the Sharks on October 28th).  Early and persistent pressure will be key for the Caps to take the Canadiens out of the game, but in this league, you cannot sit on leads, either.  “60-minute” effort is not just a buzz term, it is essential for success, even against struggling teams.

Capitals 5 - Canadiens 2


Programming note… we will be off for a few days and will resume posting this weekend.  In the meantime… GO CAPS!!!