The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals make the turn on their four-game western road trip with their third game on the journey, facing the San Jose Sharks on Saturday at SAP Center. The Caps enter the game on a six-game points streak (5-0-1), while the Sharks are 2-4-1 in their last seven contests and losers of their last two games on home ice (0-1-1).
San Jose is a middle-of-the-road offensive club, led by Timo Meier with 15 points (6-9-15). In his first three seasons with the Sharks, Meier looked to be on a path to justify his ninth-overall selection by the Sharks in the 2015 Entry Draft, posting a scoring line of 54-54-108, plus-12, in 193 games, capped with a career year in 2018-2019 (78 games, 30-36-66, plus-9. His next two seasons, played in abbreviated schedules, were significant drop-offs – 22-27-49, minus-22, in 70 games, followed by a 12-19-31, minus-7, last season in 54 games. This season, though, as been a rebound season for Meier so far, 6-9-15, plus-7, despite a five-game absence under COVID protocol that has limited to 11 games of the 16 played to date by the Sharks. Meier has points in ten of the games in which he has played thus far, blanked only in a 4-0 loss to Montreal on October 28th. His two power play goals to date ties hm for the team lead with Kevin LeBlanc, and his two game-winners tie him with Jonathan Dahlen for the team lead in that category. Meier is 1-4-5, even, in six career games against the Caps.
Dahlen is an interesting player. He is one of ten rookie skaters to dress for the Sharks this season and leads the group in scoring (7-2-9). Those seven goals are tied for the team lead with Tomas Hertl and tied for the lead among all rookies in the league. His shooting percentage of 22.6 is second among all Sharks skaters and leads all NHL rookies having recorded at least ten shots on goal. If the name is familiar, it should be. He is the son of former Capital Ulf Dahlen, who played in 14 seasons, three of them with the Caps. Dahlen’s scoring has dropped off a bit since going 6-2-8, plus-5, in his first 11 games. He had a three-game streak without a point (his longest of the season) before snapping it with a goal in his last game, the only Sharks goal in a 4-1 loss to St. Louis on Thursday. This will be his first appearance against the Caps.
Goaltending has been hit and miss for the Sharks. The “hit” is the performance of James Reimer. His win-loss record of 4-3-1 is modest, but his underlying numbers – 1.98 goals against average and .938 save percentage – are not. Reimer has danced on the dividing line between starter and back-up over the course of his career, his 21,424 career minutes ranking 16th among 113 active goaltenders. He has never dressed for as many as 50 games in a season, but he has not dressed for fewer than 30 games in a non-abbreviated season. While his numbers this year sparkle – career bests in goals against average and save percentage – he has split 16 starts with Adin Hill (4-4-0, 3.11, .894, one shutout). Reimer has cooled off of late but still putting up good underlying numbers, going 1-2-1, 2.46, .926 in his last four appearances.
1. San Jose is stingy in allowing third period goals, tied for fourth-fewest goals allowed (12, with Florida).
2. The Sharks have allowed the second-most shorthanded goals per game, 0.19 (second to Los Angeles: 0.25).
3. San Jose is tied for the fourth-worst goal differential on power plays (plus-6).
4. The Sharks have the second-best goal differential on penalty kills (minus-3, second to Colorado at minus-2).
5. It is all or nothing for the Sharks when leading or trailing after two periods – 6-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes, 0-7-0 when trailing.
1. Alex Ovechkin is the all-time leading scorer against the Sharks 12-8-20. On the other hand, he is tied for having the worst plus-minus all-time against the Sharks (minus-9, tied with Jason Chimera).
2. The Caps are the only team in the league that is a top-five scoring team in each of the three regulation periods – first period: 17 (tied for fourth in the league); second period: 21 (tied for first); third period: 20 (tied for fifth).
3. Seventeen games in, and the Caps are still the only team in the league without a major penalty.
4. The Caps remain the only team in the league with a perfect record in games decided by three or more goals (4-0). They are also perfect in two-goal games (5-0), but they rank 30th in winning percentage in one-goal games (.125/1-2-5).
5. Washington is second only to Florida in goals scored at 5-on-5 (43 to 45 for Florida).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
San Jose: Brent Burns
The miles are starting to show on defenseman Brent Burns. Now 36 years old and in his 18th NHL season, his numbers have been dropping since he finished second in Norris Trophy voting in 2018-2019 – his third Norris finalist season in four years (he won the trophy in 2016-2017) – with a 16-67-83, plus-13 scoring line. In the two seasons that followed he was 12-33-45, minus-22, in 70 games two years ago and 7-22-29, minus-12, in 56 games last season. So far this season he is 1-11-12, minus-1, in 16 games. He is highly ranked in the Sharks’ all-time statistical categories for defensemen – second in games played (732 to Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s 1,096), first in goals (163), first in assists (389), first in points (552), sixth in penalty minutes (408), first in points per game (0.75; minimum: 25 games), first in power play goals (51), first in power play points (190), first in overtime goals (10), first in game-winning goals (27). Ninth in shooting percentage (6.6 percent; minimum: 25 games), third in credited hits (866), second in blocked shots (1,049), and first in takeaways (490). He is 6-12-18, even, in 20 career games against the Caps.
Washington: Trevor van Riemsdyk
Some players announce their presence with flashy numbers, other toil effectively, but in anonymity. The latter might describe defenseman Trevor van Rimesdyk’s season to date for the Caps. He is the only one of six defensemen to dress for the Caps without a goal, but he does have six assists, second among defensemen to John Carlson (14). He is a plus-6, the third-best rating among defensemen. He is not a big hitter (last of the six defensemen with seven), but he is tied for the lead among blueliners in blocked shot (27, with Martin Fehervary). His 1.19 takeaways per 60 minutes is second among the group (John Carlson: 1.51). His on-ice shot differential at 5-on-5 of plus-33 leads the team, and his being on ice for 212 shot attempts at fives is fewest among the defensemen. His 2:15 in shorthanded ice time per game ranks second (Jensen: 2:21). In 17 games played to date, he was a minus player only twice. Van Riemsdyk is 0-3-3, plus-7, in 10 career games against the Sharks.
In the end…
San Jose has struggled at times on offense this season, including on home ice where they scored 12 goals in their last five games at SAP Center. On defense, they have been strong where the Caps have been weak, posting a league-best 94.1 percent penalty kill on home ice, while the Caps are 31st in road power play (5.9 percent). If the Caps can solve the Sharks’ penalty kill, it should be a successful night.
Capitals 3 - Sharks 2