Thursday, April 01, 2021

A NO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 36: Islanders 8 - Capitals 4

The Washington Capitals took to the ice for the second of their five-game road tour through the New York metropolitan area with a contest against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.  The Caps drew first blood, but after that came the deluge, and when the skies cleared, the Islanders had an 8-4 win, their first against the Caps this season.


First Period

The game got off to an eventful start, and not in a good way for the Caps.  Just 30 seconds into the game, Ilya Samsonov was trying to move the puck around the boards from behind his own net when T.J.Oshie, coming from the direction that Samsonov was shooting the puck, collided with him, sending Samsonov to the ice.  After a consult with the trainer, Samsonov was taken out, Vitek Vanecek going in as relief.

And just 31 seconds after that delay, the Caps had a lead.  It was a play made possible by the hustle of Conor Sheary, who flagged down a air mail pass from Nicklas Backstrom, kept the puck in the offensive zone when challenged by defenseman Scott Mayfield and fought off two defenders to feed it to Tom Wilson, who found John Carlson steaming down the middle for a one-timer from the top of the circles to beat a stunned goalie Semyon Varlamov to open the scoring at the 1:01 mark.

New York tied the game at the 5:02 mark when an uncovered Jordan Eberle took a feed from Leo Komarov in the right wing circle and snapped a shot past Vanecek on the short side to make it a 1-1 game.

Late in the period, the Isles took their first lead of the game when Mathew Barzal threaded his way between Zdeno Chara and Brenden Dillion, firing a shot from the edge of the right wing circle past Vanecek to make it 2-1, 16:09 into the period.  That ended Vanecek’s tour in goal; Samsonov back in.

New York made it 3-1 off a pair of Caps turnovers on the same play.  Dmitry Orlov tried to settle an uncooperative puck to skate it around the back of the net, but lost it off his stick.  Anthony Beauvillier collected it below the goal line and sent it out front, but onto the stick of Caps defenseman Justin Schultz.  Schultz tried to shoot it into the corner and out of danger, but he managed only to put it on the stick of Brock Nelson who took the gift and scored through Samsonov’s pads at the 17:32 mark.

Daniel Sprong responded on a play that usually features Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.  Taking a faceoff in the left wing circle, Lars Eller won it to Sprong, who adjusted his position to find a shooting lane and fired a shot that Varlamov barely flinched at as it went by at the 17:54 mark.

Barzal got his second of the game when Eberle collected a rebound of a Mayfield shot and slid it across to Barzal at the bottom of the left wig circle.  He spun and whipped a shot past Samsonov at 18:53 to make it 4-2, the lead the Isles took to the locker room at the first intermission.

-- Two goals in the first 16:09 of the period, four goals in the last 3:51.

-- New York outshot the Caps, 13-7, in the period and out-attempted them, 19-18.

-- Daniel Sprong was the only Capital with more than one shot on goal (two); four Caps had two shot attempts.

Second Period

New York appeared to put this one away barely three minutes into the middle frame whe n Casey Cizikas dug out a loose puck at the side of the net to Samsonov’s left and popped it past him inside the post to make it 5-2, 3:03 into the period.

Washington got a power play 5:59 into the period, too many Islanders in the water.  They converted 48 seconds later when T.J. Oshie took a rebound of an Ovechkin shot off his shin, redirecting it past Varlamov to make it a 5-3 game 6:47 into the period.

There would be no momentum from the power play goal, though. New York restored their three-goal lead just 1:21 later when Eberle got his second goal of the game, finishing a 2-on-2 break with Barzal, one-timing from the left wing circle Barzal’s pass past Samsonov at the 8:08 mark.

Carlson got his second into the game to get the Caps back within two goals.  It was a three-man passing game – Sprong from the top of the left wing circle cross-ice to Jakub Vrana in the left wing circle, to Carlson at the side of the net to the right of Varlamov for the tap-in with 58.9 seconds left in the period to close the scoring in the second period, Isles up, 6-4.

-- New York outshot the Caps, 9-7, in the period; the teams had 14 shot attempts apiece.

-- T.J. Oshie led in shots for the game through 40 minutes with three, two off his stick and one off his shin for a goal.

-- Zdeno Chara was credited with five hits to lead the Caps through two periods.

-- Washington was not credited with a takeaway over the first two periods.

Third Period

New York scored 3:13 into the period, collecting a loose puck that squirted off the stick of Nicklas Backstrom and fired it into the open side of the net past Samsonov to make it 7-4, Islanders.

The Isles got a power play chance when Backstrom went to the penalty box for high-sticking at 8:26.  New York did not convert, but they got another chance at the 14:59 mark when T.J. Oshie went off for hooking.  Barzal converted the chance to complete his hat trick, swatting a puck out of the air and into the back of the net at the 18:54 mark to make it 8-4, and that would be how the game ended.

Other stuff…

-- John Carlson’s two goals gave him seven multi-goal games in his career, tying Scott Stevens for fifth most in Caps history among defensemen.

-- The two goals gave Carlson 114 goals for his career, jumping over Calle Johansson and Mike Green into third place on the all-time Caps goal scoring list among defensemen (Srgei Gonchar: 144; Kevin Hatcher: 148).

-- Daniel Sprong had a goal and an assist, his second multi-point game this season and second in five games (0-2-2 vs. New Jersey on March 25th).

-- With the loss, the Caps fell into a three-way tie with the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins at the top of the East Division.  The Caps remain in first place on a tie-breaker (fewer games/higher points percentage).

-- The teams combined for 12 goals.  The last time they did so was in a 7-5 Islanders win on January 24, 1986.  Only four times in the 226-game history between these teams did they combine for more:

  • October 8, 1983 (15): NYI 8 – Caps 7
  • February 2, 1982 (13): NYI 7 – Caps 6
  • January 1, 1992 (13): Caps 8 – NYI 5
  • November 23, 1988 (13): Caps 7 – NYI 6

-- New York outshot the Caps, 33-22; the teams has 47 shot attempts apiece.

-- Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie led the Caps with four shots apiece; Wilson, Carlson, and T.J. Oshie led the team with five shot attempts apiece.

-- Zdeno Chara led the team with six credited hits.

-- The eight goals allowed were a season worst for the Caps. They allowed the Philadelphia Flyers seven goals in a 7-4 loss on Valentine’s Day.

-- Ilya Samsonov’s .750 save percentage (18 saves on 24 shots) was his worst of the season and tied for the worst of his brief career to date.  One of those games was last season against the Islanders, when he stopped 15 of 20 shots in a 5-3 loss on February 10, 2020; the other against the Boston Bruins (three saves on four shots) in a 7-3 loss on December 23, 2019.

In the end…

This game, it did


The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Games 37/38: Capitals vs. Devils, April 2/4

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

After hosting the New Jersey Devils in Washington last Thursday and Friday, the Caps head to Newark to face the Devils at Prudential Center on Friday and Sunday in a two-game set that will end the season series between the teams.  Washington has won all six games to date against the Devils.

Goals have been hard to come by for the Devils in this series.  They average 2.33 goals per game in the six games played to date, and in the last one they were blanked by Ilya Samsonov, 4-0.  Twelve Devils have goals in the series to date, but only Yegor Sharangovich and Miles Wood have two.  The 22-year old Sharangovich is having a good rookie season for New Jersey, tied for sixth in goals among rookies (seven) and tied for 13th in points in that group (12).  On the other side, though, he is tied for a team-worst minus-5 rating in his five games against the Caps and has been on ice for eight even strength goals against, tied for most on the team.  Nevertheless, his season might be put in the win column for the Devils, who took him in the fifth round of the 2018 Entry Draft (141st overall).  He is one of only three players taken in the fifth round or later in that draft to have appeared in at least one NHL game (Veini Vehvilainen and John Leonard being the others).  Sherangovich is 2-0-2, minus-5, in five games played against the Caps this season and for his career. 

Miles Wood is another later round draft pick who has worked out for the Devils.  Taken in the fourth round of the 2013 Entry Draft (100th overall), Wood is in his sixth season with New Jersey.  While he has become a reliable double-digit goa scorer, posting at least ten goals in each of the last four seasons (including 11 this season to date), the number than jumps off the page on his resume is penalty minutes.  In those six seasons, Wood has 339 penalty minutes in 302 games.  Over those six seasons, Wood ranks tied for eighth among 546 players appearing in at least 200 games in penalties taken per 60 minutes (1.83).  He has whittled that penalty minute total down this season, though.  After starting the season with nine minutes in his first two games, Wood has only 12 penalty minutes in 32 games since.  Within the rules, he is having a career best season in goals per game (0.32) and points per game (0.44).  Wood is 2-1-3, even, in six games against the Caps this season and 6-2-8, minus-6, in 19 career games against Washington.

Only one Devils defenseman has a goal against the Caps this season.  Not P.K. Subban, not Calder contender Ty Smith.  It is Damon Severson.  That goal tied the game late in the third period, enabling the Devils to earn a standings point in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Caps on March 9th (the only standings point the Devils have earned against the Caps this season).  Severson has been with the Devils for only seven seasons, but with 464 games played for New Jersey he is within ten games of Mike Kitchen for tenth place in games played by a defenseman for the Devils.  He is not generally considered an offensive defenseman, but he is eighth among defensemen in goals scored for the club over his career (39), and five of those were game-winners (tied for seventh among Devils’ defensemen all-time).  His 175 points as a Devil also rank him eighth on the all-time franchise list among defensemen.  Severson is 1-2-3, minus-1, in six games against the Caps this season, 4-7-11, minus-14, in 27 career games against Washington.

1.  Since February 20th, when they started the day with a 6-3-2 record, the Devils are 7-13-3, their .370 points percentage being third-worst in the league over that span (Anaheim/5-12-3/.325; Buffalo/3-16-3/.205).

2.  The Devils’ 2.26 goals per game over those 23 games is the fourth-worst scoring offense over that span.

3.  New Jersey’s 13.4 percent power play over those same 23 games is third worst in the league (Anaheim/13.0 percent; Minnesota/12.7 percent).

4.  The Devils are one of only five teams since February 20th with a losing record by winning percentage when scoring first (5-6-1/.417)).  Dallas (5-4-2/.455), St. Louis (2-0-3/.400), Anaheim (3-3-3/.333), and Buffalo (3-4-2/.333) are the others.

5.  New Jersey is the only team over that span without a win by three or more goals.

1.  Over that same span, since February 20th, the Caps have the best points percentage in the league (15-4-1/.775).

2.  Over those 20 games, the Caps are averaging only 27.0 shots per game, tied with Buffalo for third fewest in the league (New York Rangers/26.8; Arizona/25.1).

3.  By the same token, only three teams have allowed fewer shots on goal than the Caps (26.8) – Dallas (26.5), Philadelphia (26.3), and Colorado (24.4) are the others.

4.  Over those 20 games, the Caps allowed as many third period goals (25) as they allowed in the first and second periods combined (25; 12 in the first periods, 13 in the second periods).

5.  Scoring first mattered to the Caps over that recent 20-game stretch.  Their 9-1-0 record when doing so is the third-best winning percentage over that span (.900).  Only Vegas (11-1-0/.917) and Edmonton (7-0-0/1.000) were better.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New Jersey: Jack Hughes

Washington has Alex Ovechkin, Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby, Edmonton has Connor McDavid.  A signature player does not guarantee team success (see: “Connor McDavid”), but a lot of successful teams have them.  For the time being that player for the New Jersey Devils is Jack Hughes.  He was the prize of the 2019 Entry Draft, taken first overall by the Devils, and his is the early leader in his draft class in games played (95), assists (23), and points (37).  His 14 career goals to date are one behind the New York Rangers Kaapo Kakko (15) in that draft cohort. 

Hughes is already establishing himself as a player who matters, whose contributions are part of new Jersey’s success.  Over his two seasons in the NHHL so far, the Devils are 15-10-4 when Hughes registers at least one point, 24-30-12 when he does not, although that points-wins relationship is a bit depressed this season with New Jersey’s 5-5-2 record when he is on the score sheet.  He does seem to have hit a rut lately, though.  While he was 4-8-12, plus-2, in his first 16 games this season, he is 3-1-4, minus-1, in his last 18 games, over which the Devils are 6-9-3.  Hughes is 1-1-2, minus-4, in six games against the Caps this season, 1-1-2, minus-4, in nine career games against Washington.

Washington: John Carlson

He was born in Natick, Massachusetts, but a good portion of his formative years in hockey were spent in New Jersey, where his family moved when he was five years old.  His performance against the Devils over his career looks more like punishment than appreciation of the years spent there.  He has more career points against the Devils (35) than he has against any other NHL team, and his plus-33 rating is also higher than he has posted against any other team (and it’s not close, next highest is plus-17 against Tampa Bay). No active defenseman in the NHL has more career points against the Devils than Carlson (Zdeno Chara is second with 25), and his plus-33 career rating against New Jersey is best by 13 points among active defensemen (Ryan McDonagh is plus-20).  No active defenseman had most game-winning goals against New Jersey than Carlson (three; tied with Dmitry Kulikov).

Not that Carlson hasn’t been wreaking havoc on opponents’ defenses in general.  Since 2014-2015, Carlson ranks ninth in goals (79), third in assists (294) and points (373), fourth in points per game (0.78), fifth in even strength goals (58), fourth in even strength points (223), tied for fourth in power play points (147, with Victor Hedman), and tied for first in game-winning goals (22, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Brent Burns).

Carlson has been consistent in his scoring so far this season, going with out a point in three consecutive games only twice.  If one breaks his production down by his tens, he was 4-7-11, minus-3, in his first ten games; 1-7-8, minus-4, in Games 11-20; 1-6-7, plus-4, in his next ten games; and he is 1-2-3, minus-2, in his last five games.  Only once this season did he log less than 20 minutes in ice time, that being in a 6-0 win over Buffalo on March 15th in which he skated 19:51.  Carlson is 1-5-6, plus-6, in six games against the Devils this season and 6-29-35, plus-33, in 45 career games against New Jersey.

In the end…

Yes, the Caps have six wins in six tries against the Devils this season.  But on the other hand, four of those wins were by one goal, one of them in overtime.  The odd thing about the series, considering the venue in which it will be played, is that New Jersey scored fewer goals in the two games on home ice (two in each) than in all but one game in Washington.  Except for the shutout in their last visit to Capital One Arena, the Devils scored at least three goals in the other three games.  If the Caps can hold the Devils to two goals and not fall prey to their recent trend of coughing up multi-goal leads, they should sweep this two-game set and the season series.

Capitals 4 – Devils 2

Capitals 5 – Devils 2