Friday, April 23, 2021

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Capitals vs. Islanders, The Game 2 Rematch

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

With one game of the three-game set between the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders in the books, the Caps winning by a 1-0 margin in the Gimmick, we have a day off to take stock and see where we are for the moment…

  • As we wake up on Friday morning, it is now the Pittsburgh Penguins on the Caps’ bumper in the NASCAR MassMutual East Division 56-game season.  The Caps hold a one-point lead on the Pens.  Both have played 47 games, and both have 30 wins, but the Caps have one more point earned in extra time losses, while the Pens have one more regulation loss.  The Caps currently hold the edge in the regulation win tie-breaker and are tied in regulation/overtime wins.  If the Pens were any closer, they’d be in the passenger seat of the Ted Leonis Racing/Peter Laviolette Driving Number 8 Car.
  • Semyon Varlamov has now denied the Caps a goal in regulation/overtime in his last 145:58, dating back to the Islanders’ 8-4 win on April 6th.  The shutouts in his last two appearances against the Caps are the first two blankings of the Caps he has in his career in 17 games against the team that drafted him.
  • Even if Varlamov does not get the start on Saturday, the Caps will not necessarily be getting a break. Ilya Sorokin is 12-4-1 in his rookie season.  He has a better goals against average than Varlamov (2.02 to 2.12) and trails Varlamov only slightly in save percentage (.922 to .926).  He has three shutouts of his own in 17 starts, while Varlamov has five shutouts in 30 starts this season. 
  • Neither goalie has allowed a shorthanded goal this season.  The Islanders are one of two teams yet to allow a shortie, the St. Louis Blues being the other.  In fact, in the Barry Trotz era, since he took over as head coach in 2018-2019, no team has allowed fewer shorthanded goals than New York (six, tied with the Vegas Golden Knights).
  • The double shutout is the third time in the post-2005-2006 lockout era that the Caps and their opponent went to a Gimmick after 65 minutes of scoreless hockey.  The did so on December 27, 2017 in a loss to the New York Rangers, when they were beaten in the freestyle competition by the MZ boys – Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad (the game-winner).  The also lost to the Tampa Bay Lighting in what was the season finale of the 2013-2014 season, the only one in the last 13 that the Caps missed the playoffs.  Matt Carle got the only goal of the special session.
  • The Caps did not add a regulation loss to the Isles’ sparkling home record this season 19-2-3, but they did pin one of the three extra time losses on the Isles at Nassau Coliseum.  Pittsburgh has the other Gimmick win on Islander ice.
  • The Caps are getting better at generating power play chances on the Islanders’ ice sheet, but that’s a relative thing.  They had one opportunity with the man advantage in their first game in New York this season (and scored their only power play goal) on April 1st, two in their next meeting on April 6th, and three on Thursday night. 
  • Lars Eller has had his struggles against the Islanders, scoring wise.  He has one goal in his last dozen appearances against New York with three assists. He has one goal in 12 games as a Capital at Nassau Coliseum.
  • The whole top-six forward group has been largely shut down by the Islanders in New York this season.  It is only three games, but T.J. Oshie is the only regular top-six forward with a goal at Nassau Coliseum this season.  Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, Evgeny Kuznnetsov, and Jakub Vrana/Anthony Mantha…none in 15 man-games.
  • Ilya Samsonov was superb in the 1-0 Gimmick win over the Isles on Thursday night.  Even with only three appearances against New York this season, it still looks like a roller coaster fun ride.  He opened the season with a 21 save effort in a 3-1 win over New York on March 16th in Washington.  Samsonov followed that up by allowing six goals on 18 shots in 43:34 in the Caps’ 8-4 loss to the Isles in New York on April Fools’ Day.  And then there was Thursday night’s 26-save blanking, his third career shutout.  And that performance did allow Samsonov to drag his season save percentage against the Islanders over .900 (.903) and his overall save percentage over that threshold (from .898 to .904).
  • Vitek Vanecek might still be the pick for the Saturday rematch in the second game of this three-game set.  He has as good or better a record of the two Caps goalies against the Islanders this season.  Both he and Samsonov are 2-1-0 against the Islanders this season.  And although both of Vanecek’s wins were at home, he turned in one of his best performances of the season in New York when he allowed one goal on 39 shots in a 1-0 loss on April 6th.  His goals against average against New York is better than Samsonov’s (.929 to .903), as is his even strength save percentage (.931 to .910), and his goals against average is slightly better (2.47 to 2.50).  He does come into Saturday with only 39 saves on 48 shots (.813 save percentage) in consecutive losses to Buffalo and Boston in his last two appearances, his first bout with consecutive losses in regulation on his record since his first two games in February.

In the end…

The two losses the Caps suffered in New York at the hands of the Islanders before their win on Thursday were a bit of an anomaly.  They won five consecutive games on Long Island before suffering those consecutive losses, and they are 19-11-3 overall in the Ovechkin era in New York.  Look for win number 20 on Saturday.