The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals hit the road to start the new month, visiting the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Monday night. The Caps have had few chances to display their skills on the road so far this season, going 2-0-0 with wins in New Jersey and Ottawa against the Devils and Senators. This will be a move up in weight class for the Caps, who will face a Lightning team looking to build on consecutive wins against Pittsburgh and Arizona.
While Capitals fans marvel at the performance of Alex Ovechkin at age 36, a renaissance of sorts might be going on in Tampa with Steven Stamkos. The 14-year veteran is off to a hot start, going 5-7-12 in his first eight games (one of those goals an overtime game-winner against the Caps), posting a goal total already almost a third of his output last season (17 in 38 games). On the other hand, this start is reminiscent of last season when he went 4-6-10 in his first eight games. But he missed 18 games to COVID protocol and lower body injuries. This has been an issue in the latter two thirds of his career to date. He missed only three games over his first five seasons in the league, playing in all scheduled games four times. But then injuries derailed what seemed to be a monster career in the making. Over his next four seasons he appeared in 468 of 618 scheduled regular season games (75.7 percent). Stamkos is still third among active players in career goals scored (444), but one cannot help but think he would be well past 500 goals and perhaps past 1,000 points (he has 878) if not for the injury bug that has haunted much of his career. Stamkos is 17-18-35, minus-19, in 38 career games against the Caps.
Alex Killorn is one of those dependable, consistent second-level scorers. In eight full NHL seasons, he has never posted fewer than 14 goals and has a high of 26 with the Lightning in 2019-2020. Last season he had 15 goals in 56 games, his best year in terms of goals per 60 minutes (1.3) and second-best in goals per game (0.27). But he is eclipsing those metrics so far this season. With a team-leading six goals in eight games, he is averaging 2.3 goals per 60 minutes and 0.75 goals per game, both career bests. He will go into Monday night’s game on a four-game points streak (4-3-7, plus-4), which is already longer than any points streak he had last season. His on-ice goal differential of plus-4 at even strength leads the Lightning so far, a product of his being on ice for a team high 12 even strength goals scored. And, Killorn has displayed a knack for relieving opponents of the puck, his eight takeaways in eight games tops on the team. Killorn is 8-3-11, minus-6, in 25 career games against Washington.
It has not been the best of starts for last year’s Vezina runner-up goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. He is 4-2-1, but his underlying numbers are not especially impressive. His 2.53 goals against average ranks 18th among 35 goalies who have logged at least 200 minutes so far. His .911 save percentage ranks 20th in that group, while his .915 save percentage at even strength ranks 27th among 36 goalies appearing in at least four games. What he has been is inconsistent in the early going. In his seven appearances so far, he had two instances of a save percentage under .900, but he also has had three instances of a save percentage of .960 or better. The good news for Lightning fans is that two of those instances came in his last two appearances, stopping 28 of 29 shots in a 5-1 win over Pittsburgh and 24 saves on 25 shots in a 5-1 win over Arizona. Vasilevskiy is 5-6-1, 3.45, .903, in 12 career games against the Capitals.
Tampa Bay is a surprising 1-2-1 on home ice so far, their lone win a 5-1 decision over the Arizona Coyotes in their last home contest.
2. Only three teams have a worse scoring defense on home ice than the Lightning (3.50) – Arizona (5.00), Minnesota (4.33), and Chicago (4.25).
3. Tampa Bay’s home power play ranks 29th in the league (7.1 percent).
4. The Lightning are tied with Vegas for most third period goals allowed on home ice (nine).
5. Tampa Bay has allowed six goals at 6-on-5 overall, most in the league and almost a quarter of the total goals they allowed so far (27).Washington is tied for second in the league with Carolina in goals scored at 5-on-5 (20), trailing only Florida (22).
2. The Caps have outscored teams, 22-10, in the first 40 minutes of games this season. Their third period edge is just 8-6.
3. Washington had outshot teams six times in eight games this season to a 4-0-2 record.
4. The Capitals’ 1.23 net penalties per 60 minutes is third best in the league.
5. Washington has been in three one-goal games this season, all settled in overtime, all of them losses.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Tampa Bay: Corey Perry
Six, five, nine, none. Those are the goal totals for Corey Perry over the last three-plus seasons in a total of 145 games. He also happens to have a minus-27 rating over the same period, and his ice time is under 14 minutes over those 145 games. Is he done? Well, he did go 4-6-10 in the postseason last year with Montreal, so perhaps he can still muster productive games in short bursts. But one does have to wonder if thi8ngs are coming to and end for the former 50-goal scorer and Rocket Richard winner (which seems forever ago, in 2010-2011). He has not been shy about shooting the puck in limited ice time – 18 shots in eight games – but he has failed to hit the back of the net thus far and has no points with a minus-5 rating in those eight games. He even seems to be less of the agitator he has been in the past. He has one penalty this season a fighting major against Pittsburgh last Tuesday, and he has eight credited hits in eight games after posting 56 in 49 games last season and 1,001 in 13 seasons before this one. Tampa Bay has not yet missed his offense to a significant extent, the Lightning still rank tenth in scoring offense, but it is not clear that Perry is going to be much of a contributor as the season wears on.
Washington: Vitek Vanecek
Vanecek or Samsonov, Samsonov or Vanecek. Vanecek has the better goals against average in five games played (2.26 to 2.43) and has the better save percentage (.911 to .904). Vanecek has a much better save percentage at even strength (.934 to .919). the two are almost indistinguishable in terms of saves per 60 minutes (Ilya Samsonov has 25.4, Vanecek has 25.3). As for Vanecek specifically he started well, stopping 70 of 74 shots in his first three games (.946), going 2-0-1. But in his last two games he stopped just 32 of 38 shots (.842), was pulled after 20 minutes in one of them and is 0-0-1 (one no-decision, a game the Caps also lost in extra time). He has had the comfort of low shot volumes in the four complete games on his ledger, facing no more than 26 shots in any of them. But he did face 13 shots in the first period against Calgary when he allowed three goals and was relieved in favor of Samsonov. The Caps have alternated starters in the last four games, suggesting Vanecek would get Monday’s call. He took the overtime loss to Tampa in Game 2 of the season in Washington, stopping 22 of 24 shots in a 2-1 decision, in what is his only appearance to date against the Lightning in his career.
In the end…
Tamps Bay isn’t Tampa Bay just yet, although there are recent signs they could break out. They have been uncharacteristically leaky on defense, which Washington might be able to exploit, in addition to Andrei Vasilevskiy’s strange troubles against the Caps in his career generally. Expect a close game with some offensive fireworks.
Capitals 4 – Tampa Bay 3