The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals conclude their trip to Florida with a visit to Sunrise to take on the Florida Panthers. For the Caps, it is jumping from a contest with the defending Stanley Cup champions to one against the best team in the league, by standings points earned. The Panthers started their season with eight straight wins, but that streak came to an end last Saturday with a 3-2 Gimmick loss to the Boston Bruins.
Florida, as you might expect with a scoring offense such as theirs, gets contributions from a lot of players. Fourteen of 23 skaters to dress for the Panther have goals so far; 20 have points. It would probably surprise no one who follows such things to see Jonathan Huberdeau as the leading point-getter for the Panthers to date. He is the all-time franchise leader in points (509). Of his nine NHL seasons before this one he topped 50 points six times and had a career high 92 points in 2018-2019, tied for third-most in franchise history. He has been a model of consistency to start the 2021-2022 campaign, recording points in eight of nine games so far. He is 1-5-6 on home ice, recording one assist in each of the five home games he has played thus far. This is hardly surprising, too. Huberdeau has the single-season record for the Panthers in assists (62 in 2018-2019) and is tops in franchise history in helpers with 338, almost 50 more than Aleksander Barkov (289).
Florida has not played since Saturday, a stretch of five days without having played a game; since 2005-2006, Florida is 22-14-4 at home in games played after a hiatus of four or more games.
2. The Panthers are second in the league in goal differential per game (2.11), trailing only Carolina (2.63).
3. Florida closes with a rush. Their 15 third period goals lead the league; only Carolina has a better third period goal differential (plus-8) than the Panthers (plus-7). It helps that they have not trailed after two periods in any game this season.
4. Something the Caps can exploit? Florida is tied for 27th in the league in giveaways per 60 minutes (10.36).
5. The Panthers are tied with Carolina for most empty net goals (five).Only Calgary and Edmonton (13 apiece) have more first period goals than the Caps (11).
2. The progression of goal differential by period might need work for the Caps – first period/plus-6; second period/plus-5; third period/plus-2; overtime/minus-3.
3. The Caps have trailed only once after one period (an overtime loss) and trailed only once after two periods (a loss in regulation).
4. Washington has out-shot opponents seven times in nine games and has a 4-1-2 record when doing so.
5. The Caps are second in the league in power play chances per game (3.89), trailing only Carolina (4.00).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Florida: Radko Gudas
Nine games, two assists, plus-7 rating, 40 credited hits, 15 blocked shots, 18:46 in ice time per game. Radko Gudas is doing very well in Florida, thank you very much. After spending the 2019-2020 season with the Capitals, Gudas signed a three-year/$7.5 million contract with the Panthers in October 2020. Those statistics are not among his best on a rate (per-game/per 60 minutes) basis over his career, but they have been just fine for the Panthers so far. The issue for Gudas will likely be, as it was in Washington, can he sustain a solid level of play over time? Caps fans might remember that he was 0-8-8, plus-15, with a plus-12 goal differential at even strength, averaging 17:18 in ice time in his first 34 games with Washington, but he was 2-5-7, even, with an even on-ice goal differential at even strength, averaging 16:04 per game in his last 29 regular season games. Gudas is 0-4-4, minus-7, in 23 career games against the Caps.
Washington: Garnet Hathaway
Although the Capitals are off to a good start the new season, Garnet Hathaway is not, at least as far as his scoring goes. Of 21 skaters to dress so far, he is one of only two to reach Game 10 without a point. The other is Aliaksei Protas, who only made his NHL debut in the Caps last contest, a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Monday. His 0-0-0, even, scoring line through nine games is off from his 2-1-3, plus-6, start through nine games last season and his 2-3-5, plus-3, start with the Caps in 2019-2020. It has not bee for lack of trying. He has 15 shots on goal so far, sixth on the team, a jump from his previous seasons of eight and ten through his first nine games. He remains his feisty self, ranking second on the team in credited hits (21, to Tom Wilson’s 23) and first in hits per 60 minutes (11.37 to Wilson’s 8.18). What he has not yet done is use that feistiness to his and the Caps’ advantage. In his first two seasons his net penalties per 60 minutes (drawn to taken) were plus-1.01 in 2019-2020 and minus-0.17 last season. Through nine games this season, he is minus-1.08 in net penalties per 60 minutes. Hathaway is looking for his first career point against Florida after for games without one and a minus-2 rating.
In the end…
Is Florida that good, or is this just another hot start by a team that will find its equilibrium farther down the pack? The Panthers are probably closer to the former than the latter. They are a team with depth that plays well in all three zones. Perhaps most important, they are getting the Sergei Bobrovsky in goal they hoped for when he signed as a free agent for seven years and $70 million in July 2019. After two seasons in which he went a combined 42-27-8, 3.10, .902, with one shutout in 81 games, he is 6-0-0, 1.81, .944, in six games so far this season. He will be tough to solve, especially on home ice, where he has stopped 13 of 139 shots (.950). But he is also just 9-12-5, 3.02, .898, in 27 career games against Washington. He, and the Panthers, can be solved. The Caps took their first regulation loss in their last game. Florida gets theirs in this game.
Capitals 3 – Panthers 2