The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals hit the road for the first back-to-back set of games of the season, opening their road trip with a visit to Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit to face the Red Wings. This will be the first of two visits the Caps will make to the Motor City in the regular season and their first since beating the Red Wings, 5-2, back in November 2019.
Detroit won the first meeting of the teams this season, a 3-2 overtime decision on October 27th. Dylan Larkin scored the game-winner in the extra session, which was the last goal he scored until he potted the game-winner in a 4-2 win over Edmonton on Tuesday night. Larkin has missed time this season, absent for a week to a family emergency. But despite the interruption in his participation, Larkin is having a good start to the season, going 4-5-9, plus-3, in his first ten games. Larkin would appear to be at a critical juncture of his career. Over his first four seasons, he was 88-125-213 in 318 games, a 23-33-56 scoring line per 82 games, with 32 goals and 73 points in 2018-2019, the last of those four seasons. In 2019-2020, Larkin slipped a bit in goal scoring (19 goals in 71 games), but he kept his point total robust with 34 assists to finish with 53 points. Last year, though, he finished 9-14-23 in 44 games. His productive start this season hints at his becoming a core element in the Red Wings’ efforts to return to competitiveness. He is averaging 0.90 points per game, third on the team behind Tyler Bertuzzi (1.36) and Lucas Raymond (1.00). Larkin is 3-6-9, plus-2, in 14 career games against Washington.
All eight defensemen to dress for the Red Wings so far have recorded at least one point. That group is led in scoring by Moritz Seider (2-9-11), one of only two Detroit blueliners to record a goal (Filip Hronek is the other). Seider was the sixth-overall pick and second defenseman taken in the 2019 Entry Draft. He did not dress for a game in North America until he took the ice in the Red Wings’ season opener against Tampa Bay, posting a pair of assists in his NHL debut. He has been a critical element for the Detroit defense, logging 22:25 in ice time per game (second among defensemen), first in shots on goal among defensemen (25), first in assists among all Detroit skaters (nine), and first in power play points among all Red Wing skaters (five). He has been a consistent contributor as well with points in ten of the 14 games in which he played. Seider is 0-1-1, plus-1, in his only appearance against the Caps.
Goaltender Thomas Greiss has been, as they say, around. In his 13th NHL season, he is with his fifth NHL team in the Red Wings, for whom he has skated since signing a two-year/$7.2 million contract with Detroit in October 2020. The Red Wings are the only one of the five teams for which he has played that Greiss has a sub-.500 win-loss record (12-18-8). His goals against average with the Wings (2.80) is the worst among the five teams for which he has played, and his save percentage (.911) is second worst (.908 in 20 games with Pittsburgh). He has been up and down this season, posting save percentages of .950 or better in three of seven appearances and a save percentage under .900 three times. After winning his first two decisions of the season, Greiss is 2-3-0, 4.23, .881 in his last five appearances.
Only Columbus has allowed more shots on goal per game (34.8) than Detroit (34.4).
2. Only Florida has scored more third period goals this season (19) than the Red Wings (18, tied with Edmonton).
3. The Red Wings are tied for third in the league in 5-on-5 goals scored (26).
4. Detroit ranks 30th of 32 teams in credited his per 60 minutes (17.63). Only Columbus (15.14) and Buffalo (14.53) have fewer.
5. The Red Wings are tied for second in the league in empty net goals scored (five, with Carolina). Only Florida has more (six).The last time the Capitals visited the Red Wings, Alex Ovechkin had a hat trick plus an assist for a four-point game, his last four-point game on the road.
2. Washington ranks 29th of 32 teams in penalty killing on the road (63.6 percent).
3. The Caps play heavy, you say? Of 22 skaters to dress for the team so far, 21 have been credited with at least one hit. Only Aliaksei Protas, who has but one game played, is without one.
4. Alex Ovechkin has been sneaky with the takeaways. With Hendrix Lapierre having been reassigned to juniors, Ovechkin is now the team leader with 2.29 takeaways per 60 minutes.
5. The Caps are averaging 3.58 power play opportunities per game. Among Eastern Conference teams, only Carolina averages more (4.00, first in the league).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Detroit: Lucas Raymond
It did not take Lucas Raymond long to reach the NHL and to make an impression. Taken as the fourth overall pick by Detroit in the 2020 Entry Draft, he played a season for Frolunda HC in the Swedish Hockey League, going 6-12—18, plus-1, in 34 games, participated in the World Juniors championship, going 2-3-5, plus 2, in five games, and his apprenticeship was over. The 19-year old made the Red Wings roster out of training camp, and he stormed out of the gate. He recorded an assist in his first NHL game, went 1-2-3, plus-1, in his first five games, and then he recorded his first hat trick, with an assist tacked on for good measure, in a 6-3 win over Chicago on October 24th. He has hardly slowed down since that four-point performance, going 2-5-7, minus-2, including a three-assist effort in a 4-3 overtime win over Buffalo, in his last eight games. And, he is producing at this level while averaging just 16:17 in ice time per game. In his lone appearance against the Caps earlier this season, he has an assist and a plus-1 rating.
Washington: Connor McMichael
It is hard at times to realize that Connor McMichael is: a) a rookie, and b) just 20 years old. He had one game to put on his resume last season, no points and a pair of penalty minutes, but in ten games so far this season he is 2-3-5, even. He is tied for tenth among rookies in points, tied for 13th in goals, and tied for fifth among rookie forwards in even strength points (five, minimum: five games). But scoring is not all of his game. His 2.08 takeaways per 60 minutes ranks tenth among 43 rookies appearing in at least five games, and his 59.2 shot attempts-for percentage on ice leads all Capitals who have played in more than one game. He has work to do, as is to be expected for a rookie – his 36.1 percent faceoff winning percentage on 86 draws is an example. In his lone appearance against the Red Wings, he is without a point and has a minus-2 rating.
In the end…
These are not, at least for now, the Detroit Red Wings that have not had a points percentage over .500 since 2015-2016, the last season in which they reached the playoffs. They are in second place in the Atlantic Division through Tuesday’s games and have a 4-1-2 record on home ice, all four of their wins by multi-goal margins. This will be no walk-over game for the Caps, who appeared to take the Red Wings a bit lightly in their first encounter at Capital One Arena a couple weeks ago. The Caps need to take this team seriously for 60 minutes. If they do not, the back-to-back games (they face Columbus on Friday) will get off to a bad start.
Capitals 4 – Red Wings 2