Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 19: Capitals at Kraken: November 21

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals will make their first trip to Seattle to face the Kraken in a Sunday evening contest.  It will be the second back-to-back set of games for the Caps on this trip, having split the first B2B with an overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks and a win over the Los Angeles Kings.  The Caps will be heading up the coast following their Saturday night contest with the San Jose Sharks.

For those who might have hoped for an inaugural season for the Kraken that resembled that of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-2018, those hopes are not likely to come to fruition.  The Kraken go into their matchup with the Caps on a six-game losing streak (the only winless team since November 6th when the losing streak started) overall and a four-game losing streak on home ice. 

Scoring has been more middle-of-the road than poor during the streak, the Kraken tied for 15th with Edmonton in scoring offense during that streak (2.83 goals per game), but the scoring has been top-heavy.  Three players combine for 10 of the Kraken’s 17 goals in the streak – Jordan Eberle (four), Yanni Gourde (three), and Jared McCann (three).  The trio has been uncommonly efficient in shooting, all of them with shooting percentages over 20 percent in the streak.  McCann leads the group in shooting percentage (37.5 percent) with three goals on eight shots in four games played during the losing streak.  McCann, who struggled early in his career in shooting efficiency (6.5 percent over his first three seasons), has ramped up that efficiency in the last four seasons (12.8 percent, including a career high 27.3 percent to date this season).  It has enabled him to average half a goal per game over the 12 games in which he has played so far, much improved over his previous best, 33.3 percent with Pittsburgh last season. But that scoring had come at a price.  McCann has been on ice for three even strength goals in this stretch, but he has been on ice for seven even strength goals against, contributing to his minus-5 rating in the four games in which he played.  McCann is 3-6-9, plus-2, in 15 career games against the Caps.

In addition to his three goals in the six-game skid, Gourde is one of only three players with a plus rating, his plus-1 equaling that of Riley Sheahan and Mx McCormick.  Gourde has had an up and down time of it in his offensive production.  In 2017-2018 he had 25 goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning, following that up with a 22-goal season in 2018-2019.  He fell off to ten goals in 70 games in 2019-2020, but rebounded to 17 goals in 56 games last season.  He is also an efficient shooter, having shot at least 12.5 percent (his current shooting percentage) in five of his last six seasons.  What Gourde has not yet done is improve on his timeliness in goal scoring.  Much of that is a product of moving from a Stanley Cup champion to an expansion team, but coming into this season 20 of his 80 goals were game-winners.  He is the only player in the league over the 2016-2017 through 2020-2021 seasons to record 80 or fewer goals overall and have 20 or more be game-winners.  Gourde is 1-3-4, minus-2, in 11 career games against Washington.

Eberle, the third member of the multi-goal trio over Seattle’s losing streak, is the overall leader in goal scoring for the Kraken to date (nine).  That production translates into his career-best to date goals per game (0.52), surpassing his full-season career high, recorded ten years ago with Edmonton (0.44).  It is quite a jump from his goal scoring rate over his four seasons with the New York Islanders (0.28).  Eberle had a hat trick in the Kraken’s last win, in a 5-2 win over Buffalo on November 4th.  It is part of a stretch in which Eberle has scored nine goals in 11 games.  He has points in nine of those 11 games and is on a seven-game points streak going into Sunday’s game against the Caps.  But again, his scoring comes at a price.  Eberle has been on ice for 13 even strength goals so far this season, but he has been on ice for 23 even strength goals against, tied with Jaden Schwartz for most on the team.  Of 775 skaters to dress in games through Friday’s games, he is one of ten skaters with a minus-10 goal differential or worse at evens.  Eberle is 5-7-12, minus-7, in 29 career games against the Capitals.

1.  The Caps could face Marcus Johansson for the Kraken, who is now on his sixth NHL team in 12 NHL seasons.  Johansson, who dressed for 501 games in seven seasons with the Caps, has appeared in only 189 games over the last five seasons.

2.  One thing the Kraken have done well is limit shots.  The 25.9 shot per game allowed are fewest in the league.  But teams are shooting 15.0 percent against Seattle, the highest percentage by opponents in the league.

3.  No team has allowed more goals in the first period than Seattle (20, tied with Arizona), and no team has allowed more third period goals than Seattle (24).

4.  Seattle has allowed the most goals in the league at 5-on-5 (48).

5.  The next penalty taken by the Kraken will be their 200th of the season, second in the league to Arizona (243).

1.  No team in the league has taken fewer penalties per 60 minutes than the Capitals (3.01); they are third-best in net penalties per 60 minutes (plus-0.70).

2.  The Caps are tied for first in goals scored at even strength at 5-on-5 on the road (25, with Calgary).

3.  Washington is the only team in the league that has not scored a goal on the road at 5-on-4.

4.  The Caps are second in the league in first period goals scored on the road (10; Calgary: 16); they are tied with Ottawa and Vegas for second-fewest third period goals allowed on the road (four).

5.  In eight road games so far, the Caps have the third-best points percentage in the league (.750/5-1-2).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Seattle: Philipp Grubauer

If Philipp Grubauer gets the nod in goal on Sunday, the Caps will be facing one of the most effective and efficient goalies in Capitals history.  Of 34 goalies to dress for at least 15 games in team history, Grubauer ranks first in save percentage (.923), first in save percentage in games started (.921), first in goals against average (2.29), tied for eighth in shutouts (six), first in even strength save percentage (.931, since 1997-1998, when the league started capturing this statistic), first in shorthanded save percentage (.892), sixth in power play save percentage (.895).

In Seattle, though, he is struggling with a 4-8-1, 3.27, .875 record.  He has allowed three of more goals nine times in 14 appearances and five goals in a game three times, including five in just 28:49 of work in a 6-1 loss to Philadelphia on October 18th.  Of 49 goalies to have logged 250 or more minutes, Grubauer ranks 47th in save percentage (.875), 42nd in goals against average (3.27); of 50 goalies to appear in at least five games, Grubauer ranks dead last in even strength save percentage (.872).  That record has deteriorated recently, Grubauer going 0-4-0, 4.33, .830, in his last five games (one no-decision). Grubauer is 1-1-1, 3.04, .909 in three career appearances against Washington.

Washington: Daniel Sprong

The last five seasons of Daniel Sprong’s six-year NHL career have been a bit strange.  In 2017-2018 he shot 9.1 percent, following that up with shooting percentages of 11.2, 5.9, 17.6 last season, and 8.1 percent to date this season.  The odd part about his season to date is that he recorded four or more shots in five of the 16 games he played so far, but he does not have a goal in any of them.  It explains, in part, his having only three goals in those 16 games, a 15-goal pace, after a season in which he posted 13 goals in 42 games, a 25-goal pace.  And ice time seems not to be much of a factor in the drought.  He has two of his three goals in seven games in which he logged less than 12 minutes, but only one in four games in which he logged at least 15 minutes.  What adds to the strangeness is the fact that so far he is averaging more than a minute per game this season (12:42) than he did last season (11:40), and his shifts per game are slightly higher (15.6 to 15.3).  His is the sort of secondary scoring that matters, as it does for many players.  The Caps were 8-3-1 in the 12 games in which he scored goals last season and are 2-0-1 in the three games in which he had goals so far this season.  Like all of the Caps, this will be Sprong’s first appearance against the Kraken.

In the end…

The bloom is not yet off the rose in Seattle, but the Kraken have given fans little to cheer about lately.  This might be the let down after the high of a team embarking on their first journey through the NHL.  In any case, this is a team the Caps need to deal with quickly and emphatically.  Teams on losing streaks that get off to good starts or are allowed to hang around find ways to end that losing streak, and for this to be a successful trip for the Caps, they need to crack the Kraken.

Capitals 5 - Kraken 2