Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 44: Sharks at Capitals, January 26th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! 

The slumping Washington Capitals try to right themselves when the San Jose Sharks visit Capital One Arena on Wednesday night. The Caps lost a 1-0 decision to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night, dropping their January record to 3-5-2. San Jose’s last outing was a 7-1 loss on home ice to the Tampa Bay Lightning, their worst loss on home ice this season and a loss that dropped their January record to 4-5-1. 

These are very similar teams in terms of performance, and not in a good way. The Caps are 3-5-1 in their last nine home games, only one of the wins coming in regulation (5-3 over Nashville on December 29th). On the other side, San Jose is 2-5-0 in their last seven road games, one of the two wins coming in regulation (3-2 over Buffalo on January 6th). 

Overall, the Sharks have been the epitome of a middle-of-the-road team on the road, going 10-10-0 (.500/tied for 16th in points percentage). Fifteen Sharks have goals in road games so far this season, five of them with five or more. Timo Meyer leads that group with 11 goals in 18 road games. Fans might remember that he did have a five-goal game on home ice against Los Angeles on January 17th, but Meier has been more of a consistent goal scorer on the road with at least one goal in nine of 18 road games. In his first three full seasons with the Shark, Meier was developing into what appeared would be a reliable 20-30 goal scorer after seasons of 21, 30, and 22 goals. Last season, however, he dipped to 12 goals in 54 games, an 18-goal pace. This season, he has roared back with 21 goals in 37 games, a 47-goal pace, although that five-goal game does skew the projections a bit. What is noteworthy about that goal total to date is that Meier has already set a career high in power play goals with seven. Meier also has points in 26 of 37 games played overall; San Jose is 3-8-0 in the games in which he does not have a point. He is 1-4-5, minus-2, in seven career games against the Capitals. 

Tomas Hertl is next in line in road game goals with nine n 20 road games, and it is part of a resurgence of the goal-scoring portion of his game this season. In 2018-2019 he posted 35 goals in 77 games but managed only 35 goals in 98 games over the next two seasons, combined. That 2018-2019 was a significant year as far as one aspect is concerned regarding Hertl’s goal scoring. In five seasons leading up to that career year, he shot to an 11.3 shooting percentage. In 2018-2019, he posted those 35 goals while shooting 19.9 percent, still the high-water mark of his career. However, his efficiency has maintained a high level – higher than those first five years. In three seasons since that 35-goal season, including this one, he has shot 16.0 percent and all three seasons have been better than any of the first five seasons. Hertl has been on fire for going on half the season. In his first 24 games he was a respectable 8-5-13, but over his last 18 games he is 13-11-24, plus-8, with a pair of hat tricks. He brings a four-game road scoring streak into this game as well (5-3-8, plus-4). Hertl is 4-3-7, minus-3, in seven career contests against Washington. 

Adin Hill and James Reimer have more or less split goaltending duties for the Sharks this season, both netminders having logged more than 1,100 minutes, one of two teams in the league with two goalies topping 1,100 minutes (the Caps are the other with Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek). They have similar goals against averages (2.78 for Hill, 2.83 for Reimer), shutouts (each with one), and games started (21 apiece). Reimer has the slight edge in save percentage (.914 to .901) and has 12 wins to Hill’s nine. Reimer has a fine .920 save percentage on the road, but he has not been rewarded for his good work, earning a 4-5-0 record. Hill has a ,907 save percentage on the road, but his goals against average 2.71 is almost identical to Reimer’s (2.70), and he has a 6-5-0 record on the road.  

Reimer is in the first year of his second tour in San Jose, having appeared in eight games with the Sharks in 2015-2016 after he was traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs with Jeremy Morin to the Sharks for a third-round draft pick in 2018, Ben Smith, and Alex Stalock. Hill is in his first season with the Sharks after being drafted by and playing four seasons with Arizona. Hill has already set career highs in games played (24), games started (21), and with his next win he will set a career high in victories (ten). Reimer is 5-4-2, 2.37, .930, with one shutout in 12 career games against the Caps, while Hill is 0-2-0, 3.08, .875 in two career appearances against Washington.  

1.  San Jose has struggled on defense in the new year, their 3.70 goals allowed per game ranking 28th since January 1st. 

2. The Sharks’ net power play (accounting for shorthanded goals against) is tied for fifth-worst in the league since January 1st. The three shorthanded goals they have allowed in the new year is most in the league. 

3. The Caps have had issues allowing second period goals this season, but they might catch a break here. San Jose has four second period goals since January 1st, tied for fewest in the league. 

4. Seven teams have yet to record an empty net goal in 2022. San Jose is one of them. 

5. San Jose has allowed 26 goals at 5-on-5 so far since January 1st, fourth-most in the league. 

1.  Over the last 15 seasons, the current Caps' home record of 12-6-5 is 11th in points percentage (.630).  They have two wins in regulation in 12 games on home ice since December 1st (5-5-2 overall). 

2. Over those same 15 seasons, the net power play of this team is worst of all the Caps’ seasons (12.7 percent), this team’s net penalty kill is best (93.4 percent) 

3. Since November 30th, the Caps’ power play is 5-for-58/8.6 percent, the second-worst power play in that span in the league (Columbus: 6.7 percent). 

4. Since November 30th, the Caps have five power play goals – Alex Ovechkin (3), Tom Wilson, and Evgeny Kuznetsov being the goal scorers. 

5. Washington is tied with Pittsburgh for most empty net goals this season (11). 

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder 

San Jose: Mario Ferraro 

Defenseman Erik Karlsson underwent surgery on his left forearm on Monday and will have his readiness status reviewed in mid-March. That takes the leading goal scorer on defense for the Sharks (eight) and second-leading point-getter (26) out of the lineup, and although ten of the 11 defensemen to dress for the Sharks so far this season have at least one point, his is a lot of offense that will be missing. Brent Burns shoulders much of the offensive burden in addition to Karlsson (4-23-27), but more will also fall on defensemen like Mario Ferraro, who is fourth in goals (two) and third in points among Sharks’ defensemen. 

Now in his third season with San Jose after being selected as a second-round pick of the 2017 Entry Draft, he has already established himself as a minutes-eater, his 23:50 in ice time per game being a career best to date and second on this year’s Sharks roster of defensemen (only once in 39 games has he logged fewer than 20 minutes). Ferraro leads the team’s defense in penalty kill ice time (2:30 per game). With Karlsson out for a significant length of time, though, getting offense from Ferraro would be helpful to the San Jose cause. The problem for them moment is that Ferraro is without a goal in his last 24 games and has only four assists. He is 0-1-1, minus-4, in three career games against Washington. 

Washington: Dmitry Orlov 

Dmitry Orlov returned to action on Monday night against Vegas after serving a two-game suspension for kneeing Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers. His return is a welcome development, especially since fellow defenseman Nick Jensen is “week-to-week" with an upper body injury. His contributions at the offensive end of the ice (he was 1-2-3 in five games in January before his suspension) would be appreciated, especially since January’s scoring rankings among Caps defensemen have Trevor van Riemsdyk leading the team with four points (all assists). Orlov and John Carlson have the only goals from Caps defensemen this month. 

It would not be unreasonable to expect Orlov to provide, if not a flame, perhaps a spark to the offense. His next point will give him seven consecutive seasons with at least 20 points, and he is on a pace to go 10-28-38, plus-32, all of which would tie or surpass career highs. His contributions have mattered to date, the Caps going 10-2-1 in the 13 games in which he has points and 5-0-0 in games in which he has goals. If there is a fact that might be cause for concern in this game, it is Orlov’s shooting efficiency. He has three goals on 23 shots in 18 road games to date (13.0 percent shooting), but he has only two goals on 37 shots in 21 home games (5.4 percent). Orlov is 1-3-4, minus-1, in 15 career games against San Jose. 

In the end...

Here we have a pair of struggling teams, the Caps trying to stay within shouting distance of the Metropolitan Division lead, and San Jose fighting for their playoff lives. Neither has had much success in January, and longer than that, for that matter – San Jose going 8-10-1 since December 3rd (four of the wins in regulation) and the Caps going 3-5-1 since December 10th (one win in regulation). Both power plays are weak, each team ranked in the bottom ten of the league since December 1st, and bot have been offense-challenged generally since December 1st, both teams ranking in the lower half of the league in scoring offense. This has the potential of being one of the uglier games of the season in terms of aesthetics, but for the Caps, even a big steaming pile of style would be welcome if there ia a “W” at the bottom of it. 

Capitals 3 – Sharks 2