The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
We have reached Game 50 of the regular season schedule for the Washington Capitals, a Super Bowl Sunday matinee matchup against the Ottawa Senators at 12:30 at Capital One Arena. The Caps will be looking to sweep the season series against the Sens, having won the first meeting, 7-5, in Ottawa on October 25th and following that up with a 3-2 overtime win at Capital One on January 22nd. Washington will be trying to snap a four-game losing streak, all in regulation, on home ice, while Ottawa comes to Washington with a 3-2-1 record in their last six road games.
Despite the recent record over .500 on the road for the Senators, they are tied for 24th in the league in points percentage on the road for the season overall (.405, tied with Dallas). Although the Senators have 19 goals in their last six road games, they rank 19th overall in scoring offense on the road this season (2.76 goals per game).
If it isn’t enough that the Senators are not a particularly prolific offense on the road, their top two point getters on the road – Josh Norris and Drake Batherson – are currently on the injured reserve list, Norris with a shoulder injury and Batherson with an ankle sprain. That leaves Brady Tkachuk as the leading active scorer on the road for Ottawa (4-11-15 in 20 road games). The fourth overall pick of the 2018 Entry Draft, he has not disappointed in his three and a half seasons in the NHL. He ranks third in his draft class in games played (238 through Friday), second in goals (74), fourth in assists (83), second in points (157), first in power play goals (14), fourth in power play points (32), first in overtime goals (four), and second in game-winning goals (11). He also brings a well-developed physical edge to his game, ranking first in his draft class in penalty minutes (316, more than 100 minutes more than Andrei Svechnikov (211)), first in credited hits (867, almost twice as many as Svechnikov (442)), and first in hits per 60 minutes (12.22; minimum: 25 games). With a 14-18-32, plus-4, scoring line through 40 games, Tkachuk is on a pace to finish 29-37-66, plus-8, all of which would be career bests. He is also on a pace to finish with 135 penalty minutes, which would also be a career high. He does come into this game on a road scoring slump, having gone nine games without a goal going into Saturday’s action, his last road goal scored back on December 14th in an 8-2 pasting of the Florida Panthers. Tkachuk is 0-3-3, minus-3, in seven career games against Washington.
Thomas Chabot might not be among the elite offensive defensemen in the NHL, but he is a dependable contributor from the blue line. Chabot, taken by the Senators 18th overall as the fifth defenseman in the 2015 Entry Draft, he became a full-time player in 2017-2018. Since then he has a scoring line of 38-136-174, his goal total tied for 25th among defensemen over that period, his assists ranking 18th, and his point total ranking 21st. His 55 points in 2017-2018 ranks as the 24th highest point total by a defenseman since 2017-2018 (tied with Victor Hedman in 2019-2020). He has been more of a playmaker than a goal scorer over his career to date, but this season is goal scoring has taken a bit of a tumble. He has only three goals on 117 shots through Friday, the 2.6 shooting percentage being his worst in five full seasons with the Sens. He is, however, quite the minutes-eater, averaging 26:58 in ice time per game, most in the league heading into Saturday and highest of his career. In fact, his average ice time has increased over each of his five full seasons, from 17:31 in 2017-2018 to 24:17 in 2018-2019 to 26:00 in 2019-2020 to 26:17 last season. Seven times in 43 games he topped 30 minutes; no other defenseman in the league had more than two through Friday’s games. Chabot is 2-4-6, minus-6, in eight career games against the Caps.
Tim Stützle has a promising career ahead of him in the NHL. Taken with the third overall pick in the 2020 Entry Draft, he is second in his draft class to top overall pick Alexis Lafreniere in games played (95), second to Lafreniere in goals (20), first in assists (32), first in points (52), first in power play goals (six), first in power play points (18), one of four players in that class with an overtime goal, second in game-winning goals (five), first in shots on goal (205), first in credited hits (122), and first in penalty minutes (37). And of 943 skaters to dress in the NHL this season, only 12 players are younger than the 20-year old Stützle. He is only the ninth player in Senators history to post 50 or more career points (52) at age 20 or younger. His road performance in goal scoring has picked up after a slow start. Stützle did not record a point in his first 11 road games (he did have five assists), but he has four goals in his last nine road games going into Saturday. He is without a point and has a minus-1 rating in his two games against the Caps to date.
1. Ottawa was shut out, 2-0, by Boston on Saturday, their sixth time being shut out this season, most in the league.
2. The Senators are one of seven teams without an overtime goal on the road so far this season.
3. Ottawa has drawn 4.16 penalties per 60 minutes on the road, fourth-most in the league.
4. The Sens are one of seven teams to draw ten or more major penalties on the road this season.
5. Only to teams in the league have more hits per 60 minutes in road games – Nashville (31.20) and Montreal (29.27) -- than Ottawa (28.92).
1. With a win, the Caps will tie for their tenth-best record, by points percentage, in team history. They would go to 27-14-9, the same record the 2010-2011 club had after 50 games.
2. Unless the Caps score four or more power play goals, they will have played 50 games havng the third-fewest number of power play goals in 47 seasons of franchise history. Their 22 power play goals at the moment lead only the 1976-1977 club (18) and the 1977-1978 team (21).
3. Should the Caps lose in extra time, they will tie the 2014-2015 team for most extra time losses (10) through 50 games.
4. At game’s end on Sunday, this year’s club will have the fewest penalty minutes in team history through 50 games (currently 344, 68 fewer than the 2020-2021 team).
5. The Caps have a current goal differential of plus-24. If they are a plus-3 on Sunday, they will jump to seventh-best goal differential after 50 games in team history.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Ottawa: Zach Sanford
The memories of the Caps drafting Zach Sanford in the 2013 Entry Draft (2nd round/61st overall) are no doubt receding among Capitals fans. He appeared in 26 games for the Caps as a rookie in 2016-2017 (2-1-3, even) before he was traded with a 2017 first round draft pick, a 2019 second round draft pick and Brad Malone to the St. Louis Blues for Pheonix Copley and Kevin Shattenkirk in February 2017. Since then, he has become something of an underrated scorer. Despite averaging less than 14 minutes per game over the past four seasons (three with St. Louis and this year with Ottawa), he has 41 goals in 213 games, a 16-goal pace per 82 games. That performance comes with a respectable efficiency, Sanford scoring goals on 13.9 percent of his shots over that span. He is a bit off that pace this season (a 13-goal pace), but six of his seven goals have come in 21 road games. Half of those goals came in a hat trick he recorded in a 7-5 loss to Colorado on November 22nd. Since then, he has two goals in his last 15 road contests. Sanford is 1-0-1, even, in three career games against his old team.
Washington: Martin Fehervary
Rookies often have up and down spells in their inaugural seasons, and defenseman Martin Fehervary has not been immune to such things. He started February with his 15th consecutive game without a point and one point in 27 games (an assist), but he goes into Sunday’s game with assists in each of his last three contests. He started February having logged an average of 21:05 in ice time over a ten-game stretch, but he did not hit the 20-minute mark in any of his last three games (18:54 per game). He managed only five shots on goal over a seven game stretch over a month from December 15th through January 15th, but he has 16 shots on goal in his last 11 games. One thing at which he has displayed consistency is in avoiding minus-ratings in games. Only nine times in 46 games did he finish with a minus rating and only once as bad as a minus-2. He has only three “minus” games on home ice this season and goes into this game having avoided a minus rating in each of his last ten games. His on-ice goal differential at even strength of plus-16 leads all rookie defensemen in the league, and his 61.4 percent on ice goal share at even strength is second in the league among rookie defensemen playing at least ten games. He has not been a liability with heavy ice time loads, the Caps going 10-4-1 in the 15 games in which he logged at least 20 minutes. Fehervary is 0-1-1, plus-1, in two career games against Ottawa.
In the end…
If there is any truth in the notion that you are only as good as your last game, Ottawa might have trouble on Sunday, having been shut out in their last two games by identical 2-0 scored against Pittsburgh and Boston on home ice. On the other hand, they are 5-4-1 in their last ten games overall, which is better than the Caps’ 5-5-0 record over their last ten games. The Senators, despite resting in sixth place in the Atlantic Division, are no pushover lately. The Caps have been dismal on home ice for more than two months. Since posting a four-game winning streak, all in regulation from November 8-26, the Caps are 5-8-2 in their last 15 home games did not win consecutive games in regulation in that span. Lineups have lacked consistency for the Caps with injuries and COVID related absences, but this is a team of considerable skill. The absences go only so far in explaining the Caps’ poor performance. With the Caps wrapping up the first 50 games on their schedule, they need to step up their game as they begin the stretch run to the postseason.
Capitals 4 – Senators 3