The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
Fresh off a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on their current four-game road swing, the Washington Capitals head to Philadelphia to face the Flyers in Game 2 of the four-game road trip. The Caps head into this game on a four-game road winning streak, while the Flyers go into the contest with a 2-5-2 record in their last nine home games.
The Flyers lack high-end offensive production – only one Flyer ranks in the top-50 in goals scored (Cam Atkinson tied for 49th with 17) and no Flyer ranks in the top 60 in points (Atkinson and Claude Giroux are tied for 64th with 37 points). They do have balance, though. Fourteen skaters have double digits in points, five of them defensemen.
Ivan Provorov leads the Flyers defense in goals (five), is tied for the lead in assists (13), and leads in total points (18). Oddly enough, this is not one of Provorov’s best seasons. His 0.3 goals per 60 minutes ranks fourth in his six seasons in the league. His 0.7 assists per 60 minutes ranks fifth. His 1.0 points per 60 minutes rank fifth as well. His 4.4 shots on goal per 60 minutes ranks fifth (source: hockey-reference.com). This despite his averaging 25:07 in ice time per game, a career high. What might be disturbing about his performance to date, which by the way is hardly the biggest problem this team has, is that his underperformance has been consistent by venue. Provorov is 2-7-9, minus-3, in 21 home games and 3-6-9, minus-2, in 24 road games. He has ten minutes of penalties at home and ten on the road. He is averaging 25:09 in ice time at home, 25:06 in ice time on the road. His offensive performance has improved of late, though. After a four-game streak without a point and a minus-6 rating in mid-January, he is 1-3-4, plus-4, in his last eight games. Provorov is 4-6-10, plus-8, in 25 career games against Washington.
Despite the difficulties this year’s Flyers team has had, they don’t do rookies. Seven rookie skaters have dressed for the Flyers this season, but with just a combined 59 man-games played. Forward Morgan Frost has appeared in 27 of them. And while he is technically a “rookie,” this is his third NHL season. The 27th overall pick of the 2017 Entry Draft appeared in 20 games in 2019-2020 and in two games last season. His two goals and five assists match his offensive production in that first season. And his is a strange production profile. He has two goals, both in Flyer losses. He has seven points, the Flyers with a 2-4-1 record in those games. He has skated at least 14 minutes in ten games, and the Flyers are 1-8-1 in those games. He has shots on goal in 18 games, and the Flyers are 2-13-3 in those games. The Flyers are 2-10-4 in the last 16 games in which he played, but they are 2-0-1 in the last three. If he plays, he will be looking for his first goal on home ice of his career spanning 24 games over his three seasons. Frost is without a point and has an “even” rating in his only career appearance against the Caps.
Chicken or egg. Which came first? Lack of talent in front of him, or his talent overrated? This is the conundrum that is Carter Hart in goal for the Flyers. Among 40 goalies with at least 1,000 minutes played this season, Hart ranks 29th in goals against average (3.96) and 24th in save percentage (.910). But here might be the most alarming statistic of all, one that points to a lack of talent (or “give a f***”) in front of him. Hart is 6-0-0 in the six games in which he allowed one or no goals this season. He is 3-17-6 in the 26 games in which he allowed more than one goal (3-11-4, one no decision, in that intermediate area in which he allowed two or three goals). He is getting almost no goal support. Hart has been consistent in one respect. He has not been blown out often. He allowed four or more goals seven times this season in 32 appearances (0-5-2 in those decisions), which is tied for 24th in the league. He has been more successful at home on a win-loss basis (6-9-3 at home, 3-7-3 on the road), but his underlying numbers are consistent (2.97/.907 at home, 2.94/.913 on the road). He goes into this game having allowed five goals in two of his last three games, all of them losses (0-2-1). Hart is 2-3-1, 2.89, .907 in six career games against the Capitals.
1. Philadelphia has the second-worst winning percentage in the league when trailing first in games (.111/3-21-3). They are tied for fifth-most instances in trailing first in games (27 times).
2. In 54 seasons, this Flyers team ranks 51st in penalties taken per 60 minutes (3.64), a far dry from the Broad Street Bullies days.
3. The Flyers have allowed six shorthanded goals this season, tied for fourth-most in the league. They also have scored six shorthanded goals, tied for third-most in the league (with, among others, the Caps).
4. Philadelphia has six wins when out-shot by opponents, tied for fourth-fewest in the league.
5. The Flyers have lost 16 games this season by three or more goals, tied for second-most in the league (Montreal: 23).
1. Washington has scored first in 34 games this season, most in the league and four more than Colorado and Vegas. Unfortunately, their winning percentage in those games (.618/21-9-4) ranks 23rd.
2. The Caps have been docked 7:07 in penalty minutes per game, third-fewest in the league.
3. Washington has allowed seven shorthanded goals this season, second-most in the league (New Jersey: 8).
4. The Capitals have 13 empty net goals this season. Only Pittsburgh has more (14).
5. No team has taken more faceoffs than the Caps this season (2.926) and no team has lost more faceoffs than the Caps (1,553).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Philadelphia: Claude Giroux
Will he, or won’t he?
Be a Flyer at the end of the regular season, that is. That is the question that follows Claude
Giroux around these days. Only Bobby
Clarke has pulled on the Flyers jersey for more games (1,144) than Giroux (988)
in team history. He ranks ninth in goals
(289), second in assists (606), second in points (895), eighth in power play
goals (84), first in power play points (338), first in overtime goals (11),
seventh in game-winning goals (46), first in takeaways since 2005-2006 (513),
first among forwards since 2005-2006 in blocked shots (396), and first in
faceoff winning percentage since 1997-1998 (55.7 percent; minimum: 100
faceoffs). His imprint on the Flyers' record book is bold and broad.
Giroux is still a productive player at age 34, despite the problems the team around him has. His 1.1 goals per 60 minutes is his best since 1.2 goals per 60 minutes in 2017-2018), he is still averaging at least 1.5 assists per 60 minutes (12th consecutive season doing so) and at least 2.5 points per 60 minutes, despite the problems the team around him is having. He is winning faceoffs at a 60.8 percent clip, a career best (fourth-best in the league this season among 193 players taking at least 100 draws). He has more than twice as many first goals in games (seven) than any other Flyer (James van Riemsdyk has three). Odd Giroux fact… despite having 16 goals, second-most on the team this season, none of them are game-winners. He is one of three players in the league with at least 16 goals and none of them game-winners (Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen (24 goals) and Buffalo’s Tage Thompson (16) are the others). Giroux is 23-26-49, plus-6, in 54 career games against the Caps.
Washington: Carl Hagelin
Not to the degree Giroux has experienced lately, but there are questions about whether Carl Hagelin will be a Capital at year-end, or if he will be part of a deal to upgrade the roster or get younger in the role he plays in advance of the playoffs. It has been a frustrating year for Hagelin in the offensive end of the ice, where he just cannot seem to find the back of the net. His 4.5 percent shooting (three goals on 67 shots) is his worst in four seasons with the Caps. It is unfortunate for him and for the Caps, who are 3-0-0 in the three games in which he has goals and 7-2-1 in the ten games in which he has points. What is worse, at least in the context of this game, is that while he has been a reasonably consistent performer, home versus road, in his career (55-99-154, plus-48, in 361 home games; 55-85-140, plus-67, in 348 road games), he is just 1-3-4, plus-5, in 23 road games this season, while he is 2-6-8, plus-1, in 26 home games. Ice time seems not to matter much in terms of the effect of his performance on wins and losses. The Caps are 14-6-4 in the 24 games in which he skated at least 14 minutes, 12-8-5 in the 25 games in which he logged fewer than 14 minutes. Hagelin has picked up his point production of late. After going through an 11-game streak without a point starting on New year’s Eve, he is 1-4-5, plus-3, in his last six games overall. And, he will be looking to extend his current streak of points in road games to four against the Flyers. Hagelin is 5-13-18, plus-16, in 45 career games against Philadelphia.
In the end…
Good teams put bad teams away, so this will be a test in that regard to assess whether the Caps are “good” team once more. They have done a good job being just that at Wells Fargo Arena, where they are 7-1-0 in their last eight visits, outscoring the Flyers, 32-20. The Flyers are further hamstrung by having so many key pieces on the injured reserve list (see the table above). That the Caps would have a better record on the road (15-5-4, their .708 points percentage ranked second in the league) than at home (12-10-5, the .537 points percentage ranked 21st) is one the stranger story lines this season, but it would be welcome if the Caps were to extend their road success to a fifth-straight win.
Capitals 5 – Flyers 2