Saturday, April 23, 2022

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 79: Maple Leafs at Capitals, April 24th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up the interdivisional portion of their regular season schedule on Sunday when they return home to host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Capital One Arena.  Since having their lunch stolen by the Leafs, 7-3, in their last meeting on April 14th in Toronto in the first game of a five-game road trip, the Caps went 3-0-1 to wrap up the trip and return home with a 7-1-1 record over their last nine games.

Toronto has been playing well since that meeting with the Caps as well, posting a 3-1-0 record, although the loss was a 8-1 beat down at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.  Toronto will visit the Florida Panthers on Saturday night before jetting to DC for Sunday’s game.  The Leafs suffered a three-game losing streak in late February (0-2-1) in which they were outscored, 15-8.  Bus since then, they are 19-7-2 going into their game in Florida on Saturday, the third-best record in the league by points over that span (40) and tied with Colorado for second in points percentage (.714). 

Auston Matthews has been held out of the last three games for Toronto with an undisclosed injury, and while he is said to be “close” to a return, holding him out for the remainder of the regular season does not seem out of the question, denying him a final chance to become the first player in Toronto history to reach the 60-goal mark (he is already the all-time single season leader with 58 this season) and the 21st player in NHL history to reach that number (third since the 2004-2005 lockout, joining Alex Ovechkin (65 in 2007-2008) and Steven Stamkos (60 in 2011-2012).

In Matthews absence, Mitch Marner is the active regular season leader in goals (34) and points (95) heading into the weekend.  Over the Leafs’ 19-7-2 record since February 23rd, he has been on fire, going 17-32-49, plus-9, the league leader in points over that period.  In those 28 contests he has 15 multi-point games, including a four-goal/six-point game in a 10-7 win over the Detroit Red Wings on February 26th.  And while Marner is in the midst of a hellacious scoring run, it is not as if he has been a stranger to multi-point games this season.  He has 29, tied for fourth-most in the league this season. 

Marner’s goal scoring might be the best indicator of Leafs’ success this season.  In the 25 games in which he recorded at least one goal, Toronto is 22-2-1 (the are 28-8-4 in the 40 games in which Matthews has a goal).  On the other hand, opponents are going to want him on the ice trying to get leads.  Toronto’s record when Marner skated at least 20:26 in ice time is 15-15-6; it is 30-4-0 when he skated less.  Despite ranking only 59th in games played in Maple Leaf history (424 going into Saturday’s game), he is among the most prolific offensive players in franchise history, outperforming his games-played ranking with 137 career goals with Toronto (32nd), 316 assists (tenth), 453 points (tied with Matthews for 15th), plus-69 rating (15th), 27 power play goals (tied for 45th), 132 power play points (14th), ten shorthanded points (tied for 27th), and 24 game-winning goals (tied for 25th).  Marner is 3-7-10, minus-5, in 13 career games against Washington.

In their recent 28-game run, Toronto has gotten solid contributions from its defense, ten defensemen combining for 16 goals and 83 points through Friday’s games.  Every one of the ten have at least one point over that span. One defenseman who has slid into an important role almost seamlessly has been Mark Giordano, acquired from the Seattle Kraken with Colin Blackwell for a second-round draft pick in 2022, a second-round draft pick in 2023, and a third-round draft pick in 2024.  He has been described as “everything the Maple Leafs could have hoped for."   In 16 games since arriving in Toronto, Giordano is 2-9-11, plus-8, one of five Maple Leaf defensemen in the 28-game run in double digits in points, despite the low games played total in that stretch.  It might not be much of coincidence that Toronto is 12-3-2 in the 16 games he has played for the team to date.  The lingering question about Giordano is his future.  Will he, at age 38, go for one more payday, or will he re-sign with what is his hometown team?  He is not the offensive player he was in his Norris Trophy season in Calgary in 2018-2019 (17-57-74, a league-leading plus-39), but he is still a solid player who can be a second-pair fixture for this or any other team in the league.  Giordano is 3-7-10, minus-2, in 19 career games against Washington.

1.  In their recent 28-game run of success, Toronto has the top scoring offense in the league (43.6 goals per game).  On the other hand, their scoring defense over that stretch (3.71 goals allowed per game) ranks 25th.

2.  Over those same 28 games, Toronto has scored 41 third-period goals, most in the league.

3.  On the other hand, they are the only team in the league over that same stretch to allow 40 or more goals in each of the second and third periods of games (41 in each period).

4.  The Maple Leafs have scored first 15 times in those 28 games, their 13-2-0 record when doing so being second best in the league by winning percentage (.867, trailing the New York Rangers (14-2-0/.875)).

5.  The Leafs are one of two teams not to lose a one-goal decision in regulation over their 19-7-2 run (Detroit is the other).

1.  Washington goes into this game with a three-game winning streak on home ice.  It is the first time the Caps have won three straight at home in regulation since they won four in a row in regulation from November 8th through November 26th.

2.  Since that four-game home winning streak in November, the Caps are 12-14-2 on home ice, tied for 22nd in the league in points earned (26, with Winnipeg) and are 23rd in points percentage (.464).

3.  The Caps’ 3.00 goals per game over that 28-game stretch on home ice ranks 22nd in the league over that span. 

4.  Washington allowed four goals in that 28-game stretch on home ice, tied with five other teams for third-most in the league over that span.

5.  The Caps have taken leads into the third period over this 28-game span on home ice only six times, going 5-1-0.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Maple Leafs: Jack Campbell

Sometimes goalies on good teams put their club on their back and carry them to success.  And other times, they are “good enough” on a team that can seemingly score at will.  Which one Jack Campbell is – or could be – will go a long way to determining just how deep Toronto will go in the postseason.  If you look at Campbell’s recent win-loss record, you might be inclined to say he can carry this club where it wants to go.  Look deeper.  Despite having a 7-0-1 record over his last eight appearances, he has stopped only 2-1 of 233 shots, a rather pedestrian .901 save percentage.  Five times in those eight games, Campbell allowed three or more goals, including four in 25 minutes in relief of Erik Kallgren (one of five goalies the Leafs have employed this season) in an 7-6 overtime loss to Florida on April 5th. 

Of 62 goalies to appear in at least five games since March 8th, when Campbell’s current unbeaten streak in regulation started, he ranks 45th in even strength percentage (.900).  What saves his performance, so to speak, has been his performance when the Leafs are shorthanded.  He has allowed only two power play goals on 23 shots over that period, his .920 save percentage ranking ninth in that group of 62 goalies.  It is also worth noting here that over a longer stretch of games – 12 appearances – Campbell has eight games in which his save percentage was under .900.  He has been especially inefficient in low-shot volume games over that stretch, finishing under .900 in seven of eight games in which he faced 30 or fewer shots.  In those eight games, he stopped 181 of 211 shots, a .858 save percentage, but he posted a win-loss record of 4-1-2 (one no-decision).  On the good side, he was sharp in his last two outings, stopping 64 of 68 shots (.941) in wins over the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers.  Campbell has faced the Capitals twice in his career, going 1-1-0, 3.06, .870.

Washington: Anthony Mantha

It has been a rocky road traveled by Anthony Mantha for the Capitals this season.  He posted a respectable 2-4-6, even, line of scoring in ten games to start the season, the Caps going 5-1-4, but then he missed four months and 45 games to a shoulder injury.  His return to the lineup was productive to start, going 5-3-8, minus-1, in his first 12 games back in the lineup, the Caps going 9-2-1 over that stretch.  That was followed by a four-game span without a point and a minus-3 rating as the Caps split four decisions (2-2-0).  He has come on of late, though, going 2-5-7, plus-6, in his last seven games, over which the Caps are 5-1-1.  His performance over those stretches of play indicates that his contributions have been, and will continue to be counted on if the Caps are to be successful in the last week of the regular season and into the playoffs. 

Mantha, even with the low volume of games played, is having a bit of an odd season.  He is averaging 1.1 goals per 60 minutes, fourth-best of his eight-year career to date, and is averaging 0.27 goals per game, sixth-best in his eight seasons.  The Caps have not lost a game in which he posted a goal so far this season (7-0-0).  On the assist side, he is also averaging 1.4 assists per 60 minutes, second-best of his career, and 0.36 assists per game, also second-best of his career.  The Caps have lost only one game in regulation when he posted at least one helper (6-1-3), the Caps going 12-1-3 overall when he posted at least one point. And he is doing it averaging only 15:08 of ice time a game, second-lowest of his career to date.  In 13 career games against Toronto, Mantha is 3-3-6, minus-5.

In the end…

The Capitals got no help from the Detroit Red Wings against Pittsburgh in a Saturday afternoon game, and they are hoping for some help from the New York Rangers against the Boston Bruins as they try to climb a rung or two up the standings as the regular season winds down.  Keeping pace against a team as offense-oriented as the Maple Leafs is a challenge, but the 7-3 loss Toronto laid on the Caps in their last meeting should provide some motivation for payback.

Capitals 5 – Maple Leafs 4