Sunday, October 16, 2022

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 4: Canucks at Capitals, October 17

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals open the new week hosting the Vancouver Canucks at Capital One Arena.  While this is not exactly a white-hot rivalry, it is a chance for Caps fans to welcome back once more former Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, who is in his first full season with the Canucks after taking over for Travis Green 26 games into last season.

Boudreau authored quite a turnaround last season for the Canucks, who started the year 8-15-2 under Green.  Vancouver finished the last 57 games of the season with a 32-15-10 record under Boudreau and almost pulled off what Boudreau accomplished with the Caps when he took over early in the 2007-2008 season – coming from far behind to secure a playoff spot.  The Canucks fell short, finishing five points behind second wild-card Nashville Predators, but the finish was grounds for optimism heading into the 2022-2023 season.

Fulfilling that optimism will have to wait.  Vancouver will arrive in Washington having lost both of their games to open the new season, both losses coming on the road.  Those two road games are part of a five-game road trip to start the season for the Canucks with visits to Columbus and Minnesota to follow their visit to Washington. 

Vancouver has not suffered an anemic attack; they have 66 shots on goal and 118 total shot attempts in two games thus far.  What they lack so far is a finishing touch, scoring three times against Edmonton in a 5-3 loss to the Oilers and twice in a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.  It is early, and it is only two games, but what has been missing is scoring from the “B’s,” Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat.  Each of them is looking for their first goal of the season after combining for 54 goals last season. 

Boeser is the consistent scorer of the two, his 23 goals last season being his second consecutive season with that total and his fourth season in five with at least 23 goals (he had 16 goals in 57 games in 2019-2020).  Shot volumes are not really his thing, but efficiency is.  He averaged about 2.8 shots per game in his six-year career through last season, a respectable but not a gaudy shot total.  But he shot 13.2 percent over that same period, sixth of 38 skaters posting at least 100 total shots on goal over that period.  Here, too, he has been consistent, only once averaging less than 10.0 percent for a season (9.5 percent in 2019-2020).  Last season, after a slow start in which he scored four goals in 20 games over the first two months, he improved without losing consistency, posting between three and five goals per month over the last five months of the season.  He has not been very successful against the Caps, at least in terms of goal scoring, going 1-6-7, even, in eight career games against Washington.

Horvat appears to have a bit more upside as a goal scorer, if last year’s 31-goal career high season is an indicator.  Not that he lacks for consistency.  The 31 goals marked the fifth time in six seasons he posted at least 20 goals, only falling short in 2020-2021 when he had 19 goals in 56 games.  If anything, Horvat is an even more efficient shooter than Boeser, if only slightly more so.  Over those six seasons in which he posted more than 20 goals five times, he averaged fewer shots per game than Boeser (2.5) but shot 13.5 percent over that span.  What is more, he displayed improvement in his shooting efficiency over the last four seasons, starting with 11.9 percent in 2018-2019, improving to 12.4 percent the following season, 14.5 percent in 2020-2021, and then to 16.0 percent last season.  His month-to-month profile last season looked a bit different than Boeser’s.  Where Boeser displayed a consistency over the last five months, Horvat closed with a rush, posting 14 goals in 20 games over the last two months of the season and shooting 24.1 percent.  He is 5-7-12, minus-3, in 12 career games against the Caps.

Over the previous three seasons, goaltender Thatcher Demko showed consistent progress in taking over the duties of number one goaltender.  In 2019-2020, he was 13-10-2, 3.06, .905 in 27 games.  The following season he was 16-18-1, 2.85, .915, with one shutout in 35 games.  Last season he took a firm grip on the number one spot, going 33-22-7, 2.72, .915, with one shutout in 64 games.  He will not turn 27 years old until December, and he has three seasons after this one on his current contract ($5.0 million per season cap hit), so it would appear the job is his for the foreseeable future.  His record last season, as you would expect for the number one goalie, mirrored that of his team.  In his first 17 appearances he was 6-10-1, 3.07, but over his last 48 games he was 27-13-6, 2.61, .918, with one shutout.  He was tied for sixth in wins over that span, tenth in goals against average among 38 goalies with at least 1,500 minutes, and seventh in save percentage in that same group.  Only once in that span did he lose three straight games in regulation.  He is off to a sluggish start this season, stopping just 48 of 55 shots (.873 save percentage) in two losses.  In two career games against the Caps, Demko is 1-0-1, 2.98, .910.

1.  Two games, twice going out to multi-goal leads, two losses.  Vancouver held a 3-0 lead over Edmonton through 24 minutes of the season opener before allowing five unanswered goals (three on power plays and one shorthanded) in a 5-3 loss.  They had a 2-0 lead against Philadelphia through 30 minutes before allowing three unanswered goals (one on a power play and one shorthanded) in a 3-2 loss.

2.  The two shorthanded goals allowed by the Canucks are tied for most in the league with San Jose.  They allowed only six all of last season.

3.  Only Seattle and Los Angeles have allowed more power play goals (five) than the Canucks (four).

4.  Vancouver has outscored opponents, 4-0, in the first periods of games so far, but they have been outscored, 3-0, in the third periods of games.

5.  The Canucks have allowed eight goals so far, five of them on special teams (five power play goals against, two shorthanded goals against).

1.  Washington’s special teams index of 86.9 (power play plus penalty killing percentages) ranks 28th in the league.

2.  The Caps have a 35.0 winning percentage on faceoffs in the defensive zone, 30th in the league.

3.  The Capitals have not yet scored a third period goal.

4.  Washington is averaging 35.67 hits per 60 minutes, second most in the league (Edmonton: 38.50).

5.  Only Nashville has more missed shots (66) than the Capitals (47).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Vancouver: Elias Pettersson

If Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat are the consistent goal scorers, Elias Pettersson is the explosive scorer. In four seasons before this one, Pettersson recorded 97 goals and 221 points in 245 games.  The Calder Trophy winner and first all-rookie team member in the 2018-2019 season has three seasons in four in which he scored at least 27 goals, falling short only in 2020-2021 when he lost 30 games to an upper body injury and finished with ten goals in 26 games (still a 32-goal pace over 82 games). 

Petterson is still only 23 years old (he will turn 24 next month) but youth is a double-edged sword in this case.  He has this year and next to run on his current contract that carries a $7.35 million cap hit.  After next season, he will be an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent.  It is almost inconceivable that Vancouver would not re-sign him, but it will be expensive, and in the 2024-2025 season, the Canucks could be carrying at least four players, including Pettersson, with cap hits in excess of $7.0 million (J.T. Miller ($8.0 million), Quinn Hughes ($7.85 million), and Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($7.26 million) would be in this group).  Pettersson has one goal in two games so far this season and will bring a career scoring line against the Caps of 5-1-6, even, in five games into Monday’s contest.

Washington: Anthony Mantha

At, Anthony Mantha is described as “a natural goal scoring talent with great size and instincts for putting the biscuit in the basket.  For a big winger, he skates very well, too.  Displays great hand/eye coordination.”  However, in seven seasons before this one, the “natural goal scoring talent” has not fulfilled its potential.  Twice in that span he topped 20 goals with a high of 25 with the Detroit Red Wings in 2018-2019.  In three seasons after that, he totaled 40 goals in 136 games, including nine in 37 games last season in which he lost 45 games to a shoulder injury that required surgery.  At age 28, he should be in his chronological prime, but the clock is ticking. 

The encouraging thing about his history is that he has been a reasonably fast starter.  Over his career he has 40 goals in 97 games in October and November (0.41 goals per game).  On the other hand, he has only 70 goals in 259 games (0.27 goals per game) over his career after November.  He is off to a quick start with two goals in three games, but it remains to be seen if he can sustain a pace that would lift him out of the teens in goal scoring and to a level approaching the 25-30 goal range.  With the Capitals missing the services of Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson to start the season, it is important for the Capitals’ playoff chances that Mantha realize more of his potential as a scorer.  In eight career games against Vancouver, Mantha is 2-2-4, minus-1.

In the end…

The Caps ended their first week of the season on a positive note and have a chance to turn home-ice advantage into a bit of momentum with the Canucks coming to town.  The Caps had difficulty turning home ice into an advantage last season, but this is a new year, and it is time for the Caps to be inhospitable hosts and grab some of that momentum.

Capitals 5 – Canucks 3


Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 1

The Washington Capitals stumbled out of the gate in Week 1, dropping their first two decisions.  But they rallied to beat the Montreal Canadiens in the final game of the week to end the season’s first week on a positive note.

Record (1-2-0)

Week 1 was the Caps’ worst three-game start since 2013-2014, when they also went 1-2-0.  The last time they had a worse start was in 2013-2014, when they went 0-3-0 under head coach Adam Oates.  When the Caps lost to the Boston Bruins in the season opener, 5-2, it was the first time that the Caps lost on Opening Night since dropping a 3-2 Gimmick decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins to open the 2016-2017 season and the first time they lost a season opener in regulation since losing in Chicago to the Blackhawks, 6-4, to open the 2013-2014 season.  It was the first time they lost a home opener since dropping a 3-2 overtime decision to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2019 and the first time they lost a home opener in regulation since they lost to the Winnipeg Jets, 4-2, in 2013.

Offense: 2.33/game (season: 2.33 / T-25th)

It was a rough start for the Caps, who were consistent, if not prolific.  Five Caps shared in the seven goals scored for the week, Conor Sheary and Anthony Mantha each with a pair to lead the team.  Alex Ovechkin drew a blank in three games, although he did have one goal washed out after a video review and barely missed another when a shot he took late in the game against Montreal toward an empty net hit the post and ricocheted out.  T.J. Oshie led the team with three points on a goal – the only power play goal scored by the Caps in Week 1 – and a pair of assists.  Six other Caps had two-point weeks, perhaps most surprising being a pair of points each from defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk.  Twelve Caps in all shared in the points in Week 1.

Defense: 3.00/game (season: 1.50/T-16th)

The Caps put themselves in a hole early in each of the three games of the week, allowing the game’s first goal in each contest. The Caps finished the week as one of seven teams in the league failing to score first in any game and only one of two teams to do so having played in three games (Chicago was the other one).  Fourteen of the 18 skaters to dress for the Caps in Week 1 were on ice for at least one even strength goal against.  Dmitry Orlov and John Carlson had the most difficult time, on ice for four even strength goals apiece for the week.  Team-wide, the Caps allowed 125 shot attempts at 5-on-5, eighth-most in the league for the week.

Goaltending: 2.75 / .911 (season: 2.75 / .911)

Overall, it was not a bad week for the Darcy Kuemper/Charlie Lindgren tandem in goal for the Caps.  While Kuemper was charged with four goals allowed in the opener against Boston, it seemed to be more a case of poor coverage and inconsistent communication on the part of the defense in front of him than any flaws in Kuemper’s netminding.  Lindgren was given the task of facing one of the most potent offenses in the league in their home opener and still allowed just three goals on 39 shots in his first game with the Caps.  He stopped 20 of 21 first period shots in that game to allow the Caps to take a 2-1 lead to the first intermission.  Kuemper came back to play a solid, consistent game in his return to the ice to end the week, stopping 21 of 22 shots in the Caps’ 3-1 win over Montreal for their first win of the season.

Power Play: 1-for-11 / 9.1 percent (season: 9.1 percent / 24th)

The Caps’ power play was disappointing last season, and the ineffectiveness continued into the first two games of the season, the Caps going 0-for-9 against Boston and Toronto.  The week ended on a bit of a positive note with the Caps inserting Dylan Strome on the right-wing wall in the “Nicklas Backstrom” spot and moving Evgeny Kuznetsov out of that spot and onto the second power play unit.  The Caps were 1-for-2 against the Canadiens, the goal courtesy of T.J. Oshie with assists from Strome and Alex Ovechkin.

Penalty Killing 7-for-9 / 77.8 percent (season: 77.8 percent / 19th)

A 77.8 percent penalty kill does not sound impressive, but it is a small population of shorthanded situations to be considered.  Another was to think about it is that the Caps allowed a power play goal on the first power play they faced this season but went 7-for-8 killing penalties thereafter.  Then again, the Caps also allowed a power play goal on the first power play they faced in their second game, John Tavares doing the honors for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  If anything, the Caps were consistent in the volume of power plays they faced, going shorthanded three times in each of the three games for the week.

Faceoffs: 71-for-172 / 41.3 percent (41.3 percent / 29th)

Here we go again.  There just is not a good spin one can put on the week in the circle.  The Caps stunk on toast.  They were one win over 50 percent in the offensive end for the week (31-for-60), but they were a ghastly 35.0 percent in the defensive end of the ice (21-for-60).  Of the five Caps taking at least ten draws for the week, only T.J. Oshie was over 50 percent (60.0/6-for-10).  On the other hand, he took only one defensive faceoff, so he avoided being a party to that disaster for the most part.  Neither Evgeny Kuznetsov (not surprising) nor Lars Eller (somewhat surprising) mustered a faceoff winning percentage of 40 percent for the week, Kuznetsov going an almost inconceivable 0-for-13 in the neutral zone and Eller going 2-for-13 in the defensive end.

Goals by Period

If anything, the Caps were consistent in one respect in Week 1.  They allowed three goals in each of the three periods overall for nine goals allowed in total for the week.  The unfortunate number, though, was “zero,” as in no third period goals scored.  They were one of four teams that failed to record a third period goal for the week.


When a 2-0-1 start in one year is followed up with a 1-2-0 start the following year, it is not surprising that this year’s three-game start trails last year’s three-game start in just about every statistical category worth considering.  Wins, points, goals for, goals against, shots for, shots allowed, power play chances, power play goals, power play effiency, penalty killing efficiency, faceoff winning percentage, shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5, take your pick.  This year’s start pales compared to last year’s start.

In the end…

Three games, one week.  No, it was not pretty.  But this was not an entirely unexpected start, either, what with the Caps integrating new parts (especially among the forwards) and missing some important pieces.  The trick now is to, in the words of management expert W. Edwards Deming, “improve constantly.”  The Caps will get a chance to do just that with another three-game week in Week 2.

Three Stars

  1. T.J. Oshie (1-2-3, plus-1, 7 shots on goal, 14 shot attempts, 1 power play goal, 6 credited hits, 2 takeaways, plus-1 goal differential on ice at even strength)
  2. Anthony Mantha (2-0-2, even, eight shots on goal, 12 shot attempts, 1 game-winning goal)
  3. Trevor van Riemsdyk (0-2-2, plus-3, plus-3 goal differential on ice at even strength, no goals against on ice at even strength)