Wednesday, November 02, 2022

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 12: Capitals at Red Wings, November 3

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

After a quick stop at home for the Washington Capitals, they head back on the road on Thursday to face the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.  The Caps will be out to end a losing streak at two games, both in extra time, while the Red Wings will likely be in an ornery state of mind having been flattened in Buffalo by the Sabres, 8-3, in their last contest.

The eight goals allowed put a spotlight on a problem the Wings have had this season – keeping pucks out of their own net.  Four times in nine games so far they allowed five or more goals, although they also have three games in which they allowed one or no goals.  What the Wings have not had, and what the unsettled scoring defense indicates, is consistency in goal.  Overall, Ville Husso has been what Red Wings fans hoped he would be when he signed a three-year/$14.25 million contract with the team last July after spending his first two NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues.  In five games to date, Husso is 3-1-1, 2.40, .926, with one shutout.  The word “overall” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that earlier sentence, because while his numbers are good, “overall,” he has been wildly inconsistent game-to-game.  His five games to date, save percentage wise, look like this:

  • October 14 vs. Montreal: 29-for-29 (1.000)
  • October 17 vs. Los Angeles: 31-for-36 (.861)
  • October 23 vs Anaheim: 32-for-33 (.970)
  • October 27 at Boston: 28-for-33 (.848)
  • October 29 vs. Minnesota: 30-for-31 (.968)

Caps fans will hope that sawtooth pattern in save percentage persists for at least one more game, should he get the call.

As for Husso’s backup, Alex Nedeljkovic, his year has progressed from good to fair to bad to ghastly.  Overall (there’s that word again), he is 1-2-1, 4.96, .871.  As if that was not bad enough, though, his game-to-game performances have been as follows:

  • October 15th at New Jersey: 37-for-39 (.949)
  • October 21st at Chicago: 25-for-29 (.862)
  • October 25th vs. New Jersey: 35-for-41 (.854)
  • October 31 at Buffalo: 38-for-46 (.826)

That is a goals allowed progression that he would like to forget – two, four, six, eight, boy-oh-boy, that sure ain’t great.  His performance comes at an inopportune time for him, personally.  He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.  Husso is 2-0-0, 1.50, .938 in two career appearances against the Caps, while Nedeljkovic has never faced the Caps.

It has not been all goaltending, though.  The Red Wings have allowed a lot of shots on goal – 35.2 per game, fifth-most in the league.  And that brings us to defenseman Moritz Seider, last season’s Calder Trophy winner as top rookie and a first team All-Rookie Team member.  Seider arrived with authority to the NHL, going 7-43-50 last season.  His start to this season has been somewhat less impressive – 0-2-2, even, in nine games.  He also was on ice for nine even strength goals in those nine games, second-most on the club, but this might not be all that surprising given his team-leading 21:55 in ice time per game.  That ice time has been an indicator, even if only coincidental, of team success.  Detroit is 3-0-1 when he logged 22 or more minutes of ice time, 1-3-1 when he skated less than 22 minutes.  Shooting also seems to be at least a coincidental indicator of team success.  In four games in which he posted two or more shots on goal, Detroit is 3-0-1, and they are 1-3-1 when he posted one or no shots.  Seider is 0-1-1, minus-1, in three career games against Washington.

David Perron is among the most traveled players in the NHL.  Now in his 16th NHL season, he is in his first season with Detroit – his sixth NHL team – after signing a two-year/$9.5 million contract with the Red Wings last July.  He has been a consistent producer over the course of his career – 20 or more goals six times (15 or more 11 times), 50 or more points six times (40 or more 11 times), at least one power play goal in 15 of 16 seasons (he missed in 2010-2011 when he appeared in only ten games), at least 15 minutes a game in 14 seasons, at least one game-winning goal in 15 seasons (again missing in 2010-2011).  This season, Perron already has five goals (in nine games), two of them game-winners, two of them power play goals.  Odd Perron stat… he has two shots in seven of the nine games he played (six and none his totals in the other two games).  Perron is 2-11-13, plus-2, in 21 career games against the Caps.

1.  Giving up eight goals is unusual, perhaps not so much for the Red Wings.  When they lost the the Sabres, 8-3, on Hallowe’en night, it was the fifth time in calendar year 2022 that they allowed eight or more goals, most in the league over that span.

2.  About those 35.2 shots on goal allowed.  And things have gotten worse lately.  Over their last four games, the Wings have allowed an average of 37.8 shots per game and allowed more than 40 twice.

3.  Detroit has the league’s fourth best penalty kill on home ice (92.4 percent).  Added to their fifth-ranked power play at home (29.4 percent, tied with Seattle), and their special teams index at home of 121.7 ranks second in the league.

4.  The Red Wings are the worst team in the league at home on faceoffs (42.3 percent).

5.  Detroit scored first in four of five home games so far, but they are just 2-1-1 in those games.

1.  The Caps are tied for 23rd (with Chicago) in scoring offense on the road (2.50 goals per game).

2.  And, in the interests of symmetry, the Caps are tied for fourth in the league in scoring defense with, yes, 2.50 goals allowed per game.

3.  Washington has the league’s sixth-best penalty kill on the road (84.0 percent).

4.  Can a faceoff be won by neither team in this game? While Detroit has the league’s worst faceoff winning percentage at home, the Caps have the third-worst faceoff winning percentage on the road (41.4 percent).

5.  Only New Jersey has won more games on the road by three or more goals (three) than the Caps (two).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Detroit: Dylan Larkin

Detroit has been rebuilding with an aim toward regaining the lofty stature it had in the 1990’s and 2000’s for the last half dozen seasons.  And soon, they will have a decision to make as that rebuild continues.  Dylan Larkin has known no other NHL organization but the Red Wings, taken by Detroit with the 15th overall pick in the 2014 Entry Draft, and now in his eighth season with the Red Wings and currently serving as team captain.  But at season’s end, his current five-year/$40.5 million contract will expire.  At age 26, he is entering the prime production years of his career and could be a player with a lot of suitors in unrestricted free agency.  It puts the Red Wings in the position of making a choice – sign him, trade him, or (if the team is challenging for a playoff spot) keep him and risk losing him for nothing.  In his last 80 games, covering 71 games last season and nine games this season, Larkin is 36-44-80 (including 5-6-11 in nine games this season), with eight power play goals, four game-winning goals, three overtime goals, and a shorthanded goal for good measure.  Larkin has been good early in games, 12 of his 36 goals being first goals in games, more than the next three Red Wings over that span (Pius Suter, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Michael Rasmussen combining for 11).  He has been an efficient shooter (15.2 percent over that span) and a minutes-eater (19:44 in ice time per game).  Larkin is 3-6-9, minus-1, in 16 career games against the Caps.

Washington: Garnet Hathaway

When Garnet Hathaway had his leg bent awkwardly underneath him when he got tangle up with a Vegas Golden Knight opponent on Tuesday night, a Caps fan might have been forgiven for thinking, “oh no, not another one.”  With the way forwards have been injured and with long absences expected in many cases, another would not have been surprising.  But Hathaway returned and played his usual feisty sort of game that Caps fans have grown to appreciate.  The Caps are said to have one of, if not the best fourth line in the NHL, and Hathaway has been a big part of that.  Last year, he had a career high in goals (14), tied his career high in assists (12), set a career high in points (26), was a career-best plus-19, posted a career high in shots (124), and averaged a career high 13:23 in ice time per game.

Hathaway’s start this season had been a bit sluggish on offense.  He has one goal and one assist in 11 games and has only six shots on goal with a plus-1 rating.  He had both the goal and the assist in one game, the Caps’ 6-3 win over New Jersey on October 24th.  But he has been on ice for only five even strength goals against; only two Caps appearing in more than five games have been on ice for fewer (T.J. Oshie: three in nine games, and Marcus Johansson: 1 in 11 games).  He is second on the team in hits per 60 minutes (19.62), second among forwards in blocked shots per game (4.56; minimum: five games), and he is averaging 1:41 in shorthanded ice time per game.  And among the 11 forwards appearing more than five games, only Oshie and Aliaksei Protas have been on ice for fewer shot attempts against at 5-on-5.  Numbers in categories that do not often show up in game stories.  In seven career games against Detroit, Hathaway is 1-1-2, plus-2.

In the end…

Losing a game is not a problem, losing streaks are.  And while the Caps earned points in each of their last two games, which ended in losses, they would like to keep “two” from becoming “three.”  Perhaps the day off after the overtime loss to Vegas recharged the batteries.  Given that the Red Wings might be in a foul mood to dim the memory of the 8-3 loss to Buffalo, a fully-charged battery might be necessary for the Caps to pull out a win.

Capitals 5 – Red Wings 2