Sunday, December 04, 2022

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 27: Capitals at Oilers, December 5

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals close out the Alberta portion of their schedule when they visit Rogers Place in Edmonton to take on the Oilers on Monday night.  The Caps lost the first game of the Alberta tour, a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.  They will face an Edmonton team that is 4-1-0 in their last five games after a difficult ten-game stretch over which they were 3-7-0. 

The Oilers are a team known more for a prolific offense more than they are for a stout defense, but it is one that lacks a certain balance.  The Oilers are the only team in the league with two 40-point players through Saturday’s games.  In fact, they were the only team in the league with any 40-point players through Saturday’s games – Connor McDavid (21-26-47) and Leon Draisaitl (17-25-42).  McDavid, who has had five 100-point seasons in the last six years (and surely would have had the sixth if the 2019-2020 season had not been curtailed due to COVID – he was 34-63-97 in 64 games), is on a pace for a career season.  At his current pace of production, he would finish the regular season 69-85-154.  The goals, assists, and points would be career bests. 

McDavid already has seven three-or-more point games this season, most in the league.  But that is a double-edged sword.  The Oilers won all seven games in which McDavid recorded three or more goals, which is not surprising.  But it does mean that the Oilers are just 7-11-0 when he does not reach the three-point threshold.  And when he does not record a point, which has happened only four times in 25 games on his resume this season, the Oilers are 1-3-0.  Oddly enough, three of the four instances in which he failed to record a point came on home ice.  The Oilers also ask a lot of McDavid in terms of ice time.  In his 25 games to date, he skated more than 25 minutes four times and skated less than 20 minutes only four times. Those are numbers more likely to be logged by a top pair defenseman with special teams responsibilities.  In 11 career games against the Caps, McDavid is 7-9-16, plus-4.

Meanwhile, Leon Draisaitl, who would be a superstar of the first order if not playing for the Oilers, continues piling up points of his own.  He came into this season having posted more than 100 points in three of his last four seasons and likely would have had the fourth had not the 2020-2021 season been shortened by COVID issues (he was 31-53-84 in 56 games).  Draisaitl is among the most efficient goal scorers of this era.  Over his last five seasons, he has 196 goals on 979 shots, a 20.0 shooting percentage, best among all NHL skaters to record more than 50 shots over the period.  He is a bit above that mark so far this season with 17 goals on 84 shots (20.2 percent).

Draisatil also has a knack for scoring game-winning goals.  The volume of goals he scores contributes to that, but it remains that he led the league in game winners in two of the last three seasons coming into this one and currently leads the league in that statistic (six).  The difference between McDavid’s scoring in bunches and Draisaitl is the latter’s consistent production.  Draisaitl has goals in 16 games this season but only one multi-goal game (two in a 5-4 win over Chicago on November 30th, and yes, the second one was the game-winner).  He has been held off the score sheet entirely only three times in 25 games (all of them Oiler losses).  On the other end, he has 11 multi-point games, the Oilers having a 8-3-0 record in those contests.  In 12 career games against the Caps, Draisaitl is 6-5-11, plus-8.

The Oilers get balanced production from their defensemen – four of the eight to dress this season have goals, and six have points – but they do not have a dominant producer from the blue line.  It has been since 2008-2009 that the Oilers had a defenseman with 50 or more points, but Tyson Barrie came into this season with two consecutive 40-plus point seasons.  He currently leads the Oiler defense with 15 points, and he is tied for the team lead among defensemen in goals with four.  Barrie’s next goal will be his 100th in a 12-year NHL career over which he played for three teams, Colorado and Toronto being his stops before arriving in Edmonton in 2020-2021.  Barrie is well-acquainted with the offensive side of the position.  In his nine full seasons in the league coming into this one he topped 40 points six times and recorded more than 50 point three times.  He is on a pace to challenge the 50-point mark through 25 games this season. 

Barrie’s production has been tied to team success this season, the Oilers going 9-3-0 in the dozne games in which he has points and wins in all three games in which scored goals.  He has stubbed his toe lately though, going 10-2-3, minus-1, over his last nine games after going 3-9-12, plus-3, over his first 16 games.  In 13 career games against Washington, Barrie is 1-6-7, minus-4.

1.  Edmonton is 11-1-0 when scoring four or more goals this season, 3-10-0 when posting three or fewer goals.

2.  Things happen when the Oilers are on home ice.  The 7.23 combined goals per game for Edmonton and their opponents at Rogers Place rank third in the league.

3.  The Oilers have only ten first period goals in 13 games on home ice.  But they have 22 second period goals, most in the league on home ice. 

4.  An indicator that the Oilers offense is largely offset by their “defense” – Edmonton has only two wins this season by three or more goals.  Only Anaheim has fewer (none).

5.  Only four times this season have the Oilers taken a lead into the first intermission (3-1-0).  Only Philadelphia has fewer games with a lead after 20 minutes (2-0-0)

1.  The Caps are one of four teams without a win this season when trailing after one period (0-6-2).  Arizona, Florida, and Dallas are the others.

2.  Washington is just 3-2-4 in one-goal decisions overall this season.  They have more wins by three or more goals (five).

3.  The Caps have faced only 2.96 shorthanded situations per game this season, sixth-fewest in the league.

4.  Washington has recorded 353 missed shot attempts this season, third-most in the league.

5.  Outshooting opponents has not mattered for the Caps so far.  They are 5-5-1 in games when they outshot opponents.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Edmonton: Stuart Skinner

It has hardly mattered who was in goal for the Oilers so far this season.  Jack Campbell is 7-6-0 in 13 starts, and Stuart Skinner is 7-5-0 in 12 starts.  But there are differences.  While Campbell’s numbers seem consistent with, or even worse than expected for a goalie with a near-.500 record (4.12 goals against average, .872 save percentage), Skinner has a 2.91 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.  The difference is shots.  Campbell has faced 32.2 shots per 60 minutes, while Skinner has faced 33.8 shots per 60 minutes.  It might not seem like a lot, but it is almost a five percent difference per game.  That Skinner, the fifth goalie taken in the 2017 Entry Draft (third round/78th overall), would have the superior numbers is a bit surprising.  It is more surprising given that he has already equaled his career high in starts (12) and appearances (13).  He has already surpassed the six wins he posted last season, his third in the NHL. 

Skinner has been a more efficient goalie at home so far, posting a 2.68 goals against average and a .919 save percentage in seven appearances in Edmonton while recording a 3.18 goals against average and .908 save percentage in six appearances on the road.  He comes into this game on a personal three game winning streak, but what is odd about it is that he stopped just 76 of 86 shots in those wins, a .884 save percentage.  Skinner has one career appearance against the Caps, stopping 26 of 31 shots in the 5-4 loss to the Caps last November 7th.

Washington: John Carlson

John Carlson is having an interesting year, and not in an altogether good way.  As an offensive defenseman this season, he is tied for second in goals among blueliners (eight, with Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin) and is shooting a career-best 11.4 percent.  That is the good part.  On the other hand, he has only six assists in 20 games after posting 54 in 78 games last season.  He has a minus-11 rating, which at this pace would obliterate his career worst in this category (minus-15 in 2011-2012).  Only eight of 273 defensemen to play this season have worse ratings.  He has been on ice for 28 even strength goals, which would not be terrible but for the fact that he has played in only those 20 games.  He has had at least one even strength goal scored by opponents while on ice in 13 of those 20 games, and the Caps are 4-7-2 in those games.  Only six defensemen have a worse even strength on-ice goal differential than Carlson’s minus-12. And while he has those eight goals, he also has 37 missed shots, third-highest among defensemen in the league.  In 17 career games against Edmonton, Carlson is 1-14-15, plus-3.

In the end…

The Caps are having their mid-season swoon a month early, and that is a bad sign.  Since Halloween, they are 5-8-4, their five wins tied for 26th in the league, their 14 points tied for 24th, and their .412 points percentage ranking 27th in the league.  They haven’t been able to score, their 2.53 goals per game over that span ranking 30th in scoring offense.  If this doesn’t change soon, the Caps will be playing the second half of the season with little to play for other than draft position.  A defensively-challenged team such as Edmonton would be a good place to find their scoring touch.

Capitals 4 – Oilers 3


Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 8

Week 8 was an odd week for the Washington Capitals.  The record will say it was a “break even” week, but there is the odd feeling that it was a disappointment and another nail being hammered into the Caps’ season, which is slowly dissolving into also-ran status.

Record (1-1-1)

The Caps earned three points in as many games in Week 8, but it did not seem even that good overall.  After hammering the Vancouver Canucks, 5-1, on the road to open the week, the Caps looked as if they would make it two in a row for the week when they took a 2-1 lead against the Kraken in Seattle into the final three minutes of regulation.  But the Kraken tied the contest with less than three minutes to go, then they won the game when the Caps fell all over their own skates off the opening faceoff of overtime to allow the game-winning goal seven seconds into the extra period.  That was followed by a disaster of a game against the Calgary Flames, a 5-2 loss in which the Caps lost number one goaltender Darcy Kuemper to an upper-body injury (apparently entering concussion protocol after an elbow to the head) and defenseman Martin Fehervary to another upper-body injury (suspected to be an arm injury).  The lackluster week dropped the Caps to sixth in the Metropolitan Division, six points behind Pittsburgh for fourth place with the Penguins holding a game in hand.

Offense: 3.00/game (season: 2.73 / 27th)

It was a week on offense that reflected the record – neither good nor bad, but very much uneven.  More than half the week’s worth of goals came in the opening contest, the Caps lighting up the Vancouver Canucks for five goals in a 5-1 win.  Only five Caps recorded goals in the three games, but they had balance with four of them recording two apiece – Alex Ovechkin, Martin Fehervary, Conor Sheary, and John Carlson.  Anthony Mantha had the other tally. Ovechkin led the team with four points, 12 Caps recording at least one overall.  The five goals that the Caps scored against the Canucks was the fifth time they recorded five or more goals in a game this season, the second time on the road (6-3 over New Jersey on October 24th).  On the other side, the two goals the Caps recorded against Seattle and Calgary were the 13th and 14th instances of scoring two or fewer goals through 26 games.  No team finished Week 8 with more such instances than the Caps this season (tied with Philadelphia, Anaheim, and the New York Rangers).

Defense: 3.00 / game (season: 3.12 / 15th)

Another not good/not bad week, just a mirror image of the offense.  The Caps allowed only two goals in the first 117:33 of the week, a superb record of defensive effectiveness.  However, in the last 62:34 of the week, they allowed seven goals (one empty-netter), not nearly as good.  It was a brutal week for John Carlson.  Of the seven goals scored at even strength (six at 5-on-5), Carlson was on ice for six of them.  Only one defenseman in the league appearing in three games in Week 8 was on ice for more goals (Seth Jones: seven).  At the other end, Martin Fehervary, who departed early in the final game of the week with an injury, was not on ice for any even strength goals.  Among the forwards, Aliaksei Protas, Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway and Anthony Mantha dressed for all three games and avoided being nicked for an even strength goal against while on ice.

Goaltending: 2.69 / .913 (season: 2.82 / .908 / 2 shutouts)

The performance was not bad, but that is not the takeaway coming out of Week 8.  Darcy Kuemper was elbowed in the head late in the second period of the Caps’ 5-2 loss to Calgary on Saturday night, and although he remained in the game briefly, he took himself out and did not return.  It would be no understatement that the Caps’ season might rest on how soon he returns to the lineup.  With apologies to backup Charlie Lindgren, there just is not enough in his resume to suggest he would be a reliable number one goalie over an extended stretch.  That is not to say he could not, it is just that with only 37 games on his NHL resume, there is not very much evidence one way or another.

As for the performance in Week 8, Kuemper had a very good week until his injury, going 1-0-1, 2.31, .928 in 155 minutes of play.  For his part, Lindgren was 0-1-0, 5.26, .778, in just under 23 minutes of action.  Combined, the Caps goalies were very good over 40 minutes, posting a combined .933 save percentage in the first periods of games (all from Kuemper), a .941 save percentage in the second period of games (both goalies getting minutes), but then dropping to a .889 save percentage in the third periods of games, and Kuemper allowed a goal on the only shot he faced in overtime in the 3-2 loss to Seattle.

Power Play: 2-for-9 / 22.2 percent (season: 20.7 percent / 21st)

It was a decent week for the man advantage, but a strange one.  In how many weeks would one find the Caps scoring multiple power play goals, Alex Ovechkin getting neither of them, and Conor Sheary doing the honors on both?  Those two power play goals for Sheary were his first two man-advantage goals this season and match his total for last year.  The two goals came on Sheary’s only two power ply shots for the week.  Five Capitals recorded power play points for the week.  In addition to Sheary’s two goals, Sonny Milano, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, and Alex Ovechkin added assists.  Six Caps recorded power play shots on goal, Ovechkin with five and T.J. Oshie with four.

Penalty Killing 7-for-8 / 87.5 percent (season: 80.5 percent / 7th)

The Caps had an effective penalty kill in Week 8, their second consecutive week over 85 percent and third in four weeks.  What might have been the best thing to come out of the week was that the Caps allowed only 2.67 power play chances per game and have allowed a total of 17 in their last six games.  The best penalty kill is the one you do not have to use.  If there was a nugget of strangeness on an individual level, it was that the only shorthanded shot on goal was recorded by defenseman Nick Jensen.  Another oddity was that the ice time leader was not a defenseman, but was center Nic Dowd, who skated 6:16 on the penalty kill for the week.

Faceoffs: 88-for-164 / 53.7 percent (season: 48.1 percent / 23rd)

The Capitals continue to improve in this area, but they are demonstrating that faceoff success and its influence on wins and losses is not a strong one.  This week’s overall numbers might have overstated the performance in the circle, though.  Washington did win a majority of draws in the offensive zone (52.6 percent), but they lagged in the defensive end (45.2 percent).  The neutral zone numbers (65.2 percent) pushed the Caps well over the 50 percent mark for the week.

On an individual level, two Caps finished over 60 percent overall for the week – Dylan Strome and Nic Dowd.  But their numbers were influenced by each of them going 7-for-9 in the neutral zone (77.8 percent).  Strome did win almost 70 percent of his offensive zone draws, though (15-22/68.2 percent).  Evgeny Kuznetsov won 57.1 percent of his offensive zone faceoffs.

Goals by Period

Things started well for the Caps in games, which is the best that can be said in this category.  But while they recorded six first period goals for the week, that was two-thirds of the goal total for the week.  The first period goal total was more than half what they had going into the week for the season (11).  They remain tied for 23rd in the league in first period goals scored.  What might be more important is the Caps’ inability to keep teams from scoring in the third periods of games.  They allowed four third period goals in Week 8, double what they allowed in the combined first and second periods for the week.  It left them with 33 third period goals allowed for the week, tied for sixth-most in the league.


Week by week, the Caps fall further and further behind last year’s team in terms of performance in discrete categories. Wins, points, scoring offense and defense, shots for and against, penalty kill, shot attempts-for at even strength, all worse this year than last.  And even those categories in which the Caps’ volumes exceed last year’s are in categories where less is probably better – hits, blocked shots, takeaways, and penalties – either evidence of not having the puck or playing in an undisciplined fashion.

In the end…

Caps fans would be forgiven if they think things are starting to slip away on this season.  There are still more than 50 games to go, but time goes by quickly when a team is chasing a playoff spot and finds itself having to climb over more than one team to get there, which is where the Caps find themselves.  This team just does not score enough, cannot seem to hold leads or sustain efforts over 60 minutes, and now is wondering if their number one goalie is going to be sidelined or perhaps of diminished performance for a spell after an injury.  Things started poorly for the Caps this season with the injuries to critical pieces to start the year, and things are not getting better.  Let’s hope Santa’s elves are working on more wins for the Caps up in the North Pole workshop.

Three Stars

  • First Star: Alex Ovechkin (2-2-4, plus-1, one game-winning goal, 11 shots on goal, 27 shot attempts)
  • Second Star: Conor Sheary (2-1-3, minus-2, 11 shots on goal, 14 shot attempts)
  • Third Star: Martin Fehervary (2-0-2, plus-3, four shots on goal, six hits, five blocked shots)