Tuesday, December 06, 2022

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 28: Capitals at Flyers, December 7

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up their longest road trip of the season when they visit the City of Brotherly Love to face the Flyers in a rare Metropolitan Division contest for the Caps.  The Caps, whose injury list seems to grow by the day, gutted out a 3-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night after number one goalie Darcy Kuemper and defensemen Martin Fehervary were added to the roster of the injured, while the Flyers are coming off a 5-3 win over the injury-plagued Colorado Avalanche.

Even with the win over the Avalanche, only five teams in the league have fewer wins than the Flyers (nine).  After starting the season with three straight wins, the Flyers are 6-12-5 since October 19th.  Their problems start with an inability to score.  Even after putting up five goals against Colorado, the Flyers have the worst scoring offense in the league over their 6-12-5 slump (2.30 goals per game). 

Eighteen of the 24 skaters to appear over the 23-game stretch since October 19th have goals, suggesting a certain balance, but only four of them have more than three goals over that stretch.  Kevin Hayes leads the club over that stretch with eight goals.  The news, though, is the games played.  Hayes has appeared in all 26 games for the Flyers to date after dressing for only 48 games last year, missing 34 games over three different stretches with abdominal and adductor injuries.  Perhaps this is the season that Hayes lives up to the seven-year/$50.0 million contract he signed with the Flyers in June 2019 after Philadelphia obtained him in trade from the Winnipeg Jets for a fifth-round draft pick earlier that month. 

Hayes’ contract might have been thought odd at the time, locking up a player for dollars and term who never posted more than 25 goals in a season and recorded more than 50 points once in five seasons preceding the trade.  In three seasons with the Flyers to date he has not been a dominant performer in the offensive end of the ice, going 45-58-103, minus-28, in 172 games coming into this season.  However, he is currently averaging more than a point per game (8-19-27, minus-09, in 26 games), suggesting it is better late than never to realize a level of production that reflects his contract.  Hayes has not had consecutive games without a point over his last 16 games (7-10-17, minus-10.  In 34 career games against Washington, Hayes is 7-13-20, minus-5.

Travis Konecny has appeared in only 17 of the 23 games of the Flyers’ slump, but he leads the team in points per game over that span (7-11-18).  Even though he is averaging more than a point per game over that stretch, he drags a minus-11 rating over those 23 games into Wednesday night’s contest.  He has been on ice for 23 even strength goals against in that span, fourth-most on the team, but first in goals against on-ice per game (1.35).  In 20 games played overall this season, there have been only three in which Konecny was not on ice for an even strength goal against, and only once in 15 games since October 22nd, that being in his last game, the win over Colorado.  Five times in 20 games he was on ice for more than one even strength goal against, including five goals he saw up close and personal in a 5-2 loss to Columbus on November 10th. 

Whether he is a cause or a symptom, Flyers fans have had to take the bad with the good with Konecny this season.  Except the good has not been all that good.  Unsurprisingly, given the Flyers’ struggles this season, the team is just 4-4-1 in the nine games in which he has goals and 6-7-2 in the 15 games in which he has points.  And when heavily engaged in the offense, it gets worse, the Flyers posting an 0-2-2 record in four games in which he had five or more shots on goal.  What Konecny has been is effective on home ice, going 8-6-14, minus-3 (and a 24.2 shooting percentage) in 11 games on home ice while going 2-6-8, minus-6 (a 6.9 shooting percentage) in nine games on the road.  He is 6-4-10, minus-5, in 27 career games against the Caps.

Carter Hart has gone from promising goaltending prospect to goalie-of-the-future to disappointment to…well, who knows what in his five seasons in the NHL.  As a rookie in 2018-2019, he was 16-13-1, 2.83, .917, and finished ninth in Calder Trophy voting for top rookie.  He followed that up with a 24-13-3, 2.42, .914 season with one shutout in his sophomore season.  It appeared that Hart would finally be that goaltender the Flyers have been searching for since the days of Ron Hextall, who retired from the Flyers after the 1998-1999 season.  A 9-11-5, 3.67, .877 season (one shutout) in 2020-2021 put those goalie-of-the-future thoughts on pause, especially when his season was cut short late with a knee injury.  Last season, his performance could not save the Flyers from a dismal season.  He did improve to 13-24-7, 3.16, .905, with one shutout, his 3.16 goals against average ranking 37th among 48 goalies with at least 1,500 minutes and his .905 save percentage ranking 32nd in that group. 

This season he has been one of the few bright spots for the Flyers (well, brighter), going 8-7-4, 2.83, .911.  He ranks 22nd in goals against average among 50 goalies with at least 500 minutes played, and his .911 save percentage ranks 20th in that group.  What seems to get lost in the noise of “is Hart the man” is the fact that he is still just 24 years old and has fewer than 200 appearances in the NHL to date.  Still, he is closing in on the top-ten in wins in franchise history, his 70 wins to date trailing Brian Boucher in tenth place (73).  There is room for improvement, though.  His 2.95 career goals against average with the Flyers ranks 22nd among 38 goalies to have logged at least 1,000 minutes with the club, although his .906 save percentage ranks 12th in that group.  He has struggled over the past four weeks.  Since November 10th, Hart is 2-7-2, 3.50, .877, and only once in that span allowing fewer than three goals (a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders on November 29th).  Hart is 3-4-1, 2.91, .905, in eight career games against Washington.

1.  The Flyers rank 31st in the league in scoring offense on home ice (2.57 goals per game); only Arizona averages fewer (2.25).

2. Philadelphia’s home power play has not been powerful on home ice; it ranks 30th in the league (16.3 percent), and it does not get many chances (3.07 power plays per game/24th in the league).

3.  In their last eight games on home ice, the Flyers scored a 5-on-5 goal once on six occasions.

4.  On the other side, four times in their last six home games they allowed three or more goals at 5-on-5.

5.  No team has lost more games by three or more goals on home ice than the Flyers this season (six, tied with Columbus),

1.  This will be only the sixth time in 28 games that the Caps face a Metropolitan Division opponent. They are 2-2-1 overall and 1-1-1 on the road.  Each of the three games that did not go to extra time were decided by three or more goals – a 6-3 win over New Jersey, a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh, and a 5-1 loss to New Jersey in a rematch.  They lost in a Gimmick to Carolina, 3-2, and beat the Flyers in overtime, 3-2, in their first meeting of the season.

2.  The Caps have just one win this season on the road by one goal; only Columbus, Dallas, and Pittsburgh have fewer (none).  That win came on Monday night, 3-2 over Edmonton.

3.  Washington has three wins by three or more goals on the road this season; only three teams have more – Dallas (six), New Jersey (five), and Pittsburgh (four).

4.  The Caps have 3.73 power play chances per game on the road, fifth-most in the league, but their 16.1 percent power play on the road ranks 26th.

5.  Washington’s minus-8 goal differential in third periods of road games is tied for fourth-worst in the league (with Philadelphia; only Columbus (minus-9), St. Louis (minus-10), and Anaheim (minus-13) are worse.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Philadelphia: Tony DeAngelo

For a 27-year old in his seventh NHL season, defenseman Tony DeAngelo has had an eventful career.  Taken with the 19th overall pick in the 2014 Entry Draft, the fifth defenseman taken in that draft, by the Tampa Bay Lightning, DeAngelo never suited up for the Bolts.  In June 2016 he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for a second round pick in the 2016 draft.  Six months later, on New Year Day 2017, he was suspended for three games for physical abuse of an official in a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames the day before.  Six months after that incident, he was traded to the New York Rangers with a first round pick in the 2017 draft for goalie Antti Raanta and forward Derek Stepan.  He displayed a scoring knack with the Rangers, going 19-73-92, minus-6, in 167 games with the Rangers, but once more his lesser angels did him in.  On Opening Night in 2020-2021 he took what his head coach, David Quinn, called an “undisciplined” penalty and sat for the next two games.  Things settled down, but after a 5-4 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in late January, he was reportedly involved in an altercation with Ranger goalie Alexandar Georgiev.  That was enough for the Rangers, who waived him, the team pronouncing that "he has played his last game for the Rangers."

DeAngelo cleared waivers, but the team was true to its word, and he did not play for the Rangers for the remainder of the 2020-2021 season.  In July 2021 he was signed as a free agent by the Carolina Hurricanes, and he had a productive 2021-2022 season, going 10-41-51, plus-30, in 64 games.  But it was not enough to keep the Hurricanes from trading DeAngelo with a seventh round draft pick in 2022 to Philadelphia for a fourth round draft pick in 2022, a third round draft pick in 2023, and a second round draft pick in 2024.  While he has not been as productive with the Flyer as he was with Carolina, he does lead the Flyer defensemen in goals (four) and points (13) in 25 games.  He also leads the blueliners in ice time (24:25 per game), shots on goal (57), power play goals (two), and power play points (seven). If there is an unexpected stat, given his colorful history, it is that he ranks last among seven defensemen in hits per 60 minutes (1.37).  DeAngelo goes into this game on a three-game points streak (1-2-3).  He is 1-5-6, minus-7, in nine career games against the Capitals.

Washington: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Maybe it’s the cheesesteaks, or perhaps the soft pretzels.  Whatever it is, Philadelphia has been a destination that has been kind to Evgeny Kuznetsov in his career.  Despite playing in only 17 games in Philadelphia, tied for 27th in Caps history, Kuznetsov is tied for 18th in all time goals on the road against the Flyers (four), tied for sixth in assists (11), and tied for 11th in points (15).  His six career power play points in Philadelphia is tied for 11th.  Not since his first two career games in Philadelphia has Kuznetsov gone consecutive games without a point.

It would be nice if he could find some of that scoring magic.  In 26 games to date, Kuznetsov has only three goals on 64 shots, a 4.7 shooting percentage than is, by far, the lowest of his career (11 goals on 127 shots/8.7 percent in 2014-2015).  He has yet to record a goal on the road this season in 14 games, part of a very divided home/road split this season – 3-9-12, plus-3, in 12 home games and 0-6-6, minus-9, in 14 road games.  One reason for the lack of goal scoring is that his shots on goal in road games has dried up.  After posting 30 shots on goal in his first nine games on the road, he has only seven in his last five road contests.  But here is the bizarre part of his road scoring to date.  Kuznetsov has single assists in six road games, and the Caps are 1-3-2 in those games, the only win coming Monday night in the 3-2 victory over Edmonton.  Ice time has not been kind to him on the road, either.  In six games in which Kuznetsov skated more than 19 minutes, the Caps are 1-4-1, the lone win once again was the 3-2 win over Edmonton on Monday night.  And another odd Kuznetsov fact.  It is no secret that faceoffs are a part of the game with which he has challenges.  But in 12 games in which he was 50 percent or better on draws overall, the Caps are 5-5-2.  In the 14 games in which he was under 50 percent, Washington is 6-6-2.  Kuznetsov is 5-19-24, minus-3, in 33 career games against the Flyers.

In the end…

The Flyers have been disappointing this season, and what is worse, they are missing some important pieces – Cam Atkinson (upper body), Sean Couturier (back), and James van Riemsdyk (finger) are injured.  It is not “Capitals” level of injury absences, but on a team that is not particularly deep in talent, they are keenly felt.  The question for the Caps is whether they have it in them to go for the jugular, jump on the Flyers early, and take their fans out of the game before the cheesesteaks get cold.  We think they will answer that question in the affirmative.

Capitals 5 – Flyers 2