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Caps Preview: Week 14

The Caps rang in 2015 with a Winter Classic victory over the Blackhawks before going on to defeat the Panthers at the Verizon Center. With three games this week, they’ll need to remain sharp if they want to earn points. This time last year, a number of losses derailed their season and prohibited them from another playoff appearance.

This week’s slate of opponents includes the Leafs, Flyers, and Red Wings. The first two games are on the road and back-to-back. The Caps’ 52.2% FenClose is ninth in the NHL, while the Wings’ 52.9% comes in at sixth. Meanwhile, the Flyers and Leafs are in possession hell (46.3% and 45.9% FenClose, respectively.)

mojo

Wednesday 1/7 at TOR

Score-adjusted Corsi: 44.9% (28th)
Power Play: 20.1% (13th)
Penalty Kill: 82.2% (12th)
PDO: 101.5 (3rd)

Despite being a poor team with even worse coaching and management, the Leafs are fourth in the Atlantic with 45 points (21-16-3). Much of this can be attributed to their insanely high PDO, which will rebound soon enough. It’s worth noting that the Leafs’ 5v5 save percentage is .921, good for 18th in the League. However, you can’t pin their woes on Bernier and Reimer: the Leafs’ SA60 (shots allowed per 60 minutes) is 33.1, second only to the Sabres.

The Caps and Leafs met earlier this season–November 29, to be exact. The game ended in a 6-2 loss for the Caps, who outshot the Leafs 37-23. However, the Caps were playing the second half of a back-to-back, and their defensive miscues proved costly. This time around, both teams will have several days of rest, and the Leafs will look at snap a two-game losing streak (3-1 and 5-1 losses to the Wild and Jets, respectively.)

Thursday 1/8 at PHI

Score-adjusted Corsi: 46.9%  (25th)
Power Play: 21.9% (6th)
Penalty Kill: 74.2% (30th)
PDO: 100.0 (20th)

The 2014-15 season is halfway complete, and the Caps haven’t yet faced the Flyers. Thursday, this will be rectified: the Caps visit Wells Fargo Center for the teams’ first meeting of the season. As mentioned above, this game is the Caps’ second in as many days. Averaging 9.4 penalty minutes per game, the Flyers are one of the NHL’s more-penalized teams. Given the bad blood between the two teams, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a few gloves dropped. The Caps should strive to play a disciplined game, despite their playing two games in a row–at sixth overall, the Flyers’ power play is quite potent.

The same can’t be said of their penalty kill, which is a League-worst 74.2%. As a result, drawing penalties is critical for the Caps. While their power play has struggled as of late–if dropping to third overall can be called struggling–playing against the League’s worst PK is a good opportunity to revitalize it and establish the largest lead possible.

The Flyers are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, during which they’ve been outscored by a terrifying margin of 19-9. They have two elite offensive talents in Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux, whose goal totals (15 and 13 respectively) account for 26.4% of the Flyers’ 106 goals tallied, thus far. Before facing the Caps, they’ll look to turn things around against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night.

Saturday 1/10 at DET

Score-adjusted Corsi: 54% (4th)
Power Play: 23.1% (4th)
Penalty Kill: 86.9% (4th)
PDO: 98.3 (27th)

Four seems to be a common number among the Red Wings’ rankings in certain areas of their play. Their score-adjusted Corsi, power play, and penalty kill are all fourth-best in the NHL, while their PDO is fourth-worst. The Red Wings haven’t been a victim of bad goaltending, either.

Jimmy Howard has posted a .921 SV% and 2.08 GAA, while Petr Mrazek (.917 SV%, 2.35 GAA) and Jonas Gustavsson (.908 SV% and 2.30 GAA) have been serviceable backups. The Red Wings’ low PDO lies in their ridiculously shooting percentage (6.40%, second-worst in the NHL.)

If these numbers tell us anything, it’s that this game will be the Caps’ most difficult–by far. The Red Wings’ usual offensive talents will be in full force, from points leaders Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to Johan Franzen and Darren Helm. Stats don’t lie, and the Red Wings prove this: they’re poised to continue their epic playoff appearance streak with 49 points and a 20-10-9 record, good for third in the Atlantic. (Note: at the time of writing, the Caps have 47 points.)

All stats courtesy of stats.hockeyanalysis.com.

Caps play-by-play man John Walton: “Thug hockey back” in Philly; Calls Flyers goalie Ray Emery’s actions “a disgrace” and worthy of NHL suspension

From Washington Capitals radio play-by-play man John Walton’s call of the Ray Emery-Braden Holtby incident last night (Listen to it on Walton’s blog through the link below):

“Emery takes him down. Oh my goodness. You’ve gotta be kidding me. Ray Emery sucker punching Holtby. He’s still punching him. The referee hasn’t stopped it yet. Oh what a dirty play by Ray Emery. Taking Braden Holtby down. Thug hockey back in town. You’re losing by a touchdown and you just grab a sweater. If you think that’s gonna get you standings points, think again. The Buffalo Sabres are the only thing saving this team from being the bottom of the Eastern Conference and now they’ve taken it to the alley in the dirtiest way possible. Ray Emery went after Holtby. Holtby did not want it. He absolutely didn’t want to fight him. And Emery sucker punched him six times. It’s the only cheer you’re gonna hear out of this building tonight. That’s a disgrace. Ray Emery, a disgrace what he just did.”

“Suspend that guy. Suspend him right now,” Walton went on to say regarding Emery.

full audio clip of Walton calling the Emery-Holtby goalie altercation is available on his Capitals Voice blog.

And here’s a great shot of Michael Latta being waved off during the fight by referee François St-Laurent:

Knuble’s comments on Caps fans were tame, but let’s put an end to some blanket statements

Knuble Next To Knuuuuble Sign

Knuble Next To Knuuuuble Sign (Photo credit: clydeorama)

Former Washington Capital Mike Knuble didn’t say anything incredibly alarming about DC hockey fans on Philadelphia radio today. According to a transcription from the Washington Post’s constantly-transcribing Dan Steinberg, Knuble was asked what Philadelphia is like as a hockey market and he replied:

“It’s great. You talked about New York and Boston, I mean, it’s just tradition. Being a Flyers fan, being with the Flyers is passed down from generation to generation. Washington, everybody’s a new fan. Nobody’s from there really, they’re kind of just jumping on the bandwagon.  But the cities like Boston, New York, Philly, Detroit, it’s like my grandfather was watching, my grandfather was a fan, he passed it to his son, then he passes it to HIS son. It’s all the way down.

That statement’s not the end of the world. And the four cities Knuble mentions are bigger hockey towns than DC; three of them are Original Six teams that date back to the 1920s and all four have won multiple Stanley Cups. There’s a lot of hockey history there.

But I will say this as a lifelong Caps fan and a native of the DC suburbs: My Maryland-born dad, whose parents were also Maryland-born, passed his love of hockey down to me and took my family to Caps games as a kid; to say we became huge fans feels like an understatement (this is a good excuse for me to link to one of my favorite Steinberg posts ever). I then passed my love for the Caps along to my now-five-year-old, hockey-crazy son, who has a Knuble jersey, a puck and stick he got from Knuble (the guy has always struck me as the epitome of class act) and a Knuble autographed picture in his room. I had to take some time to think about how to break it to him that Knuble was no longer a Cap after last season.

That makes three generations rooting madly for the Caps, a team that’s about the same age as I am, the middle of those three. And the DC area absolutely does have a ton of residents who aren’t from the region originally. But my family is far from the only one who can share a story of Caps tradition like the above, so let’s put an end to the untrue, blanket statements like ‘nobody’s from DC’ and ‘everybody’s a new fan.’ While I understand why they exist, these broad generalizations have grown tiresome and just keep creating more of the same talk.

Four years ago today: Alex Ovechkin’s first NHL playoff goal and Caps fans

As sportswriter Ted Starkey pointed out on Twitter, it was four years ago today that Alex Ovechkin scored his first NHL playoff goal, “stealing the puck and scoring late in a 5-4 win over the Flyers in Game 1.”

I was at that game and took some video in the crowd as we reacted to that Ovechkin goal. It’s not the steadiest camera work, but the place was total bedlam with much high-fiving, jumping, etc. happening all around Verizon Center.

Here’s one I got after Mike Green scored prior to Ovechkin’s goal to make it 4-4:

The Crosby hit on Schenn before the cross-check

Yesterday, an observant BrooksLaichyear commenter pointed out that, just prior to Brayden Schenn’s cross-check on Sidney Crosby during the Flyers’ 6-4 victory over the Penguins on Sunday, Crosby took a run at Schenn. Check out the 10 second mark of the video below.

It looks like Mike Milbury noticed Crosby’s hit on Schenn too

C’mon, Peter! You know what was up.

Pierre looks concerned.

After yesterday’s Flyers-Penguins game, Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette was upset with Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma for the players he chose to put on the ice with just over a minute to go in the Flyers 6-4 victory.

Laviolette commented: “They hadn’t used those guys in 12 minutes. It was a completely gutless move by their coach.” — Frank Seravalli (@DNFlyers) April 1, 2012 (h/t Puck Daddy)

Seriously, Peter? You should know exactly why the Penguins had “those guys” on the ice looking to start something at that point in the game and it was anything but “gutless.” You had Brayden Schenn on the ice and, just minutes before, he’d pulled this after-the-whistle, cross-check on Sidney Crosby.

I can’t blame the Penguins for wanting to let Schenn and the Flyers know not to push one of their players around. In fact, it’s the type of thing I’d like to see the Washington Capitals do more of. I’m not looking for them to goon-it-up, but I am looking for them to stick up for their teammates when they are the victims of dirty hits like the elbow Rene Bourque gave Nicklas Backstrom earlier this year, putting him out for months with a concussion, or the one by Mark Stuart on Marcus Johansson just a few weeks ago, which my brother blogged about, wondering why the Caps had not responded:

The Caps were rightfully upset with Mark Stuart for his high and late hit on Marcus Johansson in the 1st period.  Unfortunately, we only came to find out after the game that the Caps were upset, since there was absolutely no visible response from the Caps during the game.  Is this team aware that you don’t have to wait for a player to be traded to Montreal in order to respond to a dirty play on a teammate?  The Caps and Jets meet again next Friday and there may be a response then, but why didn’t that happen last night? That’s the kind of hit where I’m okay with a Caps player immediately charging at Stuart and risk giving the Jets a five minute PP.

I’m not a fan of all-out-goonery in hockey, but I was glad to see the Penguins go for a little in-game retribution for what Schenn did to Crosby. Laviolette must not have been watching the same game I was, but I hope the Caps were.

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