Friday, October 13, 2017

Wilson's back! Notes and predictions

Tom Wilson will make his long awaited season debut tonight, skating on the third line alongside Brett Connolly and Lars Eller.  He will presumably return to the top penalty killing unit as well, although Devante Smith-Pelly has certainly made his mark.  In what promises to be a pivotal year for Mr. Wilson, fresh off of a suspension and making his season debut in Game 5, will need to finally justify his draft ranking.

Wilson was drafted 16th overall in 2012, just 5 slots behind a certain player who shan't be named, and was expected to bring a heavy game with offensive flair.  He followed up with 58 points in 2013, alongside 17 points in 12 OHL playoff games before making his NHL debut in the playoffs of that year in dramatic fashion.

He immediately made himself into a household name as a physical presence, sparking an ongoing rivalry with Brayden Schenn (then of Philadelphia), and drew the ire of just about everyone in the league for his explosive (yet clean!) bodychecks.  However, the Capitals did not draft a 4th line goon; they drafted a power forward in the same vein as Milan Lucic or Rick Tocchet.  Or so they thought.

Wilson's offensive game has not yet developed.  Although he has become a reliable two-way forward, even singlehandedly having the shift of the playoffs, he leaves us wanting more.  Needing more, actually.  With the departure of Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson, Wilson will be relied upon to add some offense to his game - or he will likely go the way of the dodo.  Fan favorite or not, he has tremendous trade value (Las Vegas anybody?), and the team will eventually run out of patience and cut ties.

With that said, we expect Wilson to get a healthy dose of ice time this season, in all-situations, even turning in a few powerplay shifts.  Starting tonight, of course.

Speaking of tonight, here are the predictions:

1. Marcus Johansson will immediately make us regret trading him

This isn't so much a prediction as an admission.  Evgeny Kuznetsov, TJ Oshie, and Dmitry Orlov all deserved huge pay raises, and no one can fault them for taking their deals.  But we can still be upset that Johansson had to leave as a cap casualty.  We wish Marcus all the best.  Well, at least for 78 games.

2. Braden Holtby will show us why he is the best goaltender in the world

Facing a tough test on the road against an upstart New Jersey Devils squad, Holtby will rise to the occasion.  After yet another hard loss to the Penguins, he should bounce back immediately, like he consistently has throughout his career.  During his dominating three year run, he has only followed up a loss with another loss 16 times.  In 202 starts.  This trend will continue tonight.

3. The special teams will bounce back

Looking for a spark following Wednesday's abortion of a special teams performance, the Capitals will look to get back to what they do best: dominate.  After mustering a paltry 5 shots on 4 powerplays, and allowing 3 powerplay goals, there is plenty of room for improvement.  We should see that tonight.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Washington Capitals fall 3-2 at home to Pittsburgh Penguins

Not surprisingly, the Capitals lost to Pittsburgh, at home, yet again.

Also not surprisingly, Matt Murray played out of his mind, making several dynamite saves, and furthering the story of Sidney Crosby's continual dominance over Alex Ovechkin.

The results:

1. The Capitals will win handily


2. A defenseman will score for the Capitals

Christian Djoos impressed, netting his first career goal in his first career game on his first career shot.  He also added a beautiful assist on an Ovechkin slamdunk.  

3. The Capitals special teams will continue to shine





Some assorted notes:

  • Aside from scoring his first two career points, Djoos impressed in his limited role.  Djoos began with Ness, but quickly found himself paired with John Carlson, who was on the ice for two of the Penguins three powerplay goals.  
  • Carlson led the team with 26:22 of icetime, the third time he has led the team this season.  Excepting the blowout win over Montreal, in which he played a measly 23 minutes, Carlson has played more than 26 minutes nightly.  For an all-situations defender this is to be expected, but one has to wonder how long this can be sustained.  Carlson is ostensibly the Capitals #3 defenseman, but plays on the top powerplay and penalty kill units.  
  • Speaking of #1s, Matt Niskanen should have played more (22:13), but he took two soft penalties, the first of which allowed Kris Letang to score (coincidentally, from a place which would have been otherwise occupied by Niskanen himself).  Again, excepting the blowout, in which the third pair received considerably more icetime than in a competitive game, Niskanen was on the ice less than usual.  For some reason, he only played 6 minutes in the third period of a 1 goal game.  Odd, to say the least.
  • Brooks Orpik continued to exceed expectations, posting an even all-situations CF and 58.62% 5v5 CF.  He also played 21 minutes, slightly lowering his average for the season, yet considerably higher than his career average with the Capitals.  
  • The Capitals were badly outshot (36-22), but that does not pass the sniff-test: Washington attempted 55 shots compared to Pittsburgh's 57.  It's not as if the Pens were profoundly better at blocking shots than the Caps; Pittsburgh blocked 17 compared to the Capitals 16.  They were just better at getting shots toward the net. 
  • The fourth line was particularly buried, totaling 4% CF.  Yowch.
  • Tyler Graovac was arguably the worst of the bunch, seeing 0 shots head towards Murray, while seeing 9 towards Braden Holtby.  This would not be that bad, but Graovac had less than 6 minutes of ice time.  
  • The remainder of that trio, Devante Smith-Pelly and Jay Beagle had rough games too, but they earned most of their shots against on the penalty kill.
  • Alex Ovechkin slammed home an easy goal on a brilliant tic-tac-toe play started by Nicklas Backstrom, the first of his league-leading 8 that were not off the tape of Evgeny Kuznetsov.  
  • Alex Chiasson continues to underwhelm.  He had negative possession numbers again, and with the return of Tom Wilson, should slide out of the lineup.
  • Speaking of Chiasson, we're not sure what's worse: Sidney Crosby putting his shoulder into Holtby, or the lack of a response by the Capitals.  Take a look below and let us know:

  • Should Crosby have been penalized for his headshot, or was it in the normal course of play?  Either way, should someone have retaliated, to show Crosby, the Penguins, and the rest of the league, that the goalie is off-limits?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Djoos is loose: 3 bold predictions

Christian Djoos will make his long-awaited NHL debut tonight against our friends from Pittsburgh.  The move bumps Aaron Ness over the right side, and Taylor Chorney to the press box where he belongs.  Also slotting in tonight is Tyler Graovac, who will exempt Nathan Walker from the lineup.

Tonight's matchup pits the Washington Capitals against their archrival Pittsburgh Penguins in the first game since yet another disappointing finish in DC.  Pittsburgh, having played about a thousand games during their two year run on top of the league, is worn out, and playing back-to-back to start the year, the team showed fatigue.  They followed the 10-1 shellacking by Chicago (hehehehehe) with a 4-0 donut over Nashville.  Now they come to town looking to rub their Cup win in the Capitals faces yet again (oh God why?!).

Here are three bold predictions for tonight's match:

1. The Capitals will win handily

New look or not, this Washington squad hates Pittsburgh.  Alex Ovechkin is sick of being embarrassed and one-upped by Sidney Crosby.  Losing record in the head-to-head aside, Ovechkin is on fire and passion is always good when batting above your weight.

2. A defenseman will score for the Capitals

Last season's defense corps accounted for 29 of the team's 261 goals scored, or 11.1%.  To date in this young season, the blueline has laid an egg.  Tonight this changes; a defenseman will dent the twine for the good guys in red.

3. The Capitals special teams will continue to shine

Before allowing the deciding goal in overtime, the Capitals had killed off 13 consecutive penalties to start the season.  The powerplay is operating at a similar clip, reaching paydirt on one third of its opportunities.  Both trends should continue tonight, with Holtby back in goal to shore up the PK, and an undisciplined Penguins squad certain to make mistakes.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Washington Capitals fall 4-3 in overtime to Tampa Bay Lightning

In what should come as no surprise, the Capitals lost on the road to the Lightning.  Tampa Bay boasts one of the deepest rosters in the game, and it was on full display tonight, with four different goal scorers and eight players in total earning points.  Nikita Kucherov continues to impress for Tampa, and a healthy Steven Stamkos alongside him in downright scary.

The results of tonight's bold predictions:

1. The Capitals will score first, early, and often, but will lose

Yes, yes, kinda, yes.  The Capitals scored twice in the first and at one point held a 3-1 lead, and although they did not put up quite as many as expected, this still counts as a correct parlay.
2. The unsung heroes will lead the offense for the Capitals

Absolutely not.  Not only did the entire offense come off of Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie's stick, the lower lines never had any good scoring chances.

3. We will see our first fight of the season

Close but no cigar.


Why is Aaron Ness still playing?