Snapshots of the Week Ahead: Week 3

Snapshots of the Week Ahead: Week 3

Washington Capitals v Dallas Stars

The Caps head to the road for their first extended trip of the season, looking to get their first win away from home and build some road momentum

Fresh off a 2-1-0 Week 2, the Washington Capitals head into Week 3 embarking on their first extended road trip of the season, a four-game trip that will see three of the contests take place in the coming week. All three opponents have had unexpected starts to the season and present their own challenges to the 3-3-0 Caps.

The Opponents

New Jersey Devils (Monday/7:00 pm at Prudential Center)

The New Jersey Devils head into Week 3 with momentum, winners of three straight after opening the season with a pair of losses. But before we start talking playoffs for the Devils, it bears noting that the three wins were not achieved against the stiffest of competition. In fact, the Devils have had a relatively easy schedule to date in terms of strength of competition. They dropped a pair of 5-2 decisions to start the season, the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings getting the wins, before they beat the Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders, and San Jose Sharks. You could say that the Flyers (4-2-0) and Red Wings (3-0-2) have been early-season surprises, but none of the five teams they played to date would have been considered top-ten teams in preseason rankings.

What the Devils have done is dominate shots on goal. Their 39.2 shots on goal per game rank second in the league (Pittsburgh: 39.8), but it is the 21.2 shots on goal allowed per game that is truly dominating, 4.6 fewer shots per game than the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have the second-fewest shots allowed per game (25.8).

New Jersey also has kept their net reasonably clean when shorthanded, their 93.3 percent penalty kill (14-for-15) ranking fifth in the league, and they have not allowed a power play goal since giving one up to the Flyers in the season opening 5-2 loss.

One thing to watch for in this game is whether the Devils can score first and hold a lead. They scored first in four of their first five games, but they are just 2-2-0 when doing so. Part of their problem is an inability to follow up good first periods on defense with equally effective second periods. New Jersey allowed only three first period goals in their first five games (only five teams have allowed fewer), but they allowed seven second period goals in those five games. The problem is mitigated by a strong second period offense that has seven goals of its own in five games after having allowed only two first period goals in those games.

Five games is a small population of games, but it would seem likely that the winner of this game will not do so by one goal, if the Devils’ record is an indication. New Jersey has four multi-goal decisions in five games, splitting them with two wins and two losses.

This will be the 230th all-time regular season meeting of these clubs. Washington is 123-77-16 (13 ties) in the all-time series with the Devils, 52-47-7 (seven ties) on the road.

Dallas Stars (Thursday/8:30 pm (Eastern) at American Airlines Center)

Count the Dallas Stars as another early season surprise. Not that they are a bad team, they did win 46 games last season before bowing out in the first round of the postseason against the Calgary Flames. But they are off to a 4-0-1 start and have done it in impressive style. The Stars are averaging 4.00 goals per game going into the new week (tied for fifth in scoring offense) while allowing only 1.60 goals per game (best scoring defense). They scored four or more goals in four of their five games to date, coming up short only once, a 3-2 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Thursday.

Dallas has done it, in large part, with effective special teams. Their power play is humming at 35.3 percent, third-best in the league, while their 92.3 percent penalty kill ranks sixth. Dallas would like to get more chances to unleash their power play, the 3.40 chances per game they have tied for 20th in the league. And, they would certainly like to pare back the shorthanded situations they face, the 5.20 shorthanded situations per game being the most in the league.

Dallas has had an ability to close teams down consistently, allowing only two first period goals, three in the second periods of games, and only two in the third periods of their five games to date.

The Stars have done a lot of things right to start the season, and starts to games is a part of that. They scored the first goal in four of five games so far, carrying a 3-0-1 record in such games into the new week. And, they sustain that advantage. Dallas took leads into the third period four times in five games through Saturday, winning all of them. They have yet to trail at the second intermission this season, one of three teams not to do so (St. Louis and Pittsburgh are the others).

If there is an odd negative statistic the Stars carry into the new week, it is their shot differential. They are averaging only 27.6 shots per game, 27th in the league, while they are allowing 32.8 shots per game, tied for 21st-fewest. The minus-5.2 shot differential is fifth-worst in the league.

This will be the 104th meeting of the Caps and Stars all-time. The Capitals are 34-49-4 (16 ties) against Dallas (including their incarnation as the Minnesota North Stars), 17-26-1 (eight ties) on the road.

Nashville Predators (Saturday/8:00 pm (Eastern) Bridgestone Arena)

Washington closes the week with a visit to Music City, which has not been the source of joyous song over the years. Nashville has the best winning percentage (not including Vegas or Seattle) against the Caps on home ice than any other team in the league (.676/10-4-2, one tie).

The Predators might be thrilled to see the Caps coming to town. After winning both ends of a home-and-home set against the San Jose Sharks to open the season, the Predators were stomped by the Stars in another home-and-home set, outscored by a 9-2 margin over two games, and followed that up with three more losses, one in a shootout to the Los Angeles Kings, to carry a five-game losing streak into the new week (0-4-1) over which they were outscored, 20-10 (not including shootout goals).

That 31st-overall scoring offense 2.29 goals per game does stick out for the Predators, but so does that 3.29 goals allowed per game, tied for 21st in scoring defense. It is not hard to see how the Predators offense has struggled. Their 5-on-5 scoring has not been bad, the 12 goals they have in seven games tied for 13th in the league (although their 5-on-5 goals per game leave something to be desired). Their power play, though, has been non-existent. Despite enjoying the eighth-highest number of power play chances per game (4.14) so far, they have two goals in 29 chances (6.9 percent, 30th in the league), and they have allowed a shorthanded goal, leaving their plus-1 goal differential with the power play tied for 28th in the league. Only San Jose (even) and Columbus (minus-1) have worse differentials, and their 3.5 percent net power play (factoring in power play goals scored and shorthanded goals allowed) ranks 30th in the league.

It is tough for teams in the NHL to recover from allowing first goals, so it is not surprising that Nashville is 1-3-0 when allowing the first goal, but they are also 1-1-1 when scoring first. Only two teams that have taken first goal leads have a worse winning percentage than the Predators (.333). Couple that with Nashville having taken only two leads into the third periods of seven games so far, splitting those two games, and it is a recipe for frustration.

The Caps are 15-15-2 (one tie) in 33 games all-time against the Predators, 6-9-1 (one tie) on the road (four of the six wins were by multi-goal margins). The Caps won their last visit to Nashville, 4-1 last February, after dropping four straight decisions there.

Hot Caps:

  • Marcus Johansson. The veteran in his second tour with the Caps is off to a hot start – two goals (one of them a game-winner), three assists, five points (tied for the team lead), 13 shots on goal (tied for third most on the team).
  • T.J. Oshie. In addition to Johansson, Oshie is the only other Capitals with more than one point in the two road games played so far (1-1-2).
  • Conor Sheary. Sheary is tied for the team lead in goals (three, one a game-winner), has an assist, and is shooting 27.3 percent (3-for-11).

Cold Caps:

  • John Carlson. Carlson is the only one of six defensemen to dress for the Caps so far for whom the on-ice save percentage at 5-on-5 is under .900 (.886). Small wonder. He has been on ice for nine even strength goals against, three more than the next defenseman (Dmitry Orlov). Only three defensemen in the league have been on ice for more even strength goals, but Caps fans can take a little solace in that two of them are generally highly thought of (Zach Werenski and Roman Josi (ten apiece). He also has been charged with eight giveaways, most among any Capitals skater and twice as many as any Caps defenseman (Erik Gustafsson and Nick Jensen with four apiece).
  • Connor McMichael. Twenty skaters have dressed for the Caps so far. McMichael is the only one without a shot on goal. Yes, that’s for one game played, but that’s an indicator of a cold player (or one being kept on ice).
  • Nic Dowd. All of a sudden, Dowd cannot win faceoffs. His 38.3 winning percentage (31-for-81) is the worst of his career to date, and he ranks 98th of 104 players taking at least 50 draws so far.

Weird Facts:

  • The Caps go into Week 3 with impressive scoring balance. Five players are tied for the team lead with five points. Evgeny Kuznetsov is 0-5-5), but the odd part might be that the other four – Marcus Johansson, John Carlson, T.J. Oshie, and Alex Ovechkin are all 2-3-5.
  • Six games, seven times the Caps have hit iron. Three Caps have hit a post and a crossbar so far – Ovechkin, Oshie, and Orlov. In Orlov’s case, that is half of his missed shot total (four).
  • Nine of 20 skaters for the Caps thus far have minus ratings, Alex Ovechkin being lowest with a minus-6.

Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):

John Carlson

  • 600 career points (he currently has 598)
  • 300 career penalty minutes (292)

Lars Eller

  • 200 career assists (196)
  • 200 points as a Capital (196)

T.J. Oshie

  • 100 even strength goals as a Capital (99)

Alex Ovechkin

  • 122 career game-winning goals (121, would break tie for second place all-time with Gordie Howe)
  • 29 career hat tricks (28, would break three-way tie with Marcel Dionne and Bobby Hull for sixth place all-time)
  • 400 career multi-point games (398)
  • 399 career multi-point games (398, would tie Mark Recchi for 15th place all-time)
  • 786 goals with one franchise (782, would tie Gordie Howe for most all time)

Conor Sheary

  • 100 career penalty minutes (96)

Trevor van Riemsdyk

  • 100 career games as a Capital (98)


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