[Doug Johnson of the PuckBuddys is back! And he has this preview. Yet another preview. Which, for the record, he doesn't need to do, he just chooses to do. He could stop at any time. Really. Just this one more. Go be co-dependent with him here.]
Morning Skate: Well fiddle-dee-dee. No sooner do we air out the Rangers’ stank from Verizon than the hillbillies from Hooterville return, bringing with them an undiscovered country of smell. Yes y’all, the Carolina Hurricanes are blowing back in, bringing with them their corn-pone, possum caps, crystal meth and Alex Semin, in something like that order.
Just what is happening in hockeyville? What is at the root of this existential struggle? I was contemplating this conundrum when a colleague at work asked me about the loud whooshing in the vent above my desk. “Is it blowing or sucking?” he asked.
[Ed. note:Today, the latest member of the PuckBuddys team hits the ice. Jason Rogers currently hangs his hat in Virginia, has studied in Paris and worked in China (always one step ahead of Interpol). But where ever he is in the world he’s a Caps fan through and through. He knows the game and we're not holding that against him. Jason currently sports #8 – and the “C” – playing center for the Manassas Sperm Whales. Srsly. Give him a follow on twitter.]
Morning Skate: Well, Saturday’s game against the Devils sure was fun to watch, no? Alex Ovechkin bowled a Magician, and the whole team clearly ate their morning Oates with breakfast. It was a real big-boy win against the defending Eastern Conference champions for this Caps team, and like a really nice yard with an unmarked septic field, hopefully something they can build on. Today, Southeast Division rival Carolina Hurricanes blow into town like a hot, smelly belch from the South. I hope they brought illegal fireworks.
I feel like I’ve seen this person before… (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
Fans enter Verizon Center before the season-opener. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)
One hundred fifty-seven days. That’s a long summer for Caps fans. And Saturday night at 7:09 P.M. Eastern Time when six ounces of vulcanized rubber tumbled toward the ice sheet it was finally over.
“The atmosphere was great,” Alex Ovechkin told reporters after the game. “The fans push us forward all the time. It’s nice to play at home, especially the first game. I know everybody was missing hockey here so it’s nice to come back.”
The trademarks of Caps hockey were all there last night: Sam Wolk pursed his lips to his horn and let lout three loud blasts at the drop of the puck; Wes Johnson bellowed out the name of Alexander Semin (heavy on the “r”) after Washington lit the lamp for the first time this season on Sasha’s tally; William Stilwell, better known as the Goat, let out a thunderous roar of “Let’s Go Caps!” as he stomped the metal beneath his feet when shown on the big screen in the second period.
The hard part is over. Mathieu Perreault led the Capitals with five points in four preseason games and snatched the final roster spot from favorites Cody Eakin and Mattias Sjogren.
Last season he showed the ability to drive puck possession, finishing with the fourth best Corsi relative to the competition on the team, behind only Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin.
Consistency, however, was a bigger issue. He earned all fourteen of his points in just nine of his 35 games played and wasn’t able to claim a center spot that was up for grabs.
Marco Sturm seems, let's just say, pleased with his goal. (Photo credit: Graham Hughes)
Less than 24 hours after being shutout at the hands of the Ottawa Senators, the Washington Capitals turned the tables against the Montreal Canadiens on Holtby — err — Hockey Night in Canada. The 21 year-old stonewalled the Habs on the way to his tenth victory this season.
The Capitals dominated the play during the first period of play, outshooting the Canadiens 12 to three and scoring the only tally of the frame. The goal came just 84 seconds into the contest when Marco Sturm knocked in a rebound off a Nicklas Backstrom wrist shot.
Washington continued their strong play in the second stanza, outshooting the Habs once again while Braden Holtby held the fort in net.
In the third both teams managed good opportunities, but it would be the Caps who would convert. After, guess who, Marco Sturm poke-checked the puck away at center-ice, Backstrom started a three-on-one break before Alexander Semin finished the play off by flicking the Swede’s pass past Montreal goalie Carey Price. SHUTOUT FOR BRADEN! Caps stonewall Habs, 2-0.
The Washington Capitals are in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now, don’t start panicking. The Caps of this year are different. They play postseason-style defensive hockey. (Well, let’s just forget about the D tonight.) Washington has their swagger back too. They’re just one point off the top spot in the East and are firing on all cylinders as April awaits.
Nicklas Backstrom opened the scoring at 7:52 after his wrist shot from between the circles snuck under Flyer goalie Sergei Bobrovsky’s shoulder. Weak goal. Then with under three minutes left in the first period, ol’ man Mike Knuble chipped in Marcus Johansson’s pass from behind the net to push the Caps lead to multiple goals. Spongebob never saw it. Weak goal.
Under 1:30 into the second stanza, Dennis Wideman fired a shot from the point the found twine after Bobrovsky failed to react in time. Weak goal. New ‘keeper. At 8:05 Kris Versteeg got himself an easter egg. Number 10 in orange and black racked up his 19th of the year after his off-target pass hit Wideman’s skate. With just over 30 seconds left in the frame Claude Giroux inched Philadelphia ever closer, one-timing Andreas Nodl’s perfect pass past Neuvirth. The Czech netminder never even moved on the shot after biting on Nodl’s excellent fake. The Flyers would then tie the game 10:02 in the third period when the Capitals got Jeff Schultz’d. Mr. Nasty’s outlet pass was deflected by Giroux and Nodl slapped it home. Daniel Briere would then score the Flyers’ fourth unanswered tally, saavily tipping a a Kimmo Timonen shot from the point home. 4-3, Fly Guys. Panic!!!1 Luckily for you guys, Swedes are good at hockey. Johansson would tie the game up on a perfect shot from the point with 3:19 left. What does that mean? Overtime.
In the extra period, there would be chances a plenty, but neither team would convert. You know what lies next: The Gimmick.
Ville Leino: goal. Matt Hendricks: fake, fake, fake, fake, fake, fake, fake, leg lift, fake, fake, fake, backhand and GOAL! Giroux: miss. Backstrom: GOAL! Briere: Goal. Up next, The Enigma. GOAL WSH #28 SEMIN, Backhand, Off. Zone, 7 ft. Playoffs, here we come! Caps top Flyers, 5-4 (SO)
When it comes to Alex Semin, there are fans on both sides of the fence. Some people think the $6.7 million one year deal is a fair one, while others, like me, think it is a tad too much. Part of it boils down to whether you think Sasha Minor is able to give consistent performance night in and night out. In other words, should players be rewarded even if they can’t produce consistently?
All hockey players, particularly goal scorers, hit slumps. A skater that shoots 14.5% for the season will have some nights when a third of his shots light the lamp and others that are goose eggs– it’s all in the game of hockey. In fact, it’s possible that the skater is not actually streaky by nature, but due to some bad bounces he appears streaky.
Ovechkin is out of sorts. Does anyone know why? (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
Semin cooled off, Marcus Johansonn started to heat up, Ovechkin is un-Ovechkin-y, and we saw the Caps get shut out for the first time in almost a year. Quite an up-and-down week. Despite it all, scoring chances are once again preserved for posterity.
Coach Boudreau used every line combo imaginable this week (except for the much ballyhooed DJ King-Steckel-Ovechkin line), so I thought we would look at expected scoring chance percentage (SC%). Scoring chance percentage is the amount of scoring chances-for (SCF) that go in the Caps favor when a particular player is on the ice. For example, if a skater is on the ice for 6 scoring chances-for and only 4 against his SC% would be 60% (6 chances for divided by all 10 chances when on ice). If we know how often a player is deployed in the offensive zone, we can calculate their expected scoring chance percentage. Then it is simple subtraction: subtract the actual from the expected and we can see each player’s true efficiency. All numbers are for even strength only.
My definition as to what I consider a scoring chance is narrow by design – I am only looking to log quality scoring chances, not every shot directed at net. I look for a shot taken in the wedge shape pattern whose point is at the goal, extending outward through the faceoff dots and around the top of the circles. There is some great work being done on the topic of shot quality and as you’ll see in the diagram below, which has the latest 2009-10 Shot Quality data from Ken Krzywicki (including how shot type is not as significant as shot angle – neat stuff), there is a method to my madness.
With the Capitals signing players like Tom Poti and Michel Neuvirth to multi-year extensions, Alex Semin‘s future with the team still remains in doubt. Some people think the Caps should lock up the legitimate first-line scoring-threat long term, while others believe his trade value will never be higher than it is right now. Whatever side of the fence you’re on, one thing is certain: This year could not be more important to the young Russian winger.