December 16 – Day 70 – National Capitals

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers was a good one, as the 4-2 score was not indicative of the competitive play.

The Blueshirts opened the scoring by notching the only tally of the first period, a snap shot at the 5:04 mark from Second Star of the Game Mats Zuccarello, assisted by Keith Yandle and First Star Rick Nash.

Almost exactly 20 game minutes later, Taylor Hall fired a wrister after being assisted by Leon Draisaitl and Teddy Purcell to tie the game for Edmonton.  The draw lasted only 2:42 before Third Star Dylan McIlrath scored his first goal of the season, assisted by Yandle and Dominic Moore to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.  Jordan Eberle scored a wrister to knot the game again, assisted by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but the Oilers could not maintain the tie into the third period, as Nash scored on a power play with only 39 seconds remaining, assisted by Zuccarello and Derick Brassard, giving the Blueshirts a 3-2 lead that they would not yield.

Jesper Fast tacked on an empty netter late in third period, assisted by Dominic Moore and Viktor Stalberg to set the score at the 4-2 final.

Henrik Lundqvist (15-6-3) earned the win by saving 18 of 20 (90%), while Anders Nilsson’s record falls to 10-8-1 after saving only 17 of 20 (85%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 23-10-5, favoring the home side by 19 points.

After a busy Tuesday, Wednesday has only two games on the schedule.  The evening gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when Ottawa visits Washington (TVAS/SN), and is followed an hour later by Pittsburgh at Boston (NBCSN).

Neither of today’s matchups are divisional rivalries, but the OttawaWashington game is between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.  That game will be the one to focus on today.

Unknown-2Washington Capitals Logo

 

 

 

 

 

The 16-10-5 Ottawa Senators currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth place in the Western Conference.  To establish this position, they’ve needed to employ a strong offense behind Mike Hoffman to cover their defensive deficiencies.

That offense has fired the puck 866 times so far this season (led by Hoffman’s 86) for a total of 94 goals (led by Hoffman’s 17), connecting on 10.9% of attempts.  An especially strong point of the offense has been their efforts on the power play, scoring 19 goals (led by Hoffman’s four tallies) on 95 attempts, giving them a 20% success rate.

The offensive power has been necessary to cover up for issues on the other end of the ice.  Four different goalies have taken their place between the pipes, but 14-9-3 Craig Anderson has taken the lion’s share of the minutes (1,543 of 1,881 available minutes, or 82%).  Anderson and co. have saved 91.8% of 1049 shots for 90 goals against, but within that stat the problem is found, as the save percentage is actually better than the league average.  Although Erik Karlsson has a team-leading 60 blocks, the defense is giving up far too many shots.  If Ottawa wants to be a real threat to the Cup this season, they will need to bolster the blue line.

The 21-6-2 Washington Capitals were featured in Monday’s Game of the Day.  You can read more about them here. If you don’t want to read the summary, just know that Washington is pretty good.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Ottawa‘s Anderson (14 wins [tied for fifth in the league] and two shutouts [tied for seventh in the league]), Hoffman (17 goals [fourth in the league] and 30 points [tied for ninth in the league]), Karlsson (27 assists [tied for league lead] and 34 points [fifth in the league]) and Mark Stone (21 assists [tied for fifth in the league]) & Washington‘s Braden Holtby (19 wins [leads the league], 1.87 GAA [leads the league] and .933 save percentage [tied for fourth in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+15 [tied for second in the league]) and Alex Ovechkin (+13 [tied for seventh in the league]).

The major hole in this game is represented by Ottawa‘s defense.  Although the offense may be able to cover this hole most nights, Washington‘s defense will not let that happen.  Expect the Caps to hold home ice for the win.

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