Streaks Worth Talking AboutPosted on July 30, 2014 by Steven Sullivan
The Washington Capitals season is just over two months away from beginning. The acquisitions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik may have been the refresh the Capitals needed to put them back in playoff contention. Before fans discuss who they will play in the playoffs, the Caps need to traverse this upcoming season.
The Capitals longest streak of home games is five. The streak spans from March 5th to the 15th. During that time, the Capitals will play against two Western Conference teams and three Eastern Conference teams. The games to highlight are the bookends of the home streak. The Capitals will begin with the Minnesota Wild, who will want to improve on their last season. The home game streak will conclude with a Sunday night game against the Boston Bruins.
The Wild came from behind, in the playoffs series 0-2 to defeat the Colorado Avalanche in game 7 on the road. They would eventually go on to lose in the next series in six games against the Chicago Blackhawks. The big offseason addition for the Wild is Thomas Vanek. He signed a three-year deal worth $19.5 million. The Vanek deal is great for the Wild because of term and dollars. The offseason has shown teams landing a player because they were willing to add years to a deal and another team didn’t.
The Capitals will conclude their home streak by playing the Boston Bruins. The Bruins rank fourth in the NHL in 5-on-5-puck possession. They also had they third best power play and the eighth best penalty-kill in the NHL. Jarome Iginla signing a three-year, $16 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche hurts the Bruins top six. The Bruins still should be a team competing for home ice in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The other teams the Capitals will play in the home streak are Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, and Dallas Stars. Throughout the streak, the only team the Capitals will face who may not be in playoff contention is the Sabres. The Stars may be the most improved team of the group. They signed Ales Hemsky to a three-year, $12 million contract. Jason Spezza and Hemsky will add second-line depth to the Stars. According to extraskater.com, Dallas was ranked ninth in puck possession. With the addition of Spezza there should be no reason for Dallas to take a step back in puck possession.
The Capitals longest road trip will be in February, the toughest month of the Capitals schedule. The road trip begins with three games against the Western Conference and concludes with a game against the Pittsburg Penguins. The Capitals first game of the road trip is against the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks are rebuilding, however don’t let the word rebuild fool you. They’re still led by Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Thornton. The Sharks had a 3-0 series lead on the Los Angeles Kings, but the Kings would come from behind to defeat the Sharks and eventually win the Stanley Cup. They didn’t resign Dan Boyle, although they did sign John Scott and a minor league defensemen. With the Sharks not adding much to their roster in the off-season, they still will be a tough match-up for the Capitals.
The Sharks, like the Bruins are a strong puck possession team. The Sharks were third last season in puck possession. They also had the sixth best penalty kill in the NHL. A downside for the Sharks and potential upside for the Caps is Antti Niemi. Last season, Niemi was ranked 23rd out of 25 for even strength save percentage. This past season Niemi’s even strength save percentage was 91.8%. The farthest ExtraSkater records 5-on-5 even strength, save percentage for Neimi is 2010-2011.The past season’s even strength save percentage was the worst in that span for Neimi. His average in those four years is 92.6%. Expect Neimi to have a rebound season, which is why he is a potential upside for the Caps.
The following game will have the Capitals playing against the defending Stanley Cup champions the Kings. The Kings were the best puck possession team last year. This matchup will test how improved the Caps puck possession is compared to last year. The Kings were able maintain their core by resigning Marion Gaborik. With all the major pieces returning for the Kings, there are poised to make another run at the Stanley Cup.
The last team the Capitals will play on their three game Western Conference road trip is the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks have improved their offense by adding Ryan Kesler in the offseason. In addition, signing Danny Heatley to a 1-year, $1 million deal, it is a low-risk deal for the Ducks with potentially, high reward.
The Ducks last year had the best win percentage after trailing first. They were the second best team to win a game, leading after two periods. An area the Ducks want to improve on is the power play. Last season their power play was twenty-second. Ryan Kesler will bolster their power play as well add depth.
The Capitals schedule will test if management’s offseason additions improve the Capitals team or set them back. The two streaks will be happen toward the end of the season. If the Capitals are in the playoff hunt, it will be a nice tune up. If they are not in playoff contention the home and road streak of games should reveal changes management may need to make.Posted in: Washington Capitals