There was once a group of fans who lived mostly in Edmonton. Many of them were descendants of a people who had seen wondrous things from the great heroes of the past, men like Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, and Fuhr. Each year, these fans would come to serve the team by offering gifts of time and money, and each year a portion of those offerings was given to Lowe and Tambellini, the caretakers of the team. But the reward from these sacrifices didn't measure up to the rewards that Yahweh had given in the past, and so fans of other teams would often come to mock the fans in Edmonton because Yahweh was preventing them from even making the playoffs. Year after year, it was the same old thing - opposing fans would taunt and the Oilers would miss the playoffs. And each year at around this time, the people would gather to fast, an expression of their sorrow.
"Why are you so pessimistic?" the caretakers would ask. "Why aren't you eating? Why be so sorrowful just because this team won't make the playoffs this year? You have us and we have a plan - isn't that much better than making the playoffs in the here and now?"
Edmonton Oilers (23-36-8) @ Washinton Capitals (37-20-10)
Verizon Center, 5:00 p.m. MST
More analysis after the jump...
Visiting Team Scouting Report:
There are a lot of teams around the league that can't deal with injuries, but the Washington Capitals aren't one. For tonight's game they'll likely be missing their first and second best goaltenders, their best center, and two of their best defenders. The result? A team that's much, much better than any team the Oilers have iced so far this season. The Oilers were beaten down last night in Philadelphia, and on the second night of back-to-back games, this should prove to be another drubbing.
Edmonton Oilers (23-36-8):
Paajarvi - Horcoff - Eberle
Jones - Gagner - Omark
Giroux - Cogliano - Reddox
Jacques - Fraser - MacIntyre
Smid - Gilbert
Vandermeer - Plante
Strudwick - Foster
Washington Capitals (37-20-10)
Ovechkin - Johansson - Knuble
Fehr - Arnott - Semin
Chimera - Laich - Sturm
Hendricks - Gordon - Bradley
Alzner - Carlson
Schultz - Hannan
Erskine - Wideman
By the Numbers:
- Alexander Ovechkin will probably score less than forty goals this season for the first time in his career, but there's really nothing for the Capitals to be worried about. In the four seasons Ovechkin played before this one (including playoffs), Ovechkin scored on 14.8% of his shots on goal and took 4.60 shots per game. So far this season, Ovechkin has scored on 8.0% of his shots on goal and has taken 4.66 shots per game. With the percentages likely a function of chance, there's really no reason for concern.
- The young pairing of John Carlson and Karl Alzner has been splendid for the Capitals this season. In addition to taking on the toughest competition, they've also been taking more than their fair share of defensive zone starts. Despite the tough circumstances, both players have a Corsi rating in the black and sit second and third among the team's defenders. It's pretty rare for a defenseman to make that kind of contribution on his entry-level contract, but to have two doing it paired together? Incredible.
- Andrew Cogliano has a reasonably stable history of drawing penalties, but this year, the calls haven't come. In the three years prior to this season, Cogliano drew 1.4 penalties per sixty minutes of ice time. This season, he's down to 0.3, and will likely post a negative penalty differential for the first time in his career.
- Only three Oiler defenders have played at least twenty games and still outperformed their expected Zone Finish so far this season. The list came as a big surprise to me: Jeff Petry (exp: 50.1% act: 53.0%), Ladislav Smid (exp: 49.1% act: 49.9%), and Kurtis Foster (exp: 51.2% act: 51.4%). It's very surprising to me that both Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert are among the stragglers in this category.
- The Oilers have moved out of last place in the team faceoff percentage category and now sit at 44.2% on the season, slightly ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes at 44.1%. One of these two teams is going to set a record this year, and honestly, I kind of hope it's the Oilers. After all, it seems to take a last place finish to bring clarity with regard to team needs.