Good afternoon, Washington, D.C., faithful friends and loyal outliers! The home team managed to take two of three games from their Western Conference in-laws last week, despite losing an eventually-close one to fellow NHL frontrunner the Dallas Stars this weekend. Last week the Capitals went 2-1-0 for four points and currently sit first in the Metropolitan Division, the Eastern Conference, and the NHL.
Brooks Orpik is back in the line-up, and the push for some June hockey is beginning to, well, begin! Is there more than one way to skin a large predatory cat? We look at that, plus the return of Liable To Libel, in this week's preview.
There's more than one way to win in the NHL.
Well, okay, that's not true - the only way is to score more goals than your opponent within the allotted time period. But there is more than one strategy to bring about that outcome.
Witness the graph below. Encapsulated here in dramatic, polychromatic, polygonal form are the playing styles of the five winningest teams in hockey: the Washington Capitals, the Florida Panthers, the Dallas Stars, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Los Angeles Kings. On the X-axis, you have Corsi For Total, or basically, "shots." On the Y-axis, you have Goals For Total, or goals. The colder the color, the more shots against the team allows.
First, way off in the top right corner like a wealthy Republican donor, is the Dallas Stars. The Stars lead our league-leading group in both total Corsi For events AND Total Goals For. That means their strategy is pretty simple: shoot! Shooooooooooooooooot! Whyaren'tyoushooting shoothepuck SHOOT! Like your friend who got lucky a bunch in college by hitting on every girl/guy/lampshade he could find, the Stars adhere to the time-tested formula of Pucks to the Net divided by the Human Fallibility of Goalies = Goals, Surely.
It's hard to argue with their results, but the real secret is that they have something your hornball college roommate didn't: they're really, really good. They aren't just shooting a ton; they're taking good shots, too. They're getting a lot of high-quality chances. Keep your eye on Dallas, if you weren't already; the belt buckles may be shiny but the hockey is bright.
Down in the bottom-right corner, we have Chicago and L.A. Even though these teams take a ton of shots, they don't necessarily score a ton (LA especially). There's something that's even more interesting about Chicago, though, which we'll get into in a second.
In the top-left section, on opposite sides, we see the Caps and the Panthers, the two beasts of the East. The Panthers, though boasting the third most goals in the group, take functionally zero shots. That's an exaggeration, but they're looking at nearly 1000 fewer shots on the year than Dallas. From this we can gather that Florida's offense is much more about the set-up game than the volume play. Florida tends to pick opponents apart using quick puck movement and decisive, controlled in-zone skating from guys like Jaromir Jagr. Defensive discipline is key against the Panthers - give them the bad shots they don't want to prevent yourself from being pulled into giving them the good shot they do want.
Chicago is interesting, though. As evidenced by their frigid blue color, Chicago leads the group in Corsi Against Total, or essentially, shots allowed. The Blackhawks are taking a ton of shots and allowing a ton of shots. So far, this formula has been working to the tune of the third best record in hockey. But as we've seen with other run-and-gun teams of the past, relying on your offense to outpace your suspect defense come playoff time is a risky proposition.
And with that preview complete, we turn now to the segment whose Supreme Court nomination Republicans have vowed to block at all costs...LIABLE TO LIBEL: A BAKER'S DOZEN LIES ABOUT THIS WEEK'S OPPONENTS!
1. The Los Angeles Kings have an all-star goalie named Jonathan Quick, which is the next-best possibility behind literally having a goalie named Stonewall Jackson.
2. The LA Kings won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 2012, the first championship in Los Angeles to not involve voting strangers off of an island, enduring small talk with Alex Trebek, or thanking Aaron Sorkin.
3. Milan Lucic is not a goon or a troublemaker; someone just didn't read his instructions and fed him after midnight.
4. Formers Capitals defenseman/baby giraffe Jeff Schultz has his named engraved on the Stanley Cup, and, equally deservingly, on both the Liberty Bell and the original birth certificate of George Washington.
5. The New York Islanders new barn, The Barclays Center, has many seats with obstructed views, which, given that the product on the ice is the Islanders, are the most expensive seats.
6. The Islanders sell a healthy amount of OKPOSO jerseys, which is the name of a talented winger and not a mid-sized Kia.
7. Nearly a third of the Islanders roster is over thirty years old, and only took the gig on Long Island for the abundance of cheap cosmetic surgeons.
8. New Jersey Devils forward Patrick Elias can see retirement on the horizon, and his post-hockey career involves opening a children's clothing outfitter called Elias-Kas B'Gas.
9. The New Jersey Devils have only three players on pace for 20+ potstickers this season, an amount Chris Christie calls "barely an appetizer."
10. Defenseman Andy Green may be the captain in New Jersey, but you can ask anyone from Newark to Cape May who the real Boss is.
11. Hiding on the Arizona Coyotes roster are former Capitals Boyd Gordon and Jeff Halpern, departing Washington for Arizona more begrudgingly than John McCain.
12. Talented young winger Anthony Duclair loves hockey, but seems to shrink from his inevitable superhero mantle, Tony of the Light.
13. Coyotes coach Dave Tippett praised the reliable play of Time-On-Ice leader Michael Stone, calling him, "dependable as a....sturdy as a....well, you can count on the sonofabitch, that's for sure."
So, there you have it, Caps fans! Knocking off the Kings would go a long way towards shoring up opinions regarding Washington vs. the West, but it's hard to argue with what is still a historically impressive season. Have a good week, and as always: Go Caps!