Another note of interest from Tarik's post is Chris Clark's comment that the ice at Verizon Center is the "worst in the League" (a point expounded upon by Vogs). "There's a lot of ruts in the ice," said Clark. "It's soft. It's wet half the time. I could see a lot of injuries coming from the ice there. It could cost [players] their jobs." Or coaches.
As bad as the ice is - and it is awful - is the poor quality of the home sheet showing up in the stats? Maybe. The Caps are averaging 2.25 goals per game at home and 2.40 on the road (over the course of a full season, that's about a six goal differential). That number may seem negligible, but given the opportunity to make the last line change, a friendly crowd, familiar setting, etc., you'd expect a team to be more potent at home (the Bolts, for example, are scoring well over a goal more per game at home than they are on the road). In fact, all but ten teams heading into last night's games were scoring more at home than on the road (insert adultery joke here). So while the differential here doesn't seem like much, the Caps are likely better than a 2.40 goals per game team on a decent sheet of home ice, and those six or more goals over the course of the season could translate into lost points in the standings. Then again, perhaps the ice is slowing down faster, more-skilled teams and the Caps are already getting those "home ice advantage" points.
Another couple of key indicators show the Caps performing better on home ice than on the road - the power play has clicked at 18.0% at home and 15.7% on the road and Alex Ovechkin has scored 10 goals at home (in 12 games) and 10 on the road (in 15). Of course, maybe on a good rink the Caps have a 20+% effective power play... and maybe AO would already be the NHL's leading goal scorer. [Sidenote: after the shootout against Florida last week, I meant to ask AO if the ice condition played any part in his decision to shoot rather than deke in the shootout, but his postgame time with the media was short, so I just let the big dogs eat.]
There's no question that the ice is horrible at the VC and that bad ice puts players' health at risk (and it has probably cost some guys - Clark, Tom Poti and Alex Semin - some games already this year)., but it's also likely costing the Caps on the scoreboard. Don't forget, however, that both teams have to skate on the same sheet, so it's probably saving the Caps a handful of goals against as well. The real question at this point, however, isn't 'what is crappy home ice costing the Caps?' but rather 'when the hell is someone going to do something about it?'
Anyway, on to the question du jour: Viktor Kozlov - boom or bust? He's got one goal since October 8 (a span of 24 games) and has been held shotless in two of his last four games. Still, he's on pace for 45 points, which is only six fewer than he had last year and 20 more than he had two years ago. The odd stat here is that he's on pace to take 43% more shots than last year (237), but score 64% fewer goals (9). Last year was clearly a fluke on the goal front for Kozlov, who tallied a career-high 25 goals (which equaled his total from the previous two seasons), but the points are still coming and, as is the case with Matt Pettinger, so long as he keeps shooting, the goals should come too. In other words, Kozlov may be playing a little bit below expectations, but if you had been hoping for much more from him, you probably weren't all that familiar with his complete body of work. Or am I wrong?
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Andrew Gordon is back in Hershey and everyone's happy about it.... It was twenty years ago today
- Hart: Zach Parise (2G, 2A, +3, 8 SOG, 3 hits, 2 blocked shots)
- Ross: Zach Parise (4 points)
- Norris: Steve Montador (G, 2A)
- Vezina: Ilya Bryzgalov (W, 28 saves on 29 shots against)
- Richard: Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, Rick Nash, Randy Robitaille, Olli Jokinen (2G each)
- Calder: Peter Mueller (G, 2A, +2, 6 SOG)
- Aiken: Tomas Vokoun (2 goals allowed on 5 shots against in just 7:10 of work)