It is “getaway week” for the Washington Capitals, a week of light work that will end on Wednesday night before the team heads into the All-Star Game break and a bye. For a club that seems to be fighting off sluggish play of late, the break comes at a good time, but there remains work to be done before heading out of town.
San Jose Sharks (Tuesday/7:00). A team in a slump might not want to face a team that has given it fits over the year, but this is what the Caps face to open the week. The San Jose Sharks are among the most frustrating teams the Caps have faced over the years in their history. Washington brings a 13-24-3 all-time record (with one tie) against the Sharks into this contest, a 7-11-3 record on home ice.
The Caps do have a bit of momentum going into this game in the all-time series context, though. Washington has won the last two meetings of these teams, a 4-1 win at Capital One Arena in December 2017 and a 2-0 win in San Jose last March. Those are the first consecutive wins for the Caps against the Sharks since the Caps won the first five meetings of the teams in this series from February 1992 to October 1993.
San Jose was one of the hottest clubs in the league since the calendar flipped to 2019. They won their first seven decisions in the new year, outscoring opponents by a 32-14 margin, holding the last six opponents in that streak to two or fewer goals. They were the only team in the league to go undefeated in that two week period, and their special teams were quite special – third in power play efficiency (29.4 percent) and tied for eighth in penalty killing (88.2 percent). However, the Sharks blew a tire in their last two contests, dropping identical 6-3 decisions on the road to the Arizona Coyotes and the Tampa Bay Lightning. San Jose will continue their four-game road trip in Florida against the Panthers on Monday night before visiting Washington the following night to wrap up their road trip.
Toronto Maple Leafs (Wednesday/7:30). The Caps wrap up the pre-All-Star Game portion of their season on Wednesday night with a visit to Scotiabank Arena to face the Toronto Maple Leafs. This will be the first of two regular season visits to Toronto this season, the Caps already having lost the lone contest at Capital One Arena, 4-2, back on October 13th.
Washington has had consistent success against this team, going 12-4-1 in their last 17 contests against Toronto dating back to April 2013 and, perhaps most important, avoiding consecutive losses over that span. The Caps will be looking to avoid that fate in this game.
The Leafs have been an inconsistent lot of late. After posting a five-game winning streak in late December, they are 3-7-0 in their last ten games going into the new week. A team that is the latest poster squad of the “run-and-gun” school of offense, scoring has become an issue for this club. In their ten-game skid, Toronto had recorded two or fewer goals five times and been shut out twice.
For Toronto, it matters. This is a team that has not lost a game in regulation this season when scoring four or more goals, the only blemish on their 25-0-1 record in such games being a 5-4 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings on December 6th. On the other hand, this is not a team that grinds out low scoring games. They have yet to win a game in regulation this season when scoring two or fewer goals. The lone bright spot on their 1-13-0 record in such games is a 2-1 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks on November 16th.
On a club that scored three goals in three games last week (pending the results against Chicago on Sunday afternoon), “hot” is a relative matter. However:
- Alex Ovechkin. He still leads the club in goals (four), points (seven, tied with T.J. Oshie), shots (37), power play goals (one, tied with two other skaters), and power play points (two, tied with two other skaters) in the 2019 portion of the schedule. He also leads all forwards in ice time over the nine games played so far this month (20:43).
- John Carlson. The defenseman leads the club in assists since January 1st (five) and leads the team in average ice time, logging more than three minutes more per game over that span (24:55) than Dmitry Orlov (21:48). He is one of the skaters tied with Ovechkin for the lead in power play points (two) in January.
- Michal Kempny. The defenseman is the team leader in plus-minus (plus-3) in January. Given that he leads the team over all in this statistic overall this season (plus-23), this is not surprising. However, what is surprising is that he leads all defensemen in shots on goal since January 1st (18), has the only game-winning goal from the blue line in that span. Until Sunday (when all five goals against Chicago were scored by four defensemen), he was the only defenseman since January 1st with a goal, in fact.
- Chandler Stephenson. The forward has no points in 2019, has recorded only four shots on goal, and is a minus-1 in eight games. He is without a point in his last eight games and has not recorded an assist in his last 18 contests.
- Dmitry Orlov. He went into Sunday’s game with an assist in nine games in the new calendar year (he added a goal and an assist against Chicago), but it his minus-8 (tied for worst on the club since January 1st) that stands out in a really not good way. The Orlov Goal Watch finally bore fruit on Sunday; he snapped a 30-game streak without a goal when he connected against Chicago.
- Nic Dowd. The forward is averaging just 9:37 in six games played in 2019. In those six contests he does not have a point, has only three shots on goal, and is a minus-2. And, he is under water on faceoffs (48.7 percent).
- The three goals in three games that the Caps took into their Sunday matinee with Chicago was their scoring low over any three-game period this season.
- With the seven goals allowed to the Nashville Predators and eight goals allowed to the Chicago Blackhawks last week, the Caps have allowed six or more goals (not including shootouts) seven times this season. They did so only seven times all of last season. They have not done so more than seven times in a season since 2006-07, when it happened eight times.
- Who leads the Capitals in multi-point games in January? If you had T.J. Oshie with three, pick up your prize at the door. He had a pair of goals in a 5-3 win over Philadelphia on January 8th, a pair of assists in a 4-2 win over Boston on January 10th, and a pair of assists in the 8-5 loss to Chicago on Sunday.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week…
- T.J. Oshie is tied with Jeff Halpern and Bob Sirois for 29th place on the club’s all-time goal scoring list (91).
- Tom Wilson needs two goals to reach the 50-goal mark in his career.
- Alex Ovechkin needs two penalty minutes to tie Peter Bondra (679) for 12th on the all-time franchise list.
- Braden Holtby needs one shutout to tie Olaf Kolzig (35) for the top spot in career shutouts in team history.
- Alex Ovechkin’s next goal will break a tie with Dave Andreychuk (640) for 14th place on the all-time goals list.
- Ovechkin needs two even strength goals to reach 400 for his career, which would tie him with Frank Mahovlich for 17th place on the all-time list. He needs five to tie Guy Lafleur (403) for 16th place.
- Ovechkin could leapfrog a number of players on the all-time shots on goal list. He has 5,084, good for eighth place on the all-time list. With seven shots on goal in two games, he would jump into fifth place, passing Brendan Shanahan (5,086), Wayne Gretzky (5,088), and Mike Gartner (5,090).
- If Ovechkin gets a hat trick in either game this week, he will break a tie with Teemu Selanne for 11th place on the all-time list (22) and tie Jari Kurri for tenth-place (23). Hat tricks in both games, and he has tenth-place all to himself.
Hey… a Caps fan can dream.