The new week signals the beginning of the second half of the 2018-2019 regular season for the Washington Capitals. It also brings to Washington a pair of Metropolitan Division opponents sandwiched around a visit to another Eastern Conference opponent.
Philadelphia Flyers (Tuesday/7:30). The Caps open the second half of their season with their first meeting against the Philadelphia Flyers this season. This is a rivalry that has been played to a virtual draw since the 2004-2005 lockout. Of the 52 games played between the clubs, the Flyers won 27, and the Caps won 25. Philadelphia has 163 goals scored, while the Caps have 162. Each team has four shootout wins. Washington has 46 power play goals scored, the Flyers have 45. Philadelphia has 801 penalty minutes, the Caps have 795. It is hard to find an edge here in the broader context of the series.
Looking at recent results, though, the Flyers are a team to which the description “reeling” could be applied. They go into the week on a six-game losing streak (0-4-2) and their 6-13-5 since hitting their high-water mark of the season back on November 10th (9-7-1) is the worst in the league over that span. They go into the week with the worst record in the Metropolitan Division (15-20-6) and second-worst in the East (Ottawa is 15-23-5). Here is how bad it is for the Flyers. In that 24-game skid, their goal differential is minus-30 (58 for, 88 against). The Ottawa Senators are the only other club in that span with a goal differential worse than minus-20 (minus-26).
No discussion about the Flyers would be complete without a word about their goaltending. This is a club that has employed 58 goaltenders in its history. Six of them have dressed for games this season. Last Friday the Flyers claimed Mike McKenna on waivers from the Vancouver Canucks, a goalie who spent all of two days with the Canucks after being obtained in a trade with the Ottawa Senators. Will he get the call on Tuesday? If he does, Caps fans will be hoping he adds to the most losses he has suffered against any NHL team in his career (four, all in regulation).
Boston Bruins (Thursday/7:00). The middle game of the week has the Caps heading to Boston for the first meeting between the clubs since the Caps raised the curtain on the 2018-2019 season and their Stanley Cup banner to the Capital One Arena rafters in a 7-0 win. Boston, one of the consistently good teams in the league (third in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the East), comes into this game an inconsistent squad of late. Since December 1st the Bruins have been quite streaky – three losses, three wins, two losses, three wins, two losses, and a four-game winning streak going into the new week for an overall record of 10-7-0. They have been tough at home, though, going 15-5-0 overall and have yet to lose consecutive games on home ice this season.
The Bruins success on home ice is due in large part to a very efficient power play. No team in the Eastern Conference enters the week having scored more power play goals at home than Boston (22), and the Bruins are second in the league in power play efficiency on home ice (32.8 percent to 35.9 percent for Winnipeg). They have power play goals in 14 of their 20 games on home ice so far and are 12-2-0 in those contests. The magic number here might be three for the Caps. Boston has not failed to score a power play goal on home ice this season when getting four or more opportunities, and six times in those nine instances they recorded two power play goals.
Columbus Blue Jackets (Saturday/7:00). Washington closes the week hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets. The teams split the first two meetings of the season, each team winning on the other’s ice sheet, the Jackets by a 2-1 margin in Washington on November 9th and the Caps winning in Columbus in a 4-0 shutout on December 8th. Columbus has been a successful team on the road of late. Since dropping their first road game of December, they are 5-1-0 in six road games through Saturday. They have played things close to the margin, though. Of those five wins, four were by identical 4-3 scores, three of the wins coming in overtime.
The magic number for the Caps in this game might be “three.” The Blue Jackets have not yet lost a road game this season when scoring three or more goals (11-0-0); they are 2-6-1 when scoring two or fewer goals on the road. A number that might not matter is shots on goal. In eight road games in which Columbus allowed 32 or more shots on goal, they have a record of 7-1-0.
The win Columbus had in Washington in November was a rare thing. It broke a four-game losing streak at Capital One Arena and was only the third time in 18 games in the Washington portion of the all-time series that the Blue Jackets won a game in regulation time
- Michal Kempny. The defenseman has already set career highs in goals (five), assists (ten), and points (15). He is a career-high plus-24, tied for fifth-best in the league. He was 2-2-4, plus-21, leading the team in points for the week.
- Chandler Stephenson. Shooting is not something Chandler Stephenson does a lot of, but when he does it is with efficiency. He is tied for fifth on the club in goals since December 1st with four coming on eight total shots on goal. He has the team’s lone shorthanded goal over that span.
- John Carlson. Playing at home agrees with John Carlson. Eight times this season he recorded multi-point games on home ice, tied for second-most in the league (Calgary’s Mark Giordano has done so nine times). Carlson recently snapped a three-game streak on home ice without a point and has points in each of his last two games at Capital One Arena (1-2-3).
- Dmitry Orlov. Defenseman Dmitry Orlov has three points (all assists) in 16 games since December 1st and has not had a goal in 24 games. The two he had against the Minnesota Wild on November 13th are his only two goals this season to date.
- T.J. Oshie. In his last 11 games, T.J. Oshie has one goal. He does not have an assist in his last 18 games since recording one in the Caps’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on November 3rd.
- Travis Boyd. Since December 1st, no player among the 175 taking at least 35 faceoffs has a worse faceoff winning percentage than Travis Boyd (31.8 percent/14-for-44).
- T.J. Oshie is one of two players in the league to have played in 30 or fewer games with four or more game-winning goals. Oshie (in 30 games) and Toronto’s Auston Matthews (in 27 games) each have four game-winners.
- The Caps were the only team in the league going into Sunday’s schedule with five players averaging at least one point per game: Alex Ovechkin (1.15), Nicklas Backstrom (1.10), Evgeny Kuznetsov (1.00), John Carlson (1.00), and Tyler Lewington (1.00). Okay, Lewington did it in only two games.
- Alex Ovechkin has 637 career goals. That is more than the next seven Capitals have with the club — Nicklas Backstrom (219), T.J. Oshie (88), Evgeny Kuznetsov (87), John Carlson (83), Andre Burakovsky (55), Tom Wilson (47), and Brett Connolly (39) — a total of 618 goals among them.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week…
- With four goals, Alex Ovechkin would pass Dave Andreychuk (640) for 14th place on the all-time NHL goal scoring list.
- Ovechkin’s next power play goal will break a tie with Brendan Shanahan for sixth place on the all-time power play goal list (both with 237).
- With two points, Ovechkin will pass Bobby Hull for 50th place on the all-time points list in the NHL (Hull had 1,170 points). That is, unless Sidney Crosby passes both of them first. He is two points behind Ovechkin (1,167 to 1,169).
- With two goals, T.J. Oshie will reach the 200-goal mark for his career.
- Kuznetsov’s next three-point game will tie him for 10th place on the Caps’ all-time list with Sergei Gonchar and Calle Johansson, who each had 20 such games.
- Nicklas Backstrom needs three power play goals to tie Dale Hunter for fourth place in team history (72).
- With his next goal, John Carlson will pass Jaromir Jagr (and Troy Brouwer, for that matter) for goals scored as a Capital (all with 83).
- With one assist, John Carlson will tie Adam Oates for 11th place in team history in assists (290).
- Matt Niskanen will become the 18th defenseman in Caps history to appear in 350 games for the club when he takes the ice Tuesday against Philadelphia.
- With two game-winning goals, Evgeny Kuznetsov would move into a tie for 20th place on the all-time franchise list, joining Craig Laughlin and Sergei Gonchar with 19. Ditto for John Carlson.
- Braden Holtby needs one shutout to tie Olaf Kolzig for the most shutouts by a goalie in Caps history (35).
- If Holtby records a point, he would join Kolzig as the only goalies in Caps history to score at least ten career points (Kolzig had 17).