The coming week will see the Washington Capitals wrap up the latter half of their season-long six game road trip, hoping the second half of the trip is better than the 1-2-0 first half. It will be the start of a stretch run that will see the Caps on the road a lot as they approach the trading deadline and gear up for the stretch run of the regular season.
Los Angeles Kings (Monday/10:30). A week after knocking off the Los Angeles Kings at Capital One Arena, the Caps get a chance to sweep the season series at STAPLES Center. The Kings have had a difficult time on home ice this season, their 12-14-2 record being fourth-worst in the league. It is hardly surprising. Los Angeles is 29th in home goals scored (74). They have scored two or fewer goals 15 times in 28 home games so far this season. Only Anaheim (16) and Arizona (18) have done so more often on home ice this season. They have been a bit better recently in this regard. Since beating the Edmonton Oilers, 4-0, on January 5th, Los Angeles has scored 19 goals in six home contests (3.17 per game).
An element of the Kings’ woes on home ice has been their power play. Since going 2-for-5 in a 5-2 win over Edmonton on November 25th, Los Angeles is 4-for-41 (9.8 percent), not the worst in the league on home ice over that span, but they can see it from where they sit (27th). What is worse is their home penalty kill. Over their last nine home games, the Kings are just 15-for-23 (65.2 percent), allowing at least one power play goal in six of those games and three power play goals, tying a season high, in a 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 3rd.
The Kings will be wrapping up a three-game home stand with this contest and will be trying to avoid spending what would be their longest home stand of the season without a win (they lost both games of a two-game stand in late October).
Toronto Maple Leafs (Thursday/7:00). The Caps return to Eastern Conference competition with a visit to Scotiabank Arena on Thursday for their second game in Toronto this season. The Caps lost the first meeting in Toronto on January 23rd, dropping a 6-3 decision that featured four straight Maple Leaf goals after the Caps took a 2-1 lead. Having also dropped a 4-2 decision to Toronto at Capital One Arena in October, the Caps will be trying to avoid being swept in the season series by the Maple Leafs.
The win against the Caps in late January set the Maple Leafs off on a 7-2-1 run that they will take into the new week (they will play the Blues in St. Louis on Tuesday before hosting the Caps). Over those ten games, only St. Louis has scored more goals (40) than Toronto (38, tied with Carolina), and only Chicago (4.50 in eight games) and St. Louis (4.00 in ten games) have averaged more goals per game in that span.
Maple Leaf games are hardly dull. In that ten-game run, Toronto is third the league in shots on goal (346, in one fewer game than Philadelphia (364) and Pittsburgh (359)) and is fifth in shots on goal allowed (342). Only Pittsburgh and Winnipeg have more 5-on-5 shot attempts (537 and 524, respectively, both in 11 games) than the Maple Leafs (523), and they are fourth in 5-on-5 shot attempts allowed (488). The track meet aspect of Maple Leaf games extends to special teams in one respect. Only New Jersey and Minnesota have enjoyed more power play chances (37 and 36, respectively) than the Leafs in their ten-game run (35). On the other hand, Toronto has gone shorthanded only 22 times in over those ten games, tied for sixth-fewest over that span.
Buffalo Sabres (Saturday/1:00). The Caps wrap up their six-game road trip in Buffalo on Saturday afternoon in a contest that will be the front half of a back-to-back set of games for the Caps (they host the New York Rangers next Sunday afternoon). This game will wrap up the three-game season series between the teams, the Caps having won the first two installments, both on home ice – a 4-3 shootout win on December 15th and a 2-1 win six days later.
The Sabres are straining to remain in playoff contention, starting the week six points behind the Canadiens for the second wild card spot and having to climb over the Carolina Hurricanes as well in their effort to get there. Buffalo started the season as one of the surprise teams in the league, going 17-6-2 through November 27th. They were not able to sustain that pace, though, going 11-17-5 since then, the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference over that span, ahead of only Ottawa and Colorado.
Scoring has dried up for the Sabres, their 88 goals being tied for fifth-fewest in the league in that 33-game slide. They have had a respectable scoring offense on home ice over that span, though, posting 53 goals in 18 games at KeyBank Center (2.94 per game). Their problem at home, on the other hand, has been scoring defense, allowing 62 goals in those 18 games (3.44 per game). Six times in that 18-game stretch at home, the Sabres allowed five or more goals. That is an especially nasty turn for Buffalo, who allowed five or more goals only once in their first 12 home games this season.
- T.J. Oshie. In ten road games so far in the 2019 portion of the schedule, T.J. Oshie leads the club in points (3-7-10), is second in plus-minus (plus-2), and is second in shots on goal (23). He has a 53.8 percent faceoff winning percentage, joining Nic Dowd,as the only forwards on the club with a faceoff winning percentage over 50 percent on the road so far this calendar year (minimum: 25 faceoffs).
- Alex Ovechkin. The six goals scored by Alex Ovechkin in ten road games in 2019 lead the club, five of them coming in his last seven games away from Capital One Arena. It has been a hallmark of his career, too. If just his 320 career road games since 2005-2006 counted, he would rank 19th in overall goal scoring.
- Braden Holtby. Making his second appearance in as many weeks, noting that after starting the 2019 portion of the season with a .883 save percentage in nine games, he has a .919 save percentage over his last six appearances, including Sunday’s off-night in Anaheim (34 saves on 39 shots). It would be nice if that translated into a better win-loss record, though (2-3-1).
- Devante Smith-Pelly. Since recording a point (an assist) on New Year’s Eve, Devante Smith-Pelly has yet to post a point in the new year over 17 games. He has not had a goal in 33 games (and only two assists) since November 21st.
- Nicklas Backstrom. It might be odd to see Nicklas Backstrom in this category, but in 2019 so far, he is a team-worst minus-8 among forwards.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov. In 24 road games this season, Evgeny Kuznetsov has one goal, that one coming back on October 22nd. He has gone 21 straight games without a goal on the road.
- In 28 road games so far, 20 Capitals have recorded at least one goal. Last season, only 17 Capitals recorded at least one goal all year.
- The Caps are one of four teams without a shorthanded goal on the road so far this season, joining Buffalo, Los Angeles, and Anaheim.
- The Caps have only 20 power play assists this season, tied for fewest in the league with Los Angeles.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week…
- John Carlson needs one assist to reach 300 in his career.
- If he goes plus-4 for the week, Alex Ovechkin would be the third Capital in team history with a career plus-100 or better, joining Nicklas Backstrom (plus-124) and Rod Langway (plus-116).
- Nicklas Backstrom’s next even-strength goal will be the 150th of his career. If he records one power play goal, he will tie Dale Hunter (72) for fourth place in team history.
- With one goal, John Carlson would reach double digits in goals for the fourth time in his career, tied with Calle Johansson and Larry Murphy for fifth-most among defensemen in franchise history (Sergei Gonchar and Kevin Hatcher lead with seven).
- If Alex Ovechkin takes two penalties this week, he will tie Alan May for eighth place on the all-time franchise list (314). He would still be far short of May in penalty minutes, though. Ovechkin starts the week with 679 penalty minutes as a Capital, while Alan May had 1,189 minutes in penalties.
- Braden Holtby’s next shutout will tie Olaf Kolzig (35) for most in team history.
- With four assists this week, Nicklas Backstrom would tie Peter Forsberg (636) for seventh place in assists recorded by players born in Sweden. Five, and he would tie Borje Salming for sixth place (637).
- A hat trick for Alex Ovechkin this week, and he will break a tie with Jari Kurri for tenth place on the all-time list (both have 23).
- With one even-strength goal this week, Ovechkin break a tie with Guy Lafleur for 16th place all-time (403). Two even strength goals, and he would tie Mario Lemieux for 15th place (405).