For the Washington Capitals, Week 19 will start at the end of a four-game home stand and end in the middle of a three-game road trip. They will renew acquaintances with an old coach, an old teammate, and an old annoyance you might not think of as being one.
New York Islanders (Monday/7:00pm)
The Caps will wrap up their regular season series against the Islanders on Monday night in Washington. The Caps won both games played earlier this season on Long Island, a 2-1 win on October 4th and a 6-4 win on January 18th. They lost the only meeting of the teams in Washington, the Isles coming out on top by a 4-3 margin on New Year’s Eve.
The Islanders have had a rather bumpy last six weeks or so. On December 19th they went to Boston and came out of TD Garden with a 3-2 shootout win. Their record at the time was 23-8-2, second in the Metropolitan Division, five points behind the Caps, and fourth-best in the league. Since then, the Islanders are 8-8-4, tied for 23rd in points earned in the league over that period (20) and tied for 21st in points percentage (.500). Instead of being within striking distance of first place in the Metropolitan Division, as was the case over their first 33 games, the Isles find themselves as the first wild card team in the East and just one point ahead of both Carolina and Philadelphia, tied in standings points for the second wild-card spot in the East.
The reversal in fortune might be a matter of things finally catching up with the Isles. In that 23-8-2 start, their 46.1 percent for shot attempts-for at 5-on-5 ranked 30th among the league’s 31 teams. Since then, their shot attempts-for percentage at fives has improved (47.5 percent) and climbed to 24th in the league rankings, and their 1,794 shot attempts allowed at fives over that period is the second-most in the league. The underlying numbers have come into alignment with their win-loss record over their last 20 games, more so than was the case in the period that which preceded it.
What also has come into alignment, and not in a good way, with shot attempts to contribute to their weak record of late is their scoring defense, which has collapsed since a fine start. In those first 33 games over which they went 23-8-2, New York allowed just 2.48 goals per game, the third-best scoring defense in the league. Since then, they allowed 3.05 goals per game, tied for 9th over that period.
Colorado Avalanche (Thursday/9:00pm ET)
The Avalanche are one of those teams no one is going to want to face in a short playoff series. When they are on, they are something to behold. Colorado started the season going 7-0-1 in their first eight games. They later won five of six contests, then won eight of nine at one point, and headed into the weekend with five wins in six games.
Colorado is no slouch on defense, their 2.83 goals allowed per game ranking tenth in the league. But offense is their bread and butter. Colorado has the top scoring offense in the league overall (3.65 goals per game), and they have the second-best scoring offense in the league on home ice (3.92, trailing only Tampa Bay at 4.04). They have been just as explosive since the start of the new year, averaging 3.79 goals per game overall (tied with Washington for second and trailing only Edmonton (3.92) for best in the league) and 4.50 goals per game in six games on home ice in that span.
The Avs seem to have embraced an acceptance of old fashioned, 1980’s style fire wagon hockey, too. Sixteen times this season they have allowed three or more goals on home ice, tied with Vegas for 11th-most in the league, and their 6-6-4 record in those games make them one of only five teams in the league to have a .500 or better points percentage in those games (Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and the New York Islanders are the others).
What is a bit surprising about the Avalanche offense on home ice is their success is not the product of padding numbers with gaudy power play numbers. They have been good (22.4 percent/13th in the league), but not especially so. However, only two teams have more 5-on-5 goals on home ice than the Avs (66, tied with Washington, but in three fewer home games) – the Florida Panthers (73) and Tampa Bay Lightning (68).
Colorado might be a bit harder to deal with in this game than usual. They go into the last third of their season with the wind at their backs, schedule-wise. Going into the new week, the Avalanche play 16 of their last 28 games on home ice.
Arizona Coyotes (Saturday/10:00pm ET)
You would not think it, but the Arizona Coyotes are among the more frustrating opponents the Caps have faced over the years. Washington has not won consecutive games against this franchise in regulation in 25 years, since winning games in April 1994 and December 1995 when the Coyotes were still the Winnipeg Jets. Since then, the Caps are just 13-12-4 (five ties) in 34 games against this franchise.
This year’s version of the Coyotes started in fine fashion, going 13-7-2 in their first 22 games and holding a 25-16-4 record as recently as January 7th, when they beat the Florida Panthers to extend a winning streak to four games. But since then, Arizona has wilted somewhat. After beating Florida, they were shut out in consecutive games, at Tampa Bay and at Carolina to end a three-game road trip, games that started them on a 2-7-3 record in their last dozen games. Only Los Angeles has a worse records (2-9-1) over that span.
In those last dozen games the Coyotes have had a rough time keeping opponents off the scoreboard, allowing 41 goals that leave them with the third-worst scoring defense (3.42 goals allowed per game) over that stretch as they enter the new week.
Arizona’s special teams have been horrid lately as well. Since this 12-game slide began on January 9th, they are one of only three teams in the league to have a net power play, after accounting for shorthanded goals allowed, under ten percent (7.7) and a net penalty kill, accounting for shorthanded goals scored, under 80 percent (79.4). San Jose (4.8/76.9) and Detroit (5.4/78.0) are the others.
- John Carlson. After hosting the New York Islanders on Monday night, the Caps wrap up the week with a pair of road games. John Carlson is tied with Patrick Kane for second in the league in points scored on the road among all skaters (37). Only Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl has more (41)/ Carlson’s plus-22 rating in road games is best among all skaters.
- Alex Ovechkin. If Ovechkin does not reach 700 career goals against the Islanders on Monday night at Capital One Arena, he would be a good bet to do it in one of the road games this week. His 23 goals scored on the road are tops in the league, six more than Carolina’s Sebastian Aho.
- Jakub Vrana. Ovechkin might score more goals, but no player in the league has more game-winning goals on the road this season than Jakub Vrana (five, tied with Draisaitl).
- Nick Jensen. In 27 road games this season, Jensen has one even strength point and one power play point, both of them assists. His minus-11 in road games is, by far, worst on the team (Ovechkin is minus-5).
- Evgeny Kuznetsov. In his last five road games, Evgeny Kuznetsov is 15-for-57 (26.3 percent) in faceoff wins.
- John Carlson. Yes, he appears in both the hot and cold sections. Why? In 26 road games, Carlson has 29 charged giveaways (most on the team) and only seven takeaways (tied for sixth-fewest among 20 Caps dressing for at least 10 road games).
- If the Caps get two power play chances against the Islanders, it will make an even 500 the Caps have had against the Islanders on home ice in the all-time series. They are 118-for-498 against the Isles on home ice (23.7 percent).
- The Caps have 20 wins on the road against Colorado in the all-time series against the Avalanche. Half of those wins (10) have come by three or more goals. Eight of the 18 losses in regulation they have suffered on the road against the Avs have come by three or more goals. A blowout, for either team, would not be a surprise.
- In 39 road games against Arizona in the all-time series between the Caps and the Coyotes, including the Coyotes’ previous incarnation as the Winnipeg Jets, only once did the Caps win consecutive games, and those came more than three years apart. The Caps beat the Coyotes, 4-3, on December 13, 2002, and then, after the intervening 2004-2005 lockout, the Caps won in Arizona on January 16, 2006. That, you might remember, was a game that featured quite the highlight.
The Caps having won their most recent game in Arizona, a 4-2 win on December 6, 2018, perhaps there is another highlight coming in this one.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week:
- With two goals, Alex Ovechkin would become the eighth player in NHL history to reach 700 goals for his career.
- With one game-winning goal, Ovechkin would break a tie with Teemu Selanne and Brett Hull for fourth place on the list (110).
- Ovechkin’s next hat trick will tie Marcel Dionne and Bobby Hull for sixth place (both with 28).
- With 11 credited hits, Ovechkin would become the first Capital in team history since the league started capturing this statistic in 2005-2006 to record 3,000 career hits.
- If he records an empty net goal, Ovechkin would become the third player in NHL history with 40 or more empty net goals. Wayne Gretzky (56) and Marian Hossa (40) are the others.
- If he scores the first goal of any game this week, Ovechkin would become only the fourth player in NHL history to record the first goal 120 times. Jaromir Jagr (135), Brett Hull (131), and Gordie Howe (127) are the others.
- With 24 career game-winning goals, John Carlson needs one to break a tie with Kevin Hatcher for most all time among Caps defensemen and with Brooks Laich for 11th place on the all-time franchise rankings.
- With one overtime goal, Carlson would be alone in second place among Capital defensemen in career overtime goals with the club (he has two at the moment), trailing only Mike “Game Over” Green (eight).
- Carlson stands at plus-99 over his career with the Caps. Only two players in team history have a plus-minus rating of plus-100 or better – Nicklas Backstrom (plus-123) and Rod Langway (plus-116).
- Nicklas Backstrom is two overtime goals short of becoming the second player in Caps history with at least ten overtime goals (Ovechkin: 23). He is currently tied with Mike Green for second-most overtime goals in team history (eight).
- T.J. Oshie’s next empty net goal will make him the sixth player in team history with at least ten empty net goals with the Caps.
- Oshie needs two points to reach 250 points recorded as a Capital.
- Tom Wilson’s next shorthanded goal will make him the active leader among Capitals in shorthanded goals with the club (five), unless Alex Ovechkin gets one first.
- Wilson needs two game-winning goals to become the 50th player in team history with at least ten game-winning goals.
- Backstrom’s next empty net goal will be his 14th career empty netter with the Caps, breaking a tie with Kelly Miller for third place on the all-time franchise list.
- With his next shutout, Holtby will break a tie with Olaf Kolzig (35) for most shutouts by a goaltender for the Caps.