The Washington Capitals will have a coast-to-coast work week in Week 18 without leaving the confines of Capital One Arena as they host the Los Angeles Kings and the Philadelphia Flyers in a two-game week where they try to break their first two-game losing streak on home ice since mid-November.
Los Angeles Kings (Tuesday/7:00pm)
The Caps open the week hosting the Los Angeles Kings, a team that has really fallen on hard times. They started the season slowly (2-5-0 in their first seven games), had brief signs of life (13-13-3 over their next 29 game), and now have fallen back into a rut (4-11-2 in their last 17 games) to sink to the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
The recent 17-game slide has been a product of poor offense, the Kings averaging just 2.18 goals per game, second worst scoring offense in the league since December 19th, when that slide began (Detroit is at 1.82 goals per game over that stretch). Only twice over those 17 games have the Kings scored more than three goals in a game, at home in a 5-3 win over Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve, and again in Las Vegas in a 5-2 win over the Golden Knights on January 9th. Six times in that 17-game run, the Kings were held to one or no goals.
Los Angeles’ defense has not been horrible, but it has been just good enough to lose with regularity. In the 4-11-2 slide, they have not allowed more than four goals in any game, but they did allow that many six times, not including the shootout loss that was posted as 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay on January 14th.
With respect to this game, the Kings have been more respectable on the road. They have been on the road for ten games in this 17-game drop-off, and they have a 3-5-2 record while averaging 2.40 goals per game and allowing 2.80 goals per game. Their power play on the road in this stretch has been quite good (23.8 percent), suggesting that this is an area to watch when they visit Capital One Arena. Their penalty kill on the road in those ten road games has not been as impressive (76.2 percent), but they have been able to minimize its exposure. Only three times in those ten games did they go shorthanded more than twice, and only once did they face as many as four shorthanded situations (December 19th at Columbus in a 3-2 overtime loss that started this most recent slide).
Philadelphia Flyers (Saturday/7:00pm)
Philadelphia has been a team characterized by streaky play this season. They opened the season with a pair of wins, then they dropped four straight. A three-game winning streak followed by a two game losing streak. Five wins in six games followed by a four-game losing streak. And on it went. In the most recent iteration of this trend, starting with the Flyers’ 3-2 win over the Caps on January 8th, they are 6-2-1 in their last nine games.
That recent record is the product of solid results at both ends of the ice. Both the Flyers scoring offense and scoring defense are top-ten since January 8th, when that run began, averaging 3.22 goals per game on offense (tied for tenth with St. Louis and Pittsburgh) and 2.56 goals allowed per game on defense (tied for eighth with Boston).
The Flyers have been a team that has struggled on the road this season. They are 10-13-3 on the out of town schedule so far this season, their ten wins ranking 24th in the league, and their .442 points percentage ranking 23rd. The big problem for the Flyers on the road has been keeping other teams from scoring. Their 3.81 goals allowed per game in road games so far this season is the second-worst scoring defense in the league (Detroit: 4.23 goals allowed per game), and their 75.6 percent penalty kill ranks 25th in the league.
In that respect, their recent run of good fortune might be a bit misleading. Only two of the games in their 6-2-1 run were played on the road, a 4-3 overtime win in St. Louis over the Blues on January 15th and a 4-3 overtime loss in Pittsburgh to the Penguins last Friday. The Flyers are 3-7-2 in their last 12 road games, and all three of the wins came in extra time.
- Alex Ovechkin. Since January 1, Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL with 13 goals in just 11 games.
- John Carlson. Although he has not turned on the red light since January 1st, John Carlson has 12 assists in 12 games, roughly evenly split between even strength (seven) and power plays (five). That is tied for most points among defensemen in the new year, with Roman Josi and Alex Pietrangelo.
- Tom Wilson. Tom Wilson has 10 points in 12 games since January 1st.
- Dmitry Orlov. Dmitry Orlov has a 16-game streak without a goal, missing on 31 shots since December 23rd.
- Jonas Siegnethaler. Jonas Siegenthaler has one point (an assist) in his last 15 games since posting a three-game point streak just before Christmas.
- Braden Holtby. Since December 16th, Braden Holtby has stopped 226 of 264 shots in posting a 3-7-0 record. Of goalies logging at least 500 minutes over that span, Holtby’s save percentage of .856 ranks 27th.
- Washington has more wins on the road this season (20) than any NHL team has on home ice so far (Pittsburgh: 19).
- In the all-time series between the Caps and the Kings, neither has ever been shut out by the other on home ice. The Caps shut out the Kings five times in Washington, but never in Los Angeles, while the Kings have shut out the Caps three times in the all-time series, never in Washington.
- Beware this week. If the Caps allow a shorthanded goal in either game, it would be the 200th shorthanded goal allowed on home ice in franchise history.
- The Caps have lost 11 games on home ice so far this season. Seven of them have been by one goal, and four of those in extra time.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week:
- With five 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 Brendan Shanahan and Patrick Marleau (109) for sixth-place in league history, and he would tie Teemu Selanne and Brett Hull for fourth place on the list (110).
- With two points, Ovechkin would tie Jean Ratelle for 37th place on the all-time points list (1,267).
- Ovechkin’s next hat trick will break a tie with Maurice Richard (26) for eighth place on the all-time list; two more and he will tie Marcel Dionne and Bobby Hull for sixth place.
- With the next game Nicklas Backstrom plays, he will break a tie with Kelly Miller for fourth place in career games played for the Caps (both with 940).
- 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).
- If Carlson dresses for both games this week, he will take over ninth place on the Caps’ all-time list of games played, passing Brooks Laich (742).
- 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.
- 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.