Despite what some would consider a rocky start, the Washington Capitals wrapped up their first two weeks of the season as one of only four teams without a regulation loss, and only the Montreal Canadiens played as many games (six) as the Caps in avoiding such a loss. Nevertheless, as the Caps embark on Week 3 of the new season, they find themselves just one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the East Division. It makes for an exciting week ahead.
New York Islanders (Tuesday (7:00pm)/Thursday (7:00pm)
The Capitals get their first chance to exact some revenge on the team that eliminated them from last season’s playoffs when they face the New York Islanders for a pair of games at Capital One Arena to open Week 3. The Islanders go into the new week being a very Islanders team, which is to say difficult to play against and more than a bit boring. The Isles traded shutouts in their season-opening series against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and then continued playing to low-scoring results, shutting out the Boston Bruins, 1-0, holding the New Jersey Devils to a single goal in a 4-1 win, and then suffering a shutout at the hands of the Devils in a rematch, 2-0, on Sunday.
Barry Trotz begins his third season behind the Islanders’ bench after leading the club to consecutive playoff appearances in his first two seasons. In just those two-plus seasons, Trotz has jumped to third on the all-time list of wins among 17 head coaches in team history with 86. He does, however, have quite a road ahead before he can catch Jack Capuano for second place (227) and would have to coach for quite a few more years before catching the legendary Al Arbour (740). Not likely. Trotz occupies second place among Islanders’ head coaches in playoff game wins (17), trailing only Arbour (119 wins).
Despite their 3-2-0 record, the Islanders have not scared anyone with their offense. Averaging 1.80 goals per game so far, their scoring offense ranks 31st – dead last – in the league. What their offense has been is something of an all-or-nothing affair, scoring four goals twice while being shut out twice. On the other hand, the Isles give up nothing, their scoring defense at 1.60 goals allowed per game ranked second in the league, best if you discount the Dallas Stars, who have played only two games to date.
Fun Fact… Since Barry Trotz took over as Islanders head coach in 2018-2019, the Islanders have the third-most wins in the league when scoring two or fewer goals. Their 15 wins in such games trail only Boston (20) and Dallas (18).
Boston Bruins (Saturday (7:00pm))
There is “new school,” “old school,” and “Bruins School” when it comes to hockey, it seems. Year after year, the Boston Bruins are the same team – deep, rugged, tough to play in all three zones, solid at every position. They have been a remarkably consistent team, one of only two since the 2010-2011 season to post nine 40-win seasons (Pittsburgh is the other). And while a 40-win season seems highly unlikely in a 56-game season, the Bruins are off to a good start with a 3-1-1 record entering Week 3.
What they do seem to lack so far is punch in their offense, the Bruins tied for 24th in scoring offense (2.60 goals per game) going into the new week. A large part of the problem is the absence of last season’s co-Richard Trophy winner David Pastrnak, still recovering from off-season hip surgery, although he does seem close to being game-ready.
The lack of offense has not mattered much to the Bruins so far, what with a scoring defense that is tied for third-best in the league through two weeks (2.00 goals allowed per game, tied with three other teams). And, they do with a suffocating defense that allows little to nothing to opponents. Their 22.6 shots allowed per game are fewest in the league, and they are allowing only 32.2 shot attempts per game at 5-on-5. This is a stingy team on defense.
Fun Fact… Bruce Cassidy has the best points percentage of any coach in Boston Bruins history with at least 250 games behind the bench (.682/164-67-35).
- Nicklas Backstrom. In Week 2, Backstrom was 2-1-3, finishing the week with four goals on the season. He has four goals in games, compared to last season when he posted his fourth goal in Game 18 of the season.
- Jakub Vrana. Vrana was the week’s leader in points for the Caps (1-3-4) and was a team-high plus-4. He did not post his sixth point of the season last year until Game 12.
- Garnet Hathaway. Hathaway was a hitting machine in Week 3, averaging 20.82 hits per 60 minutes to lead the club. Among forwards appearing in at least three games, he ranks eighth in the league with 19.98 hits per 60 minutes.
- Conor Sheary. Two games, no points, no shots on goal, minus-2 in ten minutes and change per game.
- Carl Hagelin. Three games, no points, still looking for his first point this season.
- Nick Jensen. The streak without a goal continues – 151 games, and counting.
- No current team in the NHL has averaged more shots on goal per game against the Caps in an all-time regular season series than the Bruins have averaged against Washington (31.4).
- Since 2005-2006, the Caps have the best points percentage of any Eastern Conference team against the Bruins (.683/32-13-7)
- You might think that winning percentage is a product of the Caps’ high-powered offense, but no. Over that same period, the Caps have the best scoring defense of any team against the Bruins (2.29 goals allowed per game).
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week:
- Nicklas Backstrom needs one overtime goal to break a tie with Mike Green (currently with eight apiece) and take over second place alone in Caps history (Ovechkin: 23).
- If Backstrom does not get that OT goal, Evgeny Kuznetsov needs only one to tie Backstrom and Green for second place all-time on the Caps’ list.
- With six penalty minutes, Tom Wilson would tie Brendan Witt (1,035) for fifth place on the all-time Caps’ rankings.
- John Carlson needs one game-winning goal to take over the top spot in Caps history among defensemen (currently tied at 24 with Kevin Hatcher).
- Carlson needs three power play points to tie Scott Stevens (182) for tenth place all-time in Caps history.