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Snapshots of the Week Ahead: Week 4

With the October schedule in the books, the Washington Capitals start their November schedule with a challenging slate of opponents.

NHL: DEC 14 Capitals at Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The calendar rolls over to November for Week 4, and with it the Washington Capitals move up in weight class with regard to their opponents. The three teams the Caps will face this week have a combined record of 16-5-3. It will be a challenging week.

The Opponents

Tampa Bay Lightning (Monday/7:00 – Amalie Arena)

The Tampa Bay Lightning come into Week 4 with a 4-3-1 record, and while it is early, one might ask, is this team worse than last year’s team than went 6-1-1 in its first eight games on its way to a Stanley Cup, or is it a repeat of the tea that went 4-3-1 in its first eight games in 2019-2020 on its way to a Stanley Cup? What seems to set this team apart so far is its inability to keep pucks out of the net. The Lightning head into the new week tied for 26th in scoring defense (3.38 goals against per game). But the odd part embedded in that statistic is that thee Lightning have allowed more goals at 6-on-5 (six) than any other team, almost one quarter of all the goals they have allowed so far.

Where the 6-on-5 problem is evident is in the Lightning having allowed 15 third period goals to date, most in the league, three more than four other teams. This is a team than finished with the fifth fewest third period goals allowed last season (47) and ten goals allowed at 6-on-5, still a high number (tied for seventh most in the league) but not the deluge the Lightning have experienced to date.

Another area of concern for the Lightning is their inability to get out to early leads. Only twice in eight games have they scored first (they are 2-0-0 in those games). And, only once have they taken a lead into the first intermission (they won that game).

There is also the Lightning record at home. Tampa Bay goes into the new week with a 1-2-1 record at Amalie Arena, 27th in points percentage (.375) in the league.

There are signs that the Lightning are shaking off their early season sluggishness. They go into the week with consecutive 5-1 wins, but while this is promising for the Bolts, it must be taken with a grain of salt, too. They beat a depleted Pittsburgh Penguins team and followed that up with a pasting of the woeful Arizona Coyotes. The Caps have an 82-33-11 (with six ties) all-time record against Tampa Bay and are 5-2-3 in their last ten meetings against the Lightning.

Florida Panthers (Thursday/7:00 – BB&T Arena)

The Panthers saw their eight-game winning streak to open the season come to an end with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday night. Nevertheless, Florida will go into the new week with the second-best record in the league by winning percentage at 8-0-1, trailing only the undefeated Carolina Hurricanes (8-0-0).

Florida does not come by their record by accident. They are tied for third in the league in scoring offense (4.00 goals per game), third in scoring defense (1.89 goals allowed per game, eighth in penalty killing (86.1 percent), first in shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 (56.0 percent), sixth in 5-on-5 shooting percentage (9.3 percent), fifth in 5-on-5 save percentage (.944), tied for first in wins when scoring first (6-0-0), tied for second in wins by three or more goals (four), third in takeaways per 60 minutes (9.38).

But just as there are signs Tampa Bay is coming out of their early season funk, there are signs that the Panthers might be headed for a rough patch. First, there is the underlying story line of the report on alleged instances of sexual assault by former Chicago Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich, a report that had ripples far and wide, costing Panthers head coach and former Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville his job when his role in the matter was published. Andrew Brunette has been named interim coach, although John Tortorella’s name has been bandied about as a possible replacement.

There is also the on-ice performance, which is showing some cracks. In winning their first seven games, Florida outscored opponents, 31-13, and held opponents to a single goal four times. They scored at least four goals in each of those games. However, the Panthers have gone to extra time in their last two contests, and while their scoring defense remains stout, allowing two goals in each of the games, they have only four goals scored in regulation (one in overtime). Washington is 66-42-11 (nine ties) in the all-time series with Florida and 4-4-2 in their last ten meetings with the Panthers.

Philadelphia Flyers (Saturday/7:00 – Capital One Arena)

The Flyers have been playing the South Philly Waltz to start the season – loss-win-win, loss-win-win. With a loss in their most recent contest, a 4-0 blanking at the hands of the Calgary Flames, the pattern suggests a pair of wins (against Arizona and Pittsburgh) before the Flyers face the Caps to close Week 4.

Philly is another of those teams whose offense has cooled since a fast start. They scored 16 goals in their first three games, but they have only nine in their last four contests, the shutout loss to Calgary serving as an exclamation point.

The Flyers early season performance has been muddled, a rather mediocre result to date. While they rank seventh in scoring offense (3.57 goals per game), they are tied for 15th in scoring defense (2.86 goals allowed per game), 12th on the power play (23.8 percent), 20th in penalty killing (80.0 percent), 28th in shots on goal per game (28.3), tied for 27th in shots on goal allowed per game (33.6).

What the Flyers do well, though, is hold early leads. They are 4-0-1 when scoring first and 4-0-1 when taking a lead into the first intermission. But there are concerns. The Flyers are first in the league in penalty minutes per game (14:08) and first (or worst, depending on your point of view) in penalties taken per 60 minutes (5.22). They are worst in the league in net penalties per 60 minutes (minus-1.13). They are 30th in shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 (45.6 percent) and dead last in that statistic in tied games (36.1 percent). And, after scoring four or more goals in four of their first five games, they have a total of two in their last two contests.

Washington is 93-108-11 (19 ties) in their all-time series with Philadelphia, 6-4-0 in their last ten meetings.

Hot Caps:

  • Alex Ovechkin. His next goal against Tampa Bay will be his 50th against the Lightning in his career. No player has more career goals against Tampa Bay than Ovechkin. He is also the all-time leader in goals against Florida (39).
  • Nick Jensen and Tom Wilson. The two Caps are tied for the top spot on the club in plus-minus rating so far this season (both at plus-9).
  • Ovechkin, Jensen, and Wilson. The trio each have a plus-8 goal differential at even strength tied for third best in the league.

Cold Caps:

  • Garnet Hathaway. Hathaway is still in search of his first point of the season. He is the only Capital having played more than one game without one.
  • Tom Wilson. Yes, he shows up here, too. His 3.28 giveaways per 60 minutes are most for the Caps so far. And, he is the only Capital to hit posts more than once so far (twice in eight games).
  • Daniel Sprong. Sprong is without a point in five home games played so far.

Weird Facts:

  • No Capital has a minus rating on the road so far this season. Okay, it’s only two road games.
  • If the Caps allow Florida a power play goal, it will be the Panthers’ 100th in the all-time series with the Caps.
  • If the Caps score first against the Flyers, they will have scored first in 116 games against the Flyers, equaling the number of games in which they trailed first against Philadelphia in what will be the 232nd game of the all-time series.

Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):

Alex Ovechkin

  • Needs two goals to catch Brett Hull for fourth place all-time in goal scoring (741)
  • Needs four assists for 600 in his career (596)
  • Needs one shorthanded goal to tie Gaetan Duchesne, Bobby Gould, and Steve Konowlachuk (six apiece) for 12th place in team history.
  • Needs one point to pass Mike Gartner for 31st place in all-time scoring (1,335), three points to tie Dave Andreychuk and Denis Savard for 29th place on that list (1,338).

John Carlson

  • Needs one power play goal to tie Alan Haworth (32) for 25th place on the all-time Caps list.
  • Needs one power play point to pass Michal Pivonka (194) for sixth place all-time for the Caps.
  • Needs one game-winning goal to tie Pivonka (27) for tenth place all-time for Washington; two game-winning goals and he will tie Alexander Semin for (28) ninth place; three and he will tie Dale Hunter and Kelly Miller (29) for seventh place.

Carl Hagelin

  • Needs one even strength goal for 100 in his career.

Evgeny Kuznetsov

  • Needs three assists to reach 300 in his career (297).
  • Needs one point to tie Dennis Maruk (431) for 11th place on the Caps’ all-time points list.
  • Needs two game-winning goals to tie Michal Pivonka (27) for tenth place on the Caps’ all-time list (currently 25).
  • Needs one overtime goal to tie Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green for second place on the all-time Caps’ list (currently seven).