Week 7 sees the Washington Capitals returning home for their pre and après Thanksgiving pair of games after a four-game western road trip, but the fireworks might be in the last game of the week, when the Caps visit Carolina for a mega-matchup.
Montreal Canadiens (Wednesday/7:00pm – Capital One Arena)
Has any team fallen so far, so fast as the 2021-2022 Canadiens. From Stanley Cup finalist to the 30th ranked team in the NHL in points percentage (.300; tied with Ottawa). The Canadiens have not yet won consecutive games this season, but they do have three losing streaks of at least three games, including the four-game losing streak they snapped on Saturday night in a 6-3 win over Nashville.
The Canadiens have struggled on both sides of the puck, ranking 29st in scoring offense (2.20 goals per game) and 30th in scoring defense (3.50 goals allowed per game). In seven of their 20 decisions to date they scored one or no goals, and only four times did they score more than three. Nine times they lost by three or more goals. Their minus-1.30 goal differential per game is second worst in the league. No Canadien has as many as five goals scored, and only Mike Hoffman is on a pace for 20 (25).
Drill down, and things do not get better for Montreal – 28th in power play (14.8 percent), 29th in penalty kill (69.2 percent), 25th in faceoff winning percentage (48.0 percent), 30th in third period goals scored (13), tied for the sixth-highest number of first period goals allowed (18, with Vegas), second-most second period goals allowed (24), most third period goals allowed (26; tied with Tampa Bay), tied for 22th in 5-on-5 goals scored (29, with Colorado and Vancouver), fourth-most goals allowed at fives (40; tied with Vegas and Arizona), tied for second-worst winning percentage when scoring first (.333/3-4-2), 0-10-1 when trailing after two periods. They have been out-scored, 32-17, on the road this season. This is not a very good team.
Florida Panthers (Friday/5:00pm – Capital One Arena)
The Caps jump up several weight classes in opponent when they face Florida on Friday, even as the Panthers struggled with their recent schedule. They started the season on a 10-0-1 run, outscoring opponents, 46-23, five of their wins coming by three or more goals. In nine of those games, the Panthers scored at least four goals. Since then, Florida is 3-2-2, outscored opponents 25-22, and three scored four or more goals. They are, however, on a three-game winning streak. Perhaps most relevant for their contest against the Caps, the Panthers have lost five in a row on the road (0-2-3) and have scored only 12 goals while doing it, allowing 19.
While the Panthers extended their home winning streak to ten games to start the season on Saturday night, they have not been an especially good team on the road this season. Their .563 points percentage on the road ranks 16th in the league, while their scoring offense ranks 12th (2.88 goals per game), and their scoring defense ranks ninth (2.88 goals against per game). The special teams on the road for the Panthers have been particularly weak, their power play ranking 26th (13.0 percent), and their penalty kill ranking 20th (77.8 percent). The Panthers’ special teams index on the road (power play plus penalty kill percentages) of 90.8 ranks 22nd in the league.
What Florida has been able to do on the road is dominate shots on goal. With the Panthers averaging 35.0 shots per game on the road (third in the league) and 28.4 shots allowed per game (second fewest in the league), their plus-6.6 shot differential ranks second in the league as well. They have also been dominant in even strength shot attempts, their 59.4 percent on-ice shot attempts percentage on the road ranks first in the league by a comfortable margin over Tampa Bay (56.1 percent). But they have had issues with starts in games. They have only five first period goals scored in eight road games, and they have taken a lead into the first intermission only twice in those eight road games.
Carolina Hurricanes (Sunday/1:00pm – PNC Arena)
This might be the marquee game on the Capitals; schedule in Week 7. Their 14-2-0 record ranks second in the league in points (28, one behind Florida), and their .875 points percentage tops the league rankings. It has hardly mattered whether they play at home, where they have an 8-1-0 record, or on the road, where the Hurricanes are 6-1-0.
Carolina has done it largely with defense. Only twice in 16 games have the Hurricanes allowed more than three goals, and they have limited opponents to one or no goals seven times in those 16 games. This being a home game for Carolina, it is noteworthy that they have outscored opponents, 25-12, scoring six goals twice and only twice allowing as many as three goals on home ice so far.
Carolina’s scoring defense on home ice has been impressive, allowing only 1.71 goals per game in seven home games thus far and holding opponents to 27.4 shots on goal per game. One uncharacteristic aspect of the Carolina defense has been their frequency of shorthanded situations faced. Carolina has had a history of avoiding such situations, but their 4.43 shorthanded situations faced on home ice are most in the league. But they do almost make it up on the other side of special teams, averaging 4.00 power play chances per game at home.
- Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin leads the Caps in goals (six) and points (15) in 11 games in November.
- John Carlson. The defenseman has points in eight of ten games in November (he had a four-game streak snapped in Seattle on Sunday evening, his second four-game streak of the month) and leads the team in assists for the month (ten).
- Nick Jensen. Three assists in November (tied for second among defensemen), 18 shots on goal (second among defensemen), plus-6 (best among defensemen in the month).
- Nic Dowd. Five games in November, one assist, seven shots on goal, minus-2 (tied for worst on team in the month), 50.0 percent on faceoffs, missed six games to injury.
- Justin Schultz. 0-1-1 in ten games in November (fewest points among defensemen who played in more than one game), seven shots on goal (only defenseman who played more than one game with fewer than ten).
- Trevor van Riemsdyk. 0-for-15 shooting in November (but he is a plus-5).
- The Caps are 74-74-6 (17 ties) in the all-time series against Montreal.
- While the Caps and Florida have battled almost to a draw in the first two periods of their all-time series (first period: Caps/103 goals, Florida/105; second period: Caps 123/Florida/122), Washington has overwhelmed the Panthers in the third periods of games, outscoring the Panthers in the all-time series, 148-103 in the last 20 minutes of regulation.
- Washington has scored 99 goals in the second periods of games and 99 goals in the third periods of games played on the road in the all-time series with Carolina.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):
- Needs three points to tie Guy LaFleur for 27th place all time (currently, Ovechkin has 1,350 points). With five points this week he would jump into 26th place all-time in points, passing Brendan Shanahan.
- Needs one shorthanded goal to tie Gaetan Duchesne, Bobby Gould, and Steve Konowlachuk (six apiece) for 12th place in team history.
- Needs one power play point to tie Luc Robitaille and Brendan Shanahan for 25th place all time (currently 506 points).
- Needs two game-winning goals to tie Phil Esposito for third place all-time (currently 16 GWG).
- Need one blocked shot to tie Matt Stajan for 50th place since 2005-2006 among forwards (currently 480 blocked shots).
- With one game-deciding goal in a shootout, Ovechkin will tie Kris Letang for tenth place all-time (currently 14).
- Ovechkin needs two power play goals to tie Dave Andreychuk for the all-time lead in this category.
- Needs one power play goal to break a tie with Alan Haworth (32) for 25th place on the all-time Caps list.
- 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.
- Needs two power play points to become the sixth player in team history with 200 power play points.
- Needs one goal to break a tie with Guy Charron for 23rd place on the all-time franchise list (both with 118).
- Needs one even strength goal for 100 in his career.
- 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).
- Needs one power play goal to break a tie with Dainius Zubrus for 23rd place, all-time (both with 35).
- Needs three goals to reach the 100-goal mark for his career.