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Snapshots of the Week Ahead: Week 8

In the week ahead, the Caps end one season series, renew another, and face a club they haven’t faced in Washington in over three years.

NHL: NOV 21 Blackhawks at Capitals Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In Week 8, the Caps close November and open December with a trip to Florida before returning home to face the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets in an effort to extend a three-game winning streak.

The Opponents

Florida Panthers (Tuesday/7:00pm – BB&T Center)

The Caps open the week with their third and final matchup with the Florida Panthers in the regular season. Washington lost the first meeting of the clubs, a 5-4 overtime loss in Sunrise, Florida, back on November 4th. The Caps evened the season series with a 4-3 win in Washington last Friday.

After a 10-0-1 start, the Panthers have been on a roller coaster – four-game losing streak (0-2-2), four-game winning streak, two-game losing streak going into the new week. The Panthers’ 4-4-2 record since that hot start ranks tied for 13th in that span in points earned (oddly enough, with eight other teams) and tied for 19th (with three other teams) in points percentage. In assembling that record, Florida has been consistent at both ends of the ice, averaging 3.10 goals for and 3.10 goals against per game over those ten games. Their power play has been something less than anemic, the 4.4 percent success rate ranking 31st of 32 teams in that span. Their penalty kill has hardly been better, the 69.6 percent penalty kill rate tied for 28th over that stretch.

The odd part on the offensive side of the puck for the Panthers over their 4-4-2 run is that they do not lack for shots, their 36.4 shots per game ranking third in the league over that span. However, while outshooting opponents in seven of the ten games, they posted a mediocre 2-3-2 record when doing so. Their 8.5 shooting percentage over those ten games ranks 24th over that stretch.

On defense, the Panthers have been an all-or-nothing group recently. Over their last ten games they allowed three or more goals seven times and one goal three times.

Washington owns a 67-42-12 (nine ties) all time record against Florida and 31-25-5 (four ties) in games played in Florida. The Caps are 5-3-2 in their last ten visits to Florida.

Chicago Blackhawks (Thursday/7:00pm – Capital One Arena)

The last time the Caps hosted the Chicago Blackhawks was November 21, 2018, a 4-2 win for the Caps. The Blackhawks are a very different team than the one that took the ice against the Caps in DC three years ago. Only four skaters – Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews, Erik Gustafsson, and Patrick Kane – remain from that lineup.

The Blackhawks have not won a postseason series since they won the Stanley Cup in 2015 and have reached the playoffs only three times in six seasons since that Cup-winning year. This year’s team is on a trajectory that will end in an early off season once more, going into the new week seventh in the eight-team Central Division.

The road has been especially hard on Chicago, their 2-7-1 record tied for 28th place in points earned and tied for 28th in points percentage (.250). Only Philadelphia and Arizona have a worse scoring offense on the road than the Blackhawks and their 2.00 goals scored per game. Their scoring defense has struggled almost as much, averaging 3.70 goals allowed per game on the road (tied for 25th).

Chicago’s offense on the road suffers from an inability to get pucks to the net, their 24.5 shots per game in road games ranking last in the league, and their shot attempts-for at 5-on-5 of 44.0 percent ranking 30th. The result of that anemic shooting efficiency is a minus-9.6 shot differential that ranks 31st in the league in road games.

The Caps are 45-43-1 (11 ties) in the all-time series against Chicago, 29-15-1 (five ties) in games played in Washington. They are 8-1-1 against the Blackhawks in their last ten games in DC.

Columbus Blue Jackets (Saturday/7:00pm – Capital One Arena)

The Columbus Blue Jackets will make their first visit to Washington this season on Saturday. The Caps beat the Blue Jackets, 4-3, in Columbus in the first meeting of the teams this season. After a 4-3-0 start, Columbus has been methodically making progress moving up the Metropolitan Division standings. They are 8-4-0 in their last dozen games and sit in fourth place in the division standings.

Columbus’ offense has awakened in their 12-game run, their 3.83 goals per game ranking third over that stretch. It is probably a good thing, too, since their scoring defense leaves much to be desired over the same number of games – 3.33 goals allowed per game, 26th in the league over that span.

On special teams, Columbus has been middle-of-the-road on the power play over their last dozen games, their 21.2 percent success rate ranking 13th over that span. It is their penalty kill that has shined, though, their 90.9 kill rate tops in the league over that stretch.

Columbus has closed with a rush in their 8-4-0 run, scoring 20 third period goals, tied for first in the league over that span with Edmonton and Minnesota. What they have not done in those dozen games, though, is play well from in front. They are just 3-4-0 when scoring first, but undefeated – one of two teams over this span – when trailing first (5-0-0).

The Caps are 26-12-5 (one tie) in the all-time series against Columbus, 13-4-3 (one tie) on home ice. Washington is 6-3-1 in their last ten games against Columbus on home ice.

Hot Caps:

  • Alex Ovechkin. Alex Ovechkin leads the league in goals (11) and points (22) scored at home so far.
  • Tom Wilson. Tom Wilson is tied for the team lead in plus-minus rating at home with a plus-9 (with Ovechkin).
  • Nic Dowd. On home ice, Nic Dowd is 2-for-8 shooting to lead the Caps in shooting percentage (25.0 percent).

Cold Caps:

  • Trevor van Riemsdyk. Three Caps have more than ten shots on goal without a goal on home ice this season. Van Riemsdyk is 0-for-10.
  • Carl Hagelin. He’s 0-for-13.
  • Lars Eller. He’s 0-for-16.

Weird Facts:

  • Going into the new week, Chicago has yet to out-shoot a team on the road this season, the only team in the league failing to do so.
  • Columbus is tied for second in the league in empty net goals (seven, with Florida).
  • If the Caps log four penalty minutes against Florida, they will have 1,000 penalty minutes all time in games played against the Panthers in Florida.

Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):

Alex Ovechkin

  • Needs one shorthanded goal to tie Gaetan Duchesne, Bobby Gould, and Steve Konowlachuk (six apiece) for 12th place in team history.
  • Needs five power play points to tie Adam Oates for 24th place all time (currently 506 points).
  • Needs one game-winning goal to tie Phil Esposito for third place all-time (currently 117 GWG).
  • Need one blocked shot to break a tie with Matt Stajan for 50th place since 2005-2006 among forwards (currently 481 blocked shots).
  • With one game-deciding goal in a shootout, Ovechkin will tie Kris Letang for tenth place all-time (currently 14).
  • Ovechkin needs one power play goal to tie Dave Andreychuk for the all-time lead in this category (currently 273).

John Carlson

  • Needs two power play goals to tie Dainius Zubrus (35) for 23rd 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 one power play point to become the sixth player in team history with 200 power play points.

Carl Hagelin

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

Evgeny Kuznetsov

  • Needs one game-winning goal 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 two even strength goals to reach 100 for his career.

Tom Wilson

  • Needs one goal to reach the 100-goal mark for his career.

Lars Eller

  • Needs 11 penalty minutes for 500 in his career.