Will they or won’t they? Play, that is. The Washington Capitals had the last three games of their schedule before Christmas postponed as the league went dark until after the holiday break. A fourth consecutive game, that against the Ottawa Senators scheduled for Monday, was postponed as well. That still leaves three games on the Week 12 schedule, but whether or not any or all of them will be played is an uncertain matter as the week opens. Nevertheless, we take a look at the three opponents still on the schedule.
Nashville Predators (Wednesday/7:00pm – Capital One Arena)
“Hot chicken” is a thing in Nashville, where the dish is accompanied by a bevy of spices to bring the heat. Well, the Nashville Predators have not lacked for “bringing the heat” lately. The Preds go into Week 12 on a seven-game winning streak, tied with Pittsburgh for the longest current winning streak in the league. Their plus-1.57 goal differential per game is third over that stretch, trailing only Carolina (2.00), and Pittsburgh (2.27).
Nashville has largely done it with defense, allowing only 2.00 goals per game in the 7-0-0 run, tied for third best scoring defense in the league over that span. The low scoring defense is a product of limiting shots on goal, the Preds allowing the fewest shot on goal per game (24.0) in their last seven games. It is a significant improvement over the 30.8 shots allowed per game in the 23 games before this streak (14th in the league). Their 34.6 shot attempts allowed per game at 5-on-5 over the streak is fewest in the league.
Nashville has been very adept sat preventing opponents from getting off to good starts in this recent run. Over their last seven games they allowed only two first period goals, tied with the Caps for second-fewest over that span (the Penguins have not allowed a first period goal in the same span). Twice in those seven games they allowed the game’s first goal (tied for fourth-fewest in the league), and they did not trail at the first intermission in any of those seven games (they were 4-0-0 when leading after 20 minutes). There was, however, a “blessings of the hockey gods” aspect to their record. Five of the seven wins came by one-goal margins, two of them settled in overtime.
Washington is 13-15-2 (one tie) in the all-time series against Nashville, 8-6-1 on home ice. The Caps are 2-7-1 in the last ten meetings between the teams and have lost their last eight games to the Predators (0-7-1).
Detroit Red Wings (Friday/7:30pm – Little Caesars Arena)
Thirty-one games into the season, and the Detroit Red Wings are in the playoff mix, sitting in fourth place in the Atlantic Division, three points ahead of the Boston Bruins, who have five games in hand on Detroit. The Red Wings have stumbled recently, going 2-4-0 in their last six games. They seem to have lost their way in their own end over those six games, allowing 26 goals (4.33 goals allowed per game) after allowing 3.12 goals per game over their first 25 games. All four losses were by multi-goal margins, three of them by three of more goals. This has been an issue for the Wings this season, who are 4-9 in games decided by three or more goals this season.
Detroit has managed to avoid, for the most part, the three-or-more losses on home ice, where they are 3-2-0 in such games this season. The Red Wings are actually a rather formidable team on home ice, where their 11-3-2 record and .750 points percentage is tied with Carolina for fifth-best in the league.
What the Red Wings have not been able to do on home ice is score on power plays. Their 14.9 percent power play is the fourth-worst in the league on home ice. Although the Wings are 8-2-0 in their last ten home games, their power play was just 3-for-25 (12.0 percent).
The Red Wings are not an especially physical team, at least on home ice. Their 14.92 credited hits per 60 minutes is second-fewest in the league. On the other hand, they have had difficulty playing within the rules at Little Caesars Arena, their 55 minor penalties taken ranking fourth in the league, but they do have a 0.25 net penalties per 60 minutes, despite the volume of minors taken.
One thing to watch will be how the teams perform in the first period. Detroit has only ten goals in first periods of home games and carries a minus-7 goal differential in the opening 20 minutes. Second periods are another matter entirely, where Detroit is plus-11 at home. The Red Wings also happen to be one of six teams not to have lost in regulation when scoring first at home.
The Caps are 55-45-6 (16 ties) in their all-time series against Detroit, 24-23-4 (11 ties) in the Motor City. The Caps are 7-1-2 in their last ten visits to Detroit, including wins in their last five meetings.
New Jersey Devils (Sunday/3:00pm – Capital One Arena)
A season that seemed promising after a dozen games, when the New Jersey Devils posted a 7-3-2 record, has dissolved into a rancid mess. New Jersey is 3-12-3 in their last 18 games and go into the new week on a six-game losing streak, all of the losses in regulation, four of them by multi-goal margins. What is more, the Devils have injury issues in goal, with number one goalie Mackenzie Blackwood listed as day-to-day with a neck injury, and Jonathan Bernier on injured reserve with a hip injury.
The problems go deeper than missing goalies at the moment. The Devils have allowed five or more goals in six of their last 11 games. They ae also an abominable road team, their 3-8-2 record being second-worst in standings points earned (eight) and fourth-worst in points percentage (.308). They have yet to win consecutive games on the road this season and enter the new week with a six-game losing streak on the road.
Again, defense is the issue with New Jersey on the road. They allowed four or more goals in each of the six games of their current road losing steak and allowed five or more goals four times. All six of the losses were by multi-goal margins, four of them by three or more goals. Over those six road games, teams shot an astounding 17.8 percent (32 goals on 198 shots).
The offense was almost as bad over those half-dozen road games, scoring only 13 goals (2.17 per cent) and posting a power play that went 1-for-15 (6.7 percent). To add insult to injury, the Devils’ power play was outscored, having allowed two shorthanded goals in that stretch.
Washington is 122-77-15 (13 ties) in the all-time series against the Devils, 70-30-8 (six ties) at home. The Caps are 9-1-0 in their last ten games against New Jersey on home ice and carry a nine-game winning streak into the contest.
- Alex Ovechkin. As the Caps wrap up their 2021 schedule with two games left in December, Alex Ovechkin leads the team in goals (46) and point (89) in 76 games since January 1st.
- Dmitry Orlov. Orlov leads the Caps in plus-minus in 2021 – plus-33 in 82 games to date, good for a tie for eighth-best in the league among all skaters, fourth among defensemen.
- Nicklas Backstrom. Since January 1st, Backstrom has 23 power play points (5-18-23) in only 56 games.
- Trevor van Riemsdyk. In 46 games in calendar 2021, van Riemsdyk has one goal on 53 shots, the fewest goals of any Capital appearing in more than a dozen games in the calendar year to date.
- T.J. Oshie. In 67 games in the calendar year, Oshie has the worst plus-minus rating among active Capitals (minus-7).
- Connor McMichael. In 30 games in 2021, McMichael has the worst net penalties per 60 minutes (0.54) among active Caps who appeared in more than a dozen games.
- Only one active Capital has a positive plus-minus rating in their career against Nashville with Washington – Carl Hagelin (plus-1).
- Despite a winning record this season, Detroit has had three streaks of at least three losses. They have two streaks of at least three wins.
- The next power play goal the Caps score on home ice against the Devils will be the 100th power play goal scored by the Caps, all-time, against New Jersey in Washington.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):
- Needs one shorthanded goal to tie Gaetan Duchesne, Bobby Gould, Steve Konowlachuk, and Tom Wilson (six apiece) for 12th place in team history.
- Needs two points to tie Johnny Bucyk (1,369) for 25th place all-time.
- Needs five even strength goals to tie Marcel Dionne for fourth-place all time (Dionne with 478 ES goals).
- Needs one power play goal to break a tie with Dave Andreychuk for the top spot on the all-time list (both with 274 PPG).
- Needs four power play points to tie Adam Oates for 24th place all time (Ovechkin currently with 509 points).
- Needs one game-winning goal to break a tie with Phil Esposito for third place all-time (currently 118 GWG); he needs three to tie Gordie Howe for second place.
- With one game-deciding goal in a shootout, Ovechkin will tie Kris Letang for tenth place all-time (currently 14).
- With one empty net point, Ovechkin will break a tie with Jarome Iginla for sixth all-time (both with 56 empty net points); with two empty net points he would tie Joe Thornton and Blake Wheler for fourth place (both with 58 ENP).
- With two first goals in games, Ovechkin will tie Brett Hull (131) for second place all time behind Jaromir Jagr (135).
- Needs six points to tie Bengt-Ake Gustafsson for seventh place on the all-time franchise rankings (Gustafsson with 554 points).
- Needs two power play goals to tie Dainius Zubrus and Evgeny Kuznetsov (35) for 23rd place on the all-time Caps list.
- Needs one game-winning goal to tie Michal 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.
- If Carlson goes plus-2 for the week, he would become the third player in Capitals history to reach the plus-100 mark (Nicklas Backstrom: plus-119; Rod Langway: plus-116).
- With three even strength goals, Carlson would tie Sergei Gonchar for second place among defensemen in Caps history (Gonchar with 90 ESG).
- If Orlov goes plus-6 for the week, he would become the third player to reach the plus-100 mark for his career with the Capx (if Carlson does not beat him to it).
- Orlov’s next goal will be his 50th in the NHL and as a Capital (tenth on the all-time franchise list among defensemen).
- Orlov’s next game-winning goal will be the 14th of his career and would tie him with Scott Stevens and Sylvain Cote on the all-time franchise list among defensemen.
- 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 five points for 250 in his career.
- Needs two goals to tie Marcus Johansson for 30th in team history (Johansson with 102).
- Needs one empty net goal to tie Peter Bondra for fifth on the all-time franchise list (Bondra with 11).
- Needs three penalty minutes for 500 in his career.
- Needs one empty net goal to tie Peter Bondra for fifth on the all-time franchise list (Bondra with 11).
- Needs 19 saves for 1,500 in his career. In doing so, he would tie Semyon Varlamov and Mike Palmateer for 19th place on the all-time franchise list.