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Snapshots of the Week Ahead: Week 9

It is a three-game week for the Caps, but fans will likely have Friday’s rematch with the Penguins circled on their calendars.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals Photo by John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images

It is a three-game week for the Washington Capitals in Week 9 featuring a visitor from the west coast and a visit to the land of snow and chicken wings, with a matchup against their uber rival in the middle game of the week.

The Opponents

Anaheim Ducks (Monday 7:00pm – Capital One Arena)

The Anaheim Ducks make their only visit to Washington on Monday night. Since putting together an eight-game winning streak from Hallowe’en through November 16th, ending with an overtime win over the Caps in Anaheim, the Ducks have struggled. In their last eight games they are 3-4-1, although they do show signs of emerging from their skid with points in their last three games (2-0-1).

The Ducks were leading the Pacific Division when they won their eighth straight game on November 16th, but they have since slipped to third, trailing Calgary and Edmonton in the division standings. Their 3-4-1 record is tied for 22nd in the league since their winning streak, and they have struggled on both sides of the puck, their 2.88 goals per game over their 3-4-1 run are tied for 19th in the league over that span, while their 3.38 goals allowed per game rank 25th.

It has not been a matter of weakness on special teams. The Ducks’ 26.3 percent power play ranks eighth during their slump, while the 82.6 percent penalty kill ranks 12th. Their problem has been at 5-on-5, where the Ducks have a minus-10 goal differential over their last eight games. Couple that with their allowing 13 third period goals during the slump (second most in the league to Ottawa’s 16), and there is less mystery to the Ducks’ struggles of late.

The Ducks have not been a particularly successful road team this season, either, largely a product of allowing 3.90 goals per game, 28th in road scoring defense. But the Caps will have to contend with a Ducks road power play that, at 29.2 percent, ranks fourth in the league.

Washington is 19-18-2 (one tie) in the all-time series against Anaheim, 10-9-1 on home ice. The Caps are 6-3-1 against the Ducks in their last ten games against Anaheim on home ice.

Pittsburgh Penguins (Friday/7:00pm – Capital One Arena)

The Pittsburgh Penguins will wrap up a five-game road trip, their longest of the season to date, when they visit Washington on Friday. The Penguins have been streaky over the last month, streaks of all kinds, it turns out. They started a streak of four consecutive extra time games back on November 4th, going 2-0-2 in those games, followed by a three-game losing streak (0-3-0), a five-game winning streak, and another three-game losing streak (0-2-1) before snapping that streak with a 4-1 win over Vancouver on Saturday.

The Penguins have been that odd team that has a better road record than they have on home ice, entering the new week with a 6-3-3 road record and 5-5-2 on home ice. What is more, they have been a hot team of late when taking their show on the road, going 5-1-1 in their last seven road contests after a 1-2-2 start on the road this season.

The Penguins’ road philosophy seems to keep things simple and play stout defense. Their road scoring defense – 2.42 goals allowed per game – ranks third in the league, and only once in their recent 5-1-1 road record did they allow more than two goals, a 5-2 loss in Edmonton on December 1st. Limiting shots has been noteworthy for the Pens, who have allowed only 28.2 shots per game on the road, third-fewest in the league. Their road penalty kill has been especially effective as well, their 90.0 percent kill rate on the road ranking first in the league as the new week begins.

For the Caps, beware of allowing the first goal. Pittsburgh and Edmonton are the only teams in the league with perfect records when scoring first on the road. The Pens are 5-0-0 in this category. The Pens also finish well in road games when carrying a lead into the third period on the road, going 5-0-0 so far.

Washington will be seeking to even the all-time series against the Penguins with this game, taking a 103-104-14 (16 ties) into this contest. The Caps are 60-45-7 (nine ties) on home ice in the all-time series against the Pens. The Caps are 5-3-2 against Pittsburgh in their last ten games on home ice.

Buffalo Sabres (Saturday/7:00pm – KeyBank Center)

The Sabres have fallen on hard times. Buffalo started the season with a 5-1-1 record, but starting with Hallowe’en, they are 3-12-2 in their last 17 games, the third-worst record in the league over that span and second-worst in points percentage. Home cooking has not helped, either. The Sabres go into the new week with a 1-5-0 record on home ice in their last six home games and allowed five or more goals in each of the five losses. Oddly enough, Buffalo scored four goals in four of those six games, losing three times when doing so. All told, they have been outscored, 30-17 in their last six home games.

Scoring defense on home ice has been an issue all season for the Sabres, who rank 30th in the league in home ice scoring defense to date (3.46 goals allowed per game). Seven times in 13 home games, Buffalo allowed four or more goals and twice allowed seven goals, including their last home game going into the new week, a 7-4 loss to the Seattle Kraken.

It is no doubt frustrating for the Sabres, who have been reasonably productive at 5-on-5 at home, scoring 28 goals at fives, ninth in the league. But they have allowed 31 goals at 5-on-5 on home ice, tied with Vegas for most in the league.

A big part of their problem at home has been early leakiness. The Sabres have allowed 19 first period goals in 13 home games, most in the league by a wide margin (New Jersey and Arizona have allowed 15 first period goals on home ice). And, they have taken a lead into the first intermission only once so far on home ice.

The Capitals are 65-85-7 (15 ties) in the all-time series against the Sabres, 30-46-3 (six ties) on the road against Buffalo. Washington is 6-3-1 in their last ten games in Buffalo.

Hot Caps:

  • Alex Ovechkin. No one likes home cooking like Alex Ovechkin. He leads the league with 12 goals scored (the only player in the league with double digit goals on home ice) and 24 points posted on home ice. His plus-12 rating at home is tied for fourth in the league.
  • John Carlson. No defenseman in the league has more power play goals on home ice than John Carlson (three), and only Aaron Ekblad and Charlie McAvoy have more power play points at home (six) than Carlson (five) among defensemen.
  • Martin Fehervary. Among rookie defensemen, Martn Fehervary is tied for fifth in points (five), first in the league in plus-minus (plus-8), seventh in ice time (19:07 per game), first in hits by a wide margin (68, 20 more than Anaheim’s Simon Benoit), second in blocked shots (39), tied for fifth in takeaways (five), sixth in shorthanded ice time per game (1:32), and second in total shifts taken (599).

Cold Caps:

  • Lars Eller/Carl Hagelin: Take your pick, their stats on home ice are almost identical. Both are 0-3-3 on home ice, both have recorded 17 shots on goal on home ice, both have six penalty minutes on home ice, they are 1:35 apart in total ice time (Hagelin – 186:55; Eller – 185:20). Both have struggled some on offense on home ice.
  • Justin Schultz. In 14 home games so far this season, Justin Schultz has just two assists and no goals.
  • Dennis Cholowski. It is hard for a young player, especially a defenseman, to join a new team without the benefit of training camp with that club, but that is the hand Dennis Cholowski has been dealt, and he is already minus-4 in four games, despite averaging only 13:36 in ice time per game.

Weird Facts:

  • The Caps will go into the new week with their two goalies separated by 1:23 in ice time this season to date: Ilya Samsonov – 726:53, Vitek Vanecek – 725:30.
  • Sidney Crsoby and Mario Lemieux each have faced the Caps 61 times in their respective careers. Perhaps surprisingly, it is Crosby who has more career assists (52, most by a Penguin against Washington all time).
  • John Carlson has been on ice for 666 even strength goals allowed over his career.

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 break a tie with Phil Esposito for third place all-time (currently 117 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).
  • Ovechkin needs one power play goal to tie Dave Andreychuk for the all-time lead in this category (currently 273).
  • With one empty net point, Ovechkin will tie Jarome Iginla for sixth all-time (Ovechkin has 55 empty net points).
  • With three first goals in games, Ovechkin will tie Brett Hull (131) for second place all time behind Jaromir Jagr (135).
  • 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.
  • If Carlson goes plus-5 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).

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 one even strength goal to reach 100 for his career.

Tom Wilson

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

Lars Eller

  • Needs nine penalty minutes for 500 in his career.