Week 11 gets off to a late start for the Washington Capitals, but it will be a three-game week nonetheless. The Caps continue their run through New York state/New York City area opponents, teams in the lower half of the East Division standings against which they need to bank points.
New Jersey Devils (Thursday 7:00pm/Friday 7:00pm)
Back in mid-February, the New Jersey Devils won three in a row to go 6-3-2, their .626 points percentage ranking 11th in the league. Things took a turn, though. Since then, New Jersey is 5-11-2, their .333 points percentage ranking 29th in the league, and they are 10 points behind the Boston Bruins for the last playoff spot in the East Division. Playoff dreams will have to wait until next season for the Devils.
There is no complicated explanation for their slump. They could not score (2.22 goals per game/30th in scoring offense over that stretch) and they cannot keep opponents from scoring (3.28 goals allowed per game/24rd in the league). Only twice in those 18 games have they scored more than three goals, while they allowed more than three goals seven times.
Drill down, and special teams have done them no favors. Their 14.0 percent power play over their last 18 games ranks 29th in the league, and their 75.5 percent penalty kill ranks 22nd over that span.
New Jersey has shown an inability to dominate teams; they are one of two teams in the league without a win by three of more goals since February 19th (Anaheim is the other). Not that close games have been a source of success, either. Their 5-5-2 record (.417 in percentage) ranks 22nd since February 19th. In a league where scoring first is among the best indicators of success, New Jersey is 3-5-0 when scoring first over their last 18 games, their .375 win percentage ranking 30th. Their 2-6-2 record when trailing first ranks 20th over that span in win percentage (.200). New Jersey lost all four previous games this season to the Caps, outscored by a 17-11 margin.
New York Rangers (Sunday 12:00pm)
It is unfortunate for the Rangers that the Caps have not been on the schedule more frequently than the four games played against Washington to date. The Rangers have beaten no opponent more frequently than the Caps going into the new week (three times), and they have been stingiest in allowing goals against the Caps (1.50 goals allowed per game). The Caps are the only opponent New York has faced against which they have a perfect penalty killing record (13-for-13).
With the Caps hosting the Rangers in the last game of the week, it is worthwhile to note that New York has been more successful than most teams against the Caps at Capital One Arena. In three games played in Washington so far, the Rangers are 2-1-0 and have outscored the Caps, 8-4. That stinginess on defense on the road has not been limited to the Caps. Going into Week 11, the Rangers have the fifth-best scoring defense in the league in road games (2.53 goals allowed per game). A good portion of that is the result of penalty killing that ranks sixth on the road this season (85.4 percent), including a perfect 9-for-9 against the Caps at Capital One Arena.
The Rangers have found their defensive stride on the road in recent games. After a three-game stretch in which they allowed four or more goals in each game (13 overall), they allowed a total of three goals over their last three road games, shutting out Boston, 4-0, and allowing three goals to Washington in the two-game set they played last Friday and Saturday. When the Rangers come to town to close the week, they will be looking to win consecutive games in Washington for the first time in the same season since they won two in a row in March and April 2015.
- Alex Ovechkin. He had a five-game goal scoring streak snapped against the New York Rangers on Saturday, but Ovechkin still has six goals in his last six games and seven in his last eight contests. He is now tied for 12th in the league in goal scoring for the season (14) and has climbed to 10th in goals per game (0.52; minimum: 20 games).
- Tom Wilson. Yes, he missed seven games with a suspension and only returned from that suspension on Saturday against the New York Rangers, but his last two goals scored this season are game-winners, and three of his seven goals scored overall are game-winners.
- Caps goalies. In the Caps’ 14-3-1 record since February 16th, Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov are a combined 13-3-1 (Craig Anderson has the other win), 2.11, .922, with one shutout.
- Brenden Dillon. In ten games played in March, Dillion is without a point, one of three Caps players without a point for the month (Jonas Siegenthaler in one game and Trevor van Riemsdyk in two games).
- Richard Panik. In games played in March, Panik has the lowest average ice time of any player appearing in more than two games (11:16).
- Evgeny Kuznetsov. In ten games this month, Kuznetsov has one goal on 16 shots (6.3 percent), the lowest shooting percentage among forwards appearing in more than three games.
- The Caps are 10-4-2 on home ice this season and 10-3-2 on the road. They are one of four teams (Tampa Bay, Florida, and Carolina being the others) with at least ten wins on home ice and at least ten wins on the road.
- Washington is 0-for-13 on the power play against the New York Rangers, 20-for-65 against everyone else they played to date (30.8 percent).
- If the Caps score a power play goal in either game at home against New Jersey this week, it will make it a round 100 power play goals scored by the Caps against the Devils in Washington in the all-time series.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week:
- Needs one overtime goal to break a tie with Mike Green (currently with eight apiece) and take over second place alone in Caps history (Ovechkin: 24).
- If Backstrom goes plus-5 for the week at home, he will be the only player in Capitals history with a plus-100 rating on home ice over his Caps career. As it is, he has the highest home ice rating in team history (plus-95).
- With a game-winning goal at home, Backstrom would become the sixth player in Caps history to record at least 20 game-winning goals on home ice.
- Backstrom needs four points on home ice to reach 500 points at home in his career, the second player in Caps history to reach that mark (Alex Ovechkin: 670).
- With seven even strength points on home ice, Backstrom would become the third player in Caps history to record 300 or more even strength points on home ice (Ovechkin: 397; Mike Gartner: 306)
- Ovechkin needs one power play goal to tie Brett Hull (265) for second place all-time.
- With three even strength points on home ice, Ovechkin would become the first player in Caps history to record at least 400 even strength points at home.
- With two game-winning goals on home ice, Ovechkin would tie Gordie Howe for third place all-time in game-winning goals scored at home.
- Ovechkin needs three game-winning goals overall to tie Phil Esposito for third place all-time in game-winners (118).
- Needs one power play point to tie Bobby Carpenter (116) for 20th place in team history.
- Kuznetsov needs two shootout goals to become the third Capital with 20 in his career (Ovechkin: 34; Backstrom: 27).
- With one game-winning goal, Kuznetsov would tie Bobby Carpenter for 16th place on the Caps’ all-time list (22). Two, and he would tie Bobby Gould and Steve Konowalchuk for 14th place.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov needs only one overtime goal to tie Backstrom and Mike Green for second place all-time on the Caps’ list.
- Needs two game-winning goals to tie Michal Pivonka (27) for tenth place on the Caps’ all-time list.
- Carlson needs one power play point to pass Sergei Gonchar (185 apiece) for ninth place all-time in Caps history.
- Carlson needs one point at home to pass Calle Johansson for ninth place in points recorded at home in Caps history (257).
- Hathaway needs three games played this week to reach the 100-games played mark as a Capital.
- His next assist will be his 100th in his NHL career.
- Chara needs one goal to tie Larry Robinson for 19th place on the all-time goal scoring lest among defensemen.
- With one game-winning goal, Chara would tie Larry Murphy and Mathieu Schneider for 12th place on the all-time list among defensemen. With two, he would tie Kevin Hatcher for 11th place.
- With 81:26 in ice time, Samsonov would become the 29th goalie in Caps history to log 2,000 minutes.