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Snapshots of the Week Ahead: Week 12

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In this week’s Snapshots, we look at the Caps heading to the New York metro area for four games.

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers

Week 12 will be a four-game work week for the Washington Capitals, who take to the road for a schedule made up entirely of metro teams. Not “Metro,” as in the old Metropolitan Division, but “metro” teams as in those from the New York metropolitan area. It is a chance to stick a dagger in the postseason hopes of the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, and to put some distance between themselves and the New York Islanders at the top of the East Division.

The Opponents

New York Rangers (Tuesday/7:00 pm at Madison Square Garden)

Washington wraps up its home-and-home two-game set with the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, where they dropped a 4-2 decision to the New Yorkers on February 4th in the Caps only visit to Manhattan to date.

The Rangers have become difficult to beat on home ice of late. They are 4-1-1 in their last six home games after a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) in mid-February. The question going forward is whether this recent version of the Rangers on home ice is the one they will ice down the stretch or if they will revert to their mediocre ways overall this season on home ice. They rank 21st in points percentage on home ice with a 7-6-3 record, a record that is a bit misleading given that they have a 0.50 goal differential per game (3.19 goals scored, 2.69 goals allowed).

Where the Rangers have been weak at home is a more general problem – their power play. Despite having 59 man advantage chances in 16 home games (eighth-most in the league), they are converting at just a 15.3 percent rate, 26th in the league.

One other thing to watch for is that the Rangers have struggled in one-goal games on home ice. They are 1-2-3 in six one-goal games at MSG, that lone win coming against the Buffalo Sabres in a 3-2 decision on March 2nd.

New York Islanders (Thursday/7:00 pm at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum)

There is some slippage in the performance of the New York Islanders of late. Perhaps it was inevitable rebalancing after a nine-game winning streak, but it is there nonetheless. Since that nine-game winning streak, the Islanders are 3-3-0, only one of those wins coming in regulation time.

There is little secret to the Islanders’ success overall this season – stinginess to the point of being a cure for insomnia. The Isles have held opponents to two or fewer goals in 20 of 35 games this season and have a record of 19-1-0 in those games, their lone defeat coming on January 24th in a 2-0 decision against the New Jersey Devils. In fact, two goals is a convenient demarcation point separating success and failure for the Islanders this season. They are 3-8-4 in the 15 games in which they allowed three or more goals.

On home ice, the Islanders have been almost unbeatable. In 16 home games to date, they are 13-1-2, the best home ice points percentage in the league (.875), and each of their losses was by one goal. There were, of course, the extra time losses (both in shootouts), and they had a 4-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on March 18th that broke their home points string at 14 games to open the season.

New York also has the second best goal differential per game at home (plus-1.81), trailing only the Tampa Bay Lightning (plus-2.13), and they are a top-five team in net power play (29.7 percent/5th) and net penalty kill (96.7 percent/1st), accounting for shorthanded goals scored for and against.

If you are looking for a weird fact about the Islanders, try this on. Their .875 points percentage at home ties their all-time best, achieved in 1981-1982. In that year, they won the third of four straight Stanley Cups. This will be the Caps’ first visit to Long Island this season after beating the Islanders three times in three games in Washington.

New Jersey Devils (Friday/7:00pm and Sunday/3:00pm at Prudential Center)

When the Devils take the ice against the Caps on Friday night, it will be their first home game after a six-game road trip. Not that the Prudential Center has been a warm or cozy comfort to the Devils this season. Their 4-11-2 record at home is the second worst in the league by points percentage (.294). Only the woeful Buffalo Sabres are worse (2-11-2/.200).

Why are the Devils so bad at home? First, they can’t score. Their 1.94 goals per game at home rank 30th in the league. Second, their special teams are awful. Their power play (12.2 percent) ranks 28th, while their 78.3 percent penalty kill on home ice ranks 18th. The result is that the Devils’ special team index (power play plus penalty kill) of 90.5 ranks 28th in the league home ice.

Unsurprisingly, the Devils are a team that can be dominated on home ice, but they do not dominate. Four times in 17 home games New Jersey lost by three or more goals, one of them a 5-2 loss to the Caps on February 27th. On the other hand, they are one of four teams in the league without a win of three or more goals on home ice (Anaheim, St. Louis, and Buffalo are the others.

An odd part about the Devils’ lack of success on home ice is that they manage shots attempts for and against fairly well. Their 53.6 percent shot attempts-for at 5-on-5 overall ranks seventh in the league. The Caps enter this series having won all six games against the Devils to date, outscoring them, 25-14. This two-game set on Friday and Sunday will end the regular season series between the teams.

Hot Caps:

  • Jakub Vrana. Jakub Vrana has had a productive March overall, going 3-5-8, plus-1, in 13 games. But Vrana has been an excellent road player this season, tied for team lead in goals (seven, with Alex Ovechkin) and in points (12, tied with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom).
  • John Carlson. In his last 11 games, John Carlson is 2-7-9, plus-6.
  • Dmitry Orlov. After starting the season 1-0-1, minus-3, in his first 18 games, Dmitry Orlov is 3-3-6, plus-8, in his last 11 games.

Cold Caps:

  • Richard Panik. One Capital has appeared in more than five games in March with a negative rating. That would be Richard Panik, who is 1-2-3, minus-2, in 13 games, averaging just 10:42 in ice time per game this month.
  • Carl Hagelin. Of the 13 forwards to dress for games in March, Carl Hagelin ranks fourth in shots on goal (17), but he has connected only once for a 5.9 shooting percentage.
  • Brenden Dillon. He is not known as an offensive defenseman (career high of 22 points in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019), but Brenden Dillon has only one point (an assist) in 13 games in March.

Weird Facts:

  • The Caps have allowed two or fewer goals in 13 games this season. They have 13 wins. No losses.
  • In fact, the Caps have allowed three or fewer goals in 23 games this season. They have points in 22 of them (19-1-3).
  • Alex Ovechkin has 11 goals in 13 games in March. This is not unusual. He has 125 career goals scored in March, his highest goal scoring month on the hockey calendar.

Potential Milestones to Reach This Week:

Nicklas Backstrom:

  • 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).
  • With one game-winning goal this week, Backstrom would have 20 career game-winning goals on the road.
  • With one penalty minute, Backstrom would hold 30th place on the all time Caps list to himself. He is currently tied with Ryan Walter with 468 penalty minutes.
  • With four blocked shots, Backstrom would reach the 600 mark in his career. He already occupies the top spot on the all-time franchise list among forwards.
  • With two empty net goals, Backstrom would tie Mike Ridley (16) for second place on the Caps’ all-time list.
  • With three empty net points, Backstrom would hit the 50-empty net point mark in his career.

Alex Ovechkin:

  • Ovechkin needs one power play goal to tie Brett Hull (265) for second place all-time.
  • Ovechkin needs two game-winning goals overall to tie Phil Esposito for third place all-time in game-winners (118).
  • With seven goals, Ovechkin would tie Marcel Dionne for fifth-place on the all-time goal scoring list.
  • With one game winning goal this week, Ovechkin would tie Patrick Marleau (51) for sixth-place all time in game winning goals scored on the road. Two, and he would tie Brett Hull (52) for fifth place on that list. Three, and he would tie Brendan Shanahan (53) for fourth place. And if he runs the table and gets four, he would tie Gordie Howe (54) for third place.

Evgeny Kuznetsov:

  • 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 pass Bobby Carpenter (22) for 16th place on the Caps’ all-time list (22), and he would tie Bobby Gould and Steve Konowalchuk (23) for 14th place.
  • Kuznetsov needs only one overtime goal to tie Backstrom and Mike Green for second place all-time on the Caps’ list.

John Carlson:

  • Needs two game-winning goals to tie Michal Pivonka (27) for tenth place on the Caps’ all-time list.
  • Carlson needs five power play points to tie Dale Hunter (191 apiece) for eighth place all-time in Caps history.
  • With six assists, Carlson would become the fourth player in Caps history to reach the 400-assist mark for his career.

Brenden Dillon:

  • Dillon needs two assists at even strength to reach 100 even strength assists in his career.

Zdeno Chara:

  • With one game-winning goal, Chara would tie Larry Murphy, Mathieu Schneider, and Dustin Byfuglien for 12th place on the all-time list among defensemen. With two, he would tie Kevin Hatcher for 11th place.
  • With 24 penalty minutes, Chara would become the 18th defenseman in NHL history with 2,000 penalty minutes.

Carl Hagelin:

  • Hagelin needs three even strength goals to reach 100 in that category for his career.

T.J. Oshie

  • With nine points, Oshie would reach the 600-point mark for his career.
  • Oshie needs four goals to reach the 250-goal mark for his career.