As Week 9 begins on the Washington Capitals’ schedule, they find themselves looking up at a team in the standings. After splitting two games with the Boston Bruins to end last week, the New York Islanders squeezed ahead of both teams and now lead the Caps by two points going into the new week. The Caps will not face the Isles in Week 9, but there will be a certain familiarity aspect of the week that will dominate.
New Jersey Devils (Tuesday/7:00pm)
When the Caps host the Devils on Tuesday night, it will be the fourth time in a span of nine games that the teams faced one another. The Caps won the first three of those meetings, outscoring the Devils 12-7 in the process.
That the Caps have had their way offensively with the Devils is not unique. New Jersey goes into the week having allowed an average of four or more goals per game against three of the other six teams they have played in the East Division (they have yet to play the Pittsburgh Penguins this season). On the offensive side of the puck, New Jersey has averaged more than three goals per game against one East Division opponent, the New York Rangers, but they have been outscored by a full goal per game over their four meetings (3.25 goals for/5.25 goals against).
On February 18th, the Devils sported a 6-3-2 record, the third-best points percentage in the East Division, despite missing 17 days on its schedule due to COVID-related issues. Since then, however, New Jersey is 2-8-0, the worst record in the league over that span. There is no mystery to their misfortune. Over those 11 games, the Devils are tied for 28th in scoring offense (2.00 goals per game), the 27th-ranked scoring defense (3.60 goals allowed per game), the 28th-ranked power play (13.3 percent), the 29th-ranked penalty kill (65.4 percent), have allowed 17 third-period goals in those 11 games (most in the league over that span), and have taken a lead into the third period once (they lost).
This game will be the only home game for the Caps in a nine-game stretch over the February 27 – March 15 period.
Philadelphia Flyers (Thursday and Saturday/7:00pm)
If four meetings in nine games is not familiar enough for you, then perhaps three times in four games will satisfy you. The Tuesday contest against the Devils is the only game interrupting the Caps’ feud with the Flyers this week. The two games in Philadelphia will be the third and fourth meetings of the clubs this season. In their earlier meetings, Philadelphia beat the Caps, 7-4, on February 7th, and Washington topped the Flyers, 3-1, on Sunday.
The Flyers have been a successful team at home, going 6-3-2 in 11 games at Wells Fargo Center. But if they have a weakness on home ice, it is special teams. Philadelphia ranks 23rd in the league in home power play efficiency (17.1 percent) and 25th in penalty killing (73.8 percent).
The Flyers have a long and storied history of being among the most physically intimidating teams in the NHL. Not so much this year. Philadelphia ranks 15th in the league in credited hits per 60 minutes (22.73) and 19th in the league in penalties taken per 60 minutes (3.41). They are just 6-6-3 this season when credited with at least 20 hits.
This has been a feature of the Flyers for quite some time now, at least as far as hits is concerned. Since 2005-2006, when the league started keeping hits statistics, the Flyers rank 13th overall in hits per 60 minutes (22.25, one spot ahead of the Caps with 22.01).
The avoidance of penalties is a more recent phenomenon. Since 2005-2006, Philadelphia does rank second in penalties takn per 60 minutes overall (5.06, trailing only Anaheim’s 5.12), but over the last seven seasons they averaged 3.80 penalties per 60 minutes, 13th in the league.
Nicklas Backstrom. He likes his home cooking. Among 623 skaters playing at least five games on home ice this season, Backstrom is eighth in the league in points per game (1.42; 17 in 12 games).
Conor Sheary. Among 475 players recording at least ten shots on goal on home ice, Sheary is tied for fourth in shooting percentage (36.4/4-for-11).
Nick Jensen. The streak is over! Jensen broke a streak of 165 games without a goal when he potted his first in 109 games as a Capital. Jensen also has five assists in his last 11 games and was a “plus” player in six of the 11 games as well (even in three others and minus-1 in each of the remaining two games).
The Caps’ road power play. It is, well, not good. Washington ranks 30th in the league in road power play efficiency (9.4 percent). They have not scored a power play goal on the road since Valentines Day, when they went 1-for-4 in a 6-3 loss to the Penguins. Since then, the Caps’ road power play is 0-for-16 in six road games. Oddly enough, they are 5-1-0 in those six games, a four-game road win streak snapped in the 5-1 loss in Boston to the Bruins on Friday, but a new streak started with the win in Philadelphia on Sunday.
Alex Ovechkin. In 19 games this season, Ovechkin has only two power play goals and is riding a seven-game streak without one. He has only three goals overall over his last 12 games on 47 shots (6.4 shooting percentage).
Evgeny Kuznetsov. Through five home games this season, Kuznetsov is looking for his first goal.
Philadelphia is 0-3-2 against Boston in the East Division this season, 12-4-1 against the rest of the division.
New Jersey has allowed the most shots on goal per game on the road in the league this season (36.4)
Alex Ovechkin has 666 points on home ice in his career.
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).
- If Backstrom does not get that OT goal, Evgeny Kuznetsov needs only one to tie Backstrom and Green for second place all-time on the Caps’ list.
- Ovechkin is five points short of 1,300 for his career. He will be the 35th player in NHL history to reach that mark.
- Ovechkin needs three goals to tie Phil Esposito (717) for sixth place on the NHL all-time list.
- Ovechkin needs three power play goals to tie Brett Hull (265) for second place all-time.
- Ovechkin needs 13 shots on goal to tie Jaromir Jagr (5,637) for second-place all-time.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov needs one power play point to tie Bobby Carpenter (116) for 20th place in team history; with one point of any sort he would pass Carpenter (both tied with 395 career points for the Caps) for 18th place on the all-time franchise list.
- Kuznetsov needs four assists to tie Kevin Hatcher (277) for 13th place on the Caps’ all-time list.
- Kuznetsov needs two shootout goals to become the third Capital with 20 in his career (Ovechkin: 34; Backstrom: 27).
- John Carlson needs one power play point to tie Sergei Gonchar (185 apiece) for ninth place all-time in Caps history.
- Carlson needs two game-winning goals to tie Michal Pivonka (27) for tenth place on the Caps’ all-time list.
- Carlson needs one point on the road to tie Mike Ridley (243 points) as the best road scorer in Caps history.
- Carlson needs one point at home to tie Calle Johansson for ninth place in points recorded at home in Caps history (257).
- Nick Jensen’s next game will be his 300th NHL game.