Week 15 is when the schedule turns for the Washington Capitals. With their season series against both the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils complete, the last few weeks will be devoted to playoff-eligible teams or teams that have some playoff hopes remaining. It is a difficult stretch that will either leave the Caps playoff-ready with this trial by fire, or it will leave them spent as they head into the second season. Fortunately, the first week of this difficult stretch is a lighter workload week with only one opponent and two games on the docket.
New York Islanders (Thursday and Saturday/7:00pm at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum)
The Caps play the first two of a three-game set against the Islanders that constitutes the entire scheduled for the Caps in Week 15. New York heads into Week 15 in second place in the East Division standings, two points behind the Caps and one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The division is so tight, though, that a sweep by the Isles in the two games this week would push them ahead of the Caps in standings points and perhaps drop the Caps to third in the division, depending on what the Penguins do in three games against the Devils this week.
For more than six weeks, the Islanders looked to be an utterly composed, unflappable team that could not be shaken out of the discipline of systems deployed by head coach Barry Trotz. From February 22nd through April 8th, they had the best record in the league (18-4-1/.804 points percentage). They had the fifth-best scoring offense in the league over that period (3.30 goals per game) and the second-best scoring defense (2.22 goals allowed per game). They allowed the third-fewest number of shots on goal per game (27.4). They were tied for third-fewest third period goals allowed (16). They had a plus-27 differential in goals scored and allowed at 5-on-5.
But things have stalled for the Islanders over the last ten days. They are just 2-3-0 in that span, both wins coming in overtime, one against the New York Rangers and the other on Sunday night over the Philadelphia Flyers. They scored only six goals over those five games and were shut out once. They have not been especially leaky on defense, but when they allowed four goals twice in regulation in a three game period, it was unusual, only the second time this season it happened.
The Islanders are 2-3-0 against the Caps this season, but those two wins came in the teams’ last two meetings, outscoring the Caps, 9-4, after dropping the first three meetings this season by a combined 12-6 goal margin in favor of the Caps.
- John Carlson. Carlson is the leading scorer among defensemen in the month of April (3-10-13, three points better than Adam Fox (1-10-11)) and is tied for third among all skaters in points in April.
- Dmitry Orlov. Orlov is tied for second among defensemen in even strength points in April (seven; Carlson has eight).
- Anthony Mantha. Mantha has goals in each of his four games with Washington after being traded from Detroit. He has a personal five-game goal streak, including one in his last game with the Red Wings. The five-game streak is a career high.
- All defensemen not named “Orlov.” Of the seven defensemen to dress for the Caps in April, six have minus ratings (Zdeno Chara, minus-6; Nick Jensen, minus-2; Justin Schultz, minus-2; Carlson, minus-2; Trevor van Riemsdyk, minus-1; and Brenden Dillon, minus-1). Orlov is plus-6.
- Zdeno Chara. Chara has a 15-game streak without a point dating back to March 20th. He is 35 games, and counting, without a goal, his last one coming on February 1st in a 5-3 loss to Boston.
- Garnet Hathaway. Hathway carries an 18-game streak without a goal into the new week. He does have 38 penalty minutes over that span, all of them logged over four games.
- Of the Islanders’ last eight wins, six came in extra time. Their only two wins in regulation in that stretch? Yup...over the Caps.
- If Alex Ovechkin gets two points against the Isles this week, he will jump over Peter Bondra and Michal Pivonka (62 points apiece) as the all-time points leader for the Caps against the Islanders.
- The Caps have averaged 2.76 power play chances per game. If they do not improve on that before the end of the season, they will finish with the fewest power play chances per game in a single season in team history since the NHL started capturing this statistic in 1977-1978.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):
- 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 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.
- With six power play points, Backstrom will reach the 400 power play point mark in his career. He would become the sixth active player in the NHL to reach that mark.
- Ovechkin need one power play point to reach 500 power play points for his career. He would be the second active player to reach that mark (Joe Thornton: 544 power play points).
- Ovechkin needs five power play goals to tie Dave Andreychuk for the all-time lead in power play goals (274).
- Ovechkin needs two game-winning goals overall to tie Phil Esposito for third place all-time in game-winners (118).
- With one goal, Ovechkin would tie Marcel Dionne for fifth-place on the all-time goal scoring list.
- With one game winning goal on the road this week, Ovechkin would tie Patrick Marleau (51) for sixth-place all time in game winning goals. Two, and he would tie Brett Hull (52) for fifth place on that list. Three, and he would tie Brendan Shanahan and Gordie Howe (53) for third place.
- With one overtime goal on the road, Ovechkin would tie Jaromir Jagr for most all-time (12).
- With one point, he would tie Brett Hull for 20th place all-time in road points (643); two, and he would tie Stan Mikita for 19th place (644).
- 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 break a tie with Brooks Laich and Kevin Hatcher (all with 24) for 12th place on the Caps’ all-time list.
- 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 break a tie with Bengt-Ake Gustafsson for seventh place in franchise history (192 apiece) and two to tie Michal Pivonka for sixth place on that list.
- Carlson needs one power play goal to tie Larry Murphy (31) for sixth place in franchise history.
- With one game-winning goal, Chara would tie Larry Murphy, Mathieu Schneider, and Dustin Byfuglien for 12th place (36) on the all-time list among defensemen. With two, he would tie Kevin Hatcher for 11th place (37).
- With 17 penalty minutes, Chara would become the 18th defenseman in NHL history with 2,000 penalty minutes.
- Hagelin needs two even strength goals to reach 100 in that category for his career.
- Oshie needs six points to reach 300 points as a Capital. He would be the 26th player in franchise history to reach that total.
- Oshie needs one power play goal to tie Bobby Carpenter (54) for 11th place in team history. Two, and he will tie Alexander Semin and Dennis Maruk (55 apiece) for ninth place. Three, and he will tie Michal Pivonka (56) for eighth place.
- With one point, Mantha will reach the 200-point mark for his career.
- With one goal, Mantha will have 100 goals for his career.
- With 12 penalty minutes, Mantha will have 200 PIMs for his career.
- Orlov needs five points to reach 200 points for his career. He would be the tenth defenseman to reach that mark as a Capital.