The Washington Capitals close out the January portion of their schedule with a three-game slate against teams visiting out of the west, each of them holding an edge in their respective all-time regular season series against the Caps.
Vegas Golden Knights (Monday/7:00pm — Capital One Arena)
The Caps and Golden Knights will forever be linked by their meeting in the Stanley Cup finals in 2018. The Caps won that series in five games, but they are just 2-4-0 against the Golden Knights in their all-time regular season series as the Golden Knights prepare to arrive in Washington for a Monday night matchup.
As for the current edition of the Golden Knights, they followed up a 10-3-0 December by going just 2-3-2 in January thus far, all of those games played on home ice, part of what was an eight-game home stand. Their visit to Washington on Monday will be their first road contest of the month, the first of a four-game road trip to close January.
Vegas has not been on the road much this season –16 games (tied for fewest in the league with Boston) – but they have been successful when traveling. With an 11-5-0 road record, their .688 points percentage ranks third in the league, behind only Carolina (14-5-1/.725) and Pittsburgh (14-5-3/.705). Vegas has done it with overpowering offense, their 3.69 goals per game ranked second in the league in road games. And a big part of that is their third-ranked road power play (27.8 percent).
The Golden Knights penalty kill is among the stranger creatures in the NHL this season. Their overall penalty kill on the road is poor – 73.8 percent (28th in the league) – but their net penalty kill of 85.7 percent is sixth-best in the league. The difference is accounted for by a league-leading five shorthanded goals scored on the road, made more remarkable by the fact that they have done it playing in just those 16 road games to date. If there is an odd aspect to this, it is that Vegas does have a two-shorthanded goal game this season, a game that they lost to Anaheim, 6-5, on December 1st, the only game they lost this season when scoring one or more shorthanded goals.
San Jose Sharks (Wednesday/7:00pm – Capital One Arena)
In the middle game of the week, the Caps host the San Jose Sharks, who have been meandering around winning streaks that don’t amount to much and losing streaks that, well, do the same. Since November 22nd, when the Sharks were 8-8-1, they are 13-11-1, but embedded in that record is a pair of three-game winning streaks and five instances of losing a pair of games in succession. It has not been so cut-and-dried for the Sharks on the road, either. They are not very good, but neither are they very bad. They are 10-10-0 in 20 road games, that .500 points percentage tied for 16th in the league.
As one might expect with that record, their scoring offense on the road is rather ordinary (2.80 goals per game/17th in the league), but their scoring defense of 2.90 goals allowed per game is ninth-best in the league. That difference in rankings extends to special teams, where the Sharks’ road power play is unremarkable (15.6 percent/24th), while their penalty kill is quite good (83.7 percent/sixth). But another word about that Sharks power play on the road. They have seven goals (fifth fewest in the league) in 45 chances (sixth fewest) to date. But they have also allowed three shorthanded goals on their road power play, their power play goals scored to shorthanded goals allowed of 2.33:1 is fourth worst in the league. And, as far as the penalty kill is concerned, the best thing about it is the Sharks seldom having to endure it. Their 2.45 shorthanded situations faced per game on the road is second fewest in the league.
Scoring first in road games is another in those middle-of-the-road stats for San Jose. They have scored first ten times in 20 road games with a 7-3-0 record and allowed the first goal ten times with a 3-7-0 record. But they do hold late leads well. San Jose is 7-0-0 on the road when taking a lead into the third period.
Washington is 17-24-4 (one tie) in their all-time regular season series with the Sharks, 8-11-4 at home.
Dallas Stars (Friday/9:00pm (Eastern) – American Airlines Center)
The Caps close the week with the possibility of facing one of their playoff heroes for the first time. Braden Holtby, he of the 282 regular season wins with the Caps (second in team history), the 35 shutouts (tied with Olaf Kolzig for most in team history), the 50 playoff game wins (most in team history), the seven postseason shutouts (again, most in team history), and of course, a Stanley Cup. If he gets the call, it will be a chance for the Caps to face a once and perhaps future teammate, should the team follow through on their search for goaltending help.
But let’s hold off on that. As for the Stars, they have been pretty good of late, going 7-4-0 in their last 11 games overall, but more than that, they are almost unbeatable at home. Since opening the season with a 1-2-1 record at American Airlines Arena, they are 13-2-0 on home ice. Over that same span of games, since November 13th, only Colorado has a better winning percentage on home ice (13-0-0/1.000) than the Stars (13-2-0/,867). And it is not as if the Stars are playing on the margin, either. Nine of their 13 wins have come by multi-goal margins, eight of them by three or more goals.
Dallas is doing the right things right in assembling that home record. Over their 13-2-0 record at home since November 13th they have scored first 12 times, most in the league, and won on 11 occasions, also most in the league. They took a lead into the third period ten times, most in the league over that span, and were undefeated when doing so. Their power play at home during this stretch – 26.5 percent – ranks sixth in this span. All 18 skaters to appear in at least five home games in that stretch have at least one point, six are in double digits, and three have more than 20 (Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, and Jason Robertson).
If the Stars have a vulnerability at home (and this might not be the best news for Caps fans), it is their penalty kill. Even with their 13-2-0 record at home over their last 15 games, their 77.8 percent penalty kill ranks 20th in the league over that span. And for what it is worth, the Stars’ two losses in this stretch at home were punctuated by power play goals allowed.
This will be a tough matchup, but perhaps the Caps will benefit from this being the first home game for the Stars coming off a four-game road trip. The Caps are 33-48-4 (16 ties) in their all-time series against the Stars, including their years as the Minnesota North Stars, 16-26-1 (eight ties) in Dallas. The Caps are 4-3-3 in their last ten games against Dallas overall.
- Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin is on a seven-game points streak (5-3-8, plus-2). He is tied for second in multi-point games (17, with Nazem Kadri) and has points in 34 of 42 games this season (34 games being most in the league).
- Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov is also on a seven-game points streak (2-6-8, plus-2). He has ten multi-point games this season and points in 27 of 39 games played.
- Tom Wilson. Wilson has been a streaky sort this season. In five games to end November he went 3-2-5, plus-4, but he followed that up by going 1-0-1, minus-8 over his next ten games. He is back on a hot streak, though, going 3-2-5, plus-4, over his last five games.
- Trevor van Riemsdyk. There are 13 players in the league with at least 40 shots on goal and no goals to show for it. Van Riemsdyk is one of them. He has gone 53 straight games and 65 shots without a goal.
- Carl Hagelin. Hagelin is working on an eight-game streak without a point (minus-4 rating) and is 1-1-2, minus-2, in his last 14 contests.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov. OK, so he shows up in both hot and cold. The reason he is included here is that 63 players have taken at least 100 faceoffs in January, and Kuznetsov ranks 51st in winning percentage (38.1).
- Since the Caps lost the first game in the all-time regular season series to Vegas, the teams have alternated wins and losses. Bast on that pattern – Vegas won the last meeting, 3-2, on February 17, 2020 — the Caps would win this meeting.
- Washington has two wins in the six regular season games they have faced Vegas, both wins coming by 5-2 margins.
- Since November 1997, San Jose is 14-3-1 in 18 games played in Washington.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):
- Needs one shorthanded goal to tie Gaetan Duchesne, Bobby Gould, Steve Konowlachuk, and Tom Wilson (six apiece) for 12th place in team history.
- Needs seven goals to tie Jaromir Jagr (766) for third place all time.
- Needs one even strength goals to break a tie with Marcel Dionne for fourth-place all time (both with 478 ES goals).
- Needs one power play point to tie Adam Oates (513) for 24th place all time.
- Needs two game-winning goals to tie Gordie Howe (121) for second place all-time.
- With one game-deciding goal in a shootout, Ovechkin will tie Kris Letang for tenth place all-time (currently 14).
- With one empty net point, Ovechkin will break a tie with Joe Thornton and Blake Wheeler for fourth all-time (both with 58 empty net points); and he will tie Eric Staal (59) for third place.
- With one first goal in games, Ovechkin will tie Brett Hull (131) for second place all time behind Jaromir Jagr (135).
- With one multi-point game, Ovechkin will tie Joe Thornton for 20th place in all-time multi-point games (Thornton with 391).
- Ovechkin needs three multi-goal games to tie Brett Hull for second place all-time (Hull with 158).
- Backstrom’s next power play point will be the 400th of his career. In doing so, he would tie Sergei Fedorov for 60th place all-time in power play points.
- Backstrom needs 12 points to reach 1,000 for his career.
- Needs one point to break a tie with Bengt-Ake Gustafsson for seventh place on the all-time franchise rankings (Gustafsson with 554 points); two points and he will tie Dale Hunter for sixth place.
- Needs two power play goals to tie Dainius Zubrus (35) for 24th place on the all-time Caps list.
- Needs one game-winning goal to tie Michal Pivonka and Evgeny Kuznetsov (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.
- With one even strength goal, Carlson would tie Sergei Gonchar for second place among defensemen in Caps history (Gonchar with 90 ESG).
- With one overtime goal, Carlson will hold second place by himself among defensemen on the all-time franchise list (he has two).
- If Orlov goes plus-6 for the week, he would become the fourth player to reach the plus-100 mark for his career with the Caps.
- Orlov’s next game-winning goal will be the 14th of his career and would tie him with Scott Stevens and Sylvain Cote on the all-time franchise list among defensemen.
- Needs one game-winning goal to pass Michal Pivonka (both with 27) for tenth place on the Caps’ all-time list and tie Alexander Semin for ninth place (28).
- Needs one overtime goal to tie Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green for second place on the all-time Caps’ list (currently seven).
- Needs one empty net goal to tie Peter Bondra for fifth on the all-time franchise list (Bondra with 11).
- Needs one penalty minute for 500 in his career.
- Needs two penalty minutes to reach 200 PIMs as a Capital.
- Needs one empty net goal to tie Peter Bondra for fifth on the all-time franchise list (Bondra with 11).
- Needs five penalty minutes for 100 in his career.
- Needs two penalty minutes to reach 100 PIMs as a Capital.