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Snapshots of the Week Ahead: Week 13

A postponed game keeps this to a two-game week for the Caps, but it will be a stiff challenge nonetheless with back-to-back games on the road against each of the Winter Classic clubs.

Washington Capitals v Minnesota Wild

The Washington Capitals keep chugging along. They had their matchup with the Ottawa Senators to start Week 12 postponed, but they went on to win the week’s two remaining games, a 5-3 win over Nashville and a 3-1 win over Detroit. In Week 13 the Caps will face multiple challenges. First, with the week’s first game again postponed (against Montreal), the Caps will have four full days without game action before skating a back-to-back set of games on the road against two of the league’s stronger teams – St. Louis and Minnesota on Friday and Saturday.

The Opponents

Montreal Canadiens (postponed/COVID)

The Caps and Canadiens had their matchup scheduled for Monday evening postponed due to Canadian attendance restrictions, bringing to four the number of games on the Caps’ schedule postponed due to COVID issues. Games against Philadelphia (originally scheduled for December 21st), the New York Islanders (December 23rd), and Ottawa Senators (December 27th) also will have to be rescheduled.

St. Louis Blues (Friday/8:00 (Eastern) – Enterprise Center)

When the Blues allowed a goal with less than three minutes left in regulation to the Florida Panthers and dropped a shootout decision to the Panthers, 4-3, on December 4th in the front end of a back-to-back set against the Panthers, it might have been a disappointment, but it touched off a run for the Blues that stands at 7-1-2 over their last ten games, the fifth-best ten-game record in the league heading into Week 13. The Blues have outscored opponents, 39-24, over that span, seven times scoring four or more goals and posting multi-goal wins in each of their last six victories. In fact, the Blues have had a knack for pounding on teams this season, their .833 winning percentage in games decided by three or more goals (10-2) ranked fourth in the league and tied for fourth with ten wins by three or more goals.

If there is a statistical category that might send shivers down the spines of Caps fans in this contest, it is the relative success of the two teams’ special teams. On the power play, St. Louis is third overall with a 29.5 percent conversion rate, while the Caps open the week 28th in the league at 15.0 percent. The difference is greater when venue is taken into account. The Blues’ 29.4 percent power play on home ice ranks third in the league, while the Caps’ 11.9 percent power play on the road ranks 30th.

The Blues are also a dangerous team with the long change. They have a plus-18 goal differential in the second periods of games this season, best in the league. What might be more impressive, though, is their third period goal differential on home ice. The Blues have doubled up on opponents in the third periods of home games, outscoring them, 26-13, the plus-13 goal differential being best in the league.

If the Blues have a weak spot, it might be in holding leads. St. Louis has a 10-4-4 record in 18 games in which they scored first, their .556 winning percentage ranking 23rd in the league. The record is better on home ice (7-2-1), but the .700 winning percentage is just tied for 16th. On the good side for the Blues, they have not lost in regulation in games in which they took a lead into the third period (12-0-2/.857).

Washington is 45-42-1 (12 ties) in the all-time series against the Blues and 19-23-1 (eight ties) in St. Louis. The Caps are 6-4-0 in their last ten meetings overall against the Blues.

Minnesota Wild (Saturday/8:00 (Eastern) – Xcel Energy Center)

The state of hockey in “The State of Hockey” can be described as “iffy.” From November 24th through December 9th, the Minnesota Wild peeled off an eight-game winning streak, outscoring opponents, 36-15, and posting four or more goals in each of the last seven games of that streak. But since then, the Wild have lost five in a row (0-4-1), including a 6-4 loss at the hands of the Blues in the Winter Classic outdoor game played in Minnesota on New Year’s evening. In that five-game losing streak, it is defense that has come up short, the Wild allowing six or more goals in three of the losses.

And, when the Wild lost the outdoor game to St. Louis, it marked the first time this season that they lost consecutive “home” games, the Wild dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to Buffalo in their previous home game. Home ice is a definite advantage in the NHL, 25 of the 32 teams having points percentages of .500 or better on their own ice sheet. Nevertheless, Minnesota is a good team on home ice, their 10-3-1 record is tied for sixth in the league in points percentage (.750) with Toronto. And on home ice, the Wild have dominated on offense, their 4.29 goals per game ranking third in the league in scoring offense at home.

That the Wild should dominate in the offensive end at home is a bit odd, given the sorry state of their power play on home ice. They are currently ranked 31st in the league with a 9.6 percent power play on home ice. The power play drought on home ice has been particularly severe lately. The Wild are 1-for-34 on the power play in their last ten home games, their 2.9 percent conversion rate being worst in the league on home ice since November 7th, when that dry spell started.

One area of concern for the Caps will be Minnesota’s ability to shut down teams late in games. They have allowed only eight third period goals in 14 home games, tied with Carolina for fewest third period goals allowed at home. They have even been successful when allowing third period goals, going 4-1-1 on home ice when allowing at least one third period goal at home.

The Caps are 15-9-1 in the all-time series against the Wild, 6-6-1 in Minnesota. The Caps are 9-1-0 in their last ten games against the Wild overall.

Hot Caps:

  • Five-on-five offense. The Caps have scored 83 goals at 5-on-5, third most in the league, and they have a plus-27 goal differential at fives, third-best in the league.
  • Tom Wilson. The Caps’ right winger is 1-4-5, plus-2, in his last five road games.
  • T.J. Oshie. Oshie is one of four Caps (and one of two playing in five or more games) to average a point per game or better on the road (3-4-7 in seven road games).

Cold Caps:

  • Carl Hagelin. Hagelin has one point in 16 road games this season (an assist).
  • Connor McMichael. Since December 1st, McMichael has only one point in 11 games overall (a goal).
  • Caps road power play. The Caps are converting just 11.9 percent of their power plays on the road (30th in the league), and they are not getting a lot of chances, their 2.63 power play opportunities per game on the road ranking 19th in the league.

Weird Facts:

  • So far this season, 32 skaters for the Caps have taken the ice; 31 of them have at least one point, Alex Alexeyev being the lone exception, albeit having played in only one game.
  • In 33 games to date, the Caps have 23 players with at least one goal. Last season, they had 22 players record at least one goal in 56 games.
  • Last season, the Caps had three players finish the year at plus-10 or better. So far this season… nine players. And, only four of 32 skaters to date are in minus territory (11 last season).

Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):

Alex Ovechkin

  • Needs one shorthanded goal to tie Gaetan Duchesne, Bobby Gould, Steve Konowlachuk, and Tom Wilson (six apiece) for 12th place in team history.
  • Needs four points to tie Mike Modano (1,374) for 25th place all-time.
  • Needs four even strength goals to tie Marcel Dionne for fourth-place all time (Dionne with 478 ES goals).
  • Needs three power play points 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 tie Joe Thornton and Blake Wheeler for fourth all-time (both with 58 empty net points); with three empty net points he would tie Eric Staal (59) for third place.
  • With two first goals in games, Ovechkin will tie Brett Hull (131) for second place all time behind Jaromir Jagr (135).

John Carlson

  • Needs one point to break a tie Bengt-Ake Gustafsson for seventh place on the all-time franchise rankings (both with 554 points); two points and he will tie Dale Hunter for sixth place.
  • Needs two power play goals to tie Dainius Zubrus and Evgeny Kuznetsov (35) for 23rd place on the all-time Caps list.
  • Needs one game-winning goal to tie Michal Pivonka (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 break a tie with Dmitri Khristich for 22nd place on the all-time franchise list among all skaters (both with 89) and 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).

Dmitry Orlov

  • If Orlov goes plus-3 for the week, he would become the fourth player to reach the plus-100 mark for his career with the Caps.
  • Orlov’s next goal will be his 50th in the NHL and as a Capital (tenth on the all-time franchise list among defensemen).
  • 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.

Evgeny Kuznetsov

  • Needs one game-winning goal to pass Michal Pivonka (both with 27) for tenth place on the Caps’ all-time list.
  • Needs one overtime goal to tie Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green for second place on the all-time Caps’ list (currently seven).
  • Needs one power play goal to break a tie with Dainius Zubrus for 23rd place, all-time (both with 35).

Tom Wilson

  • Needs five points for 250 in his career.
  • Needs two goals to tie Marcus Johansson for 30th in team history (Johansson with 102).
  • Needs one empty net goal to tie Peter Bondra for fifth on the all-time franchise list (Bondra with 11).

Lars Eller

  • Needs one penalty minute for 500 in his career.

T.J. Oshie

  • Needs one empty net goal to tie Peter Bondra for fifth on the all-time franchise list (Bondra with 11).