The Washington Capitals head into Week 2 of the new season having posted a 1-2-0 record in Week 1. They will look to do better when a pair of Pacific Division foes visit Capital One Arena with a trip to Ottawa breaking up the home stand.
Vancouver Canucks (Monday/7:00 pm at Capital One Arena)
The Canucks were dealt a difficult hand to play to start the season. Their visit to Washington on Monday will be the third of a five-game road trip to start the season, including the middle three games in the Eastern time zone (they visited Philadelphia on Saturday - a 5-4 shootout win - and will head to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets the day after they face the Caps).
The Canucks coming to town will give Caps fans another opportunity to see former Caps coach Bruce Boudreau behind the bench. He comes into this game with a 1-0-1 record against the Caps as head coach of the Canucks. After taking over for Vancouver in relief of Travis Green in Game 26 last season, he posted a 32-15-10 record, the 11th-best record in the league by standings points percentage, but it was not good enough to drag the Canucks into the postseason. They finished five points behind the Nashville Predators for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
It did not diminish his accomplishments much in terms of the before and after. In 25 games before Boudreau arrived last season, Vancouver averaged 2.36 goals pr game in scoring offense, 27th in the league. After he took over, the Canucks averaged 3.28 goals per game, 12th in the league. The improvement was generally true across the major statistical categories:
- Scoring defense (from 3.16 goals allowed per game (23rd) to 2.67 goals allowed per game (fifth))
- Power play (17.4 percent/22nd to 26.7 percent/second)
- Penalty kill (64.6 percent/32nd to 80.5 percent (11th)
- Winning percentage when scoring first (4-4-0/.500/T-25th to 23-3-5/.742/T-12th)
- Winning percentage when leading after one period (1-2-0/.333/31st to 15-0-3/.833/T-10th)
- Winning percentage when leading after two periods (6-1-0/.857/T-15th to 21-0-4/.840/T-20th)
Not that all was unicorns and accordions after Boudreau took over. There was the honeymoon with a new coach, the Canucks going 8-0-1 in his first nine games as head coach, but then Vancouver stumbled going 16-13-7, a stretch that might have cost them the playoff spot they were chasing after Boudreau took over.
This will be the 102nd meeting of the Capitals and Canucks. Washington is 49-41-2 (nine ties) overall and 28-18-2 (four ties) on home ice.
Ottawa Senators (Thursday/7:00 pm at Canadian Tire Centre)
Following their 4-3 loss in Toronto to the Maple Leafs last Thursday, the Capitals head on their second trip to Canada this season when they visit the Ottawa Senators this Thursday. The Senators have not had much success in recent years. Last season they finished 33-42-7, the fifth straight season in which they won fewer than 40 games and finished under .500 in points percentage under three different coaches (Guy Boucher, Marc Crawford, and D.J. Smith, who is entering his fourth season with the club). If there was a reason for optimism in Ottawa last season, it was in the Senators having their first 30-plus win season since 2016-2017, when they went 44-28-10 and went to the Eastern Conference final in the postseason.
Last year could have really been lost with the Senators starting the season with a 4-15-1 record in their first 20 games. But they rallied to finish 29-27-6 over their last 62 games. It did not make them contenders, but it did make them a more respectable club with reason to look ahead optimistically. Over those last 62 games the Senators were 21st in points percentage (.516), 23rd in scoring offense (2.84 goals per game), 13th in scoring defense (2.98 goals allowed per game), 19th in power play efficiency (20.0 percent), fifth in penalty killing (82.7 percent), and 19th in shot attempt percentage-on ice at 5-on-5 (48.8 percent).
The Senators did struggle with the good fortune of early leads, though. Their 18-10-3 record when scoring first was 26th in the league over that span in winning percentage (.581), although they were a solid 19-0-2 when leading after two periods (.905 winning percentage/tenth in the league). The odd thing about scoring first was in those last 62 games they scored first 31 times and were scored upon first 31 times.
If recent history is a guide, this should be an entertaining game for fans who like offense. In the last five meetings of these teams in Ottawa, the Caps outscored the Senators 23-14 (4.60 to 2.80 per game). This will be the 102nd meeting of the Caps and Senators, the Caps having a 54-37-5 (five ties) overall and a 23-23-3 (one tie) record in Ottawa.
Los Angeles Kings (Saturday/7:00 pm at Capital One Arena)
The Los Angeles Kings won their second Stanley Cup in three seasons in 2014. Since then, they have been a rather mediocre team. In eight seasons since, coming into this year, the Kings had a 297-251-70 record, 21st in the league in points earned. They reached the postseason three times, bowing out in the first round in each instance (2016, 2018, and last season). In 2015-2016 they posted a franchise high of 48 wins, but they also lost 42 games in regulation in 2018-2019. Consistency, let alone consistent success, had eluded this team.
Last season might have been a sign that the Kings have returned to competitiveness. One season is not a trend, but they did win 44 games and improved their standings points percentage by almost 170 points from the previous season (from .438/21-28-7 to .604/44-27-11). They would have reached the 100-point mark for the sixth time in team history had they been able to squeeze out an overtime win instead of an overtime loss in their last regular season game, a 3-2 extra time loss in Vancouver to the Canucks.
That the Kings would finish with such a respectable record was a bit surprising, given their performance in major statistical categories last season. In the aggregate, they played on the margin last year, averaging 2.87 goals scored per game (20th in scoring offense) and 2.83 goals allowed per game (tenth). Their 16.1 percent power play was unimpressive, as was their 76.7 percent penalty kill (22nd). Their 92.8 special teams index (power play plus penalty killing percentages) ranked 27th in the league. They were not particularly effective in either one-goal (.500 winning percentage) or three-plus goal (.500 winning percentage) decisions. They were not particularly effective at taking leads, their 40 games scoring first tied for 18th-most in the league, and their .700 winning percentage (28-7-5) ranking 14th. And while teams taking leads into the third periods of games rarely lose, the Kings did their share of it, going 29-2-6, their .784 winning percentage ranking just 25th in the league. If there was one thing they did well, it was managing the puck. Their 54.2 percent shot attempts-for at 5-on-5 ranked fifth in the league. And, their 6.73 giveaways per 60 minutes were fifth-fewest in the league.
Washington has a 42-58-3 (13 ties) in 116 games against the Kings in their all-time series, 24-25-1 (seven ties) on home ice.
- Anthony Mantha. It is only three games, but Mantha has two goals on six shots (33.3 percent shooting), one of them the game-winner in the Caps’ first win of the season, a 3-1 win over Montreal on Saturday.
- Trevor van Riemsdyk. Quiet effectiveness is van Riemsdyk’s game in the early going. His plus-3 goal differential on ice at even strength leads the team, and he has yet to be on the ice for an even strength goal scored against the Caps.
- Martin Fehervary. Fehervary was among the leaders in credited hits among defensemen last season (251/third among defensemen). Through three games so far he has 16 credited hits, tied for first in the league among all skaters through Saturday, and tops among defensemen.
- Alex Ovechkin. Three games, 13 shots on goal, no goals. Making it worse, he had one goal against Montreal washed out after a video review found the Capitals offside before he scored one goal, and with a chance to net his first of the year into an empty net late in that contest, rang the post instead. Oh, and he also has a goal differential on ice at even strength of minus-3, worst among forwards.
- Dmitry Orlov/John Carlson. Take your pick. Both defensemen are averaging at least 20 minutes a game, but neither had a point yet, and both are a team-worst minus-3.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov/Lars Eller. Another two-fer, this time for their frustration in the faceoff circle. Kuznetsov struggling here is not surprising, although his 33.3 winning percentage (12-for-36) is disturbing. But Eller is right there, too, with a 34.3 winning percentage (12-for-35).
- The Capitals have a better winning percentage in one-goal games against Vancouver all time (.656/21-9-2) than they do against any other team in franchise history.
- It would not be surprising if the Caps and Senators played to a three-or-more goal decision. In 101 games in which they faced one another, they have played to a decision of three or more goals 41 times, the Senators holding a 21-20 edge.
- Los Angeles had an interesting double. The Kings were 9-3 in two-goal games, and they had 19 empty net goals (tied for seventh in the league). It might not be a surprise, but it is a coincidence that the Kings had empty net goals in six of those two-goal wins.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):
- 600 career points (he currently has 593)
- 300 career penalty minutes (292)
- 200 career assists (196)
- 200 points as a Capital (193)
- 300 points as a Capital (297)
- 500 career points (497)
- 200 penalty minutes as a Capital (199)
- 100 even strength goals as a Capital (99)
- 122 career game-winning goals (121, would break tie for second place all-time with Gordie Howe)
- 29 career hat tricks (28, would break three-way tie with Marcel Dionne and Bobby Hull for sixth place all-time)
- 159 career multi-goal games (158, would break tie with Brett Hull for second place all-time)
- 400 career multi-point games (397)
- 100 career penalty minutes (92)