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Snapshots of the Week Ahead: Week 6

It will be another week without facing a divisional opponent for the Washington Capitals, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals Photo by John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images

Three times in 17 games through five weeks, the Washington Capitals faced opponents within the Metropolitan Division which they reside. By the time Week 6 ends, that number will still be three, as the Caps once more face a week’s worth of games against teams outside the Metropolitan Division.

The Opponents

Florida Panthers (Tuesday/7:00 pm at BB&T Center)

Through 15 games last season, the Florida Panthers were 10-2-3, holders of the best record by points in the league (23) and third in points percentage (.767). The Panthers went on to become only the fourth franchise in NHL history to post at least 58 wins in a season, finishing the 2021-2022 season 58-18-6. Through 15 games to date so far this season, the Panthers are a less impressive 8-6-1, tied for 13th in standings points (17) and tied for 12th in points percentage (.567). At the highest statistical level, the Panthers are averaging more than half a goal per game less this season (3.13) than they did through 15 games last season (3.73).

A lot of that decrease in scoring offense is a product of a power play that has deteriorated quite a bit. Through 15 games last season the Panther power play was running at 21.3 percent and was ranked 13th in the league. But through 15 games so far this season, the power play is at just 14.8 percent as is ranked 29th in the league. What is worse, the Panthers are wasting opportunities with their low efficiency on the man advantage. The 4.07 power play chances they enjoy per game are tied for second in the league going into the new week. Last season, the Panthers averaged just 3.13 chances per game through 15 games.

While last year’s scoring defense was not as impressive as their offense, the Panthers were still tied for sixth in scoring defense through 15 games (2.60 goals allowed per game). This year’s edition of the Panthers slipped in this area, too, allowing 3.07 goals per game, the 16th-ranked scoring defense in the league. And again, special teams have played a role. Florida ranked 19th in the league in penalty killing through 15 games last season (81.1 percent), not an impressive performance but still better than the 24th-ranked penalty kill through 15 games so far this season (75.4 percent).

What this year’s Panther squad still does well, though, is win at home. It would be hard to equal last year’s 7-0-0 start on home ice after 15 games overall, but this year’s team is 4-1-1 on home ice through 15 games, tied for fourth in points percentage with Colorado. What might inspire some hope and confidence in the Caps as they travel to Florida is that the Panthers dropped their first home game in regulation in their last outing, a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers last Saturday.

This will be the 132nd meeting in the all-time series between the Caps and the Panthers. Washington is 67-43-12 (nine ties) overall and 31-26-5 (four ties) in 66 games in Florida.

St. Louis Blues (Thursday/8:00 (Eastern) at Enterprise Center)

“St” might be an abbreviation for “Saint,” but for the Blues hockey team, it might also stand for “streak.” The Blues started the season winning three in a row before enduring an eight-game losing streak, all in regulation, through November 8th. They ended that streak with a 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks last Thursday and added a second straight win in a 3-2 decision over the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.

For the Blues, the defense has been disappointing, at least insofar as goals allowed are concerned. Their scoring defense has been rather dismal to date, the 3.69 goals allowed per game ranking 29th in the league in scoring defense. But unsurprisingly, there is a threshold number of goals allowed that spells the difference between success and failure for the Blues to date. In games in which they allowed four or more goals, St. Louis is 0-5-0. They are 8-1-1 in the ten games in which they allowed three or fewer goals. Only once in six home games so far have the Blues allowed as many as four goals, but that would be in their last contest, a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

Part of the problem with the St. Louis defense is a penalty kill that is ranked 29th in the league at 70.8 percent. What saves the day for the Blues, though, is that they averaged only 1.85 shorthanded situations per game, by far the lowest in the league (Vegas is next at 2.44 per game). Only three times in 13 games so far have the Blues gone shorthanded three or more times. They allowed three power play goals in those three games, while allowing only four in the other ten games combined.

If the defense had been disappointing, the offense has been offensive, not in a good way. The Blues are averaging just 2.38 goals per game, the worst scoring offense in the league. Eight times in 13 games they were held to two or fewer goals scored. They won only one of those games, a 2-0 shutout of the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton on October 22nd. Even scoring first does not seem to help much; St. Louis is just 5-3-0 when scoring first in games. If they can get to the second intermission with a lead, it is a good thing for them, but they do not do it often. Only three times have the Blues taken a lead into the third period, although they do have a 3-0-0 record when doing so. Only Columbus (twice) and Anaheim (none) have taken fewer leads into the third period so far this season.

The Caps are 45-44-1 (12 ties) in their all-time series against the Blues, 19-24-1 (eight ties) on the road against St. Louis.

Colorado Avalanche (Saturday/7:00 pm at Capital One Arena)

The Caps return home from a three-game road trip to end the week by starting a three-game home stand, the Colorado Avalanche being the first opponent on the list. The Caps might be catching the Avs at the wrong time. After going 4-4-1 in their first nine games, the defending Stanley Cup champs have won four in a row going into the new week. They will face St. Louis and visit the Carolina Hurricanes before arriving in Washington next Saturday.

Colorado’s record of 8-4-1 is, while good overall, a bit deceptive. Of their five losses, four came by one-goal decisions (one in overtime). On the other side of the goal differential equation, five of their eight wins have come by three or more goals; they are one of five teams left who have yet to lose a game by three or more goals. Only Dallas and Boston go into the new week with more wins by three or more goals (Dallas with seven in eight wins; Boston with six; note: the Caps are the only club to lose by fewer than three goals to the Stars, a 2-0 loss on October 27th) than the Avs.

What Colorado has done well in the early going is put early pressure on teams. Nine times in 13 games so far, they scored the game’s first goal, and they are 7-2-0 in those games. They also make it tough on teams late in games; eight times in 13 games the Avs took a lead into the third period, going 7-1-0. Only twice have they trailed, losing on both occasions.

The Colorado power play has been good and bad. Well, great and not so great. The Avs have converted 39.0 percent of their chances to date, by far the most efficient power play in the league (Edmonton is at 32.2 percent). However, the are averaging only 3.15 power play chances per game, 23rd in the league. They do have at least one power play goal in ten of the 13 games they have played so far and have at least one in seven of their eight wins.

On the other side of special teams, the Avs have been vulnerable. Their 72.9 percent kill rate ranks 28th in the league, and they have gone shorthanded an average of 3.69 times per game thus far, 12th-most in the league. The 13 power play goals allowed by the Avalanche are tied for seventh-most in the league. Just as with the power play, Colorado allowed at least one power play goal in ten of 13 games so far and in four of their five losses (including their overtime loss).

The Capitals are 47-32-1 (nine ties) in 89 games against the Avs in their all-time series, 25-14-1 (four ties) on home ice.

Hot Caps:

  • Nick Jensen. Jensen leads all Caps defensemen in road points. He is also tied for the team lead on the road in plus-minus rating (plus-3, with Trevor van Riemsdyk).
  • Darcy Kuemper. Of 61 goalies with 100 or more minutes played on the road so far, Kuemper ranks 13th in goals against average (2.45) and 13th in save percentage (.924). And that is after Sunday night’s unfortunate performance (four goals allowed on nine shots to Tampa Bay)
  • Charlie Lindgren. Lindgren has been no slouch in goal on the road, either. He has a .933 save percentage (eighth in the same group of goalies), making the Caps one of only three teams in the league with two goalies logging at least 100 minutes on the road and a save percentage of .924 or better (Minnesota and Montreal are the others).

Cold Caps:

  • Martin Fehervary. Fehervary is the only Capital to have appeared in all eight road games this season without recording a point.
  • Capitals forwards. Ten Capital forwards have taken at least five faceoffs this season. None have a winning percentage over 50 percent. Garnet Hathaway and Marcus Johansson are right at 50 percent (Hathaway is 3-for-6; Johansson is 5-for-10).
  • Alex Ovechkin. He has never been the most accurate of shooters, depending a lot on sheer volume for production, but Ovechkin has 36 missed shots this season (tied for the league lead with Mika Zibanejad), which is more than 618 skaters have shots on goal so far this season.

Weird Facts:

  • If the Caps score first against Florida, it will make is 66 times in 132 games against the Panthers they scored first and 66 times they allowed the first goal in a game.
  • St. Louis is the only team in the league yet to win a game when trailing first (0-5-0).
  • When the Colorado Avalanche were the Quebec Nordiques, the Caps were 26-19 (seven ties) in 52 games. Since becoming the Colorado Avalanche, the Caps are 21-13-1 (two ties) in 37 games.

Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):

John Carlson

  • 900 career games (he currently has 898)

Nic Dowd

  • 200 career penalty minutes (192)

Lars Eller

  • 200 career assists (199)
  • 200 points as a Capital (199)

Martin Fehervary

  • 2,000 career minutes played (1,995)

T.J. Oshie

  • 100 even strength goals as a Capital (99)

Alex Ovechkin

  • 29 career hat tricks (28, would break three-way tie with Marcel Dionne and Bobby Hull for sixth place all-time)
  • 400 career multi-point games (399)
  • 400 career multi-point games (399, would pass Mark Recchi for 15th place all-time)
  • 126 three-or-more point games (125, would tie Teemu Selanne and Jean Beliveau for 23rd place all time)