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Snapshots of the Week Ahead: Week 10

The Caps enter Week 10 looking to build on some recent momentum but will have to best two of the league’s better teams and a young, hungry one.

Washington Capitals v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

In Week 10, the Washington Capitals wrap up a short road trip before returning home to play the first two games of a three-game home stand. In doing so, they will face three teams – three very different teams. The rebuilding, the resurgent, and the really overdue for a championship.

The Opponents

Chicago Blackhawks (Tuesday/9:00 pm (Eastern) at United Center)

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup for the sixth time in franchise history in 2015. Since then, wining had become a challenge. Over six seasons following that Cup win, the Blackhawks missed the postseason three times and on the other three occasions lost in the opening round. Their 257-234-71 record over those six seasons ranks 23rd of the 30 teams to play over those six seasons, and their .520 points percentage ranks 23rd as well.

Things are not getting better for the Blackhawks. This season, their seven wins going into Week 10 are tied for fewest in the league (with the Anaheim Ducks). Only the Ducks have fewer standings points (17) than the Blackhawks (18), and Chicago’s points percentage (.346) is 31st in the league (Anaheim: .304). It is a team that cannot score (2.38 goals per game/32nd in the league in scoring offense). Only 12 times this season have the Blackhawks posted more than two goals in a game, tied for fewest in the league. And what is worse, Chicago is only 6-4-2 in those dozen games. The have not won a game in regulation when scoring fewer than three goals (1-11-2), their only win being a 2-1 overtime win over Los Angeles on November 3rd.

The Blackhawks have had trouble stopping opponents from scoring (3.54 goals allowed per game/23rd in scoring defense) as well. Only eight times in 26 games have they allowed two or fewer goals. Only seven teams have done so fewer times, and the Blackhawks’ record of 5-1-2 is second-worst in the league in win-loss percentage (.625).

Chicago’s lack of success starts at the beginning. They scored first only five times in 26 games, fewest times scoring first in the league (3-0-2 record). And they just dig the hole deeper. Their first period goal differential (minus-13; 12 for and 25 against) is second-worst in the league. Those 12 first period goals scored are fewest in the league.

And do not think home ice offers the Blackhawks all that much of an advantage. In 14 games played on United Center ice so far, Chicago has two wins in regulation (4-8-2 overall).

This will be the 103rd meeting of these clubs in the all-time series. Washington is 45-43-3 (11 ties) overall and 16-28-1 (six ties) in Chicago.

Dallas Stars (Thursday/7:00 pm at Capital One Arena)

The Dallas Stars have been a wildly inconsistent team from year to year for more than a decade. In 14 seasons since they lost in the Western Conference final in 2008, they reached the postseason only five times, only once in consecutive seasons (the second of them ending with a loss in the Stanley Cup final to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020). The inconsistency leaves the Stars with a middle-of-the-road record over those 14 seasons (551-418-134/12th in standings points/13th in points percentage).

This year, the Stars have been much more consistent on a game-to-game basis. Their 16-7-5 record going into Week 10 does not have long winning streaks (two three-game streaks are their longest so far), but neither have they suffered losing streaks (four two-game streaks, two of them with both losses in regulation).

One factor contributing to the Stars’ consistency this season is that they are a top-ten team in both scoring offense (3.75 goals per game/third in the league) and scoring defense (2.82 goals allowed per game/tenth). That double also applies to their special teams – eighth in power play efficiency (25.3 percent) and third in penalty killing (84.6 percent).

Part of Dallas’s improvement this year over last has been their performance on the road. While the Stars finished 15th in the league in points last season (98), they were tied for 18th in the league in points earned on the road (40/19-20-2) with a .488 points percentage. In 13 road games so far this season, the Stars are 7-4-2, tied for 11th in points earned (16), and ninth in points percentage (.615). They have done it by improving their road scoring offense by more than a full goal per game, from 2.51 last season to 3.69 so far this season. Their scoring defense has not improved as dramatically (from 3.20 goals allowed per game on the road to 2.85), but the improvement has been significant.

Special teams improvement on the road has been important to the Stars’ good start as well, especially the power play, which is almost 50 percent more efficient this season so far (33.3 percent) than it was on the road last year (22.5 percent). The road penalty kill is another case of the improvement being not as dramatic, but significant nonetheless (84.9 percent so far this season, 79.3 percent last season).

This will be the 105th meeting in the all-time series between the Caps and Stars. The Caps are 34-50-4 (16 ties) overall, 17-23-3 (eight ties) on home ice.

Toronto Maple Leafs (Saturday/7:00 pm at Capital One Arena)

The Capitals close out Week 10 with a home matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are just one point behind the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division standings going into the new week (Boston does have three games in hand). As the new week begins, the Maple Leafs might be focused on the present and keeping pace with the Bruins, but Leafs Nation always has this in the back of their minds – 4,283 regular season games and 286 postseason games. Those are the games that have passed for the Maple Leafs since they last won the Stanley Cup, in 1967.

This year’s team gives Leafs fans hope that the streak could end. While they stumbled out of the gate this season with a 4-4-2 record, Toronto is 14-1-4 in 19 games since November 2nd. They are tied for the league lead in wins over that period, lead the league in points (32), and they are second in points percentage (.842) over that span.

What is surprising about the 19-game run for the Maple Leafs is that their offense had been decent (3.47 goals per game/11th in scoring offense), but it is their scoring defense that has shined (2.11 goals allowed per game/second in the league). Fourteen times in those 19 games the Leafs allowed two or fewer goals in regulation, and only once in that span did they allow more than two goals in consecutive games (a 4-3 overtime loss to Vegas on November 8th and a 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh on November 11th).

One of secrets of success for the Leafs over their 14-1-4 run is getting out in front early and often. In those 19 games they scored first 13 times, tied for most times in the league over that span. Their 10-1-2 record in those games is not best in the league in points percentage (.769/T-9th), but those ten wins are tied with Vegas for most in the league since November 2nd, when the Leafs’ run started. Trailing first in games has been comparatively rare, but Toronto is 4-2-0 in those games, their .667 winning percentage ranking second in the league over that span (New Jersey: 5-1-1/.714). That early scoring is something that the Maple Leafs have sustained, too. Their goal differential over the first two period of games is an impressive plus-26 over their last 19 games, allowing them to take leads 14 times into the third period, where they are 11-0-3.

The Caps and Maple Leafs will be meeting for the 154th time in the all-time series. Washington is 76-60-7 (ten ties), 47-24-3 (four ties) in DC.

Hot Caps:

  • Special Teams. Since November 23rd the Caps are 23-for-26 in penalty killing (88.5 percent), second in the league over that span, while the power play has goals in nine of ten games over the same span (9-for-31/29.0 percent/T-7th)
  • Alex Ovechkin. Since Thanksgiving, Ovechkin is 7-4-11, plus-2, in nine games, with 23 credited hits (second on the team) and five blocked shots (tied for third among forwards).
  • Charlie Lindgren. In five appearances in December, Lindgren is 4-1-0, his four wins tied for first in the month). His 1.83 goals against average ranks fourth among 46 goalies logging at least 100 minutes, and his .937 save percentage ranks fifth in that group.

Cold Caps:

  • Caps defensemen not named “John Carlson.” Carlson has eight goals on 80 shots (10.0 shooting percentage) in 23 games to date. The other eight defensemen to dress for the Caps this season have five goals on 193 shots (2.60 percent), and almost half of those goals are on the bench (Martin Fehervary – injured).
  • Garnet Hathaway. In his last 13 games, Hathaway has one point (an assist).
  • Matt Irwin. When he recorded an assist in the 4-1 win over Seattle, Irwin posted his first point of the season, breaking an 18-game streak without a point. It might not be time to break out the champagne just yet.

Weird Facts:

  • If the Caps score two goals against Chicago, the Blackhawks will have hit the 20,000 goals allowed mark in franchise history.
  • If Dallas scores a shorthanded goal against the Caps, it will be the 200th shorthanded goal scored by the club on the road in team history.
  • No team in NHL history has more losses on the road than the Toronto Maple Leafs (1,721).

Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):

John Carlson

  • 300 career penalty minutes (he currently has 292)
  • First among defensemen in franchise history in power play points (228 (Calle Johansson); he has 223)
  • Most ten-goal seasons by a defenseman in team history: eight (currently seven, tied with Sergei Gonchar and Kevin Hatcher; Carlson has eight goals)
  • 19th place in franchise history in goals scored (currently with 140, tied with Dmitri Khristich)

Nic Dowd

  • 200 career penalty minutes (196)

Marcus Johansson

  • 26th place in franchise history in goals scored (currently with 112, tied for 29th in team history, would need three goals to pass Ryan Walter (114) for 26th place)
  • 200 assists as a Capital (198)
  • 25th place in team history in power play points (currently with 93, needs four to pass Dmitri Khristich (96) for 25th place)
  • 13th place in game winning goals in team history (currently tied for 13th with 24; needs one to break a tie with Brooks Laich and Kevin Hatcher)

Evgeny Kuznetsov

  • Seventh place in franchise history in assists (currently with 361, tied with Calle Johansson)

T.J. Oshie

  • 29th place in assists in team history (currently n 31st place with 170, needs four to pass Joe Juneau and Craig Laughlin)
  • 13th place in game winning goals in team history (currently tied for 16th with 23; needs two to pass Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson, and Kevin Hatcher (24 apiece) for 13th place)

Alex Ovechkin

  • Sixth place all time in career hat tricks (currently with 28; one more would break three-way tie with Marcel Dionne and Bobby Hull)
  • 12th all-time in two-point games (currently with 406, needs three to pass Paul Coffey for 12th place)
  • 22nd all-time in power play points (542 (Brian Leetch); he has 541)
  • 22nd place in three-or-more point games (currently with 126; needs two to pass Denis Savard for 22nd place)
  • All time leader in shots on goal (currently with 6,190; needs 20 to pass Ray Bourque for the top spot)
  • Most first goals scored in games all-time (currently with 135, tied with Jaromir Jagr)

Conor Sheary

  • 100 career even strength goals (99)

Dylan Strome

  • 200 career points (192)