The Washington Capitals return from the holiday break with a three-game slate of games in Week 12. Having climbed back into the group of playoff-eligible teams, the Caps now have their sights set higher, starting the new week only one game out of third place in the Metropolitan Division and four points out of second place. The new week also features the Caps facing a division rival for the first time in almost a month.
New York Rangers (Tuesday/7:00 pm at Madison Square Garden)
After eight straight games against non-division opponents, the Caps face their first Metropolitan Division opponent since December 7th when they travel to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts stumbled through the first third of their regular season schedule, going 11-10-5 in their first 26 games. But starting with a 6-4 win over the St. Louis Blues on December 5th, the Rangers go into the new week with an 8-1-0 record over their last nine games.
It has been a case of improving on both sides of the puck. Comparing their first 26 games (11-10-5) and their last nine games (8-1-0), here is how they have changed:
- Scoring offense: First 26 games: 2.92 goals per game (21st in the league) / Last nine games: 4.33 goals per game (second in the league)
- Scoring defense: 2.88 (tenth) / 2.22 (fifth)
- Power play: 20.5 percent (23rd) / 33.3 percent (fifth)
- Penalty killing: 80.0 percent (tenth) / 82.6 percent (ninth)
- One-goal game winning percentage: .250/3-4-5 (30th) / .667/2-1-0 (T-eighth)
- Three-plus-goal game winning percentage: .444/4-5 (19th) / 1.000/2-0 (T-first)
- Winning percentage when scoring first: .643/9-3-2 (T-17th) / .800/4-1-0 (T-11th)
It is a team that has enjoyed good health in those last nine games, using only 20 skaters, 14 of whom dressed for every game. Not that they endured a heavy injury load in their first 26 games (22 skaters, 11 playing in all 26 games), but continuity helps with consistency.
What the Rangers were unable to do consistently in those first 26 games was win at home. They posted a 4-6-4 record, the .429 points percentage ranking 25th in the league. Ranking 30th in the league in scoring offense (2.57 goals per game) and 19th in scoring defense (3.21 goals allowed per game) with special teams that were mediocre at best (22.5 percent power play/T-19th and a 74.5 percent power play/23rd) were the culprits in the poor record. In their recent 8-1-0 run, though, they did not lose at home (4-0-0).
This will be the 237th meeting of these teams in the all-time series, the Caps with an overall record of 113-97-8 (18 ties) and a record of 51-55-4 (nine ties) in New York.
Ottawa Senators (Thursday/7:00 pm at Capital One Arena)
The middle game of the week has the Caps hosting the Ottawa Senators, a team they faced in Ottawa less than a week ago, a 3-2 overtime win. The Sens have not played since that loss to the Caps, and they will host the Boston Bruins on Tuesday before visiting Washington on Thursday. What that loss to the Caps continued was a brief string of frustration for the Sens on the offensive side of the puck. The two goals they posted against the Caps made it three games in a row scoring two or fewer games after a healthy run over which they had 25 goals over seven games (3.57 per game). That they go into the new week also allowing 12 goals over their last three games make it unsurprising that they are 0-3-0 over their last three games.
There is not much new to draw from since last we looked at this team, but we did cover them in depth in the Week 11 Snapshots.
This will be the 104th meeting in the all-time series between the Capitals and Senators, Washington with an overall record of 55-38-5 (five ties) and 31-14-2 (four ties) at home against the Sens.
Montreal Canadiens (Saturday/4:00 pm at Capital One Arena)
The Caps end the 2022 calendar year with a late-afternoon matchup against the Montreal Canadiens. The teams had one meeting earlier this season, the Caps spotting the Canadiens the game’s first goal before coming back with three unanswered goals in a 3-1 win for what was at the time the Caps’ first win on home ice this season.
For Montreal and their fans, this season demands some perspective. The Canadiens enter the week with a 15-16-3 record, 13th in the Eastern Conference in points and nine points out of a wild-card spot. Making up that deficit to reach the postseason is unlikely. But last season, Montreal was 7-21-3 on Christmas Day, the second-worst record in the league.
While there has been improvement in their record, year over year, what they need to do to take the next step in their progress is put together more and longer stretches of success. Only once this season have the Canadiens pieced together three straight wins, and two of those were in extra time. On three other occasions they won consecutive games, but only once this season have they won consecutive games in regulation (a 3-2 win at Buffalo on October 27 and a 7-4 win in St. Louis on October 29th.
This is also a team that, despite having one of the most rabid fan bases in the league, capable of making Bell Centre one of the loudest venues in the NHL, has not made opponents’ stays very painful. Montreal is just 7-9-0 at home, 26th in the league in points earned (14) and 27th in points percentage (.438).
The Canadiens have been a more successful team on the road. Their 8-7-3 record is tied for 13th in the league in points (19) and is 19th in points percentage (.528). Their road offense has struggled (2.67 goals per game/25th in scoring offense), but their scoring defense (3.11 goals per game) ranks in the middle of the pack (15th). Their road special teams have not been strong, the power play ranked 20th (19.6 percent) and the penalty kill ranked 21st (75.4 percent). The Canadiens come into this game with a 2-3-2 record in their last seven road games, three of those games going to extra time (1-2 record).
This will be the 176th meeting of the Caps and Habs in the all-time series. Washington is 78-74-6 (17 ties) overall, 41-34-3 (nine ties) at home.
- Alex Ovechkin. In his last 18 games, Alex Ovechkin is 14-13-27, plus-11. His 14 goals is tied for third in the league over that stretch. Oh, and the goal total includes numbers 801 and 802 for his career, now second on the all-time list.
- Nic Dowd. As December comes to a close with this week’s schedule, Nic Dowd has five goals in 11 games, second on the team in goals for the month.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov. In December, Evgeny Kuznetsov has ten assists in 12 games, tops on the team for the month. His five power play points also lead the team this month.
- Aliaksei Protas. Aliaksei Protas is the only forward to play ten or more games in December without a goal and the only skater with at least 15 shots on goal without one (he has 16 shots i12 games).
- T.J. Oshie. He might not play again this month (he has not played since December 17th, when he went out with an injury). If he does not return before the new year, he will be the only Caps forward without an even strength point in December (nine games).
- Dylan Strome. Dylan Strome has one goal and seven points in 12 games in December, but he is also one of only two Caps forwards with a minus rating for the month (minus-2; Oshie is minus-7).
- Ten of Montreal’s 34 games to date went to extra time, the Canadiens posting a 7-3 record. They are undefeated in extra time at home (4-0) but 3-3 in such games on the road.
- The New York Rangers’ next power play goal against the Caps will be their 100th in the all-time series against the Caps.
- If Ottawa loses to Boston in regulation on Tuesday, they will come to Washington with the possibility of losing for the 1,000th time in regulation in team history.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):
- 300 career penalty minutes (he currently has 296)
- First among defensemen in franchise history in power play points (228 (Calle Johansson); he has 224)
- 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)
- 100 career even strength goals (he has 99)
- 200 career penalty minutes (196)
- 10 game-winning goals as a Capital (he has nine)
- 26th place in franchise history in goals scored (currently with 113, T-27th in team history, would need two goals to pass Ryan Walter (114) for 26th place)
- 200 assists as a Capital (199)
- 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 the tie with Brooks Laich and Kevin Hatcher (24 apiece) for 13th place)
- Second place in overtime goals in team history (currently with seven, he needs three to pass Mike Green (eight) and Nicklas Backstrom (nine) to take second place.
- 100 career NHL points (97)
- 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, Kevin Hatcher, and Marcus Johansson (24 apiece) for 13th place)
- 21st all-time in power play points (547; needs one to break a tie with Brian Leetch)
- 22nd place in three-or-more point games (currently with 127; needs five to pass Larry Murphy and tie Joe Thornton for 20th place))
- 200 career points (195)
- 100 career penalty minutes (96)
Trevor van Riemsdyk
- 100 career NHL points (97)