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Snapshots of the Week Ahead: Week 25

It is a relatively light week for the Capitals with two games on the schedule, one against a bitter rival team, the other against a team that might feature a new goalie with whom Caps fans are well-acquainted.

Minnesota Wild v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

Week 25 will almost seem like a week off for the Washington Capitals, who will face two opponents. One an important rival, a bitter rival, a rival that they might face in the first round of the postseason. The other offers a chance for the Caps to perhaps face a familiar foe in goal who was on their radar at the trading deadline with Marc-Andre Fleury the latest addition in goal for the Wild.

The Opponents

Carolina Hurricanes (Monday/7:00pm – Capital One Arena)

The Caps will host the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night in Washington looking for a sweep of the season series. The Caps won all three previous games against the ‘Canes – 4-2 in Carolina on November 28th, 4-0 in Washington on March 3rd, and 4-3 in a shootout in Carolina in their most recent meeting, on March 18th.

Carolina heads into the new week in a slump, having lost five of their last seven games (2-3-2) and seeing their Metropolitan Division lead stand at three points over the Pittsburgh Penguins and four over the New York Rangers. They did, however, show some signs of breaking out with a 7-2 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday in their most recent outing.

The Hurricanes are tied for 24th in the league in points earned (six) and 26th in points percentage (.429) since March 13th, when their seven-game slump started. The problem is a matter of their offense drying up. Even with the seven-goal explosion against the Blues, their 2.86 goals per game over that seven-game stretch is tied for 19th in the league (before that game, it was tied for last in the league). It is the most recent stretch of problems on offense that go back to late February. Over their last 14 games the Hurricanes have only the win over St. Louis as a game in which they scored more than three goals in a game and were shut out twice, once by the Caps and once by the New York Rangers. Over those 14 games, Carolina ranks 28th in scoring offense in the league (2.57 goals per game).

It is rather unfortunate for the Hurricanes, whose defense has been superb over the same stretch of 14 games in which the offense has struggled. Allowing only 2.36 goals per game over that span, they have the best scoring defense in the league over that stretch.

The Caps are 103-55-9 (14 ties) in their all-time series against Carolina, 55-26-5 (four ties) on home ice. They are 8-1-1 in their last ten games against the Hurricanes overall.

Minnesota Wild (Sunday/7:00pm – Capital One Arena)

The Minnesota Wild are having a fine season. Their 40-20-4 record to date is the second-best in franchise history in points percentage (.656), trailing only the 35-16-5/.670 they posted last season. With their 3-2 overtime win over Colorado on Sunday, they hit the 40-win mark for the ninth time in franchise history, and while they trail the Colorado Avalanche by 14 points in the Central Division standings, they are in second place, and finishing there would be their highest divisional finish since finishing second in the Central Division in 2016-2017.

The Wild have come by their success largely through offense, their 3.63 goals per game being the fourth-ranked scoring offense in the league entering the new week. That scoring offense will almost certainly become the most productive in team history, far outpacing the 3.21 goals per game they posted last season. Of 63 games so far this season, the Wild scored four or more goals 32 times, fourth-most in the league.

But the odd part about all those games scoring four or more goals, they have six losses among them (five in regulation, one in extra time), third-most losses in the league when scoring four or more goals. This is a team that can struggle on defense, their 3.09 goals allowed per game being the 19th ranked scoring defense.

One of the problems contributing to their weak scoring defense is a penalty kill that is both inefficient and on the ice too much. Minnesota averages 3.22 shorthanded situations per game, fourth-most in the league. Couple that with a penalty kill that ranks 23rd in the league (76.2 percent), and it is not surprising that the Wild are fifth in most power play goals allowed (49). They have allowed at least one power play goal in 40 games this season, most in the league. It has not been a crippling shortcoming, the 23 wins the Wild have in those 40 games being most in the league when allowing a power play goal (22-14-3). The flip side of the Wild’s special teams problems is their 5-on-5 production. They are a plus-32 in goals for and against at 5-on-5 so far this season, fifth-best in the league.

Washington is 15-9-2 in their all-time series against the Wild, 9-3-0 on home ice. The Caps are 8-1-1 against Minnesota in their last ten meetings overall.

Hot Caps:

  • Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin has 13 goals in his last 17 games since February 15th, tied for sixth-most in that span and tied for sixth in goals per game (0.76; minimum: 10 games).
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov is on an 12-game points streak (7-8-15) and is 11-21-32 over his last 32 games. Seven of those goals are power play goals.
  • John Carlson. Carlson is 1-11-12 in 12 games in March and is 3-20-23 in his last 23 games, third among all defensemen in points over that span.

Cold Caps:

  • Martin Fehervary. Fehervary has two goals in 33 games since January 1st and is 2-for-39 shooting (5.1 percent).
  • Justin Schultz. The Schultz goal watch continues. None in 31 games since January 1st on 49 shots. He does have nine assists, third among Caps defensemen in 2022.
  • Ilya Samsonov/Vitek Vanecek. Since March 8th, the Caps goalies have allowed three or more goals in a combined nine of ten appearances.

Weird Facts:

  • Over their last 14 games, Carolina ranks 31st in shooting percentage in the league at 5-on-5 (5.1 percent) and the seventh-worst combined shooting and save percentage at fives (97.9).
  • The Hurricanes rank first in shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 in the league over their last 14 games (58.9 percent).
  • With one win this week, the Minnesota Wild will reach the 800-win mark in franchise history.

Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):

Alex Ovechkin

  • Needs two points to become the 21st player in NHL history to record 1,400 points.
  • Needs one point to break a tie with Jari Kurri (1,398) for 21st place all-time in points.
  • Needs one game-winning goal to break a tie with Gordie Howe for second place all-time (currently 121 GWG apiece).
  • With one game-deciding goal in a shootout, Ovechkin will pass Phil Kessel for ninth place all-time (both with 16) and tie Anze Kopitar (17) for eighth place.
  • With one empty net point, Ovechkin will break a tie with Marian Hossa for fourth place all-time (both with 60 empty net points).
  • With one first goal in games, Ovechkin will tie Brett Hull (131) for second place all time behind Jaromir Jagr (135).
  • Ovechkin needs one multi-goal game to tie Brett Hull for second place all-time (Hull with 158).
  • With one multi-point game, Ovechkin will tie Guy Lafleur (395) for 17th place all-time in multi-point games.
  • Ovechkin’s next hat trick will be the 29th of his career, breaking a tie with Brett Hull and Marcel Dionne for sixth place all-time.
  • Needs one shorthanded goal to tie Gaetan Duchesne, Bobby Gould, and Steve Konowlachuk (six apiece) for 13th place in team history.
  • With five blocked shots, Ovechkin will reach the 500 mark in this category.

Nicklas Backstrom

  • With one penalty minute, he would tie Kevin Kaminski (483) for 26th place in franchise history; with two, he would tie Nick Kypreos for 25th place; and with five, he would tie Paul Mulvey (487) for 24th place.
  • With two empty net goals, he would tie Mike Ridley (16) for second place in team history.
  • With one empty net point, Backstrom would reach the 50 empty net point mark in his career.

John Carlson

  • Needs one power play goal to tie Dainius Zubrus (35) for 24th place on the all-time Caps list.
  • Needs one game-winning goal to tie Michal Pivonka (27) for 11th place all-time for Washington; two game-winning goals and he will tie Alexander Semin and Evgeny Kuznetsov for (28) ninth place; three and he will tie Dale Hunter and Kelly Miller (29) for seventh place.
  • With one overtime goal, Carlson would tie Dmitry Orlov for second place among defensemen on the all-time franchise list (he has two).

Dmitry Orlov

  • Orlov’s needs one game-winning goal to break a tie with Scott Stevens and Sylvain Cote for sixth place on the all-time franchise list among defensemen (all with 14).

Evgeny Kuznetsov

  • Needs one game-winning goal to pass break a tie with Alexander Semin for ninth place (28) and tie Dale Hunter and Kelly Miller (29 apiece) for seventh place.
  • Needs one overtime goal to tie Mike Green for third place on the all-time Caps’ list (currently seven).

Tom Wilson

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

T.J. Oshie

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

Nic Dowd

  • Needs five points to reach the 100-point mark for his career.

Garnet Hathaway

  • Needs five points to reach the 100-point mark for his career.

Ilya Samsonov

  • With one shutout, Samsonov will tie Michal Neuvirth and Pete Peeters (seven apiece) for sixth place on the team’s all-time list.

Vitek Vanecek

  • With one shutout, Vanecek will tie Pat Riggin, Ricl Tabaracci, Philipp Grubauer, and Samsonov (six apiece) for seventh place on the team’s all-time list.