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Snapshots of the Week Ahead: Week 27

Heading into the new week, the Caps’ schedule features a battle against an old rival and their last trip to Canada for the regular season.

Philadelphia Flyers v Washington Capitals - Game Five Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

There are no “easy” games in the NHL, but some, at least on paper, are easier than others. The Caps have a three-game week ahead with games against teams eliminated from playoff competition sandwiched around a bona fide contender for the Stanley Cup.

The Opponents

Philadelphia Flyers (Tuesday/7:00pm – Capital One Arena)

The Caps will wrap up their four-game season series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday at Capital One Arena. Although the Flyers have struggled mightily after starting the season with an 8-4-2 record, they did win two of the three games against the Caps to date, both by 2-1 scores (November 6th and February 26th). The Caps earned their lone win in this year’s series with a 5-3 win in Philadelphia on February 17th, scoring three goals in the last three minutes to overcome a 3-2 Flyer lead.

Since that 8-4-2 start for the Flyers, they have gone 15-34-9, tied for worst record in the league by points (39, with the New Jersey Devils) and points percentage (.336, with the Devils). Their offense has been almost non-existent over those 58 games, averaging 2.57 goals per game, fourth fewest in the league over that span. Their scoring defense has been almost as bad, the fifth-worst in the league at 3.76 goals allowed per game over that stretch. Their special teams have been several levels below that of “special,” their power play over those 58 games at 11.6 percent (worst in the league) and their penalty kill at 73.7 percent (fourth-worst in the league). Their special teams index of 85.3 (power play plus penalty kill percentages) is worst in the league over that span.

While their problems are many, it starts with scoring first. Over their 15-34-9 slide, they scored first 25 times, but they did little with the early advantage, winning in fewer than half of those instances (12-7-6), 31st in winning percentage (.480). They have not finished games well, either. Winning when leading after two periods is common in the NHL, but while the Flyers are 9-1-3 in games where they led after 40 minutes in this 58-game segment, the nine wins are fewest in the league, and that winning percentage (.692) is third-worst in the league. And coming back from second intermission deficits has been all but impossible, the Flyers going 1-25-2 (.036 winning percentage, third-worst in the league) in those instances over their last 58 games. Adding to the third period woes are the 79 goals they allowed in the third periods of their last 58 games, tied for second most in the league with Columbus. If there is a silver sliver in the rain cloud that has been the Flyers’ season over the last five months, it is that they do come into Tuesday’s game as winners of two straight on the road (4-3 in a shootout over the New York Rangers and 4-1 over Columbus), their first consecutive wins on the road since December 10th and 11th against Vegas and Arizona.

The Capitals are 94-110-11 (19 ties) in their all-time series against Philadelphia, 51-46-4 (13 ties) on home ice. The Caps are 7-3-0 against the Flyers over their last ten meetings, alternating wins and losses over their last six games, each team winning three times.

Toronto Maple Leafs (Thursday/7:00pm – Scotiabank Arena)

The Caps will face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second of their three-game season series on Thursday in Toronto. Washington lost their first meeting against the Leafs this season, a 5-3 loss in Washington on February 28th when the Caps came back from a 3-1 deficit on a pair of goals by Tom Wilson (one shorthanded), but seeing the visitors break the 3-3 tie with less than four minutes remaining in regulation and adding an empty net goal for the final margin.

The Leafs host the Caps on a sustained run of success, going 15-5-2 in their last 22 games since February 24th, tied for third-best record in the league by points (32, with Colorado and trailing Boston and Florida at 33 points). Small wonder. Over this 22-game stretch, Toronto has been burning out lights on the scoreboard, averaging 4.45 goals per game, almost a quarter goal per game better than the Florida Panthers (4.24 goals per game). Seven times in those 22 games they scored at least six – yes, six – goals, including a season-high ten goals in a 10-7 win over Detroit on February 26th. Only three times were they held under three goals, oddly enough by Buffalo (twice) and Montreal, two teams than have had their struggles this season stopping pucks.

While Toronto lights things up in the offensive end, their defense can be an adventure, to be kind about it. Over the same 22-game stretch, the Maple Leafs have allowed 3.64 goals per game, the 26th-ranked scoring defense in the league over that period. Eleven times in those 22 games the Leafs allowed more than three goals, four times allowing more than five.

In the special teams category, the Leafs have the seventh-best special teams index of any club over their 22 game stretch since February 24th at 108.9, a 27.1 percent power play (fifth) and an 81.8 percent penalty kill (tenth). Three times in that span, Toronto posted three power play goals – a 6-4 win over Seattle on March 8th, a 7-3 win over Winnipeg on March 31st, and a 7-6 overtime loss to Florida on April 5th. The Leafs also allowed three power play goals to Florida in that April 5th contest, the only instance in the period in which they allowed more than one power play goal in a game.

Toronto also has had success as a front runner over those 22 games. They scored first 13 times in that span and posted an 11-2-0 record, tied for fourth best in the league in winning percentage (.846). What they have not done well is defend late in games, their 31 goals allowed in the third periods of those 22 games tied for fourth-most allowed in the league over that span.

Washington is 76-58-6 (ten ties) in their all-time series against the Maple Leafs, 29-34-4 (six ties) in Toronto. The Caps are 6-4-0 in their last ten meetings against Toronto overall.

Montreal Canadiens (Saturday/7:00pm – Bell Centre)

The Capitals will end their three-game season series against Montreal, when they visit the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday. Washington won the first two meetings, both by three-goal margins – a 6-3 win in DC on November 24th and a 5-2 win on February 10th in Montreal. The Canadiens are in the throes of an especially dismal season, their .354 points percentage (20-41-11) being the fourth-worst of their 104 seasons.

One would think that the Canadiens being the Canadiens, their rink would be a difficult one in which visitors could be successful. Not so. Their 10-20-4 record on home ice is the second-worst in the league by points (24, three more than Arizona) and points percentage (.353 to Arizona’s .300). It is a team that has struggled to score on home ice (2.56 goals per game/30th in scoring offense) and to keep other teams from scoring (3.56 goals allowed per game/27th in scoring defense). And things have not gotten better concerning the latter. In their last eight home games going into the new week, Montreal is 2-3-3 and has allowed 29 goals – 3.63 per game.

The problems for Montreal on home ice start with their starts. In 34 home games to date, they scored first only 12 times. Only the Seattle Kraken have done so fewer times (ten times in 36 home games). It does not get better. Only eight times in 34 home games did the Canadiens take a lead into the first intermission, and while their .750 winning percentage (6-1-1) isn’t awful, the six wins are tied for sixth-fewest in the league. And it continues. Only eight times in 34 home games did Montreal take a lead into the third period, and while they have won seven of those instances, the seven wins are tied for fourth-fewest in the league. This is a team that often gets behind the eight-ball early at home and, for the most part, stays there.

The Caps are 76-74-6 (17 ties) in their all-time series against the Canadiens, 36-40-3 (eight ties) in Montreal. Washington is 6-3-1 in their last ten games against the Canadiens overall.

Hot Caps:

  • Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom is the leader among active Capitals in career assists against the Flyers (42).
  • Marcus Johansson. Johansson is the leader among active Capitals in shooting percentage against Toronto (25.8 percent; minimum: 10- shots on goal).
  • Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin is the leader among active players in goals scored against Montreal (33). He is also tenth in assists against the Canadiens in that group (25).

Cold Caps:

  • Justin Schultz. Schultz does not have a goal in seven games against the Flyers as a Capital.
  • Nic Dowd. Dowd does not have a point in five games against Toronto as a Capital.
  • Garnet Hathaway. In five games against Montreal as a Capital, Hathaway is looking for his first point.

Weird Facts:

  • Over their 15-34-9 slump, the Flyers allowed 2,918 shot attempts at 5-on-5, second-most in the league (Columbus: 2,977).
  • With three power play chances against Toronto, the Caps will have reached the 300 mark in power play chances in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.
  • Only Arizona has scored more first period goals against Montreal this season (six) than the Caps (five).

Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):

Alex Ovechkin

  • Needs six points to tie Dale Hawerchuk (1,409 points) for 20th place in NHL history.
  • 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 two empty net points, Ovechkin will tie Sidney Crosby and Blake Wheeler for second place all-time (both with 63 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 pass Guy Lafleur (395) for 17th place all-time in multi-point games. With three multi-point games, he will tie Adam Oates for 16th place.
  • 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 two 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 game-winning goal to pass Michal Pivonka (27) for 11th place all-time for Washington and tie Alexander Semin and Evgeny Kuznetsov (28) for ninth place; two 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 four points to reach the 100-point mark for his career.

Garnet Hathaway

  • Needs four 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, Rick Tabaracci, Philipp Grubauer, and Samsonov (six apiece) for seventh place on the team’s all-time list.