The 47th regular season in Washington Capitals history will go into the record books at the end of the upcoming week, the regular season ending for the Caps in a New York frame of mind with three games against Empire State opponents.
New York Islanders (Tuesday/7:00pm – Capital One Arena and Thursday/7:00 pm — UBS Arena)
The Caps start Week 29 with a home-and-home set against the New York Islanders to close the season series. The Caps won the first two meetings of these teams, a 2-0 win in New York on January 15th and a 4-3 shootout win on March 15th in Washington. For the Islanders, a season that began with great promise dissolved quickly, the club going 5-10-5 in their first 20 games of the season, a hole out of which they could not climb. They could never sustain a level of success thereafter, the team putting together three three-game winning streaks over their next 44 games before embarking on a too-little/too-late four game run to end March and begin April.
Since that four-game winning streak, the Islanders are 3-6-1, 24th in points earned over that span (seven) and 27th in points percentage (.350). It is a ream that has struggled on offense all season, their 2.74 goals per game ranking 25th in the league in scoring offense. And they have not been much different by venue, their 2.84 goals per game at home ranking 24th in scoring offense and their 2.65 goals scored per game on the road ranking 24th as well.
What has been surprising for a Barry Trotz-coached team is the mixed bag that defense has been. It starts with shots. The 32.6 shots allowed per game are most in the four years Trotz has been at the helm. And again, venue has not mattered, the Isles’ 31.2 shots per game allowed on home ice being the most in Trotz’ four seasons, as are the 33.9 shots per game allowed on the road. But despite the relatively high shot volumes, the Islanders have remained stingy where it counts. The 2.79 goals allowed per game to date overall gives them the eighth-ranked scoring defense in the league. It has been a quite effective scoring defense on home ice – 2.45 goals allowed per game (fourth in the league), but the 3.13 goals allowed per game on the road is tied for 16th in the league in scoring defense.
What makes the Islanders troubles seem a bit odd is that they do have the ability to get early leads. They scored first in 43 of 78 games so far, tied with Toronto for seventh-most in the league. Their problem has been an inability to sustain those early successes, at least by NHL standards. They are 28-9-6 when scoring first, their .651 winning percentage ranking just 19th in the league (13-4-2 at home/.684/19th and 15-5-4/.625/21st on the road). And, again by NHL standards, they can’t hold leads. They are 13-2-2 when leading after two periods, but their winning percentage of .765 is tied with Los Angeles for 24th in the league. While a 13-2-2 record might look good, that record actually trails Montreal, arguably the worst team in the league, in winning percentage (.778/23rd, but on just a 7-1-1 record).
Washington is 119-94-6 (13 ties) in their all-time series against the Islanders, 61-41-3 (11 ties at home and 58-53-3 (two ties) in New York. The Caps are 8-2-0 in their last ten games against New York overall.
New York Rangers (Friday/7:00pm – Madison Square Garden)
The Capitals will close their regular season against the team against which they started it when they visit Madison Square Garden on Friday to take on the New York Rangers. The Caps opened the regular season with a 5-1 win over the Blueshirts in Washington on October 13th. They lost the second game of the season series, a 4-1 decision in Manhattan on February 24th. This will be the deciding match of the season series.
The Rangers have had a good year, surprising in just how good it has been. A “rebuilding” team in recent years, this club has cobbled together a season in which they are tied with the Calgary Flames for fifth-most points in the league (108), and their points percentage (.684) is tied with the Flames for fifth-place.
The first thing one notices about this year’s Rangers is how stingy they have been at home in allowing goals. Their 2.18 goals allowed per game at MSG rank second in the league in scoring defense. Small wonder – the 62 5-on-5 goals allowed on home ice are third fewest in the league.
The odd thing about that defense on home ice is that they do allow a fair number of shot attempts at 5-on-5. In 38 home games they allowed 1,722 shot attempts at fives. While that ranks in the middle of the pack in the league (15th-most), it does seem out of sync with their goals allowed, in total and at 5-on-5. And, their minus-170 in shots attempts taken and allowed on home ice when ahead in games is the worst differential in the league by a huge margin (Arizona is minus-126).
Nevertheless, when the Rangers score first at home, they generally win. Their 19 wins when scoring first at home are tied for second-most in the league, and their .905 winning percentage when doing so (19-2-0) is third-best in the league.
What the Rangers are not, however, is a team that gets much of a break in terms of power plays on home ice. They are averaging only 2.68 chances per game at home, 28th in the league, and as a result their 25 power play goals scored in home games is tied for 17th in the league. What they do with power plays, though, is build off them. New York is 16-2-2 in the 20 games in which they recorded at least one power play goal on home ice.
On the other side of the special teams equation, the Rangers do not go shorthanded all that much at home, the 2.53 shorthanded situations faced per game being ninth-fewest in the league. Not that high volumes of shorthanded situations have mattered a lot. New York is 14-3-2 in the 19 games at home they went shorthanded three or more times. There is some vulnerability here. New York is 9-5-1 in the 15 games in which they allowed power play goals at home this season.
The Caps are 113-96-8 (18 ties) in their all-time series against the Rangers, 51-54-4 (nine ties) in New York. The Caps are 5-5-0 in their last ten games against the Rangers overall.
- John Carlson. Carlson has two of the three four-point games recorded by Capitals on home ice this season, going 1-3-4 in a 5-3 win over Nashville on December 29th and 2-2-4 in a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay on April 6th.
- Tom Wilson. Wilson is one of six Capitals with at least two multi-goal games at home this season, posting a pair in a 5-3 win over Buffalo on November 8th and again in a 5-3 loss to Toronto on February 28th. He is also one of five Caps with at least one three-assist game on home ice, turning the trick in a 6-3 win over Colorado on October 19th.
- T.J. Oshie/Evgeny Kuznetsov. This pair are the only Capitals to have posted hat tricks on the road this season, Oshie in a 7-5 win over Ottawa on October 25th and Kuznetsov in a 4-3 win over Vancouver on March 11th.
- Trevor van Riemsdyk. Van Riemsdyk is 0-for-33 shooting on home ice this season.
- Justin Schultz. Schultz is a team-worst minus-5 in road games this season.
- Lars Eller. Eller is averaging 2.37 giveaways per 60 minutes on the road, most of any Capital appearing in at least 20 games on the road.
- The Islanders have 22 wins this season when out-shot by opponents, fourth-most in the league.
- The Islanders have the worst record in the league when trailing after two periods (1-27-3/.032 winning percentage).
- The Rangers next power play goal against the Caps will be their 200th in the all-time series between these teams.
Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):
- 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 tie Blake Wheeler and Sidney Crosby (63 points apiece) for second-place all-time.
- With one first goal in games, Ovechkin will break a tie with Brett Hull (131) for second place all time behind Jaromir Jagr (135).
- Ovechkin needs one multi-goal game to break a tie with Brett Hull for second place all-time (both with 158).
- With one multi-point game, Ovechkin will tie Adam Oates (398) for 16th place all-time in multi-point games.
- With one three-point or more game, Ovechkin will break a tie with Bernie Federko and Doug Gilmour for 25th place all time (all three with 124 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 one blocked shot, Ovechkin will reach the 500 mark in this category.
- With one penalty minute, he would tie Paul Mulvey (487) for 24th place in franchise history.
- 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.
- With one even strength point, Backstrom will have 600 for his career.
- With six credited hits, Backstrom would tie John Erskine for eighth place in club history (since hit statistics were first recorded in 2005-2006).
- Needs one game-winning goal to break a tie with Michal Pivonka (27) for 11th place all-time for Washington and tie Alexander Semin and Evgeny Kuznetsov for (28) 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- Needs five points to reach 500 points for his career.
- With one power play point, Kuznertsov would tie Dennis Maruk (147) for 17th place all-time for the Caps.
- With one power play goal, Kuznetsov would break a tie with Brooks Laich (42 apiece) for 20th place on the all-time franchise list.
- Needs one empty net goal to break a tie with Peter Bondra for fifth on the all-time franchise list (both with 11).
- With three penalty minutes, Wilson would tie Craig Berube (1,220) for third-place on the all-time franchise list.
- With two even strength points, he would tie Calle Johansson (232) for 20th place on the all-time club list.
- With one shorthanded goal, he would break a four-way tie for ninth place and tie Matt Pettinger (eight) for eighth place on the all-time franchise list.
- With one game-winning goal, Wilson would break a tie with Dino Ciccarelli for 25th place on the all-time franchise list and tie Craig Laughln and Sergei Gonchar (19 apiece) for 23rd place.
- 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).
- With two shootout goals, Oshie would tie Patrick Kane and Frans Nielsen (49 apiece) for second place all-time since the league went to a shootout in 2005-2006.
- With one shutout, Samsonov will break a five-way tie (six apiece) for eighth place on the team’s all-time list.
- With one shutout, Vanecek will break a five-way tie (six apiece) for eighth place on the team’s all-time list.