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Snapshots of the Week Ahead: Week 13

The Capitals open the 2023 portion of their season with a heavy, four-game workload, including two against a Metropolitan Division rival.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals set forth on the 2023 portion of their season with a heavy workload week – four games on tap, two of them against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Three of these games will be played in the friendly confines of Capital One Arena.

The Opponents

Buffalo Sabres (Tuesday/7:00 pm at Capital One Arena)

The Caps open their three-game season series against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night. Washington goes into this game with a 14-3-2 record since November 23, tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for most point in the league over that span (30) and third in points percentage (.789). Buffalo is not far behind, going 10-4-2 over that span, tied for 13th in points earned (22) but eighth in points percentage (.688).

The Sabres had a six-game winning streak stopped in a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night. Still, the Sabres have the second best record in the league (6-1-0) since December 13, when the Sabres started their most recent run of success. Their 4.14 goals per game is the second-ranked scoring offense over those seven games (the Caps are at 4.44), and their 2.14 goals allowed per game is the fourth best scoring defense. Their 28.0 percent power play is tied for sixth over that short span, and their 82.6 percent penalty kill is tied for seventh.

The Sabres mauled opponents over the six games preceding the loss to Ottawa, winning three games by three or more goals (one of five teams with a perfect record in such games, including the Caps (5-0 in nine games). Only once in those six games did an opponent hold the Sabres to fewer than four goals (Vegas, in a 3-2 loss on December 19). Three times they scored five or more goals.

This will be the 175th meeting of these teams in the all-time series, the Caps with a 67-85-7 (15 ties) record overall and 35-39-4 (nine ties) on home ice.

Columbus Blue Jackets (Thursday/7:00 pm at Nationwide Arena and Sunday/5:00 pm at Capital One Arena)

The Caps open another season series when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets twice this week. While the Caps have been among the best teams in the league since November 23, Columbus has been among the worst. Going into a contest with the Montreal Canadiens on November 23, the Blue Jackets were 7-10-1. But since then, starting with a 3-1 loss to the Canadiens on November 23, the Blue Jackets are 4-12-1, 31 over that span in points earned (nine) and in points percentage (.265).

Columbus’ scoring has been almost non-existent in those 17 games since November 23, their 2.29 goals scored per game ranked 29th in the league in scoring offense. The scoring defense has been almost as bad, the 3.47 goals allowed per game ranked 23rd in the league over that span. Special teams have been mixed, the power play (17.3 percent) ranked 26th and the penalty kill a top-ten quality group (80.3 percent/T-10th).

Part of the problem for the Blue Jackets has been falling behind in games. In 17 games in this run, they scored first only five times. Only the Chicago Blackhawks scored first fewer times (four). And the flip side of that is that in the 12 games they trailed first, they have a 1-10-1 record. Only four times did they take a lead into the first intermission (3-1-0 record). And, only four times did they take a lead into the third period (4-0-0). They’ve been successful in those instances leading at an intermission, but the occurrences have been rare in this run. And margins hardly matter. Over these 17 games, Columbus is one of only three teams to have a winning percentage under .300 in one-goal, two-goal, and three-or-more-goal decisions (San Jose and Chicago are the others).

The two games against the Blue Jackets will be the 48th and 49th games in the all-time series. Washington is 28-13-5 (one tie) overall, 14-5-3 (one tie) at home and 14-8-2 on the road.

Nashville Predators (Friday/7:00 pm at Capital One Arena)

The Caps will wrap up their two-game season series against the Nashville Predators on Sunday evening in Washington. The Caps won the first meeting, 3-0, in Nashville on October 29. That loss left the Predators 3-5-1, but they turned things around for a time, going 9-4-1 over their next 14 games. But they have stumbled since. Starting with a 5-2 loss in Tampa to the Lightning on December 8, Nashville is 3-5-4 over their last 12 games.

Nashville heads into the new week six points behind Seattle and Edmonton with three teams to climb over to get into the playoff mix. That 3-5-4 record is tied for 21st in points over that span and 25th in points percentage (.417).

The Predators are another team whose poor recent performance is married to their lack of scoring, their 2.58 goals per game over that stretch ranked 26th in the league in scoring offense. Their 3.08 goals allowed per game reflects a more mediocre scoring defense over that 14-game run, 17th in scoring defense in the league going into the new week. Special teams have been a problem. Nashville’s 14.3 percent power play ranks 25th in the league over that stretch, and their 76.9 percent penalty kill ranks 21st.

The odd part about this slump for Nashville is that they scored first in eight of the 12 games (tied for second in games scoring first), but their 3-2-3 record in those games ranks 27th in winning percentage (.375). In the four games in which they trailed first, they are without a win (0-3-1). And, in a league where leading after two periods is almost a guarantee of a win, Nashville is just 2-1-0 in those situations over the last 12 games, 30th in winning percentage (.667).

What has killed the Preds over the last 12 games is their record in extra time. Five times in 12 games they went to an extra frame, losing four times. No team lost more overtime games in that span (tied with Calgary).

The teams will meet for the 35th time in the all-time series this week, the Caps with an overall record of 16-15-2 (one tie) and 9-6-1 at home.

Hot Caps:

  • Alex Ovechkin. This has become a broken record (vinyl…you kids might not remember), but in his last 21 games, Ovechkin has 18 goals (most in the league going into the new week over that stretch) and 31 points (tied for second).
  • Erik Gustafsson. Since November 23, 6-10-16, plus-16, in 18 games. Enough said.
  • Nic Dowd. Over that same span, Nic Dowd also has six goals in 18 games, this after posting three goals in his first 20 games.

Cold Caps:

  • Joe Snively. Not so much for his lack of production, he played in only one game since November 23, but in that one game, the 9-2 win over Montreal on Saturday afternoon, he had three shot attempts, but it seemed like more. It looked as if he skated in bad luck with good opportunities, including banging a shot off the crossbar, that he could not convert.
  • Nick Jensen. In his last 32 games, Jensen has no goals on 38 shots. He does have 11 assists. He also has 15 giveaways (most on the team) over in 19 games on home ice.
  • Dylan Strome. Strome has logged 24 missed shots in 19 games on home ice, second to Ovechkin’s 29.

Weird Facts:

  • The Caps have not lost consecutive games in regulation at home this season, and they have consecutive losses of any kind only once (0-1-1) – a 3-2 overtime loss to Vegas on November 1 and a 3-2 loss to Arizona on November 5.
  • Nashville has the second-best points percentage in road games in NHL history (.502/402-398-98 (26 ties)).
  • Washington goes into Week 13 tied with Carolina for most wins on home ice in the Metropolitan Division (12).

Potential Milestones to Reach This Week (or soon):

John Carlson

  • 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)

Nic Dowd

  • 200 career penalty minutes (196)
  • 5,000 minutes in his career (4,999)

Matt Irwin

  • 200 career penalty minutes (195)

Marcus Johansson

  • 25th place in franchise history in goals scored (currently with 115, tied with Tom Wilson)
  • 25th place in team history in power play points (currently with 96, tied with Dmitri Khristich (96) for 25th place)
  • 11th place in game winning goals in team history (currently 13th with 26; needs one to tie Carlson and Michal Pivonka)

Evgeny Kuznetsov

  • 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.

Sonny Milano

  • 100 career NHL points (97)

T.J. Oshie

  • 29th place in assists in team history (currently in 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)

Dmitry Orlov

  • 5th place in game-winning goals among defensemen in team history (currently with 15, one behind Calle Johansson)

Alex Ovechkin

  • 21st all-time in power play points (544; needs three to tie Larry Murphy)
  • 20th place in three-or-more point games (currently 22nd with 129; needs one to tie Brett Hull and Adam Oates)
  • 5th place in all-time career hat tricks (currently sixth with 30, needs two to tie Phil Esposito)
  • 16th place all-time in points (currently 17th with 1,455, needs two tie Teemu Selanne for 16th place)

Dylan Strome

  • 200 career points (198)
  • 100 career penalty minutes (96)

Trevor van Riemsdyk

  • 100 career NHL points (98)