Game Preview: Capitals @ Lightning

caps-at-lightning-caps-bolts

A critical game in early December? With two teams, both on multiple game losing streaks, trying to figure out which way this season will go, it is indeed a big game in Tampa on Saturday night. Puck drop is 7:00PM.

TAMPA BAY
The Lightning (13-11-1) lost in their last outing on Thursday night, falling to the Blues 5-4 in St. Louis. The Lightning have now lost four straight games heading into their Saturday night tilt with the Caps. The losing streak includes a pair of losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets in which the Lightning gave up 5 goals in each game.

Tampa Bay has currently allowed the 8th most goals in the league so far this season (69). On the flip side, Tampa is scoring goals, currently with the 4th most goals in the league (74).

The Lightning are dealing with a couple of significant injuries. Centerman Steven Stamkos (torn meniscus) and right-winger Ryan Callahan have both been placed on injured reserve. defenseman Jason Garrison will also miss the game against the Capitals.

Special Teams:
The Lightning have the second best power play in the league right now, with a conversion rate of 23.9%. The Bolts’ 21 power-play goals are tied with Philadelphia for most in the league. The Lightning penalty kill is currently ranked 21st in the league with an 81.3% success rate, for a combined special teams index of 105.2.

Other Notes:
Ben Bishop, a steady tender in past seasons, has essentially been relegated to a backup roll at this time, as Andrei Vasilevskiy has shown the hot hand as of late. However, the Lightning will be playing in the first game of a back-to-back set this weekend, so Ben Bishop will get the start Saturday.

WASHINGTON
The Capitals are still showing strong defensive numbers, allowing the 5th fewest goals in the league this season (50). However, the Caps offense continues to struggle, and are currently 21st in the league in goals scored with 57.

img_6186Special Teams:
The Capitals power play continues to flounder, going 0-10 in their last two games. The Caps are currently ranked 25th in the league, with a conversion rate of 14.3%.

The Caps penalty kill is fairing much better, currently 13th in the league with an 83.1% success rate, for a combined special teams index of 97.4.

Other Notes:
Jakub Vrana made his NHL debut on Thursday against the Islanders, becoming the ninth Capitals’ first-round pick to play for Washington this season. Vrana sat with John Walton for Friday’s “Rinkside Update”:

MATCHUP
This is the first of three games this season between the two teams. Washington went 3-0-0 against Tampa Bay last season, is 75-31-6-7 all-time against the Lightning and 34-20-2-3 on the road. In their last meeting on Dec. 18, 2015, Washington rallied from a 3-0 second period deficit, scoring five-consecutive goals, including three on the power play, to win 5-3.

What to Watch For:

  • The Lightning are a good scoring team (4th in the league) and the Capitals defense has been really strong as of late (5th fewest goals in the league). It will be interesting to see what gives in this category.
  • The Capitals power play is 0-10 in their last two games. The Lightning’s penalty kill is ranked in the bottom third of the league. The Caps need to convert in this contest.

Series Flashback:
Last December, Kuznetsov redefined “slick”:

SHAVINGS:

  • Alex Ovechkin (24:47) and Marcus Johansson (20:02) registered season highs in ice time.
  • The Lightning have lost two straight and four of their last five at home to the Capitals.
  • 15 of the 23 players on the Capitals’ roster were drafted by NHL teams in the first round and 12 of Washington’s 23 players were drafted by the Capitals. (Capitals PR)
  • Capitals goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov has been named to Russia’s roster for the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal and Toronto.

GAME LINKS
Caps Face Bolts in Tampa Bay (Mike Vogel)
Game Notes at Tampa Bay, 12/3/16 (Capitals PR)
First Quarter Notebook (Mike Vogel)

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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