After suffering their first loss after a nine-game winning streak in a controversial game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals head to St. Louis to face the Blues in the first game of the team’s annual fathers’ trip, and for the second and final time this season.
The Blues (23-17-5) have had a relatively tough time since the start of January, going 4-4-0 in their first eight games of the month. They come into this game off the heels of a 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. Forward Alexander Steen and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk each had a goal and an assist and Paul Stastny and Patrik Berglund also scored. They host the Capitals bearing a 7-3-1 home record against Eastern Conference competition. The Blues are currently third in the Central Division and sixth in the Western Conference, and are four points ahead of the Nashville Predators for third in the Central.
Carter Hutton got the start against Ottawa and gave up five goals (the sixth goal was an empty-netter) on 23 shots, so it’s likely that Jake Allen will get the start against the Caps. Allen is 17-11-3 in 33 games played this season, and sports a 2.76 goals-against average (GAA) and .900 save percentage with one shutout. He is 1-0-0 in one game played against the Caps in his career, the only win being a shutout.
The Blues have one of the top power play units in the NHL, as they rank seventh in the NHL with a 22.2% success rate. The Blues went 1-2 in the game against the Senators. Shattenkirk and budding superstar Vladimir Tarasenko lead the team with six goals on the man-advantage. The Blues also boast one of the Top 5 penalty killing units in the league, as they rank fourth in the NHL with an 84.81% kill rate.
The Blues goaltending has been one of their biggest weaknesses this season, as they rank second-to-last in the NHL with an .892 save percentage, and 26th in shots against with 1,242 pucks put on their net. After trading away veteran starter Brian Elliott during the summer, the Blues’ tandem of Allen and backup Carter Hutton has disappointed this season. Going against a dangerous Capitals offense means Allen’s job will be a whole lot harder.
The Capitals (29-9-6) are coming off of a wild 8-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night and despite the controversy, still played fairly well. In their past 10 games, the Capitals have outscored their opponents 47-19 and have received contributions from the entire lineup. The Capitals are now second in the Metropolitan Division, as the Columbus Blue Jackets reclaimed first place with a win on Tuesday night.
The Capitals will be without key defenseman John Carlson for the second game in a row, as the offensive-minded blueliner is still suffering from a lower-body injury and is doubtful to play against the Blues, per CSN MidAtlantic’s Tarik El-Bashir. However, it is possible he could take the morning skate, and per El-Bashir, the Caps will make the decision to recall a defenseman tonight.
Carlson is doubtful for tomorrow’s game in St. Louis, Trotz says.
— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikCSN) January 18, 2017
Carlson is improving, tho, and he could take the morning skate. They’ll make a decision on whether to call up a D tonight.
— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikCSN) January 18, 2017
The Caps are the best team in the league when it comes to defense, ranking first in goals-against per game with 2.05, and have allowed the fourth-fewest shots against in the NHL. Goaltending has been superb as well, as the Capitals rank second in the league with a team save percentage of .927. Despite a poor start against Pittsburgh, Braden Holtby will likely go for the Capitals against the Blues.
The Capitals’ power play hasn’t yet reached the strengths it did last season, but the unit has improved to 14th in the league with an 18.66% success rate and their penalty kill has become one of the best in the NHL, as it currently ranks third with an 85.99% kill rate. Captain Alex Ovechkin leads the team with eight goals on the man-advantage and Nicklas Backstrom leads the team in the power play assist department with 13.
Winning at the Dots
The Capitals rank tenth in the NHL in faceoff win percentage with 50.7. This is in large part due to the outstanding work of Jay Beagle who leads the Caps with a 58.8% win percentage. Justin Williams is second with a 56.8% win percentage. Nicklas Backstrom ranks third among current Washington skaters with 50 or more faceoff attempts with 52.8%.
The Capitals won the first of the two meetings this season on November 23, 4-3 in Washington on with the help from an Alex Ovechkin hat trick. In his 14 career games played against the Blues, Ovechkin has 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists). In their history, the Capitals have an all-time record of 41-40-12-1 (including ties) in 94 games played against the Blues. In comparison, the Blues have the same record against the Caps.
Caps Collect their Dads Before Stopping in St. Louis (Mike Vogel)
Game Notes at St. Louis 1/19/17 (Capitals PR)
By Michael Fleetwood