In the first game of a three-game West Coast road trip, the Capitals face the San Jose Sharks for the final time this season. Coming off a disappointing 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, the Caps look to right the ship in San Jose.
INTO DANGEROUS WATERS
The Capitals have historically struggled to beat the Sharks in their history, as they’ve gone just 11-23-1-3 (includes ties) in 38 games, including a 3-0 loss earlier this season. They have been outscored by San Jose 127-94 and have allowed 3.34 goals per game. The Caps are hoping to turn the tide (pun intended) in their favor this time around.
The Sharks are once again one of the best teams in the Western Conference and the NHL with a 39-19-7 record, and are in first place in the Pacific Division, seven points ahead of second place Edmonton. The Sharks are looking to return to the Stanley Cup Finals, after losing in last season to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Sharks are led in scoring by All-Star defenseman Brent Burns with 67 points, and the burly blueliner also leads the team in goals and assists. He is considered the top vote-getter for the Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman) and even the Hart Memorial Trophy (league MVP).
The Capitals, like the Sharks, are one of the league’s top teams and lead the NHL in wins once again this season. Coming off a tough 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, the Caps look to even the season series in their final game against the Sharks. The Caps are in first place in the Metropolitan Division with a 44-14-7 record and 95 points, five ahead of second place Columbus. The Capitals are led in scoring by the always-reliable Nicklas Backstrom, who has 67 points (21 goals, 46 assists). The Caps are hoping to head into the Stanley Cup Playoffs on a high note and are hoping to start tonight’s game strong after coming out rusty the last few games.
SHARKS: Despite being one of the NHL’s best clubs, the Sharks have struggled heavily on the man-advantage, ranking 23rd with a conversion rate of 16.7%. Their penalty kill is slightly better at 15th, with a kill rate of 81.0%. They are led in power play scoring by both Burns and captain Joe Pavelski, with 19 points each. Justin Braun leads all San Jose skaters with 2:06 minutes of ice time on the penalty kill, and in power play time by Burns, who plays an average of 3:37 on the man-advantage.
CAPITALS: The Capitals’ special teams are substantially better than the Sharks’. Their power play ranks seventh with a conversion rate of 21.6%, while their penalty kill sits at fifth with a kill rate of 85.0%. The Capitals are led in power play scoring by Backstrom, who has 25 points on the man-advantage (six goals, 19 assists), and are led by Karl Alzner with an average of 3:11 minutes of ice time on the penalty kill.
Last Time We Met:
The Caps’ first game this season against the Sharks ended with the Caps being shutout 3-0. That was all the way back on November 8, and a lot has changed since then. The Capitals are without forward Andre Burakovsky and have since acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to help them in their attempt to win the Stanley Cup.
- Capitals right winger Justin Williams has been very productive in 37 career games played against San Jose, as he’s recorded 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists).
- The Sharks are 29-9-1 when scoring the first goal, but only 8-16-2 when the other team scores first
- The Capitals are an even better 36-7-2 when scoring the first goal, and a respectable 7-9-4 when the opponent lights the lamp first
- Brent Burns has been a thorn in the Caps’ side in 13 career games played against them, recording 12 points (six goals, and six assists).
By Michael Fleetwood