The Washington Capitals will play a season-long five game homestand during the course of the next week. They have one of these every year but this year it’s in early December instead of late November. During the past two seasons, the Capitals went 4-1-0 on both homestands before. However, this one will be a lot harder and a lot more important than the past two seasons due to a tighter race in the Metropolitan Division.
Thursday vs. Los Angeles Kings
Washington kicks off its homestand against the Los Angeles Kings for their lone visit of the 2017-18 season on Thursday. The Kings got off to a blazing start but have gotten off track recently, going 3-6-1 in their past 10 games. Overall, Los Angeles is second in the Pacific Division with a 13-8-3 record. They are also two points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the division. The Kings will roll into town in the midst of a four-game road trip. They play at Little Caesars’ Arena against the Detroit Red Wings before coming to D.C. They will play their second half of a back-to-back against the red-hot St. Louis Blues on Friday. They wrap up their road trip at the United Center against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. Expect them to come out hot on Thursday in desperate need of some points. Washington will look to push their 3-game winning streak to a season-long four game winning streak.
After a dreadful 2016-17 campaign, Kings’ captain Anze Kopitar has bounced back in a big way. He has averaged over a point per game with 25 points in 24 games. He also has 10 goals. Dustin Brown is having a Renaissance season, scoring 9 goals and 20 points.
Jonathan Quick has played well after missing four months last season due to injury. He is 10-8-1 with a .928 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average. Lifetime against Washington, he is 7-2-0 in 9 games with a .915 save percentage and a 2.39 goals against average. Two of those losses have come in his past five games against Washington, both at the corner of 7th and F street.
Expect them to come out hot on Thursday in desperate need of some points. Washington will look to push their 3-game winning streak to a season-long four game winning streak.
Saturday vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets come into town to face the Capitals for the first time this season. Last season, the Capitals were 3-1-1 against the Blue Jackets, winning the final three games of the season’s set.
Over the summer, the Blue Jackets were involved in one of the biggest blockbuster trades. After averaging 3.04 goals per game in the regular season in 2016-17, the struggled to score against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the First Round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They only scored 13 goals in 5 games against the Pens last Spring. The Blue Jackets acquired Artemi Panarin from Chicago in exchange for Brandon Saad. Panarin was a two-time 30-goal scorer in Chicago playing on a line with Patrick Kane but his production has dipped to 5 goals and 15 points in 23 games with Columbus this season. That still is good enough to lead the Blue Jackets in points.
The Blue Jackets won six games in a row before losing to the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 at the Bell Centre last night. They play against the Carolina Hurricanes at home tonight and host the Anaheim Ducks on Friday before coming to town.
After winning the Vezina Trophy last season, Sergei Bobrovsky has followed that with an unbelievable start to this season. He is 14-5-1 with a .935 save percentage and a 1.92 goals against average. He leads the league in save percentage and is 6th in goals-against average.
Monday vs. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have currently allowed the fewest goals in the NHL, allowing 50 in 22 games. That’s an average of 2.27 goals against per game.
Despite the success on defense, their top defenseman Brent Burns has carried in a slow finish from the 2016-17 into a slow start in this season. Aside from his goal and 10 point performance over the first 22 games of the season, he has not been strong defensively with a -6 rating. He recently scored his lone goal of the season in San Jose’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday. However, he has earned a point in three straight games, earning a goal and two assists in that span.
The Sharks may have the best defense in the league right now but that is not countered with offensive production. The Sharks are currently 30th in the league with 58 goals. Losing Patrick Marleau, who had 27 goals last season, was a big hit for the Sharks. Only the Buffalo Sabres are worse at 55 goals for. Their leading scorer is Logan Couture, who has 13 goals and 19 points through 22 games. He is 5 points ahead of the second highest points total on the Sharks (Tomas Hertl – 14 points).
The Sharks have won their past six trips to Capital One Arena; half of those have been shutouts. Sharks’ goaltender Martin Jones has two career shutouts at Capital One Arena in two career games in Washington.
Monday’s game against the Capitals concludes a four-game road trip through Philadelphia, Florida, Tampa Bay, and Washington.
The Capitals have not beaten the Sharks since February 11 by a final of 5-4 in overtime at the Shark Tank.
Joel Ward will play his third game in D.C. since signing with San Jose as a free agent on July 3, 2015.
Wednesday, December 6 vs. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks make their lone visit to Capital One Arena on Wednesday Night Rivalry. After winning the top seed in the Western Conference last season, they got swept by the Nashville Predators in the First Round last April.
The Blackhawks made a lot of moves, trading Artemi Panarin, Nicklas Hjarmallson, and Scott Darling and brought in a lot of new, young faces such as Brandon Saad, Connor Murphy, and Alex DeBrincat.
The rookie, DeBrincat, has had a solid start to his NHL career. He is coming off of his first career hat trick in the Blackhawks’ 7-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks last night. In total, he has 10 goals and 17 points through his first 23 career games. DeBrincat, 19, added an assist to his total against the Ducks, earning him a four-point night. He is currently second on the team.
Leading the Blackhawks is Patrick Kane with 25 points, including 9 goals. He earned 3 assists last night, extending his point streak to seven games. He has clearly shown he doesn’t need Artemi Panarin to dominate the hockey world.
Corey Crawford is having a great year for the Blackhawks, going 11-7-1 with a .933 save percentage and a 2.21 goals against average.
The Blackhawks make a short one-game road trip to the District. Until then, they have to face the Predators on the road, the Dallas Stars in a home-and-home series, and the Kings at home.
The Capitals have won 6 of their past 7 games against the Blackhawks with the lone loss coming at United Center in February of 2016.
This will be a game full of superstars as star wingers Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin clash and two of the league’s best two-way centermen Nicklas Backstrom and Jonathan Toews go head to head.
Friday, December 9 vs. New York Rangers
The Capitals close out their season-long homestand with the first of four between the Capitals and the New York Rangers.
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk comes back to the district for the first time since signing a 4-year contract worth $26.6 million on Broadway. He has 5 goals and 18 points and a -4 rating in his first 24 games with his new team. During his time in Washington, Shattenkirk had two goals and 14 points with a +4 rating in 19 games. Though he struggled defensively and got suspended for two games in the regular season, Shattenkirk scored a huge goal for the Capitals in Game 3 at PPG Paints Arena that gave the Capitals life in the series after losing the first two games of the series on home ice last May.
The Rangers got off to a slow start to the season but have won four games in a row and have gone 8-2-0 in their past 10 games.
This will be a big game for both the Capitals and the Rangers because the Rangers are one point behind the Capitals and Penguins for the first wild-card spot in the conference.
After trading Derek Stepan in a three-player trade with the Arizona Coyotes over the summer, the Rangers promoted Mika Zibanejad to the No. 1 center spot. He leads the Rangers with 11 goals and 22 points in 24 games.
The Rangers also signed former-Capital Paul Carey over the summer. In 12 games played with his new team, he has a goal and a -1 rating. He had a goal and a -2 rating in 10 games played with the Capitals over two seasons.
Besides Shattenkirk, the Rangers have a deep blueline led by captain Ryan McDonough, Brady Skeij, Nick Holden, and Brendan Smith among their standout defensemen. Despite the strong defense, the Rangers have given up an average of 3.00 goals per game.
Alex Ovechkin always loves it when Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers come to town, scoring 22 goals in his career against Lundqvist, the most he’s had against any NHL goalie.
The Capitals must use this homestand to their opportunity or else the rest of the season is going to be about playing a lot of catch up and we all see and know that the Capitals are better playing with the lead. It will be a big test but if they can beat the two best teams in the Eastern Conference like they did last weekend, it should be a fun homestand for the boys in red.
By Harrison Brown