Saturday night’s Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils game at Capital One Arena promises to be an exciting affair as the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division square off in each club’s final game of the 2017 calendar year. With just one point separating each team from the top spot, who will enter the new year in first place? Puck drop is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
There is a ton of excitement going on in New Jersey with this year’s Devils team surprising the hockey world. The Devils feature former Capital Marcus Johansson, Taylor Hall and 2017 first overall draft pick Nico Hischier. The Devils haven’t reached the playoffs since the 2011-2012 season, in a magical run that brought them all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before ultimately falling to the Los Angles Kings.
Hall leads the Devils with 24 assists and 36 points and is tied with Brian Gibbons for the team lead in goals with 12. Brian Boyle, who is one of the league’s best stories this season, as he’s thriving with the Devils while battling Leukemia, has scored 10 goals in 26 games since his return to the lineup on November 1. Hischier has seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points.
The Devils are currently riding an eight-game point streak. They came into their Friday night contest against the Buffalo Sabres at “The Rock” on a five-game win-streak before squandering a 3-1 lead and falling in overtime 4-3. Miles Wood, Johansson, and John Moore each scored for the Devils. Trailing 3-1, Jack Eichel led the Sabres comeback by scoring late in the second period and the game-tying goal in the third. Hall nearly gave the Devils the lead with a goal but the Sabres challenged for offsides and the goal was overturned. Rasmus Ristolainen won the game in overtime at 2:37.
Cory Schneider got the start in goal on Friday night so it is likely that the Devils will turn to Keith Kinkaid in goal for Saturday night in the second game of their back-to-back. Kinkaid is 5-3-1 with a 3.48 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage.
The Capitals not only snapped a three-game losing streak, they also snapped a goalless drought that stretched for over 177 minutes in a 4-3 win over the Bruins. Trailing 2-0 to the Bruins, the Capitals rallied with goals in the second period from Lars Eller and Alex Ovechkin. After the Bruins regained the lead in the third period, the Capitals tied it with a dirty goal by Brett Connolly. The game would require overtime and ultimately a shootout. Alex Ovechkin would win the game with a goal in the third round of the shootout while Braden Holtby slammed the door.
Evgeny Kuznetsov leads the Capitals with 27 assists and 39 points. Ovechkin is tied with Nikita Kucherov of the Lightning and Anders Lee of the Islanders with 24 goals on the season. Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson are tied with 28 points. Carlson has the third most points in the NHL among defensemen.
The Capitals will look to protect home ice one final time in the month of December. The Caps come into Saturday’s game winners of all seven of their home games, making them one of just three teams to win every home game in December (Tampa Bay: seven wins, Carolina: four wins). They would like nothing more to end the 2017 calendar year finishing 8-0 in the final month of the year.
It is likely the Caps will go with Braden Holtby in goal Saturday night. Holtby is 21-8-0 on the season with a 2.66 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. Holtby stopped 31-of-34 shots in the Capitals win over the Bruins.
- The Capitals are 106-74-13-14 all-time against the Devils including 61-29-6-8 at Capital One Arena.
- The Capitals have earned a point in eight consecutive games against the Devils (7-0-1).
- Braden Holtby has posted a 13-3-2 record against the Devils including four shutouts, the most shutouts he has had against a single opponent.
A LOOK BACK IN TIME
The Capitals ultimately lost this Nov. 15, 2008 meeting with the Devils 6-5, but Alex Ovechkin did provide this thrilling goal that tied the game at five with one second left. With a scrum in front of the net, Boyd Gordon fought among a few Devils players for the puck before the puck found Nicklas Backstrom who quickly passed it to Ovechkin. It was a perfect pass by Backstrom that allowed Ovechkin to bury it past Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen and it set off a wild celebration around the Capitals bench.
By Michael Marzzacco