NHL All Stars Barry Trotz, Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby, as well as those Capitals players who spent time away from hockey in sunny, warm locals better have enjoyed the fun weekend and the warm weather, Because it’s time to get back to work! The Washington Capitals begin their second half of the season with five big contests. Let’s take a look.
AT A GLANCE
The Capitals will hit the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Tuesday morning to begin the push towards the playoffs. The next five games will be their biggest tests to date. Four of the five games will be against Metropolitan Division foes while the other game will be a Super Bowl Sunday matinee against the best team in the Western Conference, Nate Schmidt and the Vegas Knights.
Metropolitan Division teams are already in a tight race. The Capitals are in a prime position at the top of the standings with 63 points, but are just six points ahead of the Blue Jackets and Penguins, who are tied for second place with 57 points. The Caps will see the Penguins in this stretch and the Blue Jackets twice.
The Caps will play teams within their division in 13 of their remaining 33 games. With the way the format is set for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and with five Metro Division teams fighting for two wild card spots, they will very likely see a divisional foe in the first round and the second round, should they advance.
Washington is 3-2-2 in games following three or more days of rest. Most recently, the Capitals were 1-1-2 coming off their bye week in their four contests before the All Star break. Washington was winless in the first three games of that stretch before they defeated the Panthers 4-2 right before All-Star weekend.
Jan. 31, 8 p.m. Home
The Capitals haven’t defeated the Flyers this season and will be looking to avenge not only a 9-2 blowout loss back in October in Philadelphia, but also a 2-1 defeat in overtime that came on Jan. 21 at Capital One Arena. Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott stopped 27 shots in the January contest and made some timely saves on some great Capitals chances. The most notable came when Alex Ovechkin fed Evgeny Kuznetsov right in front of the net. Kuznetsov got the shot off but Elliott’s glove was there for the quick snag. Elliott suffered a lower-body injury after their next game against the Red Wings and missed the Flyers game that Thursday with the Lightning. It is unclear whether or not he’ll be cleared to play in Wednesday’s contest with the Capitals.
The Flyers are tied with the Devils for third place in the Metropolitan Division as well as the wild card. Winners of eight of their last 10, the Flyers are a respectable 11-8-4 on the road. Claude Giroux leads the Flyers with 57 points (14 goals, 43 assists). The Flyers also feature forwards Jakub Voracek (nine goals, 47 assists, 56 points) and Sean Couturier (26 goals, 23 assists, 49 points) as well as defensemen Shane Gostisbehere (nine goals, 24 assists, 33 points). With the Eagles playing for the Super Bowl title this Sunday, Philadelphia’s hockey team looks to generate more sports excitement for their city leading up to that big game against the Patriots.
Feb. 2, 7 p.m. Away
The Capitals will head to Pittsburgh for the first time this season. Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby might have been friends during the All Star Game this past Sunday, but things will Return to normal in this epic Friday night clash.
The Capitals are 1-1-0 this season against the Penguins. They dropped a 3-2 defeat back in October at Capital One Arena before getting revenge a month later by playing a complete 60-minute contest in a 4-1 victory over the Penguins. In that win, Braden Holtby secured his 200th win.
The Penguins ended their 2017 portion of the schedule with a 19-18-3 record. Ever since the calendar flipped to 2018 the Penguins have been on a roll, carrying a 8-3 record and catapulting back to third place in the Metropolitan Division with 57 points (technically tied with the Blue Jackets). The Penguins are loaded with talent boasting Phil Kessel (21 goals, 37 assists, 58 points), Crosby (17 goals, 38 assists, 55 points), Evgeni Malkin (23 goals, 29 assists, 52 points), Patric Hornqvist (15 goals, 14 assists, 29 points) and Kris Letang (three goals, 25 assists, 28 points).
If you want to watch this game with other loyal Caps fans throughout the DMV be sure to check out our watch party over at Miller’s Ale House in Sterling, Va! There will be a ton of sweet prizes that we will raffle off and the raffle tickets will benefit Lab Rescue of the Potomac. It should be a fun night!
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Feb. 4, 12:30 p.m. Home
The NHL’s newest team has taken the league by storm and this Super Bowl Sunday matchup will be a hell of an appetizer before that football game later. The Golden Knights are the top team in the Western Conference with a 32-12-4 record with 68 points. They trail the Tampa Bay Lightning by three points for number one in the entire league.
The Capitals will look to avenge a 3-0 shutout loss that came in Las Vegas back on Dec. 23. Jon Marchessault leads Vegas in points with 46 (17 goals, 29 assists), William Karlsson leads the team in goals with 27 while David Perron has posted 30 assists. Caps fans will also get to see Nate Schmidt‘s wonderful smile as the 26-year old defensemen makes his return to D.C. since Vegas picked him up during the expansion draft.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS X 2
Feb. 6 7 p.m. Away
Feb. 9 7 p.m. Home
The Capitals and Blue Jackets will square off in back-to-back home-and-home affairs with two days in between both contests. The Blue Jackets are six points behind the Caps in the Metropolitan Division with 57 points.
These two teams have only met once this season back on Dec. 2 as the Caps defeated the Blue Jackets 4-3 at Capital One Arena. Capitals skaters will have to face defending Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky (no telling whether he’ll play just one of the contests or both) as he carries a 22-15-3 record with a 2.46 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. Josh Anderson leads the Blue Jackets with 15 goals while Artemi Planarian leads the team in assists (27) and points (39).
The drive for the playoffs is underway. Get excited Caps fans, this is the best time of the year!
By Michael Marzzacco