Photo: Gerry Thomas, Getty Images
The Washington Capitals clash with the Calgary Flames for the first of two meetings this season at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday. The Flames won both games between the two teams last season by final scores of 2-1 in Calgary on October 29 and 4-1 in Washington on November 20. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Washington.
The Capitals conclude the Western portion of their four-game Canadian road trip against the Flames on Saturday afternoon. Washington has split the first two games of the road trip so far, and is coming off of a 4-1 loss at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night. The Capitals started their road trip with a dominant 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.
One of the few positives from the loss in Edmonton the other night was defenseman John Carlson, who extended a four-game point streak. Carlson recorded an assist on forward Andre Burakovsky‘s goal. The defenseman has tallied three goals and eight points over his point streak, though his three-game goal scoring streak was snapped against the Oilers. Carlson leads the Capitals in points and is tied with Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Reilly for most points among NHL defensemen (14). He is also tied with Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg for most goals among NHL defensemen (five).
Forwards Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov are right behind Carlson with 13 points. Ovechkin leads the team with eight goals while Kuznetsov leads the league in power play goals with five (all of his goals this season have come on the power play). Backstrom leads the team with 11 assists.
The Capitals have the best power play unit going into Saturday’s tilt with the Flames, converting on 37.5% of their power plays. The Capitals only had one power play opportunity against the Oilers on Thursday and failed to convert. Carlson, Backstrom, Ovechkin, and Kuznetsov each have at least one goal and seven points on the man advantage.
Braden Holtby will likely start against Calgary. Holtby, who has a record of 4-2-1, a save percentage of .888, a goals-against average of 3.41, and one shutout so far this season, made 28 saves in the Capitals’ 4-1 loss to the Oilers at Rogers Place on Thursday night. Lifetime against the Flames, he is 4-2-1 with a save percentage of .889 and a goals-against average of 3.09.
The Flames wrap up a short two-game homestand on Saturday against the Capitals. The team looks to bounce back from the first game of this homestand, a 9-1 humbling at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night. Despite being blown out, Calgary outshot Pittsburgh by a total of 39-36.
After making the playoffs for the second time in three seasons in 2017, where they were swept by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round, the Flames went 37-35-10 and had one of the worst home records in the NHL (17-20-4) last season. Calgary averaged 2.63 goals per game, which was 27th in the league.
After struggling to find the back of the net last season, Calgary went out and upgraded their forward depth with the free agent signing of forward James Neal, who has scored at least 20 goals in each of his first 10 seasons in the NHL. They also added forward Elias Lindholm, who posted back-to-back 40-point seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes the prior two seasons. Lindholm is off to a hot start in Calgary, leading the team with six goals in addition to his nine points going into Saturday’s game. Neal has posted two goals and three points in his first 10 games as a Flame.
Forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk share the team lead with 12 points so far this season. Tkachuk also leads the team with nine assists. Gaudreau led the team with 60 assists and 84 points last season.
Goaltender Mike Smith will likely start for the Flames against Washington on Saturday afternoon. Smith is 3-4-0 with a save percentage of .866 and a goals-against average of 4.10 in seven games so far this season. In his career against the Capitals, Smith has recorded a 4-8-1 record with a save percentage of .895, a goals-against average of 3.23, and one shutout.
-Torching Calgary: Ovechkin has 10 goals and 22 points in 16 career games against the Flames while Backstrom has seven goals and 20 points in 15 career games against Calgary
–Ovechkin is two power-play goals shy of passing Marcel Dionne (234) for eighth place on the NHL power-play goals list
-The Capitals are 3-1-0 in their past four games at Scotiabank Saddledome
A Look Back In Time
The centers powered the Capitals past the Flames by a score of 6-2 when the two teams met in October of 2015. Backstrom recorded a pair of goals while Kuznetsov tallied three assists for the Capitals. Ovechkin, Burakovsky, Oshie, and forward Jason Chimera each had a goal. Ovechkin also added an assist. Holtby made 17 saves to guide the Capitals to victory.
By Harrison Brown