The Washington Capitals look to finish the sweep of the Detroit Red Wings when the two meet at Little Caesars Arena for the only meeting of the season in Motown on Sunday evening. They beat the Red Wings 3-1 on November 25 and 6-2 on December 11, both at Capital One Arena. Action from the Motor City can be seen on NBC Sports Washington or NHL Network for those outside of the DMV.
The Capitals conclude a three-game road trip and look to end a three-game losing streak, their longest of the season up to date, in Detroit. Before the losing streak, where they have gone 0-2-1, the team went on a five-game winning streak and a stretch where they had won 16 of their previous 19 games. The Capitals played well and got a point in their last game, a 2-1 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Friday, but were unable to get the extra point.
Captain Alex Ovechkin leads the league with 30 goals and his team with 46 points on the season. He has had success against the Red Wings this season, posting four goals and five points in two games, including a hat-trick in the 6-2 victory at home against Detroit on December 11. Since his personal-best 14-game point streak came to an end, the 33-year old just has one goal and three points in eight games. He has a -4 rating during the Capitals’ three-game losing streak.
The Capitals started the season with the league’s best power-play but are 1-for-37 since December 15 (2.7% effective) and have dropped to 10th in the NHL with an efficiency of 22.1%. They had some good looks on the man advantage in Dallas but were unable to convert, going 0-for-3 on the power-play. They have gone four straight games and seven of their past eight without a power-play goal.
Washington is tied for fifth in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks with an average of 3.45 goals-per-game. The team’s top-four goal scorers average at least one point per game: Ovechkin (1.15), center Nicklas Backstrom (1.10), and defenseman John Carlson and center Evgeny Kuznetsov (1.00). Kuznetsov hasn’t scored a goal in 14 games but has tallied 10 assists in that span.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 15-10-2 with a save percentage of .910, a goals-against average of 2.92, and two shutouts this season, will likely start against the Red Wings on Sunday evening. In his career against Detroit, the 29-year old netminder is 11-2-2 with a save percentage of .926, a goals-against average of 2.10, and one shutout.
The Red Wings play the fourth game of a five-game homestand on Sunday against the Capitals. They began their homestand with back-to-back losses to the Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames but beat the Nashville Predators, 4-3 in overtime, in their last game. Detroit wraps up their homestand on Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens. After they wrap up their homestand, the Red Wings hit the road for 10 of their next 14 games.
Center Dylan Larkin leads the Red Wings with 18 goals, 40 points, and eight power-play points in 43 games. He saw a 14-game point-streak, where he recorded seven goals and 17 points in that span, end against the Flames on Wednesday but got back on the scoresheet with a goal against the Predators on Friday. The 22-year old scored against the Capitals the last time the two teams met.
Detroit has one of the worst offenses in the league, scoring at a rate of only 2.79 goals-per-game, good for the seventh-worst in the NHL. Their 3.33 goals-against average per game is the sixth-worst in the league. After their second-leading scorer, forward Gustav Nyquist (35 points), there’s a sizable drop off as their third-leading scorer, forward Andreas Athanasiou, has only 25 points. Former Capital Mike Green is their highest-scoring defenseman (three goals, 16 points) and he has played in only 23 out of 43 games for the Red Wings.
The Red Wings average the fourth-fewest shots in the NHL (28.8 per game) while averaging the fourth-most against (34 per game). The team enters Sunday’s game with 39 points, the third-fewest in the Eastern Conference. Detroit is only 9-10-4 at home and their -26 goal differential is the fifth-worst in the NHL.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who is 11-10-5 with a save percentage of .918 and a goals-against average of 2.77 this season, will likely start against the Capitals on Sunday evening. Lifetime against the Caps, the 34-year old is 4-3-3 with a save percentage of .900 and a goals-against average of 2.78. He came in relief the last time these two teams met and stopped nine of 10 shots that came his way.
-Since November 5, Holtby ranks third in the NHL with a .940 even strength save percentage, while goaltender Pheonix Copley ranks sixth at .937, and the duo’s combined .939 even strength save percentage during that stretch ranks first in the NHL
-Kuznetsov is one point shy of 300 career points
-The Capitals have earned points in 10 straight games against Detroit (8-0-2)
A Look Back in Time
Coming off of a 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks the previous night, Ovechkin got the Capitals going strong with a bomb while driving through center 7:48 into the game. Forward Mike Knuble would add to the lead 11:30 in finishing a tic-tac-toe passing play with forward Jason Chimera and Ovechkin. Ovechkin made it 3-0 with less than five minutes left in the first potting his own rebound after getting robbed twice. After the Red Wings cut the lead to two, Knuble went high glove and to the roof to restore the three-goal lead. The Red Wings would get back within one but Chimera shut down any hopes of a come back for Detroit sealing the victory with an empty-netter with 20.8 seconds left. Holtby made 30 saves in the victory. This was Detroit’s fifth consecutive defeat.
By Harrison Brown