The Washington Capitals host the St. Louis Blues for the final meeting of the season between the two teams this season and second in a span of 11 days. The Blues beat the Capitals 5-2 on January 3 at Enterprise Center in one of the worst performances of Washington’s season so far. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM Eastern.
The Blues have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments this season. Despite being the busiest team on July 1, their 42 points this season are the third-fewest in the Western Conference and the fewest in the Central Division. Despite upgrading their forward group in the offseason, their average of 2.81 goals-per-game is the 10th-fewest in the league and their average of 3.09 goals-against per game is the 11th-highest in the league even though they have one of the NHL’s best defenses on paper.
St. Louis is in the midst of a four-game road trip. They opened it with a 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, their second consecutive win. Monday’s game opens up a set of back-to-backs for the Blues as they head to New York to take on the Islanders for a Tuesday night tilt after Monday’s match-up with the Capitals. They conclude their road trip at the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
After being acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres on July 1, center Ryan O’Reilly leads the Blues with 16 goals, 26 assists, and 42 points this season. There is a gap of 10 points between O’Reilly and the Blues’ second-leading scorer, forward David Perron (15 goals). After leading the Blues with 70 points last season, center Brayden Schenn has seen a dip in his production this year as he has only nine goals and 24 points in 39 games. After leading the team with 33 goals a season ago, forward Vladimir Tarasenko only has 14 goals and 27 points in 42 games this year.
Despite allowing 3.09 goals-per-game, the Blues average only 29.4 shots-against per game, the sixth-least in the NHL. After acquiring centers O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak in the summer, their 51.9% winning percentage on faceoffs ranks the sixth-best in the NHL.
Goaltender Jake Allen, who is 14-14-4 with a save percentage of .896, a goals-against average of 3.07, and one shutout this season, will likely start against the Capitals on Monday. Lifetime against Washington, the 28-year old netminder is 2-2-0 with a save percentage of .910, a goals-against average of 2.65, and one shutout. He made 23 saves in the Blues’ 5-2 win over the Capitals 10 days ago.
The Capitals conclude a short two-game homestand and open a set of back-to-backs on Monday night against the Blues. Washington started the homestand with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. The team has an impressive record of 9-3-2 in back-to-backs, including 6-1-0 in the first game of such situations but that one loss came against the Blues earlier this month. After facing the Blues on Monday night, the team heads to the Music City to take on the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik will suit up in his 1000th career NHL game, 297th of which as a member of the Capitals, on Monday night against the Blues. In his career, the 38-year old defenseman has posted 17 goals, 188 points, and a +73 rating, including four goals, 46 points, and a +41 rating as a Capital.
Captain Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL with 32 goals and the Capitals with 50 points. After posting 17 goals and 23 points during a career-high 14-game point-streak, the 32-year old has just three goals and seven points in 12 games since. Though, he has three goals and five points in his past five games. Since his streak ended, Ovechkin has a mediocre -1 rating.
The Capitals’ top players are starting to wake up after going through prolonged scoring droughts. After scoring one even-strength goal in the first 43 games of the season and going without a goal in 19 straight games, center Evgeny Kuznetsov scored an even-strength goal against the Blue Jackets on Saturday night. After going 18 games without a goal, center Nicklas Backstrom scored in the Capitals’ 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday. After scoring two goals in his first 12 games since returning from injury, forward T.J. Oshie scored twice in the Capitals’ 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and has four points in his last three games.
Former Blues goaltender Pheonix Copley, who is 10-2-3 with a save percentage of .916, a goals-against average of 2.56, and one shutout this season, will likely start against his former team on Monday night. He stopped all 42 shots in the 4-0 preseason shutout in St. Louis on September 25. This will be Copley’s first career start against the Blues in the regular season.
-Forward Tom Wilson‘s 1.70 goals per 60 minutes of play are tied for the fifth highest rate in the NHL among players with at least 300 minutes of even strength ice time (Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson: 2.25; Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner: 2.04; Ovechkin: 1.98; Toronto’s John Tavares: 1.95; Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau: 1.70)
-The Capitals are the only team in the NHL with three players that rank in the top 25 in assists per game (defenseman John Carlson, tied for 15th: 0.83 assists per game; Backstrom, 18th: 0.81 assists per game; Kuznetsov, tied for 20th: 0.78)
-Ovechkin has earned 29 points (16 goals) in 18 career games against the Blues and has recorded a hat trick in two of his last six games against St. Louis
A Look Back In Time
Ovechkin opened the scoring with a snipe to the top corner on the power-play with 2:32 left in the first frame. After missing a shot, he got the puck back a few moments later from Carlson from the point and pounded it past the blocker of Hutton for his second of the game. After Tarasenko cut the lead in half for the Blues, Kuznetsov buried a rink-wide pass from defenseman Dmitry Orlov in the crease to make it 3-1 with 13:29 left in the game. 22 seconds later, Ovechkin called his own number on a two-on-one and sniped it over goaltender Carter Hutton’s arm for the hat trick. The Blues would score twice in the final 1:15 of the game to cut the Capitals’ lead to one but Washington would hang on for a 4-3 win. Goaltender Braden Holtby made 18 saves in the win.
By Harrison Brown