Photo: Vancouver Courier
The Washington Capitals host the Vancouver Canucks in the final meeting of the season between the two teams on Tuesday night. The Capitals beat the Canucks 5-2 on October 22 at Rogers Arena the first time they met with each other. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM.
The Canucks continue a four-game road trip and will wrap up a set of back-to-back games in Washington. The team is coming off of a 2-1 loss at the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night. They opened their road-trip with a commanding 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, a game that saw them pass the Avalanche to grab the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference (54 points). The Canucks will conclude their road trip on Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Despite losing two of the best players in the history of their franchise in forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin in the offseason due to retirement, the Canucks seem to have turned a corner after finishing with 73 points a season ago, which was the second-fewest in the Western Conference (Arizona Coyotes: 70). They are 4-2-2 in their past eight games. After falling in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins in Game 7, Vancouver has just made the playoffs three times, including none since 2015, and have won just three total playoff games in that span.
The Canucks arguably have the leading candidate for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year in center Elias Pettersson, who has a similar shot to Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. Despite missing 12 games due to separate injuries, the 20-year-old leads the team with 23 goals and 46 points this season. His 23 assists are one behind center Bo Horvat for second on the team. Forward Brock Boeser, a Calder Trophy nominee a season ago, has 18 goals and 36 points in 40 games this season.
Former Capitals center Jay Beagle will return to Washington for the first time since signing a four-year contract worth $12 million ($3 million AAV) as an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He missed 26 games with a fractured arm earlier in the year after blocking a shot from Florida Panthers forward Mike Hoffman on October 13. Beagle, 33, has tallied two goals, eight points, and a +2 rating in 29 games. He is also once again his team’s best faceoff specialist this season, winning 53.1% of the draws that he takes. He was the third-longest tenured Capital on the Stanley Cup-winning roster last season, joining the team in 2008. Only Ovechkin (2005) and center Nicklas Backstrom (2007) had been on the Capitals’ roster longer than Beagle. During his career in Washington, Beagle tallied 51 goals and 116 points in 471 games and eight goals and 19 points in 85 playoff games.
Entering Monday’s tilt against the Flyers, the Canucks averaged the fifth-fewest shots-per-game in the NHL (28.8).
Goaltender Jacob Markstrom, entered Monday’s game against the Flyers 20-13-5 with a save percentage of .910 and a goals-against average of 2.79 this season, will likely get the nod against the Capitals on Tuesday, his second in as many nights after he stopped 28 of 30 shots in the Canucks’ 2-1 loss to the Flyers. In six career games against the Caps, the 29-year old has lost all six games in regulation while posting a save percentage of .895 and a goals-against average of 3.44 in the process.
The Capitals continue a six-game homestand, their longest in 13 years, against the Canucks on Tuesday. After beating the Western Conference-leading Flames by a score of 4-3 on Friday to open the stretch, the team fell 1-0 to the Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon. They are 14-9-4 on home ice this season but 1-2-2 in their past five home games.
Ovechkin leads the NHL with 37 goals and the Capitals with 57 points this season. Despite scoring four goals and five points in his final two games before the NHL All-Star Break, the 32-year old forward has been held off of the scoresheet in three of his last five games. The Capitals boast three players who have tallied at least 30 assists this season: defenseman John Carlson (40), Backstrom (39), and center Evgeny Kuznetsov (33).
The Capitals have lost eight of their last nine games (1-6-2) and have allowed 39 goals in that span for an average of 4.33 goals-against per game. During that stretch, they have allowed an average of 32.2 shots-per-game. In total, the team’s 3.17 goals-against per game average and their average of 32 shots-against per game are each the 10th-most in the league. The Capitals’ best defensive pairing of Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen from the past two seasons have two of the worst plus-minus ratings on the team this season: (Niskanen: -11 – third-worst on the team, Orlov: -12 – second-worst).
Center Lars Eller could play on Tuesday after missing the Capitals’ 1-0 loss to the Bruins on Sunday due to a lower-body injury he suffered in the second period of the team’s 4-3 win against the Flames on Friday night. Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said that the Capitals will see how he’s doing tomorrow before deciding on his status against the Canucks.
Fresh off of signing a three-year contract worth $3.3 million ($1.1 million AAV) on Monday afternoon, goaltender Pheonix Copley could get the start on Tuesday night. After going 10-1-2 in a 13-game span, the 26-year old has dropped each of his past three starts in regulation, posting a save percentage of .825 and giving up 14 goals in that span. Should he start against Vancouver on Tuesday, it will be his first career start against them.
-In 10 career games against the Canucks, Kuznetsov has five goals, 12 points, and a +10 rating
-Ovechkin enters Tuesday’s game one point shy of passing Sergei Fedorov (1,179) for the most points in NHL history by a Russian-born player
-Since January 20, the Capitals lead the NHL in shots (186), 14 more than the second place Carolina Hurricanes (172).
A Look Back In Time
After Canucks forward Daniel Sedin opened the scoring on a 5-on-3 power-play 9:23 in on a deflection in front of Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer, Carlson scored from the right dot and Eller scored from the slot after driving up the middle 2:39 apart in the final five minutes of the first period to give the Capitals the lead. In a second period in which the Capitals dominated, Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson put the puck in his own net after Kuznetsov shot it while driving down the right wing and Markstrom couldn’t hold on to it 4:57 into the period. The Capitals would hang on for a 3-1 win, their fifth consecutive victory. Grubauer made 37 saves in the win.
By Harrison Brown