For the first time this season, the Washington Capitals will be facing the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa. The two teams have not seen each other since the emotional Eastern Conference finals games last spring. Washington defeated Tampa in the seven-game series. What is fascinating about the Capitals and the Lightning are the numbers. Both teams are in the top in their respective divisions. Tampa Bay has already clinched a spot in the playoffs holding some significant 112 points currently. Washington is leading the Metropolitan with 91 points. Let’s take a look at the special teams matchup for tonight.
Tampa Bay has the best when it comes to the power play and penalty kill. They have a power-play percentage of 29% in the NHL and a penalty-killing rate of 85.8%. The team also leads the league with 67 power-play goals. The Lightning’s special teams are fast and strong, which has made them the most successful. Center Brayden Point has 19 power-play goals just this season, and first-line right winger J.T. Miller, has four.
Meanwhile, Washington’s 21.7% efficiency on the man advantage has placed them 10th in the league. Even though it is not in the top three, their power play units have had a major improvement within the last three months. Captain Alex Ovechkin has 16 power play goals followed by center Evgeny Kuznetsov with eight and center Nicklas Backstrom with seven. The penalty kill for the Capitals has been okay but is still ranked very low – 21st in the NHL with 79.5%. Recently, the penalty kill has been better thanks to newly acquired forward Carl Hagelin and his speed around the ice and defensive measures.
Let’s take a look at some key players:
Ovechkin is leading in so many areas for the Capitals organization, such as points (79) and goals (46). He also became the NHL’s top-scoring Russian-born player last month. He only needs four more tallies to reach 50 for the seventh time in his career. Though the left winger has not scored since March 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers, he has assisted in the last two games, which were against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Flyers once again.
As for the Lightning, their captain, Steven Stamkos, has 81 points (35 goals) in the 2018-19 season. He is third in the team’s points, goals, and assists. Stamkos has led his team to the very top of the Eastern Conference standings and has constantly remained there weeks upon weeks. If he were to record a point of any kind tomorrow night, Stamkos will hit 750-point plateau for his career.
What helped send the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final was forward Andre Burakovsky’s two goals in Game 7 against Tampa Bay. At the time, the young Swede was coming off an injury but scored two major goals along with Backstrom and Ovechkin that night. This season has been a rollercoaster for the left winger. Potential trade rumors floating around and numerous games being a healthy scratch sent Burakovksy into low productivity. Since the Trade Deadline, he found his confidence and has had consistency on the ice bumping up his season totals to 11 goals and 23 points this season
It will not be surprising if Nikita Kucherov records a point in Saturday’s game. That could be his 450th career point. Recording 115 points and 80 assists, the Tampa Bay forward has had an impressive season thus far. Kucherov leads both areas (points and assists) in the NHL with no small margin nor sign of stopping. In his last three games, the Russian right winger has collected seven points, including four goals.
In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, goaltender Braden Holtby pitched 29 saves in a shutout, which was exciting for the Capitals as they were heading to Las Vegas to play the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final. The Capitals were victorious and partied the whole summer with Lord Stanley. But behind every successful hockey team is their goaltender. Washington has been in the top not only because of their forwards and defense, but also because of their goalies, Holtby and Pheonix Copley. Both netminders are having good seasons. Starting 50 games so far this season, Holtby has a save percentage of .909 and has only allowed six goals in his last three games. Copley’s save percentage is .904 and has allowed only eight goals in his last three games.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has been one of the best goaltenders this season no doubt. Earning six shutouts and a save percentage of .929, he is one of the reasons why the Lightning is leading the Eastern Conference and guaranteed a playoff spot in the post-season. Vasilevskiy has 76 total saves in his last three games.
By Della Young