It is almost time. The Washington Capitals will be defending their title as Stanley Cup Champions on Thursday night at Capital One Arena (7:30 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington locally or USA Network) as they begin game one of round one in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals will have to get past the fierce Carolina Hurricanes in the first matchup. Carolina held the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference as they clinched a playoff berth on April 4. The Hurricanes have not been to the playoffs in ten years and are eager to take Lord Stanley back to Raleigh.
The Last Regular Season Game
The Capitals ended the regular season at the top of the Metropolitan Division with 48-26-8 and 104 points. Although nothing was at stake for them in their final game, Washington lost 3-0 to the New York Islanders on April 6. The Capitals went 24-11-6 in home games during the season.
Carolina defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in a close 4-3 game on April 6. This put their record at 46-29-7 and 99 points in the Eastern Conference’s first Wild Card position. The Hurricanes had an away record of 22-16-3 for the 2018-19 season.
Leaders + Goaltenders
Capitals’ captain Alex Ovechkin leads the team with 89 points followed by center Nicklas Backstrom at 74 and center Evgeny Kuznetsov with 72 points. Ovechkin also leads Washington and the NHL with 51 goals in the regular season. The Capitals have seven players who have all scored 20 or more goals with right wing T.J. Oshie (25) and left wing Jakub Vrana (24) in the top three. Defenseman John Carlson has 57 assists for the Capitals and not far behind are Backstrom with 52 and Kuznetsov at 51 assists.
On the Hurricanes’ side, center Sebastian Aho, left wing Teuvo Teravainen, and captain Justin Williams round out the top three for points, goals, and assists. Aho holds the most points at 83 with Teravainen at 76 and Williams recording 53 points. Getting a career high by just one goal, Aho scored 30 goals this season. Williams had 23 goals and Teravainen trailed by two at 21 goals. In addition, the Finnish left wing leads Carolina at 55 assists. Aho followed with 53 and their captain at 30 assists.
Braden Holtby went 32-19-5 this season with the Capitals. His goals-against average were 2.82 and a .911 save percentage. Holtby also had three shutouts. Backup goaltender Pheonix Copley had a record of 16-7-3 in his first season with Washington. He had one shutout, a save percentage of .905 and 2.90 goals against average.
Goaltender Petr Mrazek’s record was 24-14-3 for Carolina. With a save percentage of .914. Mrazek had 2.39 goals against average and four shutouts this season. Curtis McElhinney had a 20-11-2 record. The backup goaltender’s save percentage stood at .912 with 2.58 goals against average and two shutouts.
Finishing off the regular season 12thin the league on the power play, the Capitals had a 20.8% efficiency. Their penalty kill was 78.9% effective when they were a man down. Ovechkin scored 18 power play goals this season. In the last post-season, Washington’s power play proficiency stood at 36.4% and 76% on the penalty kill.
The Capitals’ goals for per game were 3.34 and goals against per game came in at 3.02. They had a 45.7% face-off win efficiency.
The Carolina Hurricanes had a 17.8% effective power play during the regular season run, which placed them 20thin the NHL. Their penalty kill was better and finished 8thwith 81.6%. Williams had nine power play goals.
With 2.96 goals for per game, the Hurricanes’ goals against per game were 2.69 this season. Their face-off win percentage was a solid 49%.
The clock is ticking down the moment these two teams face-off on Thursday night. The Capitals want to go back-to-back. The Hurricanes are thirsty for the Cup. It will be one interesting first round.
By Della Young