Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals host the Colorado Avalanche on Monday evening for the first meeting of the season between the two teams. The Capitals won both games against the Avalanche in overtime a season ago, including a 4-3 victory at home on February 7. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 5 PM ET.
After beating the regular-season Western Conference champion Calgary Flames in five games in Round 1 and taking the San Jose Sharks all the way to Game 7 of Round 2 in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the second wild-card in the Western Conference, the Avalanche are one of only two teams to go unbeaten so far this season (Edmonton Oilers: 5-0-0) as they have won their first four games, though Monday’s game will be their first road game of 2019-20.
The Avalanche were among the busiest teams in the league over the offseason, acquiring center Nazem Kadri, a two-time 32-goal scorer, in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs; forward Andre Burakovsky, who has scored back-to-back game-winning goals entering Monday night, recorded four points this season, and will return to Capital One Arena for the first time since the Capitals dealt him to Colorado on June 28; center Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare, who has two goals this season after posting 15- and 16-point seasons, respectively, with the Vegas Golden Knights in the past two years, in free agency; forward Joonas Donskoi, who has tallied two goals this season after posting 14 in each of the last two with the Sharks; and forward Valeri Nichuskin, who has just an assist through four games this season after tallying 10 assists in 57 games with the Dallas Stars last year. The Avalanche lost defenseman Tyson Barrie and center Alexander Kerfoot (traded to Maple Leafs), goaltender Semyon Varlamov and center Derick Brassard (each signed with New York Islanders as unrestricted free agents), and center Carl Soderberg (traded to Arizona Coyotes) over the offseason.
Center Nathan MacKinnon, who has posted 97 and 99 points in each of the previous two seasons, respectively, and forward Mikko Rantanen, who set an NHL career-high 87 points last season and signed a six-year contract that carries a cap hit of $9.25 million annually on September 28 as a restricted free agent, share the team lead with six points. Rantanen leads the group with three goals while MacKinnon co-leads them alongside rookie defenseman Cale Makar with five assists.
After starting the season with a four-game homestand, the Avalanche begin a six-game road trip on Monday night with the first four games coming on the East coast. The team went 17-16-8 on the road during the regular season before going 3-4 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year.
The Avalanche’s average of four goals-per-game is tied for fourth in the NHL while their average of 2.25 goals-against per game is fifth entering Monday night. Their 27.8% power-play efficiency is seventh. Though their average of 34.5 shots-against per game is the fifth-most in the NHL.
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who is 3-0-0 with a .931 save percentage and a 2.33 goals-against average this season, is expected to get the start against his former team for the first time at Capital One Arena on Monday. In his lone start of his career against the Capitals, the 27-year old made 26 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss at Pepsi Center on November 16, 2018.
The Capitals begin a three-game homestand on Monday night after snapping their three-game losing streak (0-1-2) with a 4-1 win over the Stars at American Airlines Center on Saturday night. Despite holding a two-goal lead and two one-goal leads in both of their home games this season, they lost each game in overtime but appeared to get back on track with a nice performance on Saturday. The Capitals went 24-11-6 at home a season ago, falling short of the 25-win mark at home for the first time since 2013-14 when they last missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Through six games, defenseman John Carlson is sitting comfortably on top of the Capitals’ leader board with 10 points, five ahead of captain Alex Ovechkin who led the NHL in goals (51) and his team in points (87) last season. Carlson, 29, shares the league-lead in assists (eight) with Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid. Ovechkin leads the team with four goals this season.
After allowing 13 goals in their previous three games, the Capitals got back to their sound defensive play in Dallas as allowed only one goal and just 25 shots on goal. They have allowed an average of just 2.83 goals-per-game (12th in the NHL) and 27.5 shots-per-game (second only behind the Philadelphia Flyers – 26.7) this season. The Capitals have also been strong on the penalty-kill as their 85.7% efficiency is good for ninth in the league.
Even before Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Stars, the Capitals have been a very strong puck possession team through six games this season as their Corsi-for percentage (shots + blocks + misses for versus against) of 54.6% is the fourth-best in the league and their scoring chances-for percentage of 55.91% ranks fifth, according to Natural Stattrick. The issue for them has been goaltending as their .9016 team save percentage is tied with the Calgary Flames for the ninth-worst in the NHL.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who has struggled to start the season as he has a 1-1-2 record, an .868 save percentage, and a 3.67 goals-against average through four games, is expected to get the nod against the Avalanche on Monday evening. In his career against the Avalanche, the 30-year old is 5-1-0 with a save percentage of .917 and a goals-against-average of 2.34.
- Carlson recorded two points (one goal) against the Stars on Saturday, marking his fourth multi-point game of the season in just his sixth game and his third straight game with at least two points
- The Capitals’ 52.81 shot attempt percentage at five-on-five (207 shot attempts for, 185 against) ranks eighth in the NHL
- The Capitals have scored the first goal in their last five games
- The Capitals have gone 9-1-0 in their last 10 games vs. the Avalanche and won the last five home games against them
By Harrison Brown