Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals clash with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night for the first of four contests this season between the Metropolitan Division foes. The two will face each other three times in their next eight games. The Blue Jackets took three of the four games against the Capitals last season, including both of the matches in DC. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Blue Jackets continue a four-game Eastern Conference road swing in the nation’s capital on Monday night. They fell 4-1 in the road trip opener against their former goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, and the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. They have dropped five straight on the road (0-4-1) and seven of their last eight (1-5-2). The Blue Jackets are 3-6-3 away from Nationwide Arena and have only won once in regulation on the road since October 12.
After shocking the hockey world by sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning, who tied an NHL-record 62 wins during the 2018-19 regular season, in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs — their first series win in franchise history, the Blue Jackets lost Bobrovsky; forward Artemi Panarin, their leading scorer from last season, center Matt Duchene, who recorded five goals and 10 points in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games last season; and forward Ryan Dzingel in free agency. The Blue Jackets enter Monday night’s game 11 points out of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and have lost four straight in regulation. To make up for some of the offense lost over the summer, they signed forward Gustav Nyquist, who is second on the team with seven goals and is tied for the team-lead with 18 points this season, to a four-year contract.
Center Pierre-Luc Dubois leads the Blue Jackets with 10 goals and co-leads the team with 18 points this season but he has been held off of the scoresheet in four straight games and has a -4 rating in that span. Since a four-game point streak in mid-November, the 21-year old has only one assist in his last seven games. Defenseman Seth Jones leads the team with 12 assists this season. Remarkably, every member of the Blue Jackets who has played more than two games this season has a minus rating.
After losing Panarin, the Blue Jackets’ offense has dried up as their average of 2.45 goals-per-game is the second-lowest in the league, only ahead of the Detroit Red Wings’ average of 2.13. However, that’s not for a lack of effort as their average of 33.7 shots-per-game is tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for sixth in the league. Oddly, their power-play efficiency is a respectable 19.1%, which is tied with the Colorado Avalanche (the league’s second highest-scoring team) for 13th.
Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, who is 11-10-1 with a .900 save percentage, a 2.85 goals-against average, and one shutout this season, will likely start against the Capitals on Monday night. He made 32 saves in the Blue Jackets’ 2-1 overtime win in Washington in January, the lone game the 25-year old has started against the Capitals in his career.
The Capitals return home from a 4-0-0 road trip to begin a short two-game homestand against the Blue Jackets on Monday night. They are 8-2-4 at home this season and currently on a four-game home point-streak (3-0-1). The Capitals have lost only one regulation game at home and are 8-1-2 at Capital One Arena since October 16. They have scored at least four goals in two consecutive home games and in three of their last four.
The Capitals have won six straight games and could become the first team in the NHL to hit the 50-point mark this season with at least one point against the Blue Jackets on Monday night. Their average of 3.61 goals-per-game is third in the league behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (3.74) and Avalanche (3.61) while their average of 2.77 goals-against per game is 11th. The Capitals’ 24.5% power-play efficiency is fifth and their 84% penalty-killing rate is 10th. Their average of 31 shots-against per game is also the 10th-best in the league.
Captain Alex Ovechkin’s 20 goals this season are second in the NHL behind Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak’s 25. After recording five goals in three games two weeks ago, the 34-year held was held off of the scoresheet entirely and posted just a -1 rating during the Capitals’ trip to California. Defenseman John Carlson leads all NHL defensemen and the Capitals with 43 points in 31 games this season. He has recorded three goals and seven points during a four-game point streak. The 29-year old is tied with Pastrnak for fifth in the league’s scoring race, alone in third with 32 assists, and first with a +20 rating.
Center Nicklas Backstrom will return to the lineup against the Blue Jackets after missing eight consecutive games with an upper-body injury. His 14 assists rank third on the Capitals while his 18 points are seventh. Though, his -3 rating is the third-worst on the team. The 32-year old will skate on the top-line with Ovechkin and forward Tom Wilson in addition to the first power-play unit. Forward Travis Boyd will come out of the lineup in favor of Backstrom. With Backstrom back in the lineup, the Capitals will start their full injury-free lineup for the first time this season.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who leads the NHL in wins (15) this season, will start against the Blue Jackets on Monday night. He has a save percentage of .910 and a goals-against-average of 2.78 this season. In 25 career outings against the Blue Jackets, the 30-year old is 15-6-2 with a .919 save percentage and a 2.46 goals-against average. While Holtby went 1-2-0 against them last season, he posted an impressive .953 save percentage and a 1.53 goals-against average, including a 34-save performance in D.C. on November 9, 2018.
- All of forward Jakub Vrana’s 15 goals this season have come at even strength, putting him on pace for 40 even-strength goals, which only three players have done in a single season since 1999-00 (1999-00: Pavel Bure: 45; 2007-08: Ovechkin: 43; 2011-12: Steven Stamkos: 48)
- The Capitals are the only team in the NHL with six players who have scored 10 or more goals (Ovechkin: 20; Vrana: 15; center Evgeny Kuznetsov: 12; forwards T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson and Carlson: 11)
- With forward Carl Hagelin in the lineup this season, the Capitals have killed 60 of their 69 penalties (87%)
By Harrison Brown