Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night for the second meeting between the two teams this season. The Capitals won 3-2 in a shootout over the Bruins at TD Garden on November 16 to earn their 15th victory in 16 games against them (15-1-0). Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBCSN‘s “Wednesday Night Hockey” broadcast beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Bruins continue a four-game Eastern Conference road swing in Washington on Wednesday night. They fell to the Ottawa Senators by a score of 5-2 on Monday and will begin a set of back-to-back games as they will visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. The Bruins won their previous four road games before falling in Ottawa on Monday night and are 8-4-1 away from TD Garden this season.
After coming one victory short of winning the Stanley Cup last spring, the Bruins enter Wednesday’s game against the Capitals three points behind them for first place in the Eastern Conference but have lost two in a row in regulation and three straight overall after an eight-game winning streak and a 12-game point streak (9-0-3). Two of those losses came against the 28th place Senators and 25th place Chicago Blackhawks, both at home.
Forward David Pastrnak has been on a historic goal-scoring pace all season long as his 25 goals in 31 games this season rank first in the NHL. Though, he has not scored a goal in his past four games and was held off of the scoresheet entirely in his previous two before recording two assists against the Senators on Monday. His 45 points are one behind forward Brad Marchand for the team lead. Marchand, who has gone six straight games without a goal, also leads the Bruins with 28 assists this season, including two against the Senators after he only recorded one in his previous five games.
The Bruins’ average of 2.39 goals-against per game is currently tied with the Dallas Stars for the third-fewest in the NHL this season while their average of 3.45 goals-per-game ranks fifth. Their 28% power-play efficiency is also third while their 84.9% penalty-killing rate is fourth. The Capitals and Bruins both average 31.2 shots-against per game (tied for 10th along with the Stars) and 31.5 shots-per-game (tied for 15th).
With the Bruins starting a set of back-to-backs and given goaltender Tuukka Rask’s track record against the Capitals, it would be fair to expect that Jaroslav Halak, who is 7-2-3 with a .930 save percentage (tied with New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss for fifth in the NHL), a 2.22 goals-against average (sixth), and two shutouts this season, will start Wednesday’s game for the Bruins. In 22 career outings against the Capitals, the 34-year old is 9-10-1 with a .904 save percentage, a 2.75 goals-against average, and one shutout. Halak made 42 saves in the Bruins’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Capitals last month.
The Capitals wrap up a short two-game homestand on Wednesday night after dropping the opener to the Columbus Blue Jackets by a score of 5-2 on Monday in one of the team’s worst outings of the season to date. They are 8-3-4 at Capital One Arena this season, though they have dropped four of their last seven home games (3-2-2) and have been outscored 22-19 in that span, which followed a five-game winning streak at home.
Before turning in a dud against the Blue Jackets on Monday, the Capitals were on a six-game winning streak, which tied the team’s longest this season, and a seven-game point streak (6-0-1). They currently have a seven-point lead for first place in the Metropolitan Division and a three-point lead for first in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals entered last month’s game against the Bruins coming off of arguably their worst performance of the season up to at that point, a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at home the previous night, and followed it up with a dominant effort in Boston where they outshot the Bruins 44-23.
Defenseman John Carlson‘s 43 points in 32 games this season lead the Capitals and rank sixth in the NHL while his 32 assists are third. His +19 rating is also tied with Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau for the second-best in the league. Before getting held off of the scoresheet against the Blue Jackets on Monday, the 29-year old recorded three goals and seven points during a four-game point streak. Captain Alex Ovechkin, who ended a three-game point slump with a goal against the Blue Jackets, is currently second in the league behind Pastrnak with 21 goals.
The Capitals’ average of 3.56 goals-per-game ranks third in the NHL while their average of 2.84 goals-against per game is 11th. Prior to Monday night’s game, the Capitals scored at least three goals in each of their previous six games and at least four in five of those games. Their 23.7% power-play efficiency is the seventh-best in the league while their 84.7% penalty-killing rate is currently tied with the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers for fifth.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 15-3-4 with a .909 save percentage and a 2.84 goals-against average this season, will likely get the nod for the Capitals against the Bruins on Wednesday. In 20 career games against the Bruins, the 30-year old is 17-3-0 with a .944 save percentage (his personal best against a single NHL opponent), a 1.81 goals-against average (second-best, Canadiens: 1.67), and four shutouts (second-best, New Jersey Devils: five). Holtby made 21 saves in the Capitals’ 3-2 shootout win in Boston last month.
- Wednesday’s game between the Capitals (22-5-5, 49 points) and the Bruins (20-5-6, 46 points) marks the third game in NHL history where two teams have combined for at least 95 points within their first 33 games (Dec. 18, 2008: Detroit Red Wings vs. San Jose Sharks, 97 combined points; March 20, 2013: Blackhawks vs. Anaheim Ducks, 97 combined points). The game features the two most recent winners of the Prince of Wales Trophy as the winners of the Eastern Conference (Capitals: 2018; Bruins: 2019)
- Holtby has earned a point in 16 of his last 18 games (14-1-2) and 19 of his 23 games (15-3-4)
- The Capitals hold a 5-1-0 record on games played on Wednesday this season
- The Capitals have not lost consecutive games in regulation this season
- The Capitals have outscored their opponents in all three periods this season (first: 33-26; second: 41-27; third: 41-32)
- The Capitals are 8-1-0 against Atlantic Division teams this season
By Harrison Brown