Washington at Boston Preview: Capitals Battle Slumping Bruins For The Last Time This Season

Steve Babineau:Getty ImagesPhoto: Steve Babineau/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals clash with the Boston Bruins on Monday night for the final regular-season meeting between the two teams. The Capitals will go for the season sweep and their 16th win in their past 17 vs. the Bruins (16-1-0) after beating them 3-2 in a shootout on November 16 in Boston and 3-2 on December 11 in Washington. Action from TD Garden can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.

Capitals

The Capitals hit the road for the eighth time during a span in which they play 10 of 15 games outside the friendly confines of Capital One Arena. They are the league’s best road team this season as they have gone 16-3-1 on the road, including six wins in their last seven (6-1-0). Before falling to the Columbus Blue Jackets by a score of 3-0 last Monday, they had not lost a road game since November 20, when they were without center Nicklas Backstrom (injured), forward Garnet Hathaway (suspended), and forward Carl Hagelin (injured).

The Capitals have won two straight games and 10 of their last 12 (10-2-0) entering Monday night’s clash, which includes the victory over the Bruins less than two weeks ago, after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 3-1 at Capital One Arena on Saturday night. They have scored at least three goals in every game they have won over this stretch and have allowed two goals or fewer in eight of their last 10 games. In one of those losses, against the Blue Jackets last week, one of the three goals they allowed was an empty-net goal.

Defenseman John Carlson‘s 34 assists entering Monday night’s game are tied with Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau for third in the NHL while his 47 points are also tied with Huberdeau for seventh. The 29-year old, who scored the game-winning goal and added an assist against the Bruins on December 11, has been held off of the scoresheet in three out of four games since, posting just a goal and two points in that stretch. His +21 rating is third in the NHL behind only Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves (both are +24). Captain Alex Ovechkin‘s 22 goals are currently tied with Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl for fourth in the league, though he has been held scoreless in seven of the Capitals’ last nine games and has posted just two goals and four points over that span.

The Capitals lead the NHL with 57 points this season and hold an eight-point lead on the New York Islanders for first in the Metropolitan Division, though the Islanders have three games in hand. Their average of 3.54 goals-per-game is the highest in the league while their average of 2.76 goals-against per game is the eighth-lowest. The Capitals’ 21.8% power-play efficiency is 11th while their 85.7% penalty-killing rate is second behind only the San Jose Sharks (87.7%) after they went seven-for-seven on the penalty kill against the Lightning’s league-leading power play unit on Saturday. The Capitals and Bruins’ average of 30.6 shots-against per game is tied for eighth.

Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 17-4-4 with a .911 save percentage and a 2.75 goals-against average in 26 games this season, will likely start for the Capitals in Boston on Monday. In 21 career games against the Bruins, the 30-year old has gone 18-3-0 with a .944 save percentage (the highest he’s posted against a single opponent in his career), a 1.82 goals-against average (second-lowest, Montreal Canadiens: 1.67), and four shutouts (second-most, New Jersey Devils: five). He made 21 saves in the Capitals’ 3-2 shootout win in Boston last month before making 30 stops in their 3-2 win in Washington 12 days ago.

Bruins

The Bruins close out a four-game homestand on Monday looking to salvage a win out of a so-far winless homestand, though they all three games have gone beyond regulation. They are coming off of a 4-3 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. Before losing five straight at home (0-1-4), the Bruins started off the season 12-0-4 at TD Garden. Their eight overtime home losses are three more than the Devils, who are second in that category.

Since the Bruins’ eight-game winning streak ended with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on December 5, they have only won one of their past nine games (1-4-4). Despite their most recent slump, the Bruins still have a nine-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs for first in the Atlantic Division with both teams having played 37 games so far this season.

Forward David Pastrnak leads the league with 28 goals entering Monday night’s clash with the Capitals but has gone three straight games without one after scoring two in the Bruins’ 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers on December 14. His 51 points are tied with forward Brad Marchand, who leads the Bruins with 33 assists, for the team lead and for fourth in the NHL, along with Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel. Captain Zdeno Chara will sit out of Monday’s game for a check-up on his jaw procedure, which he underwent during the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Final last season.

The Bruins’ average of 2.49 goals-against per game is currently tied with the Arizona Coyotes for second in the league behind only the Dallas Stars (2.43) while their average of 3.32 goals-per-game is seventh. Their 26% power-play efficiency is third behind only the Edmonton Oilers (29.4%) and Lightning (28%), while their 83.3% penalty-killing rate is eighth. They average 31.9 shots-per-game, which is good for 12th in the league.

Goaltender Tuukka Rask, who is 13-4-5 with a .922 save percentage, a 2.29 goals-against average, and two shutouts this season, is expected to get the net for the Bruins for the first time against the Capitals in 2019-20 on Monday night. While he shut out the Capitals in his last start against them, a 1-0 win on February 3 when he made 24 saves, the 32-year old has posted a 2-11-5 record, an .889 save percentage, and a 3.10 goals-against average against them. Interestingly, his only victories over the Capitals have been shutouts.

Shavings

  • Ovechkin enters Monday night one power-play goal shy of passing Teemu Selanne (255) for the third-most power-play goals in NHL history
  • Since Nov. 30, the Capitals have killed 34 of 37 power-play opportunities (91.9%), which leads the NHL during that span
  • Among the goaltenders that rank in the top 50 in wins in NHL history, Holtby is the only goaltender to play in fewer than 500 career games and ranks first in win percentage (.614)
  • The Capitals outscored opponents by 72-54 on the road this season and have the highest road goal differential in the NHL (+18); they have gone on two separate five-game win streaks (most recent: Nov. 30-Dec. 14), which is one win shy of the franchise record (Feb. 20-Mar. 15, 2011; Feb. 26-Apr. 1, 1984)
  • The Capitals have recorded more road wins this season (16) than any team has at home (14), through games played Dec. 22
  • Over the last two games, Capitals defensemen have combined for 10 points (four goals)

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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3 Responses to Washington at Boston Preview: Capitals Battle Slumping Bruins For The Last Time This Season

  1. Day One Caps Fan says:

    The Caps do just about everything well this season. They’re far better at penalty killing than in many past seasons. But taking truckloads of minor penalties is living dangerously. Seven minor penalties against TBL is bad, and stopping all seven is miraculous. At least it looks like a team-wide epidemic: EVERYBODY is taking minor penalties. It was more frustrating in decades past when Brendan Witt was on the roster and fans could count on him for DOZENS of lazy penalties for teammates to try and kill off. Alexander Semin was supremely talented, and one of his talents was spending several hours per season sitting in the penalty box.

    I’m sure Reirden & Co. are concerned, but fixing it will be difficult

  2. Pingback: Zdeno Chara Out For Boston As Washington Looks To Sweep Bruins- News From Capitals’ Morning Skate | NoVa Caps

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