Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals start a home-and-home series with the Winnipeg Jets in the nation’s capital on Tuesday night in the first game after the NHL Trade Deadline for both clubs. The teams have split the past two season series against each other with the home team winning every game. The Capitals earned a 3-1 win on March 10 when the two teams met in Washington last season and have not lost to the Jets at home since January 22, 2013, when they lost 4-2 in the home opener of the lockout season. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Jets conclude a four-game road trip and continue a stretch where they play five of six games away from home. After earning a convincing 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators in the trip’s opener, they have dropped each of their past two. Since a four-game point-streak to open the new year where they went 3-0-1, they have lost six of their past eight road games in regulation. The Jets are 16-13-2 away from Bell MTS Place this season.
After losing their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series with the eventual Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues in six games last season, the Jets lost defensemen Jacob Trouba (traded to New York Rangers in exchange for 2019 first-round pick and defenseman Neal Pionk), Tyler Myers (signed five-year contract with Vancouver Canucks as UFA), Ben Chiarot (signed three-year contract with Montreal Canadiens as UFA), forward Brandon Tanev (signed six-year contract with Pittsburgh Penguins as UFA), and center Kevin Hayes (had UFA rights traded to Philadelphia Flyers). Even with all of those losses, the Jets enter Tuesday night just one point behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with a game in hand. Before dropping their last two games, they had won three in a row and had gone 7-3-1 in their previous 11.
Center Mark Scheifele leads the Jets with 41 assists and 67 points, which ranks 13th in the NHL, in 64 games this season. The 26-year-old is currently riding a four-game point streak where he has three goals and eight points, which followed a three-game point drought. Forward Kyle Connor leads the Jets with 30 goals but has just one in his past five and has been held without a point in his last two. The Jets added defenseman Dylan DeMelo, who has 10 assists and a +1 rating in 52 games this season, in a trade from the Ottawa Senators for a 2020 third-round pick. Winnipeg also added former Capital Cody Eakin, who has recorded four goals, 10 points, and a -9 rating in 42 games this season, from the Vegas Golden Knights for a conditional fourth-round pick.
The Jets’ 77.2% efficiency on the penalty kill is the seventh-worst in the NHL, while their average of 32.7 shots-against per game is tied with the New Jersey Devils for the sixth-most. Their 50.1% faceoff-winning percentage is a hair above the league average while their average of 31.2 shots-per-game is below and their 20.5% power-play efficiency is above. They allow and score an average of 2.97 goals-per-game, ranking 18th in goals-per-game and 20th in goals-against.
Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who is 26-20-5 (tied with the Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price for third in wins) with a .918 save percentage (tied for 13th), a 2.72 goals-against average (tied for 26th), and four shutouts (tied with Price and the Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre Fluery for second behind the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Elvis Merzlikins’ five) this season despite playing 52 games (one behind Price for the most). In six appearances against the Capitals, the 26-year-old is 3-2-1 with a .928 save percentage and a 2.12 goals-against average. He allowed three goals on 45 shots (.933 save percentage) in two games against the Capitals last season.
The Capitals conclude a two-game homestand and a stretch where they play three of four at home, against the Jets on Tuesday night. Before defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-3 on Sunday afternoon, they had dropped three straight home games (0-2-1) and five of six since the NHL All-Star Break (1-4-1). They have scored at least three goals in three straight home games but have allowed 19 goals over their past four outings (an average of 4.75 per game). Overall, the Capitals are 17-9-5 at Capital One Arena this season.
The Capitals’ win over the Penguins on Sunday snapped a season-long four-game losing streak (0-3-1) and they hope to gain some traction as the stretch run of the season gets underway. They are 4-7-1 in their past 12 games and at .500 (12-12-1) since their season-long four-game winning streak came to an end in the first week of December. They have allowed at least three goals in each of their past five games and were limited to two or fewer in each of their previous four games before Sunday’s victory.
Defenseman John Carlson, who has assists in each of his past two games, ranks 12th in the NHL with 72 points and second with 57 assists — five behind Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl for the league lead. His +15 rating is also tied for second on the team with defenseman Michal Kempny, behind only defenseman Radko Gudas (+19). Captain Alex Ovechkin‘s 42 goals this season are third behind Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (45) and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (43). The 34-year-old has two goals in his past three games but had been held without a point in six of his last eight games where he is a -6. Forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 2020 third-round pick on Sunday, could make his Capitals’ debut vs. the Jets. The 36-year-old posted three goals, nine points, and a -10 rating in 17 games with the Kings this season before doubling his goal output and notching 13 points and a +6 rating in 22 games with the Canadiens.
The Capitals’ average of 3.47 goals-per-game is third in the NHL this season behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning (3.53) and Toronto Maple Leafs (3.48) while their average of 3.03 goals-against per game is tied with the Golden Knights and Canadiens for the league average. Their 83.5% penalty-killing rate is the fourth-best in the NHL this season while their average of 32 shots-per-game is tied with the Penguins for 11th and their average of 30 shots-against per game is seventh. The Capitals’ 48.3% faceoff-winning percentage is the fifth-worst in the league.
After goaltender Braden Holtby played in six of the club’s last seven games, Ilya Samsonov, who is 16-5-1 with a .916 save percentage, a 2.41 goals-against average, and one shutout this season, could get his first career start against the Jets on Tuesday. Holtby, who is 22-13-5 with a .897 save percentage and a 3.13 goals-against average this season ,has allowed at least three goals in each of his past four appearances. He is 10-3-2 with a .926 save percentage, a 2.36 goals-against average, and two shutouts in 15 career games against the Jets. He made 40 saves in his last outing against the Jets, a 4-3 overtime loss in Winnipeg on February 13, 2018.
- The Capitals will hold a pre-game ceremony to honor Ovechkin for becoming the eighth player in NHL history to record 700 career goals, which he accomplished in the team’s 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday
- Kovalchuk scored seven of his nine goals at even strength, and his 65.38 on-ice goals for percentage (17 on-ice goals for, nine against) at five-on-five was tied for the highest percentage among Canadiens with at least 20 games played this season
- With both Ovechkin and Kovalchuk, the Capitals have two first overall picks on the same team for the second time in franchise history (2011-12/2012-13: Ovechkin and Roman Hamrlik, 1992 first overall) and are now one of seven franchises in NHL history to have two teammates combine for at least 1,142 goals (Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Hartford Whalers)
- Over the previous three seasons, the Capitals have a combined record of 40-16-2 following the NHL trade deadline, which equates to a 115-point pace over an 82-game season
- Holtby has stopped 145 of 159 shots in the last five games, posting a 2.84 goals-against average and .912 save percentage during that span
By Harrison Brown