Photo: Steve Babineau/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals head to New England for the first time this season to battle the Boston Bruins on Wednesday and Friday night. The teams split the first two games against each other in D.C. with the Capitals winning 4-3 in overtime on January 30 before the Bruins took a 5-3 decision two days later. The Capitals led 3-0 in both games. Action from TD Garden can be seen on NBCSN nationally on Wednesday and NBC Sports Washington locally and NHL Network nationally on Friday beginning at 7 PM ET both nights.
The Capitals continue a five-game road trip after sweeping a weekend set with the New Jersey Devils, including a 3-2 victory on Sunday afternoon. This is the third game of a stretch where the Capitals will play eight of nine away from home. The Capitals have won three in a row on the road after a four-game road losing streak (where they went 0-2-2). Overall, they are 5-2-2 away from Capital One Arena this season.
Since ending a four-game regulation losing streak, the Capitals have gone 5-1-1 in their past seven games and 4-0-1 in their past five. They have won three in a row coming into Wednesday’s game. The Capitals enter Tuesday’s slate of NHL activity two points ahead of the Bruins and New York Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division but the Bruins have two games in hand and have a higher points percentage (.684) than the Capitals (.667).
Center Nicklas Backstrom leads the Capitals in goals (10 – three ahead of captain Alex Ovechkin, forward Tom Wilson, and forward Jakub Vrana), assists (15), and points (25 – six ahead of defenseman John Carlson). Since a five-game point-streak ended, Backstrom has two goals and five points in six games. Backstrom stands one assist away from 700 career helpers. Carlson saw a four-game point streak, where he recorded a goal and seven points, end on Sunday. Ovechkin, who scored in Sunday’s 3-2 win, has averaged a point-per-game this season (17 points in 17 games). Backstrom’s 23.8% shooting percentage is tied with Philadelphia Flyers forward James Van Riemsdyk for 29th in the NHL. Center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, practiced on Tuesday.
The Capitals‘ average of 3.43 goals-per-game this season only trails the Tampa Bay Lightning (3.63) and Toronto Maple Leafs (3.52) but their average of 3.19 goals-against per game is the seventh-highest in the NHL. Their 29.1% power-play efficiency ranks fourth while their 80% penalty-killing rating rate ranks 14th. The Capitals’ average of 28.9 shots-per-game is 24th and their average of 30 shots-against per game is at the league average. Their 48.6% faceoff-winning percentage is 21st.
The Capitals’ 49.06% Corsi-for percentage at five-on-five this season ranks 18th while their 50.27% expected goals-for percentage is 16th. Their 50.19% scoring chances-for percentage is good for 16th but their .9189 save percentage is the 11th-worst. The Capitals’ 1.021 PDO ranks 11th.
After going 1-2-0 on a three-game road trip where they were outscored 14-8 by the Islanders and New York Rangers, the Bruins return to Boston to open up a three-game homestand. They will close it out against the Devils on Sunday evening. Wednesday’s game will be only the Bruins’ sixth on home ice in 20 games this season but they have gone 4-1-0 in the first five and won their first four. Since January 29, the Bruins have played just one game on home ice, a 3-2 loss to the Devils on February 18.
After a 10-1-2 start to the season, the Bruins won just one of their next five games before their 4-1 victory over the Rangers on Sunday. They once had a seven-point lead over the Capitals for first in the East Division. Since February 13, the Bruins’ average of 4.00 goals-against per game is the most in the NHL, well above their season average of 2.63 (which ranks seventh).
Forward Brad Marchand leads the Bruins in goals (10), assists (13), and points (23) this season and has recorded a goal and three points in his last two games and five points in his last four games. Forward David Pastrnak leads the team in points-per-game (1.50) with 18 in 12 and four assists in his past two games and 10 (including four goals) in his last six. The 24-year-old enters Wednesday three points away from 400 points in his career. Center Patrice Bergeron (1.05) also averages at least a point-per-game with 20 in 19 this season.
The Bruins’ average of 3.00 goals-per-game is tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the league average and their average of 2.63 goals-against per game is seventh. Their 26.8% power-play efficiency ranks eighth and their 87.9% penalty-killing rate is only worse than the Avalanche (88.3%) and Lightning (88.1%). The Bruins’ average of 32.1 shots-per-game is good for fifth and their 25.9 shots-against per game is a league-low. Their 59.8% faceoff-win percentage is also tops in the league.
The Bruins’ 54.06% Corsi-for percentage at five-on-five only trails the Avalanche (56.57%) and the Montreal Canadiens (55.79%) while their 51.48% expected goals-for percentage is ninth. Their 50.3% scoring chances-for percentage is good for 12th. Their .9074 five-on-five save percentage is the worst of any team currently occupying a Stanley Cup Playoff spot and the fourth-worst overall. The Bruins’ .977 PDO is better than only the Ottawa Senators (.966) and Buffalo Sabres (.967).
Capitals – Ilya Samsonov (2-0-1, .878 save percentage, 2.92 goals-against average this season) and Vitek Vanecek (9-4-3, .909 save percentage, 2.81 goals-against average). Samsonov, 24, made three saves on four shots (.750) in a relief appearance in his lone career game against the Bruins, a 7-3 loss at TD Garden on December 23, 2019. Vanecek, 25, allowed seven goals on 75 shots (.907 save percentage) in two games against the Bruins this season.
Bruins – Tuukka Rask (8-3-1, .896 save percentage, 2.71 goals-against average) and Jaroslav Halak (4-2-1, .903 save percentage, 2.42 goals-against average, one shutout). Rask, 33, has gone 3-11-6 with an .889 save percentage, a 3.15 goals-against average, and two shutouts in 21 career regular-season games, including 19 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss on January 30, vs. the Capitals while Halak has gone 10-11-1 with a .902 save percentage, a 2.78 goals-against average, and one shutout in 24, including 23 saves in the Bruins’ 5-3 win at Capital One Arena on February 1.
By Harrison Brown