Washington At Anaheim Preview: Capitals Begin West Coast Trip At The Duck Pond

Photo: Debora Robinson/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks are slated to face off for the first time in nearly two years in Southern California on Tuesday and for the first of two meetings in a span of 20 days. The Capitals swept the season set against the Ducks in 2019-20, including a 3-2 win in Anaheim in their most recent meeting on December 6, 2019. Action from Honda Center can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 10 PM ET.

Capitals

The Capitals kick off a four-game Pacific Division road trip and their second back-to-back set of the season. They will visit the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Wednesday night. The Capitals have gone 2-0-1 in their last three road games and are 4-1-1 away from Capital One Arena this season, but have allowed at least three goals in three of those road contests.

After a three-game slide, the Capitals head into their road-trip as winners of four straight and have earned a point in 13 of their 15 games so far this season (9-2-4). While they trail the league-leading Florida Panthers by just one point, they will enter Tuesday tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for first in the Metropolitan Division (though, the Hurricanes have played two fewer games) and the New York Rangers are breathing down both of their necks with a 9-3-3 record.

Captain Alex Ovechkin’s 12 goals rank second in the NHL (behind Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl – 15) while his 14 assists are tied for fifth with linemate Evgeny Kuznetsov, his 26 points are third (behind Draisaitl – 31 – and Oilers captain Connor McDavid – 27), and his +14 rating trails just Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen (+15). The 36-year-old has earned two goals and eight points over a four-game point-streak, where he has posted three multi-point games. Kuznetsov, 29, has one goal and seven points during a four-game point-streak and is tied for fourth in the NHL with 20 points.

The Capitals’ average of 3.60 goals-per-game this season trails only the Oilers (4.14) and Panthers (4.14) while their 2.40 goals-against per game is behind just the Hurricanes (1.92) and Calgary Flames (2.13). While they have strong overall numbers, their special teams statistics are nothing special as they have scored on just 17.7% of their power-plays (tied with Ottawa Senators for 20th) but their 82.9% penalty killing rate is tied with the Boston Bruins for 12th. Their 31.3 shots-per-game average is slightly higher than the league average of 31.1 while their 26.7 shots-against per game is only a bit more than the Seattle Kraken (26.1). The Capitals’ 47.2% faceoff-winning percentage ranks 28th.

At five-on-five, the Capitals have earned a 50.95% Corsi-for percentage (14th), a 52.9% expected goals-for percentage (ninth), a 51.32% scoring chances-for percentage (12th), a league-high 10.99% shooting percentage (at least 1.17% higher than anyone else), a .9277 save percentage (13th), and an NHL-best 1.038 PDO.

Ducks

The Ducks play the middle game of a three-game homestand after blowing the Vancouver Canucks out by a score of 5-1 on Sunday. They have won their past five games at the Duck Pond and earned points in their past six (5-0-1). Overall, the Ducks are 6-2-1 at Honda Center this season and are tied for the second-most home wins.

The Ducks enter Tuesday as one of the hottest teams in the NHL after seven straight victories and trail the Edmonton Oilers for first place in the Western Conference by just one point. Last season, the Ducks missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season when they finished last in the West Division by six points with a 17-30-9 record. Since getting swept by the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Ducks have missed the tournament in each of the past three seasons and have seen their points percentage drop in each of the past five (from .640 in 2016-17 to .616, .489, .472, and .384 last season).

Over the offseason, the Ducks lost defenseman Hadyn Fleury (2021 NHL Expansion Draft), left-wing Danton Heinen (not qualified as restricted free agent), center Carter Rowney (free agency), right-wing David Backes (free agency), left-wing Andrew Agozzino (free agency), and defenseman Andy Welinski (free agency). However, they drafted center Mason McTavish (who has two goals and three points in seven games) third overall in the 2021 NHL Draft. GM Bob Murray resigned on Wednesday and entered the NHL’s alcohol abuse program. Jeff Solomon replaced him on an interim basis.

Center Troy Terry enters Tuesday as the hottest player in the NHL with a 14-game point streak (tied for the longest this season with McDavid), where he has earned 11 goals (tied for third) and 20 points (tied for fourth with Kuznetsov). After getting held off of the scoresheet in their season opener, the 24-year-old has posted at least a point in every game since. Center Ryan Getzlaf’s 16 assists in 16 games are just one behind Oilers centers McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the league lead. The 36-year-old has six during a three-game assist-streak and enters Tuesday just one point shy of 1,000 in his 1,117-game NHL career.

The Ducks’ average of 3.56 goals-per-game is just behind the Capitals at fourth in the league while their average of 2.69 goals-against per game rank 11th. Their 28.3% power-play efficiency entered Monday fourth in the NHL and their 86.4% penalty-killing rate is tied with the Hurricanes for fifth. The Ducks’ average of 31.4 shots-per-game is just ahead of the Capitals but their 32.6 shots-against per game is the ninth-most. Their 50.9% faceoff-winning percentage is 10th.

At five-on-five, the Ducks’ 48.23% Corsi-for percentage is 25th while their 48.26% expected goals-for percentage ranks 23rd, 49.34% scoring chances-for percentage 21st, 8.29% shooting percentage 12th, .9262 save percentage 15h, and 1.009 PDO tied for 10th.

Goaltending Matchup

Capitals — Vitek Vanecek (4-2-3, .912 save percentage, 2.34 goals-against average – 15th), 25, or Ilya Samsonov (4-0-1, .894 save percentage, 2.93 goals-against average, one shutout), 24. Neither has started a game vs. the Ducks in their career. Vanecek made 24 saves in his last appearance, a 6-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday after missing the previous two games with a lower-body injury. Samsonov made 26 saves in his, a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

Ducks — John Gibson (8-2-2 – tied second in wins, .924 save percentage – 16th,  2.37 goals-against average – tied for 16th, one shutout), 28, or Anthony Stolarz (1-2-1, .912 save percentage, 2.98 goals-against average), 27. Gibson, who made 26 saves vs. the Canucks on Sunday, is 1-3-2 with an .896 save percentage, a 3.35 goals-against average, and one shutout in seven career games vs. the Capitals. Stolarz has allowed two goals on four shots in 8:14 of ice time in one relief appearance against the Capitals in his career.

Game Notes

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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