November 14, 2019

Caps in Advance: Week 19

The Washington Capitals find themselves in the same spot to start this week that they were in at the start of last week: sitting right behind the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division, and just outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Of course, for a brief few days in the meantime the Caps held that top spot in the Southeast, thanks to a dominating Tuesday night 4-0 shutout of Florida.  Unfortunately, that was the only win and two of the three points Washington picked up in four games.  Now four points back of the Panthers, the Caps desperately need to take two points in regulation against their division foes.

When Tomas Vokoun whitewashed his former team it appeared to be the start of a good run for Washington, especially when the Czech goalie maintained a blank slate late in his team’s next game, against the Winnipeg Jets.  However, two quick goals, one on a 6-on-3 and the other a fluke from center ice, knocked the Caps back on their heels and the team would lose that game in a shootout, and turn in a weak performance Sunday afternoon in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers that wasn’t as close as the score suggests.

Monday night’s game against the Sharks is the second half of a back-to-back for Washington, although Alex Ovechkin’s squad has the benefit of an extra few hours of rest since Sunday’s game was an afternoon matinee.  Their other two games are also back-to-back, as the Capitals visit both of their Sunshine State foes in short order.

Games this week:

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13th v. SAN JOSE SHARKS
7:30 pm, Verizon Center
TV: NBC Sports, TSN2

Records:
Washington Capitals: 28-22-5, 61 points, 2nd in Southeast Division, 9th in Eastern Conference
San Jose Sharks: 30-17-6, 66 points, 1st in Pacific Division, 3rd in Western Conference
Season Series: 0-1-0

Although the Sharks are a division leader, the gap between them and Washington is essentially the same as between Washington and Florida.  In early January, San Jose felled the Caps 5-2, but then again the Sharks have always bedevilled Washington while playing on the West Coast.

Now the D.C. denizens hope that San Jose, at the beginning of a nine-game road trip, feel similarly unwelcome in the Eastern Time Zone.  Sunday night in St. Louis the Sharks were shut out by Jaroslav Halak, while Antti Niemi allowed three goals in the loss.

Balance has been the watchword on offense for San Jose, who have no players in the top 30 in NHL scoring and four between 31 and 60: Joe Thornton (T-31st; 12 goals, 35 assists), Logan Couture (T-39th; 23 goals, 21 assists), Patrick Marleau (T-47th; 20 goals, 22 assists), and Joe Pavelski (T-60th; 20 goals, 20 assists).

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17th @ FLORIDA PANTHERS
7:30 pm, BankAtlantic Center
TV: CSN-MA

Records:
Washington Capitals: 28-22-5, 61 points, 2nd in Southeast Division, 9th in Eastern Conference
Florida Panthers: 27-17-11, 65 points, 1st in Southeast Division, 3rd in Eastern Conference
Season Series: 2-2-0

Friday night will be the third time these two teams will have met in the past 17 days.  The home team scored four goals and won each time.  Needless to say, the Caps hope to reverse that trend.  Not until the last week of the regular season will these teams play again, so this is the last chance Washington will have in a long time to be on the positive side of a four-point swing with the team directly above them in the divisional race.

Tending net for the Cats could be erstwhile Capital Jose Theodore, who returned from injury on Sunday with a solid 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders.  Backup goalie Scott Clemmensen played well in Theodore’s absence, but Florida’s goaltending was perilously thin without the veteran Theodore in the fold. Third-string goalie Jakob Markstrom is also injured, and backing up Clemmensen the past few games was Brian Foster, who has a career total of 5 minutes of NHL action.

This season Washington has the 4th best winning percentage NHL when outshooting their opponent, at 63.2%.  That situation hasn’t arisen much under Dale Hunter, though, and last Tuesday’s game was no exception. Florida put 42 shots on Vokoun, while the Caps only registered 24 on Clemmensen.  Jason Chimera registered a team-high 8 shots (and 1 goal), Ovechkin had 5 (2 goals), Matt Hendricks had 3, and no other Capital had more than one.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18th @ TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
7:00 pm, Tampa Bay Times Forum
TV: CSN-MA

Records:
Washington Capitals: 28-22-5, 61 points, 2nd in Southeast Division, 9th in Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay Lightning: 24-25-6, 54 points, 4th in Southeast Division, 12th in Eastern Conference
Season Series: 2-0-1

A promising run by the Lightning to close January has turned into the same-old, same-old in February for this disappointing squad.  Tampa Bay won five games in a row at the end of last month, including a 4-3 overtime victory over Washington, and since then has only managed a 2-2-2 record.

Though the Bolts have cooled, and with them any realistic shot at the playoffs, Steven Stamkos continues his impressive offensive play and leads the league with 37 goals, five more than his next closest competitor. Star teammates Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis have also been outstanding, as has Teddy Purcell, who’s registered five assists in his past four games.

Tampa’s problem is largely that those four forwards are basically the only contributors on offense as of late.  Compounding the issue is that the forwards who aren’t scoring also aren’t playing well defensively.  The Lightning’s top checking line of Tom Pyatt, Dominic Moore, and Nate Thompson are a combined -20 while only scoring a total of 16 goals all season.  Agitator Steve Downie (11 goals, 15 assists, 121 PIM) appears to have regained his form from his breakout season of 2009-10, but with a plus/minus of -15 he’s proven to be far worse on the back end than in seasons past.

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  2. […] SharksSB Nation DCNBCSP, TSN2 to televise Sharks-CapsNHL.comSharks-Capitals PreviewCBSSports.comDistrict Sports Page -Blades of Teal -SB Nation Bay Areaall 10 news […]

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