Caps Preview: Week 10
The past week was a successful one for the Caps, as they collected four of a possible six points. Their two wins came against division rivals (#fancystats recaps here, here, and here). With 28 points, the Caps have since moved into third place in the Metro. 10 points separate them from the division leaders, who are the Penguins and Islanders respectively. Playing catch-up is a lofty task, particularly with two of this week’s three games taking place against a top Lightning team.
Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography
12/9 at Tampa Bay
Power play: 22.7%
Penalty kill: 80.4%
5v5 Corsi-for: 53.9%
The Lightning are a formidable opponent, and this is evidenced by their 39 points (tied with the Ducks for the NHL’s most) and first-place ranking in the Atlantic Division. The Lightning are aiming for their sixth straight home win–a difficult streak for the Caps to break.
The closest thing the Lightning have to a major weakness is their penalty kill, which sits at 19th overall. The Caps’ power play is second only to the Penguins, and they’ve got to score (a tough task when Ben Bishop is in goal.) The top line has cooled off as of late, and moving Burakovsky/Kuznetsov off the fourth line–though they’d probably see cozy zone starts–might be conducive to sparking the offense.
Four different Caps scored goals in their most recent win, a 4-1 road victory over the Devils. If they can sustain their offense and Mike Green returns to the lineup, the Caps have a good shot at staying with the Lightning. The first meeting between the two teams took place in November, when the Lightning beat the Caps 4-3. Considering the amount of offensive talent the Lightning has, Holtby and the defense need to stay sharp.
12/11 vs. Columbus
Power play: 21.9%
Penalty kill: 76.3%
5v5 Corsi-for: 46.1%
On paper, the division rival Blue Jackets don’t look too threatening. They’ve been decimated by injuries, and the Hurricanes are the only thing keeping them from presiding over the basement of the NHL’s weakest division. Yet there are a few bright spots for the Blue Jackets–and things the Caps must be wary of.
The Blue Jackets’ PDO is 27th in the NHL. Basically, they’ve been extremely unlucky, and this is bound to change soon. (PDO is the sum of even-strength shooting and save percentage.) The Blue Jackets have one of the league’s best goaltenders in Sergei Bobrovsky, who recently helped carry them to a win over the Lightning.
But superb goaltending will only take a team so far. Columbus has atrocious possession numbers and a subpar penalty kill that barely ranks above the Caps’. The teams share another similarity in that their power plays are among the NHL’s top ten. Special teams will likely play a huge role in the outcome of this game, which looks like an “easy” two points. But even when they’re getting crushed in shot attempts, the Blue Jackets are a hard-working team, and Bobrovsky is a very good goaltender. Just ask the Lightning.
12/13 vs. Tampa Bay
The Caps-Lightning regular-season series concludes this Saturday night. With one game already in the books (a 4-3 Lightning home win). I’ve already outlined what the Caps need to do for a win, so now I’ll take a look at some of the Lightning’s deadliest players.
Acknowledging Stamkos seems redundant, but I’ll do it anyway. Is shutting down a player of his caliber really possible? That’s debatable, but the Caps’ defense is in for a tough night. Avoiding penalties will help, too, as seeing him on the power play is a terrifying prospect.
Last season, two Lightning rookies were in contention for the Calder Trophy. Tyler Johnson was one of the three finalists and is currently second on the team in points (8G, 20A.) He’s one of the Lightning’s many two-way forwards capable of providing offense and defense, and this is reflected in the team’s scoring totals. Ryan Callahan, Nikita Kucherov, fellow sophomore Ondrej Palat, Valtteri Fippula–the list goes on and on. On defense, Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman comprise the Lightning’s top pairing. Both are fixtures on the power play and make offensive contributions at even strength.