Caps Preview: Week 11
With five of a possible six points in the books, including two solid wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Caps had a great week. Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets robbed the Caps of a perfect record, but the two teams meet again this week. At present, the Caps have 33 points and are third in the Metropolitan Division, behind the Penguins (42 points) and Islanders (40 points) but ahead of the Rangers (30 points.) This week’s slate of three games take place against fairly mediocre teams (the Panthers, Blue Jackets, and Devils respectively.) Winning at least two of three would give the Caps a significant edge over their Metro rivals.
Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography
12/16 at Florida
Power play: 13.8%
Penalty kill: 80.8%
5v5 Corsi-for: 51.6%
The Panthers are better than you think. They’re no longer the Eastern Conference’s resident basement-dwellers; in fact, they’re fifth in the Atlantic Division with 32 points to their name. Does this make them a good team? No, but they’re no longer a team that can be walked over. They’re currently a playoff team (second wild-card spot) and have given the Caps trouble in the past.
Nick Bjugstad, rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad, and Jussi Jokinen lead the team in points (19, 18, and 16 respectively.) Brad Boyes and Jonathan Huberdeau are also prominent secondary scorers. Florida’s defense isn’t particularly robust, so capitalizing on defensive miscues will allow the Caps to keep their surging offense going.
12/18 at Columbus
Power play: 23.2%
Penalty kill: 77.6%
5v5 Corsi-for: 46.2%
The Blue Jackets are on the verge of climbing back into playoff contention. Last week, their 3-2 OT win over the Caps was their fifth straight. They beat the Penguins 4-3 two nights later and can extend the streak Tuesday night with a win against the Red Wings. Little has changed for the Jackets since they faced the Caps, save for trading defenseman Tim Erixon to the Blackhawks and getting forward Jeremy Morin. The latter wasn’t seeing playing time given the Blackhawks’ loaded roster and asked for a trade, a request granted by Blackhawks brass.
Other players of note include Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s been spectacular for a team who gives up tons of shots. With stellar save-percentage numbers and a measly shooting percentage (6.52%), the Blue Jackets’ “luck” (or PDO) is due for a rebound. They’re third-worst in the NHL in that department, and 26th in 5v5 Corsi.
The Jackets’ two offensive stars are Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen, who are tied for the team lead with 27 points apiece. Foligno has five points in as many games, while Johansen tallied two assists in his last five contests. When the Jackets beat the Caps last Thursday, it wasn’t because they outplayed their opponent. Bobrovsky was phenomenal, but the Caps couldn’t seem to finish any of their scoring chances or get serious momentum going. They’ll be on a road trip but obviously need to play hard against their division rival.
12/20 at New Jersey
Power play: 22.5%
Penalty kill: 76.5%
5v5 Corsi-for: 49.9%
The Caps and Devils have seen each other a lot lately, and the season isn’t at its halfway point. But after Saturday night’s game, they won’t face off until March. Still, the Devils are a Metro rival, thus making this game especially important. The Caps won 4-1 in their last meeting two weeks ago despite getting outshot 29-34.
The Devils don’t have a single offensive superstar, but they do have a number of players putting up good numbers. Jaromir Jagr and Adam Henrique lead the team in points (18), and sniper Mike Cammalleri has a team-best 11 goals. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky is fourth on the team in points and has played big minutes, averaging upward of 22 minutes a night in his last five games. Based on what we’ve seen of the Caps-Devils season series so far, the games could either way. The Caps may have the lead in terms of standings, but neither is an outstanding team. Given the fickle nature of the Metro Division, it’s possible their places could be switched in two weeks. Still, what sweeter finish to a weeklong finish than a win–over a division rival, nonetheless?