Caps Preview: Week 12
The Caps had another great week, having earned five of a possible six points. Their opponents included the Panthers, Blue Jackets, and Devils. This week, they’ll take on the Senators and two division rivals in the Rangers and Penguins.
Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography
12/22 vs. Ottawa
Power play: 19.7%
Penalty kill: 82.9%
5v5 Corsi-for: 47.4%
The Senators are coming off a highly inconsistent week in which they posted a 2-2-0 record. With losses to the Sabres and Habs and wins over the Devils and Ducks, it’s hard to tell what kind of performance the Sens will deliver on any given night. At present, they’ve got a 14-13-6 record, good for 34 points and seventh in the Atlantic Division.
Unsurprisingly, the Sens’ top scorers include Kyle Turris, Erik Karlsson, and Bobby Ryan. They also have decent secondary scoring in players like Clarke MacArthur, Mark Stone, and Alex Chiasson. In 20 games played, Craig Anderson has been phenomenal: he boasts a .930 SV% and 2.43 GAA. Special teams give these players a chance to shine–their PP and PK units are ranked 12th and 11th in the NHL, respectively.
The Sens have undergone a major change since they last faced the Caps: they have a new coach in Dave Cameron, who replaced Paul McLean earlier in December. As the Sens adjust to a new system, they give the Caps an opportunity to exploit weaknesses. The game is the Caps’ first at the Verizon Center in over a week and offers a chance to improve their home record (6-5-4). It’s also the first of a back-to-back, with the Caps playing at Madison Square Garden the following evening.
12/23 at Rangers
Power play: 16.3%
Penalty kill: 82.1%
5v5 Corsi-for: 49.4%
The Rangers have often been lauded as a strong defensive team–at the expense of their offense. A quick glance at their special teams–decent penalty kill and dreadful power play–might have you thinking it’s still 2012. So does a look at the standings, where the Rangers are nipping at the Caps’ heels in the Metro’s third-place battle. Earning two points is critical for the Caps, particularly as they face the Penguins (another division rival) later in the week.
It’s the first time the Caps and Rangers have played each other all season, and chippiness is all but guaranteed. Avoiding injury (particularly in fights!) will be essential for the Caps, who will inevitably drop the gloves in Saturday night’s contest against the Penguins. The Caps should aim to play a fast, physical game while limiting penalties-something that seems obvious, but that will be especially challenging against such a hated rival.
Scoring on Lundqvist is always a challenge, particularly with a solid defense limiting the number of shots allowed. There’s no better time for the Caps’ secondary scorers to contribute than this game. Throw in the Rangers’ five-game winning streak–with victories over the Penguins, Canucks, Oilers, Flames, and Hurricanes–and the Caps have a tough, but necessary, team to beat.
12/27 at Pittsburgh
Power play: 24.3%
Penalty kill: 86.1%
5v5 Corsi-for: 50.8%
As usual, the Penguins’ special teams rank among the League’s best. Their PDO is also incredibly high, and they’ve got decent puck possession numbers. Oh, and Marc-Andre Fleury is having an incredibly strong season. Read: there’s a reason the Pens are at the top of their division and are a strong team even beyond the confines of the Metro (22-6-4 record, good for 48 points–second only to the Ducks.)
It’s been a while since the Caps beat their archrivals, a feat they never accomplished under Adam Oates. However, none of their recent meetings have been particularly tame. All things considered, it won’t be shocking if Wilson and Latta put their fists to use. Regardless of who ends up in the penalty box, special teams likely won’t win the game for either team. (However, the Caps’ penalty kill is 27th overall, so drawing penalties instead of taking them is highly advisable.)
The Penguins aren’t a dominant puck possession team (in fact, they rank behind the Caps at the time of writing), but they’ve sustained their success thus far. Despite an insane number of injuries, the Penguins have managed to keep their high-powered offense afloat. They’re a good benchmark team for the Caps to face, even if they’re missing several key parts of their lineup.