The Washington Capitals will face the Montreal Canadiens for the second time this season. Last time we met T.J. Oshie earned himself two goals and helped bring the Caps a win. The Capitals are in a six-game winning streak and will be looking to secure their lead quickly.
The team returned to the ice at Kettler Iceplex this morning after a four day winter break. They received an extra day above the NHL-mandated three days, probably for good behavior! Not only did the players look happy to be on the ice the rink was packed with cheering spectators.
Outside the rink, fans stood for over an hour to get shots of their favorite players (more on that later).
When the 2015/16 season started all eyes were on Montreal and the nine-game winning streak that ended when they fell to the Vancouver Canucks on 27 October. Since then the Habs have gone in and out of the win column. They fly into Washington with a five-game losing streak, minus their starting goalie (Carey Price) and defenseman Tom Gilbert left the game on December 23 with a lower-body injury. Gilbert, along with defenseman Jeff Petry are listed day-to-day and could return to play after the Christmas break. Forward Brendan Gallagher, their “spark-plug” is out too. This is not the same team that started the season on fire but clearly they are coming to town with their eyes set on breaking the Caps six-game winning streak.
So who on the Habs do we need to be worried about? Even with their ups and downs, they are still first place in the Atlantic Division with 20 wins in 36 games played and nine points behind the Caps. They are 7th in the league.
Max Pacioretty (67): Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette writes that Max hasn’t been himself without Gallagher. Pacioretty leads the team in points (67) with 37 goals and 30 assists.
Thomas Plekanec (14): Cowan claims he too is off his game right now. Yet he is their second leading scorer with 26 goals and 34 assists.
P.K. Subban (76): Subban always causes problems when the Caps face him. He is a big guy and a hard hitter. No telling what might happen between Wilson and Subban. He has had one goal and five assists in the last 10 days.
Mike Condon: The go-to goalie while Carey Price heals. He has allowed 11 goals in the past five games and is about 50-50 on wins when he is in the net.
The Capitals ended their second winning streak this season with a win against Montreal December 3rd at Bell Centre, losing to Winnipeg the following game. They know all too well what they need to do to get the jump on the Habs early in the first period. Montreal outshot Washington the last time they met which means the Caps’ defensemen will need to be on top of their game. It hurts not having Brooks Orpik but the D has been strong these past few games with the help of Nate Schmidt stepping into Orpik’s role.
Bottom line: This could be anybody’s game. The Caps want to keep building their positive streak while the Habs want to break their negative streak. Both teams play physical games and we can expect plenty of powerful hits and fights. Tom Wilson could be a target for this game, but the Habs should also keep an eye on T.J. Oshie who scored twice in the Caps 3-2 victory December 3rd. Should be an exciting post-Christmas game in Washington.