Today is the official half-way point in the season and the Capitals hope to continue their latest streak. Much of that will depend on Braden Holtby who is largely responsible for the number one position the Caps hold. Without a doubt, this will be all about the goalie matchup as Henrik Lundqvist, who is still barely winning half of his games, keeps working to better his lackluster season. This is the third match with the Rangers this season with each team taking a win and each team wanting a ‘W’.
All Eyes on Ovechkin and the New Guy
All the buzz right now is about Alex Ovechkin being three goals from another major milestone. Should he get a hat trick at Madison Square Gardens, he will celebrate his 500th NHL goal. Sweet as it would be to celebrate with him at home, many of our Caps friends think it would be even sweeter to do it in front of the team that has knocked them out of the playoffs one too many times.
The team took off Friday to recover from their New Year’s Eve loss in Raleigh. They will have morning skate Saturday at Nationwide Arena and will play the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7 pm. tonight. The Blue Jackets had a strong showing against the Dallas Stars serving up a surprising defeat at 6-3.
On Friday, the Caps recalled defenseman Ryan Stanton from the Hershey Bears and re-assigned Connor Carrick. Stanton played 54 games for the Vancouver Canucks in 2014/15 and ranked fourth in hits and blocked shots for the team. This year for the Bears he has two goals and five assists in 28 games played. He also has 30 penalty minutes. He will bring a high degree of physicality to the game if in for the healing Carlson.
Beagle is having surgery according to Coach Trotz and has been placed on the injured reserve list. No timetable for his return.
John Carlson could be back in a few days, according to comments from Coach.
Brooks Orpik remains on the Long-term Injured Reserve list.
On the Bright Side
Standings: The Caps are first in the Metropolitan Division. They are first in the Eastern Conference. They are a close (1 point) second in the NHL. They have a healthy lead in the division and conference.
Team: Coach Trotz has molded this team into just that: a team that plays well together and that supports one another. It isn’t a matter of one shining star but of many who step forward to share the responsibility for winning.
Alex Ovechkin leads the team with 21 goals and is four away from 500 NHL career goals. He is fifth in the NHL.
Braden Holtby leads the league in wins (24). His 1.86 goals against average is second in the league. He’s got this! And backing him up in the net is Philipp Grubauer who is a strong goaltender and someone in whom the coach has great confidence.
Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetzov are assist masters. Each has 22 assists and 11 goals. They are creating opportunities every shift for the top line to score while scoring themselves as well.
Justin Williams, T.J. Oshie, and Marcus Johansson round out the top six with a fighting drive to get to the net and score. Williams and Oshie have 24 points and MoJo has 22.
Jason Chimera has notched 10 goals this season making him part of the six with double-digit goals. Although Tom Wilson only has two goals in his column, there is no denying the presence he brings to ice and the way in which he excites the team and the crowds. The hole on this line clearly is Jay Beagle, yet the team managed to fill the gap with Michael Latta and Zach Sill. Sill seems to be a great fit for now, regardless of which line he plays.
Andre Burakovsky finally broke through and scored a goal during the game in Buffalo. The fourth line, with Brooks Laich and Michael Latta looked strong on Thursday—each with shots on goal that came close to getting around the net minder.
Defense: The loss of John Carlson could be seen on Thursday. Carlson brings something more to the game than just the 27 points he is carrying—he brings real leadership too. It is less clear what coach will do with the partnering of defensemen and the temporary replacement of Carlson on Saturday. They were not all that the team needed on Thursday and hopefully they will get back in the groove and hopefully Carly will return strong and healthy against Boston.
Blue Jackets Watch
This is second meeting between the teams this season. In October Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie scored two goals ending the match 2-1 Caps. The Blue Jackets see this as a ‘must win’ match as the team on the bottom of the standings chart struggles to save face. They played a physical game against Dallas with 29 hits and one roughing penalty by Rene Bourque (18).
Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was activated and removed off Injured Reserve list. The Russian Vezina Trophy winner last played December 8 and has a .918 save percentage. The Jackets have won 30 of 51 games with Bobs in the net.
Left wing Scott Hartnell (43) leads the team in points with 15 goals and 14 assists. He has two goals in his last five games.
Left Wing Brandon Saad (20) holds the second team leader slot with 14 goals and 13 assists, with three goals and three assists in his last five games.
Left wing Nick Foligno (71), the team’s leader in goals and points last season is not performing as strongly this year; however, he has stepped things up recently with one goal and six assist in his last five games.
Center Brandon Dubinsky (17) has four assists in his past five games.
Holtby, with 125 career games won is four games away from passing Don Beaupre (128) for second place on the Caps franchise list.
The Caps have a scheduled day off on Sunday. Practice is likely to be held Monday at Kettler.
Tue Jan 5, 2016 Capitals Bruins, 7:00 PM CSN-DC, TVAS