Tuesday night’s contest between the Metropolitan-leading Washington Capitals and Wild Card-leading Columbus features two squads looking to reacquaint themselves with the win column.
As Washington comes into play after losing consecutive games to the Penguins and Golden Knights, Columbus seeks their first win since before the All-Star break (0-2-1), and desperately trying to right the ship and stay afloat a packed Metropolitan division race. The all-important four-point game is that much more, with Tuesday’s affair the front-end of a home-and-home before things resume Friday night in D.C.
They Said It
“I’ve got probably 35 [video] clips of good things we did last game. That’s the most important thing for our team to see right now.” — John Tortorella
“We had a two-minute span in the third period where we lose the hockey game right there. Really, we self-destructed on that third goal, and [then] we can’t kill a penalty. But I’m not interested in showing any of that stuff … I want to show them how aggressive we were and some of the good things we did. We’ve got to get them into a swagger type of attitude. I thought we showed that through all three periods, even though we lose the game.” — Tortorella
“This is a big month for our team here. You see our conference and how big the points are. We’ve got to start winning hockey games here, because if we don’t, we’re not going to be in the playoffs. We’ve got to take it one game at a time right now, and start putting points in the bank.” — Josh Anderson
*quotes per Blue Jackets Insider, Brian Hedger, Blue Jackets.com
Put up or Shut up
We’ve heard the players and coaches talk about the positive things, not getting down, and reiterating the importance of these games. Primarily, a February stretch with nine games inside the division, including the three remaining games versus Washington.
We will now we see how the team responds on the front-end of test No. 1. The Capitals are 12-5-4 in their last 21 games.
One of the points of evidence is the Columbus penalty kill, a unit that was statistically among the league’s best at the beginning of the season. In the last 16 games, Columbus has surrendered 11 power play goals, and the unit as a whole is 60 percent (24-for-40) over that span.
Conversely, the power play is simmering, relatively speaking. In the past 10 games, the Blue Jackets are at 30.4% (7-for-23). But you can take that further back.
“Ranks fifth in the NHL over that span. Since Dec. 8, nearly two months ago, they’re 14-of-65 and rank 13th in the league at 21.5 percent. Columbus has scored a power-play goal in three of its past four games, and in six of the past 10.” — Brian Hedger, BlueJackets.com
A Look Back
Columbus dropped their first game to the Capitals Dec. 2 by a margin of 4-3. The game featured Matt Calvert’s short-handed goal, as well as goals by Artemi Panarin and Zach Werenski.
The game started off with consecutive Capitals goals 2:06 in (Brett Connolly, Alex Chiasson). Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored.
With both backup goalies playing for either team last time out — Joonas Korpisalo in the loss against the Islanders and Philipp Grubauer suffering the loss versus the Golden Knights — Braden Holtby and Sergei Bobrovsky will make the starts for their respective clubs tonight.
The All-Star, Holtby, is fourth in the league with 26 wins, but uncharacteristically for him, features just 2.78 goals against average and .914 save percentage. Bobrovsky is sixth in wins (22), 12th in goals-against average (2.46), and tied-11 in save percentage (.921).
Josh Anderson tries to find the net in consecutive games, something he has not done since Nov. 28-Dec. 1. Anderson has two points, both goals, since the start of the new year. Cam Atkinson enters play on a four-game point streak (two goals, two assists).
Ovechkin is the NHL leader with 32 goals and Capitals scoring leader with 56 points. Kuznetsov enters play with points (one goal, five assists) in four straight. Tom Wilson is second in the entire league with 120 penalty minutes. The next goal for Nicklas Backstrom will be career No. 200.
Losers of two-straight in regulation, the Capitals have not lost three-straight regulation games all season.
The #Caps have won four straight vs. CBJ, including a 4-3 triumph in Dec. Dating back to 2015, Washington is 8-1-2 in its last 11 meetings with Columbus. From the game notes: pic.twitter.com/EIc8ETRJyy— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️ (@TarikNBCS) February 6, 2018
|Alexander Ovechkin||Nicklas Backstrom||Tom Wilson|
|Jakub Vrana||Evgeny Kuznetsov||T.J. Oshie|
|Brett Connolly||Lars Eller||Andre Burakovsky|
|Chander Stephenson||Jay Beagle||Devante Smith-Pelly|
|Christian Djoos||John Carlson|
|Matt Niskanen||Dmitri Orlov|
|Brooks Orpik||Madison Bowey|
|Artemi Panarin||Pierre-Luc Dubois||Cam Atkinson|
|Oliver Bjorkstrand||Alexander Wennberg||Nick Foligno|
|Boone Jenner||Brandon Dubinsky||Josh Anderson|
|Matt Calvert||Lukas Sedlak||Jussi Jokinen|
|Zach Werenski||Seth Jones|
|Jack Johnson||Markus Nutivaara|
|Dean Kukan||David Savard|