The Washington Capitals have a fairly tough week ahead of them. The Washington Capitals play three games this week, two of them against playoff teams. Those two games that they play against playoff teams are on back to back days. The Washington Capitals have a tough road to the playoffs, so they must find a way to get at least four points this week if they want to have a shot at finishing in the top three in the Metropolitan Division.
On Thursday, the Washington Capitals play the New Jersey Devils at home. Their home stand continues on Saturday when they face the Nashville Predators. They finish up their week on Sunday when they travel up to New York to face the New York Rangers, who are the best team in the NHL.
Washington Capitals Vs New Jersey Devils
With all due respect to the Devils, they are not a good hockey team. The Washington Capitals absolutely must take advantage of that. Anything less than two points is unacceptable, especially since the Capitals will be facing two tough teams on Saturday and Sunday.
The Washington Capitals are a better team than the Devils across the board. The Caps score more goals, allow less goals, and dominate possession more than the Devils. Luckily for the Caps, they have for the most part dominated the Devils this season. They’ve gone 3-1-0 against them, with each of those three wins being a blow out. Their only loss to the Devils was a 1-0 loss back in November. In each of their three wins against the Devils, they scored at least four goals.
Just because the Devils and Capitals are going in opposite directions, that doesn’t mean that this game won’t be without drama. This game will serve as a homecoming for New Jersey assistant head coaches (and Washington Capitals alumni) Scott Stevens and Adam Oates. Stevens should be received by nothing short of a standing ovation. It should be interesting to hear what kind of reception Oates gets after last season’s debacle. Hopefully Caps fans will forget his incompetence as a head coach and remember the Adam Oates who as a player took them on their run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Oates might have been an awful head coach, but he was one heck of a player and I hope Washington Capitals fans remember that.
The Devils do have a slight chance to win this game because they have a fantastic goalie in Cory Schneider. He’s proven time and time again this season that he is capable of carrying the Devils on his back. If the Devils had anything resembling a competent offense, they’d probably be in the playoff race.
Washington Capitals Vs. Nashville Predators
On Saturday, the Washington Capitals will have a home matinee against the Nashville Predators. While the Predators are in second place in the Central Division with 96 points, they have been slumping as of late. They have a 3-6-1 record over their last ten games and their high octane offense has been slowed down practically to a halt. So this might actually be a good time for the Capitals to have to face the Predators.
This game will likely feature two Vezina Trophy candidates going at it in Braden Holtby and Pekka Rinne, so this could be a low scoring game. I’m not going to call this game a “must win”, but since the Washington Capitals play the Rangers the next day and the Rags have kicked the Caps’ butts this season, it’s pretty important that the Caps get two points out of this game.
The Predators’ struggles can be tied to one thing that was the reason for their incredibly fast start: PDO. The Predators had a pretty high PDO throughout the first half. Since the second half begun, they have a 99.1 PDO. Their shooting percentage at even strength since the All-Star Break is 6.8%, which is 1.9% lower than their first half shooting percentage of 8.7%. They’ve had a respectable 92.3% save percentage during the second half, which is still pretty good, but not as good as their 94.0% save percentage in the first half.
Washington Capitals Vs New York Rangers
This is obviously the toughest game of the week for the Washington Capitals for several reasons. First of all, the Rangers are really good. They’re probably the best team in the NHL right now. Secondly, this game is on the second leg of games on back to back days for the Caps. Third, the Rangers have dominated the Caps this season.
It will take a miracle for the Washington Capitals to come away from this game with one point, let alone two. Nothing I’ve seen from the Caps this season makes me think that the Capitals have a reasonable chance of going up to New York and taking down the Rangers.
I think that four points out of this week would be considered a success. Anything more and I’d be ecstatic.