Dec. 16 vs. Anaheim Ducks at Capital One Arena
Time: 8:00 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington
Radio: FAN 106.7, Capitals Radio 24/7
Anaheim Ducks 14-11-7
Washington Capitals 20-12-1
The Caps host their final home game before the NHL’s three-day holiday break on Saturday night when the Anaheim Ducks make their only trip to the District this season. The Capitals head out on a three-game Western road trip next week and won’t be back home again until Dec. 28 when they host the Boston Bruins.
Speaking of the Bruins, the Caps come into Saturday night’s contest on the heels of a 5-3 triumph over the B’s in Boston on Thursday. That victory is Washington’s 11
th consecutive win over Boston, dating back to the early portion of the 2014-15 season.
Although the Caps have been playing some very good hockey over the last month and a half with 15 wins in their last 21 games, Thursday night’s win over the Bruins was not one of their better efforts. The Caps won that contest despite managing just five shots on net at five-on-five during the final 40 minutes of play.
Washington won behind 34 saves from Braden Holtby and a couple of third-period goals from Alex Chiasson. What was a 2-1 game after 40 turned into a more high-scoring affair in the third when the Caps scored three goals – including an Alex Ovechkin empty-netter – on just six shots on net.
Prior to Thursday’s game, the Caps dropped four of their previous five games on the road. And earlier in the week, Washington’s four-game winning streak ended with a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders in a subpar Caps performance.
“It’s nice to get a win on the road, obviously,” said Holtby after the win. “I don’t think we’ve been playing as well as we want to be on the road. It’s good for the confidence to get a win like that, but it was only a bit of an improvement from Long Island. We’ve still got to get going on the road, find a way to simplify our game.
“To be a successful road team, you can’t be flashy or anything. You’ve just got to get in there and grind your way, and find a way to win tough games. It’s a tribute to our character and our timely scoring to win tonight, but I think we know we can improve.”
Washington started the week with that aforementioned loss to the Islanders in Brooklyn, then it bounced back with a strong effort on home ice the following night in a 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche. The victory over the Bruins ensured the Caps of no worse than a break-even week, but they now have an opportunity to take three out of four on the week if they can find a way to get past the Ducks. The Caps are 13-5-0 on home ice this season, and they’ve won 12 of their last 14 games in the District. Both of their home losses during that stretch came to Western Conference opponents, as the Caps are 7-6-0 against teams from the opposite conference while going 13-6-1 against Eastern foes.
“Obviously that game in New York, we’re just trying to wash it away as a team,” says Chiasson. “We weren’t really sharp there. And then back-to-backs, they’re tough to gauge and I thought we played well there [against Colorado]. And on the road [in Boston], a big two points obviously with the standings as tight as they are in our division. It’s not always pretty, but these points matter.”
Dating back to the middle of November, the Caps have won 10 of their last 13 games. Each of the caps’ three losses over that span has been followed by multiple victories, a sure fire formula to get a team into the playoffs.
“I think the group of guys here – some of the older guys who have been around here – have great leadership,” says Chiasson, “and they’re able to make sure guys keep it even keel, not too high and not too low. And obviously our goaltending is as best as you can ask for in the league. Always some big saves at key moments to keep us in the game, and that’s a huge part of our team’s success for sure.”
The Ducks opened up a six-game road trip on Thursday night in St. Louis, and they did so on a positive note with a 3-1 victory over the Blues. The win was the third for the Ducks in their last four games.
Anaheim will move on from the District to face the three metropolitan New York area teams, and it will take on the Pens in Pittsburgh a week from tonight before heading back home for its holiday break. This is the Ducks’ second six-game road trip in less than a month; the Ducks went 1-2-3 on a six-game excursion from Nov. 25-Dec. 6.
Ravaged by injuries since before the season even started, the Ducks are already down to just five players who have played in each of the team’s first 32 games this season. Only one Anaheim defenseman, Josh Manson, has suited up for all 32.
With many of their top offensive weapons on the sidelines off and on since the outset of the season, the Ducks rank tied (with Detroit) for 27
th in the NHL with an average of 2.62 goals per game. It’s been more than a month since Anaheim managed to score as many as four goals in a game; they’ve gone 14 games without doing so since a 4-2 home ice win over the Bruins on Nov. 15. The Ducks have gone 6-4-4 in those 14 contests.
Anaheim is eighth in the NHL with an average of 2.75 goals against per game in 2017-18, and the Ducks are the league’s fourth-best penalty killing team with a kill rate of 83.7% on the season.