Jan. 9 vs. Vancouver Canucks at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington
Radio: FAN 106.7, Capitals Radio 24/7
Vancouver Canucks 16-20-6
Washington Capitals 26-13-3
Washington’s three-game homestand continues on Tuesday night when the Caps welcome the Vancouver Canucks to the District for their only visit of the season. The Caps and Canucks will also be closing out their season’s series for 2017-18; the Canucks handed the Capitals a 6-2 setback on Oct. 26 in Vancouver.
The Caps opened the homestand on a high note, defeating the St. Louis Blues 4-3 in overtime in Sunday afternoon. Nicklas Backstrom supplied the game-winner in the extra session for the seventh time in his career, putting him just one behind Mike Green for second place on Washington’s all-time list in that department.
After a four-day midseason break, the Caps showed only minor signs of rust or atrophy against the Blues in their first game of the second half of the season.
“There was obviously a little bit of rust and stuff,” says Holtby. “But it’s not really an excuse. It’s something we’ve wanted to get better at – is playing on a few days rest. Some ways we did better, and some ways we didn’t. But the main thing is, we got a win.”
The Caps struggled mightily in the first half of the middle frame when St. Louis scored its first two goals, and it allowed Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko a trio of great looks from the slot.
Fortunately for the Caps, Tarasenko scored on only one of those scoring chances, and Washington’s power play struck twice. Braden Holtby made three key saves late in the contest, including a pair in overtime, to earn his 24
th win of the season. He owns a 6-0-0 career record against St. Louis.
“We did win tonight,” said Holtby in the wake of Sunday’s win, “but there were opportunities for them to put the game away. There was a missed breakaway, [Tarasenko] all alone in the slot there – I think it went off the side of the post – and a couple of other things like that.
“We did a great job of burying our chances when we got them in responses, but when you let a guy like that have opportunities, it’s kind of playing with fire. But at the same time, that is also my job to step up and make those saves on a guy like him. That’s one thing that collectively we’ll work on.”
Sunday’s win extends the Caps winning streak to four straight overall and nine straight on home ice. This is Washington’s third four-game winning streak since Dec. 2, and it matches the club high for the season. Three of the wins have come beyond the 60-minute mark, and seven of the Caps’ last nine games have required overtime, with Washington winning five of the seven.
Tuesday’s game against the Canucks starts a stretch of three games in four nights for the Capitals, and their bye week is at the end of the third game of that stretch, Friday’s night’s back half of a home-and-home set with Carolina in Raleigh. Six points are on the table between now and the start of that bye week.
“I think it’s important for us to stay focused,” says Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen. “You don’t want to be saying 10 days or two weeks from now, and be like, ‘Aw man, we had a bad little stretch right before that break.’ We need to buckle down and have a good focus so we play well and don’t get caught looking ahead to that break, because I’m sure guys are excited for a little break. So just be professional in our approach and take advantage of these games.”
Tuesday’s game comes in a single day’s rest situation for the Capitals, who are 16-4-1 when playing on exactly one day’s rest this season. Holtby is the Caps’ likely starter on Tuesday against Vancouver, and he is 12-2-0 in 14 starts on one day’s rest this season. Lifetime, Holtby has earned 94 of his 215 career victories on a single day’s rest, going 94-20-10 with 14 shutouts, a 2.10 GAA and a .928 save pct. in 130 career appearances (129 starts).
On Tuesday against the Canucks, the Caps will be seeking what would be a 10
th straight win at Capital One Arena. If they’re successful in doing so, the Caps will match the fourth longest home winning streak in team history, a 10-game run during the 1999-00 season. Last season’s Caps team established the franchise standard with a 15-game home winning streak.
As noted earlier, the Canucks put a 6-2 beating on the Caps in late October. That victory left the Canucks with a 6-3-1 record. At three games above what passes for .500 in the NHL, that remains Vancouver’s high water mark for the season, attained a couple of times since then. The Canucks are just 10-17-5 since that win over Washington two and a half months ago.
For the Canucks, Washington is the third stop on a seven-game road trip that has them away from Vancouver from Jan. 6-21. After beginning their journey with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday, the Canucks fell 5-2 to the Canadiens a night later. Overall, the Canucks have dropped four straight (0-3-1) and eight of their last nine (1-6-2).
Vancouver’s longest road trip of the season comes as the team seeks its first road victory since downing the Predators in Nashville by a 5-3 margin on Nov. 30. The Canucks are 0-3-2 in five road games since, and they’ve been outscored 21-11 in those contests.
As NHL business gets underway on Tuesday, the Canucks are sitting in seventh place in the eight-team Pacific Division. They’re nine points south of the final Western Conference playoff berth, and they’ll need to climb over half a dozen teams to get there.