Sunday Matinee –
The Caps close out a quick two-game homestand on Sunday afternoon when the host the Detroit Red Wings’ lone visit to the District this season. The Capitals embark upon a four-game, weeklong road trip on Monday, a journey that takes them to Winnipeg, Minnesota, Chicago and Buffalo, with their dads/brothers/mentors joining them for the middle two matches of that trip.
Sailing The Atlantic –
Washington just finished up a Metro heavy stretch of games, a run in which it played 11 of 17 games against Metropolitan Division opponents. The Caps came through that stretch well, going 10-4-3 overall and pulling points in nine of the 11 Metro games (6-2-3).
Looking ahead to the next month of action, 14 of the Caps’ next 15 games will be played outside the division. Seven of those next 15 games will be played against Western Conference opponents, and the other seven will be against Atlantic Division foes.
Since Barry Trotz took over the coaching reins for the Capitals at the start of the 2014-15 season, the Capitals are 63-17-7 against Atlantic Division opposition. The Caps are 11-2-2 in their last 15 games against Detroit, but seven of the last 13 games between the two teams have required overtime, and 10 of those 13 were one-goal games.
“They’ve been retooling,” says Trotz of the Red Wings. “The one thing that’s been consistent with them is in terms of pace of play; they want people with skill and speed and they’ve gone out and drafted that way. It’s showing up with the youth in their lineup – there are not many of those veteran guys from the glory days in Detroit there. Guys like [Henrik] Zetterberg was a big part of that, and [NIcklas] Kronwall, but there are starting to be a bit fewer of them.
“They still have that philosophy of skill and speed, and they play with a lot of pace and put pressure on the puck, which they’ve always done. It probably won’t change.”
Detroit comes to town on the heels of a demoralizing loss to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn on Friday night. The Wings had a 5-2 lead with six and a half minutes remaining in the third period of that contest, but they squandered it and had to settle for a single point in a 7-6 overtime loss.
“If you have games like that,” says Trotz, “you want to just respond. They want to get points, they’re proud and they want to show that was just a one-off type of thing. That’s the game, the game is humbling sometimes, and it can turn on a dime.
“They have a good group there, obviously led by Zetterberg and Kronwall and guys like that. Over the years, they’ve seen a lot. So they’re going to come out, and they’re going to come after us.”
In The Nets –
Braden Holtby will be in net for the Capitals on Sunday against the Wings, starting for the third consecutive game. Holtby comes into Sunday’s matinee start on the heels of consecutive victories over the Columbus Blue Jackets last week. Holtby stopped 72 of 76 shots for a combined .947 save pct. in those two games, and he improved his win total on the season to 28 in the process. Holtby is tied for second in the league in victories as he vies to become the first goaltender in NHL history to record 40 or more wins in as many as four straight seasons.
Lifetime against the Red Wings, Holtby is 9-2-1 with a shutout, a 1.96 GAA and a .928 save pct. in a dozen career appearances.
Without benefit of a morning skate, we’re not certain as to which netminder will man the crease for the Red Wings on Sunday. Petr Mrazek has been carrying the mail in that regard of late, but he was dented for seven goals on 29 shots in Friday’s loss to the Isles. Lifetime against the Capitals, Mrazek is 2-3-2 with a shutout, a 2.43 GAA and a .921 save pct.
Veteran goaltender Jimmy Howard has started just one of the Red Wings’ last eight games, but he has logged 39 appearances on the season compared to just 20 for Mrazek. Lifetime against Washington, Howard is 3-2-3 with a 2.90 GAA and an .899 save pct.
Stick tap to the estimable Carter Myers for some of the statistical data contained in this piece.
All Lined Up –
Here’s how we expect the Capitals and the Red Wings to look when they take the ice on Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 43-Wilson
13-Vrana, 92-Kuznetsov, 77-Oshie
10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 65-Burakovsky
18-Stephenson, 83-Beagle, 25-Smith-Pelly
14-Nyquist, 40-Zetterberg, 39-Mantha
21-Tatar, 71-Larkin, 72-Athanasiou
43-Helm, 51-Nielsen, 8-Abdelkader
59-Bertuzzi, 41-Glendening, 42-Frk
39-Franzen (concussion-like symptoms)