April 11 vs. Chicago Blackhawks at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: Capitals Radio Network
Chicago Blackhawks (46-19-15)
Washington Capitals (37-30-13)
Washington finishes out the 2013-14 regular season with a pair of home games this weekend at Verizon Center. The Chicago Blackhawks are in the District on Friday night for their first visit in more than three years; since the Caps claimed a 4-3 overtime win over Chicago here on March 13, 2011.
The Caps have won three straight games, but that mini-spree came too late to do them any good in the chase for a seventh straight Stanley Cup playoff berth. Washington was eliminated from the playoff chase on Wednesday night, while it was idling in Carolina. The Caps took down the Hurricanes in Raleigh on Thursday by a 5-2 count to run their streak to three in a row.
Troy Brouwer scored twice and each member of the team’s Gang Green line (Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr and Joel Ward) also scored to account for the Caps’ offense on the night. Braden Holtby made 36 saves in the Washington nets to record his 23rd win of the season, matching his single-season career mark set in 2012-13.
Thursday’s game was a meaningless tilt, as are the last two home games from Washington’s perspective. Friday’s game means nothing to Chicago, either. The Blackhawks are locked into the third spot in the NHL’s Central Division standings.
“That’s all we can do right now is just try to play the system correctly and try to get good results from it,” says Fehr. “We’ve got two more games at home, try to show our fans some good hockey and we’ll take it from there.”
Since suffering a 5-2 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 4, Holtby has started only 16 of Washington’s 38 games. He has won 10 of those 16 starts, posting a 10-4-1 mark during that time frame. During the same time span, three other Capitals goaltenders (Philipp Grubauer, Michal Neuvirth and Jaroslav Halak) have combined to win just seven of their 22 starts (7-10-6).
Washington goes into Friday night’s game with a very ordinary 20-13-6 record on home ice this season. Even if the Caps sweep this season-ending two-game homestand, they will finish with their lowest total of home ice wins since 2006-07 when they were 17-17-7 at home. Not coincidentally, that ’06-07 season was the last time the Caps missed the playoffs prior to 2013-14.
The Capitals have lost three straight games on home ice (0-2-1) for the third time this season, matching the team’s longest home losing streak in more than three years. The last time the Caps had a longer dry spell between two-point nights at Verizon Center was a five-game slide (0-3-2) from Dec. 4-15, 2010. Washington’s last win at Verizon Center was a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 16.
Washington has now gone a dozen straight games without getting a goal from a defenseman. Mike Green was the last Caps blueliner to light the lamp, supplying the game-winner in a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on March 14.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks have rolled up 107 points through their first 80 games of the season, good for third place in the NHL’s Central Division. The Hawks are in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the sixth straight season; they won the Cup in 2010 and again in 2013.
The Blackhawks began their defense of last spring’s Cup title back on Oct. 1 with a 6-4 win over the Capitals in the season opener for both clubs. Washington briefly held a lead in the third period of that game, but Chicago struck twice to regain the lead and added a late empty-netter. Mikhail Grabovski recorded a hat trick for the Capitals in his debut in a Washington sweater.
After losing three straight and four of five to finish out the month of March, the Hawks have reeled off four straight wins to start April. Most recently, the Blackhawks earned a 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens in the Windy City on Wednesday night.
Chicago concludes its 2013-14 regular season slate on Saturday night when it visits the Predators in Nashville. With two road games remaining this season, Chicago has 19 road victories. The Hawks are aiming to become the 13th NHL team to win 20 road games in the 2013-14 season.