We love HOME games; have Liquor Depot deliver in under an hour. Click, pick, sit back and watch the game.
The Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL. They have the most wins, the most points, they’ve allowed the fewest goals (122), and they’ve scored the second most goals (198). They are +76 in GF/GA ratio. Their PP is fourth best and their PK is sixth best, despite them being 29th in PP/PK time ratio at -54:25.
They are destroying teams at 5×5, outscoring the opposition 139-76. They are +63 at EV. Minnesota is second at +39, Pittsburgh is +31, Chicago +24 and Columbus +21, to round out the top five. The Oilers are 11th at +11.
Edmonton defeated the Capitals 4-1 at home on October 26th when Benoit Pouliot was relevant. He scored the first two goals. Edmonton will need a Herculean effort tonight to upset the surging Capitals.
Since December 5th the Capitals are 27-5-4. They have 58 points in their last 36 games. The Red Wings and Canucks have 58 points all season, while Carolina and Dallas have 56, Arizona has 49 and Colorado has 35.
In their last 36 games they’ve outscored their opponents 140-71, their PP is clicking at 28% (28 of 100) and their PK is 85.7% (18 of 126). They were +7 in GF/GA ratio through their first 23 games, but they are +69 in their previous 36. They are winning games by an average of almost two goals per game since December 5th. That is crazy.
After Wednesday’s win in Florida Todd McLellan discussed the need for more consistency from his team. “We thought we had 11 players going in Tampa, and tonight we had everyone. It is in them to do it, we just need to ensure we get it (effort) out of them every game,” he said.
The reality is the coach can’t “get it” out of players. He can encourage them, challenge or ask them, but ultimately it is up to the players to perform. If I’m McLellan I’d show them the Capitals record since December 5th. Sometimes fear is a great motivator, because if the Oilers don’t have all hands on deck tonight, they will get embarrassed.
The Caps are 16-1-1 on home ice since December 5th. They’ve won 12 straight, and in their previous 11 home games they’ve scored at least five goals every game. They’ve scored five goals six times, and six goals five times. For a fan of offence that is awesome. And their defence is pretty good as well. They’ve only allowed 19 goals in those 12 home games, while scoring 62. Braden Holtby has three shutouts and Philipp Grubauer has two in their past ten home games.
Every Oilers player needs to be ready, as the Oilers have shown they will either be really competitive versus a top-ten team, or they will get crushed.
The Oilers are 7-3-1 versus top-ten teams like Washington, Chicago, San Jose, Montreal and Anaheim, and they’ve outscored them 30-22.
However, they are 0-6-2 versus Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Columbus and the New York Rangers, the other top-ten teams, and were outscored 14-28.
They can play with the top teams, but they need to bring their best effort to compete. The Capitals are rolling and they are playing better than when the Oilers faced them in October.
Their effort, execution and attention to detail will need to be exceptional if they hope to upset the red-hot Capitals.
Andrej Sekera avoided serious injury and will play tonight. He said he had numbness in his hand after being hit by a shot in Florida. He will play tonight and the D pairs will remain the same. Adam Larsson did not skate this morning and will miss his second consecutive game.
Benoit Pouliot joined the Oilers in Washington, and skated this morning, but he is still not ready to play.
Matt Niskanen was injured on Wednesday and will not play tonight. He leads their D corps in points (32), and plays over 22 minutes/night. Brooks Orpik will take the pre-game skate and is a game time decision.
- As mentioned earlier the Caps have scored 5+ goals in their last eleven home games. They’d only done it once in their first 19 home matches. The Oilers have scored 5+ goals four times at home, however, they have also done it six times on the road.
- Their 12-game home winning streak is the longest home winning streak in the NHL this year. They’ve outscored teams 62-19, and their PP is 35.7% (10 of 28). They don’t need many PP chances to score.
- It is a bit odd to see the Capitals penalized so much more than their opposition, considering they are the better team most nights. They’ve been shorthanded 200 times, while having the man advantage 176 times. Conversely, the Oilers have had 180 PP opportunities and been on the PK 173 times.
- Historically the Oilers haven’t had much success in Washington. In 35 career games the Oilers are 11-21-3, and you can’t blame the Decade of Darkness as they went 2-3-1 since 2006. The organization has never had much success in America’s capital city.
- Connor McDavid leads the NHL with 39 road points. Leon Draisaitl is tied for ninth with 30. Niklas Backstrom is second in the NHL in home points with 39, while Alex Ovechkin is ninth with 31. I hope we see those two lines go head-to-head this evening.
- Kevin Shattenkirk didn’t veto a trade to Edmonton, but he told them he wouldn’t sign an extension and there was no way Peter Chiarelli would make the deal unless he would get Shattenkirk to sign. The Blues could trade him to Edmonton now — he doesn’t have a NMC — but Chiarelli knows he won’t re-sign here so he won’t want to give up as much as a team who Shattenkirk would sign with. I’ve been told he has about 12 teams he’d sign with. No one should take it personally. It isn’t a knock on Edmonton. It is one player’s opinion. Some love it here, some don’t. Players have the right to choose where they want to play when they are UFAs.
- There are still tickets available for tonight’s #PrayForPlayoffs Party at the Pint Downtown. All the ticket info and event details are available here.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
On Thursday, the Washington Capitals recalled forward Riley Barber and defenseman Aaron Ness from Hershey. They both may play tonight.
After the Caps’ morning skate, Barry Trotz revealed that Matt Niskanen will miss tonight’s game, after the defenseman suffered a lower-body injury Wednesday against Philadelphia.
With Niskanen out, Nate Schmidt will return to the lineup while Taylor Chorney will get a jersey for a second straight game. Ness may get game action because of a lower-body issue Brooks Orpik is currently dealing with. The 36-year-old defenseman absorbed several big hits in Philadelphia and is questionable for tonight’s game.
Meanwhile, Riley Barber will take warmups for the Caps tonight as well and could make his NHL debut.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Capitals don’t score five goals, but they defeat the Oilers 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Backstrom picks up his league-leading 20th PP assist.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nation readers decide to ignore the trolls in the comments section. Instead of giving them the attention they crave, you ignore the inane comments because it is Positive Friday and choose to be the bigger person.
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