Returning home for the first time in 10 days, the Jackets host the Capitals tonight in a Metropolitan Division matchup. They’ll be looking to beat the Capitals at Nationwide Arena for the first time since December 16, 2019 – but it will not be an easy task.
The Caps are slumping with a 4-6-0 record in their last 10 games. Still, they’re currently sitting 4th in the Metro with a 26-20-6 record (58 points) and holding down the first wild card spot. Unfortunately for them, both of the teams trailing them have played three fewer games, and sit just 2 (Pittsburgh) and 3 (Buffalo) points back. They should be a hungry team tonight.
The Jackets hold a league-worst 15-32-3 record (33 points); but return from their annual Western Canada swing on a somewhat positive note, taking a 1-2-1 trip against four competitive teams. Their 3-6-1 record over the last 10 games isn’t much different than Washington’s, but they have looked listless in the last two games – which have seen them outscored by a combined 8-3 margin.
This will be the third meeting of the season between the teams, with Washington winning both games thus far. On January 5th, the Caps laid a 6-2 beating on the Jackets at Nationwide. Just three nights later, the game was played to a much closer 1-0 score, but goaltender Darcy Kuemper stood tall with a 38 save shutout.
Alexander Ovechkin leads the way for the Capitals with 32 goals (7th in the league), and 54 points on the season. Evgeni Kuznetsov leads the way with 35 assists; and we should always keep an eye on Garnet Hathaway, who seems to score at least half of his goals against the Blue Jackets every season.
The Jackets are led in scoring by Johnny Gaudreau (48 points), who also leads the team with 35 assists. Boone Jenner and Patrik Laine are tied for the team lead with 14 goals; but the story of late is rookie Kirill Marchenko, who scored 4 goals in the first 3 games of the western swing, and sits at 13 on the season. He has yet to add an assist, which has him in some pretty rare company.
It’s the final game before the All-Star break for both teams, so look for everyone on both sides to empty the tanks. While the Jackets are essentially playing for pride at this point, this is a very important game for the Capitals: they need to come away with 2 points to keep pace with the teams around them in the standings.
Season Series: Washington leads 2-0-0, with a 7-2 goal differential
All-time Series: Washington leads 34-20-1 (tie), with an average goal differential of 3.2-2.7
Likely starters: Joonas Korpisalo, Darcy Kuemper
Three Points of Emphasis
- Stay out of the box. The Capitals power-play is middle of the pack – but Ovechkin can still bring it, and he only needs one opportunity to make you pay.
- Find a way to score. The Jackets have managed just 1.5 goals per game against the Caps so far this season. Putting pucks behind Darcy Kuemper is critical to having success tonight.
- Everyone plays defense. With Nick Blankenburg and Adam Boqvist both injured again, the Jackets are leaning on players like Gavin Bayreuther and Marcus Bjork to play defense. This is not ideal, and it’s important for everyone to chip in defensively if they’re going to be in this game at all.