Less than twenty-four hours after puck drop last night in Montreal, the Canadiens will travel to Washington for their first meeting of the year with the Capitals.
Coming off a tough game at home, the Habs may be happy to have this opportunity to turn things around quickly. Undoubtedly they will be dealing with some tired legs on this second night of a back-to-back, though it won’t be much of an excuse as the Capitals played last night as well.
One of the hottest teams in the league in recent weeks, a win-streak heading into last night’s game in Carolina led to some separation in the second wildcard spot for the Capitals, who now sit narrowly outside the top three in their division with games in hand.
It will be up to the Habs to slow them down this evening, which will surely be no easy task. There is no word as of this writing as to which goaltender will square off against the Capitals, though we do know the team remains without Andrew Shaw who did not make this trip due to a concussion.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: City (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the United States: NHLN-US, CSN-DC
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.89||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||53.87|
|1.57||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.38|
*Statistics do not reflect games played Friday, December 16
While the Capitals calling card in seasons past has been a high-powered offence, the same has not necessarily been true this year. Certainly the Caps feature a slew of dangerous shooters, but it has been goaltending that has kept Washington in the hunt through the first third of the season.
Braden Holtby has been old reliable in the Washington crease, as he boasts a steady .925 SV%, giving whomever suits up for the Habs some stiff opposition at the other end of the rink this evening. Philipp Grubauer has been impressive in relief as well, actually putting up better numbers than his starter.
Of course, they’ve had tremendous help from the rest of the team, who have been playing dominant possession hockey since the beginning of the year. Few teams have had more control of the puck than the Capitals, who are a threatening team when they dictate the pace of play.
Nicklas Backstrom has been the team’s leader offensively thus far, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise given his playmaking ability. With 17 assists, Backstrom has been the catalyst for the Capitals’ offence.
The focus of defences league-wide, though, is Alex Ovechkin, who hasn’t been having his best season statistically but remains the teams’ goal-scoring leader. After finishing with at least 50 goals in each of the past three seasons, Ovechkin is on pace for just 38 this season - though we know he has the ability to break out at any moment.
As one would expect in Montreal, Carey Price’s glare towards the bench on Friday night is garnering a lot of attention, and he’ll have the chance to put that story to bed as he is slated to start versus the Capitals.
This is the stare everyone is asking for. Hard to tell who Price is looking at, but he's clearly not happy. pic.twitter.com/HegDzAgFKd— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 17, 2016
If the Habs are to be victorious in this game, there are a few obvious adjustments that need to be made from Friday night. While the Caps’ power play hasn’t been anything to write home about, no team can afford to give up offensive minutes against a team as stingy as Washington, so avoiding the penalty box will be essential.