Welcome to Capitals Weekly! In this weekly column, I will take a look at the Washington Capitals’ upcoming games and highlight any potential storylines or matchups to watch, all while giving my predictions on how the Caps will do in that span. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section down below.
Another 2-0-1 record was predicted and another 2-0-1 record was delivered by the Washington Capitals this past week. If only I could find a way to bet on the weekly win-loss record for a team, although that would probably be the kiss of death for the Caps on the 2021-22 season.
Overall, I have to give the Capitals a “B+” for their grade this past week. However dominant the Caps looked in their first trip away from Capital One Arena this season against the New Jersey Devils, they quickly lost that momentum in the first period when the Calgary Flames visited the nation’s capital. Vitek Vanecek had his first rough outing of the season, allowing three goals on 13 shots before giving way to Ilya Samsonov after the first intermission. However, Washington never gave up and scored three goals of its own in the second period to force overtime and salvage a point.
Following the Capitals’ second overtime loss on the young season, the team headed north of the border for the first time since Aug. 20, 2020, exploding for four goals in the first period en route to a 7-5 win over the Ottawa Senators. Alex Ovechkin netted three tallies on the week to stay tied for the league-lead with seven goals on the season, while Anthony Mantha, Lars Eller, and Daniel Sprong combined for two goals and three assists for five points—a goal and two assists shy of what I had predicted for them for the week. Here’s a look ahead at what the upcoming week has in store for the Capitals:
Potential Point Nights
Eyes will be wide and mouths will be watering as the Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes come to D.C. to face the Capitals on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. Although the Red Wings are currently sitting in third place in the Atlantic Division, half a game ahead of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, they have had their fair share of struggles this season. Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, who is currently projected as of this writing to start tonight against the Capitals, has been slow to get going—posting a 1-1-1 record with a 3.40 goals-against average (GAA) and an .897 save percentage (SV%)—a far cry from his 15-5-3 showing with a 1.90 GAA and .932 SV% last season with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Arizona, on the other hand, is winless on the season and has given up 30 goals in six games en route to its current 0-5-1 record. The Coyotes also boast the league-worst penalty kill, converting just 35.7 percent of the time when down a man, so expect Washington’s power play to use this opportunity to get itself going for the season. At a 14.3 percent success rate, the power play has been one of the Capitals’ early season disappointments after finishing third in the NHL last year. These two games will be great opportunities for the offense to put up points and close out October on a high note. However, should Washington look ahead to its game against Tampa Bay on Monday, the Capitals will be in for a very long week.
Alex Ovechkin Will Still Be First to Score 10 Goals
Yes, I made the same prediction last week but this is the week that it actually happens. Ovechkin is currently tied for first place in the NHL in goals scored with seven, with two games against struggling goalies on the immediate horizon. In comparison, Elias Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane of the Flames are both sitting at seven goals apiece but only have one game prior to Saturday this week. Same for Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets, who are both sitting on six goals.
Washington will play the Wings and Coyotes prior to Saturday, giving Ovechkin ample opportunity to pot three more goals and be the first to hit double digits. My guess is he will do it on Friday against the Coyotes, but don’t be surprised if he were to get all three tonight against Detroit.
Connor McMichael Scores Frist NHL Goal(s)
Connor McMichael earned the first two points in his career on Monday in Ottawa, both assists, and has played well in his four games so far this season. Look for him to play with a little more confidence against the Red Wings and/or Coyotes—depending on if he is in the lineup—coming off his two-point night.
He will be primed to get his first opportunity to get in the goal column this week against very favorable matchups. Expect McMichael to use this week to prove that he wants to stay with the big club this season and take advantage of weak goaltending on home ice. Not only will he score his first goal, McMichael will also have his first multi-goal game.
I expect the Caps to continue their winning ways against the Red Wings and Coyotes heading into the weekend, but will suffer their first regulation loss of the season to the Lightning in Tampa on Monday, Nov. 1. Ovechkin will continue to score in bunches, taking sole possession of the league lead and being the first player to hit double digits on the season. While McMichael will ride the momentum from his first-ever NHL assists and parlay that into his first NHL goal and multi-goal game.
Agree or disagree with my weekly predictions? Leave your comments and own projections in the comments below!
Born and raised in Michigan, Kyle Knopp started playing hockey when he was 3 years old. Knopp has played, coached, or worked at every level of ice hockey — including three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and two seasons with the Detroit Red Wings where he was part of the Stanley Cup Championship team in 2008. He covers the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers and is the editor of THW’s Morning Skate newsletter. You can follow him on Twitter @THW_Knopp.