Once again, the NBC Sports network has branded their matchup of the week as a rivalry when it truly is not one. This week’s Wednesday Night Rivalry features the Washington Capitals traveling to the Motor City to take on the Detroit Red Wings. This game promises to be another entertaining one due to the amount of talent on each side. However, there is a difference between a good matchup and a rivalry and these two teams are not rivals. If you ask a die-hard Red Wings fan to list his most hated teams, I highly doubt the Capitals would even make the top five. The same could be said about Caps fans. There are plenty of other teams people from the United State’s capital dislike more than Detroit.
Unfortunately, the purpose of the this segment does not involve debating whether a Wednesday Night Rivalry is actually one. For our sanity’s sake, we will treat this matchup as it is branded by NBC Sports. So without further ado, let’s have a look at this week’s Clash of the Rivals, the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings.
Although calling this a rivalry may be a stretch, the Capitals and their fans do have at least one reason to dislike the Red Wings. In the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals, these two teams faced off against one another. This was Detroit’s second straight cup appearance and Washington’s first in franchise history. Unfortunately for the Caps, things did not quite go the way they planned as they were swept by the Wings. This second straight Stanley Cup Championship for the Red Wings was the last time a defending champion entered the Stanley Cup Finals the following year and won it again.
Over the last ten games between these two franchises, the Capitals have the small edge with six victories. However, the Red Wings managed to come out on top with a 1-0 victory when these two teams met earlier this month. This Red Wings victory took place in Detroit which just so happens to be where the game will be played on Wednesday. Although the Capitals have won six of their last ten against the Red Wings, most of the games have been down to the wire with only a one goal differential.
So far this season, the Washington Capitals have been the better team. This cannot be viewed as much of a surprise to most as the Caps are seen as one of the favorites to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2016. Washington scores more goals than Detroit while also managing to allow less goals than the red and white. In addition, the Capitals demonstrate more success on the power play ranking 7th overall in power point percentage. The Red Wings find themselves on the wrong end of the split down the middle currently being ranked 18th. Unlike the power play, both of these squads sport a pretty successful penalty kill. Washington currently sits in 7th in penalty kill percentage, while the Red Wings are right behind them in 8th. What it all comes down to in the end is whether or not Detroit can stop Washington’s offense which is good enough for fifth best in the NHL with 3.06 goals per game.
Players to Watch
When it comes down to it, there is only one player that every single viewer should keep their eyes on the entire game. If you know anything about hockey, you most likely already know who I am talking about. At age 30, Alexander Ovechkin continues to demonstrate that he is one of the most, if not the most, dominant players in the National Hockey League. In the fifteen games Ovechkin has played in so far this season, he has recorded eight goals and eight assists. This may not be the highest totals in the league, but Ovechkin’s impact on the Capitals’ success cannot be ignored. Number-eight is not the only member of the Caps off to a good start. Evgeny Kuznetsov currently leads the red, blue, and white in both points and assists. Justin Williams, Nicklas Backstrom, and John Carlson have all managed to record double-digit points early on as well.
The Red Wings have their fair share of talented players as well. Henrik Zetterberg currently leads the team in both points and assists. Even at 35-years-old, the Sweden native is continuing to show that he still has what it takes to be amongst the NHL’s top players. The Wings also got back another key piece to their team, Pavel Datsyuk, who has been out due to injury. Detroit is hoping that is does not take him long to get back into the groove of things and start producing. Dylan Larkin, Tomas Tatar, and Gustav Nyquist all have ten or more points for the red and white half way through November.
When it comes to the goalie matchup, we can expect Braden Holtby to take the ice for Washington while Jimmy Howard does the same for Detroit. Both individuals are respectable net-minders but Holtby is finding his way into elite goaltender status discussions. In thirteen games between the pipes, he is 9-40 with a GAA of 2.01 and a SV% of .919.
When the final horn sounds on Wednesday night, I do believe that the Washington Capitals will be the one’s walking away with the victory. The Caps just have too many weapons and one of the best goaltenders in the league. Detroit was able to blank the Caps last time these two teams took the ice against one another but they will not be that lucky this time around. If anybody gets shutout, one would have to imagine it will be due to incredible play by Mr. Holtby.
John Gove is an elementary school educator who writes about hockey in his spare team. Over the past five years, John has covered the game at various levels. Now, he exclusively focuses his coverage on prospects and the developmental leagues.