Washington Capitals Week Six Preview

The Washington Capitals (7-7) enter this week following two straight wins over the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers. They play four games over the next seven days, with two of them at Verizon Center and two on the road against Western Conference teams. The Capitals currently sit third in the Metropolitan division, one point behind the New York Islanders for the number two spot. We preview Washington’s four game slate this week below.

October 5th vs. New York Islanders

  • Record: 5-5-3, 2nd in Metropolitan Division
  • Goals per Game: 3.07 (10th)
  • Goals Against per Game: 3.00 (24th)
  • Power Play: 21.7% (7th)
  • Penalty Kill: 81.0% (18th)
  • Corsi Percentage: 49.3% (18th)

This growing young club made the biggest trade of the season, moving forward Matt Moulson and draft picks to the Buffalo Sabres for pending unrestricted free agent Thomas Vanek. Forwards Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen have combined for 12 goals and 33 points on the year. Vanek has three points in three games since he joined the Islanders.

Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

The biggest challenge for Washington will be stopping New York’s offensive attack, especially their top six forwards. Defenseman Karl Alzner should expect to be paired with the Islanders’ top line for the majority of the night. Containing New York’s speedy forwards including Michael Grabner and Nielsen will also be something to watch for. Forward Alex Ovechkin is expected to play for the Capitals, but Washington went 2-0 without him in the lineup this year.

October 7th vs. Minnesota Wild

  • Record: 8-4-3, 3rd in Central Division
  • Goals per Game: 2.53 (19th)
  • Goals Against per Game: 2.13 (5th)
  • Power Play: 24.6% (2nd)
  • Penalty Kill: 76.3 (28th)
  • Corsi Percentage: 55.2% (4th)

Washington’s second ranked penalty kill unit (90.7%) will be relied upon Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild. Forwards Jason Pominville, Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund have a combined 34 points in 15 games. Former Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter is a key focal point of their power play and defense.

Led by two capable goalies in Josh Harding (7-2-1) and Niklas Backstrom (1-1-2) , the Wild are second in the NHL allowing 2.13 goals per game. Harding has a 1.10 goals against average and .950 save percentage, while Backstrom has a 3.42 goals against average and .871 save percentage in only six games played.

October 9th at Phoenix Coyotes

  • Record: 10-3-2, 3rd in Pacific Division
  • Goals per Game: 3.27 (5th)
  • Goals Against per Game: 3.00 (25th)
  • Power Play: 19.6% (14th)
  • Penalty Kill: 81.4% (16th)
  • Corsi Percentage: 49.4% (17th)

While referred to as a weak hockey market, the Coyotes are an underrated team. They have two solid defensemen with Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Both have eleven points apiece in 15 games. Former Washington forward Mike Ribeiro signed a multi-year deal with Phoenix this offseason and has performed admirably, collecting ten points in 15 games, including one game winning goal.

The team has shown strong offensive depth in early part of this season, with nine players registering eight points or more. Former Capital Jeff Halpern has played in six games, winning 64.3% of his faceoff draws. Antoine Vermette has nine points and is winning 59.2% of his draws. While he doesn’t have a great goals against average at 2.87, goaltender Mike Smith (8-2-2) has been strong in net, currently with a .917 save percentage.

October 10th at Colorado Avalanche

  • Record: 12-1, 1st in Central Division
  • Goals per Game: 3.23 (6th)
  • Goals Against per Game: 1.46 (1st)
  • Power Play: 19.0% (16th)
  • Penalty Kill: 90.9% (1st)
  • Corsi Percentage: 50.5% (15th)

Where you do start with this team? They’ve been the surprise of the year, holding the best record in the league. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov (8-1) has been strong, posting a 1.78 goals against average and .944 save percentage even with legal issues surrounding him. They’re undefeated when scoring first and leading after the second period.

This game will be a good measuring stick for Washington to see if they can compete with top teams in the NHL, like the Chicago Blackhawks. They traded Steve Downie for veteran Max Talbot who could add even more to their top tanked penalty killing squad. Matt Duchene leads the Avalanche in scoring with nine goals and five assists in 13 games.

You can follow Matthew on twitter @m_speck and email him at mspeck21@yahoo.com with any questions or comments.