The Need to Knows
The Time: 7pm PT
The Place: Climate Pledge Arena in snowy Seattle, WA
Place to Watch: ROOT-Northwest, NBCSWA
Place to Listen: KJR 93.3 FM
Know your Enemy
Alex Ovechkin - Who else but the Russian Machine? He still doesn’t break even if he’s not getting quite the same miles per gallon these days. Ovi has 793 goals after potting two on Tuesday, only eight shy of the legendary Gordie Howe’s career total (801). Catching Howe this year would mean only Wayne Gretzky (894) sits ahead of Ovechkin as the top goal scorer of all time.
John Carlson - The 32 year old is the Cap’s best defenseman but was something of a late bloomer. While always an offensive threat from the back end, he stepped up his game in his late twenties and has been a complete player ever since, one who controls things in his own zone but has still managed 68 points or more four times in the last five seasons.
Darcy Kuemper - Fresh off his Stanley Cup win with the Colorado Avalanche, Kuemper signed with the Capitals last summer (5 x $5.25million). DK has a respectable 0.914 save percentage and is allowing 2.6 goals per game. The Capitals are sitting outside of the playoff picture in the east but that doesn’t appear to be Kuemper’s fault.
The fact is the Washington Capitals are still a very good team. Not mentioned above are players like Evgeny Kuznetsov, Conor Sheary and Dylan Strome. However, they are dealing with the injury bug, with Ovechkin’s co-star over the past decade, Nick Bäckström, having hip surgery this summer and on long term injured reserve, and more recently T.J. Oshie shelved with a lower body injury. Ovi still leads the way for the Caps, his 23 points the team high, but he’s a -12 already this season.
As noted above, Washington is not sitting in a playoff spot today. The Metropolitan is a tough division, and they’re only 3 points out of an Eastern Conference wild card spot, but the perennial favorite of a few years back looks beatable. The Caps are allowing 3.04 goals per game and scoring just 2.79. Both stats put them in the bottom half of the league. It’s two points that will go a long way toward playoff positioning (that’s where we’re at Kraken fans) and the Kraken have been rolling as of late.
I’d expect head coach Dave Hakstol to demand a tight performance from his club after the barn burner on Tuesday night. Philipp Grubauer is the likely starter against his old team because in spite of Martin Jones posting the win he had an ugly 0.771 save percentage, and look for Matty Beniers to continue his drive for the Calder. The rookie was already having a great season but has really hit his gear in November with 11 points over his last five games.
To be honest, I hope Ovechkin scores during the game. Before too long he’ll be a former player and the game may not see another shot like his any time soon. The Kraken, like every NHL team since 2006, will know precisely where he’s shooting from on the power play, but it’s unlikely to matter if the pass hits him on the tape. One goal for the Great 8, in the holiday spirit, and then we want a dominant defensive outing for the home club to kick off December right.