Washington enters the weekend in first place in the Metropolitan Division with 73 points through the team’s first 57 games, while the Blackhawks find themselves in unfamiliar territory on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff picture. Chicago has just 56 points in 58 games so far this year and the Blackhawks trail the Wild by 11 points for the final wild card spot in the West.
Holtby vulnerable on the road
The Capitals defeated the Minnesota Wild 5-2 on Thursday night behind another big night from Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin scored his league-leading 34th goal of the season and finished with three assists on the night, while Tom Wilson also scored twice to help Washington get back on the winning track. Ovechkin has dominated the Wild throughout his NHL career, compiling 15 goals and 10 assists in 14 career games against the Wild. In eight career games in Minnesota, Ovechkin now has 11 goals. Prior to win over Minnesota, the Capitals had lost four of their previous six games, narrowing their Metropolitan Division lead to just three points in the process.
Washington comes in ranked seventh in the NHL in goals per game at 3.1 per contest, but 17th in the league in goals against at 2.9 per game.
Braden Holtby is expected to be between the pipes for Washington in this game. He enters the weekend with a 28-10-4 overall record to go along with a 2.82 GAA and a .913 save percentage for the season. While Holtby has been stellar in net for the Capitals this season, he’s been a little more vulnerable on the road, compiling a 3.61 GAA and a .895 save percentage away from home this year.
Blackhawks might be fighting for Quenneville’s job
The Blackhawks lost their eighth straight game on Thursday, losing at home to the Anaheim Ducks by the score of 3-2. Chicago built a 2-0 advantage behind second period goals from Duncan Keith and Brandon Saad, but couldn’t hang on to get the win. Anton Forsberg stopped 29 of the 32 shots that came his way on the night, but the 25-year-old goaltender dropped to just 5-11-3 in 19 starts this season. He has allowed at least three goals in each of his last four starts.
Chicago is winless in the month of February and the Blackhawks have failed to collect a single point since Feb. 3.
Forsberg is expected to be the goaltender for Chicago again in this game. He comes in with a 3.05 GAA and a .907 save percentage for the season.
The Blackhawks rank 16th in the NHL in goals against at 2.9 per contest and seventh in the NHL in penalty killing percentage at 82.7 percent.
- Capitals are 1-5 in their last 6 road games vs. a team with a losing home record.
- Blackhawks are 4-1 in their last 5 when their opponent scores 5 goals or more in their previous game.
- Blackhawks are 11-5 in their last 16 vs. Metropolitan.
It’s not easy to lose nine games in a row in the National Hockey League. The Blackhawks are reeling right now and they might need a win to save Joel Quenneville’s job. Braden Holtby has been susceptible to having some poor performances on the road this season and Washington is a pedestrian 13-9-5 away from home on the year. This might not be a popular pick, but I’m leaning towards the Blackhawks snapping their skid at home against the Caps in this battle between two teams currently not playing their best hockey.