December 18 vs. Boston Bruins at TD Garden
Time: 7:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Washington Capitals (18-12-3)
Boston Bruins (16-10-4)
Washington closes out its season’s series with the Bruins in Boston on Saturday night. The B’s have taken two of the first three meetings between the two clubs this season with the Caps taking a 5-3 decision in the most recent of those three games, a Nov. 5 tilt at Verizon Center.
Boston is the first team the Caps will have finished up with for the season. Washington has yet to play Pittsburgh and Montreal in 2010-11.
For the Capitals, the biggest concern on this two-game trip – Washington visits Ottawa on Sunday – is to put an end to the team’s seven-game winless streak (0-5-2), its longest in more than three years.
Most recently, the Caps dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Anaheim Ducks at Verizon Center on Wednesday. Ryan Getzlaf’s goal with less than a minute remaining in the extra session handed the Capitals their fifth home ice loss in a row (0-4-1) and seventh overall.
Washington was happy with the way that it played against Anaheim, believing that its effort would result in far more wins than losses if replicated 82 times over the course of the regular season.
As they take to the road for back-to-back games in Boston and Ottawa this weekend, the Caps do so with three good, hard, lengthy practices under their belts this week. They probably haven’t had that much dedicated practice time since training camp.
“We covered all the areas that we wanted to cover,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “Obviously as a coach, it’s like a teacher. You just never think there’s enough coaching or enough teaching being able to get done. But I think we covered everything and hopefully now everybody who’s going to be playing has at least done what we want them to do.”
Systems work and special teams play are among the areas the Caps addressed during the week.
“It was good to go over some of the things that we don’t get to go over all the time and we’re kind of forced to just know what we’re supposed to do,” says Caps defenseman Mike Green. “Repetition is good for us. We were able to that this week with practice and hopefully we’ll be able to install this in the games coming up.”
After a 7-0 spanking at the hands of the Rangers in New York on Sunday, the Caps took Monday off. They practiced Tuesday, faced the Ducks on Wednesday, then practiced Thursday and Friday in preparation for a key weekend road trip against a pair of difficult Northeast Division foes.
“I think we all know how we have to play and what we have to do,” says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. “This kind of situation with three practices helps us feel good about ourselves.”
Washington posted the league’s best road record (24-10-7) last season, but the Capitals have struggled away from Verizon Center in 2010-11. The Capitals are just 6-7-1 on the road this season, and they’re 2-4-1 in their last seven away from home.
The Caps’ current seven-game losing skid is the team’s longest since a nine-game winless streak (0-6-3) in Feb.-Mar. 2007.
“Anytime you get some practice in, it’s good to brush up on some things,” says right wing Matt Bradley. ”We’ve done a couple of tweaks on our system, so any extra time we get to work on it, that’s great. We’re out there working hard and trying to have some fun. It’s been a rough couple weeks. We’ve all stuck together and we’re positive and we’ve just got to work our way out of this.
“It starts [Saturday] in Boston.”
They’ll need to score some goals. That’s been a problem of late. Washington has tallied just nine times during the life of its seven-game losing streak. Four of those came in one game. The Caps have scored one or zero goals five times during their current skid.
Although their plus-23 goal differential is third best in the NHL, the Bruins currently reside in eighth place in the NHL’s Eastern Conference standings. Boston has only played 30 games to date, one of the lowest totals in the league and three fewer than the Capitals. The Bruins have only four fewer standings points than does Washington.
Like the Capitals, the Bruins are in the midst of their longest losing streak of the season. For Boston, that’s just a three-game (0-2-1) slide.
Saturday’s game against the Capitals starts a three-game homestand for the Bruins. The B’s just came off a two-game trip that resulted in a pair of regulation losses to divisional foes Buffalo and Montreal.
Since the Caps and Bruins last met, Boston center Marc Savard has returned to the lineup. Savard missed time late last season with post-concussion symptoms, and that ailment kept him out of training camp this fall and out of action for the first two months of the season.
In his first seven games this season, Savard has a goal and three points while averaging 15:11 per night in ice time. He has averaged over 18 minutes a night every season since 2002-03.
Fourth-year left wing Milan Lucic has handled the bulk of the scoring load for Boston. He has 16 already, one shy of his personal best set two seasons ago. Lucic is one of nine different Bruins who’ve scored at least five goals thus far.
Special teams play has been significant in the three previous match-ups between the two teams this season. Washington has failed to score a power play goal in 11 extra-man opportunities against Boston while the Bruins have converted 5 of 11 (45.5%) power play tries against the Capitals.
Boston goaltender Tim Thomas has started all three games against Washington this season. He was pulled in the Nov. 5 loss to the Caps, and Tuukka Rask was tagged with the loss in relief.
Thomas is 2-0 with a 1.88 GAA and a .950 save pct. against Washington this season. He has stopped 95 of the 100 shots the Caps have poured in his direction in 2010-11.
Lifetime against the Capitals, Thomas is 12-4-2 with a 2.52 GAA and a .922 save pct.
In his six December starts, Thomas is 3-1-2 with a 1.78 GAA and a .951 save pct.
Overall this season, Thomas leads the NHL by a significant margin with a 1.63 GAA and a .951 save pct. He is tied for the league lead with five shutouts.