Caps Hope To Keep Motor Running in Motown
Wednesday, 03.16.2011 / 1:02 AM
Mike Vogel - WashingtonCaps.com Senior WriterMarch 16 vs. Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena
820AM, 1500AM and XM
Capitals Report/Pre-Cap Podcast at 2 p.m. on washingtoncaps.com
Washington Capitals (41-20-10)
Detroit Red Wings (41-20-8)
Two of the NHL’s 40-win teams square off in the Motor City on Wednesday when the Capitals continue a series of six straight road games with a visit to the Detroit Red Wings.
On Tuesday night in Montreal, the Caps denied netminder Carey Price’s bid for his 34th win of the season, a victory that would have given him sole possession of the NHL lead in wins among goalies.
On Wednesday night in Detroit, the Caps go up against another vaunted Original Six club with a goaltender – the Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard – who is seeking to earn his 34th win of the season to take the league lead in that department.
Washington’s 4-2 win over the Habs at Bell Centre on Tuesday pushed the team’s winning streak to nine straight games, the third-longest spree in franchise history. With a win over the Wings in Detroit on Wednesday, Washington would match the second-longest winning run in its 36-season franchise history.
The victory in Montreal was Washington’s sixth in succession on the road, matching a franchise mark that stood alone for nearly 27 years. A win over the Wings would put the 2010-11 Caps at the top of the franchise’s ledger for road winning streaks.
With eight wins in as many games in the month of March, Washington has already assured itself of a winning month before the halfway point of the month. The Capitals are 8-0 in March with seven games remaining on the slate for the month. The team’s best record ever in the month of March was in 1984 when it went 11-2-1.
Only once before in the club’s history has Washington had winning and losing streaks of seven games or more in the same campaign. Back in 1983-84, the Caps had a 10-game winning streak and a seven-game losing streak. Washington endured an eight-game losing streak (0-6-2) in December of this season in addition to its current nine-game winning run.
Detroit has been a tough town for the Capitals in recent seasons. The Caps have not won at the Joe since the lockout; their last win in Motown came more than seven years ago, on Nov. 24, 2003. Rastislav Stana backstopped the Caps to victory that night, becoming the first Slovakian goaltender in NHL history to earn a victory in the league. It would also be the only win of Stana’s career.
The Capitals are 2-5-1-2 in their last 10 regular season trips to Detroit. Five of those seven losses were by a single goal and one came in overtime.
Washington has now collected at least a point in 30 of its last 39 games (23-9-7). The Capitals have allowed 78 goals in those last 39 games for an average of exactly two tallies per tilt.
Detroit sits firmly atop the Central Division standings, six points ahead of Chicago. The Red Wings occupy the second spot in the Western Conference standings, two points up on the surging San Jose Sharks.
The Red Wings boast 11 players with double-digit goal totals this season, including two defensemen; Nicklas Lidstrom has 14 and Niklas Kronwall has 11. Along with Atlanta (Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom) and Buffalo (Jordan Leopold and Tyler Myers), the Winds are one of just three NHL clubs who boast two blueliners with 10 or more goals.
Detroit has allowed an average of 2.84 goals per game this season, 18th in the NHL. That figure is the worst among the current top eight teams in the Western Conference. Among the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference, only Tampa Bay (2.94) and Buffalo (2.87) has allowed a higher average of goals per game this season.
The Wings are not as invincible on home ice in 2010-11 as they’ve been in seasons past. Detroit’s 18-11-4 mark at the Joe is 10th best among the 15 Western Conference clubs, and the Wings’ total of 11 regulation losses on the home sheet is the club’s most since it went 27-12-2 at home in 1998-99. Detroit has not won fewer than 20 games at home since 1985-86 (10-26-4).
While Washington will be playing its third game in four nights on Wednesday in Detroit, the Red Wings have yet to play in that same span. The Wings have been idling quietly at home since their most recent game, a 5-3 win over the Blues in St. Louis on Saturday night.
The Red Wings are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games. Three of the Wings’ last five victories have come in overtime or the shootout.
The Capitals are seeking to pull even in games against the Western Conference this season on Wednesday. The Caps come into Motown with a 7-8-1 mark against Western clubs this season with two games remaining against foes from the opposite conference. The Capitals host the Columbus Blue Jackets at Verizon Center on March 31. Washington has won each of its last three games against Western clubs, all on home ice (St. Louis, Edmonton, Chicago) … The Red Wings are 10-3-1 against Eastern Conference opponents this season.