Another Trade Deadline Day is in the books, and teams are eagerly ripping the packaging off their new presents found under the tree or saying goodbye to old friends. But the business of hockey once more gives way to the action on the ice, and the Washington Capitals return to the Capital One Arena ice sheet on Tuesday night to host the Ottawa Senators. The Caps have alternated wins and losses much of the time over their last ten games, the exception being consecutive wins on the road last week in Los Angeles and Toronto against the Kings and Maple Leafs. They will be looking to extend their current home winning streak to three games, a feat they have not accomplished since winning three in a row on home ice in late November.
Ottawa comes to Washington a mystery in terms of the team they will send to the ice. Having already dealt forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, and Mark Stone widely expected to be dealt on Monday (UPDATE: Stone was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday afternoon), it is entirely possible that the Senators will ice a team whose leading goal scorer is rookie Brady Tkachuk. Taken with the fourth-overall pick in last summer’s entry draft, Tkachuk has 14 goals in 51 games, tied for fourth among all rookies this season (with Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov). However, as is the case with many rookies, his season has been beset by fits and starts. He opened the season with nine goals in his first 14 games, but he has only five goals in his last 37 games. He has only one goal in his last 18 road games. Tkachuk is certainly a feisty player, too. The 22 penalties he has taken in 51 games trails only Svechnikov (25 in 61 games) among rookies, and his 63 penalty minutes trails only Winnipeg’s Brendan Lemieux (64) in the rookie class. Tkachuk has two assists in two career games against the Caps.
The Senators will lose nine power play goals with the departures of Duchene and Dzingel, 14 if Stone is moved. That will leave Colin White as the team leader in power play goals scored (five, tied with Bobby Ryan). White is in his first full season with the Senators after getting a brief two-game look in 2016-2017 and a longer 21-game stint last season. White is the leading point-getter among rookies for the Sens (32, one more than Tkachuk), is tied among Ottawa rookies in game-winning goals (two, with Tkachuk and Drake Batherson), and leads all Senator forwards in blocked shots (27) and takeaways (19). He is, though, another player who started well and then faded in his goal scoring, posting six goals in his first 17 games this season but only seven in his last 39 contests. White is 1-1-2, minus-1, in two career games against the Caps.
Thomas Chabot has been among the league leading defensemen all season in a number of offensive categories. Through Sunday’s games, he was tied for fourth among defensemen in goals (13), tied for 11th in assists (34), tied for seventh in points (47), and he did it as one of the league’s top minutes consumers, one of 20 league defensemen averaging at least 24 minutes per game (24:09/18th). Chabot’s development has been quite impressive. He was taken 18th overall in the 2015 entry draft, the fifth defenseman taken in what was a pretty deep draft at the position (Noah Hanafin, Ivan Provorov, Zach Werenski, and Jakub Aboril taken ahead of him; Brandon Carlo and Vince Dunn, among others, taken later). Two years ago, he got into one game with the Senators, and last year he appeared in 63 games as a rookie, going 9-16-25. He was second among rookie defensemen in goals last season, seventh in assists, and fifth in points. This season breaks down into three parts for Chabot. He was 5-17-22 in his first 16 games before “slumping” to 5-12-17 in his next 28 games. He has picked up lately, going 3-5-8 in his last ten contests. Chabot is 0-1-1, minus-1, in three career games against the Caps.
1. Ottawa does not travel well. They are tied for last in the league in road wins (eight, with New Jersey), last in standings points (17), last in goals allowed 131, 29th in shots on goal allowed (1,089), last in shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 (44.45), and last in shot attempt differential at 5-on-5 (minus-325).
2. Ottawa loses big, and they lose close. Only Edmonton and New Jersey have lost more games by three or more goals (19) than Ottawa (18). Only Vancouver and Detroit have lost more one-goal games in regulation (11) than the Senators (nine).
3. Watch the second period of this game. No team has scored more second period goals than the Caps (82), and no team has allowed more second period goals than the Senators (81, tied with Detroit).
4. If Ottawa allows the first goal, it is a bad sign for the Senators. They have won seven games when allowing the first goal. Only New Jersey has fewer wins in those situations (four).
5. Ottawa leads the league in major penalties (22).
1. The Caps have allowed 14 goals over their last three home games. It is their highest total of goals allowed on home ice of any three-game stretch this season.
2. No team in the Eastern Conference has been penalized as often as the Caps, 256 penalties in 63 games, eight more than the New York Rangers (in 62 games).
3. The Caps sit on 999 blocked shots this season. We know you’re on pins and needles about which player will make it “1,000.”
4. Chances are, the Caps will lose at least 15 faceoffs in this game (their season low is 23 faceoff losses). That 15th faceoff loss will make the Caps the first team this season with 2,000 faceoff losses.
5. The Caps have displayed an odd talent this season – squeezing out a point when the opponent scores first. No team has earned a point in more games when allowing the first goal than the Caps – 19 games (12 wins, seven extra time losses), tied with Minnesota (16 wins, three extra time losses).\
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Ottawa: Bobby Ryan
Even on trade deadline day, there are some contracts that really can’t be moved. Bobby Ryan signed a seven-year/$50.75 million deal with a modified no-trade/no-movement clause in October 2014 (source: capfriendly.com). Now in the fourth year of that deal, the Senators have a high teens goal scorer (18 per 82 games) and a mid-40’s points producer (46 points per 82 games over the four seasons). If Caps fans need a comparable, that is pretty much the scoring line for Brooks Laich in his best years here (20-28-48 per 82 games over five years, from 2007-2008 through 2011-2012). The difference being that Ryan once put together four straight 30-plus goal seasons. It is not entirely a function of diminished ice time that Ryan’s numbers have slipped. He averaged 17:38 a game in Anaheim over six seasons, and he has averaged 16:38 in six seasons with Ottawa. Ryan has picked up the scoring pace on the road, though. Over his first 15 road games this season, he was 3-6-9, minus-6. In his last 14 road games, he is 6-6-12, minus-12. Ryan is 7-6-13, minus-6, in 21 career games against the Capitals.
Washington: T.J. Oshie
T. J. Oshie is closing on a few milestones in his career as a Washington Capital. He has 95 goals in four seasons with the club, in a race with Evgeny Kuznetsov (96 goals) to become the 28th player in team history to reach the 100-goal mark with the club. He is three assists away from becoming the 48th player in team history to record at least 100 assists. Eight points, and he will become the 41st player to reach 200 points with the Caps. In 52 games this season, Oshie has already matched the 18 goals he recorded in 74 games last season, and while he will not approach the career-best 33 goals he had two seasons ago, he could challenge the 26 goals he recorded for the Caps in 2015-2016, his second-highest career goal total for a season in the NHL.
What the Caps are hoping for at this point in the season is for Oshie to improve his production somewhat. He started the season with 10 goals in his first 19 games. The 23.8 shooting percentage on which that start was built was not sustainable (his career average is 13.7 percent). And things did change; he has only 8 goals over his last 33 games on 12.1 percent shooting. It would be a plus if his home scoring picked up in particular. Oshie has two goals over his last 11 home games. It matters; the Caps have not lost a game in regulation on home ice this season in which Oshie recorded a goal (8-0-1). Not only that, Washington has yet to lose a game in regulation in games in which Oshie recorded a point (13-0-2). Oshie is 4-7-11, plus-9, in 18 career games against Ottawa.
In the end…
There is a serious temptation here to look past this game, against a struggling opponent, with whom there isn’t a lot of history; a team that will be icing a hybrid team of youngsters, prospects, aging vets that cannot be moved, in anticipation of the contest later this week in New York against the Islanders. On paper, Ottawa does not come within a time zone of beating the Caps in this game. And that is what makes it so dangerous. For the Caps, the first order of business will be to jump on this team early, so that the Senators don’t get too frisky an attitude and think they can actually win this game. Of course, given the Caps’ third period issues this season, no game is over until it is over, either.
Capitals 6 – Senators 3