The Washington Capitals showed why they’re a Stanley Cup contender on Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche. On the road in a hostile environment against a really good Avalanche team, and the Capitals calmly erased a 2-1 deficit late to win 3-2 in regulation. Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie, and Nicklas Backstrom all found the back of the net for the Capitals.
Braden Holtby’s performance cannot be understated as well. He showed up big with 32 saves on 34 shots for a 0.941 save percentage. Evgeny Kuznetsov was unavailable to play against the Avalanche, but it didn’t matter for the Capitals. They have so many playmakers that they can turn to that one of them out of the lineup isn’t harmful.
Kuznetsov may be able to return to the line in the desert, though. Kuzy suffered an upper-body injury after a collision against the Islanders, so he’s fortunate to only miss a game or three likely at most. Other than him the Capitals are not dealing with any injuries. Alex Ovechkin has been held off the stat sheet the last three games, but he has been active on the ice.
It wasn’t the kind of active Ovechkin was looking for against the Islanders, as he recorded a -4 +/- in a 5-3 loss. If this is a small cooling off period for him, then Todd Reirden will be okay with that. The idea is that he can look invisible for a few games and then catch fire for the final push and playoffs. When Ovechkin is on fire there isn’t any defence that is capable of completely containing him for 60 minutes.
Despite no goals in the last three games, Ovechkin has notched 40 goals on the season. Even at 34 years old, he’s shown no signs of slowing down at all. Don’t expect him to go down quietly in 2019-20. The Capitals are trying to fend off the Penguins while attempting to catch the Boston Bruins. Boston is currently up on Washington by 3 points heading into Saturday.
All the Presidents’ Trophy has done is bring a curse to the Capitals, so they might want to avoid going that far, though. The Bruins are the top team in the Eastern Conference, along with the rest of the league. The Capitals’ opponent tight, the Arizona Coyotes, are hanging on by a hair over in the Western Conference. They’re grasping onto a wildcard at the moment, but there isn’t much room for error in Arizona. It’s a big game for them at home tonight. Head below for our free Capitals vs. Coyotes pick.
Washington Capitals vs. Arizona Coyotes Betting Odds:
Capitals vs. Coyotes Prediction:
The Coyotes acquired Taylor Hall from the New Jersey Devils to give the offence a boost, and while that’s happened a bit, the wins haven’t totally matched up with what people expected for a trade of that calibre. Don’t blame that on Hall, though, because there’s an easy explanation for why the Coyotes are struggling to get an advantage in the Western Conference. Darcy Kuemper, who was playing in Vezina territory, hasn’t played since December 19.
Kuemper left with a 2.17 GAA and 0.929 save percentage, which is by far the best of the three goalies that the Coyotes have utilized this season. His timeline to a return still isn’t clear, so the Coyotes are trying to hang in there without his expertise. The Coyotes have been forced to play more of an offensive game without Kuemper, and it’s worked at times, but it certainly isn’t their speciality. Sitting on leads and letting Kuemper grind out a 3-1 or 3-2 win isn’t available now.
Antti Raanta, who was expected to be the starting netminder for the Yotes this season, is expected to get the starting nod against the dangerous Capitals on Saturday night. Raanta hasn’t been able to compare to Kuemper, as he holds a 2.83 GAA and 0.915 save percentage. Because of Kuemper’s exit with an injury, the Coyotes have fallen to 5th in the league with 2.68 goals against per game. In their previous ten games, the Coyotes have yielded 3.3 goals per game, so that lock down defensive presence has not been there when they need it most.
Like I noted, the offence has been better for the Coyotes with Hall, but certainly not enough to make up for the absence of Kuemper. They’re also still prone to going through dry spells offensively like at the moment. The Coyotes haven’t scored more than 3 goals in a game since January 14 against the Sharks. In their last ten games, they’ve managed just 2.4 goals per game.
That doesn’t bode well for them against the Capitals in this one. If they continue down that path tonight, it’s unlikely the Coyotes can win. The Capitals have been hot, with 3.9 goals in their last ten outings, which is typical for a team of their stature. Arizona has gone just 2-9 in their last 11 games, as the problems continue to mount without Kuemper between the pipes. He’s certainly made this team look a lot better than they really are. The Capitals look like the play here.