The Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals conclude their home and home series tonight in Washington. The Jets and Caps are fresh off a meeting in Winnipeg, which resulted in a 3-2 final score for the Capitals. No surprise here that the Capitals have gotten off to a 6-2-1 start to the 2016-17 season. For the Capitals and their fans though, the regular season almost feels like one long preseason schedule. They are a shoe-in to make the playoffs again this season, but after choking year after year in the playoffs, it’s been Stanley Cup or bust for the Caps.
And once again this season, the Capitals have to win a Stanley Cup to get some respect. Even though Ovechkin has not reached a Stanley Cup Final, I think it would be a failure for them to reach the finals and lose at this point. The Caps need four wins in the Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins got the best of the Caps again last season, stopping the Capitals in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The heart and energy of the Capitals is of course Alexander Ovechkin. Ovi is off to a solid start, with 4 goals and 2 assists on the season. All it takes is a few strong games from him and the next thing you know it he’s on fire. He’s scored 50 goals the last three seasons and I wouldn’t put it past him to do it again. The Capitals will look for the home and home sweep against the Jets with a win tonight. For the Jets, they are off to a fairly predictable start as well. They enter Thursday night with a record of 4-6-0, and for one of the most average teams in the NHL, two games below .500 is par for the course.
The Jets finished 35-39-8 after flirting with .500 all season long. This coming after a season which saw them go to the playoffs. The problem for the Jets is that they have a difficult time adding talent, and will continue to as long as they play in Winnipeg. With all of the destinations out there to play hockey, the Jets would have to splurge on getting elite talent to come to Winnipeg. All the Jets can do is draft right and play the free agent market correctly with their bankroll. It’s the Capitals and Jets tonight from Winnipeg.
The Capitals’ two losses have come against the Rangers and Oilers. The Rangers have been playing great hockey this season, as have the Oilers. Nevertheless, a loss to the Oilers is always a surprise for a team like the Caps. Since then, Washington has won three straight games, all coming on the road. With a playmaker like Ovechkin on the team, it can be easy to overlook how good their defense is. However, with Braden Holtby in net, the Capitals have had one of the top defenses in the league the past couple of years. They are currently tied for 2nd in the NHL, with 2 goals allowed per game. Last season they finished 2nd overall, allowing 2.33 goals per game.
The Jets trailed the Capitals significantly in the defensive department, as they allowed 2.88 goals per game for 22nd in the league. That isn’t the best, but most of their issues stem from a lack of playmakers. The Jets were 20th in goals scored last season, and are currently in the bottom half of the league in 24th. I expect the Capitals to win a comfortable one tonight at home. A 4-1 win or so looks in order for Washington tonight.
PICK: CAPITALS -1.5 (-105)