NHL Extra: Breaking down Capitals vs. Blackhawks

Looking for the numbers breakdown for how these two teams stack up? Look no further as we’ve got you covered as the Capitals take on the Blackhawks from Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. at 12:30 p.m. ET.

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CSN Chicago’s Tracey Meyers tells us about how every point is crucial for both teams.

Team scoring

Washington’s offense this season, as you may have heard, is struggling a bit. The Caps average 2.64 goals per game putting them 22nd overall in the league. Their 185 goals scored this year also puts them 22nd in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin, by far, is the team’s top offense producer scoring 28 goals with 45 assists and 73 points overall.

Chicago’s offense has been awesome this year scoring 223 goals so far this year, good for third best in the league. Their 3.21 goals per game is good for a tie for second in the NHL. Jonathan Toews is the team’s leading scorer with 68 points, but Patrick Sharp is their big goal scorer leading the team with 34 on the season. Sharp is second on the team in points with 63.

Goaltending

Braden Holtby is today’s starter for Washington and the 21 year-old rookie has been great so far this year filling in for injured Semyon Varlamov. Holtby is 7-2-2 with a 1.84 goals against average and a .934 save percentage. He hasn’t seen as much work as today’s backup Michal Neuvirth, but he’s been outstanding in the games he’s played and he’s been hot of late.

Chicago is led by Corey Crawford in goal and the rookie has been great. He’s 26-13-4 this season with a 2.26 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. With the job Crawford’s done in goal this year, he’s made free agent pickup and backup goalie Marty Turco virtually irrelevant.

Special teams

Washington enters today with a miserable power play. Scoring at just 16.2% of the time, the Caps are 23rd in the NHL with the extra man. Making up for that, their penalty kill is third overall in the NHL killing penalties at an 85.8% clip. They’ll need to be that good because Chicago’s power play is good.

The Blackhawks power play is second best in the league scoring 23.6% of the time. Scoring on virtually one out of every four chances is outstanding and with the likes of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane out there it makes sense. On the PK, Chicago’s a bit worse. Chicago’s kill is 25th in the league killing just 75.8% of the penalties they face. Luckily for them the Caps power play is as bad as its been.

Streaks and standings

Washington enters the game with a seven game winning streak and sitting atop the Southeast Division by three points over Tampa Bay. The Capitals are sitting in the number two seed in the Eastern Conference and trail the Flyers for the top spot by three points. The Caps are also ahead of the Bruins by three points for second.

Chicago comes into this game having dropped their last two games. Previous to that, however, they were winners of eight in a row. Chicago sits in second place in the Central Division with 81 points and trails Detroit by nine. The Blackhawks are in a four-way tie for fifth place in the Western Conference with Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Calgary. Even the shortest of losing streaks can sink you down the standings out West.

Injuries

There’s one key injury in today’s game as Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom will not play as he’s dealing with a broken thumb. Slotting into the center spot alongside Alex Ovechkin is Marcus Johansson.

NHL Extra

If you’d like to ask James and I questions and get our thoughts on today’s game, you can join us for NHL Extra online and follow along with the action that way. To join us for NHL Extra click here. We’ll be kicking things off at 12:30 p.m.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.