Mike Knuble, Niklas Hjalmarsson

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.

Ducks give Bruins first loss under Cassidy, putting … Islanders in wild card

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 22:  Korbinian Holzer #5 of the Anaheim Ducks pushes David Backes #42 of the Boston Bruins during the second period of a game at Honda Center on February 22, 2017 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Wednesday was a night of futility in the Eastern Conference wild card races, so it make sense that a team that didn’t even play ended up grabbing the second spot.

To recap:

  • The Florida Panthers began the night in the second wild card spot. However, they were knocked down the totem pole when they lost in regulation to the Edmonton Oilers.
  • The Boston Bruins inherited the second wild card spot from Florida, but the Anaheim Ducks just gave them their first loss under Bruce Cassidy. With that defeat coming in regulation, it meant that the Bruins’ stay in the East’s top eight lasted mere hours.
  • So, congrats to the New York Islanders, who enjoyed the rare tiebreaker treat of climbing into playoff position even though they didn’t even play on Wednesday.

(The Philadelphia Flyers were out of reach here, but they didn’t do themselves any favors in losing to the Washington Capitals.)

Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were kept off the board as Jonathan Bernier won one for the Ducks, who stay right behind the Edmonton Oilers in a battle for second in the Pacific.

Despite Pastrnak’s -3 rating in this one, Marchand probably had the toughest night thanks to Bernier and Josh Manson:

This one hurts, but it’s also a reminder that there will probably be plenty of twists and turns in the races for the lower spots in the East and Atlantic Division. With that in mind, the Bruins have to shake it off and get ready to face the Kings in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Kuznetsov, bad breaks baffle Flyers in loss to Capitals

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Here’s what went right for the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday: the Florida Panthers lost. Yep, that’s about it.

Otherwise, it was a pretty lousy time, as the Washington Capitals beat them at home 4-1 tonight.

Washington’s big names came to play here, highlighted by Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring two goals. T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom enjoyed one-goal, one-assist nights while Justin Williams and Alex Ovechkin both grabbed two assists.

The Capitals won their first game after a bye week (following two losses), improving their Metropolitan Division lead to five points and Presidents’ Trophy edge over Minnesota to three.

The Flyers fail to make up some ground in the Eastern Conference wild card race, staying at 63 standings points in 60 games played. The Panthers are tied with the Islanders and Bruins at 66 points, though Boston can change the picture ever so slightly against Anaheim (still in action) tonight.

The bottom line, again, is that the Flyers failed in a chance to get a little closer to that logjam for the last East spot.

Of course, plenty of Flyers fans will grumble about missed opportunities and iffy calls. Mike Milbury broke down the early setbacks that made life that much tougher for Philly:

Philly couldn’t overcome the Capitals and that bad luck, making their playoff hopes a little dimmer as the trade deadline approaches.

Oilers win on rare Russell goal, Panthers fall out of second wild card spot

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The Edmonton Oilers’ 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers might end up being costly if Andrej Sekera misses significant time.

But, hey, at least it was a win.

The two rising squads engaged in a back-and-forth game, with the Oilers winning in regulation. Maybe fittingly with Edmonton leaking defensemen lately: Kris Russell was the guy to score the game-winner, set up by Connor McDavid‘s blazing speed and a nice pass by Leon Draisaitl.

It was Russell’s first goal in more than a year.

The Oilers will remain in the second spot in the Pacific at the end of the night whether the Anaheim Ducks beat the Boston Bruins or not. Interestingly, this puts them in a reasonable position to catch the Sharks for first place in the division, too.

1. Sharks – 77 points in 60 games
2. Oilers – 74 points in 61 games
3. Ducks – 72 points in 61 games (in progress vs. Boston)

The Oilers likely had some fans out East tonight, as this loss pushes Florida down the wild card rankings. They’re actually out of the second spot thanks to tiebreakers.

Second wild card spot: Bruins – 66 points in 59 games, 30 wins and 28 ROW (in progress)

Islanders – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 27 ROW
Panthers – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 25 ROW

The Isles would move into the second spot if Boston loses in regulation, underscoring just how congested this situation is. But either way, the Panthers won’t be in the East’s top eight at the end of the night.

With Gibson out, Ducks recall interesting goalie: Enroth

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11: Jhonas Enroth #35 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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One player’s injury is another player’s opportunity.

Considering how much the Anaheim Ducks lean on John Gibson, it’s troubling that he’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Even so, it’s interesting to note that such a situation prompted the team to recall Jhonas Enroth, who will back up Jonathan Bernier during Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins.

With the way Bernier’s been playing at times, it’s not impossible that Enroth could play as soon as tonight. But if he doesn’t you have to wonder if the Ducks might feel compelled to throw a start his way in the next week.

The trade deadline is coming, and while the goalie market is really cold, some of that slow movement likely comes from how cap-unfriendly netminders like Ben Bishop might be.

But what about Enroth? His cap hit is $750K this season, and while he thoroughly unimpressed Mike Babcock with rapid speed in Toronto, he was fantastic as a backup in Los Angeles last season and has been outstanding lately for the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.

All things considered, it’s almost a little surprising the Ducks aren’t throwing him right into the deep end tonight. If you’re a team with poor backup goaltending like the Edmonton Oilers or any number of other teams,* why wouldn’t you give the Ducks a call?

Maybe they need to see him in action in the NHL before doing so, making this an intriguing scenario to follow.

And, hey, maybe the Ducks themselves might decide that he’s a better option behind Gibson than Bernier. Stranger things have happened.

* – The Leafs might qualify, honestly … but again, Babs doesn’t seem to be an Enroth fan.