Backstrom’s Back, Tell A Friend: Washington Capitals vs Columbus Blue Jackets

Washington Capitals (22-4-5) Columbus Blue Jackets (11-14-4)

 Predicted GoaltenderRecordGAA / SV% / # SO
Washington CapitalsBraden Holtby14-2-42.82 / .909 / 0
Columbus Blue JacketsJoonas Korpisalo11-10-12.85 / .900 / 1

Tomorrow, your Washington Capitals will return to Capital One Arena to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. We are very excited to report that Caps veteran Nicklas Backstrom will be making his return to the roster after missing eight games. If it seems like the Caps haven’t played much within the Metropolitan division, that’s because they haven’t. In 31 games, Washington has played just five games against Metro rivals. The last time these two teams played, back on February 12th, the Capitals were blanked by the Blue Jackets in a 3-0 shutout. Although Washington has lost three of their last four meetings with Columbus, before that, they won four consecutive games against the BJ’s, and went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2018 (mcubed).


On Friday night, the Washington Capitals defeated the Anaheim Ducks for the second and final time this season. There was lots of speculation about how dirty and physical this game might become, based on how the last meeting between these two ultimately went down. This time, a total of 66 penalty minutes were doled out between the two teams. The Capitals started off extremely strong and played much of the first period in Anaheim’s defensive zone. Just last week, Travis Boyd earned himself a permanent spot on the roster after Washington traded Chandler Stephenson to the Golden Knights. Just nine minutes into the first period, Boyd potted his second goal of the season, giving the Capitals an early lead.

Nick Ritchie suffered a lower body injury after Caps’ defenseman Radko Gudas hip-checked him behind the play. Ritchie did not return. The first penalty of the game wasn’t called until the 18-minute mark of the first, as Carl Hagelin was called for interference. The Ducks would begin the second period on the power play, and the Capitals would successfully kill it off, although Braden Holtby would have to make a point-blank stop prior to Washington clearing the puck.

Washington would receive their first power play as the Ducks were called for ‘too many men’ just under three minutes into the middle frame. Unfortunately, the Capitals would not convert on the man-advantage, and the Ducks would actually get an opportunity to score short-handed. Garnet Hathaway and Erik Gudbranson would attempt to square up, but the zebras broke them up before any punches were thrown. Gudbranson dropped the gloves before Hathaway even reached center ice, but both received a 10-minute misconduct penalty. The Caps would receive a second consecutive power play as Gudbranson would receive an additional two-minute penalty for instigating. Just 16 seconds into the power play, Evgeny Kuznetsov would score his 12th goal of the season, giving Washington a 2-0 advantage.

Lars Eller would score the Caps’ third goal of the season, but it would be called back (correctly) because it was scored with a high-stick. Radko Gudas and Nicolas Deslauriers would drop the gloves, and both would receive five minutes for fighting. Deslauriers would be given an additional 10-minute misconduct. Jakub Vrana would get a high-stick to the face, and Cam Fowler would be given two minutes for the penalty. With a third consecutive power play, the Capitals would try and extend their lead once again. Moments into the man-advantage, TJ Oshie went off for cross-checking, and the two teams would play four-on-four for 90 seconds. The Ducks then received an abbreviated 30 second power play, and Sam Steel would cut the Caps’ lead in half. The Capitals decided to argue the goal for being offside, and ultimately would win that challenge. As the Oshie penalty expired, Jonas Siegenthaler was called for slashing, and Anaheim would have another opportunity to get on the board. However, the Ducks would not score. Ryan Getzlaf finally got the Ducks on the board (for real this time), as Holtby was drawn out of the crease, and was challenged with just one too many shots that he couldn’t stop. Another bad turnover by the Capitals would lead to Adam Henrique tying it 2-2 just 45 seconds into the final frame. 52 seconds later, Jakub Vrana would re-establish Washington’s lead with his 15th goal of the season. All of Vrana’s 15 goals have come at even strength, and he is now tied with Leon Draisaitl and Brad Marchand for most 5-on-5 goals.

Hathaway and Gudbranson would square up for a second time, and again, would receive five-minute majors for fighting. Tom Wilson and Gudbranson then exchanged some pleasantries, but instead, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Derek Grant would go off for two-minutes, so play would continue with 4-on-4. Washington successfully kept the Ducks off the board for the remainder of the game, and Braden Holtby, having stopped 27 of 29 shots, would tally his 15th win. Holtby is expected to start against the Blue Jackets.

The Columbus Blue Jackets last played on Saturday, and in dropping their 4th straight game, they lost 4-1 to the Florida Panthers. John Tortorella’s Blue Jackets have dropped four of their last five starts, and are just over .500 at home, with an 8-8-1 record. Since former Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky left the Blue Jackets to sign with the Panthers, he has won just nine of 20 games started, and has some of the worst numbers in the league amongst goaltenders. However, in his first meeting against his former team, ‘Bob’ tallied his 10th win of the season. The Blue Jackets allowed a Panthers goal by Evgenii Dadonov just 18 seconds into the game. Columbus successfully killed off the singular Panthers power play in the first period. Their penalty kill ranks 19th, but has allowed 9 power play goals by the opposition at home (ESPN). Columbus’ special teams are fairly average, and middle of the pack, with their power play operating at 19.8% efficiency, good enough for 11th. They have, however, allowed five short-handed goals, three of which came during eventual losses for the Blue Jackets (ESPN). The Blue Jackets were unable to convert on their first power play of the game, which came at the 10:49 mark of the first. Columbus took two consecutive penalties, one for holding, and another for roughing, but were able to keep the Panthers from converting. Florida improved their lead to 2-0 at the 8:53 mark of the second, as Josh Brown scored his 2nd goal of the season. Frank Vatrano went off for slashing with 36 seconds remaining in the period, but the Blue Jackets would not convert at the end of the second, or at the start of the third. Brett Connolly gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead early in the final frame, as he scored his 13th of the season on the Florida power play. Vladislav Gavrikov scored the singular Columbus goal four minutes later, spoiling Bobrovsky’s shutout hopes. However, Mike Hoffman sealed the win for Florida as he scored his 11th goal, an empty netter, at the 17:37 mark of the third. Columbus’ goal-scoring is less than ideal, with a (-20) goal differential. Pierre Luc-Dubois leads the Blue Jackets with 18 points and 10 goals. Just one roster player is without a goal (minimum eight games played), and 11 skaters have scored at least one power play goal (TheScore, Columbus Blue Jackets). Elvis Merzlikins made 23 saves on 26 shots, but Joonas Korpisalo is expected to start against the Capitals.


The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without Brandon Dubinsky (DL, wrist), Kole Sherwood (DL, oblique), Zach Werenski (DL, shoulder), Markus Nutivaara (DL, upper body), and Emil Bemstrom (DTD, upper body). Nicklas Backstrom is slated to play in his first game since November 18th. With Backstrom’s return to the lineup, the Capitals will play with a completely healthy roster for the first time this season.

 

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References:

ESPN. (2019). 2019-20 NHL Hockey Stats and League Leaders- Special Teams. Retrieved from http://proxy.espn.com/nhl/statistics/team?stat=special-teams&sort=shortHandedGoalsAgainst.

Mcubed. (2019). NHL: Series Records: Washington Capitals against Columbus Blue Jackets. Retrieved from http://mcubed.net/nhl/wsh/clb.shtml.

TheScore. (2019). Columbus Blue Jackets @ Florida Panthers. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/events/22183.

TheScore. (2019). Columbus Blue Jackets News & Stats. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/teams/17.

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