Caps Hit Halfway Point vs. Habs
Jan. 4 vs. Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm
Radio: WTEM 980 AMMontreal Canadiens (23-11-5) Washington Capitals
Just over a week after they made their first visit to Verizon Center in 2006-07, the Montreal Canadiens return to the District for their second and final road tilt with the Capitals this season. Thursday?s game against the Habs brings the Caps to the exact midway point of the regular season.
With a home ice win over Montreal on Thursday, the Capitals can climb back to the break-even point at the midway mark of the campaign. Last season, the Capitals were 13-23-5 at the halfway point of the slate.
Washington had hit a high-water mark of five games above break-even for this season on Dec. 16 with a win over Philadelphia. The Caps have dropped seven of eight games since, falling below .500 for the first time since Nov. 25 in the process.
Had the Caps been able to maintain that pace of five games above .500 to the midpoint of the season, they would have had the best first-half record of any Capitals team in 15 years. The 1991-92 team was 26-13-1 at the halfway mark, the only Washington team more than four games over .500 at the stage of the season between then and now.
When the Capitals last made the playoffs in 2002-03, they posted 43 first half points and 49 in the second half for a total of 92. This season?s Caps have been stuck on 39, and they?ve set a full season goal of 94 points for themselves.
The Caps come into Thursday?s game bearing a five-game losing streak, the team?s first stretch of five games without a point since Mar. 8-16, 2004. Most recently, the Capitals suffered a 3-2 New Year?s Day setback to the Phoenix Coyotes. The Caps surrendered three first-period goals in that game, including two power play strikes, before buckling down the defense for the remainder of the contest.
The Caps will have former Habs winger Donald Brashear back in the lineup on Thursday. Brashear was suspended for a game for slugging New York Rangers defenseman Aaron Ward in a Dec. 30 contest at Madison Square Garden.
Montreal downed the Capitals 4-1 on Dec. 27, the second loss in Washington?s current five-game losing streak. The Habs have won one of three games since, losing a pair of 3-1 road decisions in Florida and Tampa Bay, respectively, before returning home to take a 5-2 decision from the Lightning on Tuesday night.
The Caps? power play has been successful on 16.7% of its chances this season, the 19th best percentage in the NHL. Washington is just 3-for-30 (10%) with the extra man in its last five games. One of those three goals came while the Caps enjoyed a two-man advantage.
Washington is 20th in the NHL in penalty killing efficiency with a rate of 80.9%. The Caps have killed 19 of 25 (76%) opposition power plays in their last five games.
Montreal has won seven of its last 10 games, and is firmly in second place in the NHL?s Northeast Division. The Canadiens trail front running Buffalo by 10 points and have a five-point cushion over third-place Ottawa.
Netminder Cristobal Huet has started five straight games for the Habs, the longest streak of starts for either Canadiens goaltender this season. Huet is 2-3 during those five starts with a 2.64 goals against average and a .916 save pct.
The Canadiens feature the league?s top power play unit with a 22.9% rate of efficiency. Montreal has clicked on only two of 16 chances (12.5%) with the extra man in its last five games.
The Habs also boast the NHL?s best penalty killing corps with a kill rate of 88%. Montreal has snuffed out 23 of 27 (85.2%) opposing power plays in its last five games.