Capitals at Golden Knights preview: Vegas looks to keep rolling, spoil Ovechkin milestone
Is tonight the night Ovi gets 700?
You don’t want to be that team.
The team that’s on the other end of historic highlight reels for the remainder of time; the team that has to sit and watch milestones be made at your expense.
The Vegas Golden Knights have already sat through that once, watching the Washington Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in their barn. Monday could be another one of those moments with the Capitals coming to town for a President’s Day matinee.
Alex Ovechkin has been on 698 goals for the past two years (four games, really), and can become the eighth player in NHL history to reach 700 goals in the same arena he won his first Cup with the Capitals less than three years ago.
“I just don’t want him to score at all, let alone the milestone,” said forward Ryan Reaves. “He’s a dangerous player from his office there. He’s hard to contain. He’s got a really good shot and you’ve got to try your best against him.”
While the talk has been on Ovechkin’s eventual eclipse of 700, not much is being made of the Capitals’ struggles. Washington, coming off a 3-1 loss at Arizona on Saturday, is 3-5-0 in its past eight games. Ovechkin has not scored a point in the past four, but Washington still sits atop the Metropolitan Division with a one-point lead on the Penguins.
Outside of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, the Capitals (37-16-5) are 0-2-0 in the regular season at T-Mobile Arena.
The Capitals will also have to go without center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who will miss his third consecutive game with an upper-body injury.
The Golden Knights (30-22-8) are coming off two victories that are complete opposites — a 6-5 overtime win against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues that might have been their worst defensive performance of the season, followed with a 1-0 win over the Islanders on Saturday that saw Marc-Andre Fleury record his 60th NHL shutout.
The 19-save effort for Fleury was a reprieve after allowing 14 goals in his previous four starts. Surprisingly, Fleury is tied for second in the league with four shutouts this season. While the Golden Knights are 6-3-1 since Pete DeBoer became head coach Jan. 15, they’ve allowed 3.40 goals per game since.
While Kuznetsov might be out, the Capitals can contribute from anywhere. John Carlson, the likely Norris Trophy favorite, leads all NHL defensemen with 69 points. Nicklas Backstrom trails only Carlson with 34 assists on the team, while Jakub Vrana (23) and T.J. Oshie (22) are the other 20-goal scorers.
The Capitals’ power play might be near-mid-table (14th at 20.5 percent), but it will provide a tough test for the Vegas penalty kill that has gone 4-for-4 in the past two games after allowing three power-play goals at Minnesota on Tuesday.
“What makes them so dangerous is that, maybe 10 years ago, he was the only option. When you have one option, you can take that away,” DeBoer said. “But when you got Carlson at the top, Backstrom, and then you got Oshie at the slot, they’re going to beat you somewhere else. You can talk about Ovechkin, but there are weapons they use very well.”
It’s going to be an emotional game for Vegas. Given the potential of what’s to come for Ovechkin, the opponent, and a need to remain perfect on this murderer’s row five-game homestand, storylines are aplenty.
Make sure to take into account that Vegas could tie the Edmonton Oilers for first place in the Pacific Division with a win. The idle Vancouver Canucks are one point ahead of Vegas.
“We’re at our best when we play emotionally,” said Golden Knights leading goal scorer Max Pacioretty. “I think when we’re pissed off, when some things get under our skin, that’s when we’re at our best. That’s when I know I’m at my best, personally, but I’ve noticed that’s our team identity. That’s why I feel this team had so much success the first year, the pissed-off mentality out to prove people wrong. I feel a lot of these wins, we’ve kind of had that.”
Capitals projected lineup
Alex Ovechkin — Nicklas Backstrom — Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana — Lars Eller — T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin — Travis Boyd — Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic — Nic Dowd — Garnet Hathaway
Michal Kempny — John Carlson
Radko Gudas — Jonas Siegenthaler
Nick Jensen — Dmitry Orlov
Golden Knights projected lineup
Jonathan Marchessault — Paul Stastny — Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty — William Karlsson — Mark Stone
Chandler Stephenson — Cody Eakin — Cody Glass
William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb — Nate Schmidt
Nick Holden — Shea Theodore
Jon Merrill — Zach Whitecloud
How to watch
Time: 3 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM