Ovi looking for 50, Connolly gametime decision, Big game VS TB
A lot has happened since Alex Ovechkin warmed his hands with the infamous “hot stick” in Tampa Bay. But one thing has remained constant-- Ovechkin is gunning for 50 goals again.
Looking to become only the 3rd player to have at least eight 50-goal seasons, the Great Eight will also have the NHL best Tampa Bay Lightning in his sights.
The Caps and Lightning did not meet until a couple of weeks ago after their 2018 Eastern Conference series and while TB has won both games, they were very close and the Caps could have won either themselves. A 5-4 TB overtime win on March 20th was preceded by a 6-3 loss in the Sunshine State on the 16th where two empty-net goals made the score more lopsided than the game.
In the March 20th game, the Lightning got out to a 3-1 lead and were able to hold onto the lead, but the Capitals made them work for it, firing 58 shots at TB goalie and before tying the game in the final minute. The Caps would bode well to not have to chase the game against the highest scoring team in the league.
The Caps have been working on mitigating penalties against and they come into the game tonight having taken only one minor penalty in the last two games (Wins over Carolina). While the Caps PK has been getting better, ranked 24th in the league especially with the acquisition of Hagelin, this will be key again today against a formidable PP ranked #1 in the NHL.
Nikita Kucherov continues to lead all scorers with 121 points as the Russian looks to win his first Art Ross and is a favorite for the Hart Trophy. He enters the game with a seven-point lead on Edmonton’s Connor McDavid. Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin, sitting on 49, has now only a two-goal lead on Edmonton’s Leon Draisiatl as the German forward has scored 4 goals his last 2 games. I expect a big game out of Ovi tonight and would expect at least one. He did score vs the Lightning in the March 16th game.
Todd Reirden’s club has six 20-goal scorers now with Evgeny Kuznetsov the latest to hit the mark. Nicklas Backstrom can make that seven with his next as the Swedish star, known for his passing, sits on 19.
Brett Connolly has points in 6 of his last 8 games and is having a career year as he enters Unrestricted Free Agency this summer. It looks like he’ll be getting a huge payday on the open market and I doubt we will see him back in DC. There is a scenario whereby, the Caps let Andre Burakovsky walk (RFA - qualify at $3.25M) and keep Connolly possibly, but we will have to see. He has 5 goals and 4 assists in his last 8 games and is a catalyst while he’s on the ice.
Washington has allowed two or fewer goals in four straight games and will have to somehow try and keep TB’s potent offense ranked number one in the NHL. The Lightning have an incredible +100 goal differential compared to the Caps of +30.
The Caps have been facing some sickness throughout the dressing room and it looks like Connolly will be out today as was TJ Oshie last game.
Washington has opened up a three-point lead in the Metro division and can clinch another division crown with 3 wins in their last four games. It’s looking like the Hurricanes are shaping up to be the 1st round opponent, but that could change possibly.
Game time tonight is 7:00 PM from Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.
Braden Holtby recorded his 5th consecutive 30-win season to become only the 12th goalie ever to accomplish the feat and the first Capitals goalie.
With the win over the Carolina Hurricanes in their last game….