January 15 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center
Time: 1:00 p.m.
TV: CSN (Local), NBC (National)
Radio: WFED 1500 and Capitals Radio 24/7
Philadelphia Flyers 22-17-6
Washington Capitals 28-9-5
Washington finishes off a three-game homestand and starts a set of back-to-back games on Sunday afternoon when it hosts the Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center. The game marks the first of the Flyers' two visits to the District this season; they'll return again on March 4.
The Caps come into Sunday's matinee on the heels of a 6-0 dismantling of the Chicago Blackhawks at Verizon Center on Friday, Washington's eighth straight victory and the longest current winning streak in the NHL. Four of the Caps' last five foes have entered those games with more or as many standings points as Washington, and the Caps have outscored those four opponents - Columbus, Montreal, Pittsburgh and Chicago - by a combined 19-3 in those games. They've outscored those teams 16-0 at even strength.
Video: Barry Trotz talks after Saturday's practice
"You look at the schedule and there are a lot of great teams that we're playing right now," says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner, who played in his 500th consecutive game in Friday's win over the Blackhawks. "You just want to be on the winning end of it. You don't want to lose more than you win. That's the reality of the way this league is. Any team can win on any given night. So we are doing better than a lot of people expected at this point, so we're happy with that."
Caps goalie Braden Holtby stopped all 24 shots he faced in Friday's game, earning his third shutout since the calendar turned to 2017.
"This team seems to play better against good teams for some reason," says Holtby. "The last few years we've done that. I don't know if we get excited when it's good hockey, or if it forces us to play a little faster for more of our game, I'm not sure. But we've really worked hard since the start of the year to try and build our team and build our game through a little bit of adversity here and there. Now we can see that the work [we're putting in] is proving to work, and we have to keep pushing forward that way."
The Capitals have scored five or more goals in a game seven times this season, and five of those offensive outbursts have occurred during the team's current winning streak, it's longest since a nine-game winning streak in December of 2015. Washington has outscored its opposition by a combined total of 35-11 during its current eight-game winning streak, and the Caps own a lopsided 31-6 advantage in even-strength scoring during those eight games.
"We want to score at five-on-five, too," says Caps center Nicklas Backstrom. "It's something we were all right with last year, but we can be even better in the playoffs. That's something we're trying to work on every day."
Washington's recent spree of even-strength scoring has moved the Caps into a tie for second place in the league in five-on-five goals. Heading into Saturday's busy slate of NHL activity, the Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins each have 90 five-on-five tallies this season, six behind the front-running New York Rangers. Washington has moved up the ladder to seventh in the circuit in overall scoring with an average of 2.98 tallies per tilt this season.
In addition to owning the league's longest current winning streak, the Caps hot streak extends back to early December. Washington is now 15-2-2 in its last 19 games, with two of those losses coming by a single goal and the other two coming in the shootout.
All four lines have been consistently contributing to the Capitals' potent attack, as have the team's defensemen. Washington scored three goals in the first period of Friday's win over Chicago, and those goals came from three different lines. Nine of Washington's 12 forwards had exactly one point after 20 minutes of play.
Caps defensemen have contributed a total of 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) to the team's offensive cause during the life of the eight-game winning streak. All 12 of Washington's forwards finished with between 12:17 and 17:21 of ice time on Friday night, a good indication that the coaching staff is just rolling all four lines.
"I think rolling them," answers center Jay Beagle, when queried as to the team's recent success. "You feel better when you're getting a regular shift. Sometimes circumstances make it so that you have to sit for a little bit if they get a bunch of power plays in a row or something like that. But the case [on Friday night] was that we were rolling four [lines] and when that happens, you feel good. You're in the game and it's just easier to engage in the game; you don't feel like you're chasing.
"So I think they're doing a good job of rolling four, and we're just trying to contribute and to be solid defensively and trying to chip in offensively."
For the Flyers, Sunday's matinee match against the Capitals is the back end of a set of back-to-back games. Philly spent Saturday afternoon in Boston taking on the Bruins. The Flyers absorbed a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the B's.
Philadelphia scored the game's first goal on Saturday in Boston, and the game was even at 1-1 after 20 minutes. But the Bruins dented Flyers netminder Michal Neuvirth for four goals on 16 shots in the middle frame to forge a deficit that proved too great for the Flyers to overcome. Two of Philly's three goals in the game came on the power play. While the Flyers are 7-for-21 (33.3%) on the power play in their last seven games, they've managed only 11 even-strength strikes over the same span.
The Flyers are now 3-7-3 since their 10-game winning streak was halted with a 3-1 loss to the Stars in Dallas on Dec. 17. Two of those three victories came via the shootout, including a 3-2 shootout triumph over the Capitals on Dec. 21 in Philadelphia in the only prior meeting between the two teams this season.