Dec. 14 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
Washington Capitals 23-5-5
Tampa Bay Lightning 16-11-3
With roughly three dozen extra rooters in tow, the Caps open up a two-game road trip in Tampa Bay on Saturday night against the Lightning. The trip - which also includes a Monday night stop in Columbus - is Washington's annual Mentors' Trip in which players and staff members are encouraged to invite their fathers or another significant male mentor on the trip with them.
This is the 12th Mentors' trip the Caps have had since the 2007-08 season, and the team is 15-6-0 in the games on those trips. Eight new dads are making their Mentors' Trip debuts with Washington this season, but even for the players who have been on multiple trips with their fathers, this never gets old.
"Yeah, I think it's definitely something that you do look forward to the entire year and when it happens," says Caps right wing Tom Wilson. "It's a lot of fun it's great to have all the dads here and at this time of year when the hockey gets tough and it's fun to have them around. It brings some light to the room, definitely a lot of laughs, and lot of characters, so we have a lot of fun with it.
"The organization does it does an amazing job, rolling out the red carpet - [director of team operations] Rob Tillotson and all the guys that take care of stuff behind the scenes so we're, we're pretty lucky. We got a fun group here and for my dad, it's definitely probably the highlight of his year every year, so he's pretty pumped to be here and hopefully we can string together some wins for them."
The Caps carry a four-game road winning streak with them to Florida, and they also sport the league's best road record at 14-2-1. With Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins, the Caps eclipsed the 50-point plateau at the second earliest juncture in franchise history. While this year's model needed 33 games with which to reach the half-century mark, the 2015-16 edition of the Capitals got there in just 32 games (24-6-2).
Wednesday's game with the Bruins represented a bounce back game for the Capitals, who responded well after a flat performance in their previous game, a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night. Washington has suffered only five regulation losses in its first 33 games this season.
Games against elite opponents seem to bring out the best in the Capitals this season, too. Washington comes into Saturday's game with the league's best record from a points percentage (.773) standpoint, and they've fared well against the rest of the NHL's upper echelon this season, too. Against the next 15 teams beneath them in the points percentage standings, the Capitals are 13-1-3 this season. They have yet to play Pittsburgh or Winnipeg, and their only regulation loss in the bunch came two months ago in a 6-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 14 in Washington.
"I think it motivates you a little more," says Caps right wing T.J. Oshie, who scored twice in the win over the Bruins. "No matter where you are in the standings, games against those teams - Boston, Tampa - teams like that, in a way they're kind of measuring stick games. You want to see how you measure up to what they're bringing that particular year or at that particular time during the season."
With their win over the Bruins, the Capitals raised their record in one-goal games to 12-1-5 on the season. Eighteen of Washington's 33 games have been one-goal affairs; only Columbus (19) has had more. No team in the league has more victories in one-goal games than the Capitals; the Winnipeg Jets (12-2-2) also have a dozen.
The Caps also rallied from a 1-0 first period deficit to take two points from the Bruins, improving to a league-best 7-2-2 record when yielding the game's first goal this season. The Capitals improved to 9-4-2 when the opposition scores first, which matches the New York Islanders for the best record in the NHL under those circumstances.
Traditionally one of the league's top teams on home ice, Tampa Bay has struggled at Amalie Arena this season. The Lightning is 8-6-1 at home in 2019-20, and it has yet to string together more than two straight wins here at Amalie. Last season, the Lightning was 32-7-2 on home ice when it won the Presidents' Trophy with 128 points.
After winning only six games in both October (6-4-2) and November (6-5-1), the Lightning has won four of its first six games in December (4-2-0). Since falling 4-3 to the Caps in overtime on Nov. 29, the Bolts alternated losses and wins over their next six contests, but with Wednesday's 3-2 triumph over the Bruins they've stacked wins together for the first time since a three-game spree from Nov. 21-25, the team's longest winning run of the season to date.
The Lightning boasts the league's second-best power play with a 29.6 percent success rate on the season. Like the Caps, the Bolts have yet to go more than two straight games without a goal from their extra-man unit. Tampa Bay has scored 13 power-play goals in its last dozen games.