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#CapsBlues Skate Shavings: Midwest Mentoring

Caps seek to start new winning streak and maintain points streak with the #CapsDads on the trip.

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / WashingtonCaps.com

Thursday's game is the first game of two in the team's annual Mentors' Trip. The group of dads attended the morning skate at Scottrade Center on Thursday, and they'll spend the afternoon touring the factory of a well-known local brewery in St. Louis.

No matter how many times the various dads go through this experience, it's always special, and it always seems to provide some extra motivation for the guys on the ice. 

"Yeah for sure, especially [against] these two teams, St. Louis and Dallas," says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner. "They're both good at home, both really good teams. So to have the extra motivation couldn't come at a better time, I don't think.

"It's fun. We've said it before, it's fun just to watch the dads interact. They're just like us, but they're a little more grown up - or not grown up - depending on how you look at it. So yeah, it's going to be interesting." 

Over the years since the Caps re-started the Mentors' Trip as an annual even in 2007-08, Washington is 10-5-0 on these trips.
Video: Tom Wilson's dad, Keven, talks with Mike Vogel
"It's an amazing thing," says Holtby. "They have the time of their lives. They're like little kids when they get together, sharing stories and whatnot. It's a rare thing. They get to live the NHL life from all the hard work that they put in through us, and they really get to enjoy it because they don't have any stress. They can leave their jobs at home. They're just proud of us, they are enjoying the time here and really enjoying the league, the team and the experience.

"I think some of us don't really enjoy it to the fullest all the time, and they really get to. It's fun to watch and it brings to back to realize how fortunate we are to be here." 

Last Time In The Loo - The Caps played their last road game of the 2015-16 season here in St. Louis, and it turned out to be a pretty great one-game road journey. The Caps came in here last April 9 and forged a 5-1 victory over the Blues. More importantly - since Washington wasn't starving for wins or points at that juncture of the season - were the individual exploits of a couple of key Caps players. 

Braden Holtby earned his 48th win of the season, tying the single-season NHL record established by Martin Brodeur, who - in his capacity as a Blues' executive - was on hand to witness the occasion. Brodeur came downstairs after the game to congratulate Holtby and to pose for pictures. 

Caps captain Alex Ovechkin fueled the Washington attack that night with a hat trick, and the three goals pushed him to 50 on the season for the seventh time in his NHL career. Ovechkin hung another hat trick on the Blues in the first meeting between the two teams this season 

Oh, and Jason Chimera netted his 20th goal of the season in that April 9 game against the Blues, reaching that plateau for the second time in his NHL career.
Video: Oshie speaks before #CapsBlues
The Caps come into The Gateway City on the heels of a crazy 8-7 loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Monday night. That setback halted Washington's winning streak at nine straight, but the Caps have an 11-game points streak (9-0-2) still in the works. 

"Obviously last game was strange," says caps goalie Braden Holtby. "I don't think either team played poorly enough to give up eight and seven [goals]. That's just the way that game went. Things were bouncing off people's sticks at the right times. Those games happen, and for both sides it was one of those games. 

"We still feel comfortable with where we're at in our game. There are still some things we'd like to clean up, and we have a mature enough group to know that. It wasn't like a run-and-gun thing where you knew it was going to be 8-7. It's just one of those games." 

On Thursday night in St. Louis, the Caps hit town seeking to start up another winning streak in a building that was once quite difficult for them. Washington went more than 14 years without a victory in St. Louis from 1996-2010, but the Caps are now 3-1-1 in their last five trips here. 

Penalties Puzzler - At the morning skate before Monday's game in Pittsburgh, Caps coach Barry Trotz expressed some bewilderment at the number of penalties his team has taken as of late. 
Video: Coach Trotz previews Thursday's #CapsBlues matchup
"Sometimes I'm not figuring out why we're getting so many [penalties]," Trotz said on Monday morning. "Against a few of our last opponents we've had the puck the whole time and then we end up with all of the penalties. That's the perplexing thing for me; you usually don't take penalties when you have the puck. That's sort of throwing me off. The analytics guys will have to help me out with that." 

In hindsight, this is all somewhat interesting because Monday's game in Pittsburgh was also the first time in a span of 14 games that Washington actually had more power play chances (four) than did its opposition (one). During that 13-game stretch in which the Caps had either as many extra-man opportunities or fewer than the opposition, they still managed a 10-1-2 record, thanks largely to some incredible penalty killing (51-for-56, 91.1%).

Washington has now played 44 games this season. During the 13-game stretch in which it was at its hottest, when it was playing its best hockey, and when, as Trotz notes, it frequently had the puck, it also had its most lopsided disparity in power play chances. And at no point during those 13 games did the Caps have more power play opportunities that did their foes. Overall, the Caps had 33 power play opportunities during those 13 games and they were shorthanded 56 times for a minus-23 during those 13 games.

What's really interesting is, they're also minus-23 (134 power plays, 157 times shorthanded) on the season. So, they are dead even in power play chances/times shorthanded in the other 30 games this season. The entirety of their lopsided minus-23 ratio of power play chances to times shorthanded accrued during a 13-game stretch in which they played their best hockey of the season to date, a span in which they outscored their opponents by a combined total of 50-18. 

Okay, then. 
Video: Brooks Orpik talks before #CapsBlues
In The Nets - Holtby gets the net back tonight after being pulled in the second period of the wild 8-7 affair in Pittsburgh on Monday. Since the start of the 2014-15 season Holtby is 9-1-0 with two shutouts, a 1.97 GAA and a .934 in starts immediately following games in which he was pulled.

He also has good career numbers against the Blues, owning a 4-0-0 record in four career starts against St. Louis, with a 1.50 GAA and a .949 save pct.

For St. Louis, Jake Allen gets the start against Washington. Pulled from each of his last two starts (against Boston and at Los Angeles), Allen is without a win since defeating the Blackhawks in the Jan. 2 Winter Classic. 

Allen won eight straight starts from Nov. 15-Dec. 6, but has been unable to string together consecutive wins since. Lifetime against Washington, he has a shutout in his only career start, which was last March at Verizon Center. 

All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Capitals and the Blues to look when they take the ice for Thursday's game at Scottrade Center:

WASHINGTON

Forwards

8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie

90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 14-Williams

10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 65-Burakovsky

26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 43-Wilson 

Defensemen

27-Alzner, 2-Niskanen

44-Orpik, 9-Orlov

4-Chorney, 88-Schmidt 

Goaltenders

70-Holtby

31-Grubauer

Injuries

Carlson (lower body, day-to-day)

Scratches

None 

ST. LOUIS

Forwards


23-Jaskin, 12-Lehtera, 91-Tarasenko

17-Schwartz, 26-Stastny, 20-Steen

15-Fabbri, 21-Berglund, 57-Perron

10-Upshall, 28-Brodziak, 75-Reaves 

Defensemen

19-Bouwmeester, 27-Pietrangelo

4-Gunnarsson, 22-Shattenkirk

41-Bortuzzo, 55-Parayko 

Injuries

None 

Scratches

6-Edmundson

64-Yakupov

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