For the greater portion of their four-plus decades as a member of the National Hockey League, the Capitals have hosted a home game on New Year's Day. But with the advent of the Winter Classic over the past decade and the league's understandable desire to limit the New Year's Day stage to that high profile game, the Caps have not hosted a New Year's Day game at Verizon Center since they took down the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 7-4 count eight years ago, on Jan. 1, 2009.
That changes today when the Caps entertain the Ottawa Senators at the Phone Booth on the first day of the New Year. Today's game is Washington's 27th on New Year's Day and the 25th at home. The Caps have hosted New Year's Day games at three venues: Capital Centre (USAir Arena), Nationals Park and Verizon Center.
The Capitals are 16-6-3-1 all-time on New Year's Day and 15-5-3-1 when playing on Jan. 1 at home. Washington has won four consecutive games on New Year's Day, including two NHL Winter Classics (2011, 2015). Sunday's game also marks the third time the Capitals will host the Senators on New Year's Day (1999, 2008) and the first time since Washington's 6-3 victory on Jan. 1, 2008 at Verizon Center.
Finally, this weekend marks the first time the Capitals will play on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day since 2005-06 and just the third time in franchise history (2003-04).
Even-Strength Scoring - The Caps have totaled 16 goals in their last five games, and 15 of those goals have been scored at even strength. Daniel Winnik's shorthanded goal against New Jersey on Dec. 29 is the only exception over that span.
On Saturday against the Devils in Newark, the Caps killed off all nine Devils power plays in the game and still found enough even strength time with which to score six goals at five-on-five.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Caps are the first team in more than 16 years to kill off as many as nine shorthanded situations and still manage to score as many as six even-strength goals in a game. On Dec. 4, 2000, the San Jose Sharks were 10-for-10 on the penalty kill and they scored six even-strength goals in an 8-0 victory over the Flames in Calgary.
Last season, the Caps finished second in the league with 166 five-on-five goals, just one behind the Dallas Stars' league-leading total of 167. This season, the Caps have occasionally scuffled at five-on-five, but Saturday's outburst gives them 67 such tallies on the season, 11th most in the league.
Video: Coach Trotz talks before Sunday's #CapsSens matchup
"It gives you some confidence," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "We haven't scored at the rate we probably think we should, so having a game like that can only help our confidence. I thought we had good balance; we didn't give up a lot of chances five-on-five and we were scoring five-on-five. And that's where we want to be as a team, where the detail defensively sort of [allows] your offense to piggyback on your defense, and it did tonight.
"There were numerous times where we were able to get the puck defensively and transition that into good offense, or tracking the puck and half-icing and turning that half ice game into a quick regroup and then into an offensive zone chance and a goal. Those are things that you want to do, and that's good 200-foot defense that allows you to do that. That's where we want our game to go."
Offense From The Blueline - Caps defensemen combined for five assists in Saturday's 6-2 win at New Jersey, and Washington blueliners have now accounted for 71 points (eight goals, 63 assists) in 35 games this season.
The Capitals' average of 2.03 points per game from its defensemen this season is the third highest rate of offensive involvement from the blueline in the last 21 seasons for Washington. The 2014-15 Caps blueline produced 2.22 points per game, and the 2009-10 edition put up an average of 2.20 points per game.
In The Nets - After Philipp Grubauer raised his record to 6-1-1 on the season with Saturday's 21-save outing against the Devils in New Jersey, Braden Holtby gets the net tonight for the Capitals against the Senators.
Holtby stopped 26 of 27 shots on Thursday in his most recent start, a 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils. He has permitted two or fewer goals in 18 of his 27 starts this season. In his last 10 starts, Holtby has a pair of shutouts, a 1.66 GAA and a .942 save pct. Lifetime against the Senators, he is 4-3-1 with a 2.25 GAA and a .929 save pct.
For the Senators, Mike Condon gets the nod in net. Waived by both Montreal and Pittsburgh in the last few months of 2016, Condon has been strong for the Sens and has helped Ottawa fill the void left by Craig Anderson's absence while his wife battles cancer.
Condon is 8-4-3 with a pair of shutouts, a 2.38 GAA and a .917 save pct. for the Sens this season. He has made nine appearances (six starts) on the road this season, going 4-3 with a 2.90 GAA and an .897 save pct.
All Lined Up - The Caps conducted an optional morning skate ahead of Sunday's game with the Senators, so we won't know for certain how they'll lineup tonight until pregame warm-ups. But given the way Saturday's game against the Devils went, it's a fair bet that Washington will roll forth with the same lineup, aside from Holtby in net. Here's how we expect them and the Sens to look tonight:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 14-Williams
10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 65-Burakovsky
26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 43-Wilson
68-Hoffman, 19-Brassard, 61-Stone
18-Dzingel, 7-Turris, 9-Ryan
22-Kelly, 44-Pageau, 10-Pyatt
37-Bailey, 27-Lazar, 25-Neil
15-Smith (upper body)
41-Anderson (personal reasons)