Holiday Road - Sunday finds the Caps in Anaheim, where they'll start a set of back-to-back games against the Ducks on Sunday night. Afterwards, they'll bus into Los Angeles where they will take on the Kings on Monday night. These two Presidents' Day weekend games are the middle matches of Washington's six-game road trip, and the Caps are 1-1-0 on the trip to date.
Most recently, the Caps turned in one of their best efforts of the 2018-19 regular season in a 5-1 victory over the Sharks in San Jose on Thursday. After taking a day off on Friday and reconvening for a practice session on Saturday afternoon in Anaheim, the Caps are set to take on the Ducks, and they're hopeful that they can build on Thursday night's performance as they head into the final two dozen games of the season.
"I think that was one of our more committed defensive efforts, right down our lineup, in terms of blocking shots and doing a better job around our net front," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "On any extended plays we really collapsed around our goaltender.
"For me, I keep going back to the number of odd-man rushes given up. We give up one last game against San Jose and we get a favorable outcome. We give up six against Columbus [in the trip opener on Tuesday] and not only do we lose the game, but we don't really generate anything offensively. The chance-for-chance theory and thought process is one I've talked about a lot, since before the [All-Star] break to after, and that will be something that is important for us to continue to emphasize here if we want to have success on the rest of this road trip, with the number of dangerous teams that we have coming up here."
Washington has permitted an average of 3.16 goals against per game this season, tied for 21st in the league. Among the 16 NHL clubs currently in a playoff position in the league's standings, the Caps' goals against figure is the highest.
Video: Two-Man Advantage | February 17
Mid-February Caps-Ducks History - The last time the Caps were on a road trip of double-digit days in duration was eight years ago this month when they embarked upon a five-game trip that started in Arizona and ended in Pittsburgh. That trip ended up being extended by a day when the Caps were snowed into Pittsburgh on what was to be the final night of the journey.
Anaheim was the second stop on that trip, and the Caps won a wild one that night at Honda Center, eight years ago on Saturday (Feb. 16, 2011). Alexander Semin ended a 17-game personal dry spell with his fourth hat trick of the season as the Caps claimed a 7-6 win over the Ducks. Semin scored each of the last two goals of the game -- including the game-winner at 18:13 of the third -- to help the Capitals overcome a two-goal deficit for the win. Neither team managed to reach the 30-shot plateau; Ducks goalie Curtis McElhinney was dented for seven goals on 29 shots while the Caps' tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth gave up six goals on just 21 shots.
Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler was minus-5 in that game and Caps blueliner Karl Alzner had three assists. Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Dave Steckel and Mike Knuble scored Washington's other four goals in that game in Anaheim eight years ago.
Video: Todd Reirden Pregame | February 17
In The Nets - Braden Holtby gets the net for Washington tonight in Anaheim. A little over a year ago, Holtby was pulled from his March 6, 2018 start against the Ducks at Honda Center in a 4-0 Caps loss, and setting the stage for Holtby's "reset" down the homestretch of last season. Philipp Grubauer garnered most of the starting assignments over the final month of the 2017-18 regular season, and started the first two games of the playoffs, too.
As Holtby gets ready to take on the Ducks again, his game is in a better place than it was around this point last season. Coming off a 25-save effort in earning his 20th win of the season on Thursday against San Jose, Holtby has now permitted two or fewer goals against in four of his last five starts. In half a dozen starts since the All-Star break, Holtby is 3-2-1 with a 2.34 GAA and a .926 save pct.
Lifetime against Anaheim, Holtby is 3-3-0 with a 3.81 GAA and an .856 save pct.
The Ducks have used four goaltenders this season, and three this month. With No. 1 netminder John Gibson and journeyman Chad Johnson both on the shelf with injuries, Anaheim is currently operating with the tandem of veteran Ryan Miller and 26-year-old undrafted netminder Kevin Boyle, who shutout the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday in his first start in the NHL. In doing so, Boyle became the first NHL goalie aged 26 or more to earn a shutout in his first NHL start since Sam St. Laurent turned the trick for the Devils against St. Louis on March 27, 1986.
Boyle split his college career between UMass-Amherst and UMass-Lowell - playing two seasons at each stop - before turning pro in 2016-17. Boyle signed with Anaheim as an undrafted free agent in march of 2016, and was in the midst of a third straight strong season with AHL San Diego when he was summoned from the Gulls just over a week ago, on Feb. 9. He made his NHL debut in a relief effort in Philadelphia that night.
If Boyle gets the start on Sunday, he will be making his fourth straight appearance and his third straight start. In three games during his brief NHL career, Boyle is 1-1-0 with a 1.51 GAA and a .955 save pct.
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Capitals and the Ducks to look when they meet on Sunday at Honda Center for the second of their two meetings this season:
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
13-Vrana, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
65-Burakovsky, 20-Eller, 10-Connolly
23-Jaskin, 18-Stephenson, 25-Smith-Pelly
67-Rakell, 15-Getzlaf, 10-Perry
11-Sprong, 14-Henrique, 61-Terry
29-Shore, 38-Grant, 33-Silfverberg
49-Jones, 17-Kesler, 24-Rowney
4-Fowler, 44-Del Zotto