As the Chicago Blackhawks continue watching their playoff aspirations slide out of view, they’ll host a team atop the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference when the Washington Capitals come to the United Center on Saturday night.
The story for the Capitals is much the same as it’s been the last few seasons. Alex Ovechkin has a ton of goals (34, along with 31 assists), Evgeny Kuznetsov has a ton of points (54) and Braden Holtby (28-10-4, 2.82 GAA, .913 SA%) has a ton of saves in net. It’s all added up to 73 team points, good for first place in the Metro. Washington has points in each of its last five outings, which includes a pair of overtime losses to go with three wins. Perhaps the biggest recent surprise for Washington has been the success of forward Tom Wilson, who already has a new career-high with 26 points in 53 games. Skating on a top line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will do that. Another positive has been the play of rookie defenseman Christian Djoos, who has three goals and 10 assists in the first 48 games of his NHL career, all this season. He’ll skate on the top D pairing with John Carlson.
But regular season success has never been the problem for Washington, has it? The Capitals have lost in the second round in each of the last three seasons, and questions about whether or not they can finally get over that hurdle will only be answered in late April. With Ovechkin at 32 and Backstrom at 30, time may be runing out for Washington to summit that mountaintop.
Meanwhile, it is the harshest of winters in Chicago, but not necessarily because of the weather. An 8-game losing streak has virtually eliminated all playoff hopes. It’s hard to come up with any accurate big-picture focus on the Blackhawks while everything that happens on the ice is just so awful. For their fan base, and for the collective psyche of everyone in the organization, the Blackhawks just need to win a damn game, already. Everything else is secondary until that happens. As for the lineup, Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma are still in top-6 positions, Anthony Duclair looks like a healthy scratch and Anton Forsberg is in net.
|F1||Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Tommy Wingels|
|F2||Lance Bouma - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane|
|F3||Patrick Sharp - Ryan Hartman - Alex DeBrincat|
|F4||Vinnie Hinostroza - Artem Anisimov - Tomas Jurco|
|D1||Duncan Keith - Jordan Oesterle|
|D2||Michal Kempny - Brent Seabrook|
|D3||Carl Dahlstrom - Erik Gustafsson|
|F1||Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson|
|F2||Alex Chiasson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - TJ Oshie|
|F3||Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly|
|F4||Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly|
|D1||Christian Djoos - John Carlson|
|D2||Matt Niskanen - Dmitri Orlov|
|D3||Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey|
*Lines are subject to change.
How to watch Capitals at Blackhawks
Start time: 7:30 p.m. CT
Location: United Center, Chicago