I Don’t Wanna Hear It: Blackhawks vs Capitals Preview

The Blackhawks will try and stop the greatest goal-scorer in NHL history.

The Chicago Blackhawks head to Capital One Arena to face the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.

While Alex Ovechkin is in the midst of yet another historic season, it’s looking like the Capitals will miss the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

Last time the Blackhawks and Capitals saw each other was way back on Dec. 13, when Ovechkin recorded the hat trick that made him just the third player in league history to ever score 800 goals. He currently needs 75 goals to break Wayne Gretzky’s record, so chances are he probably won’t hang that one on the Hawks as well this season.

Washington is 19-18-4 since that win. They weren’t in a playoff spot then, and they aren’t in a playoff spot now — though they’re just four points behind Florida for the final wild card slot in the East at the moment.

Injuries have taken a huge toll on the Caps’ season and it would be easy to assume they’d be in a much better spot standings-wise if they’d been healthier. They started the year without noted agitator Tom Wilson — though he returned to the lineup on Jan. 8 and has skated in 23 games since. Hip problems have severely hampered Ovechkin’s cereal buddy and ride-or-die Nicklas Backstrom, who’s only played 29 games and recorded 15 points (5 G, 10 A), but continues to be a significant possession driver with a 57.4 percent shot share. America’s shootout sweetheart Timothy Jimothy Oshie has missed 17 games. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper — in his first season in Washington after winning the cup with Colorado last year — is currently out with an upper-body injury.

But their biggest loss overall comes from the back end, where defenseman John Carlson has been sidelined since taking a slapshot to the face on Dec. 27 (Note: link is to an article about Carlson’s recovery. I won’t ever link to injury videos. Not cool). Carlson has recently been seen skating in a regular/full contact jersey at practice though, so his return feels imminent at this point.

The Capitals had an interesting trade deadline, when they moved some veteran contributors for picks and prospects in an attempt to do a little rebuilding on the fly. They shipped forward Garnet Hathaway and defenseman Dmitry Orlov (through the Minnesota Wild, who acted as a salary broker) to the Boston Bruins for a 2023 first round pick, then turned around and sent that pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs — along with old buddy and defensive turnstile Erik Gustafsson — for 23 year-old blue liner Rasmus Sandin.

Sandin has been stellar for Washington since he arrived, immediately being elevated to their top pairing and running their top power play. In his first nine games as a Capital, he already has 12 points, including two separate three-assist games.

As Ovechkin goes so does Washington, so it’s fitting he’s had an (emotionally) up and down year as well. He lost his father in February and missed the next four games in order to attend to his funeral in Moscow. Then during the Caps’ most recent game — a wild 7-6 OT loss to Columbus (thanks, bros) on Tuesday night — he broke yet another seemingly unbreakable record as he continues on his path toward Gretzky.

Ovechkin now has 13 different 40-goal seasons, the most in the entire history of the NHL. He’s signed for three more years after this one, so enjoy watching the greatest pure goal scorer this sport has ever seen while he’s still at it.

I’ll be rooting for him and the Washington Capitals on Thursday, for a whole multitude of reasons.

Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Capitals

43.13% (31st) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 50.71% (16th)

41.62% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 49.04% (19th)

2.47 (32nd) — Goals per game — 3.13 (18th)

3.53 (25th) — Goals against per game — 3.10 (15th)

53.3% (4th) — Faceoffs — 50.2% (17th)

16.6% (28th) — Power play — 21.3% (14th)

76.6% (21st) — Penalty kill — 82.7% (5th)

How to watch

When: 6 p.m. CT

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720