Week Ahead: Dec 29 to Jan 4

The second half of the season starts now

Well, 4 out of a possible 6 last week is more than I think most of us were expecting. Can Ottawa do better this week?

Capitals at Senators

Game 42, Monday, December 30th, 7:30pm
Sportsnet East
Previous game
@Sabres, Sunday, December 29th
Next game
Hurricanes, Thursday, January 2nd
Nicklas Backstrom - 17P (4G, 13A) in last 8 GP
Braden Holtby - 0.863 SV% in last 5 GP

Ovi gonna... wait, what? Blanked 2 games in a row, you say? Passed for the points lead on the Capitals by Backstrom, you say? Of course, Alex Ovechkin does still lead the league in goals by a large margin so it would be silly to even consider taking him lightly. Speaking of Backstrom - 17 points in 8 games? 19 points in December? He's on fire.

Firmly in the coach's dog house last time Washington played Ottawa, Martin Erat made his way back into the lineup despite the swirling trade rumours, and has 5 points in his last 5 games.

The Captials continues to lean on their power play, which has improved to 1st in the league since Ottawa last faced them. The penalty kill, however, has declined by several points and over 10 spots in the rankings. Their 5 on 5 possession game continues to be quite poor, and they rely on their power play to make up for it. This season, they've scored about one third of their goals with the man advantage.

Holtby has, at least in the short term, lost the starters job to the hot hand of Philipp Grubauer. In his 8 games so far this season, Grubauer has posted a 0.937 SV%.

Jets at Senators

Game 43, Thursday, January 2nd, 7:30pm
Sportsnet East
Previous game
Sabres, Tuesday, December 31st
Next game
@Bruins, Saturday, January 4th
Blake Wheeler - 4P (3G, 1A) in last 4 GP
Ondrej Pavelec - 0.863 SV% in last 10 GP

Poor Winnipeg. They get their realignment wish, and land in the powerhouse Western conference. They're not too much further out of a playoff spot than Ottawa is, but the last spot in the West is more hotly contested than the last spot in the East.

Somewhat similar to the Senators, the Jets would be higher in the standings if they were receiving better goaltending. Pavelec is having his worst season as a starter, though he's never quite put up solid starter numbers either. Al Montoya is posting much better numbers, and has the better win record to go along with it.

Dustin Byfuglien is third in the league among defenders for points, but is a long way behind Keith and Karlsson.

Senators at Canadiens

Game 44, Saturday, January 4th, 7pm
Previous game
@Stars, Thursday, January 2nd
Next game
Panthers, Monday, January 6th
Brian Gionta - 4P (4A) in last 5 GP
Alex Galchenyuk - 0P in last 4 GP

A week and a half ago, we talked about how the Canadiens have been doing so far this season. Since then, the 3 games they have had have gone about the same. Carey Price has had a solid .921 SV% in December, but it is a far cry from the .937 SV% he had coming in to the month. Their possession numbers continue to limp along at sub-50%, and their 5 on 5 shooting percentage is still very low despite some success in their last 3 games.

Like Washington, Montreal leans on their power play, though not nearly to the same level. Unlike Washington, Montreal also has a highly ranked penalty kill in large part thanks to the goaltending they have been receiving. Though they have also kept the shots down, and rank 6th in the league for the fewest shots against per 60 minutes of short handed play.

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