When it comes to the Washington Capitals, this season, there is hardly one team in the league, let alone in their conference that has been able to keep pace with them, particularly when Alex Ovechkin is scoring goals and finding the back of the net as he is right now. He just netted a hat trick last night and has 34 goals on the season.
But if there is one team that could give them a run for their money it’s probably the Dallas Stars who has been burning up the West.
On Saturday night, the Caps will look to take their sixth consecutive win, and on the other side of center ice, the Stars will look to maintain their recent dominance in the face to face series, when two of the NHL’s highest-scoring teams bang gloves and sticks on a February Saturday night.
This truly will be a marquee matchup for the NHL, and a game everyone from both conference will keep their eye on. Could it even be a preview of a potential Stanley Cup Final? Washington at 40-9-4 is a dominant and almost uncatchable leader sitting atop the Eastern Conference, and Dallas with a 35-15-5 record is only one point behind Chicago’s lead in the West. Hockey experts know that there’s a lot of potential for a high scoring game as the Stars are atop the NHL with 178 goals and the Capitals are averaging a league-high 3.3 goals per game. And it seems that’s on a slow night.
Washington has gotten 33 goals over a 7-1-1 stretch and nine goals over the first two matches of their three-game road trip. Ovechkin has scored in three straight games and surpassed Chicago’s Patrick Kane for the league lead with his hat trick on Thursday’s 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild.
He got a natural hat trick in the second period and has 34 goals this season, 13 of which have come in his last 13 games. So heating up for number 8 is an understatement.
“It’s incredible. The puck just comes to him, but he has that ability when it comes to put it in the net,” said teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who assisted on all three scores. “It’s hard to do.”
If you look at the last five games the Caps have had against Dallas, Ovechkin has a goal in three of theor last meetings. High goal production hasn’t always meant team success against Dallas, as the Stars have won eight consecutive matchups and seven straight games in regulation. They last won 3-2 on Nov. 19 in Washington, where goalie Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves and Jason Spezza scored the game-winner right after Ovechkin had tied it in the third period n hopes of taking it to OT.
The Dallas goalie, Lehtonen was so sharp, and overall Dallas has won all the battles on both ends of the ice its last two-games. He compiled 37 saves in Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime victory in Minnesota. He got a season-high 44 saves as the Stars narrowed the gap on the Blackhawks with their 4-2 win on Thursday.
“He made some great saves for us,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “Minnesota was the same way; we needed some big saves at important times. He made some game changers.”
Patrick Eaves’ second his career hat trick that helped Lehtonen and Dallas recover from a big loss last week, which resulted in a 5-1 beating at home to Chicago, though it was their only defeat in six games the blackhawks were able to build a 4-0 lead through one disastrous period.
“We were ourselves (Thursday)” said Tyler Seguin to media , who assisted on two of Eaves’ goals. “Obviously I think they handed it to us last game.”
Over a four-game point streak Eaves was able to get four goals and three assists which helped a Dallas offense that was without Spezza for three straight due to an upper-body injury. Seguin has seven points over his last five games too, and has scored in four straight games against Washington, so he should be one to watch in tomorrow night’s battle.
Goalie Lehtonen has a strong 1.71 goals-against average and has won seven straight starts against Washington so he will be confident and tall in net, while the Capitals’ goalie, Braden Holtby has gotten his fifth consecutive win, with a 33 save performance against Minnesota, so he won’t be one to back down either.
Holtby, who did not play in the November game, is 17-3-2 with a 2.21 GAA in 22 road starts. The Capitals should also have Evgeny Kuznetsov back, who is currently the team’s point leader with 54, available he passed his concussion test on Friday. The All-Star forward had to leave the game on Thursday after being high-sticked in the face on a third-period faceoff, and didn’t return to the ice.
With two healthy teams, this should be a great and gritty, high powered and high scoring game.
Our Pick: Caps over Stars, 5-3