Today’s NHL Predictions features the Metropolitan Division. The Washington Capitals have fought back from a weak start to hold second place in the Division. They’ll be facing the team at the bottom of the group, the Columbus Blue Jackets. These two teams last saw each other two weeks ago in the same building. Washington won that game 2-1 with goals from Tom Wilson and Sonny Milano. They also met twice in the preseason, with each game ending 4-2. Each team claimed a road win in the early-October tune-up games. Last season, the Capitals earned 7 of a possible 8 points in the four-game season series between the two teams.
NHL Predictions: Washington Capitals vs Columbus Blue Jackets
The Capitals have won three games in a row heading into tonight’s game, but haven’t played since Tuesday. Since then several injured players have made progress towards returning to the lineup. This is the second time this month the Capitals have had three days between games. After beating Columbus 2-1 on the 4th, the Capitals lost in overtime to the Florida Panthers on the 8th. The Blue Jackets most recently played Thursday night, losing 3-2 to the Arizona Coyotes. They haven’t won a game in over two weeks.
Three Keys to a Washington Win
Maintain the Momentum
The Capitals are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and have outscored opponents 11-3 in the past three games. They shut out the defending champion Vegas Golden Knights in their most recent game. Contributions from all four lines are starting to roll in, and the Capitals have scored first in five consecutive games. The fourth line has produced four goals through the past three games. The Capitals haven’t trailed in a game since the Florida matchup, when the Panthers held a 2-1 lead after the first period. If the Capitals can build an early lead, Washington will have the chance to continue honing its team-wide offence against a Columbus team which averages 3.53 goals-against per game.
Washington could see up to three players return from injury against Columbus, including a potential season debut. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk has been out since sustaining a lower-body injury in the previous Washington-Columbus meeting. Forward Anthony Mantha took a puck to the head against Florida and has missed the past three games. Both players are anticipated to return to the lineup. Mantha told media earlier in the week that the puck ruptured his eardrum and caused problems with his balance. He was placed on injured reserve on the 10th and spent a few practices in a non-contact jersey. While he said his hearing hasn’t fully returned, the physiological symptoms are behind him and he passed concussion screening. Mantha has primarily played on the third line. van Riemsdyk will likely skate on the third defensive pair.
Defender Joel Edmundson, who hasn’t suited up for the Capitals since being acquired in the summer, could play. Coach Spencer Carbery did not give a definitive answer after Friday’s practice. If Edmundson does play, he would be the tenth different blueliner to suit up for Washington in just over a month of action. Despite the high variance, Washington’s defence has been sturdy recently and Carbery may not want to introduce another change yet. Edmundson is predicted to start out on the third pairing. Whenever he does return, the Capitals will need to clear Cap space, potentially requiring them to expose either Alexander Alexeyev or Lucas Johansen to waivers.
Play the Full Game
Columbus has kept their games close–five of their games this month have been decided by only one goal. Washington hasn’t seen as many close games–their last one-goal decision was the overtime loss to Florida. The Capitals haven’t had to play in a tight game, at least on the scoreboard, for over a week. Between the three-day break and the six-spot standings cushion, there’s a risk the Capitals could start too lax against Columbus. There’s also a precedent for the Capitals’ quality of play varying from period to period. On October 25, they had a 3-0 lead after the first period but allowed four unanswered goals in the second period and had to rally in the final 20 minutes to pull off the win. Four days later, they trailed the League-last San Jose Sharks for about half the game.
NHL Predictions Time
Games between the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets are almost always close affairs. While Washington has been playing well recently, and Columbus hasn’t, this division matchup could be more contested than the teams’ recent records suggest. Both teams are near the bottom of the league in some important aspects–faceoff win percentage and power play effectiveness. The Capitals will have to resist a few days of rust and adjust to at least two changes in the lineup to be successful. If Washington can continue its balanced offensive production and team-wide commitment to defence, it shouldn’t have too much trouble with Columbus.
Prediction: Capitals win 4-2.
Main photo by: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports