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NHL Predictions: Washington Capitals Three Keys to Victory vs Seattle Kraken

Today’s NHL Prediction features the Washington Capitals (19-13-6) hosting the Seattle Kraken (17-14-9) in the second game of a six-game trip for Seattle. Seattle is coming off a 5-2 win in Buffalo on Tuesday. The Capitals narrowly beat the Los Angeles Kings, 4-3, on Sunday and haven’t seen game action since. During the downtime, two important players have come off Washington’s injured reserve list: T.J. Oshie and Charlie Lindgren. However, top-liners Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson both missed practice time. Oshie and Wilson are expected to play, but coach Spencer Carbery told tmedia on Wednesday that he will evaluate Ovechkin after the optional morning skate. At the time of publication, he remains listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed ailment.

Both teams are in fairly similar positions within their divisions. Currently, Washington is sixth in the Metropolitan with 44 points, and Seattle is fifth in the Pacific with 43 points, but their recent play trends are considerably different. The Capitals are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games and were outscored 15-9 in the first week of the new year. The Kraken have won seven consecutive games dating to the week before Christmas and have earned a point in 11 straight outings.

The Washington Capitals need to stabilize its recent turbulence if they will compete for a playoff spot. They’ll have a good chance to work on their consistency against the deep Kraken, who had 11 players on the score sheet in Buffalo. Here are the keys for the Capitals to earn a win against Seattle.

NHL Predictions: Washington Capitals vs Seattle Kraken

Three Keys to Victory for Washington

Avoid the Penalty Kill

Though the penalty kill was once one of the strongest components of the Capitals game, it has struggled for the past two weeks. Once ranked as high as seventh in the league, the penalty kill has dropped to 19th place at 78.6%. Washington has allowed at least one power play goal in each of its last five games and gave up two each in its last two games. The opposition’s combined power play rate is 58.3% during the five-game streak.

Washington’s primary penalty killers have been in the box for several of the unsuccessful kill attempts. This was most impactful in the Capitals 6-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on the fifth. Within one minute of game time, forwards Beck Malenstyn and Evgeny Kuznetsov took defensive-zone penalties; Carolina scored on both opportunities. Malenstyn is the Capitals overall leader in shorthanded time on ice with over 108 minutes, and Kuznetsov is sixth with 63 minutes as part of the secondary unit. Sunday, forward Connor McMichael, who averages a minute of penalty killing per game, was at fault for the Kings power play chance.

Find a Working Combination in the Top Six

Carbery continued to try different combinations for the Capitals top two lines in practice this week. With Oshie likely to play, the second line will probably be him across from Max Pacioretty, with Evgeny Kuznetsov in the middle. He said he hopes the two veteran wingers will help stabilize Kuznetsov’s play. Kuznetsov was the top-line centre to start the Los Angeles game but played less than three minutes in the final period. Wilson also sat for most of the second half of the game, partially due to a broken nose, and Ovechkin joined Dylan Strome and Pacioretty for the rest of the contest.

The Ovechkin-Strome-Pacioretty combination scored immediately and stayed together for the rest of the game. If Ovechkin plays, he’ll stay with Strome, joined by Wilson. Strome is the Capitals leading goal scorer, and Wilson will represent the Capitals at the All-Star Game in late February. If Ovechkin doesn’t play, either Hendrix Lapierre or Matthew Phillips would take his place; the two took turns rounding out the top line in Wednesday’s practice.

Lean on the Bottom Six

While the top six have struggled to consistently contribute, the bottom six forwards have done very well recently. Several have marked personal milestones in the past month. Anthony Mantha is tied for second in team goals (11), Beck Malenstyn scored in consecutive games for the first time in his career, and Aliaksei Protas has set new career highs in assists (15) and points (18).

Washington’s fourth line scored the game-tying goal against Los Angeles and were on the ice for the game-winning goal. The three members of the line, Malenstyn, Nic Dowd, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, recorded Washington’s top three Game Scores calculated by Cole Palmer of Hockey Stats Cards. One interesting stat, the Capitals are 6-1-1 when Dowd and Malenstyn have at least a point.

The third line, made up of Mantha and Protas with McMichael in the middle, generated 80% of expected goals when they were on the ice at even strength, according to Protas led the team in individual xG percentage with 83.59%. Mantha was close behind at 80.7%. McMichael had the highest individual xG, 0.91, which was 31.71% of Washington’s 2.87 xG.

Prediction Time

Though the two teams’ recent trends are about as opposite as the coasts they call home, they’re nearly even in average goals per game, both defensively and offensively. Defensively, the Kraken are tenth in the NHL with 2.83 goals against per game, closely followed by Washington’s 2.97. On the offensive side, both teams are in the bottom five: Seattle’s 2.75 average goals-for ranks 27th, and Washington is 30th with 2.39.

Seattle is a deep team with a strong goaltender. Washington will strive to play like it did at the end of Sunday’s game for a full 60 minutes tonight against the Kraken. Washington has the last change as the home team, allowing Carbery to choose strategic line deployments. Seattle brings confidence into the game, while the Capitals will have to adapt to at least one lineup change.

Prediction: Seattle wins 4-2.

Main photo: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports


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