March 9 – Day 146 – They left Kings…

For the second night in the row, Boston earned a win in the Sunshine State, and once again it required overtime.

If you like defense and goaltending, this was the game for you.  Although there was a combined total of 75 shots on goal, 98.7%, all but the last one, did not find the back of the net.

Marked at the 60:10 mark, Third Star of the Game Brad Marchand scored his 34th goal of the season to earn the Bruins the bonus point.  His wrister was assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug.

First Star Jonas Gustavsson saved earned the shutout victory after saving all 42 shots he faced, while Second Star Ben Bishop has to take the overtime loss, saving 30 of 31 (96.8%).

Thanks to the Bruins, the road squads are currently riding a five game winning streak in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which now stands at 64-37-15, favoring the home squad by 28 points over the roadies.

This Wednesday is a lighter schedule, although still busier than Monday’s.  To start the night, the New York Islanders visit Toronto at 7 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by Chicago at St. Louis.  Nashville at Calgary drops the puck at 9:30 p.m. eastern, trailed half an hour later by two more games (Arizona at Vancouver and Anaheim at Colorado).  Finally, Washington at Los Angeles, this evening’s nightcap, gets underway at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

Chicago at St. Louis and Arizona at Vancouver are this evening’s only divisional rivalries being played, and another set of two games are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Chicago at St. Louis and Washington at Los Angeles).

This is usually the point of the post where you’ve already figured out which contest I’ve chosen.  Alas, the ChicagoSt. Louis game, while very important to the standings and a heck of a lot of fun to watch, is not this evening’s choice, but instead it is the return of Mike Richards and Justin Williams to the City of Angels.

Washington Capitals LogoUnknown-3This will be Washington‘s 15th appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 10-4-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was Friday, a 3-2 loss on home ice to the Rangers.  Los Angeles was featured the next day in their 3-2 loss to the Ducks, also on home ice.  That was their fifth appearance in the series, setting their record in such games at 2-3-0.

Before jumping into game analysis, we must first set the stage.  Tonight’s game is the first return by both Richards and Williams to the Staples Center since joining the Capitals this January and last July, respectively.  For Kings fans, these returns are of strikingly different varieties – almost similar to a hero and heel of WWE, but few will be in favor of tonight’s villain.

Our hero this evening is Williams, a seven year veteran of the Kings.  The right winger joined the squad during the 2008-’09 season after being traded from the Carolina Hurricanes, where he had won a Stanley Cup in 2005-’06.  Although the Kings didn’t make the playoffs that season, they did the next five.  Williams was an important part of the 2010-’11 and 2011-’12 seasons, where he twice tied for second most points on the squad.  Of course, it is the ’11-’12 season that is most memorable, as his 15 playoff points (tied for fourth most on the team) helped lead the Kings to their first Stanley Cup Championship.  Williams’ success, especially in assists, continued in the following seasons, as he always ranked at least top-three in points leading up to the 2013-’14 Stanley Cup Championship.  After declining last season, the Kings elected not to renew his contract, leading him to sign with the Capitals over the summer.

Not everything about Washington‘s visit will be pleasant for Kings fans, as they also show up with Richards on the squad, our heel for the evening.  Richards joined Los Angeles before the 2011-’12 season, and was also on both the teams to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.  With the exception of the 2014-’15 season, which witnessed him being sent down to the AHL, Richards consistently ranked top-four in points during the regular season.  He was a much bigger contributor to Los Angeles‘ first Cup than the second, as he continued being a top-four point scorer, which he followed up a year later by leading the squad in playoff assists.

Richards’ downfall during the 2014-’15  season was completed in June when the Kings terminated his remaining contract due to drug charges at American-Canadian border.  After a long ordeal between the Kings and the NHLPA, Richards was finally eligible to be signed as a free agent in October.  Washington signed him to a one-year, $1 million contract in January.

Richards’ and Williams’ new team, the 49-13-4 Washington Capitals, look more and more like the team to have signed with this offseason.  Not only do they lead the Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference and the entire NHL, but they’re doing it by an incredible 14 points.  As you’d expect of a team with this kind of success, the Caps play well on both ends of the ice, ranking second best in both scoring and goal prevention.

The offense starts just where you’d expect it to: Alex Ovechkin.  His 329 shots more than double Williams’ attempts, and he has the second most on the squad.  Overall, the Caps have fired the puck 2025 times, with a spectacular 10.4% finding the back of the net for 214 goals (led by Ovi’s 41 tallies), the second most in the league.  Washington‘s special teams are not too far behind, successful on 23.33% of attempts for 49 power play goals (led by Ovechkin’s 16 extra man tallies), the third best conversion rate in the league.

Defensively, the Caps are just as good.  Led by Karl Alzner’s 169 blocks, only 1904 shots have reached 41-8-3 Braden Holtby and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.4% for only 151 goals against, the second fewest in the league.  The penalty kill has also been stellar this season, responsible for neutralizing 84.76% of their infractions for only 32 power play goals against.

Washington is currently riding a two game win streak, with their most recent occurring Monday, a 2-1 shootout victory in Anaheim.  With 102 points already to their credit, the Capitals are already planning out which hotels they’ll be staying in when they play in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.  That being said, they’d like to maintain a 15 point minimum lead for the Presidents’ Trophy to ensure home ice throughout the tournament.

The 39-22-4 Los Angeles Kings currently sit in second place in the Pacific Division and fifth in the Western Conference.  They are led by their defense, which ranks best in the league, but their offense is 14th worst.  A more in-depth analysis of LA‘s game can be found within Saturday’s article.

The Kings‘ most recent game was 5-1 win over the Canucks.  Tonight’s game is an important one for the Kings, as a win paired with any type of loss for the Ducks propels Los Angeles back to the top of the Pacific Division.

Per usual, teams from opposite conferences meet only twice a year (excluding, of course, the Stanley Cup Finals).  Los Angeles has already made their visit to the Verizon Center this year on February 16, falling 3-1.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Los Angeles‘ Anze Kopitar (+26 [tied for fourth best in the league]), Tyler Toffoli (+27 [third best in the league]) and Jonathan Quick (33 wins [tied for third most in the league] and 2.17 GAA [tied for fourth best in the league]) & Washington‘s Nicklas Backstrom (44 assists [tied for fifth most in the league]), Holtby (41 wins [leads the league], 2.21 GAA [tied for seventh best in the league] and .923 save percentage [tied for seventh best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+31 [leads the league], 47 assists [fourth most in the league] and 67 points [fifth most in the league]), Ovechkin (41 goals [leads the league] and +21 [tied for ninth best in the league]) and Williams (+21 [tied for ninth best in the league]).

Los Angeles may own the best defense in the league, but Washington‘s offense will be too much to handle.  The Capital that will have the best time this evening will be Williams, who should be well received by the home crowd, but the same may not be able to be said about Richards, who, in fact, may enjoy beating the Kings all the more because of it.

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