Free Pick: Capitals ML
Carolina is 2-5 their previous 7 games versus Washington
Carolina is 3-9 their previous 12 home games versus the Capitals
Carolina Recent Games
1-4 their previous 5 games
4-6 their previous 10 home games
3-5 their previous 8 home games versus Eastern conference teams
3-11 their previous 14 home games versus Metropolitan division teams
2-5 the tail end of their last 7 back-to-backs
2-4 their previous 6 games versus teams above .500
Washington Recent Games
10-2 their previous 12 games
6-1 their previous 7 road games
4-0 their previous 4 road games versus Eastern conference teams
10-3 their previous 13 road games versus Metropolitan division teams
6-0 the first game of their last 6 back-to-backs
3-0 their previous 3 games with 2+ days of rest
5-2 their previous 7 games versus teams above .500
We should see Scott Darling get the nod for Carolina tonight. With Curtis McElhinney sidelined due to a lower-body injury the Hurricanes were forced to call Darling up from the AHL. This will be his first NHL start since back on November 24th when he gave up 4 goals to the Islanders. In five games with the Charlotte Checkers this year, he has posted a 3-1-0 record with a 2.35 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. His matchup tonight figures to be a real test, facing off against last years Stanley Cup Champions who have now had a couple of days to rest. In his 7 NHL starts this season Darling has allowed at least 3 goals in all but 1 which was against the Blackhawks. Washington ranks 2nd in the league for average goals scored this season (3.73) and the team has put up at least 3 goals in all but 1 of their last eleven on the road. Heck, they’ve actually put up 4+ in eight of those. With that in mind, I think Darling is in for a long night and something like 3 should be an absolute floor for the Capitals.
On the other side it’ll be Braden Holtby between the pipes for Washington. He’s won back-to-back starts and given up just two goals during that stretch. Holtby owns a 12-7-2 record with a 2.81 goals-against-average and a .913 save percentage this season. He draws a somewhat favorable matchup tonight facing a Hurricanes team that will be playing the tail end of a back-to-back which also happens to be their third game in just 4 days. They’re bound to be tired and it doesn’t help that they were just in Montreal last night before heading all the way back home for tonight’s game. Although Carolina does lead the league in average shots on net (38.34), the team sits way down at second to last (ahead of only the Kings) in average goals scored (2.48). They’ve scored just 1 goal in each of their last two home games and topped 3 just twice in their last 10 at home. This looks like a pretty favorable spot for Holtby and I would think 3 should be an absolute ceiling for the Hurricanes tonight, but even 3 seems like it could be a bit hard to reach..
Looking at this game I can’t help but think it’s pretty uneven in favor of the Capitals. You’ve got the defending Stanley Cup Champs (leading the Metropolitan division) coming into this game fresh off a couple days rest and facing a divisional opponent they’ve done well against in the past. On the other side you have a Carolina team that’s really been struggling lately. The loss of McElhinney certainly doesn’t help and Darling is sure to have lots of pressure having to face this team his first game back since being called up.