Here are a few things you should know before the action starts:
WHAT ABOUT BOB?
Sergei Bobrovsky has once again had an impressive regular season, with a .921 save percentage, a record of 37-22-6 and plenty of highlight-reel saves in the process. However, the playoffs haven’t been kind to Bob. In his playoff career, Bobrovsky has a 3-13 record and has had a cumulative save percentage below .910 in every round, including .882 against the Pittsburgh Penguins a year ago. We all know Bobrovsky can be a stud when he’s in the zone, we’ll see if he rises to the occasion against the Caps starting tonight.
THE GAME-BREAKER MAKES HIS COLUMBUS PLAYOFF DEBUT
Artemi Panarin was acquired by the Columbus Blue Jackets via trade in the offseason. He’s been nothing short of brilliant in his first season as a member of the Blue Jackets, recording a franchise record of 82 points (27 goals and 55 assists) along with a plus- 23 rating. While his regular season was breathtaking at times, with numerous dekes, clutch goals and no-look assists, it’s what he does in the postseason that could possibly cement him as the best of all time to put on a CBJ uniform. Columbus struggled to score at key times in the postseason a year ago to fix that they got Panarin. There’s plenty of pressure, but “The Bread Man” has risen to the occasion plenty of times already. We’ll see if he can do it again.
PREMIUM ONE-TWO PUNCH ON OFFENSE FOR THE CAPS
Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov have been nothing short of spectacular for the Washington Capitals this season. Ovie racked up 49 goals (wowza) and 37 assists. Kuznetsov’s numbers weren’t too shabby either, with 27 goals and 56 assists on the season. Columbus has held it’s own during 5-on-5 play, but struggled mightily for most of the season on the penalty kill (ranked 26th overall in PK percentage). The Caps were a top-ten team on the power play during the regular season and there’s arguably no player who’s more dangerous on the man advantage than Ovechkin, who scored 17 power-play goals in his 82 games played before the start of the playoffs.
SOME LEGIT TWO-WAY DEFENSEMEN IN THIS MATCHUP
John Carlson (15 goals and 53 assists in 82 games) and Seth Jones (16 goals and 41 assists in 78 games) have each put up plenty of offensive production while holding their own on blue line. While Carlson has better offensive numbers, Jones holds a better overall rating of plus- 10, not to mention he’s also got Zach Werenski alongside him to make a lethal top defensive pairing that strike at any moment. There’s plenty of talented two-way defensemen in this matchup.
CBJ MUST GET OVER ROAD WOES AT CAPITAL ONE ARENA
The Capitals have won the last four times these two respective teams met away from Nationwide Arena. The most memorable of the aforementioned four games was when the teams matched up on January 5th, 2017, on a night when the CBJ had their 16-game winning streak snapped in a 5-0 loss to the Caps in the nation’s capital.
PLAYOFF STRUGGLES A TREND FOR BOTH CLUBS
In the Alex-Ovechkin era, Washington has failed to get past the first round of the playoffs. In the entire franchise history of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team has failed to win a playoff series. So, there’s that.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have clearly played their best hockey of the regular season since the trade deadline acquiring defenseman Ian Cole as well as forwards Mark Letestu and Thomas Vanek. The best may be yet to come, with a healthy Nick Foligno and Josh Anderson in the lineup with the new acquisitions for the first time tonight. Don’t underestimate what the Caps have done lately either. They finished the season going 12-3-0 in their last 15 games and are also looking good at the right time. It should be a great matchup with two teams who have the capability of making a deep run into the playoffs.