Twenty-two games into the 2020-21 season, the Washington Capitals find themselves sitting atop the MassMutual East Division standings. A big reason for the team’s success is their ability to put the puck in the net. Their 3.41 goals for per game is fourth-most in the league, and they’ve scored 75 total goals, which is sixth-most. With this high-powered offense comes personal milestones for its contributors, so let’s take a look at which Capitals are approaching significant achievements.
One of the top playmakers of his generation is on the cusp of a significant accomplishment: Nicklas Backstrom is currently one assist away from 700 in his career. He has the third most assists among active players, and would become the 54th player in NHL history to reach the seven-century mark.
After dishing out apple number 699 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 25, the milestone has eluded him for the past three games. Backstrom is having an offensively potent season, leading the Capitals in goals, assists, and points, so number 700 can come at any moment that 19 is on the ice.
In 2019-20, John Carlson set career highs in all scoring categories, and finished second in the Norris Trophy voting. He is following that up with another strong season, leading all Capitals in time on ice per game, and is second on the team in assists and points. Like Backstrom, the 27th-overall pick in the 2008 Draft is approaching a significant assist milestone. With 497 in his NHL career, Carlson is only three helpers away from 500. With the offensive firepower of Carlson and the Caps, it’s not outlandish to say he could get it done next game.
It seems like Alex Ovechkin sets a new franchise record or passes a league legend every night at this point. He recently leapfrogged Mike Gartner into seventh place on the all-time goals list, and is four behind Phil Esposito for sixth. He is also approaching 1,300 career points, currently five away from that mark.
Assuming Sidney Crosby (1,281 points) doesn’t go on an absolute tear, the Great Eight will be the 35th NHLer to reach 1,300.
The 2020-21 season has not been kind to Evgeny Kuznetsov thus far. A run-in with the coronavirus in mid-January and an upper-body injury have forced him to miss 10 of Washington’s 22 games. But if he is able to stay healthy and in the lineup, he should reach his 500th NHL game by March 20. The 28-year-old Russian is also five points away from 400 in his career. Kuznetsov only has six points on the season, but he is the type of player who can get hot at the drop of a hat and double his point total in a weekend.
The Capitals didn’t extend Brenden Dillon this offseason for his offense, but he is certainly contributing on the scoresheet. After not recording a point with the Capitals last season, he has a goal and seven assists this season. In an 82-game campaign he would be on pace to set a new career high in points, and he still may in 56.
His next assist will be the 100th of his career, so he will definitely be receiving a congratulatory taped puck in the near future.
The Capitals traded for Nick Jensen in February of 2019, and earlier this season he played in his 100th game for Washington. Assuming he remains in the lineup, the Detroit Red Wings’ 2009 fifth-round pick will play in his 300th NHL game on Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils. There is no reason to think it won’t happen; Jensen was a healthy scratch three times earlier in the season, but has since been playing some of the best hockey of his career.
Down the Road
- T.J. Oshie’s 600th point (581)
- John Carlson’s 400th assist (387)
- Alex Ovechkin’s 1,200th game (1,170)
- Nicklas Backstrom’s 1,000th game (978)
- John Carlson’s 800th game (779)
- Lars Eller’s 800th game (772)
- Richard Panik’s 500th game (491)
The Capitals went 2-5-0 to start the month of February, but are 7-1-1 since the 16th and back in first in the tightly packed MassMutual East Division. They are coming off a signature win against the Boston Bruins, who are on their heels in the standings. As the team wins come, so will the individual achievements. Every player in that locker room will tell you that the former is all they care about, though.