The Capitals will face a team in turmoil when they play the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. Montreal announced it has fired head coach Dominique Ducharme and that his interim replacement is former Stanley Cup champion Martin St. Louis.
Washington is in desperate need of a win. The Caps have lost four of their last six and after leading the Metropolitan division at one point this season, now find themselves in fourth place with a 25-14-9 record. Most recently, they coughed up a two-goal lead and lost a heartbreaker to the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 on Tuesday.
Washington finds itself in a bit of a freefall thanks to several factors. Perhaps chief of all is their subpar play on special teams—they are 28th in the NHL with a power-play percentage of 11.4% and 17th with a penalty kill percentage of 82.7%. Perhaps most daunting is the fact that the Capitals are the league’s second-worst team at the faceoff dot winning just 46.6% of draws.
Coronavirus and injuries haven’t helped, either. Star players on the Caps’ roster—like Anthony Mantha, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie among others—have all missed time for various health-related reasons this year. At one point in late December, Washington was as close to having a full roster as they have been all season and went on to win two straight games before the injury bug struck again and they dropped their next four.
Still, Washington is in prime position to get back in the win column vs. a struggling Montreal team on Thursday. Losing their head coach has been the culmination of a terrible season for the Canadiens, who just eight months ago were playing in the Stanley Cup Final.
“At this point in the season, we felt it was in the best interest of the club to make a change,” said Habs general manager Kent Hughes.
Ducharme was fired after registering a 23-46-14 record in 83 regular season games since being hired by the Canadiens in February 2021. He led Montreal to their first Cup Final appearance since 1993 this past season, though, where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Canadiens are the worst team in the league with 23 points, most recently losing to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday 7-1.