Cap Tip (11/6/2018)

The Big Picture

The Washington Capitals had a week that was the very definition of average. Of a possible six points the Caps could’ve earned against some middle of the road opponents, they got three while going 1-1-1. Like I said, very average. For a while I was convinced that the Capitals defense would work itself out, and while I still think that could be the case, I’m also starting to have my doubts. Over the first month or so of the season the Caps are rocking an awful 3.77 goals against per game, good for 4th worst in the league. “How” you may ask “are the Capitals winning any games at all?” Simple, they are also scoring 3.75 goals for per game, good for 1st in the league. If they can put together any sort of half decent defense this team could be really good.

A look at the metro division standings tells us one thing. This division is far and away the most even in the NHL. Washington is part of a four way tie at 15 points for 2nd in the division. Who is behind this long jam? Just the Hurricanes with 14 points, the Devils with 13 points, and the supposedly horrible Rangers also with 13 points. There is only a five point spread between the Islanders in first and Rangers in last, it’s still anyone’s game in the Metro.

The Last Week

L @ MTL 6-4 (11/1)

First of all, the Habs are, without any semblance of a doubt, one of the biggest surprises in the league this season. They lost star defenseman Shea Weber to a ligament tear before the season, he isn’t expected to return until December. They traded former captain Max Pacioretty to Vegas before the season as well, they were close to the bottom of many power rankings before the season kicked off. Yet, here they are, tied for 2nd place in the Atlantic.

Ok, enough about the miracle Canadiens, this was horrendous defensive performance by Washington. The Caps were outshot 44-31 and out chanced (chances are all shooting attempts, regardless if they hit the goalie) by a staggering 64-46. Braden Holtby got understandably frustrated and lost it a little on the ice.

Despite the advanced stats nightmare that this game was, the Capitals were actually winning until the last four minutes. The score was 4-3 until the Habs scored with 3:54 left in the 3rd. This set us up for overtime, a common occurance recently with the Caps, however Max Domi had other plans. With only 22 seconds left in the game the Canadiens had a fast break ending with Domi ripping a wrister by Holts effectively ending the game. Montreal would add an empty netter to give them the win 6-4.

Despite the disappointment that the end of this game was, shoutout to Ovi and Lars Eller who both had two goals in this one.

OTL vs DAL 4-3 (11/3)

The Capitals returned home to the district for the first time in 14 days. Unfortunately, they were playing a team that seemingly beats them at home every year in the Dallas Stars. This was a poor game for the top six as the first two lines both posted negative performances. The Stars jumped out to an early lead with two first period goals, forcing the Caps to play from behind yet again. Thankfully goals from Backy and Brett Connolly kept the Caps within striking distance down 3-2 going into the 3rd. The birdman himself Evgeny Kuznetsov put in a power play goal to send the game to OT. Unfortunately the Capitals luck would run out as the Stars’ Jason Dickinson would bury the game winner in overtime.

I will spare the usual “horrible defense” line in this part of Cap Tip at risk of sounding redundant (although, again, it was awful) and focus on the poor play of the new Ovi, Kuzy, Varna line. Since its debut in Calgary the new first line has posted two -2 performances in a row. One could argue that this poor play actually goes back to the beginning with Ovi and Kuzy as a pair, forget about the 3rd guy, and you would be right. At this point I was calling for another line switch, and apparently Todd Rierdan heard my prayers because in the next game…

W vs EDM 4-2 (11/5)

Coach Rieden seriously mixed things up. He sported these lines going into Monday’s showdown

For reference, this is what the lines looked line on Saturday against the Stars.

Yep, four new lines. Hey, it worked though. Jake Varna did not let his demotion to the 4th line stop him as the rising Czech star. Overall this was one of the better performances all around by the Caps this season. The defense wasn’t as bad as it has been and the offense led by TJ Oshie and DSP was very efficient. The real stars of the game in my opinion were Travis Boyd who finally debuted returning from a training camp injury, and Pheonix Copley who, only allowed two goals on 33 shots.

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