The Big Picture
The Washington Capitals were in a slump a couple weeks ago, there is no denying that. As such the week-long all-star break could not have come at a better time for the club, and seems to have kinda worked. The Capitals have done well over the last five games, going 3-1-1 earning seven out of a total ten possible points, pretty solid. If you look at the standings you will see that the Capitals have gotten themselves into 2nd place in the Metro behind the surging New York Islanders. With a little work they might be able to get back in the driver’s seat in the division.
In terms of players the biggest story is the long awaited return of Kuzy to actually being a productive player on offense (please hold your applause until the end). The defense has also had it’s long awaited return to serviceability with 2.8 goals allowed per game, it’s not perfect, but at least it’s better than allowing 7+ goals in three out of four games before the break. Overall, it was a much need return to form for Washington heading to a challenging next week.
The Last Week
W vs CAL 4-3 (2/1)
The Capitals were missing some guy named Alex Ovechkin because he decided to skip the All-Star game and get some rest, because of this he was suspended for one game. Funny enough, the game that the best player in franchise history missed is also the end of a seven games losing streak for Washington.
This game was a standard Capitals win, featuring a lot of goals, a lot of back and forth, and a very clutch snipe from Evgeny Kuznetsov to win the game with just under a minute left in regulation. There were times in this one where Washington could’ve run away with it, Tom Wilson scored a goal early in the 2nd period to extend the lead to 3-1. However, the Capitals would fail to score on three power plays in the 2nd period that could’ve put this one out of reach.
In the 3rd, Flames star Elias Lindholm would bury the tying goal to make the score 3-3. As I already said Kuzy would nail the game winner with 57 seconds left to ice this one away. Considering the Capitals won, something that hasn’t been true in three weeks at this point in time, any win is a good win, especially against a division leading club.
L vs BOS 1-0 (2/3)
The Capitals lost to the Boston Bruins for the first time since October 2014…and it was on National Broadcast Television.
By all means this game should’ve been a blowout in Boston’s favor as they outshot the Caps 39-24. Not only that, they had much better shots as the Bruins constantly crowded the net for high quality attempts while the Caps struggled to do the same. There were only two things worth watching in this game: the play of Breadon Holtby as he saved 38 of 39 shots, and Evgeny Kuznetsov along with rookie Dmitrij Jaskin getting benched for the remainder of the game after getting called for penalties in the first period.
That’s really it, David Krejci got the only goal of the game in the 2nd period, a snoozefest on par with the Super Bowl that this game shared the day with.
W vs VAN 3-2 (2/5)
Make no mistake, the Capitals needed to win this game against a weak opponent from the Western Conference, and they did. However, this game was really the “Jay Beagle returns to Washington special”. Jay Beagle was a favorite of so many Capitals fans including myself, and he was showered with cheers, signs, and all types of fan love in his return. He will return to Washington three more times under his four year contract with Vancouver, I miss him already.
There was also a game during the “Jay Beagle returns to Washington special”. It was a pretty good performance from the Caps, they were ahead the entire game thanks to an early goal from TJ Oshie on which Ovi became the leader in points scored by a Russian in NHL history via assist. Kuzy also had a strong game, assisting on goals from Brett Connolly in the 2nd, and Jakub Varna in the 3rd. Besides Beagle though, the star of the game was once again Braden Holtby in net, with 30 saves including one on a regulation penalty shot. Speaking of penalties, Kuzy clearly didn’t learn from being benched last game as he picked up another penalty less than four minutes in, discipline issues have haunted the Russian all-season, he needs to shape up soon or else he might get in trouble again.
W(OT) vs COL 4-3 (2/7)
This was a good game that was marred by two things. The first was the non-goal for Nicklas Backstrom, for those that didn’t see it, this play was a goal by all normal means, but it was waved off thanks to an early whistle. If this this power play goal counted than the Capitals would’ve been up 2-0 at the end of the first. The other big one was a blindside hit by Avalanche defenseman (and former Pittsburgh Penguin) Ian Cole on Evgeny Kuznetsov, this hit resulted in game ending penalties for both Tom Wilson and Cole due to fight afterwards.
This game featured some of the best play of the season from Andre Burakovsky as he scored the first goal of the night and was pressuring the puck all game on D. Ovechkin also played well with two assists, as well as Matt Niskanen who bagged a goal and an assist. However the the player of the game was no doubt Kuzy. He scored a power play goal in the second period to push the score to 2-1, and then returned from the concussion test late in regulation so he could score the game winner in overtime.
Despite the 37 shots Colorado had in this one, Pheonix Copley still allowed more goals than he probably should’ve given the circumstances and lack of high quality chances. Copley has struggled a little recently, hopefully he gets back on track soon because we just signed him for three more seasons.
OTL vs FLA 5-4 (2/9)
Wow, this game was a track meet. We started off on the wrong foot with two goals in the first period, both for Florida. Things improved a little bit thanks to goals from Brett Connolly and Lars Eller (his first in 13 games), unfortunately these were bisected by a Panthers goal. In the 3rd things started off rough via goal from Derick Brassard of Florida, the Caps would respond with Brett Connolly’s second goal of the evening. Things were quiet for a while until the red hot Evgeny Kuznetsov struck again late to force the game into overtime. Mike Hoffman would score the game winner for Florida.
While it’s hard to excuse giving up four goals, it’s also hard to fault Holtby given the chances that the Panthers had. According to Natural Stat Trick this was the 2nd worst defensive performance of the season for the Caps, and it looked like it. Really that is what this week has taught us, if Washington wants to be an elite team this season they need to tighten it up on D. The offense is back, the defense just needs to come back.