Washington Re-Capitals: Week Seven

Good: The Caps went 2-1-0 this week and stole a win from the Colorado Avalanche!

Bad: Kuznetsov (upper body) and Oshie (head) are out, with no definite timetable for return.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to find out what the ugly is.

Status Cup-date

Record: 9-7-3 (Home: 5-3-2 / Away: 4-4-1)

Standing: 4th Metropolitan / 9th Eastern

Goals For: 63

Goals Against: 63

Team Leaders:

  • Goals: Alex Ovechkin (13)
  • Assists: Nicklas Backstrom (17)
  • Points: Nicklas Backstrom (22)
  • PIM: Evgeny Kuznetsov (22)

Game Recap-ital(s)

13th November: Washington Capitals @ Minnesota Wild, 8:00pm EST (W 5-2)

In a romp of a win in St. Paul, the Capitals held Mikael Granlund, the Manbearpig with the most, and Zach Parise off the scoreboard. The newest New Look Capitals, with 8-92-43 back to rule the roost, had an eventful game, but Dmitry Orlov stole the show, starting with his first goal of the season, from Eller and Burakovsky. To close out the first, Tom Wilson proved he really had come back from his suspension by scoring, off a pass from Orlov and Kuznetsov. This wasn’t the last time Orlov’s name would make the scoresheet.

Andre Burakovsky finally scored his second of the season, proving that he, Eller, and Connolly truly do belong together, and to bookend the second, Mikko Koivu scored the Wild’s first of the night, unassisted. Despite a wild attempt from the Wild’s captain, the Capitals entered the second intermission ahead by two goals.

And then Dmitry Orlov put his name on the scoresheet again, because one even strength goal wasn’t enough for one night. (Describe Orlov’s goal off Ovi and Nisky.) Two minutes later, T.J. Oshie scored the game winner, from Backstrom and Vrana. In the waning minutes of the third, the Wild converted on a power play in the form of a Mathew Dumba goal that got Captain Koivu on the scoresheet for a second time, but it wasn’t enough to take the game back. The Capitals ran away with the game in the first, maintained their lead in the second, and had enough energy left in the tank for what’s becomnig their signature move — offensive pressure so unbelievable that you wonder why teams don’t just play five forwards all the time. Hell, why don’t we let Holtby play forward too?

Extra attacker? All of our attackers are extra as hell.

The main issue with this game was the penalties — the Caps and the Wild traded penalties one for one through the first (interference calls on Dumba and Wilson) and second (slashing for Seeler, tripping for Burakovsky, and matching fighting calls against Wilson and Foligno), but Washington took five penalties (holding against Niskanen, holding against Orlov, roughing against Carlson, delay of game against Bowey, and elbowing against Kuznetsov) to Minnesota’s one (roughing against Niederreiter). The lack of discipline in the third could be attributed to tiredness or renewed enthusiasm, given the infrequency with which the Capitals have maintained a lead through two periods, but it can’t stay.

Counting on opponents to convert on only one of eight power play opportunities can’t be the strategy of choice long term.

14th November: Washington Capitals @ Winnipeg Jets, 8:00pm EST (L 3-1)

Jakub Vrana was the bright spot of this game. Dmitry Orlov continued his offensive renaissance, finding Bowey, who found Vrana, who found the back of the net. From there on out, it went downhill. While the penalties, overall, shook out to three apiece, the Capitals’ abysmal lack of defense was on full display.

Winnipeg converted on their third power play of the night, thanks to an Ovechkin interference call, earning Mark Scheifele another tally in the goal column, and that was the beginning of the end. The Jets struck twice in the third — a Ben Chiarot goal at even strength and an empty netter by Kyle Connor to seal the deal.

Copley ended the night with twenty-one saves on twenty-three shots faced in roughly fifty-nine minutes of play, giving him a save percentage of 91.3% despite the shoddy defense before him. Evgeny Kuznetsov, however, did not get saved — after an illegal check to the head from Jets defenseman Brandon Tanev’s elbow midway through the first period, he didn’t return to the game. Neither did T.J. Oshie — after Josh Morrisey did some wild WWE Smackdown moves on him, Oshie appeared dazed and was also removed from the game. (Morrissey ended up getting fined, but not suspended, which, personally? Ridiculous. The DOPS’ inconsistency is mindblowing.)

Shoutout to Andre Burakovsky, who had a CF% rel of 22.7%, and Brett Connolly, who was close behind him at 19.5%. The third line (save for Eller, who ended up in the negatives for the first time in a while), surprisingly accompanied in positives by most of the Capitals’ top six forwards, are possession rockstars, but they couldn’t offset the fact that nearly every Capitals defender had a negative impact on team possession maintenance. John Carlson (50.0% CF, 5.4% CF rel) and Christian Djoos (48.3% CF, 1.5% CF rel) were the only defenders to have a positive impact on team possession, and Siegenthaler (-0.1%), Bowey (-4.1%), Orlov (-11.5%), and Niskanen (-19.5%) found themselves on the wrong side of the guillotine.

The defense needs to get better. That’s where we are, that’s where we’ve been, that’s where we likely will be. The defense needs to maintain possession more effectively and make sure there are more wild romps through the forest of goalscoring that end in our favor instead of nights like this. Granted, Winnipeg had ten wins under their belt coming into this game, but come on. The Capitals made taking down giants their M.O. last season. This is just disappointing.

Last week, I said the strength of the Jets was their goaltending and Blake Wheeler. Connor Hellebuyck went above and beyond his usual show stopping performances, saving twenty-seven of twenty-eight shots he faced, and Blake Wheeler assisted on Schiefele’s power play goal, the beginning of the Jets’ comeback. I did claim the Capitals could easily overcome that, which… well, we know how that turned out.

Hopefully the Mackstreet Boys don’t totally devastate them.

16th November: Washington Capitals @ Colorado Avalanche, 9:00pm EST (OTW 3-2)

Thank God for Nicklas Backstrom.

Whatever higher power you believe in, real, unreal, or maybe just some formless, shapeless, well-meaning entity beyond the purview of physics, math, and other school subjects you’ll never use in real life, thank them for Nicklas Backstrom. Because this game… whew.

The King of Narrative did it again, and on the power play no less.

Starting from the beginning’s a good tactic, but the beginning is a Carl Soderberg goal, the only goal in the first period. Well, the real beginning is Todd Reirden’s Line Blender, and he’s decided to fill the holes in the top six left by Kuznestov and Oshie’s injuries with… first line center Lars Eller and noted offensive dynamo Andre Burakovsky.

Okay!

Encouraging!

(I’m secretly terrified, bewildered, and confused.)

Speaking of confusion, Carl Soderberg’s career high in goals is sixteen, which he’s achieved twice — in 2013-14 with the Bruins (73 GP), and last year, at age thirty-two, with Colorado (77 GP). In nineteen games this season, he’s already scored seven goals. Talk about a late bloomer, right? If Soderberg continues scoring at this rate, he’s easily surpassing his career highs, and even if he doesn’t, he’s probably going to set a personal best in goals this year. A feel good story for us all.

Washington drew blood twice in the second — the first a DSP goal (from Stephenson and Boyd), and the second an Ovechkin goal, from Backstrom, and Wilson.

Turns out anyone looks good next to Backstrom and Ovechkin.

Who knew, right?

The Capitals entered the second intermission with a lead, which I feel like I’ve been saying a lot lately, and continued on to the third intermission thanks to a Matt Calvert goal (side note: I feel like he was a Blue Jacket?), heading to their first overtime game since the Disappointment Against Dallas on November 3rd. However, thankfully, the Capitals (or, should I say, Nicklas Backstrom) redeemed themselves, earning another point in the win column and launching themselves into a respectable fourth place in the Metropolitan Division.

Roster Spot Musical Chairs

Notable transactions this week include:

  • To NHL: Tom Wilson (from suspension), Ilya Samsonov (from AHL)
  • To AHL: Aaron Ness (from NHL), Jonas Siegenthaler (from NHL, paper transaction)
  • To SHL: Axel Jonsson-Fjallby (from AHL)
  • To Injured (not IR): Kuznetsov (upper body, 11/14 vs Jets), Oshie (head, 11/14 vs Jets)

Next Week’s Games

  • 19th November: Washington Capitals @ Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 pm EST
  • 21st November: Chicago Blackhawks @ Washington Capitals, 7:00 pm EST
  • 23rd November: Detroit Red Wings @ Washington Capitals, 4:00pm EST
  • 24th November: Washington Capitals @ New York Rangers, 2:00pm EST

Weather Forecast

The Habs are right where we left them, riding a streak of Carey Price brilliance that’s unlikely to last too much longer. Price’s quality save percentage is 42.9%, which falls solidly in the bad (<50%) category, though it isn’t as far from league average (~53%) as Antti Niemi’s 0%. That’s right. 0%. God, I hope we get Niemi. Max Domi is still going with that 24.4% shooting percentage, and while I can’t wait for regression to catch up with him, I hope the consequences of his off ice decisions do first. Listen, life is a crap shoot. Who knows what defense is going to show up to the Habs game? Who knows if defense is going to show up to the Habs game? Right now, I’m hoping Kuznetsov or Oshie might, but hoping’s the name of the game, isn’t it?

Let’s get this out of the way — I don’t like the Blackhawks. I do not want the Blackhawks to succeed at all, let alone win anything. I have coworkers who are Blackhawks fans and I take every opportunity to dunk financial advice on them every time their team makes wild, inconsistent decisions. And considering they’re coming off a shootout loss against the Los Angeles Kings, a team whose injury plagued, shooting averse season has been so abysmal that they’re on their backup backup goalie, we might steal a win. If the Capitals play the home ice advantage the right way, we could get the chance to boo Patrick Kane out of Capital One Arena. Do it for me, Caps. Please.

The Wings are 9-9-2. I just… I feel sad talking about beating the Wings. Is it worth it, at this point? I just feel rude speculating on what we could do to kick a team that’s already down, crying, and begging forgiveness. At least Jonathan Ericsson isn’t playing, right? It could be worse for them? The Red Wings are far below league average in Goals Against (64 vs. league average 59), and the Caps should take advantage. God, this is depressing. I’m sorry, Detroit. I miss Hank too.

Is it really a rebuild if you’re still winning with Mats Zuccarello out? Also, I didn’t realize Pavel Buchnevich was injured because I was so used to Alain Vigneault era “can’t spell Buchnevich without bench” lineup decisions. Yikes. If the Caps beat Hank (91.8% save percentage, 2.71 GAA, 68.8% quality save percentage), they beat the Rangers. And thankfully, the Capitals have a legendary Hank destroyer — Alexander Ovechkin.

This Week In Review

This week was a hard month, despite the 2-1-0 record that came out of it. The loss of Kuznetsov and Oshie showed against Colorado, though the line blender lines stole the W through bravery, courage, and pure feisty brilliance. Hopefully neither Oshie nor Kuznetsov is gone for long.

Holtby, injured last week against Arizona, is practicing again, which will give Copley some relief, and reduces the chances of a Samsonov start coming within the next few days, but it might be Sammy’s time to shine — he may get a game at the NHL level to see if he can replicate his KHL success. Either way, Holtby luckily seems to be on his way to a recovery, which means we’ll likely see Siegenthaler come “back” up (he was “sent down” in a paper transaction to allow for Samsonov to be brought up to back up Copley) in the next few days if Holtby is truly well.

The goal is long term, sustainable success, something that Reirden and his colleagues know well, given how the defensive pairs have been juggled over this week. One thing is a glaring mistake — Orlov and Carlson are not working. Orlov and Carlson are both offensively minded, and while that sounds nice in theory, you end up seeing turnovers and allowed breakaways that did not need to happen in practice. Kempny-Niskanen… I’m still scratching my head. I don’t get it. Return Orlov to Niskanen. We’ve had an 8-19 reunion. Please put Orlov and Niskanen back together. It’s time.

(Picture Credit: NHL.com)

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