Washington Re-Capitals: Week Fourteen

Brooks Orpik is back, and right on time, too — the Washington Capitals lost three of their four games this past week. The Curse Himself has had little impact beyond puzzling plays (usual), penalty minutes (expected), and general invisibility (par for the course), but we may see Siegenthaler returned from the Shadow Realm sooner than later. We are crossing all our crossables going into Week Fifteen — maybe the league known for needlessly sacrificing the careers of youngsters to prop up declining senior citizens will surprise us for once.

Status Cup-date

Record: 24-12-4 (Home: 12-6-2 / Away: 12-6-2)

Standing: 1st Metropolitan / 3rd Eastern

Goals For: 141

Goals Against: 119

Team Leaders:

  • Goals: Alex Ovechkin (30)
  • Assists: Nicklas Backstrom (34)
  • Points: Alex Ovechkin (46)
  • PIM: Madison Bowey (38)

Game Recap-ital(s)

31st December: Nashville Predators @ Washington Capitals, 12:30pm EST (L, 6-3)

Well, there are some positives!

Michal Kempny scored his fourth of the season to eclipse his goal high of three from last season, bringing his point total up to fourteen. This is uncharted territory for Kempny, who’s never scored more than ten points in a season. On a team where Carlson provides a significant chunk of offense from the blue line, it’s a joy to see his partner seizing the day every so often too.

Jakub Vrana took advantage of passes from Carlson and Kuznetsov to earn the Capitals a 2-0 lead, the second of three leads the Capitals would own that night. Vrana’s twelfth goal of the season brought him one step closer to his thirteen goals scored in 2017-18. Given that the Capitals are barely halfway through the season, Vrana’s well on his way to his first twenty goal season (or potentially more…).

And then Rocco Grimaldi happened, and things started going downhill fast.

Chandler Stephenson scored his fifth of the season to open the second period, putting him three goals behind noted offensive dynamo Andre Burakovsky in more games to gain their Capitals their last lead of the night. Miikka Salomaki, Ryan Johansen, and Frederick Gaudreau all scored during the second period, giving the predators the lead, as well as three goal within five minutes of play, and the Capitals headed into the second intermission one goal down.

The third period was only a two goal affair, but both goals were scored by the Predators, so that put a significant damper on things. Ryan Ellis scored a well deserved goal to bring him up to nineteen points on the season, and then Viktor Arvidsson brought home the bacon with his second point of the night, a power play goal assisted by Johansen (who also had a one goal, one assist night) and Fiala.

Three Predators had one goal, one assist nights: Rocco Grimaldi (G: 1st/9:08, A: 2nd/14:30), Ryan Johansen (G: 2nd/11:59, A: 3rd/10:05), and Viktor Arvidsson (G: 3rd/18:00, A: 3rd/10:35). Mattias Ekholm had two assists, and five other Predators (Rinaldo, Bonino, Josi, Smith, and Fiala) made it onto the scoreboard.

All in all, a good night. Just not for the Caps.

You win some, you lose some, right?

3rd January: Washington Capitals @ St. Louis Blues, 8:00pm EST (L, 5-2)

Bad news, Robert Thomas opened the scoring. Good news, Ovi got his thirtieth of the season! Already! Not even halfway through the eighty-two games! No wonder he’s headed to the All-Star Game! (He isn’t, but he was nominated, and everyone can rejoice about that.) Outside of a Brooks Orpik high sticking double minor that St. Louis’ power play failed to convert on (and two more failed conversions by the Washington Capitals’ power play, but that’s to be expected by this point).

The second period was where things started to go wrong. Tom Wilson and Robert Bortuzzo took matching majors for fighting at 2:13 of the second frame, which gave Washington a fresh look at four on four play. Brett Connolly took full advantage and scored his ninth of the season, from Eller and Kempny. David Perron (slashing minor@ 05:29), Alex Pietrangelo (roughing minor @ 08:48, matched by Tom Wilson), Matt Niskanen (holding minor @ 10:37), and Pat Maroon (tripping minor @ 11:59, matched by Michal Kempny) all took penalties in the first twelve minutes of the second period. If you’re counting, that’s seven out of twelve minutes in the box for Tom Wilson. A five minute minor assessed at 02:13 should have returned him to the ice at 07:13, and at 08:48, he went off for two more minutes in the sin bin. That means Wilson was on the ice for a minute and twenty-five seconds before taking a second penalty.

Colton Parayko took advantage of the matching tripping minors for Pat Maroon and Michal Kempny, which gave the St. Louis Blues a 4 on 3, and scored his eighth goal of the season. From there on out, it was a bloodbath — Oskar Sundqvist scored to close out the second, and the third period featured two blues goals, one by Alex Pietrangelo, and the last an unassisted Bozak goal.

David Perron, Ryan O’Reilly, and Alex Pietrangelo all had multipoint nights, which seems to be a trend in Capitals losses this week, but the terrifying thing is this — no Capital took more than three shots on goal this game. In fact, only four of them even took three shots on goal — Dmitrij Jaskin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, and Tom Wilson. And out of those four, one was significantly penalized, missing seven minutes total of play time and skating only 13:50 minutes compared to linemate Kuznetsov’s 16:42. And another of those four was Alex Ovechkin, the only Capital other than Brett Connolly to score.

Two games in a row is tough, but the Capitals have done it before. Hopefully they break the skid in Dallas.

4th January: Washington Capitals @ Dallas Stars, 8:00pm EST (OTL, 2-1)

Spoiler Alert: The Capitals did not break the skid in Dallas, but they got much closer than they had so far.

This game was Tyler Seguin’s to lose, and he didn’t. The Capitals gave up two power-play opportunities to the Stars in the first period — a Niskanen holding call at 05:28 and an Ovechkin boarding call at 12:46 — and Tyler Seguin converted on the second, with assists from Faksa and Radulov. With fourteen goals on the season, which is more than all but one of the Washington Capitals, Seguin was most definitely not f—–g horse—-.

Lars Eller, Revenge Queen, scored his sixth of the season, from Burakovsky and Orpik. Burakovsky has a history of scoring against the Stars, which he was more than happy to make good on yet again.

Burakovsky is one bounce away from ten points on the season, which would tie him with Travis Boyd for fourteenth place on the team. Travis Boyd’s point share, as per hockey-reference, is 1.2 — three times that of Andre Burakovsky’s despite playing about a minute and a half less per game, on average. This could be worrying, but it could also be a sign that Burakovsky, who’s prone to streakiness, could be on the upswing again after a primary assist.

Both teams took four minors each throughout the game, but other than the Seguin conversion on the Ovechkin boarding call, nothing materialized for either power-play. The game went to overtime with the Capitals and Stars tied at one apiece, but three and a half minutes into overtime, Seguin, not to be outdone by another center traded away to escape a management disaster, scored his fifteenth of the season to end the game. Radulov and Baby Star Roope Hintz got added to the scoreboard. The Stars took home a W and some sorely needed points in the standings, and after two straight regulation losses, the Capitals were happy to come away with a point at all.

There is a silver lining to this loss, though:

6th January: Washington Capitals @ Detroit Red Wings, 5:00pm EST (W, 3-2)

Nearly seven minutes into the first period, the Detroit Red Wings left Kuznetsov and Wilson unguarded in front of the net. That was a mistake. Wilson hammered Kuznetsov’s pass home to earn the latter his three hundredth career point, and the Capitals took their first lead since Brett Connolly’s second period strike against St. Louis on the 3rd. Before the first ended, Mantha evened the score with his tenth of the season, unassisted — a backhander at even strength that snuck by Holtby.

The second period only featured one goal — a tip by rookie defenseman Filip Hronek (with assists by Larkin and Nyqvist), but the Capitals came alive in the third. The tying goal came courtesy of Boyd (from Ovechkin and Connolly) at 06:19 of the third. After which Reirden shook things up a little, just to see if it would work.

While no one on the new bottom six would make the scoreboard again, offensive dynamo Michal Kempny was ready to strut his stuff, and capitalized on assists from Niskanen and Kuznetsov to score his fifth of the season. The Capitals snapped their skid and won their first game since the 29th of December, 2018, earning themselves and their goaltender a sorely needed confidence boost.

Roster Spot Musical Chairs

  • To NHL: Brooks Orpik (from LTIR)
  • To AHL: Tyler Lewington (from NHL)
  • To LTIR: Christian Djoos (from IR)

Next Week’s Games

  • 8th January: Philadelphia Flyers @ Washington Capitals, 7:30pm EST
  • 10th January: Washington Capitals @ Boston Bruins, 7:00pm EST
  • 12th January: Columbus Blue Jackets @ Washington Capital, 7:00pm EST

Weather Forecast

Philadelphia Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers have now iced more goaltenders than any one of their goaltenders have wins, and the situation in the City of Brotherly Love doesn’t seem to be getting any better. A mixture of confusing coaching, the Calvin Pickard curse, and special teams units that rank 29th out of 31st in the league on both sides of the man advantage, the objective against the Philadelphia Flyers is to break the power-play slump. Washington is 26th in the league on the penalty kill (about 3.06% below average), and twenty-second on the power play at 22.1%, despite scoring only once in the last thirty-one power-play opportunities.

Philly, who have only converted seventeen of forty-one, are thankfully far below us, but the Capitals shouldn’t let up. If it’s Mike McKenna, the Caps have his number, but if they’re facing Carter Hart, they should be ready for the consequences — from cursory research, it looks like every Flyer would die for him, and when you make people from Philly mad, you’d better keep your wits about you.

Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins have fifty-two points, good for third in the Atlantic Division. In the middle of a four game win streak, the Bruins have to face the Minnesota Wild before they swing through the District of Columbia on the tenth of January. With Patrice Bergeron returned from injury to the tune of nine points in seven games and Brad Marchand (forty-four points in forty-one games) and David Pastrnak (fifty-two points in forty-two games) producing at above a point per game.

Like the Capitals, the Bruins are very much top heavy — their top line (and associated parties like David Krejci) are a clear head and shoulders above the rest of the team in point totals, and with two league average to good goaltenders patrolling the crease, if the Capitals can solve the Bruins’ top line, they might have a chance at coming away with the W in this one. It comes down to Jaroslav Halak again, but doesn’t it always, with the Capitals?

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets have a goal differential of 9. That’s pretty cool. They’ve got an above league average PK, but their power play is below league average by almost 7.3%. This’ll be an uphill battle for the Capitals’ power-play, but the penalty kill should get the night off. Only five Blue Jackets have scored more than twenty-points this season, compared to… six Capitals. Never mind. That’s not a good call.

Their starter, Sergei Bobrovsky (18-12-1), is just slightly below league average, with a quality start percentage of .500, but their backup, Joonas Koorpisalo (6-2-2), is rocking a quality start percentage of .182. For a reminder, league average is .530, and bad is anything below .500. Sergei Bobrovsky is riding that line very carefully, and Korpisalo… whew. Granted, Korpisalo only has fourteen starts, but that’s pretty low even then.

The Blue Jackets are two spots behind the Capitals in the Metropolitan, both teams sandwiched on either side of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the total goals per game in games involving the Columbus Blue Jackets is 6.37, compared to a league average statistic of 6.11. We know what this means.

Alex Ovechkin hat trick.

This Week In Review

The Capitals have converted on one of their last thirty-one power play opportunities. This is a time drain and nothing’s going to change, so why not, right? We’re doing okay. Relative to the league average, we’re still doing decently, and Philly’s coming up, so maybe the water balloon can poke a few holes in itself and we can call it a day. With talent like Ovechkin, Oshie, Backstrom, Carlson, and Kuznetsov on the first unit, it’s tough to understand why the first power-play unit isn’t succeeding, but it shouldn’t all be on them — the second unit should also be expected to do anything at all. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again — a team with Tom Wilson on it should be better special teams players. Or maybe they’re just not used to being on the power play.

After two sub-90% starts against the Predators and the Blues, Pheonix Copley got a chance to flex his goaltending muscles against the Dallas Stars, and earned his second NHL overtime loss, with two goals allowed on twenty-nine saves, ending the night with a 93.1% save percentage after almost sixty-four minutes on ice. Copley improves to 9-2-2 on the season, with thirty-four goals allowed on four hundred and two shots, and a pretty good quality start percentage of 61.5%. Holtby got the start against Detroit, however, and rebounded, saving twenty-three of twenty-five shots for a 92% save percentage. Three of those saves came on the power play and one on the penalty kill, so Holtby was perfect all night on special teams. The win against Detroit was a sorely needed confidence booster for both Holtby and the Capitals, and they head to Philadelphia with a W in their belts and a skip in their step.

Will it be enough to defeat Carter Hart’s Flyers?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

(Picture Credit: Deadspin)

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