Washington Re-Capitals: Week Seventeen

All Star Game weekend meant that I was proud of my hometown for a multitude of reasons, but mostly, I was proud of a former Norris winner and a current Norris candidate. And their last names both are (or sound like) Karlsson. 

The Capitals have lost seven games in a row, but, when they return from a well-deserved break on February 1st, they should do it with a little more vim and vigor. After a few players only meetings failed to break the skid, hopefully a break will. Who knows? Everything’s made of chaos and we all have to eat garbage occasionally. That’s just the way life is.

Status Cup-date

Record: 27-17-6 (Home: 13-8-4 / Away: 13-9-2)

Standing: 2nd Metropolitan / 5th Eastern

Goals For: 171

Goals Against: 162

Team Leaders:

  • Goals: Alex Ovechkin (37)
  • Assists: John Carlson (39)
  • Points: Alex Ovechkin (57)
  • PIM: Tom Wilson (58)

Game Recap-ital(s)

22nd January: San Jose Sharks @ Washington Capitals, 7:00pm EST (OTL, 7-6)

We’re fans of transparency in this roundup, and reminder number one is that I am a Large European Balls Of Joy fan first and a person second, and Tomas Hertl fits that category to a T. As a Sharks fan by hometown loyalty and a Caps fan by virtue of them curbstomping the Sabres, Sharks v Caps, no matter whether it takes place at the SAP Center or Capital One Arena, is a painful night for me. I’m thankful it only happens twice a year for that reason alone, and doubly terrified because I’ll be at SAP when the Capitals come knocking on the Sharks’ door in two weeks. So this match was emotionally a preview for me to see if I could handle it. I’d decided, going in, that the Capitals would probably be able to handle themselves, and so I shouldn’t worry.

In deciding to follow the reasonable, rational approach (focusing on myself in the face of a potential emotional crisis), I forgot two important things — the Sharks and the Capitals are both forged in the fire of chaos eternal and want nothing more than to eat garbage.

Five goals were scored in the first period. Five. Guess how many of them were Washington’s?

Contrary to the way the last few weeks have gone, the Capitals managed to bag three!

Joe Pavelski opened the scoring with his twenty-seventh of the season, rapidly making the case for second greatest eight in the NHL, assisted by Timo Meier and Brent Burns. Alex Ovechkin saw an eight and raised him an eight ten minutes later, scoring a power-play goal from Backstrom and Oshie to tie the game at one. Andre Burakovsky, the oft maligned elf boy, broke the tie, but only for two minutes, finding the net thanks to Stephenson and Boyd. Tomas Hertl, previously mentioned Ball Of Joy, scored a power-play goal from The Joes to tie the game, but T.J. Oshie put the Capitals ahead by one to end the first period, thanks to Ovechkin and Carlson.

The second period was a four goal affair, with both teams splitting the difference at two goals apiece. Evander Kane (noted terrible person) scored his twentieth of the season from Meier and Burns, both of whom had two assists apiece on the night, and two minutes later, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jakub Vrana, and Tom Wilson connected to put the Capitals ahead again. Alex Ovechkin increased that lead by one more, from Backstrom and Oshie, reminding everyone how absurdly dominant this top line is, and as the third quarter of the second frame came to a close, Logan Couture, unassisted, scored his nineteenth of the season to put the Sharks within one going into the second intermission.

The third period was the lowest scoring affair of the game, with only three goals total. The kicker therein is that two of them were for San Jose.

Ovechkin completed his hattrick with his thirty-sixth goal of the season, from Vrana and Kuznetsov, six minutes into the third. Four minutes later, Tomas Hertl struck again on the power-play for his twenty-first goal of the season and second power-play goal of the night, from Pavelski and Couture. In the last second of the third period, Evander Kane scored his twenty-first of the season (from Hertl and Pavelski) to send the game to overtime.

And it didn’t stay there long.

Tomas Hertl wrapped up the hattrick 01:48 into three on three overtime and brought the roof down, handing the Capitals loss number six since the tenth of January. An exciting time for the San Jose Sharks, in their last game before the All Star break, but not so exciting a time for the Washington Capitals. There’s one more chance for redemption before the break, but bad news — it’s Toronto, where another former Shark is hungry for a fight.

23rd January: Washington Capitals @ Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:30pm EST (L, 6-3)

The Washington Capitals returned to Toronto in the midst of a losing streak and, well, they lost again.

The first period ended tied one to one — Nicklas Backstrom scored his thirteenth goal of the season, a power-play marker, from Kuznetsov and Carlson at 18:47 of the 1st. Kadri evened the score with twenty-six seconds to play in the first, with assists going to Nylander and Rielly. Nylander, who still hasn’t found the back of the net more than once himself, was admittedly on fire this game, ending the night with three assists.

The second period featured an Ovechkin goal, from Oshie and Kempny, but that was about it on the Washington front. Nikita Zaitsev scored his first goal of the season in the last game before the All-Star break, furthering his attempt to make his signing look even more ridiculous as time goes on. As a thank you for their power-play goal in the first, Ovechkin offered up a cross checking penalty, which Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, and John Tavares quickly cashed in for a power-play goal of their own.

And then the third period happened.

Because the Capitals had been mixing it up and collapsing in the first or second period every so often, a third period collapse was coming — and come it did, to the tune of two Nazem Kadri goals to complete a hattrick and a Mitch Marner empty netter, the two interrupted by a Matt Niskanen goal that was the equivalent of The Little Dutch Boy sticking a paper towel in the hole in the dike instead of his thumb.

It didn’t work, basically.

Penalties weren’t the problem, this game. It was wanting to be done with losing and not being able to follow that desire up with effort. Hopefully the Capitals reset mentally during their week off and things are better next week.

Next Week’s Games

  • 1st February: Calgary Flames @ Washington Capitals, 7:00pm EST
  • 3rd February: Boston Bruins @ Washington Capitals, 12:30pm EST

Weather Forecast

Calgary Flames

The Capitals have lost their last seven games, not having a single W in the decision column since January 10th against the Bruins. To make matters worse, Alexander Ovechkin (5G/3A), who’s been phenomenal in that timespan, is going to be serving his one game suspension against the Pacific Division leading Flames. However, leading the Pacific Division, as we saw during the All Star Game, doesn’t mean much. I wouldn’t worry too much. The Capitals will probably be fine. Probably.

Boston Bruins

It’s the Bruins! We can win this one! And it’s at home! Having just lost to the Rangers, Philadelphia, and Montreal, the Capitals might have a chance when the Bruins make it down to D.C. With Ovechkin’s return, things only look brighter for the Capitals. A match against the Bruins is just what they need to boost their confidence. The problem is, if they lose against the Bruins? Things could go downhill fast.

There’s a pretty steep divide between the top five scorers on the Bruins and everyone else. Hell, even inside the Bruin’s top five scorers. Pastrnak and Marchand lead the team with fifty-six points in forty-nine games and fifty-three points in forty-eight games. Then Bergeron follows in third, with forty-one points in thirty-three games. Then David Krejci, who’s scored forty-point in forty-nine games, a fair amount of which came during his stint on the first line when Bergeron was out with a rib injury. Torey Krug is in fifth, with thirty-two points in thirty eight games.

The next highest scorer is Jake Debrusk, who has eighteen points..

The Capitals have to go down past tenth place in scoring to fall below eighteen points total. The Caps have to go down to twentieth place in scoring to fall at or below five points total. The Bruins hit that number at eighteenth place.

The depth isn’t there for them and the Caps, at least this season, have loved dunking on Halak. This should be an easy one. If it isn’t, it might be time for another player’s meeting.

This Week In Review

The Capitals, after visiting Toronto, return to Capital One Arena to kick off a homestand that’ll last until the 12th of February, when they travel to Columbus for a swing through Ohio, California, and, inexplicably, Buffalo and Toronto, all in the span of about two weeks. They have two opportunities to break the seven game skid this week ended with them in, once against the Flames, and once against the Bruins, who they’ve been very good against.

I wouldn’t worry. As a Sharks fan, I’m very cognizant of the pitfalls of having aging stars on a team — they just need the break. They’ll bounce back, without fail, after a week off. It’s just a matter of when. The losing streak won’t last for much longer.

Congratulations to John Carlson and Braden Holtby, who get to split a million dollars with the rest of the Metropolitan Division All Star Team for winning the All Star Game. Secondary congratulations to the San Jose Sharks featuring Johnny Gaudreau for being First Losers, because someone had to do it. Medium congratulations to the Atlantic Division, for trying their best, and the Colorado Avalanche plus Miro Heiskanen did a surprisingly good job. It was indeed a time. The puck tracking and player information debuted is definitely worth a look, if you haven’t checked it out already!

But the real hero, as everyone on Twitter is aware, is Brianna Decker. (And Kendall Coyne-Schofield. And Renata Fast. And Rebecca Johnston.) Women’s hockey is an amazing sport which proves that you don’t need excessive bodychecking or fighting for hockey to be fun, engaging, and impactful. Hopefully the Capitals take a page out of Decker’s book and go for the win.

(Picture Credit: NHL.com)

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