Going into the All Star Break, the Capitals were losing, and losing badly. In the two games they’ve played since coming out of the All Star Break, the Capitals are 1-1 as they begin their longest homestand of the year. Better late than never?
We left our chaotically terrible boys in the midst of a seven game free fall that many worried that a week off could not shake. But after eight days off, the Washington Capitals returned rested and ready to shake off their past troubles, beating the Pacific Division leading Calgary Flames by one goal. Despite falling to the Boston Bruins in their second and final game of the week, the Caps are looking better than they did before the break.
Is this the corner the Capitals needed to turn to ensure playoff success? Only time (and their longest homestand of the season with six games at Capital One Arena between February 1st and 11th) will tell.
Record: 28-18-6 (Home: 14-9-4 / Away: 13-9-2)
Standing: 2nd Metropolitan / 7th Eastern
Goals For: 175
Goals Against: 166
- Goals: Alex Ovechkin (37)
- Assists: John Carlson (40)
- Points: Alex Ovechkin (57)
- PIM: Tom Wilson (58)
Nic Dowd, three minutes into the Capitals’ first game back from the All Star Break, decided now would be the time for a change. And the change he chose was scoring his fifth goal of the season in his thirty-ninth game as a Washington Capital, bringing him up to fourteen points in thirty-nine games so far, adding more credence to the belief that this is his best season since 2016-17. Carlson and Kempny collected assists, which consolidated Carlson’s one assist lead over Nicklas Backstrom (39).
Though the secondary scoring’s success was interrupted by Mikael Backlund’s thirteenth of the season, Dmitrij Jaskin scored his second of the season from Eller and, inexplicably, Brooks Orpik, to close out the first period.
The second period featured the Capitals and Flames trading barbs.
Fifty-four seconds into the frame, Tom Wilson scored his fourteenth of the season from Vrana and Kuznetsov, tying his previous season high of fourteen goals from 2017-18. Last season, it took him seventy-eight games. This season, it took him thirty-two. His four power-play points (two goals and two assists) far are double his output from last year, and Wilson is close to matching his even strength goal output from last year as well. He’s lagging behind previous totals on assists, but should find himself with a few more sooner than later, playing on a line with Kuznetsov and Vrana.
Garnet Hathaway, who scored about a minute and a half after Wilson’s goal, joined Mark Giordano in the penalty box in a second period that saw the Capitals’ power play going 0 for 3 on two Giordano penalties (high sticking minor at 08:29 and hooking minor at 15:55) and a Hathaway penalty (tripping at 13:33). The Capitals went into the second intermission with a one goal lead, ready to lock this game up.
And then the Capitals did what they are known to do and took Way Too Many Penalties. Forty-five seconds into the third period, Kempny took an interference penalty that kept him in the sin bin for two minutes. Eight and a half minutes into the frame, Orlov sat two minutes for holding. Lindholm capitalized on the Capitals’ scrappy, undisciplined play by converting on a pass from Gaudreau and Brodie for his twenty-second goal of the season to tie the game, and then the Capitals, incensed, lay in wait for their opportunity.
Their opportunity came at 18:02 of the third period, when Mikael Backlund took a two minute holding penalty which, almost exactly one minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, and Nicklas Backstrom turned into a goal, leaving the Capitals’ power play one for four on the night.
Nicklas Backstrom was assessed two minutes for interference, and Orpik and Tkachuk taking matching majors for fighting in the final minute of the game, but the Capitals held onto their lead and snapped their seven game losing streak with a smile and a Bird Man celebration.
Flap those wings, Eagle Boys. Good job.
Well, the dominance against the Bruins card did not get played. The Capitals barely managed twenty-four shots on goal to the Bruins’ thirty-nine, eleven of which came in the third period, and waffled on three power-play opportunities to give Tuukka Rask the W. The only goal came at 10:43 of the second period, scored by David Krejci off assists from Torey Krug and David Pastrnak, and despite saving thirty-eight of thirty-nine shots for a save percentage of 97.4%, the Capitals let Braden Holtby down again.
The depth ate it this game. That’s really all I can say. Nine Capitals came in at a negative relative Corsi and they were mostly names you’d expect — Jonas Siegenthaler (-4.5%), Devante Smith-Pelly (-13.0%), Dmitrij Jaskin (-20.4%), Brett Connolly (-21.2%), Brooks Orpik (-23.4%), Andre Burakovsky (-23.6%), Nic Dowd (-41.4%), and… oh yeah, Dmitry Orlov (-2%) and Matt Niskanen (-14.1%).
Aside from the fact that Nic Dowd is absolutely getting benched next game for being involved in the only Bruins goal allowed, in addition to whatever kind of impact the team being 41.4% better when you’re not on the ice quantifies, the truth of the matter is that the Capitals… just kind of sucked.
They sucked up and down the lineup.
Even the stars sucked.
The usual suspects in the penalty box (save for T.J. Oshie) found themselves in the box again (with the notable exception of Tom Wilson), and thankfully for the Capitals, Boston didn’t convert.
It was a lucky loss — the Capitals should’ve lost by more. This should’ve been the reverse of the 7-0 win the Capitals began the year with. But it wasn’t and that was largely thanks to Braden Holtby.
Next Week’s Games
- 5th February: Vancouver Canucks @ Washington Capitals, 7:00pm EST
- 7th February: Colorado Avalanche @ Washington Capitals, 7:00pm EST
- 9th February: Florida Panthers @ Washington Capitals, 7:00pm EST
With the loss of first line winger Sven Baertschi to what could possibly be concussion symptoms, the Vancouver Canucks are missing an important fixture in their top six. Baertschi, however, is a piece the Canucks are used to playing without — he already missed thirty games this season on an unpenalized head shot by Vegas Golden Knight Tomas Hyka in late October. Instead, Tim Schaller, a six foot two center who was undrafted coming out of college, stands to take a whack at the Canucks’ first line, looking to add to five points in his thirty-four NHL games this season. The 24-22-6 Vancouver Canucks must pass through Philly on their way into D.C, and it’ll be both a test of their strength and important perspective for Caps fans. If Schaller can’t earn his ice time, then the Capitals have a good chance at outmatching them. If he surprises, they may have a little more to worry about.
The Vancouver Canucks just killed them 5-1 on the 2nd of February, so this might be a kick a down team in the nads type situation. The 22-21-8 Avs have lost four of their last five games (a single win came on the 19th of January against the Kings 7-1), all by margins of three goals or more. In fact, the last time the Avalanche won or lost a game by less than three goals was the 2nd of January, when they lost to the Sharks by one goal. The secret to defeating the Avs seems to just be scoring early and often — in the eight games they’ve lost so far in 2019, the opposing team scored first seven out of eight times (the sole exception being the Minnesota Wild, who decided to be kind to their division buddies). The Avs must make it through Columbus before they come to D.C. on the first match of a three game road trip through D.C., the Big Apple, and Boston, and let’s hope they open the swing out East with a big loss.
The Florida Panthers make my head, heart, and stomach hurt, and I imagine I’m not the only one. The 21-21-8 Panthers are sixth in the Atlantic Division and have been pretty good since coming off a seven game losing streak (sound familiar?) that extended back to 3rd January against the Sabres, their first game of 2019. Their first win of the year came on the 18th of January, against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they’ve won four of their last five since. The Panthers are another large margins team, not having won or lost a game by two goals or less since 11th January against the Flames. Shoot early, shoot often, and push them farther along the #LoseForHughes chute. The Capitals love Acts of Goodwill, and helping the Panthers tank would be a big one.
This Week In Review
This week has been a very long month.
The Capitals stopped their losing streak in its tracks and then lost again to the Bruins, snapping a 14 game win streak against that dated back to March of 2014. Not much else happened.
Trade rumors continue to surround Andre Burakovsky with not much resolution in sight as the trade deadline (Monday, 25th February, at 3pm EST) approaches. Brian McLellan has repeatedly said that the Caps could be interested in a “hockey deal”. Will one materialize in the weeks preceding the deadline? (Will Andre Burakovsky be involved?) Or will Caps fans be refreshing Twitter every few seconds in three weeks time, waiting to find out who’s staying and who’s going?
Some things never change, do they?
Welcome to February. Things are still ridiculous here in Caps Land and we’re loving every second of it.
(Picture Credit: (AP Photo/Nick Wass))