Instead of a game recap, instead I’m writing today about the Kings and their issues on ice following their rough start to the season and in response to the 7-2 loss to the Islanders last night.
The Kings road trip ends in a way that they rather would not have ended it, by way of losing 4-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite throwing 34 shots on net and scoring one past backup Garret Sparks, it wouldn’t be enough as on the other end of the ice Jack Campbell would chalk up another L.
There’s no way to beat around the bush on this one. The San Jose Sharks’ penalty killing units have scored more goals than the power play. It’s baffling, but given the way they’ve played, not completely surprising.
Our second week is over and we’re still searching for that first road win. We won’t have a chance until the 22nd of October against the Canucks, the first meeting with Dearly Departed Jay Beagle’s new team since he swapped out his white and red threads for blue and green. Unfortunately, Jay Beagle himself won’t be available, but the Caps have a great chance to send a message. Despite the lack of success on the road, we’ve been nothing but lightning and thunder at home, and that showed this week.
Record: 2-2-1 (Home: 2-1-0 / Away: 0-1-1)
Standing: 3rd Metropolitan / T-5th Eastern
Goals For: 20
Goals Against: 19
- Goals: Evgeny Kuznetsov (4), Alex Ovechkin (4), and T.J. Oshie (4)
- Assists: Nicklas Backstrom (6)
- Points: Evgeny Kuznetsov (9)
- PIM: Lars Eller (11)
The words “Nicklas Backstrom is an inveterate drama queen” aren’t usually very believable to people who haven’t done a deep, extremely wholesome dive into Capitals history, but last night put that to rest. Nicklas Backstrom is all about the narrative, and scoring his first goal of the season to wrap up yet another multipoint night in a neat little bow is exactly in character. He’s got six points in four games played. Backstrom for Selke. Backstrom for Hart. Hell, Backstrom for Norris! Seeing as Brent Burns has won one, let’s go on nominating forwards!
Evgeny Kuznetsov, noted bird man and point scoring machine, slammed home a power play goal to open up the scoring off assists from everyone’s favorite Swedish gnome and John Carlson, and that wasn’t the last impact he’d have on the game. Evgeny Kuznetsov had one goal and three primary assists for four points on the night, two of which were power play points. When asked if he was a top five player, he replied that he “doesn’t give a sh*t” about that, but boy, do we give so many. Thank you bird boy. You’re a genius and we love you.
An honorable mention goes to Alex Ovechkin, who inched closer and closer to his Dad Energy Hatty with two goals, the first of which (gifted to him by noted obvious Art Ross/Hart nominee Evgeny Kuznetsov) tied him with Bobby Hull for the 17th place on the NHL’s All Time Scoring list. His second goal of the night gained him sole ownership of seventeenth place on the list, one goal closer to challenging Wayne Gretzky’s lead.
Suck on that, Don Cherry.
T.J. Oshie closed out the game with an empty netter in the waning minutes of the third, keeping him at a goal per game on the season, showing the Vegas Golden Knights that the last time they lost to us wasn’t a fluke. I can name one team off the top of my head that won’t be hiring Imagine Dragons again. Sheesh.
Well, every team has to lose, but wow. This one was a doozy. But have hope! Losing one game in regulation over two sets of back to backs is pretty stellar, especially when opening the season with as little rest as the Capitals got this summer. (And, for those of us who still miss Marcus Johansson, he scored! He’s alive and healthy!)
As much as we joke about cup hangovers and partying too hard, the guys are probably dealing with some serious fatigue. And as quick as we, as fans, are to point out that conditioning and keeping at peak compete levels are what they’re paid to do, back to backs objectively suck. Two back to backs to open the season? Worse.
A bright spot in disguise: Phoenix Copley saved thirty shots on thirty-six shot attempts in his debut as a Capital, the most he’s ever faced in an NHL game. (The next closest was back when he played for St. Louis in 2016-17, when he faced twenty-nine shot attempts.) On a better night, who knows what could’ve happened? Luckily for Copley, there will be better nights, and we’ll see how he proves his mettle then.
Isabelle (as usual) said it best when describing how the game went.
The weirdest part of the night by far, however, was this:
Yep, that’s the same Miles Wood who asked Ovi to autograph a picture for him.
If you can’t join your heroes, (try desperately to) beat them?
Everyone was looking for Washington’s roster to deliver against a hilariously stacked Toronto Maple Leafs team, and they… tried?
Chandler Stephenson scored his first of the season off a sweet assist from Evgeny Kuznetsov eighteen seconds into the game and it remained the only goal on the board through the end of the first period, fitting considering it’s got a place in the annals of Capitals history. 18 in 18. Who’s next? (@Ovi: 8 in 8. You know you want to.)
Three and a half minutes into the second, Toronto scored their first of the period thanks to Kasperi Kapanen, equalizing the game at 1-1, but not to fear — a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov saved our necks yet again, scoring his fourth powerplay goal of the season to get the Capitals their second (and last) lead of the night.
Unfortunately, things got ugly from there on out with three unanswered Maple Leafs goals — after graciously allowing Par Lindholm his first NHL goal, the third period featured a Josh Leivo power-play goal and an Auston Matthews goal (his tenth of the season, already) to finish the night. Especially after the loss to New Jersey two days before, the Capitals’ performance in the third period wasn’t encouraging, but fear not — it’s still early in the season. The Leafs may be 5-1-0, but, as Capitals fans, we know well how little an exemplary record can mean when you’re playing in the same conference as Sidney Crosby.
The wins will come with time.
It’s just the waiting that sucks, but remember what our captain said — the plan is to “not suck back to back”. And last year’s plan worked out pretty well.
Roster Spot Musical Chairs
Notable transactions this week include:
- To NHL: Michal Kempny (from IR, concussion)
- To AHL: Jayson Megna (cleared waivers)
Next Week’s Games
- 17th October: New York Rangers @ Washington Capitals, 7:00pm EDT
- 19th October: Florida Panthers @ Washington Capitals, 7:00pm EDT
Next week features two home games, this time with just one day between them: the first against the New York Rangers (1-4-0, beat SJ on the 11th in overtime and lost to Edmonton in regulation on the 13th), and the second against the Florida Panthers (0-2-1, lost to CBJ in regulation on the 11th and lost to Vancouver in regulation on the 13th).
New York is searching for their first road win of the season, just like the Capitals, but among the many things that stand in their way are the amount of goals they allow every game. They’re currently four above league average (14) and two below league average (14) on goals for. The Rangers’ powerplay conversion rate is at a measly 8.33%, which means that if Penalty Box Kings Lars Eller or Jakub Vrana find themselves in trouble, it may not be much to worry about, but will the Rangers’ offensive touch return from war in D.C.?
Florida is searching for their first win at all (and that’s odd to say about a team that features Aleksander Barkov, Evgeni Dadonov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, and Infamous Senators Legend Mike Hoffman among a host of others), and hopefully will not find it against the Capitals. With Roberto Luongo on IR for a knee injury that will likely keep him out through the end of October, can James Reimer’s goaltending keep the Panthers afloat? Or will known Goalie Destroyer Evgeny Kuznetsov sacrifice another goalie to his greatness?
This Week In Review
This week’s 1-2-0 record may not be positive (ha ha ha), but there’s a lot to look forward to from this team, and it begins with Top 5 Elite Center Evgeny Kuznetsov and certainly doesn’t end there. Holtby still hasn’t hit full season stride and the defense is certainly lacking in, well, defending, but those are things that should bounce back with time.
At five games played, we’re in a bit of a statistical no man’s land — nobody’s played enough for statistics to really mean anything outside the isolated confines of each game (if you want a laugh, please check out T.J. Oshie’s CF% rel vs his goal total) and, of the ten players who have scored goals so far this season, eight of them are shooting above the league average of 10.1% last season, but the good news is that, so far, the Capitals have matched their 13.3% shooting percentage from last reason, which means that the goals are coming for our top ten, but that the goals will inevitably come for the rest. Numbers, although we like to pretend they mean something, sometimes don’t.
Everything is arbitrary. Let’s live a little.
We’re not going to be suck next week or the week after that.
See you next Monday.
Welcome to issue #4 of Chasing the Ducks, your weekly Anaheim Ducks round up coming to you every Monday.
As the Kings come to the tail end of their Canadian road trip against Toronto tonight. The team has so far in three out of four games are 1-2-0 following their 5-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday evening. The Kings look to close out their road trip on a 50/50 split before going home to play the Islanders on Thursday, but not before taking on the high powered Leafs.
The Kings enter the second game of their road trip, losing to Winnipeg 2-1 in their previous game with backup goalie Jack Campbell becoming starter in light of Jonathan Quick’s injury (More on that in closing notes), with Peter Budaj called up from Ontario as backup.