Galvanizing Consecutive President’s Trophies

Photo: USA Today

By Victor Cabrera

The Capitals are on pace to being the NHL’s best team for the second season in a row. The Penguins in Blue Jackets are also in the race to be the best in the Eastern Conference and League. However, if Washington is able to remain the best team in the league they will be the Metropolitan Division, the Eastern Conference, the President’s trophy, and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. A solid month of March for the Capitals as they went 8-5-2 for a total of 18 points. This could be the year the team makes it to the Conference finals and even the Stanley Cup finals to battle for Lord Stanley. But, firstly to analyze this past month’s work for the Washington Capitals.

The Caps kicked off March with a three game home stand with the first game being against the New Jersey Devils. A close contest between this two teams with the game’s only goal coming in the third period courtesy of Jakub Vrana on the power play for a 1-0 shutout win in favor of the Washington Capitals. The Philadelphia Flyers were the ones next in town at the Verizon Center. Another consecutive slow-paced game for the Capitals as neither team scored in the first two periods. The third period was on a fast pace with the Flyers taking the advantage in the first minute but, shortly after Dmitry Orlov tied the game for Washington. As quickly as the scoring had come it seized and regulation ended in a 1-1 tie. The Caps won it in overtime with a power play tally from Nicklas Backstrom for a 2-1 final score. This was the Washington Capitals 15th consecutive win at home. To close out the home stand came the Dallas Stars. The Stars took an early advantage scoring the period’s only goal shortly after puck drop. In the second period, Dallas increased their lead with two more unanswered tallies for a 3-0 lead. Nicklas Backstrom answered back for Washington scoring a late second period goal for a 3-1 score at the break. T.J. Oshie got the Capitals within one scoring a goal in the third but the Stars sealed the game with an empty-net goal in the last-minute of play. Washington lost 3-2 their first home loss after winning 15 in a row at the Verizon Center.

The Capitals next had a three game California road trip facing the San Jose Sharks first at the SAP Center. Daniel Winnik gave the game its first goal putting the Capitals on top early in the first. The Sharks scored minutes later and the period ended in a 1-1 tie. The Sharks got the advantage in the second scoring early in the period. Brett Connolly tied it up for the Capitals 2-2. Washington gave up a late period goal on a San Jose power play to trail 3-2 at the break. In the final period the Sharks scored on another power play to secure a 4-2 win. Next were the Los Angeles Kings at the Staple Center. Jakub Vrana gave the Caps the lead with a power play goal. The Kings tied it with a late period goal for a 1-1 score at the first intermission. T.J. Oshie recaptured the lead for the Capitals in the first minute of the second period.  The Kings tied it again this time with a power play goal. The score was 2-2 with one period of play. Los Angeles took the lead scoring in the third. Washington down by one pulled their goalie in attempts to tie the game but Los Angeles scored while on the power play for a 4-2 win. The loss for Washington had to be moved away from quickly as the Capitals were to play at the Honda Center the next night to close out the road trip. The game was at a slow start being scoreless after the opening period. The Ducks orchestrated their offense in the second period scoring three unanswered goals in the matter of 4:57. The Capitals clawed back scoring a few minutes later with a power play goal. In the third the Ducks increased their lead to three scoring on a power play. Marcus Johansson brought the Caps down to just a pair scoring 30 seconds after the Ducks. Anaheim scored again and won 5-2 making the Capitals win less on the road trip and handing them their fourth consecutive loss.

The Capitals returned to the Nation’ Capital for a two game home stand against Central division opponents. First up the Minnesota Wild with former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. The first period looked like it was going to remain scoreless but Nate Schmidt scored in the closing seconds to take a 1-0 lead after twenty minutes of play. Alex Ovechkin increased the lead for the Capitals in the second followed by a power play goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov for a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes of play. The Wild rallied scoring 37 seconds into the third and then scoring on a power play minutes later. Jay Beagle scored raising the Capitals lead to two and the Wild couldn’t catch up resulting in a 4-2 win for Washington. To close out the home stand were the Nashville Predators, the Washington Capitals head coach, Barry Trotz’s former team. Brent Connolly scored the opening goal in the first period which was the only goal of the period. The Predators tied it late in the second scoring the only goal of that period. In the third neither team scored forcing overtime. The Preds came out on top securing two points with an early over time game winner for a 2-1 final score in favor of Nashville. The Washington Capitals then headed out to Tampa Bay for a game against the Lightning. The game got started off early with T.J. Oshie scoring an early power play goal. Followed by another goal for a double dosage of Oshie to put the Capitals up 2-0 in the first. This didn’t stun the Lightning as they scored on a power play and then scored again leaving the period tied at two a piece. Neither team scored in the second period leaving the game 2-2 with one period to play. Justin Williams got the scoring started again with a goal, and John Carlson increased the lead of the Capitals to two. Late in third the Lightning scored bring them close to tying the game. The Lightning pulled their goalie in attempts to tie the game. The Capitals defense stayed strong forcing a turn over at center in order for Backstrom to pass the puck to Oshie, who hoisted the puck over the Tampa defenders to score the puck into the empty net. T.J. Oshie recorded his hat trick and Nicklas Backstrom recorded four assists in the 5-3 Washington Win. The Capitals had now clinched the first playoff spot of the 16 available.

The team returned back for three games at the Verizon Center. First game at home was against the Calgary Flames. Evgeny Kuznetsov started the scoring giving the Capitals the lead. The Flames tied the game with a goal of their own for a 1-1 score after the first. The second period was all Capitals with T.J. Oshie scoring to restore the Capitals lead. In the closing seconds of the period Nicklas Backstrom doubled Washington’s lead scoring on the power play a 3-1 lead with the third period left to play. The Flames got within one scoring in the third. Captain Alex Ovechkin sealed the game for the Capitals scoring late in the third on the power play for a 4-2 Washington win. The Capitals hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets for the next game. The game had a slow start with these two Metropolitan clubs squaring off. The first goal of the game came in the first minute of the third from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Dmitry Orlov tied the game for the Capitals later in the third to force overtime. Neither team could break the deadlock in the five-minute extra session. A shoot out was required and only one of the six shooters that being the “American Sniper” T.J. Oshie for a 2-1 Washington win. The final game of the home stand was against the struggling Arizona Coyotes. Alex Ovechkin put the Caps on top scoring a power play the period’s only goal. The second period had no goals leaving the score 1-0 with the third period left to play. The Coyotes got on the board tying the game in the third. Daniel Winnik gave the Capitals the lead back and 32 seconds later Justin Williams added to the home side’s lead. Daniel Winnik then sealed the game scoring his second of the night with an empty net goal for a 4-1 win.

The Washington Capitals ended March with a three game Western Conference road trip starting in Minnesota. T.J. Oshie scored in the first the lone goal of the period for a Washington 1-0 lead after the opening period. The Wild evened up the score with an early second period goal. Alex Ovechkin regained the lead for the Capitals with a double dosage on the power play from the Russian for a 3-1 lead. The Wild struck back in the period to only be down 3-2 with the third period to play. Ovechkin completed his hat trick scoring his third power play goal in the third period. The Wild didn’t give up and rallied back and scored two goals to tie the game forcing overtime. Over time didn’t last too long with the “American Sniper” T.J. Oshie scoring the game winner for a 5-4 win. The next night scheduled a game at the Pepsi Center versus the Colorado Avalanche. John Carlson scored first on the power play but the Avalanche struck back tying the game. 37 seconds later the Capitals retook the lead with a goal from Jay Beagle making the score 2-1 after the opening period. Marcus Johansson increased the lead with a power play goal and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored later to make it 4-1 for the Capitals. The Avalanche scored in the late stages of the second period making it 4-2 after the second period. Early in the third the Colorado Avalanche scored making it 4-3 with enough time to rally the comeback. Lars Eller sealed the win when the Avalanche pulled the goalie and scored on the empty net for a 5-3 win. To end the month the Capitals faced the desert dogs the Arizona Coyotes. The Caps had an awful first period allowing three goals to the Coyotes to be losing 3-0 after the first period. Early in the second Nicklas Backstrom got the Capitals on the board with a power play goal. Daniel Winnik scored afterwards to bring the Capitals within one. The Coyotes responded back scoring two power play goals closing the second period 5-2. Arizona then added to their lead scoring in the third but the Capitals struck back 20 seconds later with a goal from Justin Williams. A big loss against the Coyotes by a score of 6-3 to end March.

The Washington Capitals’ leaders as of March are as follows: Goal leader Alex Ovechkin 33 goals, Assist leader Nicklas Backstrom 60 assists, Point leader Nicklas Backstrom 83 points, Goalie leaders, Braden Holtby 40 wins with eight shut outs, Phillipp Grubauer 11 wins with three shut outs.

The Capitals faced lots of opponents in March but majority of them are not potential playoff opponents which could be a problem in the playoffs. The California road trip was bad achieving zero points and allowing four or more goals in each game. The power play has been good another key in the playoffs to win games. The penalty kill was bad allowing goals often either the Caps tighten up on the kill or play smart and avoid the box. Hopefully this is the year the Capitals make the Conference and Stanley Cup final but the team has to be at its best level. Now to see if the President’s trophy stays with Washington or it finds new owner. The rest of season will be completed soon and the playoffs will start to commence the battle for Lord Stanley with it hopefully ending in the Washington Capitals’ hands.

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April 8th, 2017

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Capitals Look To Remain Consistent

Photo: NHL YouTube

By Victor Cabrera

Washington had a light month of February playing 12 games in which they went 9-2-1 for a total of 19 points. The Capitals are the best team in the standings for the second season in a row and are potentially going to successfully defend the President’s Trophy. A very impressive February for Washington, with lots of goal scoring and consistent game play. There are high hopes for this team in the playoffs but first to review this past month’s games.

The Caps started off February by hosting the Bruins at the Verizon Center. T.J. Oshie started the goal scoring early in the game. Nicklas Backstrom increased the Capitals lead in the first but, Boston answered back with a power play tally before the end of the opening period. The Bruins leveled the score in the second period as they found the back of net once again on the power play. The 2-2 score held up till Alex Ovechkin regained the lead for the Capitals scoring in the closing seconds of the second period on a power play. The 3-2 lead would be taken into intermission with one final period to play. Brett Connolly scored early in the third raising Washington’s lead to two, followed by an Evgeny Kuznetsov goal to make a three goal lead. With the game almost at an end the Bruins scored cutting the lead to two goals but it wasn’t enough and the Capitals won 5-3. The next game was the front end of a back to back and this game was a road one at Montreal against the Habs. Jay Beagle opened the scoring for the Caps in the first, but, Montreal answered back with a goal and the 1-1 tie was held into intermission. Andre Burakovsky scored the lone goal in the second giving the Capitals the lead. In the third Nicklas Backstrom and Washington capitalized on a power play increasing the lead to two goals. Montreal quickly answered but were unable to tie the game resulting in a 3-2 win for Washington. The Capitals had to head back to the Verizon Center to host the Los Angeles Kings who had won their last 5 games in a row. Another quick start with Lars Eller finding the net followed by a late period goal for Marcus Johansson giving the home side a 2-0 lead after the opening period. A similar dosage in the second, an early period Brett Connolly goal followed by a late T.J. Oshie goal to make their lead 4-0 with one period to play. Late in the final period Justin Williams sealed the game scoring on his former team for a 5-0 shut out win.

The Capitals had three home games left before their bye week, first they hosted the Carolina Hurricanes. Captain Alex Ovechkin opened the game’s scoring finding the net on the power play. Brett Connolly increased their lead scoring minutes after Ovechkin. The 2-0 lead held through the first intermission as well as through the second period, into the third as neither team scored in the middle frame. Lars Eller scored for Washington and just 27 seconds later Evgeny Kuznetsov scored making it 4-0. Marcus Johansson sealed it scoring late in the third on the power play for a commanding 5-0 shutout win against Carolina. Next in town were the Detroit Red Wings. A similar formula as the home side took the lead with a goal from Marcus Johansson. The Red Wings would respond and even took the lead scoring two unanswered. Brett Connolly leveled the score at two a piece ending the period all square. Commencing the second T.J. Oshie scored and it was the period’s lone goal giving the Caps a 3-2 lead with one period to play. The lead didn’t last as Detroit scored at the start of the third. John Carlson scored giving the Capitals back the lead. T.J. Oshie capitalized on the power play his second tally of the night and then, Nicklas Backstrom sealed the game scoring an empty net goal for a 6-3 win. The last game before the bye week was against the Anaheim Ducks. The Capitals had the perfect first period with a power play goal from T.J. Oshie, a goal from Nicklas Backstrom, and a goal from Tom Wilson for a 3-0 lead after the first period. The Ducks answered back in the second period with a goal of their own but, former Duck Daniel Winnik recovered a loose puck near the defensive blue line skated past the two opposing defenders and beat the Ducks’ goaltender, while short-handed giving the Caps back their three goal lead.  Anaheim scored late in the opening period and Washington had a 4-2 lead with 20 minutes left to play. The Ducks scored twice in the middle of the third period and tied the game after three unanswered goals. Zach Sanford had the answer for the Capitals scoring his first NHL Career goal giving them back the lead late in the third. Johansson secured the win scoring an empty net goal in the closing seconds of the game for a 6-4 win. The Capitals had now won 12 straight, their last 4 games they scored five or more goals, and Holtby had recorded his 14th straight win the second longest streak in the NHL’s 100 year history. Washington was on fire heading into their bye week.

With a week off the Capitals’ first game back was against the Detroit Red Wings the first stop of the three game road trip. The Capitals had a rusty start giving up the first period’s lone goal while on the penalty kill. Early in the second period Washington game up another goal trailing 2-0. Late in the middle frame Zach Sanford cut the lead in half by scoring, and now had scored in his last two games. Daniel Winnik scored the game tying goal late in the third and forced overtime. However, the overtime session wasn’t enough and a shoot out was required to decide the game. Detroit scored on their first attempt while Washington’s attempt was a miss. Detroit was denied in the second round by Holtby and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored tying the shoot out at one. Detroit was denied again by Holtby, leaving Washington with the game winner on the stick of Nicklas Backstrom but his attempt was saved. A sudden death round four was the next option to decide the game. Both teams’ shooters had their attempts saved. Detroit sent out Captain Henrik Zetterberg for the fifth round, Zetterberg beat Holtby five hole with his fancy stick work. With the game on the line Captain Alex Ovechkin attempted to prolong the shoot out but the Russian was unable to beat Peter Mrazek who made the game winning glove save. This 3-2 loss was Holtby’s first loss in 14 games and his last two loses were via the shootout (against New Jersey and Detroit). Washington didn’t have much time to dwell on the loss as they faced the Rangers the next night. New York found the net early in the first and scored the only goal of the period. Alex Ovechkin tied the game in the second with a power play goal and the 1-1 score held into the third period. The game’s next goal was a big one and the Rangers managed to score it. Washington couldn’t rally a comeback and lost 2-1 their second consecutive loss. The next game was the last game of the three game road trip this one in Philadelphia against the Flyers. Nicklas Backstrom opened the game’s scoring and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a power play goal increasing their lead while blanking the Flyers. The Flyers cut the Caps lead scoring a goal in the second but Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his second of the game giving Washington back their two goal lead. T.J. Oshie then scored in the third for a 4-1 win their first win since the bye week.

The Capitals had back to back games with the first being a home game versus the Edmonton Oilers. Tom Wilson found the net scoring the opening period’s only goal. The Oilers responded quickly scoring right after puck drop in the second period, to tie the game. The 1-1 score was headed to the third period in which there was struggle for both teams to take the lead but, Justin Williams scored the in the final period and Washington was able to prevent Edmonton from finding the equalizer taking the 2-1 win at home. The next night Washington had to visit the Nashville Predators. The Caps took an early lead with Tom Wilson scoring the period’s only goal. But, the Predators came out hot in the second scoring three unanswered. Nashville then scored a power play goal to make it 4-1 in the third, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for Washington in an attempt to rally them back into the game. The predators would score an empty netter and win 5-2 over the Capitals. The month’s final game was against the New York Rangers on the road. The big headline Kevin Shattenkirk making his Washington Capitals debut after being traded to the team just the night before. The Rangers found the lead early in the first and held the single goal lead into the second period. Marcus Johansson tied the game in the second, and Brett Connolly put the Caps on top a 2-1 lead after the second period. Marcus Johansson scored his second of the night in the third thereby increasing their lead and Backstrom sealed the game scoring late in the third with a power play goal for a 4-1 comeback win. This win was Barry Trotz 700 NHL Win (557 with Nashville and 143 with Washington).

This Month’s leaders are as follows: Goal Scorer Alex Ovechkin 27 goals, Assist leader Nicklas Backstrom 45 assists, Point leader Nicklas Backstrom 64 points, and goalie leaders Braden Holtby 32 wins (7 shut outs) and Phillipp Grubauer 10 wins (3 shut outs).

The Capitals had a great February kept a nice winning form but struggled after the bye week. This may be a bad sign as when playoff times comes if they win a series early and rest up they may get rusty and their performance will drop. The power play has been clicking and there’s lots of scoring from other guys like Tom Wilson, Daniel Winnik, Jay Beagle, Marcus Johansson, Brett Connoly, and Justin Williams which is key down the stretch because they’ve stepped up when the key guys haven’t found the back of the net.This is a reason why Ovechkin isn’t that far ahead in-goal scoring and in points because other team mates have gotten on the score sheet. Solid goaltending with both Holtby and Grubauer another key factor to being succesful in the NHL.In due time Kevin Shattenkirk’s arrival will become noticeable game in and game out. It is looking like another season the Capitals win the President’s trophy as they’ve been very consistent but the main goal is to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

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March 18th, 2017

Analysis: Kevin Shattenkirk to D.C.

Photo: USA Today
Photo: USA Today

By Victor Cabrera

As the trade deadline approaches in the 2016-2017 season the Capitals and Blues announced a trade for the highly sought after blue liner, Kevin Shattenkirk.

Washington has now strengthened their defense with this trade and look to be serious contenders for Lord Stanley this season.The Capitals dealt away a 2017 first round pick, a 2019 second-round conditional pick, and two forwards, Zach Sanford and Brad Malone. The Capitals received Kevin Shattenkirk and goaltender Pheonix Copley.

Shattenkirk and Copley

Shattenkirk has the possible of being an unrestricted free agent come July 1st and can also be a high salary to pay if he does renew his contract with Washington. Shattenkirk has played 61 games this season where he has recorded 11 goals and 31 assists for 42 points. 20 of his points are on the power play. Pheonix Copley is an American goaltender who was also acquired in the trade with the Blues and will be assigned to Hershey (AHL) while having only played two games in the NHL. Most of his playing career has been in the AHL and ECHL level.

Sanford and Malone

Zach Sanford was a 2013 draft pick (61st overall) for the Capitals and did not demonstrate to be of high need to the Washington organization. Sanford played with both Washington and Hershey this season. With Washington he played 26 games for a mere  two goals and one assist. Brad Malone has previously played at the NHL level with both Carolina and Colorado with a total of 176 game he has 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points in his NHL career. This season in the AHL with Hershey he has seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points in his 52 games and should be assigned to St. Louis’ AHL team the Chicago Wolves. The first round pick is aimed to be lower into the first round and is depending on where the Capitals finish in the Playoffs.

The speculation is that Shattenkirk plays with Washington after the Capitals play the Rangers on Tuesday night as the trade was made Monday Night. He’d be expected to draw into the lineup for the Thursday night game against the Devils on the road. Washington hopes that he is the piece they need to make the power play better and the player who will improve the Washington defense for both the reminder of the regular season and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Adding Shattenkirk has definitely made the Capitals an even stronger candidate to at least get to the Stanley Cup Final. They may have given up a few players and picks, but it might all be worth come the beginning of June.

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February 28th, 2017

Capitals Commanding January

Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY
Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY

By Victor Cabrera

Washington had a very impressive month of January and it looks like the defending President’s Trophy winners are going to go back to back on being the top team in the NHL. The Capitals played 15 games and had a 12-2-1 mark in this past month for a total of 25 points, and now sit at the top of their division and conference. This team is playoff bound and there’s hopes of reaching a Stanley Cup Final after many seasons of unsuccessful attempts. Now to review January’s performance for Washington.

The Capitals had ended 2016 with a win over the New Jersey Devils and hoped to build on a streak starting 2017. On New Year’s Day, a battle between Nation’s capitals as the Ottawa Senators come to visit at the Verizon Center. A scoreless first period between the Caps and Sens. The Senators would open the scoring in the later part of the second period and Karl Alzner would tie it up for Washington in the closing seconds of the second period. Thus, a 1-1 tie with only the third period left to play. Taylor Chorney from Washington would score his first of the season, early in the third and give them the lead. It would be the decisive goal in the 2-1 win over the Capitals. Next into town were the streaky Toronto Maple Leafs who were on a six-game win streak. Justin Williams would get the game’s first goal as the Capitals converted on the power play early. Toronto would answer back with their own power play and then score another goal for a 2-1 Leafs lead. T.J. Oshie would tie it for the Capitals later in the first but again Toronto would take the lead and hold it through intermission at a 3-2. The Leafs would only increase their lead in the second period scoring the period’s only goal. Early in the third Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov would score a goal of their own tying it 4-4 for Washington. But, again the Leafs had an answer taking back the lead later in the third. John Carlson scored and again tied it for the Capitals. The 5-5 tie would hold through the end of regulation forcing an overtime. The extra session wouldn’t last long as Alex Ovechkin would score the game winning overtime goal, as well as tying Jaromir Jagr for most regular season overtime goals at 19. A big comeback win for the Capitals with the help of the captain Alex Ovechkin. The historic Columbus Blue Jackets were the next at Verizon Center as they searched for the NHL record-tying 17 straight wins. Daniel Winnik and John Carlson would score for the Capitals in the first while denying Columbus of a goal. A similar second period as Nate Schmidt and Andre Burakovsky scored for the Capitals and again allowed no Columbus goal. Justin Williams would score the solo goal in the third period and the Capitals earned a 5-0 shutout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets ending their streak at 16 wins.

Washington would have a brief two game Canadian road trip stopping first in Ottawa to play against the Senators. A very strange game in which T.J. Oshie scored early in the first and it would be the games only goal for a Washington 1-0 shutout win in Ottawa for their fifth straight win. The Capitals would then head to face the Habs in Montreal. Nicklas Backstrom would get the game’s first goal in the opening period and the only goal after two periods following a scoreless second period. Montreal would score on a power play in the third tying the game at one a piece. Evgeny Kuznetsov restored the Capitals’ lead shortly after. Brent Connolly scored increasing Washington’s lead. Near the end of the game Captain Alex Ovechkin scored a power play goal sealing Washington’s lead and achieving his 999th NHL career point. A 4-1 win for their sixth straight win. The Capitals would go back to Verizon Center for another bout in the Ovi-Sid Era. Ovechkin wasted little time nothing point 1000 scoring 35 seconds into the game versus the Penguins. That would be the only goal of the opening period. In the middle frame, Ovechkin scored on the power play his second of the night and again the only goal of the period. Justin Williams added to the Washington lead in the third. The Penguins came within two scoring on a power play but the Capitals answered back with their own power play goal scored by Nicklas Backstrom and yet again the Penguins brought the lead down to two with another power play goal. Lars Eller would score the game-sealer in the 5-2 Washington win their seventh in a row. The Chicago Blackhawks would be the next team in town. Jay Beagle would open the scoring in the game followed by a Nicklas Backstrom goal just 13 seconds apart for a Capitals 2-0 lead. Brent Connolly cushioned their lead into 3-0 scoring later in the first period. Tom Wilson increased the lead with a goal in the second period the only goal of the period. T.J. Oshie would score in the third and then Jay Beagle would sentence the game scoring his second goal for a commanding 6-0 win over Chicago. The next game was versus the Philadelphia Flyers with the Capitals riding on an eight-game win streak. A scoreless first period between both Metropolitan Clubs. Andre Burakovsky scored a power play goal and the game’s first goal as well as the second period’s only goal. Everything went well for the Capitals in the third as they scored four goals in five minutes. Justin Williams scored followed by two goals from Matt Niskanen and then another goal from Justin Williams for a 5-0 win against the Flyers increasing the Caps win streak to nine.

The very next night in hopes of getting a ten game win streak the Capitals visited the Pittsburgh Penguins for another bout in the Ovi-Sid era. Andre Burakovsky would give the Capitals a lead and it was increased by Nicklas Backstrom scoring for a 2-0 lead after the first period. Justin Williams would increase the lead to three with an early goal in the second, it all looked to be in the Capitals favor. The tides turned the Penguins scored 5 unanswered goals. Brent Connolly scored a goal followed by a Lars Eller short-handed goal to tie the game at five. But, the Penguins would score on the power play giving them a 6-5 lead after the second period. A second unanswered goal by the Penguins gave them a 7-5 lead. T.J. Oshie scored a power play goal bringing them closer to a tie and then Lars Eller tied it at 7 with his second goal of the night forcing overtime. Overtime didn’t last as the Penguins scored the game winner for a 8-7 Washington loss. The Capitals would then visit the St. Louis Blues, Andre Burakovsky would again score the Capitals first goal of the game. Jay Beagle increased the lead to 2 and it would remain after the first period. In the opening seconds of the middle period, the Blues scored lowering the Capitals to one. T.J. Oshie the former St. Louis Blues player, brought back the two goal lead for the Capitals. Goals from Brent Connolly, Marcus Johansson, and Nicklas Backstrom on the power play increased the lead to 6-1 for the Capitals in the second period. Evgeny Kuznetsov would score the seventh goal for Washington but then the Capitals allowed two goals to the Blues’ forward Alexander Steen for a 7-3 win. The Capitals had now scored seven goals in their last two games something rare in the NHL. Washington would then head to Dallas for one last game on the road. A similar trend occurred against the Stars as Andre Burakovsky scored the opening goal in the game for the Capitals. Dallas would tie it and a 1-1 score was the result after the first period. The second period was the Stars’ period as they scored twice, one of their goals on the power play for a 3-1 lead with only one period to play. The Capitals would need a strong period which they got scoring twice on the power play with goals from Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie for a 3-3 tie as well as forcing overtime. The overtime didn’t last long as Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds in for a 4-3 comeback win for Washington.

The Capitals would have two back-to-back games first at home than on the road in Ottawa. First was the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center. The Canes would strike first on the power play. Dmitry Orlov tied it with his own power play goal followed by a Justin Williams goal for a 2-1 lead after the first. Dmitry Orlov scored again in the second period and then a goal Evgeny Kuznetsov gave the Capitals a 4-1 lead with one period to play. T.J. Oshie would then score in the third and then a goal Lars Eller sealed a 6-1 Washington win. Despite the big win the Capitals had to move quickly as they visited Ottawa. A game that did not go well at all allowing an early short-handed goal to start, and another goal in the first with no response. The Senators scored a power play goal in the second and then no more goals in the third period to end the game 3-0 in favor of the Senators. The Capitals would then go to New Jersey and play the Devils. Captain Alex Ovechkin scored the game’s first goal and Andre Burakovsky would add his own goal for a 2-0 lead after the first period. The Devils would get one back early in the second period. Lars Eller would bring the lead back to two and then Evgeny Kuznetsov would score a power play goal but the Devils scored a power play goal of their own. Washington would have the 4-2 lead with one period to play. The third period had almost no goal scoring till near the end in which Kuznetsov stole the puck from a defender and scored on the empty net for a 5-2 win. The Capital’s last game of the month was at the Barclay’s Center versus the New York Islanders. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the game’s first goal and the only of the first period. The Islanders would tie it on the power play in the second period with the period’s only goal. New York would take the lead in the third period and would increase their lead later on with an empty net goal. Alex Ovechkin would try to kick-start the two goal comeback by scoring making it 3-2 but the Capitals could not tie the game and lost.

The Capitals leaders so far are as follows: Alex Ovechkin goal leader with 24, Nicklas Backstrom assist leader with 35 assists, Nicklas Backstrom point leader with 49 points, Brayden Holtby with 26 wins.

A very good month for the Capitals as they scored a lot and got many goals from other players like Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller, Justin Williams, and Dmitry Orlov. They’ve done a good job to score and it’s very important in the NHL to have other players find the back of the net rather than just your key players. The bad of this month has been allowing lots of power play goals, and their opponent to get unanswered goals. They have to clean up the penalty kill to avoid their opponent to score. Overall they did good and being top of the Eastern Conference is tough hopefully they can continue their form and secure the Presidents’ Trophy once again.

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February 8, 2017

Capping Off 2016

Photo: USA Today
Photo: USA Today

By Victor Cabrera

The Washington Capitals looked to finish strong in 2016 and continue gaining points in a tough Metropolitan Division and a tough Eastern Conference. The Caps played 14 games going 8-3-3 through the month of December. Concluding 2016, Washington had 47 points sitting 5th in the Eastern Conference and currently in a wild card spot. This month Washington had 13 games against Eastern Conference opponents and only one game against a Western Conference team (Vancouver) as well as no meetings between Ovi and Sid. Now to analyze how the Capitals did through the holiday month.

The first game was at home versus the Islanders. A rather eventless game as neither team managed to score through the first and second period. In the third period, the Islanders were able to break out and scored three goals in the first half of the period while shutting out the Capitals. A 3-0 home loss was the end result, a bad start for Washington. Next was a road game in Tampa Bay. A game in which the Capitals trailed 1-0 but Nicklas Backstrom and the Capitals would tie it in the third via the power play to force overtime. Overtime, however, did not settle it and a shootout was required. 1-1 score after overtime and the shootout had the same score 1-1 after the third round a scoreless fourth round, then a Bolts goal and a Marcus Johansson miss gave Tampa Bay the win. A

A two game home stand at Verizon Center was followed after the road loss. First, the Buffalo Sabers came into town. The Sabers would lead 1-0 after the first, the Caps would tie it in the second but Buffalo would strike back to lead 2-1 after the middle frame. Washington trailed in the third up until Marcus Johansson scored on the power play tying the game 2-2 and that score remained through regulation forcing overtime. Overtime would decide the game as Johansson would score his second of the night and the game winner. Capitals earned a 3-2 comeback win against the Sabers. Boston would visit the Capitals next. An easy win it seemed as the Capitals’ forward Justin Williams scored two goals in the first and Jay Beagle scored in the second period to lead 3-0. The Bruins would formulate offense scoring two late second period goals and headed into intermission only down 3-2. The Capitals would see their lead diminish as they allowed a goal on the penalty kill in the third resulting in a 3-3 tie. The score remained tied concluding regulation and again the Capitals had another extra session. Nicklas Backstrom would end overtime early scoring the game winner giving the Capitals two points and a 4-3 win over the Bruins. Washington would head over to Buffalo and face the Sabers for the second time in three games. A scoreless first between the two teams. The second period with a T.J. Oshie goal and a Jakub Vrana goal, which was the rookie’s first NHL goal and point. 2-0 leaf after the middle frame, Buffalo would score in the final period closing the gap but the Capitals would do more damage with goals by John Carlson and Marcus Johansson. Washington was on a three game win streak.

The Caps would make their way back to Verizon Center to host the Canucks. Captain Alex Ovechkin would score the game’s first goal on the power play. A scoreless second period, but the Caps would seal the win in the third with goals by Justin Williams and Tom Wilson for a 3-0 win. Braden Holtby made a 20 save shutout in the game. A two game road trip was next on the schedule first at the Barclay’s center to face the Islanders. The Islanders would lead through the first period 1-0. A Brett Connolly goal and a Justin Williams power play goal would give the Caps a 2-1 lead but the Islanders would tie it later in the second. Matt Niskanen would be the hero scoring two goals in the third for a 4-2 Washington win. The Capitals win streak had now reached five wins.

The Hurricanes would host the Caps for their next game. The Canes would lead 1-0 after the first period. Ovi on the power play would tie the game and Justin Williams would give them a brief 2-1 lead in the second period. Carolina would tie it later in the period 2-2 with the final period to play. The Canes would score on the power play early in the third period. T.J. Oshie would tie it for the Capitals in the third and forced overtime. Neither team scored in overtime and they would have to settle it in a shootout. The Canes missed their first shot, Oshie would score his shot, the Canes would miss again, and Evgeny Kuznetsov would score his attempt giving them the win their sixth in a row. But, Washington would have to play at home the next night hosting the Habs. The Canadiens would lead 1-0 after the opening period of play. Nicklas Backstrom would tie it for the Caps on the power play in the second period, but Montreal would regain their lead later in the period. The Habs would hold the lead for the rest of the game giving them a win, Carey Price‘s 250 NHL win and snapping the Capitals six-game win streak. Washington would go visit the City of Brotherly Love to play the Flyers. Andre Burakovsky would give the Capitals the lead through the opening period. The Flyers would score but, Lars Eller would give the Caps the lead back, only for Giroux to tie it in the final minute of the second period. A scoreless third would make the 2-2 score be settled in overtime which was also scoreless forcing the shootout. Oshie would score the only Caps shot in the opening three rounds while Voracek scored for the Flyers. Simmonds would score in sudden death and Justin Williams had his attempted saved for the 3-2 to Philadelphia.

The Capitals would head back home to host the Bolts. A two goal first period for John Carlson, followed by an Ovi goal in the second, and a Justin Williams goal in the third period for a 4-0 win over Tampa Bay. A 23 save shutout performance for Holtby. The Holiday break was next giving the Capitals a few days off from games. The Islanders would be the first game back from the break. Cal Clutterbuck and Justin Williams would score for their teams for a 1-1 first period. The Islanders would lead 2-1 in the second with an Andrew Ladd goal. Ovechkin would tie it in the third but the Islanders would quickly score twice for the 4-2 lead. Andre Burakovsky would score for the Capitals but it wasn’t enough as they fell 4-3 to the Islanders. The next two games were against the New Jersey Devils first at home. A scoreless first period, a Devils’ goal in the second, and a Daniel Winnik third period goal to end regulation 1-1. Overtime didn’t settle it and a shootout was needed. Oshie would be denied on the first attempt, followed by New Jersey scoring their attempt. Kuznetsov would also be denied and the Devils would score to win 2-1 via a shootout. On New Year’s eve, the Capitals would face the Devils on the road. Brett Connolly and Jay Beagle would give the Caps a 2-0 in the first. Kyle Palmieri would make it 2-1 but Oshie, Ovechkin, and Williams would each score to make it 5-2 at the end of the second period. The Devils would score in the third however Johanson would score for the Capitals ending the game 6-2 in favor of Washington. six different players each scored a goal and an impressive 9 for 9 on the penalty kill for the Capitals.

The point leader for the Capitals is Nicklas Backstrom 9 goals and 21 assists for 30 points. Backstrom is also the assist leader with Kuznetsov in second place having 16 assists. Ovechkin has 17 goals so far and 11 assists for 28 points being the second top point scorer. Marcus Johansson has 14 goals the second top scorer for the Capitals. Holtby is the top goalie with 27 games played 15-8-4 for three shutouts. Phillipp Grubauer has played in 8 games for a 6-1-1 record with one shutout.

The Capitals have done well on the powerplay and they can kill penalties which is key to holding leads. They have done very well in shootouts by going with Oshie, Kuznetsov and Ovechkin as their top shooters. They should work on holding leads as they don’t want to lose points by dropping their leads. If they stay consistent with the extra man and the kill they should see good success in their team. The key will be to win the divisional games to ascend in the standings and secure a playoff spot.

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January 7, 2017

Capitals Monthly Review: November

Photo: James Guillory, USA Today
Photo: James Guillory, USA Today

By Victor Cabrera

November was a busy month for the Capitals playing 13 games achieving a record of 8-4-1 for a total of 17 points. Currently, the Capitals sit 5th in the Metropolitan division and tied for 8th in the Eastern conference with 29 points on the season in 23 games. This month was a fluctuating one for Washington as they started strong and ran into trouble as the month progressed. Now with a breakdown of the month Washington had.

The month’s first two games were against the Jets first game in Winnipeg and the second in the Nation’s capital. The first game would see the Caps dropping a two-goal lead in the third period, and a heroic Jay Beagle goal gave the Capitals the win during the last-minute of the game. Two days later in Washington, the trend continued as the Caps had a dominate 3-0 lead concluding the 2nd period. The Jets would manage to rally back and force overtime. A power play for the Capitals allowed the Captain Alex Ovechkin to lift them past the Jets with a 4-3 win. Next, the Florida Panthers would visit Verizon center in which they forced Washington to mount a comeback. A 1-1 tie after 40 minutes of play would soon turn into a 2-1 lead for Florida early in the 3rd period. Ovechkin would lead his team to a comeback tying the game then followed by T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller netting a goal of their own for a 4-2 win. They had won five straight three of which were in November. The San Jose Sharks who had lost 3 straight would visit Verizon Center before the Capitals would go on the road. A scoreless first and first half of the 2nd period till the Sharks scored twice leaving the Capitals trailing 2-0 with one period to play. However, Thornton would score for the Sharks near the end of the third period and the Capitals would lose their streak with a tough home loss.

The road trip began in Chicago versus a streaky Blackhawks team the first game of the Capital’s back to back. The first period would be eventful as Jay Beagle would score short-handed and on the same penalty the Blackhawks would score a power play goal. In the later stages of the first period, Beagle would net his second goal of the game. The 2-1 lead carried through into the 3rd period after an event-less second period. Marian Hossa would score the game-tying goal in the late stages of the final period to force overtime. Marcus Johansson would leave Chicago as the hero scoring the game-winner for the Capitals in overtime, as well as ending the Hawks seven-game win streak. The celebration would have to be short-lived as Washington headed over to Carolina to face the Hurricanes. Evgeny Kuznetsov would get the Capitals started scoring the game’s opening goal. The goal was short-lived as the Canes’ winger Sebastian Aho would tie the game with his first career goal. Later in the period Carolina would take a 2-1 lead and carry it to the second period. In the second period, Carolina scored two more goals and blanked the Capitals. In the third Carolina again blanked Washington and netted one more goal for good measure. Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen all had multiple points which ended in a 5-1 Capitals loss. Next stop was Columbus to face the Blue Jackets. The first period between these two teams would be scoreless. Nicklas Backstrom would give the Caps a lead and score the games first goal in the second period. Columbus would manage to tie in the 3rd and forced a short overtime as the would score the game winner 37 seconds into the extra period. Surely a bitter-sweet end to the road trip.

The Capitals did not have to time to dwell on the loss as they faced the Penguins the very next night at Verizon Center. This meant another game between Ovechkin and Crosby. The loss the night before didn’t phase the Capitals as they coasted to a 3-0 lead in the first period. Then added one more goal in the second period.Followed by two more in the 3rd including Ovechkin’s highlight reel worthy breakaway goal. The Penguins would finally answer back but the Capitals again would score ending in a commanding 7-1 win for Washington at home. Detroit would make a visit to the Nation’s capital in what was much of a defensive game. Scoreless for over 50 minutes till Jay Beagle scored the game-winning goal in the later stages of the third period. Holtby recorded a 25 save shutout as well in the game against the Red Wings. Revenge was scheduled as Columbus would visit. Backstrom would score and give the Capitals the lead through the first. Columbus would tie it in the second but Ovi’s power play goal gave the Capitals the lead again through the second period. Right after the third period’s faceoff Columbus would tie the game at 2-2. It looked like overtime would once again settle the game for these two teams but in the last-minute Columbus scored and took the two points on the road. Yet another tough loss to the Blue Jackets in a span of less than a week. St. Louis was next at Verizon Center a battle of the Russian National Team brethren. As Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Orlov, for the Capitals and Yakupov, Tarasenko, Jaskin all faced off in the game. This game really turned out to be Russia power as Ovechkin would find the net three times with three snipes for a highlight worthy hat trick performance. Kuznetsov also netted a goal of his own. Ovechkin’s and Knuznetsov’s offensive performance was enough to survive the St. Louis late third period rally in which they scored two goals in 46 seconds. The Blues’ Russian winger would net two goals and Jaskin would dish an assist on Tarasenko’s first goal. Definitely, a night for the Russian players to remember.

The final game at home in November was against the Buffalo Sabers. The Capitals would score once in the first and second period while Philipp Grubauer would blank the Sabers’ offense. The Sabers would strike back in the third period only to have the Caps regain their two-goal lead on the powerplay. A special performance for Grubauer who recorded a 32 save performance with his parents in attendance for the first time. The final game of November was against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1st overall pick of the 2016 NHL draft Auston Matthews. The Leafs would lead 3-0 less than one minute into the third period following the Auston Matthews goal. Backstrom would attempt to fuel a comeback but Kadri would answer back for the Leafs. Johansson would bring the Caps closer but it was a 4-2 loss in Toronto for the Capitals.

The stats for this month have Nicklas Backstrom with (6 g, 14 a,) for 20 points being the point leader and assist leader. The goal leader is Captain Alex Ovechkin with 12 goals but also 6 assists for 18 points on the season. Marcus Johansson is third on the team in points with 9 goals and 6 assists for 15 points. If Oshie and Kuznetsov step up their offense a little the team will be better at keeping themselves in games. Holtby as a starter is doing well 10-5-1 with one shutout which was against Detroit. Grubauer as the backup is doing fine 3-1-1 with the spectacular performance against Buffalo. More of this from Grubauer is needed for those back to back starts.

November went wrong at times for the Capitals, especially when losing two to Columbus and the bad home game against the Sharks. They also dropped some leads and struggled to get on the board. The Blues game where they stood flat-footed in the closing stages of the 3rd can’t be a habit. The Caps have bounced back with wins but when they lose they just don’t play well and that has to be addressed. If the offense can stay consistent more of the games will be manageable to win if they do fall behind. The season is only a quarter of the way done and still leaves time for the Capitals to improve.

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December 5th

Washington Capitals Monthly Review: October

Photo: Geoff Burke-USA Today
Photo: Geoff Burke-USA Today

By Victor Cabrera

A new season for the Washington Capitals in which they look to truly be the best NHL team both in the regular season and postseason. The 2015-2016 NHL President’s trophy winners have a tough journey with hopes of winning Lord Stanley. With the division rival, Pittsburgh Penguins winning their 2nd Stanley Cup since the Ovechkin-Crosby era the pressure has grown on the Capitals to win one themselves. It would be best to view Washington’s current progress in this NHL season.

This season has been a good start, playing eight games in October having a record of 5-2-1 for 11 points. The season would debut with none other than the Penguins. The game would end in a 2-2 tie after regulation with Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom being the stars for the Capitals and Malkin being the star for the penguins. Burakovsky would net both of Washington’s goals and Backstrom would dish out an assist on each one. Malkin would pick up a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh. The two teams would take one point and through a scoreless overtime, the game was sent to a shootout. The shootout would go into sudden death in which following a Phil Kessel goal, Ovechkin would try to keep his team alive but, Marc-Andre Fleury would save Ovechkin’s shot ending the game with two points for the Penguins. With the positive being that this game was not a regulation loss, the Capitals would not leave empty-handed.

The Verizon Center would turn out to be a better venue for the Capitals as they would win their two games at home. The first game would be vs the New York Islanders a close game in which the Capitals had another unexpected star shine. Daniel Winnik would net both goals for the Capitals in a 2-1 win. Holtby would achieve his first win of the season a 21 save performance with a save percentage of .955 against the Islanders. Next came the Colorado Avalanche at home in which finally Ovechkin found himself on the score-sheet. He would score in the 1st period what would end up being the game-winning power play goal. T.J Oshie would score goals number two and three for the Capitals in which Ovechkin assisted on the last goal. Philipp Grubauer the backup goalie for Washington would make his season debut in style recording a 16 save shutout. Two solid games at home to start the season with five out of six points possible.

With a two-game win streak, the Capitals would visit the Panthers and their 44-year-old veteran Jaromir Jagr. The Caps would get to a quick start having Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov score in the 1st period only to be answered by Michael Matheson‘s goal for the Panthers. Washington would lead 2-1 after the 1st intermission yet, the Panthers were able to strike again this time on the power play and scored by the veteran Jagr his 750 career goal in the NHL. Tied at 2 after the 2nd period the Captain Alex Ovechkin would take matters into his own hands. With traffic in front, Ovi would tip Niskanen’s shot from the point to beat Luongo. This would be Ovechkin’s 2nd of the season and his 2nd game-winning goal. Marcus Johansson would score the 4th goal the Capitals and extend their win streak to three.

Back home against the Rangers the Capitals would face problems. A 2-0 lead for Washington with goals scored by Lars Eller and Ovi would be flipped upside down in the second period. The Rangers would score three in the middle frame and one in the final period. A devastating home loss for sure after having a good lead. Next, would come a three-game road trip in western Canada. The flaming hot Oilers would be first on the road trip. A scoreless 1st period led to a breakout period for Benoit Pouliot scoring twice and the score would be 2-0 in favor of the Oilers after 40 minutes. Ovechkin would score immediately at the start of the 3rd period but it wasn’t enough to rally a comeback as Connor McDavid and his line would score twice one of them a minute after Ovechkin had cut Edmonton’s lead in half. Two big losses in a row in which the Capitals were lacking their scoring ability. Washington would face Vancouver and the Sedin Twins following a bump in the 1st road trip game. Marcus Johansson would open the scoring for the Caps and would also give them the game-winning goal and an assist in a 5-2 victory over the Canucks. The Flames were where the Capitals bounced to another streak as Johansson took the reigns again scoring twice against Calgary for a 3-1 win.  Johansson was the spark in the Canadian road trip for Washington marking five points (4 Goals, 1 Assist). There have been minor bumps for the Caps but it has been a good start and the losses haven’t affected them drastically thus far.

The Point leaders for Washington in October. Holtby remains the dominant goalie with four wins and backup goalie Grubauer with 2 wins one of which is a shut out. Marcus Johansson is the current goal leader with five goals Ovi behind him with four. Johansson’s performance against Calgary and Vancouver are why he leads the team so far. The team lead in assists is five but is tied between Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen. Johansson led the team in points with nine points (5 goals 4 assists).

The criticism of this season would be that Ovechkin and Kuznetsov are lacking some points and that Holtby is yet to get a shutout. Depending on the stretch of the season Holtby will find himself picking up a few shutouts after his record-tying number of wins last season. It is also good that Ovechkin and Kuznetsov have not been the only ones scoring as the team needs more of the scoring to be around the whole team. Winnick and Johansson have done that and could be a great factor for the team during the length of the season. October has been a good month for the Washington Capitals despite a few losses.

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