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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