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