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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