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4 reasons the Caps beat the Canucks

4 reasons the Caps beat the Canucks

The Caps avoided the trap game against the scrappy Canucks with a dominant 3-1 win on Tuesday. Here's how.

Two bizarre goals

Don't get me wrong, the Caps were the better team in this game, but they were lucky too. Washington tied the game at 1 in the first period on a bizarre goal in which the net was actually tipped over onto goalie Jacob Markstrom. The net never came off its moorings. Michael Del Zotto came to his netminder's rescue, but John Carlson fired the puck through Markstrom just as Del Zotto got the net back on the ice. In the second period, Kuznetsov extended the Caps' lead to 3-1 as the rebound of his initial shot took a lucky bounce past Markstrom. Just what it hit exactly is unclear—it was either Kuznetsov's stick as he swung at the rebound, Erik Gudbranson's glove or both—but it still counted to put Washington up by 2.


The second period

Usually the Caps' weakest frame, the second period was when Washington really took control of the game. Washington was dominant on both ends of the ice and outshot Vancouver 18-4 for the period. Kuznetsov's goal put Washington up by 2, but it felt like 20 by the time both teams headed for the locker room.

Bottling up Boeser

If the NHL season ended today, Brock Boeser would likely win rookie of the year. Coming into the game, Boeser led the Canucks in goals with 22. No one else had more than 12. He led Vancouver in points with 40. No one else had more than 29. Clearly, Boeser has established himself as the Canucks' top offensive threat, but he was invisible in this game. Through the first two periods, he did not have a single shot attempt. He finally got two shots on goal in the third period with a missed shot for good measure, but by then the game was no longer in doubt.


Philipp Grubauer standing tall

Grubauer usually gets some pretty lousy assignments. This time, he got a start at home two days after the Caps' last game. With a rested team in front of him and some goal support to work with, Grubauer did the rest. He ultimately turned aside 37 of Vancouver's 38 shots with the lone goal coming on a two-man advantage in the first period. As dominant was Washington was in this one, a Canucks goal in the third period would have pulled them within one making it a game. Grubauer made sure that did not happen.

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again


Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

It was a bit of a surprise to see Jakub Vrana in the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers. On Saturday in practice, Barry Trotz mixed his lines up and it appeared that Vrana would be the odd-man out. On Sunday, however, when the team took to the ice for warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Vrana lined up on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Did the near scratch spark Vrana to more production? Not exactly.


Vrana played a career-low 6:25 against the Flyers. He had zero shot attempts or hits. There were only two stats on his stat line from the final box score: One giveaway and one drawn penalty.

Despite that, Trotz was complimentary of the 21-year-old forward following the game.

"What I like about Jake, he competed," Trotz said. "I know he doesn't have the minutes tonight, but he competed and that's what the message was. I met with him this morning and a little bit on the ice the other day and I just said the skill doesn't come out unless that level of desperation and compete is there night in, night out and then you'll have production. He didn't get a lot of ice time, but I was happy with his effort."

Trotz said Vrana's ice time was low because he the team was "hard matching" later in the game against Philadelphia. It was not because of how he played.


But ultimately, the key is to get Vrana producing again and the fourth line is not the best place to spark that. Vrana has only one point in his last 12 games which is why it seemed to make sense that he would be a healthy scratch on Sunday. For a player with his offensive skill, it is harder for him to make an impact on that back line given the limited minutes and the more defensive role. Ultimately he has to play in the top-nine in order to reach his potential on a game by game basis.

If Trotz wanted to spark more compete and more effort from Vrana, the move to the fourth line may have done the trick. But did he play well enough to warrant moving back into the top-nine? That's the ultimate question.

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4 reasons the Caps lost to the Flyers

4 reasons the Caps lost to the Flyers

The Capitals never gained possession of the puck in overtime on Sunday before Travis Konecny scored the game-winner. Despite playing better than they had in their previous two games, Washington still walked away with a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers and only one point to show for their effort. Here are four reasons why.

A blown 2-on-1

Alex Ovechkin made a great defensive play in the first period with a steal high in the defensive zone to launch himself and Evgeny Kuznetsov on a 2-on-1. Ovechkin took the first shot which was saved by Brian Elliott. The rebound went right to Kuznetsov who was in position to tap it into the empty net, but instead, he sent the puck right back to Elliott. To be fair, it was a bit of a difficult angle for Kuznetsov, but that's a play that has to result in a goal, especially in a game as close as this one.


Brian Elliott

Elliott had a fantastic game as he denied the Caps on 27 of their 28 shots, many of which were very quality scoring opportunities. Two saves in particular stood out starting with a save on Ovechkin in the first period. The Great 8 was all alone in the slot, but Elliott managed to get in front of the puck and send up and over the net. In the second period, he made another dynamic save as he denied Nicklas Backstrom with the pad when the Caps' center managed to get his stick on the puck in the slot.

A lost faceoff in overtime

Many people wondered why Alex Ovechkin was not on the ice to start overtime, but it was another player's absence that really cost them: Jay Beagle. Beagle's faceoff win percentage of 57.5-percent puts him among the top faceoff men in the league, but Kuznetsov was the first center for the extra session. Sean Couturier beat Kuznetsov on the faceoff to start overtime and the Caps never gained possession at any point before Travis Konecny fired the game-winner past Holtby. Beagle is not the type of player you would typically want out on overtime, but when one possession can cost you the game as it did on Sunday, perhaps the Caps need to get him out there just for the opening faceoff to give themselves a better shot at gaining the first possession and thus a better chance of winning the game.

A neutral zone misplay by John Carlson

If you are going to try to hit a player with the puck in the neutral zone, you better make sure he doesn't get past you or you have put your team in a tough position. That is exactly what happened in overtime when Carlson attempted to pin Konecny along the boards. Konecny squeezed his way through the hip check immediately creating a 2-on-1 opportunity for the Flyers which he would turn into the game-winning goal.