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NHL Power Rankings: Defense optional


NHL Power Rankings: Defense optional

Coming into the season, the biggest question mark for the Capitals was their defense. So far, Alex Ovechkin has made sure it hasn't cost them.

Ovechkin has had an incredible start with seven goals in the first two games, becoming the first player in 100 years to score back-to-back hat tricks to start the season.


While Ovechkin has been the top offensive performer thus far in the young season, offense has been the trend across the NHL.  Ovechkin was one of four players scored hat tricks in their openers, a feat that also had not been accomplished in the last 100 years. We have already seen a handful of offensive explosions with 15 games in which a team has scored at least five goals. The Chicago Blackhawks put up 10 goals against the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins while the Toronto Maple Leafs have scored 15 goals in their first two games.

The 2016-17 season saw an average of 2.77 goals scored per team, per game. In each of the last seven seasons, the average has been within a range of 2.71-2.79. With 30 games in the books this season, that average has dramatically increased to 3.30 goals. That would be the highest average since the 1992-93 season average of 3.63.

Thirty games is a small sample size so that number will most likely decrease over time. Ovechkin is on pace for 287 goals this season which is just a tad unsustainable and defenses are going to get their legs under them. For the first few games, however, the Capitals have taken advantage of Ovechkin's hot hands. It gives the team time to settle on defense and figure out what to do about its third pairing while the offense remains hot enough to carry the team. Just how long will that last? Only time will tell.

Ovechkin has thus far carried the team scoring seven of the team's first 10 goals. Find out here just how high he has carried the Caps in this week's NHL Power Rankings.

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4 reasons why the Caps beat the Senators


4 reasons why the Caps beat the Senators

The Capitals head into Thanksgiving on a high note after a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

Here's why they won.

Line changes

Barry Trotz surprised everyone by changing up the lines and reuniting Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom despite coyly telling the media that he would use the same "group" just two hours before the game. The move worked, however, as an energized Caps team took the ice. The moves were not just felt on the top line, there was a boost all throughout the lineup to start the game and the energy the team played with was evident.

The Caps’ best offensive players looked like their best offensive players

Much has been written in recent days about the Caps’ top-six and its offensive struggles, but they seemed just fine against Ottawa. Ovechkin (1 goal), Backstrom (1 assist), T.J. Oshie (2 assists), Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 goal, 2 assists) and Jakub Vrana (2 goals) all had big nights.

Ovechkin's late first period goal

Multi-goal leads have been hard to come by for the Caps of late. Despite a strong first period, Washington held only a 1-0 lead as the first frame drew to a close. Instead of having a chance to regroup in the locker room, Ottawa found itself suddenly down by two as Ovechkin scored with just five seconds left. That goal set the tone for the start of the second period where Washington was able to tack on another two goals to take the 4-0 lead. Does that momentum carry over to the second without Ovechkin's late tally? I'm not so sure.

Killing a 5-on-3 power play in the second period

Despite the 4-0 deficit, the Senators hung around and scored in the second period to make it 4-1. Then Ovechkin was called for a high-stick and Backstrom got into a bit of a tussle with Ben Harpur after getting a high-stick from him. The ref sent Ovechkin, Backstrom and Harpur to the box. Just 44 seconds later, Tom Wilson joined them after getting called for a slash giving the Senators 1:16 of a two-man advantage power play. One goal would have pulled them within two with over a period left to play. This game was not over. This was a critical moment for Washington and the penalty kill delivered by killing off both penalties. After that, the game really was no longer in doubt.

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3 stars of the game: Caps' stars shine against Senators


3 stars of the game: Caps' stars shine against Senators

On the eve of Thanksgiving, the Caps gave the home crowd something to be thankful for with a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Barry Trotz elected to shake up the offensive lines before the game and it seemed to work. The Caps took control of the game from the drop of the puck and took a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period and never looked back.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jakub Vrana

Vrana opened the scoring by crashing the net and was in perfect position for the rebound off of a shot from Evgeny Kuznetsov. His second goal came off a perfect shot, and I do mean perfect. This was the first multi-goal game of his NHL career and his third multi-point game. 

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov

This is why Kuznetsov should shoot more. Vrana's first goal came off a rebound from a shot by Kuznetsov. It was his first even-strength point since Nov. 6. On a power play in the second period, a loose puck came to Kuznetsov's stick. Rather than look for the pass as he has been his tendency, he did not hesitate. He shot it and the result was his third power play goal of the season. Kuznetsov finished with one goal and two assists.

3. Alex Ovechkin

Despite how dominant the first period looked for Washington, they still held only a 1-0 lead. What really set the tone for the game was Ovechkin's first period goal. A quick passing play from Nicklas Backstrom to Alex Chiasson to Ovechkin found the Great 8 behind Ottawa's defense. He finished off the play with the goal to put Washington up 2-0 with just five seconds left in the period. That turned a good period into a dominant one and really set the tone for the start of the second in which the Caps were able to put up another two goals.