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Tarik's three stars: Tom Wilson makes an impact with his offense, not his fists

Tarik's three stars: Tom Wilson makes an impact with his offense, not his fists

Tom Wilson arrived in Boston with no goals in nine games.

The rugged Caps’ winger left Beantown with a pair, however, after helping the visitors to a 3-2 victory on Saturday night. The win was Washington’s second in a row, third in four games and 10th straight over Brad Marchand and the Bruins.

Tarik’s three stars for the game:

1-Wilson, Capitals

Wilson’s first goal came off a short angle rebound that he roofed over Tuukka Rask to open the scoring. His second was a high slot redirection of a Brooks Orpik point shot with 70 seconds remaining in the second period that put the Caps ahead 3-1. Early in the third period, Wilson had a shorthanded breakaway that just missed. The Chandler Stephenson—Lars Eller—Wilson line racked up two goals and two assists, one game after putting up six points in a 4-3 win over the Islanders.   

2-Braden Holtby, Capitals

Holtby could probably get a star on most nights when the Caps win. But he was especially exceptional vs. the Bs. He finished with 31 saves, including a number of Grade A stops. His best save, in fact, came just a few minutes into the game when he extended his left pad to turn away Austin Czarnik on a semi breakaway. That’s three straight strong starts for Holtby, who was outstanding against the Islanders and Oilers, as well.

3-Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

No. 8 got stopped on a clean breakaway in the first period, but he would not be denied. Ovechkin sniped a one-timer from his office moments later to put the Caps ahead 2-0. The goal was the Caps’ captain’s first in six games and it included helpers from his Russian buddies, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov.

Agree? Disagree? Make your argument in the comments.

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NHL Power Rankings: A tale of two teams


NHL Power Rankings: A tale of two teams

If it seems like the Caps have been inconsistent of late, you’re half right.

In their last 10 games, the Caps have gone 6-4-0 with 25 goals for and 27 goals against. They dominated Pittsburgh and ended Minnesota’s win streak, but also suffered an ugly two-game road trip in Nashville and Colorado. They lost to Buffalo, but just barely managed wins over Edmonton and Arizona.

All of this makes it hard to figure out just what sort of team the Caps are.

There is one pattern, however.


In those same 10 games, Washington is 5-0-0 at home with 15 goals for and eight against. On the road, they are 1-4-0 with 10 goals for and 19 against.

Washington has enjoyed a lot of success in recent years in the friendly confines of what is now called Capital One Arena. Even with the roster turnover this team saw over the offseason, the Caps are still getting a boost on home ice.

What makes them play so differently at home vs. on the road? Besides rules meant to favor the home team such as last change, energy may also play a big factor.

In Nashville and Colorado, the Caps struggled in the first period. Washington really seemed to wait for their opponents to come to them. They played a reactive game, not a proactive one and they paid the price for it. In both games, they found themselves down 2-0 after 20 minutes. Back at home on Saturday, there was a different energy at the start of the game. The Caps scored first and then responded with a second goal just 44 seconds after Minnesota tied the game.

How much of that energy at the start of the game had to do with the home crowd? It's a question with no quantifiable answer, but clear difference between the team's success at home vs. the road seems to suggest the crowd has at least some effect.

Here’s another stat to show you how important energy is for this team: in back to back games this season, the Caps are 0-4-0. In all four games, they gave up the first goal and never lead in the first period.

If Washington wants to improve its record, a major key to that will be getting better starts. If they feed off the energy of the home crowd, great, but they need to find something else to boost them on the road.

After their ugly road trip, the Caps took a hit in this week’s NHL Power Rankings. Find out where they land here.

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Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals


Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

Nicklas Backstrom has made a career out of setting up other players, but what many forget is that he is a pretty darn good scorer in his own right. Just not these days.

Backstrom had three goals in the first six games of the season, but since then he has been held scoreless. His last goal game on Oct. 14 against the Philadelphia Flyers.


Offense, in general, has been hard to come by for the veteran center who also underwent a career-long seven-game pointless streak.

While Backstrom has managed to get back on the score sheet with three assists in his last five games, he still can’t seem to get a goal.

“Obviously you want to score,” Backstrom said. “That's a no brainer, but at the same time you've just got to stick with it. I mean, at least I created chances tonight.”

While the goals may not be there, however, the chances are. For Barry Trotz, that’s an encouraging sign.

“Backy was on the bench, I gave him a little tap I said you know the hockey gods will even that out,” Trotz said. “You probably could have had three tonight and he'll probably get one of those leaky lizards go through the legs or through the arms and one from a bad angle. They'll even it out for him.”


With Backstrom taking on a more defensive shutdown role this season, his offensive numbers have taken a hit. The Capitals, however, do not have the same scoring depth as in recent years and need Backstrom, still arguably their best center, to produce offensively in order to be successful. He is just too good of a player to not produce.

But given his recent play, Trotz is not all that concerned and believes the goals are coming. Backstrom seems to agree.

“The sun goes up the next day anyway even if I don't score,” he said, “So you've just got to stick with it, work hard and hopefully you'll get rewarded.”