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3 key observations for Game 4: Tom Wilson shows the potential Caps saw when they drafted him

3 key observations for Game 4: Tom Wilson shows the potential Caps saw when they drafted him

The Caps tied up their series with the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 5-3 Game 4 win. Here are three takeaways from the game.

1. Could this be a breakout series for Tom Wilson?

Wilson had a great goal line save and scored twice. He now has three goals this series, tying him for the team lead with Alex Ovechkin. Maybe Wilson is just playing out of his mind in front of his hometown team, but maybe this is more than that. Let’s not forget, Wilson is just 23 years old and was a first-round draft pick by the Caps. They did not take him that high for his fighting skills. While many have sold him as a thug or an enforcer, he is showing in this series he has more to offer.

RELATED: Wilson's heroics tie the series at 2

2. Another game-saving 5-on-3 penalty kill

Game 3 turned on a failed 5-on-3 opportunity for Washington. In Game 4, it was the opposite. Lars Eller took a penalty late in the second period as he tried to play the puck with his hand on a faceoff. Brooks Orpik took a slashing penalty just three seconds later to give Toronto 1:57 of a two-man advantage, 1:54 of which came on a clean sheet to start the third period. Braden Holtby looked shaky at points over the game, but he was the best penalty killer for that 5-on-3 with some huge saves to keep Toronto out of the net.

3. Third periods are a concern

In Game 3, the Caps and Leafs were tied at 3 and Toronto took it to them in the final frame, outshooting Washington 9-3. Game 4 the story was much the same…except worse. Toronto outshot the Caps 18-3 in the final 20 minutes as they poured relentless pressure on Holtby. When the Caps are pushing the tempo offensively, they give the Leafs fits. When they try to circle the wagons and play defensively, however, Toronto really steps up the pressure and outplays them. The Caps need to keep their foot on the gas offensively all game long because as soon as they don’t the Leafs take over.

MORE CAPITALS: Bogus call wipes out crucial Capitals goal vs. Leafs

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Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

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Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

How much better would your work environment be if you had a chance to pin a coworker or get them in a chokehold? Probably a lot. That's what the Caps are banking on.

The team visited the FBI Academy on Wednesday in a team building exercise that included raming doors and, of course, hand to hand combat.

Let's break down some of these wrestling matchups.

Braden Holtby appears to be thanking John Carlson for playing 27:33 on Tuesday.

It seems dangerous to pit a goalie against a defenseman. Carlson spends all of his time on the ice trying to protect Holtby. Just how hard was Carlson really trying to take down Holtby?

It's no surprise seeing Tom Wilson enjoying himself with the hand to hand combat. Whoever went up against him (it looks like Jay Beagle) certainly drew the short straw.

And then there's this.

Nicklas Backstrom is having way, way too much fun. Maybe Andre Burakovsky was getting a bit chesty in the locker room after his first NHL fight. Well, it seems Backstrom certainly put him in his place.

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There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss


There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

The Capitals probably deserved a better result on Tuesday than a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming into that game, the Leafs were averaging 5.20 goals per game and had scored no fewer than three in any of their five games to start the season. Yet, a Capitals team fresh off an 8-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers managed to hold Toronto’s offense to only one goal, the second coming only after Braden Holtby had been pulled for the extra attacker.

“There's a lot of improvements from our game in Philadelphia, that's for sure,” Barry Trotz said following the game.

Aside from a flurry of chances from Toronto early in the first, the game was largely even between the two sides until Connor Brown put the Leafs up 1-0 in the third period.


Despite their effort, however, do not take this game as proof that Washington has solved all of its blue line issues. Tuesday was just merely a step in the right direction.

“We did some things better [Tuesday],” Braden Holtby said. “The outcome could have been a little worse if luck wasn't on our side today on a few plays. We've got to keep a realistic mindset on that too.  But we did a lot of good things [Tuesday]. Our defense did a really good job at handling their speed and their size.”

Surprisingly, it was not the defense that cost Washington the game, but the offense. When the Caps needed a goal, they simply could not generate one against goalie Frederik Andersen.

Yes, the team needs to find more of a balance and get a full 60-minute effort on both ends of the ice, but there was also hope in the locker room on Tuesday that if they continue to improve in their own zone, it will ultimately lead to more offense in the other end.

“Everything is developed from the defensive zone,” Holtby said. “That's the way we've always had success scoring goals. If you're taking risks offensively, that's not a consistent way to play. You might win some games, but you're not going to win games consistently. That's what our foundation of our team is built around, our breakout, especially on our goal line and that what creates a lot of our offense.”


What the first seven games of the season has shown is that the Capitals’ fate rests on its blue line. Yes, they need more depth scoring from their third and fourth line, but this team’s weakness is its defense. How they respond to their early struggles will determine the fate of the season.

“We'd be kidding ourselves if we're not going to have some growing pains along the way,” Holtby said of the team. “It's just how we handle them and what we do with them. How do we fight through them and get better?”

Tuesday’s game may have ended in a loss, but it was an effort the defense can build around. That is the silver lining. If they do build on this game, the Capitals still have a playoff caliber roster. If they do not, well, there is no telling how far Washington can sink.