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At the break, Capitals are shining in the East


At the break, Capitals are shining in the East

Thanks to the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and its players, the league will shut down for the next three days, allowing players and coaches to spend the holidays with their families and friends.

It also allows us to take a look at all the good cheer emanating from the District’s favorite hockey team these days. First, we’ll take a look at team superlatives that have the Caps feeling good about themselves. Later today we’ll look at some player production milestones:

Shining in the East: The Caps enter the Christmas break with a 25-6-2 record and 52 points. That’s five more wins and eight more points than anyone in the conference. The Rangers (20-12-4, 44 points) and Canadiens (20-13-3, 43 points) are their closest rivals, but both have played three more games than the Caps. The Caps are just two points off the pace set by the Dallas Stars, who lead the NHL with a 26-7-2 record and 54 points. (The Stars have played two more games).

Red lights aglow: The Caps are tied with the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators atop the East with 105 goals and their 3.12 goals per game are second in the NHL to the Stars (3.51). The Caps also rank third in the NHL in shooting percentage (10.4), behind only Dallas (10.9) and Ottawa (10.5). The Caps rank second in the East and fourth in the NHL in 5-on-5 goals and third in the NHL in even-strength goals with 71. They have scored three goals at 4-on-4 and two at 3-on-3.

Grinchy defense:  Thanks to some incredible goaltending from Braden Holtby (and Philipp Grubauer the Caps have allowed the fewest goals in the NHL (71 – four fewer than the Los Angeles Kings) and the fewest goals per game (2.15). The Kings are at 2.27. The Caps are also ranked third in the East and fifth in the NHL in shots allowed per game (28.2). Their goal-differential of plus-34 leads the East and ranks behind only Dallas (plus-36). The Caps rank second in the NHL in 5-on-5 goals allowed (47) and even-strength goals allowed (50). Their even-strength goal differential is a plus-21.

Silent nights: The Caps rank fourth in the East and eighth in the NHL in least penalties taken with 285 minutes. They have been whistled for just 104 minor penalties in their first 33 games, which ranks third in the East and sixth in the NHL.

Power and might: The Caps and Stars are tied for the NHL lead in power-play goals (27) and the Caps rank second in the NHL in power play percentage (25.7). The Caps have spread the wealth on the man-advantage with 12 different players with power-play points, led by Nicklas Backstrom (14), John Carlson (12) and Alex Ovechkin (10). The Caps are a league-best plus-26 on the power play (27 goals for, one shorthanded goal against).

Grace under pressure: The Caps also rank third in the East and fifth in the NHL on the penalty kill (84.4 percent). A big reason is that the Caps have been shorthanded just 96 times this season. That ranks third fewest in the East and fifth fewest in the NHL. Since the Caps also have a pair of shorthanded goals (each by Jason Chimera) they are a minus-13 while shorthanded this season. Only the Islanders (minus-10) are better. The Caps are a league-best plus-26 (27 goals for, one shorthanded goal against).

Happy returns: The Capitals are the only team in the NHL with a winning record (4-3-1) when trailing after two periods. That may have something to do with the fact they and the Stars (3-5-0) are the only NHL teams that have trailed just eight times heading into the third period. The Caps are also a league-best 3-3-1 when trailing after one period. The Caps are also a perfect 17-0-0 when leading after two periods, best in the NHL, and 11-0-0 when leading after one period, also tops in the NHL.

Plenty of bounce: The Caps are a perfect 8-0-0 following a loss this season and have set a goal of not losing back-to-back games all season. 

MORE CAPITALS: Larry King excited by the Caps' hot start to the season

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Red Wings

3 reasons the Caps beat the Red Wings

Not much separated the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. A late 2-on-0 goal for Brett Connolly proved to be the difference.

Here's why the Caps ultimately walked away with the 1-0 win.

A first period goalie interference call

Andreas Athanasiou thought he had given the Red Wings a first period lead, but Barry Trotz challenged the call for goalie interference. The review showed that Tyler Bertuzzi clipped Philipp Grubauer in the head with an elbow right before the shot went in. Given how long it took the Caps to get going in this game, it is fair to say an early deficit would have been hard to overcome.


Killing off a full two-minute 5-on-3

Two man advantages are hard to kill. Killing off a full two-minutes at 5-on-3, that's a tall task. With the game still scoreless in the second period, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller were both assessed penalties giving Detroit two-full minutes at 5-on-3. The Red Wings managed four shots on goal, but Washington was able to successfully kill off the penalty and keep the game scoreless.

Philipp Grubauer

There were few players who had strong efforts on Tuesday, but Grubauer was phenomenal. Even when the game felt sleepy in the first two periods, Detroit still managed 28 shots on goal, all of which were turned aside by the German netminder. When Washington finally took the lead in the third, the Red Wings woke up and began pushing the offense, but Grubauer was in the zone at that point and could not be beaten. His best save came in the third period when he stared down a breakaway from Athanasiou and extended the pad to deny the shot.


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Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

It wasn’t pretty but the Caps eventually got what they needed in Detroit: two points.  

After a sleepy first 40 minutes, Brett Connolly scored midway through the third period and then Philipp Grubauer made sure it stood up at Little Caesars Arena, where Washington eked out a 1-0 victory Thursday over the scuffling Red Wings.


Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Philipp Grubauer, Capitals

For much of the game, Grubi was left to fend for himself. Good thing for the Caps he was up to the task. The German netminder, who has been one of the NHL’s top goaltenders since Thanksgiving, turned aside 39 shots, including three stops on a pivotal 5-on-3 penalty kill in the second period.

2-Brett Connolly, Capitals

The Caps didn’t get many Grade-A opportunities vs. Jimmy Howard. But Connolly buried one of the few they got…on a 2-on-0, set up by Jakub Vrana in the third period.

Connolly’s goal was his 15th of the season in his 63rd game, equaling the career-high he set a year ago in 66 contests. Vrana, meantime, has three goals and five assists since getting scratched 12 games ago.

3-Lars Eller, Capitals

Eller didn’t record a point, but he was all over the puck in Motown. The veteran center finished with a game-high six shots on net. He also had a key backcheck against Darren Helm, on a shorthanded breakaway, in the first period.

Eller was good in the dot, too, winning eight of 12 faceoffs.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.