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Caps taking wait-and-see approach to Weber's role


Caps taking wait-and-see approach to Weber's role

News, notes and quotes as the Caps enjoy a day off on Thursday ahead of Friday night’s home game against the Minnesota Wild:

Weber update: Unless his wife goes into labor, newly acquired defenseman Mike Weber is expected to join the Caps for their morning skate on Friday. Caps coach Barry Trotz said he has no definitive plans on when the hard-hitting, shot-blocking defenseman will get into the lineup.

“We always felt he played hard against us,” Trotz said. “He takes a piece of you all the time and we thought he’d be a real good fit for us.

“He goes into the eight (defensemen) and that’s a pretty good group of eight we have. There are no promises. We won’t know until we own it where he fits in or if he will play. We won’t know any of that until he gets here and becomes a part of the group. The guys that are here have done a really good job. I have no beefs with anybody that’s already here.”

Weber is one of three expectant fathers on the Caps’ roster, joining center Marcus Johansson and defenseman Taylor Chorney.

“I think it’s very important that they’re around for that,” said Trotz, a father of four, “so we’ll work things out.”

Magic number: Despite Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps maintain a 17-point lead over the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference standings. The Caps’ magic number for clinching a playoff berth is 17 points. Any combination of points gained by the Caps or lost by the ninth-place Devils would secure the Caps a playoff berth.

Tough to beat: The Caps have not suffered back-to-back regulation losses all season and are 11-1-1 following any losses this season.

44 and counting: The Capitals’ 44 wins are tied for the most victories through a team’s first 59 games of a season in NHL history (Detroit: 1995-96). Washington is also is the first team to earn 92 points through its first 59 games since Detroit in 1995-96 (92 points).The Caps are also one win away from equaling last year’s win total when they went 45-26-11. The Caps are 32-6-3 in their last 41 games.

Third period dominance: The Caps’ two goals in the third period Wednesday night (Andre Burakovsky, Dmitry Orlov) marking the 23rd time in the last 24 games they have scored a goal in the third period. The Caps lead the NHL in third-period goals (78) and have outscored opponents 78-48 in the third period this season.

300 and counting: The Caps and their fans have recorded 300 consecutive sellouts at Verizon Center dating back to March 5, 2009.

Grubi doo: Goaltender Philipp Grubauer stopped 15 of 16 shots in relief of Braden Holtby. In his five relief appearances this season, Grubauer has posted a 0.85 goals-against average and a .965 save percentage. Conversely, Braden Holtby has allowed three or more goals in five of his last seven starts but has won five of those seven games.  

Streakers:  Alex Ovechkin earned an assist, extending his point streak to four games (4 goals, 3 assists). He has earned 22 points in his last 19 games (18 goals, 4 assists). Andre Burakovsky has 19 points in his last 18 games (9 goals, 10 assists). Nicklas Backstrom has earned 23 points in his last 23 games (7 goals, 16 assists). Jason Chimera’s 17th goal leaves him three shy of his career high.

Richards update: With Mike Richards’ legal issues behind him, Trotz said he expects his 31-year-old center to have no distractions the remainder of the season.

“For him it’s a big weight off his shoulders,” Trotz said. “I think it frees him mentally to concentrate on being the Mike Richards we’re starting to see on a regular basis and that’s pretty good to see. I think he’s going to be an important piece for us.”

After playing a season-high 15:58 Monday night against Arizona, Richards played 11:10 on Wednesday with Marcus Johansson back in the lineup and was robbed of his second goal of the season on a spectacular back-of-the-blocker save by Montreal goalie Mike Condon.

RELATED: Caps can't overcome early deficit against Canadiens

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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

After a rough start, the Caps battled back to make a game of it against Tampa Bay, but ultimately fell 4-2 to the Lightning. Here's why.

The first period

To put it simply, this game was lost in the opening period. Washington was the better team for the second and third but they could not overcome the 3-0 lead they spotted the Lightning in the first. Beyond the goals, the Caps just did not play well. Even the simplest of plays looked difficult as Washington struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, gave up numerous turnovers and scoring chances and just looked overmatched. Braden Holtby also looked shaky allowing three goals on just eight shots. Usually he is able to cover up some of the mistakes the defense makes it front of him, but he was not there to bail the team out on Tuesday in what was a really rocky start.


Taking a penalty 34 seconds into the game

Entering Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay boasted the second best power play unit in the league. Playing a disciplined game is part of every game plan, but that is especially true against such a dominant unit. Giving up a penalty just 34 seconds into the game was not an ideal start. The call itself was debatable. Brett Connolly was called for interference when he knocked over Dan Girardi in the offensive zone. The puck was just behind Girardi as he had lost control of it in his skates. The sticking point here is that Girardi no longer had possession and Connolly could have played the puck instead of the player. Most referees would probably let that go with the puck so close, but Connolly was not so lucky. Whether it was a good call or not, the Caps found themselves down a man and down a goal soon after as Brayden Point scored the power play tally.

A missed opportunity from Kuznetsov on one end, a goal for Nikita Kucherov on the other

Even after spotting the Lightning a 3-0 lead, the Caps made a game of it. Lars Eller struck on the power play in the second period and Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington to within one with about nine minutes left to play. Just over a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, the frontrunner for league MVP this season, at the Tampa blue line giving the Caps a short 2-on-1. Defenseman Andrej Sustr was textbook on the play forcing Kuznetsov as far wide as he could go while still covering the passing lane and Kuznetsov elected to shoot from the faceoff dot rather than attempt the pass to T.J. Oshie.Andrei Vasilevskiy made a routine blocker save to deny what looked like a great opportunity to tie the game. As always happens in hockey, a failed opportunity on one end led to an opportunity in the other direction. Less than a minute later, Kucherov made up for his mistake by scoring a breakaway goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.


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3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

The first 20 minutes of Tuesday's game did not go well for Washington. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the opening frame and rode that lead all the way to the 4-2 win.

With the game heading towards a repeat of their blowout loss to Chicago, the Capitals rebounded in the second period to make a game of it as Lars Eller scored on a power play. Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington within one in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov slammed the door shut with a breakaway goal to extend the lead back to 2.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Brayden Point: Tampa Bay won this game in the first period when they took a 3-0 lead. Point scored two of those three goals. His first came only 2:30 into the game. He retreated to the blue line on the power play believing Jay Beagle would clear the puck. When Beagle turned the puck over, he recognized it and immediately crashed the net, taking a Ryan Callahan pass in the slot and shooting it through the five-hole of Braden Holtby.

On his second goal, Anton Stralman saw an opportunity on the Caps’ line change and passed the puck up to Point at the blue line. Point turned on the jets to get behind the defense and went five-hole again on Holtby to make the score 3-0.

2. Alex Ovechkin: After the first period, Washington slowly took this game over for much of the remaining 40 minutes. Ovechkin was a big part of that as he totaled an incredible 19 shot attempts for the game. Nine of those shots were on goal and he found the back of the net in the third period for career goal No. 594.

3. Tom Wilson: Through the first period, the Caps looked well on their way to a repeat of the 7-1 debacle they suffered Saturday in Chicago. They had nothing going in this game until Wilson drew a trip from Vladislav Namestnikov in the second period. Eller would score on the resulting power play giving Washington some much-needed life.

The Namestnikov penalty was the 29th drawn penalty of the season for Wilson, which moves him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for the most drawn penalties in the NHL.