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How the Caps fixed the team's lack of scoring from the defensemen

How the Caps fixed the team's lack of scoring from the defensemen

Everything just seems to be hitting the back of the net for Washington right now. Monday’s 6-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes marked the eighth straight game in which the Capitals scored four goals or more and the fourth time in the past six games the team scored six goals or more.

One factor in the team’s recent offensive explosion is also one of the most overlooked: The defense.

Through the first 25 games of the season, Washington had only three goals from its blue liners. Two of those goals were from Karl Alzner.

In the 22 games since, the defense has accounted for 15 goals including two from Dmitry Orlov on Monday.

RELATED: Caps score 6 unanswered to crush Canes

“He has a tremendous shot, obviously,” Alex Ovechkin said after the game. “We always tell him to shoot more pucks.

“He’s more like [Nicklas] Lidstrom. Russian Lidstrom.”

That’s lofty praise, but Monday’s game was not just about Orlov’s individual effort and neither is the defense’s sudden offensive production.

Carolina goalie Cam Ward was slow to react on Orlov’s second goal of the game as Lars Eller stood right in the face of the veteran netminder.

“Especially on the second goal, was in front of the goalie and I think he didn't see my shot so I think it's great for them,” Orlov said. “They go to the net and if I don't score at least [they] can keep the goalie in and get rebound.”

The goal highlighted one of the biggest points of emphasis for the Caps this season: Getting traffic in front of the net. With the staking themselves in front of the net, that has left more opportunities for the defense to step into the play and fire shots and get more involved in the offense.

“In order for a defenseman to score, especially from the [blue line] in this league, you need those screens and those screens to be thought out,” Braden Holtby said, “Not just stand in front of the goalie. We started working on crossing in front of the goalie and you can see the results since.”

It’s not just about making the pretty plays anymore. The team’s current hot streak has been more about deflections, screens and rebounds than finesse plays and breakaways. The goals may not be as pretty, but the final score sure is.

Holtby was quick to give credit to the defense as well, but as a goalie, he knows that it’s a heck of a lot easier to stop a shot from the blue line if he can see it all the way through as opposed to having to fight through traffic to locate the puck.

“Obviously you’ve got to shoot in the right place,” Holtby said. “I'm not taking anything away from the D, but in this league you've got to create traffic in order to give them a chance to score.”

MORE CAPITALS: ANDRE BURAKOVSKY NEARLY EARNS A HOCKEY SMILE AFTER HIGH-STICK HITS HIM IN THE MOUTH

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Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."

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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE