Blackhawks routed by Capitals as winning streak ends at four games

Blackhawks routed by Capitals as winning streak ends at four games

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Jay Beagle can't explain his offensive success against the Chicago Blackhawks.

It's much easier to see why his Washington Capitals are rolling against everybody.

Beagle scored twice to solidify his status as a Blackhawks killer and Washington blew out Chicago 6-0 on Friday night to win its eighth consecutive game. In a showdown of the NHL's hottest teams, the Capitals looked the part and the Blackhawks fell flat, ending their winning streak at four.

During their eight-game run to vault to the top of the league standings, the Capitals have snapped five opposing winning streaks of three or more.

"We're playing good hockey right now and we're starting to get confident in our game, in our structure," said Beagle, who has eight goals this season and is just two shy of tying his career high. "Getting these wins against great teams can only build that confidence, and we just got to keep going moving forward."

Beagle's inexplicable, self-admitted "weird" showing of six goals in eight career games against the Blackhawks notwithstanding, this winning streak has been built on contributions from almost every player. Three different lines were in on the scoring Friday as all six goals came at even strength.

But the biggest piece of the streak is goaltender Braden Holtby, who looks to be back in Vezina Trophy form. Holtby stopped all 24 shots he faced against the Blackhawks and is 9-2-2 with a 1.34 goals-against average, .950 save percentage and five shutouts in his past 14 games.

Holtby and the Capitals haven't allowed an even-strength goal in five games dating to when he was pulled against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 3.

"I worked on a few things that I wanted to get better at, but we've been playing pretty well through that stretch, too," said Holtby, who leads the league with six shutouts. "There's still things to work on, but our game and my game are going in the right direction."

Chicago's game was going in the right direction but took a nosedive Friday. A would-be goal from Vinnie Hinostroza was called back for goaltender interference and Corey Crawford was pulled after allowing five goals on 30 shots. There were no positives to be found.

Coach Joel Quenneville called it a failure "across the board."

"It was a big game to start with and we didn't meet the challenge," Quenneville said. "Let's forget about this one because there's nothing good about it."

It's all good right now for the Capitals, who had four short-handed shots to the Blackhawks' two on the power play. In reaching 61 points, they passed the Columbus Blue Jackets - who played later at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night - for first in the Metropolitan Division, the Eastern Conference and the NHL.

Coach Barry Trotz has eased the minutes burden on Alex Ovechkin and his top players and been rewarded with scoring depth. He was pleased that "all four lines were pulling on the rope" against Chicago, just the latest in a line of top teams Washington has beaten.

Just in 2017, the Capitals have ended the Maple Leafs' winning streak at five, the Blue Jackets' at 16, the Montreal Canadiens' at three, the Pittsburgh Penguins' at five and then the Blackhawks' at four. Now they have their own winning streak, which center Nicklas Backstrom said "doesn't matter."

"Obviously you know it's eight in a row, but you're playing every other day so you just try to reset and get back to work," Backstrom said. "We've just got to play good next game."

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule


Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

Uncap those markers and start circling your calendars, Blackhawks fans. The 2018-19 season is officially out.

The Blackhawks will kick off their 91st campaign in franchise history with a road contest against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. The home opener is set for Oct. 7, with an Original Six matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 6 p.m.

The Blackhawks have 14 back-to-back games, and the longest road trip of the season is three, which takes place five times over the course of the season; the longest homestand is four games, from Dec. 12-18.

The biggest highlight of the season will be the Original Six Winter Classic Showdown between the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium. It will be the sixth outdoor appearance for Chicago, and fourth in the Winter Classic.

The Blackhawks will also square off with the defending champion Washington Capitals on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m., and welcome them to Chicago on Jan. 20, set for NBC's Game of the Week at 11:30 a.m.

Here's a look at the full schedule:

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said that the team expects goalie Corey Crawford to be back next season around training camp. Bowman also mentioned that Crawford might speak about his status himself during the Blackhawks Convention.

“What I said at the end of the year was still the case now, which is we expect Corey to be back,” Bowman said in a Thursday afternoon conference call. “We don’t have any reason to think that’s not going to happen.”

According to Bowman, Blackhawks players, including Crawford, already have their eyes set on next season.

“At this point in the summer, all the players are preparing for next season,” Bowman said. “Corey’s in that same preparation mode.”

Crawford is nursing what has been labeled an upper-body injury by the team. The two-time Stanley Cup winner was put on the shelf for the rest of the season back in late December, and he has not seen the ice since he skated in a February practice.

“Nothing has changed,” Bowman said. “We expect him to be back and ready to go in training camp.”

The Blackhawks have chosen to keep any groundbreaking news with Crawford under wraps, which the organization has done with other player injuries in the past. Bowman spoke about his vagueness in this situation.

“We’ve never gone into specifics about injuries,” Bowman said. “I realize this probably gets more attention because he’s our starting goalie and he won the Stanley Cup.”

Fans will have to take a wait-and-see approach, because it is unlikely that there will be a significant update regarding Crawford’s health before the season gets closer to its start.

Last season, Crawford only appeared in 28 games, posting a record of 16-9 with 782 saves before going down for the rest of the year.