Washington Capitals

Four takeaways: Early mistakes doom Blackhawks as road woes continue in Washington

Four takeaways: Early mistakes doom Blackhawks as road woes continue in Washington

WASHINGTON — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Wednesday:

1. Early mistakes

A lot happened before the first TV timeout. And it wasn't great for the Blackhawks. 

Tom Wilson scored 54 seconds into the game to put the Capitals up 1-0. The Blackhawks had a chance to respond 1:16 later with a power play opportunity, but failed to record a shot on goal during it.

The Capitals were awarded a power play shortly after that and cashed in at the very end of it, with Andre Burakovsky burying a beautiful backhand pass by Jakub Vrana to make it 2-0 at 6:34.

"We did a lot of good things," Duncan Keith said. "We played hard. We can be a little bit better with the puck. Maybe a little bit more patient at times and more crisp, cleaner with it and have guys going to the net. That's a step for sure. They got a good team over there and they got skill that can capitalize on chances if you give them up. We didn't give up a whole lot. But when we did they capitalized."

2. Playing catch-up

After getting outshot 8-0, the Blackhawks pushed back by recording 14 of the next 15 shots on goal. But they had nothing to show for it. Instead, the Capitals got the next goal to go up 3-0 near the midway mark of the second period.

There was another push by the Blackhawks after Brandon Saad made it 3-1 at 11:37 and Erik Gustafsson cut the deficit to 3-2 at 5:23 of the third period. But the Capitals answered 1:49 later when Devante Smith-Pelly scored to make it 4-2.

"That's part of hockey," Saad said. "We don't want to give up goals that quickly, but at the end of the day when it happens, just keep fighting and you've got to play a full 60 minutes regardless."

3. Saad-Toews-Kane line shines

The Blackhawks are overloading one line by putting Saad with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and they were arguably the best trio of any team despite the end result. They drove possession, created scoring chances, and cashed in when Saad made a terrific individual effort to put the Blackhawks on the board.

Saad has scored in three straight, Kane has picked up at least a point in every game except four, and Toews stretched his point streak to five games. All of them saw by far the most ice time of any team forwards: Kane (24:36), Toews (23:47), Saad (22:33).

"They were really good," Colliton said. "They’re skating well and working hard away from the puck. Of course we want them to score more, but they’re playing well and that’s why I played them so much. Because they looked fresh and it looked like they could get us back in the game at any point and that’s what we’re looking for from them.

"I was trying not to," Colliton continued regarding the trio's heavy ice time. "But I looked after the second period and they’re all around 14-15 minutes. I’m trying not to play them, but I felt like we could come back. We had to give it a shot."

4. Road struggles continue

The Blackhawks have been making progress as of late by picking up at least a point in four straight games going into Wednesday. But they're still struggling to pick up wins on the road, with their last victory coming Oct. 20 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That was more than a month ago.

With this loss, the Blackhawks are 0-6-1 in their past seven road games after starting the season 2-0-1. That's not great news when you look at the schedule as Wednesday marked the first of a stretch where they will play seven of the next nine on the road.

The Blackhawks also extended their losing streak in Washington to eight games, having last won in our nation's capital on Jan. 10, 2006 in a 4-3 overtime victory.

The challenges of repeating and building a dynasty in NHL

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USA TODAY

The challenges of repeating and building a dynasty in NHL

WASHINGTON — The Blackhawks and Capitals have each experienced great success in the salary cap era. They have combined for four Presidents' Trophy's and four Stanley Cups, showing they've done it both in the regular season and postseason.

But in this day and age, it's hard to sustain it over a long period of time. The Blackhawks were the closest to accomplishing that from 2009-15 — a "modern day dynasty" — when they appeared in five Conference Finals and won three Stanley Cups, but were never able to repeat as champions, something the Capitals are trying to do this season.

"We probably learned about it more after our first Cup," Patrick Kane said ahead of Wednesday's showdown in Washington. "The next season we had an up and down season, snuck into the playoffs at the end [in 2010-11]. ... It's difficult, you're so excited about winning, it's a long journey, and then a few months later you're back in training camp and trying to do it all over again. It was pretty difficult for us the first time around."

Chris Kunitz, the only active NHL player with four Stanley Cups, was a part of back-to-back championships in Pittsburgh when the Penguins won it in 2016 and 2017. But it took them seven years between the first of their three Stanley Cups in the salary cap era to their second.

"In Pittsburgh over those nine years, we may have won three times but the roster got flipped a few times," Kunitz said. "A few coaches, a few GMs. People look at the number and say it was successful, but every time we were there they were trying to put a team on the ice to win a Stanley Cup, it wasn't just to get to the playoffs. Expectations were high, and those years you didn't win were disappointments.

"There's a certain echelon of teams where that's their expectation and that's their goal. And if you don't do that, it doesn't matter if you had an individual successful season, if you didn't finish it in the end it wasn't looked upon very kindly and there were changes to be made."

The Blackhawks, Kings and Penguins are the only three teams to win multiple Stanley Cups since a salary cap was institued in 2005-06. Right now, however, the Kings and Penguins sit in the basement of the Western and Eastern Conference while the Blackhawks are on the outside of the playoff picture and recently parted ways with the second winningest coach of all-time in Joel Quenneville.

"Teams put runs together and the salary cap has a huge thing to do with that," Kunitz said. "When you win, you're successful, your players are usually playing their best hockey and deserve to get raises. It's tough to get everybody to stay together. Hopefully when the salary cap keeps going up it works in the players' favor to keep those teams together, but that's something management or ownership has to deal with, is picking the right players to keep and right players to move on and hopefully not changing that chemistry too much.

"From LA to Chicago to Pittsburgh, teams have been able to do it and sustain it and there's teams that have been close and always on the verge. It's something that you try to set your gameplan up and hopefully you have a certain window to have that success."

Even a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are perceived to be the next franchise set up to have success over a long period of time, aren't guaranteed anything considering the Blackhawks took advantage of winning Stanley Cups with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on their entry-level contracts and bridge deals. The Tampa Bay Lightning are still trying to break through, and they're loaded with superstars on team-friendly contracts.

For better or worse, we may be seeing the end of the dynasty eras in hockey, as long as the salary cap is around.

"You don't really see the so-called dynasty too much more in the NHL, that's probably geared more towards other sports," Kane said. "But I think it's good. There's a lot of parity in the league, any team can beat anyone on any given night, so it's a fun league to play in. A little bit different than when I first came into the league where, I don't want to say you had easy matchups, but going into some games, you knew that you were better than the other team. Now teams are so even, especially with the salary cap. It's a great league, it's fun to play in, and like I said, anyone can beat anyone."

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Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.

Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.

"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.

"What was said this time around crossed the line."

The Capitals released a statement about the incident:

"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."

The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.

Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.

"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."

The Capitals released the full interview.