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Alan May: Capitals woes aren't goaltending, it's defense

Alan May: Capitals woes aren't goaltending, it's defense

While the Capitals still sit atop the Metropolitan Division, the Flyers are quickly closing in, just one point behind them after last night's 5-2 win.

Why are the Caps slumping? Many have pointed the finger at netminder Braden Holtby, whose season save percentage of .896 is well below his career average of .916.

Holtby is averaging just above three goals against per game. The playoffs are right around the corner and the Caps seemingly don't have their game together. What gives?

Alan May says it's not Holtby or backup goalie Ilya Samsonov. It's the defense.

"It’s hard for me not to just look at the statistics of Braden Holtby and say he’s having a down year," The Sports Junkies' John Paul Flaim said to May on Thursday.

"Well if you go back right now JP and look at all the goals against, tell me that those aren’t poor defensive plays," May said. "And that’s the problem right now. And I’m gonna defend him [Holtby] and I’m gonna defend Samsonov, because why does Samsonov get those losses in the month of February? Because there were way too many chances."

Samsonov's five starts for the Caps in February resulted in five losses. But May said it's not all on him, either.

"So if you go back and look at those goals and if you go back and look at the game where Samsonov got lit up for five goals in about 25 minutes or whatever it was a couple weeks back against the Flyers, tell me that it wasn’t outnumbered situations," May said. "Drastically outnumbered situations."

Those dangerous situations are created by poor defense, allowing breakaways, backdoor passes, direct passes and one-timers, May said.

"Braden Holtby has had over 50 breakaways against this season," May said. "There’s no way. That’s probably 3 to 4 times what he’s had in the past. So it’s not on these two goaltenders."

The bottom line? The Caps need to fix their defense. Fast.

"You could take any goaltender in the league, you could take any goaltender that’s at the top of the save percentage charts, the goals against charts and they’d be in the same situation in my opinion," May said.

The Caps' issues mirror that of their President's Cup-less 2018 season, when they went on to win their first-ever Stanley Cup.

"I think this team has to get back to what they did the year they won the Cup," May said. "They were a nightmare that year, defensively in my opinion. What they were doing, the way they were playing, I didn’t like their D-Zone coverage, I didn’t like the fact of how many odd-man rushes they gave up, and they locked it down at the end of the year about the second week of March I would say that all of a sudden, they figured out how they had to play and they started playing a more defensive brand of hockey and not taking chances and just waiting for the chances to come to them." 

The Caps have won a Cup before with that "defensive brand of hockey," and they've played that way recently. But there's no consistency to their game.

"We saw that against Pittsburgh a couple Sundays back, the Caps played that exact style: pucks in deep, play the puck corner to corner, if you can’t get to it, back off, and let the other team try to skate through 5 guys, not through 2 guys, and until they do that, I think you’re going to have a woefully inconsistent team on the scoreboard," May said.

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Why goalies will have the hardest time adjusting to NHL's return, per Joe Beninati

Why goalies will have the hardest time adjusting to NHL's return, per Joe Beninati

With commissioner Gary Bettman's announcement of the NHL's plan for returning to play, hockey fans and players alike can begin to gear up for a 24-team postseason frenzy at some point this summer. 

Teams will have time to shake the rust off in training camp since the league went on hiatus nearly three months ago. July 1 is the earliest camp can begin. Players like Capitals defenseman John Carlson, who admittedly hasn't touched his skates since March, will have to get back in shape quickly before the first puck drops. 

However, Capitals play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati thinks the skaters will be fine. It's the goalies that face the biggest challenge getting back to where they were when the season was suspended.

"I think the goaltending is going to be the most difficult to return," Beninati said on The Sports Junkies Wednesday. "These guys keep themselves in great shape, they'll get reacclimated, their skating muscles will return in that two-week cap period. For goalies, it's especially difficult to get that timing back and the goaltending role is so explosive. They're asking their bodies to do so many things so reflexively, so powerfully, and quickly that you may be dealing with injuries there."

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Beninati also noted that with expanded rosters under this new format, teams should be able to carry as many goaltenders as they like along with 28 skaters. While having to start your third or fourth goalie in a playoff game may not be an ideal situation if players start getting hurt left and right, it's at least good the league has a preventative measure in place. 

One of the most important aspects of playoff success in the NHL is goaltending. Even if training camp begins on July 1, that'd be nearly four months to make up for physically and mentally with an apparent increased risk of injury. Then you have a massive 24-team field in an NHL playoff setting known for its unpredictability. 

It's probably safe to say the 2020 NHL playoffs will be wild. 

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Fans choice should be clear: Why Oshie, Vrana should win 'Best Bromance'

Fans choice should be clear: Why Oshie, Vrana should win 'Best Bromance'

The Capitals have always been home to some impressively strong bromances (see Ovechkin-Backstrom, Chimera-Ward, Wilson-Latta just to name a few) but there might be none better than the developing connection between linemates T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana. With the NHL Fan Choice Awards in their final week of voting, we thought we would help jog your memory (in case you’ve forgotten) with five reasons why Oshie and Vrana deserve your vote for Best Bromance in the NHL.

5. You’re great! No, you’re great! No, really, you’re great!

It was clear early on this season that the relationship had gone to new heights and the world got to experience it firsthand on December 11th when Oshie and Vrana paid each other compliments after a spectacular goal by No. 77.



After Oshie dangled the Bruins defense, Vrana was sure enough the first teammate there to celebrate and then after the game, Oshie joked that he had to look down and check his skates to make sure they weren’t Vrana’s based on his speed burst. Quick to the repay the comment, Vrana took to Twitter to compliment his linemate on his silky smooth mitts.



They really are too cute.

4. Checking In During Coronavirus Isolation

Last week, Vrana participated in a cook-off with teammate Jonas Siegenthaler and Oshie tuned in to see how things were going. No less than 10 seconds into joining, Oshie recognized and commented on his bro’s new ‘do!

Even during isolation, Oshie is always checking in on his linemate.



Oshie then continued on to taunt Vrana about what seemed like far too clean a house for his linemate and say that his food looked a little dry. But the best part is just the two of them calling each other “liney” the whole time. If that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.

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3. Sit Back and Watch the Shootout Show

Earlier this year, with the All-Star Game approaching in St. Louis, Oshie found himself on the ballot to be the Last Man In from the Metro Division. Who gave the best endorsement? You guessed it, that would be Vrana.



Oshie then invited Vrana to join him as a package deal, but Vrana had other plans: watching with a nice bowl of popcorn from the couch.

2. Bro Shark, Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo 

January 5th looked like it was going to be a very disappointing loss for the Capitals. Hosting the San Jose Sharks, a Logan Couture empty-netter with 1:00 left in regulation seemingly sealed the deal for the visitors with a 2-goal cushion. Never say never. 

First, it was Vrana who brought the Caps back within 1 with 47 seconds left. Then, it was his linemate Oshie who tallied the tying goal with just 15 seconds left on the clock. Our NBC Sports Washington cameras caught another intimate moment for the pair when they got back to the bench.



Could they be any cuter?

1. From One Liney to Another

Yes. They could be cuter. Here’s how.



I mean, look at that. C’mon people, this is the best bromance in the NHL and honestly, it’s not even close. Does anyone else have a t-shirt for their bromance? I thought not. Case closed.

Click here to vote (voting ends on Monday, June 1).

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