The Capitals may have lost to the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Saturday, but if Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin kept playing like they did, that will lead to a lot more wins down the line.
Observations from the loss
Holtby looks like Holtby again
It's a loss, but there are some positives to take away from this game and the biggest is the play of Holtby. Antti Raanta was the star of this game, but Holtby was just as good for Washington with 28 saves on 30 shots. In the third period with the Caps trailing by 1, Arizona tried to close the game, but could not because of Holtby. He absolutely robbed Derek Stepan who stole the puck away from Dmitry Orlov and was in on net. Holtby poked the puck away, but it was still loose in front. Stepan wheeled around to get the shot, but Holtby somehow managed to deny him.
Holtby was Washington's best player. This game may have been a loss, but if Holtby is back to his normal form that will translate to a lot of wins down the stretch of the season.
Raanta was great, but the Caps' offense still wasn't good enough
I think the Caps deserved a better outcome in this game than the one they got, but even with 36 shots on goal and a great performance by Antti Raanta, Washington could have made things tougher on the Coyotes' netminder.
Despite the high volume of shots, there weren't enough high-danger chances and not nearly enough sustained offensive pressure. The offense looked the most dangerous in the first period, but Washington was not able to really push that in the final 40 minutes.
You can't always rely on Ovechkin, you have to be able to generate offense from the rest of the lineup. Not having Evgeny Kuznetsov hurts, but injuries happen and the Caps have very good center depth. They have to play better offensively regardless.
Watch those wings
An issue I have noticed since the team returned from the all-star break is the defense's tendency to lose wings when they go wide. Several teams have taken advantage of this with forwards going wide down the wings, then cutting in behind the defense and Christian Dvorak's goal was an example of that. In this case, Dvorak turns as he goes down the wing as if he was setting up to shoot so I wonder if Jonas Siegenthaler did not expect him to cut inside, but that's exactly what he did and Siegenthaler was slow to react.
This is an issue more on odd-man breaks with the defense stepping into the middle to defend the puck and losing track of what the wings are doing so perhaps Saturday's goal was not indicative of the pattern, but still something to keep an eye on.
700 is coming
With no goals in four straight games, this is now the longest goalless drought of the season for Ovechkin, but don't worry, it's coming.
Ovechkin had 17 total shot attempts in this game with eight shots on goal. He also hit one off the post. I think initially No. 700 was in his head and neither he nor the team was playing well as a result. Now he looks as dangerous as ever and he is going to torch someone for those last two goals sooner rather than later.
With the game tied at 1 in the third period, Phil Kessel gave Arizona the lead with a power play deflection to beat Holtby high to the glove side.
The play was really set up by Jakob Chychrun as the Coyotes went low to high, passing out to Chychrun at the blue line. Chychrun wound up for the shot, seemed to hesitate for just a moment, then delivered a slap pass right to the stick of Kessel for the deflection. Chychrun knew exactly what he was doing on that play and delivered the great pass.
Play of the game
Holtby was Washington's best player on Saturday and it was because of saves like this. Watch this highway robbery of Stepan.
just Holtbeast things pic.twitter.com/sy66uWRx7O— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) February 16, 2020
Stat of the game
Offense has been a bit tough to come by for the third line and Carl Hagelin in particular, but both are really starting to heat up.
Carl Hagelin ties the game at 1-1. He now has nine points (4g, 5a) in his last 11 games.— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) February 16, 2020
Quote of the game
Ovechkin had 17 shot attempts and eight shots. He did everything but score and he was encouraged by that rather than frustrated.
"I would be pissed if I don't have any chances, but it's OK. It's going to come."
Ovi recreates “The Goal”. Yeah. Probably not....— The Defective Puck (@DefectivePuck) February 16, 2020
He definitely tried and credit to you for going bold.
Holtby scores, Panik scores and two for Ovi 4-2 CAPS— StallingsRVA (@irieLife4me) February 16, 2020
I've been seeing a lot of calls for a Holtby goal lately. He's a great stickhandler so I could definitely see it happening. He didn't get the chance on Saturday though.
Caps 5-2 Vrana 2-0 and Ovie 1-1....more importantly another +.900 game for Holtby #ALLCAPS— Marcelo D'Amico (@OrcusFire) February 16, 2020
You got the Holtby part right. He finished with a .931. The other two...well, you were about as hot as Washington's offense.
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