Capitals

Quick Links

Braden Holtby is back, but Pheonix Copley will start

usatsi_11666169.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Braden Holtby is back, but Pheonix Copley will start

The Capitals take on the Montreal Canadiens to finish off a four-game road swing on Monday (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). Washington has won two of its first three games on the trip and look to take win No. 3 in Montreal.

Here are four things to watch:

Braden Holtby is back, but Pheonix Copley will get the start

The Caps reassigned Ilya Samsonov to the Hershey Bears on Monday signaling that Braden Holtby will be back in the lineup for Monday’s game, but Pheonix Copley will still get the start.

Copley has been impressive on the road trip getting all three starts thus far with a .922 save percentage and 2.01 GAA. It says a lot that even with Holtby back, the Todd Reirden is still willing to put in Copley. Per Isabelle Khurshudyan, Reirden said he wanted to get Holtby back into his routine before starting him.

No Oshie, no Kuznetsov

T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov were both injured in Wednesday’s game and will be out of the lineup in Montreal.

Here is a look at the lines from the morning skate:

Alex Ovechkin – Lars Eller – Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana – Nicklas Backstrom – Andre Burakovsky

Chandler Stephenson – Travis Boyd – Devante Smith-Pelly

Dmitrij Jaskin – Nic Dowd – Brett Connolly

Dmitry Orlov – John Carlson
Michal Kempny – Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos – Madison Bowey

It is important to remember that when the Caps finally get healthy, they will have two extra forwards on the roster. While the Caps can afford to keep two, most teams typically only carry one and Washington may look to trim one of those extra forwards in the coming weeks. That makes games like this one where more players are getting into the lineup and getting more minutes because of Oshie and Kuznetsov’s absence critical for those players who may or may not be fighting to stay on Washington’s roster.

Todd Reirden remembers

The last time these two teams met, things did not go that well for the Caps. Washington had a 4-3 lead late in the third period, but the Canadiens would score three goals in the final 3:04 of the game to win it 6-4.

Reirden has not forgotten about that game and called a fake goalie interference challenge late in Colorado on Friday just so he could remind his team to finish strong.

“It was a situation where a few weeks ago we had the lead and let it go against Montreal and it was something that we discussed with our team,” Reirden said following Friday’s game.”

Reirden reminded the players about how that game ended as a way to motivate them in Colorado. How much more will he remind them about it on Monday in a rematch against the Canadiens and will it lead to a stronger finish for Washington?

Max (Power) Domi

Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin has been widely criticized for many of the moves he has made while with the Canadiens. It appears this summer, however, like he may have done something right.

Bergevin acquired forward Max Domi from the Arizona Coyotes for Alex Galchenyuk. It is a deal that looked decidedly one-sided in favor of Arizona, but let’s take all of the context out of it for one moment and just look at how Domi is performing right now. He looks like a tremendous player.

Domi has already racked up 10 goals in just 20 and comes into Monday on a nine-game point streak, a streak that started on Nov. 1 in the game against Washington. He has far and away been the team’s top offensive threat this season and leads Montreal in points with 24, seven more than second-place Tomas Tatar.

Speaking of Tatar, he is also someone the Caps will have to look out for as he has seemingly settled in with his new team and has six goals in his last six games.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Four reasons the Capitals beat the Red Wings

Four reasons the Capitals beat the Red Wings

The Capitals dominated Tuesday in T.J. Oshie's return as Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick to lead Washington to the 6-2 blowout win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Here are four reasons the Caps won.

Fast start

Bad starts were starting to become a problem for the Caps even during the team’s seven-game win streak. That certainly was not the case on Tuesday as Washington jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period of the game.

Brett Connolly scored a power play goal less than four minutes in, Travis Boyd scored his second career NHL goal and Alex Ovechkin got a crazy deflection to give the Caps a 3-0 lead. It was just that kind of night for the home team.

Starts have gone from a weakness to a strength recently as Washington has now scored three goals in the first period of each of their last two games and three times in the last five games.

Connolly and Ovechkin still hot

When you’re hot, you’re hot. Everything just seems to be working for both Connolly and Ovechkin.

Connolly extended his point streak to five games as he deflected in a shot from John Carlson. All eyes were on the Caps’ top power play unit with T.J. Oshie’s return, but it was Connolly – playing in Oshie’s spot on the second unit – who got Washington on the board first.

Ovechkin, meanwhile, extended his point streak to 12 games, the second longest streak of his career. Ovechkin put the exclamation point on the first period as he fired a one-timer from ten feet above the faceoff circle that was going nowhere near the net. The shot, however, deflected off of Niklas Kronwall and past a helpless Jonathan Bernier.

If you’re more into the pretty goals, don’t worry, Ovechkin had one of those too, as he beat Bernier clean on a two-on-one in the second period to extend the Caps’ lead to 5-0.

If Ovechkin scores his second goal of the game in the second period, there’s a pretty good chance three is not going to be far behind. Ovechkin finished off the hat trick in the third period as he fired a one-timer from the boards that just managed to squeak through Jimmy Howard.

The goals were Ovechkin’s league-leading 23rd, 24th and 25th tallies of the season. In addition to his 12-game point streak, Ovechkin has scored in four straight games (six total goals) and has 13 goals and 19 points over that 12-game streak.

Fourth line production

The fourth line’s main responsibility typically isn't to put points on the board. When a team does get production from that line, it’s a pretty big bonus for the offense. The Caps got another bonus point on Tuesday with a goal from Boyd.

The goal was set up completely by the work of Dmitrij Jaskin, who won a foot race in the offensive zone to cancel out an icing call, shielded the puck away from Detroit defenseman Mike Green and passed back to Nic Dowd who made the quick pass to Boyd.

Boyd now has a two-game goal streak, which is significant considering those are the only two goals of his NHL career.

Washington seems to have found real chemistry with Jaskin, Dowd and Boyd, which is important considering the Caps lost Jay Beagle in the offseason and the fourth line was one of the few question marks for the team heading into the season.

The power play

The Caps’ power play has been cold lately, going 0 for its last 8 opportunities and with zero goals in the last three games. In the past 14 games, in fact, Washington has gone only 15.4-percent on the power play since Nov. 11 – a stretch of 14 games – with six goals on 38 power plays.

Todd Reirden expressed his excitement on Monday about how Oshie’s return to the lineup could spark the power play, and boy was he right. The team had a clear spark with him back, and the power play responded with a goal in each of its two opportunities on the night.

Oshie himself scored the second power play goal from his normal spot in the slot.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: 

Quick Links

T.J. Oshie a game-time decision, but will almost certainly be in the lineup against the Red Wings

T.J. Oshie a game-time decision, but will almost certainly be in the lineup against the Red Wings

The Capitals return home after a three-game road swing to host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). Caps fans may not get to see Tom Wilson, who will be out with an upper-body injury, but there are still plenty of things to watch as the Caps try to improve to 2-0 against Detroit this season.

Here are four things to watch on Tuesday.

Oshie is back

Todd Reirden called T.J. Oshie a game-time decision, but he certainly looked and was treated like a player who would be in the lineup for Tuesday’s game. Oshie – who has been out with a concussion since Nov. 14 – will be back in the lineup on Tuesday just one day after returning to practice. But he is not going to be eased back in. Oshie moves right to the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and also back onto the top unit of the power play.

Oshie suffered a concussion last season after a hit from San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton and really seemed to struggle when he got back into the lineup. He was asked on Monday what he learned from that experience that can prepare him for what he will face on Tuesday.

“You expect the game to feel a little fast when you get back,” Oshie said. “You expect your game shape to not be there, the reads and the maximal effort that you get in battles and back-checking situations or even forechecking situations. It's just hard to simulate that when you're out there skating around cones and stopping on lines.”

With Oshie back in, here is what the lines looked like at Tuesday’s morning skate:

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson – Lars Eller – Devante Smith-Pelly
Travis Boyd – Nic Dowd – Dmitrij Jaskin

Forward Andre Burakovsky is a surprise scratch for the game. Points have been hard to come by for the 23-year-old forward who has just five goals and eight points in 29 games.

How does Bowey look?

Madison Bowey had to be helped off the ice during morning skate and was not putting any weight on his left leg. He slowly made his way off the ice and to the locker room, but returned soon after and jumped right back into the drills. I spoke to him after the skate and he said he took a shot off the inside of his leg, but he was fine and would be good to go for the game.

The team also did not seem concerned as Jonas Siegenthaler stayed on the ice after the skate to get extra work with the scratches. It certainly appears like Bowey is fine, but he may feel differently while trying to keep up with a speedy Red Wings team. How he plays and how that left leg looks is certainly something that bears watching.

Power boost

The Caps’ power play unit was so dominant to start the season, but it has gone cold recently and now it has fallen all the way to seventh in the NHL. Washington has not scored a power play goal in three straight games and has only three goals in its last 24 opportunities (12.5-percent).

The return of Oshie should provide a boost to that unit as Todd Reirden mentioned on Monday.

“He's a special player in all aspects of the game, but certainly in the power play for us in that diamond spot,” Reirden said. “He does a really good job on the entries in terms of controlled entries. When we do have to dump pucks in, he's great on recoveries. His work ethic and instincts to be able to win puck battles, I just think in increases our whole intensity of the way our power play recovers pucks and then obviously his ability to get open and just create spots for Nick or Evgeny to find him in that diamond area as we call it for the ability to finish from the middle of the ice there.”

Familiar foes

Detroit and Washington last met on Nov. 23, a game that resulted in a 3-1 win for the Caps. What was rapidly turning into a lackluster performance was saved by Wilson who scored in the second period to tie the game at 1. Wilson also added an assist in the third period. 

The Caps were outshot 32-20, but Braden Holtby turned in a strong performance to keep Detroit out of the net for the final two periods of the game.

The Red Wings will be playing the second leg of a back-to-back Tuesday meaning Washington is likely to see Jonathan Bernier in net again – just as they did on Nov. 23 – after Jimmy Howard started on Monday. Bernier could only save 17 of the 20 shots he faced, but he won’t have to worry about Wilson on Tuesday.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: