The Capitals finished off the round robin on Sunday with a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins to claim third place and a first-round matchup against the New York Islanders.
Observations from the win
What a difference a game makes
There was a lot of hand-wringing and pessimism around the Caps after Thursday’s loss. Heading into Sunday’s game, the Caps were winless in the round robin, had played poorly against Philadelphia and were facing perhaps a last-place finish with a rematch against the Carolina Hurricanes on the horizon. That perception is a bit different after Sunday’s game. The Caps beat the Bruins, really were the better team for much of the game against Tampa Bay and only lost in a shootout. Now Washington will move on to play what looks like a much more favorable matchup against the New York Islanders.
There are some positives to take away from the round robin
Overall, did the Caps play like a Cup contender in the round robin? No. I think we can all agree they will have to be better, but there were some positives we can take from these three games. The penalty kill finished a perfect 8 out of 8 and it looked very good. After an awful regular season, Braden Holtby was the team's best player in the round robin. He acknowledged after the game that the pause in the season gave him time to "to fix a few things and work on a few things" and the improvement has been evident. The team defense also improved drastically as compared to Thursday's game.
It should also be noted that the Caps played the round robin without its best defenseman. Though John Carlson's status remains in question, if he is ready for the start of the playoffs, his addition will instantly make the team better on the back end which is its biggest weakness to this point.
There's still room for improvement
Sunday's game was a step in the right direction, but there are some issues the team needs to improve on if it hopes to make a deep playoff run. The power play remains just a black hole on offense. It generated some chances on Sunday, but as a whole, through the round robin it has looked atrocious. This should be one of the team's biggest strengths, but instead they just cannot generate anything with the extra man.
Also, defense quite clearly remains the Achilles heel of the team. While Sunday was progress, the team has to be able to find the right balance between pushing the tempo offensively and playing strong defense. Washington had only two shots on goal through the first period as the team looked far too conservative. It has to improve on that while also not exposing themselves too much defensively. You're not going to be able to out-defense the Islanders so two shots on goal in a period is not going to cut it.
T.J. Oshie had a golden opportunity late in the first period with a nice steal from Charlie McAvoy. Oshie saw McAvoy pinch in the offensive zone so he charged, chipped away the puck and launched a 2-on-1 in the other direction. Oshie carried the puck and called his own number, but missed the shot badly.
Oshie redeemed himself later in the period, however, as he beat Zdeno Chara to the puck on the doorstep and shot it home to give Washington the 1-0 lead. It was the Caps' second shot on goal of the period and it came in the final minute.
🍩shbabe!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/wjOkV27rKR— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) August 9, 2020
Play of the game
David Pastrnak may have been onto something with Tom Wilson. In the third period, Ilya Kovalchuk cleared the puck out of the defensive zone and Wilson sprinted down the ice to beat two Bruins claim the puck behind the defense. He pulled the puck backhand to forehand and fired a quick shot off the post and into the top shelf.
1/1 Bruins players polled agree that Tom Wilson is the best goal scorer in the league pic.twitter.com/FleXQZHYbQ— NBCSports Washington (@NBCSWashington) August 9, 2020
Stat of the game
The Caps killed off both power plays they faced on Sunday and were perfect on the penalty kill through the round robin.
Through their three Round Robin games, the Capitals went 8-for-8 on the penalty kill to join Toronto and Philadelphia as the only current playoff teams to remain perfect on the penalty kill.— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) August 9, 2020
Quote of the game
Sunday's win will mean the Caps will play Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders in Round 1 of the playoffs. Reirden was asked about the history between the coaching staffs heading into the series:
"It's not Barry Trotz vs. Todd Reirden"
Martin Fehervary looks like he belongs. https://t.co/qZD49kHNd4— Brandon Alter (@brandon__alter) August 9, 2020
He certainly did. He recorded a game-high seven hits in his 15:14 of ice time. He had a Corsi-For percentage of 54.6-percent while only 16.7-percent of his shifts were offensive zone starts. That means he was not getting sheltered minutes. It was a good night for him.
Fourth line and holtby carry the rest of the team.— jimmy hutchins (@CAPSNFIVE) August 9, 2020
You were half right. Holtby was certainly Washington's best player.
Thank goodness this was wrong.
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