Caps hope they're building momentum after two-straight home wins

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

As Conor Sheary essentially walked the puck into an open Kraken net to put the final touch on a 5-2 Capitals victory Saturday, there was a bevy of reasons to celebrate. 

The team’s power play has turned around in recent weeks and scored two goals on the man-advantage in the win. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek stopped 29 of 31 Kraken shots and, since Jan. 1, boasts a .937 save percentage in 11 games. The Capitals earned back-to-back home wins for the first time since mid-January. 

And with 25 games left in the season and the team as healthy as could be, they’re hopeful their poor stretch is finally in the past. 

“We’re starting to see some good signs of the kind of hockey we want to play down the stretch here,” defenseman Nick Jensen said. “One of the biggest is work ethic; I think that’s one thing that’s been really good. There’s a lot of good things, a lot of good signs, but we’ve got to keep getting better and keep building. Not everything is perfect right now but it’s going in the right direction.”

The Capitals are still 10-12-2 since the new year began, but paired with a win over the Hurricanes on Thursday and a grind-it-out win over the Kraken, they’re looking to turn the corner down the stretch. 


“We had a tough stretch there and the Carolina game I thought was a good start,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “There was parts that were good tonight, parts that I thought we needed to be a little bit better if I’m being honest. They came out really hard, they competed really hard in the first and they work and so you got to compete at that level.”

There are still areas that need to be improved (the Capitals were outshot 23-15 at five-on-five against the Kraken), but a lot of the problems that plagued this team in the middle part of the season have at least begun to correct themselves. 

Notably, Vanecek has seemingly seized the No. 1 goaltender gig with just over two weeks before the trade deadline. 

"He's playing really well,” Tom Wilson said. “He's battling in there. You can tell he's working really hard. He's positionally sound, he's swallowing up pucks, he's good on second rebounds and third rebounds. As a team, when you see the guy battling in there, it can create momentum and it can create confidence and I think we feel that from Vitek right now.”

Washington has also gotten back second-line winger Anthony Mantha, who has been paired with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, which has allowed the team to more evenly balance out the lineup. Namely Sheary, as the team’s fourth-leading scorer, has found a role in the bottom six. 

They’ll have a big test next week with a west coast road swing through Canada, and when they return, the positive signs over the last few days could very well have become the new normal.