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The Caps can't beat the post, Malenstyn impresses and the defense struggles

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The Caps can't beat the post, Malenstyn impresses and the defense struggles

The Capitals got five pucks past Henrik Lundqvist, but only one past the post in a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

You can read the recap of the game here.

Observations from the loss

Feeling the losses

You always hear in sports "next man up," but clearly the Caps were struggling to overcome all the players missing from their lineup. Nicklas Backstrom, Carl Hagelin, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway were all out and that was just too many losses to overcome. Mike Sgarbossa and Beck Malenstyn did not look out of place at all, but the team just looked out of sync.

Hagelin, Dowd and Hathaway have all logged a lot of time on the penalty kill this season and Artemi Panarin scored two power play goals. That was no coincidence.

Not quite 2018 Kuznetsov

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the Caps' lone goal on the night, showed some fancy stick work and generally had a good game. But on a night when the team was without Backstrom and needed him to be one of the best players on the ice, he was not able to take over the game the same way he was in the 2018 postseason.

Kuznetsov has certainly played better this season than last, but I think it is fair to say his play is still not at that level that we know he can reach.

Good performance from Beck Malenstyn

Malenstyn stood out in the preseason and he did again on Wednesday in his NHL debut. In 9:43 of ice time, he recorded three shots on goal and had another two missed attempts. He had two scoring opportunities including a short breakaway on Henrik Lundqvist. He may have a future as a bottom-six, most likely fourth line player in the NHL.

Defense is a weak spot

The Caps were out of sync on offense which is understandable with all the losses. But there is really no excuse for a mistake like this:

This was not a case of a miscommunication with some of the new additions to the lineup either. Here are the Caps players who were on the ice: Nick Jensen, Michal Kempny, Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson and Kuznetsov. You can't blame this on Malenstyn or Sgarbossa.

Turning point

A 1-0 deficit heading into the third period? Caps laugh at one-goal deficits. Washington started the third period on the penalty kill, killed it off, but Dmitry Orlov was called for high-sticking just 40 seconds later. Back on the power play, Artemi Panarin scored his second of the night to make it 2-0 and put the Caps in a real hole.

Play of the night

If you give Kuznetsov this much room on the power play, even he is not going to turn down that shot.

The goal was great and all, but the actual best moment of the night came in the second period and had all the feels.

Stat of the night

The Caps beat Henrik Lundqvist five times on Wednesday, but only managed to get one past the post. Washington hit the post four times and that was the difference between winning a losing as the Caps fell 4-1.

And of course, the nightly John Carlson stat:

Quote of the night

Malenstyn did not just play in his first NHL game on Wednesday, it was at Madison Square Garden, one of the most iconic arenas in the world. Yeah, Malenstyn had a few nerves beforehand:

"I was just trying not to puke."

Also, Hathaway spoke with the media following the game and said he will not appeal his three-game suspension:

"It was tough to swallow because I want to be out there with the guys. you know, I felt helpless tonight and I let the guys down in the room and I let the organization down. in the end, I respect the league's decision and I had a fair opportunity to explain my side of things and how I saw the events unfold and you know I don't plan on appealing anything. In my view, it was a hectic situation. Coming out of a fight there was a second, third and fourth man that came in and I got sucker-punched a few times and I let my emotions take over. I had an emotional reaction that I regret and I wish it didn't happen. No one regrets it or is more disappointed than I am."

Fan predictions

Nailed it.

It is going to be one hell of a night when Gudas finally does it.

The offense just could not beat Lundqvist or the post in this one.

Had the Caps' lone goal!

Malenstyn came really close twice.

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A Vrana steal, a Kuznetsov surprise and more shenanigans between the Caps and Ducks

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A Vrana steal, a Kuznetsov surprise and more shenanigans between the Caps and Ducks

For the first time in franchise history, the Capitals have swept all three California teams on the road. The final win came on Friday in a 3-2 narrow defeat of the Anaheim Ducks. The game was full of shenanigans, some of which were cheeky and fun, but others were cruel and tragic.

Check out the game recap here.

Observations from the win

Just let them fight

We all remember what happened the last time these two teams played between Garnet Hathaway and Erik Gudbranson. It was no surprise to see those two lock horns in the second period, but the moment Gudbranson dropped his gloves, the refs were pulling the two apart preventing the fight.

The game devolved from there. In total, there was 66 PIM distributed in this game and I can't help but think most of it could have been avoided had the refs just let Hathaway and Gudbranson fight it out initially.

Why were they so quick to step in? I'm guessing that was the line in the sand drawn by the refs in an attempt by to keep control of the game and both players were told this is what would happen if they tried to fight. Rather than calm the game down, however, that seemed to make things worse.

Hathway and Gudbrandson ended up fighting in the third period anyway so what was the point of stopping them?

That sure sounds like they just needed to get that initial fight out of the way. That would have been better for both teams. Gudbranson's took an extra two minutes on the original fight attempt and the Caps scored on the resulting power play. Washington, meanwhile, sure seemed to get distracted by all the fisticuffs and scrums as the game went along, quickly losing control of a game it led 2-0.

Offside reviews stink and the NHL should get rid of them

Anaheim had a goal disallowed after a coach's challenge showed that Cam Fowler lifted up his back toe just before the puck crossed over the blue line. Once again, the game was slowed down so the refs could review a play and break down the video pixel by pixel to see if a player was just a hair offside. It saved the Caps a goal, but it was another example of the ridiculous standard linesmen now must stick to when judging if a play was offside or not.

The Ducks did not gain an advantage by the fact that Fowler's toe barely came off the ice right before the puck crossed. That's not the spirit in which the rule was intended.

Just please get rid of the offside review.

Context

The Caps swept a four-game road trip for just the second time in franchise history and they did it without Nicklas Backstrom and with Alex Ovechkin scoring in only one of those four games. They could actually be even better than what we saw  Friday.

Turning point

Anaheim tied the game at 2 just 45 seconds into the third period. They had complete control of the game. They were getting prolonged offensive opportunities in the Caps' zone and Washington's offensive structure was non-existent. They were skating the puck in, shooting and that was about the extent of the Caps' offense at that point.

Everything changed with one bad turnover.

Play of the game

Ovechkin is the team's most dangerous weapon on the power play. Getting the puck to him is priority one. Having said that, the Caps have a lot of weapons on the power play and they don't always utilize them. 

Washington's power play system is run on the half-wall. From there the puck is distributed, but rarely do they ever shoot from that position. They should because it would force defenses to account for it, but they don't and so you can understand why this shot from Evgeny Kuznetsov from the half-wall seemed to catch goalie Ryan Miller by complete surprise.

Stat of the game

The win completes a four-game sweep of the road trip. Does it seem like the Caps are really good on the road this season? That's because they are.

Quote of the game


Fan predictions

This is impressive. You nailed it and you got pretty specific too. There were only three misconducts, but still I'm very impressed.

A bit off on the score, but you got to see a Caps win.

Ha.

There was plenty of this. A total of 66 PIM were issued in this game.

Well, it was nuts but it didn't get that nuts.

Just about everything that could happen to Radko Gudas did in this game...but he still didn't score.

I did, but barely. I am going to guess we lost a few people along the way.

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Capitals punch their way through Anaheim for the win and California sweep

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Capitals punch their way through Anaheim for the win and California sweep

The Capitals survived a physical affair in Anaheim on Friday to earn a narrow 3-2 win over the Ducks and complete the sweep of its four-game road trip. The bad blood from the previous matchup between these two teams boiled over as the game went on. There were two fights, multiple misconducts and plenty of scrums, but ultimately Washington was able to overcome all the extracurriculars to earn the win.

Here's how the Caps did it.

No angle

Travis Boyd opened up the scoring with a Houdini-like goal in that it came at a severe angle. How severe? The shot actually came slightly behind the goal line.

OK, how is that even possible?

Carl Hagelin made the pass behind the net and Boyd made the one-time shot from just past the goal line. When you look at the replay, the puck actually banked in off of goalie Ryan Miller.

The shot may not have defied the laws of physics as it originally appeared, but it was still a pretty darn good shot to put the Caps up 1-0.

Kuznetsov surprises Miller

When the Caps went to the power play, we all knew who was going to shoot, including Miller and that was the problem.

Washington's power play is run on the half-wall. From there the puck is typically distributed to John Carlson to setup Alex Ovechkin or down low to setup T.J. Oshie waiting in the slot. Typically Nicklas Backstrom plays the half-wall. He is one of the elite playmakers in the league but does not shoot nearly enough on the power play and as a result, no one seems to account for a half-wall shot as a possibility.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was playing the half-wall role on Friday. As he skated casually along the wall, Miller shrunk back into his net and planted against the post. That's not what a goalie does when he is expecting a shot. It looked like Miller was placing himself in anticipation of Kuznetsov passing the puck low behind the goal line. Instead, Kuznetsov called his own number and fired the puck on net which Miller was not expecting or ready for at all and the puck snuck through him for the goal.

A successful offside challenge

Sam Steele thought he had put Anaheim on the board in the second period, but for the first time all season, Todd Reirden challenged the goal as offside. The play was reviewed and showed that Cam Fowler had lifted his back toe off the ice just before Brendan Guhle brought the puck over the blue line. As ridiculous as the video review has made offsides, by the letter of the law the play was in fact offside and the goal was disallowed.

Ryan Getzlaf would score soon after for real this time so the review ultimately did not cost the Ducks, but the point wasn't so much that it cost Anaheim, but that it didn't cost Washington.

Had Reirden lost the challenge, not only would the goal stand as called, but the Caps would have been assessed a delay of game penalty. Instead, the goal was taken off the board and Washington maintained its two-goal lead...briefly.

A bad turnover

Anaheim tied the game at 2 just 45 seconds into the third period. They had complete control of the game. They were getting prolonged offensive opportunities in the Caps' zone and Washington's offensive structure was non-existent. They were skating the puck in, shooting and that was about the extent of the Caps' offense at that point.

And everything changed with one bad turnover.

Less than a minute after Adam Henrique pulled the game even Miller went behind the net and left the puck for Guhle. Guhle took it and put it right to the stick of Vrana. His initial shot was stopped, but he picked up the rebound and stickhandled it past the netminder for the go-ahead goal

Anaheim had all of the momentum and had finally pulled even and then handed the lead right back to Washington.

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