WASHINGTON -- Henrik Lundqvist did all he could, but the Capitals overwhelmed the New York Rangers on Friday for a 5-2 victory to close out a three-game homestand. Michal Kempny returned to the lineup and unexpectedly scored and Braden Holtby was strong in net thus quieting any talk of a goalie controversy.
Observations from the win
Kempny is still great
It is weird to think about how a player who seemed like such a random, grasping at straws trade has become so invaluable to the Caps’ lineup, but that’s where we are with Kempny. He played just 14:24, but the team defense improved drastically.
If you want to know why Kempny is such a great defenseman, watch the last play of the first period. Ryan Strome is streaking down the ice with the puck 1-on-1 with Kempny, a player who has not played a game since March. Strome had a full head of steam, but Kempny sticks with him skating almost stride for stride with him backward. Just when it looked like Strome had a step on him, Kempny turned, swept the stick and forced Strome to wheel around away from the net.
That play looked very similar to the one Jonas Siegenthaler faced against Toronto in which he was torched by Ilya Mikeheyev.
So will he be back on the top pair by Sunday?
“I thought he looked really good tonight and you can expect to see more of him on in Chicago and as we continue to build him up to have a full successful recovery into playing good hockey like you did tonight,” Todd Reirden said after the game.
Hathaway is more the just a fourth-line player
It is not surprising to see Hathaway become a fan favorite. He is a grinder who plays with the type of style fans love. What is surprising is how much of an impact he has had on this team already.
Hathaway was knocked out of the game in the second period with a broken nose after a big hit from Jacob Trouba, came back in the third, drew a cross-check, fought Brendan Smith, the Caps scored on the resulting power play and Hathaway returned to score the empty-netter.
That’s a pretty unbelievable game.
One thing we kept hearing from the team in training camp was that they wanted to be harder to play against. Hathaway is the type of player that makes life miserable for opposing teams, but he is not just a pest. He plays a role on the team and contributes when he is on the ice.
One of the best parts about it? There were two fights in this game and Tom Wilson was not involved in either of them.
The goalie controversy is over...for now
Holtby was great in this game. I wondered if four days between starts would be enough of a reset for him, but it was a really strong game. The Rangers packed players in front of the net and Holtby did a great job tracking it through the traffic and staying square.
Holtby’s 26 saves are 26 more than he managed on Monday.
That quiets the goalie controversy for now and really, there was no controversy. Yes, the Caps would have had to do something if Holtby kept playing as poorly as he did on Monday, but the most games Ilya Samsonov has played in his career is 37 which he played last year with Hershey. To think he was going to simply take over as the Caps’ starter now, in October, was never going to happen.
If we learned anything, it is that it is important to keep the three-game rotation in play. Play Holtby two games, but Samsonov back in for the third. It will be good to try to limit Holtby to 55 games or less and good to get Samsonov as much playing time as possible.
Defense is the best offense?
Kempny scored a goal, Carlson is tied for the league-lead in points, Dmitry Orlov had a breakaway. We didn’t see much of it today, but there have also been moments this season of Jonas Siegenthaler cheating deep into the offensive zone.
Clearly the defense is expected to get more involved in the offense this year. Originally, I thought this was more about getting perimeter shots. I asked Reirden about this and he largely dismissed it saying there has not been any dramatic shift to the offense, but I’m not so sure. The defense looks a lot more involved than I remember in the past.
Midway through the third period, the Caps could not shake the Rangers and led by only one goal thanks to the work of Lundqvist in net. Hathaway changed that.
Trouba delivered a big hit to Hathaway in the second period that left him with a broken nose and appeared to end his game. It did not. Hathaway returned for the third period and he was out for blood.
Micheal Haley delivered a clean hit to Orlov and that was pretty much all it took. Hathaway needed to hit someone and that someone turned into Smith.
Garnet Hathaway revenge tour 🥊 pic.twitter.com/l3dKuZeNvk— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) October 19, 2019
Hathaway drew a cross-check penalty and dropped the gloves with Smith even though he had a broken nose. By the end of the fight, Hathaaway was bleeding profusely, but the fight gave the Caps the spark they needed. Oshie would score on the resulting power play.
Play of the night
Kempny has scored only 12 goals in his career. No. 12 came on Friday.
Stat of the night
This is some pretty elite company for Carlson.
Quote of the night
Hathaway was asked about the hit from Trouba:
"You are looking right at my nose. It is a little out of place. That's all I should say about that."
We get 3 on 3 in regulation at some point tonight.— Mark Hendricks (@MarkHendricks18) October 18, 2019
Caps 5, Rangers 2.
Well, you got the score right.
Holtby stops 28-31 goals and caps win 4-3 and caps get a PP goal.👊🏼— jimmy hutchins (@CAPSNFIVE) October 18, 2019
Close. Holtby had 26 saves on 28 shots, the Caps won 5-2 and they got two power play goals.
4-2 good guys... Kempny scores in return. OV gets 1 too— WiseBeyondMyYears (@sports_god1) October 18, 2019
Kempny actually scored in his return so this was a pretty damn bold prediction. Congrats.
From 414, Kempny gets the #Caps first goal.— David Eissler (@eisman42) October 18, 2019
It was the second.
Hagelin performs an exorcism and Kempny scores 20 goals— rei the caps fan (@vranaenae) October 18, 2019
Miroslav Satan hasn’t played since 2010.
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