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Caps prospect watch: Hershey loses eight straight as offense suddenly dries up

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Via the Hershey Bears

Caps prospect watch: Hershey loses eight straight as offense suddenly dries up

After a disastrous stretch of eight straight losses, the Hershey Bears sit dead last in the Atlantic Division and are in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013-14.

It's not hard to figure out what the problem is. In those eight losses, Hershey has been held to only 12 total goals for a paltry 1.5 goals per game. You are not going to very much at that rate.

The Bears played three games in the past week and many of the Caps' top prospects were limited on the score sheet. Nathan Walker and Tyler Graovac each had only one goal, Travis Boyd and Connor Hobbs had only one assist and Riley Barber was held to zero points.

This is a troubling sign for a Hershey team that is about to lose its top scorer in Chris Bourque to the Olympics. That is a serious blow to an offense that is already sputtering.

By the time Bourque returns, one has to wonder if the Bears will already be in a hole too deep to climb out of.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S UPDATED CAPS’ PROSPECT RANKINGS HERE

Other prospect notes:

  • Ilya Samsonov was not one of the three goalies selected to the Olympic Athletes From Russia roster that will compete in Pyeongchang. According to a list approved by the IOC, Samsonov was among the final six goalies the Russian Hockey Federation was considering. 
  • Tyler Lewington dropped the gloves with Garrett Wilson of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins late in Hershey's 4-0 loss on Jan. 24. You don't get to see too many fights like this in the NHL anymore.

  • As bad as things have been in Hershey, one has to wonder if perhaps they would consider recalling Tim McGauley or Hampus Gustafsson from the ECHL. Both players had very good weeks with the South Carolina Stingrays as McGauley scored three goals and Gustafsson tallied two goals and two assists. McGauley has no career games in the AHL, but Gustafsson was only recently reassigned to South Carolina by the Bears after playing in 14 games in the AHL.
  • Providence senior Brian Pinho has been named one of the 74 nominees for college hockey's highest honor, the Hobey Baker Award. Fans can vote on the nominees here. He may have a long way to go before he gets to that point, but Pinho would join some pretty exclusive company if he should win the Hobey Baker. The last four players to win the award were Will Butcher, Jimmy Vesey, Jack Eichel and Johnny Gaudreau.
  • Garrett Pilon was named the Third Star in Everett's win Monday over Seattle. He had one assist in that game. Pilon totaled five assists in his team's three games over the past week.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in his week's updated rankings.

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Remembering the last time the Caps won in Los Angeles…in 2005

Remembering the last time the Caps won in Los Angeles…in 2005

The city of Los Angeles has not been kind to the Capitals in recent years where they have lost eight straight games. You have to go all the way back to Dec. 14, 2005, to find the last time they beat the Kings on their home ice.

That game came in Alex Ovechkin’s rookie season, meaning he is the only player still with Washington who played that game. But he wasn’t the star. The star that night was, of course, defenseman Jamie Heward.

Los Angeles boasted a roster with Luc Robitaille and Jeremy Roenick. Future Caps Eric Belanger, Joe Corvo, and Tim Gleason also suited up for the Kings.

Heward opened the scoring in the first period with a power-play goal. Belanger and Sean Avery scored to give Los Angeles the 2-1 lead, but Brian Sutherby tied the game midway through the third and Heward scored his second goal of the night, also on the power play, with just 63 seconds remaining. Washington would hold on for the 3-2 win.

Olie Kolzig was in net for the Caps and had a strong night with 24 saves on 26 shots.

Ovechkin recorded an assist on both of Heward’s goals. Heward scored 11 goals in his 123 career games with Washington and two of them came that night.

The Caps have not won in Los Angeles since. They will look to snap that streak on Monday (10:30 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).

Game notes

Copley in

Pheonix Copley is expected to start after Braden Holtby got the nod Sunday in Anaheim. Ironically, Copley’s last start came on Feb. 11 against…the Kings.

When last we met

Los Angeles visited Washington one week ago and the Caps earned the 6-4 victory to finish off their season-long six-game homestand. Evgeny Kuznetsov had a four-point night with two goals and two assists. Ovechkin also had three points (one goal, two assists).

About last night….

The last time the Caps played a back-to-back, they were obliterated 3-0 by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The game started off their current six-game road trip. Washington looked completely out of gas for that game. They will need much more energy for Monday's game in Los Angeles to come away with the win.

Oshie status unclear

T.J. Oshie left Sunday's game in the second period due to an upper-body injury. After the game, Todd Reirden said Oshie needed to be reevaluated. With no morning skate Monday, Oshie's status for Monday's game remains unclear for now.

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps look consistently inconsistent

NHL Power Rankings: The Caps look consistently inconsistent

It’s getting hard to figure out just who the Capitals are.

After a seven-game losing streak, Washington returned from the All-Star break and rebounded nicely. In a six-game homestand, Washington went 4-1-1 to get back on track. Then they started a six-game road swing with an absolutely horrendous 3-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. They followed that up with a blowout win over one of the top teams in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks. Rather than build on that momentum, however, the Caps fell apart in Anaheim and allowed five goals to a bad Ducks team in a 5-2 loss.

About the only thing we know for sure about this team at this point in the season is that they are inconsistent.

The timing for Washington’s continued inconsistencies is not ideal. The trade deadline is just one week away and now is the time when a general manager needs to know exactly who his team is so he can assess what areas he needs to improve before the deadline.

And let’s not forget Washington is also in a tight playoff race with Columbus, Pittsburgh and Carolina all hot on the Caps’ heels.

So just who are the Caps? Are they the team that started 24-10-3 or the one that lost seven straight? Are they the team that blew out the Sharks in San Jose or the one that laid an egg against the Ducks?

Washington certainly has not made Brian MacLellan’s job of evaluating the team before the deadline very easy.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The Caps have taken the second-most minor penalties in the league. The leader? Tampa Bay. So why are the penalties such a story line for Washington and not the Lightning? Because Tampa Bay has the second-best penalty kill in the NHL. Taking that many penalties is not good, but the issue is compounded by the fact that the Caps’ penalty kill is killing off only 78.1-percent of the penalties they face.

  • The neutral zone is one of the keys to the Caps’ success. That was evident in the game against San Jose and one of the biggest reasons for their success in the playoffs. When they control the neutral zone and don’t let opposing offenses have clean breakouts, they are a tough team to beat. When they don’t control the neutral zone then teams like Anaheim, the worst offensive team in the NHL, manages 39 shots on goal and five goals.

  • What is going on with the defensive breakdowns? Anaheim’s second goal on Sunday was one of the worst defensive breakdowns you will see in the NHL. That shouldn’t happen. A lot of them are coming from bad line changes. These are fixable mistakes, but ones you do not expect to see in February.

  • On a happier note, Jakub Vrana looks like he has turned a corner. He has been phenomenal of late and is someone Caps fans should be very excited about. Not only is he talented, but he seems to have the right attitude and really takes it on himself to improve his game.

The Caps are 1-2-0 to start their six-game road trip and have some work to do to make sure the road swing is a successful one. They also have some work to do in the NHL Power Rankings. Check out this week’s rankings here.

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