The first game back after a long road trip, the Capitals were destined for a letdown, right? Not so much. Washington obliterated the Buffalo Sabres with four goals in the first period in a 6-1 victory.
Observations from the win
A lesson in how to and how not to get the defense involved offensively
One of the running storylines for the Caps this season is how the defense is getting more involved offensively. Having the defense play up comes with risk if you do not do it right. Clearly Buffalo wanted to get the defense involved as well, but the Sabres were caught too far forward and the Caps made them pay for it.
On Washington’s first goal, Jack Eichel skated the puck to the blue line. Colin Miller saw a lane and decided to pinch in. Once he commits, Eichel has to either get the puck to him or hold onto it. What he absolutely cannot do, however, is turn the puck over because the defense is completely out of position.
Miller is on the right skating towards the net. Eichel was facing him, but spun around right into the pressure. He immediately turned the puck over. Miller is deep in the zone looking to attack and Rasmus Ristolainen, at the top of the picture, standing at the blue line. Neither player is in position to defend a breakout and that’s how Jakub Vrana got behind them for a breakaway.
Here’s Washington’s second goal. Rasmus Dahlin decided he was going to take the puck into the zone which was a mistake. It’s not because he doesn’t have room, the problem is that all three forwards are deep in the opposite corner.
When a defenseman joins the attack, a forward has to account for that and move back to the blue line to cover for him. There is absolutely no way anyone can cover for Eichel in this situation which leaves the Sabres vulnerable on the counter-attack.
Guess what happens? Dahlin turns the puck over and it turns into a 4-on-1 break because there is only one player left on the blue line.
Finally, here’s a look at Michal Kempny pinching in. He received a pass from Tom Wilson who immediately skated to the blue line.
See how Wilson is no back in Kempny's position in case of a breakout from Buffalo? This allows Kempny room to pinch and he is able to deliver the cross-ice pass to Vrana.
Two fourth line goals
Secondary scoring is such an underrated aspect of the game. Who cares if the fourth line can score when you’ve got Alex Ovechkin? Well, Ovechkin is not going to score every game. Secondary scoring matters a lot and the Caps are getting it from the fourth line. Chandler Stephenson scored on the 4-on-1 while Brendan Leipsic got his first goal as a Cap off a great set-up from Travis Boyd. The final stats for the trio was a goal and an assist for Leipsic, one goal for Stephenson and two assists for Boyd.
The fourth line has been great this season despite frequently changing players. When you can get two goals from the fourth line, that is a huge boost to the offense.
Not to be a downer, but the success of the fourth line also highlights how much the third line is struggling to produce. Carl Hagelin is still looking for his first goal and Hathaway only has one goal and one assist in the seven games since moving up to the third line. That line remains a work in progress.
Establishing their role
The penalty kill is clearly much improved this year and you may be surprised by the guys who are taking over much of the responsibility on defense. On Friday, Radko Gudas and Jonas Siegenthaler both led the team in shorthanded ice time with 2:40. This has been a growing trend and it appears these two have become the go-to defensemen on the penalty kill.
Facing the second-best power play in the league, Siegenthaler and Gudas teamed up to kill off both power play opportunities for Buffalo.
The Caps held a 4-0 lead after the first period and the game looked well in hand until Henri Jokiharju fired a shot that hit off the back of Jonas Siegenthaler to get Buffalo on the board. The next goal would either put Buffalo right back in the game or deliver the knockout punch and Tom Wilson’s goal made sure it was the knockout punch.
when those tip drills pay off pic.twitter.com/VBUC4RrC5x— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) November 2, 2019
Play of the night
Check out this move by Boyd on Dahlin along the wall.
Leipsic nets his first as a Cap! pic.twitter.com/n7bDACk8q7— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) November 1, 2019
That’s a fourth-liner deking a No. 1 overall draft pick. Impressive.
Stat of the night
The Caps sacrificed offense for defense in the offseason and yet on a night in which Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson combined for only one assist, the Caps still scored six goals and the offense just keeps rolling.
The Capitals have scored four or more goals in seven of their last eight games and at least five goals five times in their last seven games. All have resulted in wins.— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) November 2, 2019
Quote of the night
Travis Boyd was sent to Hershey early in the season. Now he's back and trying to prove that he belongs in the NHL.
"I want to show them what I can do, I want to show everyone what I can do. Hopefully, I can continue to play well and hopefully I can continue to stay in the lineup as well."
I actually thought this too. We were both dead wrong.
Wilson and vrana score, caps get two points tonight— jimmy hutchins (@CAPSNFIVE) November 1, 2019
Tip of the cap to you, sir. You got it exactly right.
Carlson gets a hat trick 🎩🎩🎩— Lizzie King (@lizzardkingg) November 1, 2019
No points for Carlson tonight. If you think this is him regressing to the mean though that probably just means he will get four points in the next game.
I'm gonna say "Dadko goal" until he gets one.— Master Shake (@cowgirl_bebop) November 1, 2019
Keep at it.
Caps more goal than redskins point— big mike v (@MichaelJBenelli) November 1, 2019
I said "bold" predictions.
the caps perform a belated halloween where they sacrifice the body of jack eichel to go 77-2-3— rei the caps fan (@vranaenae) November 1, 2019
If you're just going to use black magic for the regular season, what's the point?
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