Capitals

Capitals

Washington sports fans were forced to divide their attention between the Capitals game against the Vancouver Cancuks and Game 3 of the World Series on Friday. Midway through the second period with the Caps down 5-1, most fans probably chose the World Series and that was a mistake. While the Nationals could not rally from their deficit, the Caps actually did and pulled off a thrilling, improbable, exciting, confusing, shocking, baffling, 6-5 shootout win.

Observations from the win

Boy, that looked familiar

Friday’s game looked an awful lot like Thursday’s against the Edmonton Oilers, but with the roles reversed. Washington played well at the start, Vancouver took full control in the second and the Caps retook momentum in the third with a furious rally to tie the game.

There’s a lesson to be learned here on why the Caps struggle to maintain leads after seeing another team suffere the same fate and that is don’t play passive, prevent defense. Possession leads to pressure which leads to momentum which leads to goals and even if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter because you don’t need goals when you’re already ahead.

Once Washington made it 5-3, the Canucks no longer took the play to Washington, they were hanging on for dear life and that is exactly why they lost.

More to learn

I watched Ilya Samsonov at development camp a few years ago and one of the first things I noticed was that he let in more goals up high than you would expect for a goalie of his size. At 6-foot-3, Samsonov is a big guy, but when I watched him more closely, I realized he sometimes plays very low in his stance which leaves more net to shoot at up high.

 

This cost the Caps in the second when a deflected puck went to Elias Petersson. Samsonov was low in his stance and back in his crease showing Pettersson too much net.

Samsonov has a tendency to rely too heavily on his freakish athleticism and I wonder if this is a symptom of that, playing lower in anticipation of going after the loose pucks down low. This is something that is correctable with coaching, but it is a good reminder that this is still a young goalie learning how to play in the NHL and fans should have patience when he is not immediately perfect.

Overall, it was a good game for Samsonov despite the five goals given up. He was not given much help from his defense and Vancouver had a lot of high-danger opportunities from the slot. I really liked the way he stuck with it and rebounded with two huge saves in the shootout. Props to Todd Reirden as well for not giving him the hook. When it was 5-1 I wondered if he would pull Samsonov to protect the young goalie from continuing to get shelled. Luckily, Reirden did not and the rest is history.

Remember how this month was supposed to go?

One of the big storylines heading into the season was how would the Caps navigate their brutal October schedule? There may be one game remaining in the month, but the results are in and the Caps have handled the first month brilliantly.

Three games in four nights to start the season including the banner raising in St. Louis and all without a suspended Evgeny Kuznetsov, two games against the Dallas Stars, a trip to Nashville, a game against the star-studded Colorado Avalanche, two against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the western Canada road trip to boot.

If you had told me Washington would win eight of its first 13 knowing what this schedule looked like, I certainly would have taken that.

Poor Garnet Hathaway

Hathaway was hit in the nose by a puck, you know, the same one he broke against the New York Rangers before getting into a fight. That nose is a magnet for pain evidently. Maybe he should just go full cage like they do in college hockey.

Turning point

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored late in the second period to technically start the comeback, but that goal felt like window-dressing. It made the score 5-2 and Jakub Vrana’s high-sticking penalty to start the third seemed likely to end any threat of a comeback.

After some brilliant forechecking on the penalty kill by Lars Eller and Hathaway, Eller managed to get just enough of his stick on the centering pass from Hathaway to send the puck barely trickling through the pads of goalie Jacob Markstrom.

 

Play of the night

Before the clock could strike 00:00 on the middle frame, Kuznetsov rocketed his second goal of the game past Markstrom right before the buzzer sounded. His goal came with 0.3 seconds remaining.

At the time it looked like it would be a meaningless goal as it made the score 5-2, but it proved critical in terms of sparking the comeback from the start of the third period on.

Stat of the night

I hope you stuck with this game even after the Caps trailed because we witnessed history. A team overcoming a four-goal deficit doesn’t happen all that often.


Quote of the night

The Caps scored five goals and won the game without a single point from Alex Ovechkin or John Carlson. Todd Reirden was asked about that after the game:

“John’s carried us for a long time. Great to see Michal Kempny get rewarded, shooting the puck really well with net-front traffic. What happens in these back-to-backs and we talked about it is you need to have other guys step up. When the game’s going to overtime like the Edmonton game, we had to overplay some of our guys. Those are tough minutes chasing around Connor McDavid all night and then having to deal with Boeser and Pettersson and these guys all the time, it’s not easy so you need to have depth through your lineup and we certainly showed it tonight.”

Fan predictions

Points for Carlson have been a lock lately, but not on Friday.

https://twitter.com/StanleyCupYall/status/1187904546443534338

You were right for 40 minutes.

Sorry, shootout winners don’t count.

I feel like this would be a good opportunity for the Spiderman double meme.

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