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Kuznetsov looks like vintage Kuzy, the win streak comes to an end and Oshie goes offside

Kuznetsov looks like vintage Kuzy, the win streak comes to an end and Oshie goes offside

The Capitals' win streak came to an end in a wild game against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, but Evgeny Kuznetsov rallied the Caps to earn at least a point.

Observations from the loss

2018 Kuznetsov

In the 2018 Cup run, Kuznetsov played at such an insane level, an argument could be made that he was one of the best players in the world. He set the bar. We know what his ceiling is because we saw him play at that level for 24 games. He continued to play at that level for the first month of the 2018-19 season, but the Caps have been searching for that player ever since. The way he has played of late is the closest we have seen to 2018 playoff Kuznetsov and that continued on Monday.

Even before he scored twice, Kuznetsov established that he was the best player on the ice with a brilliant first period. The only reason the Caps were not ahead 4-0 in the first 20 minutes was because of the heroics of Antti Raanta.

In 16 games this season, Kuznetsov now has eight goals and 10 assists. That puts him on pace for 88 points for the season.

Stretching out the defense

The Coyotes tried the stretch pass again and again and again, looking for breakaway opportunities. Clearly they scouted this and saw something in the defense they liked. This is something the Caps will have to face against fast teams. The defense is playing aggressively and fast teams will try to take advantage with those stretch passes. Samsonov made a few big saves to make up for it when Arizona did manage to get in behind the defense, but the Caps need to be aware of who they are playing and when they are trying to use their speed to get in behind the defensemen.

Bringing it every night

It would be fair to say Monday’s game was not the Caps’ best. They admitted as much. You can’t be at your best for 82 games, but I wonder, how many games we will see the Caps at their best in the near future.

This team is not without its flaws, but the first 19 games have shown that it is a great team and should be considered one of the Cup contenders. Part of the reason for that is how they play. The Caps are winning with a physical, all-in style of effort that includes delivering hits, blocking shots, winning board battles and doing the sorts of things that are really, really hard to sustain over 82 games. Playing that style will bring a team more success in the playoffs, but I would not be surprised to see this point streak end and the Caps go through a bit of a lull, especially in December-January when you really hit the dog days of the season. On a random Tuesday in January, a player really begins to think about whether they really want to dive in front of that slap shot and go for the block.

When they hit those low points, try not to freak out. I know this is easier said than done, but we are seeing how good this team is over this stretch. They are going to be fine this season and they are set up well for a postseason run.

Turning point

T.J. Oshie scored in overtime, the Caps completed the comeback from 3-0, the game was over, there was much rejoicing and we all lived happily ever after...and then the goal was reviewed showing Oshie was offside.

Play of the night

Beating a goalie on the backhand is impressive. Doing it on a one-touch shot from a sharp angle the way Kuznetsov did was pretty incredible.

Stat of the night

The Caps have been a team of hot hands this season. When one player has a good game, they get rewarded on the scoresheet.

Quote of the night

The Caps battled back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game and extend their point streak to 12 games. It felt like the game was over when Michael Grabner made it 3-0, but Kuznetsov never lost hope.

“What’s the point of playing the game if you feel like you’re going to lose? No, you always believe in the next shift, the next shift and the guys next to you, you are going to get momentum and we are going to come back in the game.”

Fan predictions

Besides the score, this was pretty much 100% accurate. Tip of the cap for this one.

This is impressive...but wrong.

He could have. Ovechkin had seven shots on goal and another shot blocked. He just could not buy a goal in this game.

Yeah, this is pretty bold. The fact that Samsonov started makes it even bolder.


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John Carlson's six-point week nets him the NHL's first star

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John Carlson's six-point week nets him the NHL's first star

After a sterling week with three goals and three assists in three games, John Carlson was named the NHL's first star for the week of December 2-8.

This isn't the first time this season the NHL has honored Carlson for his stellar efforts. He was named the NHL's first star in October and was the second star of the week for the week of October 14-20.

Two of Carlson's three goals last week were game-winners, and the week included his sixth three-point performance this season.

Carlson currently tops the league's defensemen in goals (11), assists (32), points (43) and game-winning goals (4) through 31 outings this season.

He is also the only Caps player on pace for a 100+ point season.

And that pace is historic. The only two defensemen in NHL history that have recorded as many points through their team’s first 31 games of a campaign are Bobby Orr (5x, most recently in 1974-75: 21-37—58 w/ BOS) and Al MacInnis (1990-91: 13-31—44 w/ CGY).


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Alex Ovechkin saddened by WADA banning Russia from the 2022 Olympic

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Alex Ovechkin saddened by WADA banning Russia from the 2022 Olympic

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin's hopes of representing Russia in the 2022 Olympics may already be dashed, not by the NHL, but by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The WADA executive committee handed down a four-year ban to the Russia on Monday, barring the country from competing in all major sporting events subject to the World Anti-Doping Code including the 2020 Summer Olympic Games and the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

Olympic participation is a major sticking point between the NHL and players and the NHL did not allow players to take part in the 2018 games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Now it appears that even if the players are allowed to go to Beijing, Ovechkin will not be able to fully represent his native country.

“I just heard it today," Ovechkin said. "Obviously, it’s sad news but I think I’m gonna have more information later. It’s bad. I feel bad for people working so hard for this moment and they can’t be there. I just hear it right before practice, so I don’t have much information on it.”

Russia was also banned in 2018, but its athletes were still allowed to compete. They represented a neutral flag and were referred to as the Olympic  Athletes from Russia.

While Ovechkin was certainly disappointed by the news of the ban, he sounded hopeful that there would still be an avenue for him to compete if in fact NHL players would be allowed to go.

"It’s always disappointing to hear something like that," Ovechkin said. "I hope everything’s going to be well. We still have a long time ‘til the Olympics to figure out what to do. What’s better to do. Hope everything’s going to be fine.”

Without any NHL participation, the Olympic Athletes entered the 2018 Olympics favored and did, in fact, take home the gold. Ovechkin said his excitement for cheering on his home nation was not dampened by the fact that they were not able to wear a Russian jersey or represent the Russian flag.

“To be honest with you I just looked at the scores and cheered for our guys," he said. "I didn’t pay too much attention [to] it. I was just happy for our guys scoring goals.”