Admit it, you were assuming the Capitals would lose Friday’s game against the Calgary Flames.
Washington was coming off a bye week against the top team in the west and would be without Alex Ovechkin who was serving a one-game suspension for missing the All-Star Game. Yet, the Caps put together their best performance in quite a while to defeat the Flames and snap their seven-game losing streak.
And then they lost on Sunday.
Obviously a nine-game losing streak would be a heck of a lot worse, but don’t take Friday’s win to mean that all of Washington’s problems are solved. The Caps have still lost eight of their last nine and a lot of the issues that were plaguing them during the losing streak crept back up in Sunday’s loss.
Bad turnovers, an inept power play and almost no offense to speak of lead to the Caps suffering their first loss to the Bruins since March 29, 2014.
The good news is that there were some positives you could see in the first two games back. Braden Holtby was struggling badly during the losing streak, but he has been in top form since his return. He was the only reason why Sunday’s game was close. The defense was also not quite as porous as it has been of late. The defense that showed up to play against Chicago or Toronto before the break would have given up a lot more than three goals against an offense like Calgary’s.
The past two games have been much better than what we saw prior to the All-Star Game and the Caps appear to be headed in the right direction, but they still have a ways to go before they start looking like the Cup contenders we believe they can be.
Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.
- Two factors helped the Caps finally snap the losing streak. The first was the break. Clearly the bye week was beneficial to them both physically and mentally. The second factor was Ovechkin’s suspension. Now let’s be clear, you can never argue that a team losing its best player is a good thing, but in this case there were positives that came from it. When a team knows it will be without its best player, the other players know they have to pick up the slack and focus on every detail of the game in order to get the win. Those details were really what the Caps were struggling with the most on the losing streak. By losing Ovechkin for a game, it forced the players to focus on correcting the aspects that had hurt them the most and I think that played a major role in them beating a very good Calgary team. If given the choice between having Ovechkin and not, obviously you want him in the lineup. But the Caps did a good job of turning his absence into a positive and into a win on Friday.
- I mentioned this earlier, but Holtby looked fantastic on Sunday. Washington gave up a number of turnovers to the Bruins that, during the losing streak, all seemed to end up in the back of the net. On Sunday, Hotlby was there to make the big saves that the team just was not getting before the break. That’s an encouraging sign.
- If you were among those arguing Andre Burakovsky should be playing on the right side, you got your wish on Sunday. He played on the right wing of the fourth line and…gave up several turnovers and contributed little offensively. There really appeared to be no difference in his play from one side to the other. The fact is Burakovsky’s struggles run deeper than what side of the ice he’s playing on.
- Dmitrij Jaskin is playing well enough to stay in the lineup. I don’t know if he will – he was hit with a lengthy benching from Todd Reirden after a first period penalty on Sunday – but he plays consistently well whenever he gets in. Is he a third-line player? No. He should be on the fourth, but if you are putting together the best fourth line for this team, I just don’t see how he’s not on it. Yeah, he can’t finish, but he does everything else well including winning board battles and getting to the front of the net.
The Caps snapped their losing streak, but eight losses in nine games still is nothing to write home about.
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