Capitals

Quick Links

NHL Power Rankings: Capitals’ losses are the Metro Divisions’ gain

holtby-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

NHL Power Rankings: Capitals’ losses are the Metro Divisions’ gain

When the Capitals got hot earlier in the season, it looked like the Metropolitan Division was already well in hand. Yes, we have only just hit the midpoint of the regular season, but there was a stretch where everyone in the division looked really, really bad and the only true contender was the Caps.

Admittedly, I started looking ahead at possible wild card matchups for the first round. Again, the division was just that bad.

Now, however, the division is red hot. How hot? Consider this: Washington has gone 17-5-1 in their last 23 games and have put virtually no distance between themselves and the top Metro teams, specifically the Pittsburgh Penguins who just rattled off eight straight wins.

As of this writing, the Caps sit two points ahead of Pittsburgh with a game in hand, three points ahead of Columbus and four points ahead of the Islanders who have a game in hand over the Caps.

All it took was one three-game losing streak and all of a sudden Washington’s division lead had completely evaporated.

The point to all of this is that, while there may still be some really bad teams in the Metro (Flyers, Rangers), this race is still far from over.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

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

  • Let’s talk about the power play. Through 10 games, Washington has one goal on 31 opportunities. That’s a success rate of just over 3-percent. That’s awful. The Caps, however, remain confident in the power play because it typically goes through dry spells and then rebounds. As bad as the power play has been of late, you can already see signs of improvement. The biggest issue for the power play has been their zone entries. On Thursday, the St. Louis Blues stacked the blue line and the Caps made them look like the Iron Curtain. Against Dallas and Detroit, however, they were able to enter the zone more easily and set up the power play, they just didn’t score. Now that things seem to be working again, don’t expect any drastic changes any time soon. The floodgates will open soon enough.
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov has played in 35 games this season. He has only one even strength goal. It’s rare that you can look at a player with 36 points in 35 games and think he needs to step it up, but Kuznetov needs to step it up. He’s capable of more than we’re seeing right now.
  • Ovechkin obviously leads the Caps in goals, but you should note the two players tied for second: Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson, both of whom have 12 goals and are under the age of 25. Is a Vrana, Kuznetsov, Wilson line the future top line for Washington?
  • What’s my opinion on Ovechkin’s decision not to play in the All-Star Game? I’m probably not the right person to ask because I think All-Star Games in every sport are garbage and should go away. Having said that, I have no problem with his decision not to go. He played more hockey in the past year than ever before and is now 33. That’s not young in hockey years. The goal is to win the Cup and missing the All-Star Game is the difference between a five-day break and a 10-day break. Yeah, that matters. As for this notion that this is when the NHL sells the game, the NHL will gain more fans during the playoffs when the hockey is at its best than for a one-day three-on-three exhibition tournament with no physical play and a bunch of star players going at 75-percent.

The Caps look as good as any team in the NHL right now, but just how good are they according to the rankings? Find out here where they land in this week’s NHL Power Rankings.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Capitals enter All-Star break on sour note in Toronto as losing streak extends to seven

Capitals enter All-Star break on sour note in Toronto as losing streak extends to seven

The Capitals enter the All-Star break losers of seven straight after a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

In desperate need of a win before the All-Star Break, the Capitals kept Alex Ovechkin in the lineup delaying his one-game suspension and started Braden Holtby for the second consecutive night. Yet, the result was the same as they gave up six goals for the third straight game and for the fourth time during the current losing streak. Washington has been outscored 36-18 during the streak.

Here are four reasons the Caps lost.

Nazem Kadri

Kadri is always a thorn in the side of the Caps, most notably for his knee-on-knee hit on Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs back in 2017. He was again a pest against Washington with a hat trick for the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

The Caps scored late in the first period, but Kadri scored with 26 seconds remaining to even the game at one. Kadri also extended Toronto’s lead to two goals for the first time at the 2:10 mark into the second period of a one-timer from the high slot. He completed the hat trick later in the third as William Nylander shot the puck, hit both posts and the puck went straight to the stick of Kardi who had an empty net yawning.

Washington has now given up a hat trick in three straight games and in four of their last five.

A quick response

A growing problem for Washington during this losing streak is allowing quick response goals. Nicklas Backstrom put the Caps on the board with less than 90 seconds remaining in the first period.

Great, Washington is headed to the locker room up 1-0, right? Not so fast.

Morgan Rielly dumped the puck and tried to pass it to the middle. Nylander kicked it back behind the net and the play should have been dead, but Michal Kempny tipped it back out to center and no one seemed to know where it was except Kadri who came streaking in and tapped it past Holtby to tie the game.

The goal came just 47 seconds after Backstrom put Washington on the board.

An untimely penalty

Ovechkin is doing just about everything he can to keep the Caps in this games and he scored again on Wednesday. But tonight's game really turned on an Ovechkin penalty in the second period.

Ovechkin was called for cross-checking Kaspari Kapanen about two minutes after Nikita Zaitsev tied the game at 2. At that point, Washington had never trailed in the game. They had yielded leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but overall were playing significantly better than they did on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.

Auston Matthews would go on to score on the resulting power play. That would be the first of three unanswered goals for Toronto.

A rough penalty kill for John Carlson

The Leafs were able to cash in on the penalty kill because of a rough shift for defenseman John Carlson. With the puck on his stick behind the net, Carlson did not try clearing the puck around the boards. Instead, he turned up ice and fired it right to John Tavares. Tavares blocked the clear and kept the puck in. Later on in the shift, Matthews was skating in looking for a shot. Carlson dropped to a knee looking for the shot block, but he was too quick. Matthews curled it around a now helpless Carlson, then fired the puck through Holtby to give Toronto a lead they would not relinquish.

MORE CAPS NEWS:

Quick Links

Why a smiling Ovechkin was forced to leave Wednesday’s game briefly in the first period

ovechkin-injured-oshie-collision.png
Twitter

Why a smiling Ovechkin was forced to leave Wednesday’s game briefly in the first period

A nasty collision between Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie resulted in Ovechkin getting pulled into the locker room in the first period of Wednesday’s Capitals game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Early in the first period, Oshie skated past Morgan Rielly attempting to chip the puck away from him along the boards. As he kept skating, he came directly into the path of Ovechkin and the two collided violently in the neutral zone. Oshie popped up quickly, but Ovechkin stayed down on the ice.

After a few nervous moments, Ovechkin got back onto his feet and was seen smiling on the bench and joking with Oshie about the hit. He also appeared to be grabbing his chest.

A few moments later, head athletic trainer Jason Serbus was seen talking to Ovechkin and Ovechkin got up off the bench and walked into the locker room.

It was later confirmed by the NBCSN broadcast that Ovechkin was pulled by the concussion spotter after it appeared Ovechkin’s face crashed directly into Oshie’s shoulder.

Concussion spotters are authorized to require a player’s removal from play in order to evaluate them for a concussion following a blow to the head. If the player passes all concussion tests and is deemed not to have suffered a concussion, he is able to return.

While it appeared Ovechkin was fine after the hit, the concussion spotter saw enough on the hit to believe Ovechkin needed to be evaluated. It may be an inconvenience, but could prevent players from remaining on the ice after suffering a concussion.

Luckily for the Caps, Ovechkin returned late in the first literally just in time for Washington’s first power play of the game. The Caps did score on the power play, though Ovechkin did not record a point on the play.