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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are leaving a lot of points on the table because of penalties

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are leaving a lot of points on the table because of penalties

Penalties have been an issue for the Capitals all season long, but the issue has gained a lot of attention recently after Todd Reirden benched Dmitrij Jaskin and Evgeny Kuznetsov in the first period against the Boston Bruins on Feb. 3.

Washington is tied for second in the NHL with 199 minor penalties this season and it is really starting to cost them.

Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers turned on a first period offensive zone trip by T.J. Oshie. A strong start for Washington was erased as the Panthers scored one second after the penalty expired. The Caps ended up giving the Panthers’ second ranked power play four opportunities on the night, including a brutal penalty by Brett Connolly late in the game.

With four seconds left, Connolly chopped Aleksander Barkov’s stick out of his hands in the offensive zone. Barkov is not going to score with four seconds left and the puck on the wrong end of the ice. It was an unnecessary penalty and Florida scored on the resulting power play in overtime.

After a disastrous start to the season, Washington’s penalty kill has not been terrible. If you take out October, the Caps are killing off 79.9-percent of the penalties they face, good for 18th in the league. 

That’s not great, but at least it’s average. During that same stretch, however, Washington has given up 29 power play goals, the eighth most in the NHL.

Taking as many penalties as they are is stressing the penalty kill to the point that it has negated the team’s improvement in that area.

The playoff race is still pretty close. Washington is in a good position sitting in second place in the Metropolitan Division, but they are leaving points on the table with these penalties. That is something they will have to clean up to stay out of the wild card battle below them and have a run at the red-hot Islanders at the top of the division.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

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

  • What do you do with Andre Burakovsky? He is playing his best hockey of the season and the third line is clicking, but we have seen this play out before. Burakovsky’s talent level is not in question, the problem is consistency. Do you hold on to him and hope he continues this level of play into the playoffs in which case you have an incredibly formidable top-nine? Or, do you assume this is just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys and trade him before you get burned yet again by his inconsistent play and try to bring in someone else who can play on the third line?
  • If you are among those who are upset that Jonas Siegenthaler was sent down to Hershey, don’t worry. He is not going to be there very long. Siegenthaler was the odd-man out when Christian Djoos returned because the Caps had the maximum of 23 players on the roster and Siegenthaler was the only player on the team who was waiver exempt. That’s why he was sent to Hershey. The roster maximum no longer applies after the trade deadline so if the Caps can make the money work, they will recall him. Otherwise, he will be back for the playoffs when teams no longer have to adhere to the salary cap. Either way, he will be back in Washington sooner rather than later.
  • We have seen a lot of shuffling on the fourth line pretty much the entire season. I asked Reirden this week when he would look to get some consistency with his lines and he said after the trade deadline. “It should be coming up for me on the last 20 games,” he said, “Continuing to see what happens with putting guys in different spots and hoping to get positive results that we're looking for and then obviously a deadline coming up as well so there's possibility of something different there as well. For me, until that deadline passes then you're not really married to anything because as we know things can change in the game. But after that, at that point then you want to try to get something pretty consistent.” For my money, if I’m choosing the best fourth line, I would go with Jaskin, Nic Dowd and Travis Boyd.
  • You can take the above quote from Reirden in one of two ways. One, either Reirden was talking generally about the deadline and how there’s always a possibility of teams making moves or two, Reirden is expecting the team to make some type of trade.
  • Please, let’s not start the Brooks Orpik debate again. He’s been fine this season. Not good, not horrendous, just fine. He is what he is at this point and the deficiencies in his game are the same deficiencies that he had last year before playing a key role in a Cup run. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you do with the third pairing if the second pair is going to play as badly as they have, Matt Niskanen in particular. To me, that’s a far bigger issue than the fact that Orpik has bad analytics again.

The Caps have been warming up since returning from the All-Star break going 3-1-1 in five games. Find out where Washington lands this week here in the latest NHL Power Rankings.

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Tom Wilson puts on a show in his hometown to lead Capitals over Toronto

Tom Wilson puts on a show in his hometown to lead Capitals over Toronto

Tom Wilson's two-point night including the shorthanded game-winner as the Capitals held on for a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday. The win was Washington's third on their six-game road trip, which concludes Saturday in Buffalo.

Here are four reasons Washington won.

1. Braden Holtby’s first period

After the first period, it looked like we were going to have a goalie duel. Frederik Andersen looked absolutely brilliant to start and the Caps needed Holtby to be equally brilliant to keep Washington in it. He was.

Holtby made 12 of his 40 saves in the opening frame, including an absolute beauty to rob Patrick Marleau. Andersen robbed Michal Kempny and Nicklas Backstrom on one end of the ice and Toronto picked up the puck off the rebound for a quick 2-on-1 counter. Kasperi Kapanen fed Marleau beautifully, but Holtby stretched out to make the spectacular save with the blocker. A few minutes later, Holtby made a quick pad save on a William Nylander backhand, then recovered just in time to deny Connor Brown on the rebound attempt.

Because of Holtby’s efforts, both teams went to the locker room locked in a 0-0 tie.

Alex Ovechkin draws a penalty, scores the power play goal

Morgan Rielly does not take many penalties. Heading into Thursday’s game, Rielly had taken only two minor penalties all season, which is pretty remarkable when you think about a top defenseman averaging 22:43 of ice time per game.

In the second period, however, Ovechkin managed to draw a hold on Rielly. When you get a team’s top defenseman in the box, you need to take advantage. The Caps did just that off a quick play off a faceoff.

T.J. Oshie won the draw back to John Carlson. As soon as the draw was taken, Ovechkin backed away towards the top of the opposite faceoff circle. Toronto was slow to setup the defense, so when Carlson fed Ovechkin for the one-timer, he had an open shooting lane on net. Ovechkin delivered a fadeaway one-timer from above the circle and beat Andersen glove side.

A key forecheck by Tom Wilson

Brett Connolly made a nice play in front of the net to deke around the stretched pad of Andersen and backhand the puck into the open goal. Wilson made that play happen, however, with a great forecheck.

Jake Gardiner went to recover the puck behind the goal line in the defensive zone, but Wilson came streaking in like a freight train and knocked Gardiner off the puck. Lars Eller pounced on the loose puck and fed Connolly in front of the net. He did the rest.

The Tom Wilson shorthanded exclamation point

Washington carried a 2-0 lead into the third period and looked to be the better team, but a goal form Andreas Johnsson put the Maple Leafs right back in it. The ice was definitely tilting in Toronto’s favor and less than 90 seconds after Johnsson scored, John Carlson took a hooking penalty.

With the game on the line, however, the penalty kill delivered.

Holtby made a kick-out save and two Leafs went after the rebound, but Brooks Orpik made a key stick lift on Mitch Marner and Eller beat Johnsson to the puck and had a lane for the breakout. Wilson turned on the jets and hustled out of the zone to try to catch up with Eller for the 2-on-1. He got there just in time and Eller delivered the pass to him just past the blue line. Wilson took aim and fired a wrister past Andersen to end any hopes for a comeback.

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Capitals fan finishes late wife's dream of watching DC at every NHL arena

Capitals fan finishes late wife's dream of watching DC at every NHL arena

To watch the entire video, click "play" in the video player above.

Capitals fan Greg Christian and his late wife, Dona, made a plan to watch their favorite team at every NHL arena. Greg finally achieved that goal.

Gred attended the Caps' tilt with the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 23, taking with him a picture of Dona sporting a Hockey Fights Cancer jersey.

Greg and his wife were long-time Caps fans, and spent road trips talking about hockey and sports. They were soon inspired to follow the Caps on the road and make it to every possible venue to watch them play.

However, those plans would be interrupted in April 2017, when Dona was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The two made it to 34 NHL venues together before she passed away in November, last taking in a Caps game at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

The two have now seen Washington play at 36 venues, including two past arenas and three stadiums. And once Seattle gets an NHL franchise, Geg told WUSA9 he plans to be in attendance.

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