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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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The Capitals are looking for a rare sweep of the Buffalo Sabres

The Capitals are looking for a rare sweep of the Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres do not rank high among the Capitals’ most hated rivals, but when you look back at the history of these two teams, Washington has struggled against the Sabres more than you may think.

In the Caps’ first two seasons they faced Buffalo 10 times. Washington lost nine of those games and tied one. In fact, the Caps managed only two wins total in their first 32 meetings.

Even when Washington advanced past their initial struggles as a franchise, success against Buffalo has been hard to come by. In their 43 seasons as a team, the Caps have only managed to sweep the season series with the Sabres three times in 1988-89, 2012-13, 2016-17.

On Saturday, however, the Caps can make it four.

Buffalo visited Washington twice in December with the Caps winning each game. On Saturday, Washington heads to Buffalo for their final meeting of the season. (1 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).

Games notes

Hagelin debut

Carl Hagelin will make his Capitals debut Saturday.  He suited up for the first time with his new team on Friday after getting trade by the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. He practice on the fourth line with Nic Dowd at center and Chandler Stephenson on the wing.

The newly acquired Nick Jensen will not be available for the game.

End of the road

Saturday’s game will be the sixth and final game of a season-long six-game road trip. Washington has already earned three wins guaranteeing them at least a .500 finish. A win Saturday will give them four out of six and turn a respectable road trip into a very good one.

Watching the standings

With two points, Washington can pull even with the New York Islanders. The Caps have 75 points while the Islanders sit in first place with 77. New York has a game in hand on Washington and they play later Saturday night, so a tie in the standings on Saturday afternoon could prove to be short-lived.

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Capitals send best wishes to now former teammate Madison Bowey

Capitals send best wishes to now former teammate Madison Bowey

Madison Bowey was traded to the Motor City earlier today as well as a second round draft pick for defenseman Nick Jensen and a fifth round draft pick. Washington promptly re-signed their new addition to a four-year, $10 million dollar contract.

After hearing the news about their teammate's departure, memebers of the Caps' took to social media to give their best wishes.

View this post on Instagram

good luck brother !!gonna miss u champ!!2

A post shared by Alexander Ovechkin (@aleksandrovechkinofficial) on

Bowey, a Stanley Cup champion, was a vital member of the 2018 Capitals' squad in their pursuit of the Cup.

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