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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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Capitals prospect report: Hershey climbs into a playoff spot with a 15-game point streak

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Capitals prospect report: Hershey climbs into a playoff spot with a 15-game point streak

For much of the season, it did not look like the Hershey Bears were going anywhere. In mid-January, they sat with a 15-20-0-2 record and the playoffs all but out of the question. If they had any hope of reaching the postseason, they would need to make a serious push.

Fifteen games later, the Bears have completely resurrected their season and sit in third place in the Atlantic Division.

Hershey needed to make a serious run and they did just that with points in 15 straight games going 14-0-0-1 over that stretch. This run ties the longest streak in franchise history set by the 1942-43 Bears who went 11-0-4.

Even with their 15-game streak, however, Hershey still has more work to do to reach the playoffs. The AHL playoff format is similar to the NHL’s, but with no wild card. The top four teams from each division make the playoffs with no cross over.

Hershey’s early struggles really put them back in the playoff race. Even with a 15-game point streak, they still trail first place Charlotte and second place Bridgeport by 14 and six points, respectively. The Bears sit tied with Providence for third place with 61 points while Lehigh Valley sits in fifth place with 60 and rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is not too far behind with 57.

Hershey must find a way to hang on to third or fourth place, but they still have 24 games remaining in the season including three against Providence, one against Lehigh Valley and two against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The Bears have earned their spot in the playoffs as of today, but the playoffs don’t start today. If they hope to stay in playoff position, it will mean beating the teams chasing them in the standings.

Hershey will look to extend their point streak to a franchise record 16th game on Friday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Other prospect notes:

  • One major reason for Hershey’s turnaround has been the improved play of goalie Ilya Samsonov. After a 5-10-0-0 start to the season, his numbers were atrocious with a 3.88 GAA and .863 save percentage. Once the calendar changed to 2019, however, he has been lights out with an 8-1-0-1 record, 1.49 GAA and .937 save percentage. The transition to North America seems to be going just fine.
  • Beck Malenstyn has also played a major role in the Bears’ turnaround. In his first professional season, Malenstyn has only 12 points, but eight of those points have come in 2019. Two of those points came Sunday as he scored twice in the win over Lehigh Valley. It was his first professional multi-goal and multi-point game. He seems to be someone who is starting to figure things out in the AHL.
  • Aaron Ness (seven assists) and Jayson Megna (three goals, two assists) both have five-game point streaks. Mike Sgarbossa (two goals, two assists) sits right behind them with a four-game point streak. Ness is tied for fourth in the league with 35 assists. That’s not fourth among defensemen, that’s fourth in the entire AHL.
  • It appears Mathias Bau’s 2018-19 season may be over without playing a single game. He suffered an injury prior to the season that has kept him out of action and it appears the injury is serious enough that he will not be able to play at all. A Hershey team official confirmed to NBC Sports Washington that Bau has returned to his native Denmark to continue his recovery and remains out indefinitely. Though I could not get confirmation on the specific nature of the injury, the Danish National team announced in July that he had suffered some broken ribs and tear in his spleen. The Danish team announcement was found by the blog Chocolate Hockey.
  • Defenseman Colby Williams has not played since Jan. 6 and remains week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
  • It seems safe to say this season has not gone the way Axel Jonsson-Fjallby had hoped, either in Hershey or in Sweden. Since his return to his home country, Jonsson-Fjallby has no goals and seven assists in 27 games with his SHL team. His struggles have earned him a demotion to healthy scratch. Nova Caps has more.
  • Eric Florchuk earned first star honors on Friday as he led Saskatoon to an 8-3 win over Kootenay in the WHL. Florchuk scored two goals and one assist on the night.

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Capitals at Maple Leafs: Time, TV Channel, Live

Capitals at Maple Leafs: Time, TV Channel, Live

The Washington Capitals headed up north to face the Maple Leafs on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. The Caps are second in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 33-20-7, while the Maple Leafs fourth in the Atlantic Division with a record of 36-19-4. This season, the Capitals lost to the Maple Leafs 4-2 in October

The Maple Leafs are hoping to end their two-game losing streak during Thursday evening’s game.

Here is everything you need to know about Thursday’s game, which will begin at 7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs, Game 61 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season
Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Canada
When: Thursday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Capitals at Maple Leafs game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder Link)
Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals at Maple Leafs on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.
Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM


CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Capitals at Maple Leafs
9:30 P.M.: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 P.M.: Caps Overtime Live


CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS INJURY REPORT

Capitals: 
T.J. Oshie -- upper body as of Feb. 18

Maple Leafs: 
Nazem Kadri -- concussion as of Feb. 18
Nathan Horton -- back injury as of Sept. 16

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jakub Vrana, C, Capitals (18 goals, 19 assists, 37 points): Vrana has been “flying recently,” NBC Sports Washington’s J.J. Reagan wrote in Wednesday’s Capitals mailbag. He’s consistently had one assist per game, contributing to the Caps’ on-and-off wins throughout February. 

Alex Ovechkin, F, Capitals (42 goals, 27 assists, 69 points): Ovi scored two power play goals on Monday against the Los Angeles Kings. Additionally, the team captain scored twice in 20 seconds, Reagan wrote following the game. The last time the Caps played the Leafs, however, Toronto blocked seven of Ovi’s shots and 12 from other Capitals, Reagan wrote. 


CAPITALS vs. MAPLE LEAFS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 152
All-Time Series Record: Capitals lead 77-65-10
Last Meeting: Toronto won 4-2 (10/13/18)

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