The calendar year did not get off to a great start for the Capitals with a loss on New Year’s Eve followed by two more losses on the road. Washington has put that three-game skid behind it now with a four-game point streak including three wins.
Yes, two of those three wins were to Detroit and Philadelphia who are both awful, but while everyone loves the big games against teams like Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, really it is the games against the bad teams that are the most important over the course of a season.
A good team needs to be able to win the games it is supposed to. Sure, every team is bound to lose some games to bad teams in 82 games, but you can’t make a habit of it. Those are the points that really come back to haunt you at the end of the season.
If the Caps finish second in the Metropolitan Division by two points, which loss will loom larger: a December loss to a hot Vegas, or a January visit to St. Louis against a bad Blues team?
When a team is down, you have to be able to take advantage. The Caps did that and turned their skid around.
Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.
- Last week if you had asked me if Andre Burakovsky would still be on this team at the end of the season, I would have said yes. As inconsistent as he can be, he still remains this team’s best option on the third line. After Brian MacLellan’s comments on Friday in which he said the team would look for a “hockey trade” before the trade deadline, “salary for salary, player for player in the forward group” it seems like the team is going to push to make a trade. The issue is that the Caps are trying to make another run at the Stanley Cup and taking a player out of the lineup makes them a weaker team. That’s why if the team does make a trade, it won’t be for draft picks or prospects, it will be someone they can plug into the lineup, presumably someone they believe can fit into the third line. They just don’t have anyone else who seems to fit there.
- Travis Boyd has played the last two games on the third line in place of Burakovsky. I like Boyd, I like the season he is having and I think he has third line potential in the future. For now, I do not think he is the solution on the third line for an extended Cup run. In Washington’s ideal lineup for the upcoming postseason, I see him on the fourth line.
- Christian Djoos skated before practice on Sunday so there is some progression there. MacLellan said they would have a better timetable soon, but I believe we are still several weeks away from a possible return. When he does come back, the Caps will have to make a personnel move as they are already at the 23-man maximum. This could mean Jonas Siegenthaler gets sent back to Hershey. It’s not because he has played poorly, quite the contrary. He looks very much to be an NHL defenseman and the team is very pleased with his performance, but he is the only player on the roster who is waiver exempt. When Djoos returns, the Caps will either have to send Siegenthaler back to Hershey and bring him back for the playoffs or risk exposing someone to waivers.
- Washington ranks dead last in the NHL on faceoffs, but I am not so sure this is a major concern for the team because there’s one player who is weighing down the average. Kuznetsov’s 38.9-percent on the draw is the worst among all players who have taken at least 500 faceoffs this season. The team’s other centers are all hovering near 50-percent. The Caps do not have a faceoff problem, Kuznetsov does.
Even if the Caps are struggling in the faceoff circle, they are not struggling in the rankings.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- A Close One: Fans can breathe sigh of relief after Holtby eye injury
- Pheonix Strong: Copley proving backup goalie no longer a weakness for Caps
- Let's Make a Deal: MacLellan open to a "player-for-player" trade