Capitals

Capitals

It has been an up and down season for the Capitals this year. Now on the home stretch of the season, however, it looks like Washington is starting to get hot.

Last year after the trade deadline, the Caps went 14-6-0 as they got into a rhythm before the playoffs. Now they appear to be turning up the heat once again with four straight wins and six wins in their last seven games.

To be fair, only two of those seven games have come against teams currently in playoff position, but Washington won both of those games against Toronto and the New York Islanders. 

Friday’s game on Long Island was the biggest game of the season with both teams playing for first place in the Metropolitan Division, but the Caps put on a dominant performance in the 3-1 win.

Just from watching you can also see Washington rounding into playoff form. They have been particularly strong possession wise, maintaining long cycles in the offensive zone to wear down opponents. Braden Holtby is also starting to look dominant with a save percentage over .900 in four of his last five games including hitting .952 twice in the games against the Leafs and Islanders.

Washington has been waiting all season to play meaningful games after last year’s championship run. Now the games are starting to matter and the Caps look as good as they have at any point this season.

 

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

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

  • Newcomers Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen certainly seem to be fitting in well. The bottom six seems completely transformed by Hagelin. Everyone knows how fast he is, but I love how much he seems to help the team maintain possession in the offensive zone. Whenever he is on the ice his lines seem to be cycling in the offensive zone and wearing down the defense with extended zone time. Jensen has been very strong defensively. He has shown how strong a skater he is and I love his breakout passes.
  • Hagelin’s speed really helps the team on the penalty kill. He had two shorthanded breakaways Sunday against the Rangers and managed to draw a penalty on one of them.
  • Washington has allowed a goal in the first four minutes in each of the last five games. They are playing well overall, but always having to play from behind is a concern. They need to be ready to go at the drop of the puck and not just work their way into games.
  • The Caps have stuck with the same players for the past four games. We have seen a lot of shuffling all season long, but now with only 16 games left in the season, it looks like we are getting close to the playoff lineup. I would still like to see what a Jensen, Christian Djoos pair looks like though before Todd Reirden locks in his playoff lineup.
  • The second defensive pair has struggled all season. Matt Niskanen has struggled immensely, but lately Dmitry Orlov has had a rough few games as well. This begs the question if the team should be worried about that pair heading into the playoffs. The problem is what do you do to change things up? It would be foolish to move Michal Kempny away from John Carlson. That has been the team’s best defensive pair. Orlov also remains one of the team’s top six, if not top four defensemen. He Jensen would be an interesting mix, but I do not like the looks of a Brooks Orpik, Niskanen pair. Maybe if you consider splitting the second pair, you consider putting Djoos with Niskanen, but clearly the team still values what Orpik brings to the lineup and he played a lot better in the playoffs last year than in the regular season. I think the team would have to really struggle for Reirden to decide to take Orpik out. So long as he remains in, however, it limits what you can do. He can only handle third pairing minutes at this point and has to stay on the left side.

The Caps seem to be getting hot at the right time and that has them climbing in the rankings. Where do they land?

Find out here in this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings.

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