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NHL Power Rankings: A turning point for the Caps?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Power Rankings: A turning point for the Caps?

The injury bug bit the Caps, but Washington has gotten through it and are in the midst of a five-game winning streak, their longest of the season. The Stanley Cup Hangover appears to be officially over.

The turning point? It came at almost the exact same point as last year and against the exact same team.

In 2017, the Caps were 10-9-1 after suffering blowouts at the hands of Nashville and Colorado. Washington stood at a crossroads. Their next game on Nov. 18 became a turning point in the season as they beat the Minnesota Wild 3-1. The Caps would go on to win 12 of their next 15.

This year the Caps entered the season as Stanley Cup champions and limped out to a 7-6-3 record. The return of Tom Wilson from suspension, however, marked a turning point in the season as he returned against, you guessed it, the Wild. The Caps went to Minnesota on Nov. 13 and won 5-2. Including the win over Minnesota, Washington has won six of its last seven.

The turning point last season came in mid-November against the Wild. It may be too soon to tell, but it certainly looks like a mid-November game against the Wild could be another turning point for the Caps this season.

SEE THIS WEEKS’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few observations from the past week:

  • The Caps have won five straight since T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov have come out of the lineup. Whenever something like this happens, some people erroneously take that to mean the team is somehow better without those missing pieces. Let’s not forget about what both players were able to do in the playoffs last season. This stretch of five wins says more about the resiliency of the team and the importance of Wilson’s return than it does about Oshie or Kuznetsov’s absence.
  • The loss of Oshie and Kuznetsov particularly hurts Washington’s power play. In the 17 games the Caps played up to Nov. 14 when both players were injured in Winnipeg, Washington ranked second in the NHL with a 30.3-percent power play. In the five games since, the power play has only been 23.1-percent effective, 14th best in the league.
  • On the other side of the special teams, the biggest impact Wilson has had in his return has been on the penalty kill. In their first 16 games, the Caps were 29th in the NHL with a 71.7-perent penalty kill. Since Wilson returned, the Caps are killing penalties at a rate of 87.0-percent.

Wilson’s boost to the team is undeniable and the Caps are surging up the rankings as a result. Find out here where they land in this week’s NHL Power Rankings

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T.J. Oshie likes his chances if given the opportunity to hit a penalty shot to win the Stanley Cup

T.J. Oshie likes his chances if given the opportunity to hit a penalty shot to win the Stanley Cup

T..J Oshie has some experience in clutch moments when the game is on the line and his name is called.

Thursday, his name wasn't listed in a hypothetical poll on Twitter on which player fans would want to take the final shot if the Stanley Cup was on the line. A shocking omission of one of the most legendary shootout players of all-time.

Even with options such as Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Patrick Kane, No. 77 insinuated he had a different player in mind.

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Oshie single-handedly defeated Russia at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi over six years ago.

Six times Oshie was sent to the ice in a shootout in a preliminary round match against Russia. He answered the bell four times for another legendary U.S. win over Russia.

Oshie has the fourth-most shootout goals (45) in NHL history, only trailing Kane, (47), Frans Nielsen (49), and Jonathan Toews (50).

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Alex Ovechkin among players contributing to CCM Hockey's donation of surgical masks

Alex Ovechkin among players contributing to CCM Hockey's donation of surgical masks

With surgical masks in short supply because of the coronavirus pandemic, different companies are stepping up to provide masks to the people who need them the most, the healthcare workers. CCM Hockey is among those companies and announced on Wednesday that they will be donating 500,000 surgical masks to healthcare workers.

Several NHL stars are contributing to the donation including Alex Ovechkin.

“By teaming up with our roster of CCM athletes, we will be able to play a role in the collaborative effort to get past this crisis,” CCM CEO Rick Blackshaw said in a statement on their website. “We focused on the best use of our network and our resources to have the quickest impact. Sourcing greatly needed equipment through our established supply chain partners in Asia is the most efficient way for us to support and keep our real heroes safe."

Ovechkin is listed among the players who contributed to the CCM donation.

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The other players listed are Mat Barzal, Patrice Bergeron, Brock Boeser, Dani Cameranesi, Brandon Carlo, Thomas Chabot, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Sidney Crosby, Melodie Daoust, Alex Debrincat, Brianna Decker, Matt Duchene, Matt Dumba, Marc-Andre Fleury, Filip Forsberg, Jake Gardiner, Miro Heiskanen, Filip Hronek, Jonathan Huberdeau, Seth Jones, Nathan Mackinnon, Charlie McAvoy, Connor McDavid, Artemi Panarin, Carey Price, Vladimir Tarasenko, and John Tavares.

“The CCM Pros are men and women of action," Blackshaw said. "It troubles them to feel helpless as they witness the devastating effects of this pandemic. At the core of this great sport, hockey is about courage, commitment to a higher goal, as well as to one another. It is exactly these player qualities and beliefs that will allow us to emerge stronger from this challenge.”

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