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.
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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