The Capitals saw their losing streak hit three games on Friday, their longest of the season. On Sunday, they will look to end that streak as they play the Detroit Red Wings (5 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) in the last game of a three-game road swing.
Here are four things to watch that will determine if Washington walks away victorious on Sunday.
1. An Ice-Cold Power Play
The power play has been a major talking point of late and the Caps will have to get better at the man advantage to find success. Just how important a strong power play is has become a matter of debate since penalties become scarce in the postseason, but whatever side of the debate you fall on, everyone can agree that scoring only one power play goal in 27 opportunities in a nine-game stretch is pretty abysmal. The Caps got two power plays in the third period of Friday’s game against the Dallas Stars with the score tied at 1. One goal in that situation could have seen Washington walk away with two points. Instead, the Caps had to settle for an overtime loss.
The biggest issue on the man advantage has been zone entries and we are starting to see teams stack the blue line as a result. St. Louis did that on Thursday and Washington made the Blues’ struggling penalty kill look like the Iron Curtain. Washington is a skilled team with no shortage of stick-handlers, but if the opposition won’t allow the Caps to enter the zone with the puck, perhaps it’s time to shift tactics to dump and chase until teams stop putting all four guys on the line.
A power play as skilled as Washington’s is due for a breakout at some point, but the Caps need to figure out how to get the puck in the offensive zone first.
2. An Ice-Cold Top Six
The power play isn’t the only part of the offense that has gone cold. Most of Washington’s top playmakers suddenly can’t find the back of the net. Alex Ovechkin has one goal in eight games, T.J. Oshie has not scored an even-strength goal since Nov. 13 and Nicklas Backstrom hasn’t scored any goals in his last 14 games. Remember how good Evgeny Kuzntesov looked at the start of the season? He has only one even-strength goal nearly halfway into the season and has been held without any goals at all for 13 games.
It’s great that Washington has been able to find secondary scoring this season, but the depth players can only take the team so far. In the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Caps need their top players to take control on Sunday and put some points on the board.
3. Dylan Larkin
One person who has not been struggling to generate offense of late has been Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin.
Larkin just wrapped up a 14-game point streak and leads Detroit in both goals (18) and points (40) despite being just 22 years old. None of that was enough to get him to the 2019 NHL All-Star Game apparently so he may have a bit of a chip on his shoulder when the Caps come to town.
As skilled as Larkin is, it’s his speed that makes him so dangerous. He is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL so the Caps’ defense will have to be on its toes early to keep him from turning the corner and torching them on his way in on net.
4. Detroit’s Depleted Defense
Detroit snapped a six-game losing streak with a win over Nashville on Friday, but the Caps are still catching the Red Wings at a good time. Detroit will be without defensemen Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser and Trevor Daley who are all out injured and any team in the league is going to struggle without three of its top defensemen.
The most recent injury came to Daley who suffered a broken foot on Monday. There’s also no denying the impact former Cap Green has on Detroit. The Red Wings are 13-8-2 this season with Green playing and 3-12-5 when he is out. A depleted blue line should give Washington plenty of opportunities to fix their offensive woes.
MORE CAPS NEWS:
- Caps Down in Dallas: Washington falls for third straight loss
- What's wrong with the power play? Caps in major drought
- Top-line solutions: This week's mailbag