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Are the Capitals turning the corner?

Are the Capitals turning the corner?

During the first seven weeks of this season, Barry Trotz often lamented the fact that the Capitals were unable to get all facets of their game going at the same time.

But now, with his team riding a four-game winning streak, including 60-minute efforts against Buffalo and Vancouver, there have been subtle signs that things are finally coming together for last year’s Presidents’ Trophy winner.

“That’s a good way to describe it—more in concert,” Trotz said after Monday's practice. “I would say that we’re trending that way. More pieces are falling into place.”

RELATED: Vrana's play continues to impress everyone but himself

“Contribution through the lineup is starting to spread out a little bit,” he added, “not only in five-on-five play but in specific areas, be it special teams, three-on-three, all those special situations.”

Indeed, important contributions are starting to come from different sources. Consider:

  • The power play has scored four times during the winning streak (11 opportunities). It's also scored at least one goal in seven of the past 10 games and 10 times in the past 12 contests. If you just look at that 12-game segment, the power play has the eighth best success rate in the NHL during that span (at 21.7-percent). Last season, the unit was ranked 5th (at 21.9-percent).
  • The penalty kill has also steady improved its ranking. In fact, after snuffing out 14 of 16 short-handed opportunities during the winning streak, the unit has improved to 11th overall at 83.3-percent. A year ago, the penalty kill was ranked second at 85.2-percent.
  • Just as critical as the improving special teams, the Caps are now getting points from some key players who had been ice cold to start the year. John Carlson ended his season-long goal drought against the Sabres and now has four points in four games (goal, three assists). Evgeny Kuznetsov, meantime, has five points (all assists) during the winning streak, while Justin Williams has four points, including three goals, over the past four games.
  • The Caps have been strong defensively and in goal all season, but even those areas have been a bit better in recent games. Including the shootout loss in Tampa, the Caps have yielded only seven goals in the past five games, including Braden Holtby's 20-save shutout against the Canucks.

Winger T.J. Oshie agreed that the Caps' play across the board is on the upswing. He also says the collective confidence within the dressing room is growing as a result.

“Our five-on-five game we’re starting to play more direct,” Oshie said. “We’re getting more pucks in deep and with our speed, our work ethic and our talent following that, it presents a lot of O-zone time. Special teams has kind of got to our standard of play. Obviously, the PP, it was struggling for a while there. But we’re getting more shots, we’re getting more goals, we’re not missing the net as much. Our PK, I don’t think it was doing terrible; I think we were doing good. But from the standard we set last year, I think we’ve gotten back to that. It’s made some huge, huge stops, especially [against Vancouver] when we had a lot of penalty kills.”

Defenseman Karl Alzner said he’s isn’t sure what precipitated the turnaround, but he’s sure of this much: there are unmistaken signs that the Caps’ mojo is back. Or, at the very least, on its way.

“The exact reason, I don’t know,” Alzner said. “But we’re playing with more urgency, but under-control urgency. …Every team goes through their low point. Hopefully, that was ours that we just had and we don’t have anything like that again, and somebody else goes through it in January or February and we’ll make up some ground.”

MORE CAPITALS: NHL Power Rankings: Keeping up with the Metropolitan

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Capitals vs. Jets Game 63: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to watch

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Capitals vs. Jets Game 63: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to watch

Coming off a huge 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals face the Winnipeg Jets for the first time this season. 

The Capitals win against rival Penguins sealed their first place slot in the Metro Division. In addition to the recent win, the Capitals are still riding off of Alex Ovechkin’s historic 700th goal against the New Jersey Devils. 

The last time the Capitals played the Jets they won 3-2 in overtime. Interestingly enough, this game in March of 2018 was also when Ovechkin secured his 600th career goal. 

Here is everything you need to know about the Tuesday night game, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington. 

CAPITALS VS. JETS GAME 63: HOW TO WATCH
What: Washington Capitals vs. Winnipeg Jets
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
When: Tuesday, February 25 at 7:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Capitals vs. Jets game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder Link)
Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs. Jets on NBC Sports Washington’s live stream page and on the NBC Sports App. 
Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS VS. JETS TV SCHEDULE
6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Capitals vs. Jets (LIVE)
9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live 
10:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live
10:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

CAPITALS vs. JETS INJURY REPORT:
Capitals: No injuries 
Jets: Josh Morrissey, upper body, day-to-day
Luca Sbisa, injured reserve
Bryan Little, injured reserve 


CAPITALS vs. JETS PLAYERS TO WATCH
Alex Ovechkin, F, Capitals (42-17-59): Last week Ovechkin became the eighth member of the 700 club as he scored his 42nd goal of the season against the New Jersey Devils. Though Ovechkin has certainly secured his place in Capitals and NHL history, it will be interesting to see him continue to dominate this season. 

Patrik Laine, RW, Jets (26-33-59): Laine has been hot recently, particularly last Thursday when the Jets beat the Senators. Laine two assists and two goals. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Who won the NHL trade deadline in the Metropolitan Division?

Who won the NHL trade deadline in the Metropolitan Division?

The NHL trade deadline has come and gone and the Metropolitan Division was very busy. How did they all do? It's report card time.

Here's a look at how each team in the Metropolitan Division did and how things stack up with the deadline now in the rearview mirror.

NOTE: I am defining "deadline deals" as any trade in the month of February and I am also only including trades with a significant impact on the NHL roster.

Carolina Hurricanes

Trades

  • Acquired prospect Joey Keane from the New York Rangers in exchange for forward Julien Gauthier
  • Acquired forward Vincent Trocheck from the Florida Panthers in exchange for forwards Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark and prospects Eetu Luostarinen and Chase Priskie
  • Acquired defenseman Sami Vatanen from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for prospects Janne Kuokkanen, Fredrik Claesson and a fourth-round pick
  • Acquired defenseman Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers in exchange for a first-round pick

Thoughts: Caroline robbed Florida. They gave up two players on expiring contracts and two mid-level prospects for a really good Trocheck who the Panthers soured on for some reason. That was one of the best trades of the deadline, but I am really low on what Carolina did overall because the big need for this team was goaltending and that was even before both Petr Mrazek and James Reimer got injured. The news Monday is that both goalies are out with "longer term" injuries and Carolina did nothing to address it, other than add two defensemen. When you look at what it took to pry Robin Lehner away from Chicago, it sure seems like that's a deal the Hurricanes could have gotten done if they had used the assets they gave up to acquire Skjei and Vatanen. Maybe when you win a game with a Zamboni driver in net, you begin to think defense is more important than goaltending.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Trades

  • Acquired a seventh-round draft pick from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for forward Markus Hannikainen

Thoughts: The injury to Seth Jones is a backbreaker. This team could not afford to throw assets around just to make the playoffs when there is no real hope of any deep run and it didn't really make sense to sell either considering what the team has battled through just to stay in contention. They were smart to stand pat.

New Jersey Devils

Trades

  • Acquired prospect David Quenneville and a second-round draft pick from the New York Islanders in exchange for defenseman Andy Greene
  • Acquired prospect Nolan Foote and a first-round draft pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for forward Blake Coleman
  • Acquired a conditional fifth-round pick from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for forward Wayne Simmonds
  • Acquired prospects Janne Kuokkanen, Fredrik Claesson and a fourth-round pick from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for defenseman Sami Vatanen

Thoughts: The Devils got a pretty decent haul for what they were willing to part with. They are in a weird position where they are a few years into the rebuild meaning this is not exactly a strip it down scenario. New Jersey now could potentially have three first-round draft picks in 2020 and they still kept Kyle Palmieri.

New York Islanders

Trades

  • Acquired defenseman Andy Greene form the New Jersey Devils in exchange for prospect David Quenneville and a second-round pick.
  • Acquired forward J-G Pageau from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional first, second and conditional third-round pick.

Thoughts: A fading Islanders team desperately needed to add some offense. Pageau is a really good player, but general manager Lou Lamoriello paid a king's ransom for him. Sure, they extended him, but that is still a high-price. Also, while Greene fills a need for defense in the wake of the injury to Adam Pelech, it sure seems like the Islanders could have used more of a puck-mover.

New York Rangers

Trades

  • Acquired forward Julien Gauthier from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for prospect Joey Keane
  • Acquired a first-round pick from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for defenseman Brady Skjei

Thoughts: The Rangers had one goal at the deadline and that was to dump salary. They will have $7.5 million worth of dead space on the cap next season so saying, hey this team is close to a playoff spot, we can let it ride! was not really an option. Moving Skjei was a surprise as he is only 25 years old, but they had to do something after deciding to re-sign Chris Kreider.

Philadelphia Flyers

Trades

  • Acquired forward Nate Thompson from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick
  • Acquired forward Derek Grant from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for AHL forward Kyle Criscuolo

Thoughts: The Flyers are one of the hottest teams in the NHL so perhaps they made the right call by not making any major moves, but I don't think the additions of Grant or Thompson really make them that much better. If you think they were already better than Pittsburgh and Washington OK, then they made the right move with only minor tweaks. To me, I still see them as being a step behind both teams atop the division. The Flyers are red-hot right now, but in a seven-game series, I still give the edge to their Metro rivals.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Trades

  • Acquired forward Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for forward Alex Galchenyuk, prospect Calen Addison and a first-round draft pick
  • Acquired forward Patrick Marleau from the San Jose Sharks for a third-round draft pick
  • Acquired forwards Evan Rodrigues and Connor Sheary from the Buffalo Sabres for forward Dominik Kahun

Thoughts: The trade for Zucker was a great, great move. He is a top-line player and the fact that he is signed for another three years after this season takes the sting out of having to give up a first-round pick and a top prospect. But it is possible to tinker too much with a roster and that's what I think the Penguins did here. For a team that has dealt with so many injuries, they may not care about adding too many bodies, but the Penguins added four forwards in less than a month. What are the odds all four are able to fit seamlessly into the lineup?

Washington Capitals

Trades

  • Acquired defenseman Brenden Dillon from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a second and a third-round draft pick
  • Acquired forward Ilya Kovalchuk from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a third-round draft pick

Thoughts: The team needed scoring depth which Kovalchuk should theoretically provide, though his role in Washington will be much closer to what it was in Los Angeles than in Montreal. Dillon is a good, physical defenseman who makes the defense better, but the biggest hole on the roster was right defense and the Caps did not address that. If the team enters the playoffs with Nick Jensen or Radko Gudas playing a top-four role, what was the point?

And the winner is....

Pittsburgh

The Zucker deal makes them the team to beat from the division heading into the playoffs. They did more than they needed to on Monday and some of those deals will turn out to be busts. But overall, they bolstered their top line and look just as dangerous offensively even with the loss of Jake Guentzel. If they go on to win the Cup, the trade for Zucker will prove to be one of the pivotal moves of the entire season.

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