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Capitals could use more goal production from their defense

Capitals could use more goal production from their defense

ARLINGTON — Over the past five games, the Capitals have gotten three goals from defensemen — two off the stick of Matt Niskanen and another from John Carlson.

And while that represents solid progress for a team that got virtually no goal production from its blue line over the first two months of the season, the Caps could use a few more in their ongoing search for goals.  

Through the season’s first 30 games, Washington’s blue line has scored six goals for an offense that ranks 14th in goals per game (2.67).

The same group of players had 15 goals at this point last season.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to catch up — we’re a third into the season,” coach Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday.

“But it’s starting to come on the backend a little more. Early, we had virtually nothing back there. ...Guys are behind last year’s production.”

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Trotz added, “Your third and fourth [forward] lines being able to chip in [helps secondary scoring]. Your blue line isn’t considered a line, but they are very important for your offense.”

Indeed, nine of the top 10 teams in goals scored per game this season have received at least two times as many goals from their blue line as the Capitals.

Among those teams, the Flyers lead the pack with 21 and are closely followed by the Canadiens and Predators, who have 19 apiece.

In Montreal’s 2-1 win Saturday night at Verizon Center, the game-winner was scored by defenseman Jeff Petry, who joined the rush and finished a pass from Max Pacioretty. The goal was Petry’s 6th of the season. For comparison’s sake, Niskanen and Karl Alzner lead the Caps with two goals apiece.

Carlson says he doesn’t believe much has changed in the D’s approach year-over-year. But he did acknowledge that it’s something the Caps have discussed recently.

“Lately we’ve talked about different ways to screen the goalie, different ways to improve our shooting from the point,” Carlson said. “The chances are there, they’re just not going in. But I think it’s picking up. We’ve seen a lot more grade-A scoring chances from the point. We’ve done a better job of going to the net and taking the goalie’s eyes away. So let’s see if that changes.”

Carlson also hopes that the recent upturn in the Caps’ power play will lead to more goals from the defense. His only goal, in fact, came on the man advantage against the Sabres five games ago.

“As a defenseman, you get your best chances to score on the power play,” he said. “Our power play is picking up now. …[The slump] is not from a lack of effort or trying. All of us pride ourselves on how hard we work. Some guys go out [to practice] early. Some guys stay really late. When you do stuff like that, good stuff will happen. And that’s what we’re hoping for.”  

Nate Schmidt was a little more blunt. He said the blue line has to step up in the goal scoring department if the Caps are going to reach their full potential this season.

“I think our group expects a little more out of ourselves, myself included,” said Schmidt, who hasn’t scored a goal since Jan. 7, a span of 63 regular season games.

“We’re used to a little more from our backend. I think for us to be hitting on all cylinders, that’s a part of our game that needs to increase.”

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T.J. Oshie meets up with Seattle Jr hockey players after game in Arizona

T.J. Oshie meets up with Seattle Jr hockey players after game in Arizona

Despite a 3-1 loss to the Coyotes as the Capitals continue their west coast swing, there was one good thing to come out of Saturday night.

Even after a disappointing game, T.J. Oshie took some time to visit with a young group of hockey players from the Seattle Jr Hockey Association, a minor hockey league located in the Pacific Northwest. The team happened to be in town as they participated in a travel tournament.

While this is already enough to make one smile, there's a deeper connection between Oshie and the SJHA that makes it even better. Oshie, who grew up in Washington, got his start in hockey playing in the same league as the kids he visited with. With them being in Phoenix, Oshie got the surprise opportunity to re-connect with his humble beginnings and make some young hockey players very happy.

The Caps performance on Saturday didn't give many reasons to feel good, but this moment provided by Oshie is something that will cheer anyone up.

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Capitals at Golden Knights: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream

Capitals at Golden Knights: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream

The Washington Capitals continue their road trip, heading to Vegas looking for recover from an 3-1 attack to Antti Raanta and the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night. 

While the Caps look for a win, Alex Ovechkin looks to make history, joining the 700 goal club. Ovi currently sits just two goals short at 698 goals and has not scored a goal in four straight games now but that can change in no time. 

The Caps will face Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights on Monday night at 6 p.m. Fleury earned the victory in the net for Vegas after collecting 19 saves in their shut out game over New York Islanders. The Golden Knights have won their last two games by one goal. 

Here is everything you need to know about the Monday night game, which takes place at 6:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington. 

CAPITALS at GOLDEN KNIGHTS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals at Golden Knights, Game 59 of the 2019-20 NHL Regular Season

Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV 

When: Monday, February 17 at 6:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals at Golden Knights game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder Link)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals at Golden Knights on NBC Sports live stream page and on the MyTeams App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS at GOLDEN KNIGHTS TV SCHEDULE

5:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live

5:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live

6:00 PM: Capitals at Golden Knights

7:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

9:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live

10:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

CAPITALS at GOLDEN KNIGHTS INJURY REPORT

Capitals: Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Upper body, day-to-day

Golden Knights: Alex Tuch, RW, Leg, Week-to-week

CAPITALS at GOLDEN KNIGHTS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals (40-17-57): Sitting at 698 goals, Ovi remains on the brink of making history with 700 goals. As soon as Ovechkin reaches that mark he’ll be ranked among the greats including Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Jaromir Jagr.  

Braden Holtby, G, Capitals (21-12-4): Despite the Caps loss on Saturday Braden Holtby was by far the best player on the ice. Holtby stopped 28 of 30 shots during a 3-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Golden Knights (22-14-5): Fleury came in clutch earning a shutout by stopping all 19 shots that he faced in a 1-0 win against the New York Islanders on Saturday. Marc-Andre Fleury recorded his fourth shutout of the season and the 60th of his career.

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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