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Capitals now allow fewest goals per game in NHL, which is a pretty big deal

Capitals now allow fewest goals per game in NHL, which is a pretty big deal

After Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Senators, the Capitals are allowing just 2.06 goals per game, which is tied for tops in the league.

Minnesota and Columbus have also permitted 2.06 goals per contest.

“It’s a team thing,” Coach Barry Trotz said ahead of Tuesday's game against the visiting Maple Leafs. “What we’ve seen is our team values both sides of the puck more.”

“They [understand] that if they take care of business in their own end, they have the puck more and it makes for an easier game for us,” he added. “I think they’ve bought into that part, even more so. It’s been a process over the three years.”

Just how good have the Caps been defensively through 36 games? Consider:

  • They are second in the league in goals allowed 5-on-5 (48). Only the Blue Jackets, winners of 15 straight, have allowed fewer (47).   
  • The penalty kill (87.3-percent effectiveness) ranks second in the league. Since Dec. 1, the Jay Beagle and Karl Alzner-led unit is tops in the NHL.
  • The Caps are sixth in shots allowed per game (28.0).
  • Goaltenders Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer lead the league in goals against average (2.02) and are third in combined save percentage (.927). The tandem is also tied for third in shutouts with four.

“Goaltending is one reason,” winger T.J. Oshie said. “Our two goaltenders are pretty top-tier. With that, you look at our blue line, even the guys that can’t play each night. You got [Taylor Chorney] and [Nate Schmidt] that are NHL players and should be in the lineup. So we have a lot of depth back there. The [defense] is also very good at ending odd-man rushes before they get going. That plays a big part in it. Our penalty kill has been outstanding. So there’s a lot of things. Obviously, you want to keep building on those things and we certainly take pride in the things we’re good at.”   

As pleased as Trotz is with how his team is playing on the defensive side of the puck, he’s also aware that his group needs to pick it up in the offensive end and, in particular, on the power play.

The Caps have improved to 13th in goals scored per game (2.72), but that still lags behind last year’s production (3.02) and is lower than what the team expects of itself. The power play, meanwhile, is in a 0-for-17 slump over the past six games after showing signs of improvement in the previous 15 contests.  

“Now the offensive part of our game is starting to take off, hopefully,” Trotz said. “And if we can get the power play numbers to creep up to where we hope they will be, then that will be a pretty good game plan for us.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps' top priority against Toronto: Shutting down Auston Matthews

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Brooks Orpik undergoes arthroscopic surgery on his knee, will miss another 4 to 6 weeks

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Brooks Orpik undergoes arthroscopic surgery on his knee, will miss another 4 to 6 weeks

Brooks Orpik underwent an arthroscopic surgical procedure on his right knee and is expected to miss four-to-six weeks, the Capitals announced Tuesday. Orpik last played on Oct. 27 against the Calgary Flames, but has not participated in practice since due to what the team has called a lower-body injury.

Why did it take so long to have the surgery when he could have been recovering and nearing a return at this point? The specific nature of the injury is not known, but what typically happens in cases such as these is that the player and the team will wait to see if surgery is necessary. No professional athlete likes going under the knife and most will try to avoid it at all costs.

It could also be a case in which the severity of the injury was not known as is evidenced by the fact that he was initially labeled “day-to-day.”

With Orpik out, that will likely mean more time for Madison Bowey who has looked like one of the most improved players overall on the roster this season. It also likely gives an opportunity for Jonas Siegenthaler to get more games at the NHL level.

Siegenthaler has been with the Caps since getting recalled from the Hershey Bears on Nov. 9. He has played in two games. Originally, it looked like the young Swiss defenseman would make the Caps’ roster out of training camp with Michal Kempny dealing with a concussion, but the team had to get creative with the salary cap after Tom Wilson was suspended and the acquisition of Dmitrij Jaskin forced Siegenthaler to the AHL.

In his two NHL games, Siegenthaler has not looked out of place at all at the NHL level.

If he remains with the team, it seems likely he will get into the lineup again sooner rather than later. As a young prospect the team hopes can be an NHL player, they will be loath to keep him in Washington another four to six weeks just to sit up in the press box and not play. Young players like him need the playing time.

With Orpik out possibly until the calendar turns to 2019, however, do not be surprised if the Caps elect to recall a player like Aaron Ness and send Siegenthaler back to Hershey. Ness is a veteran AHLer who the team can be more comfortable scratching from the lineup for a long period of time. If they don’t, then expect to see Siegenthaler crack the lineup again in the coming days.

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Alex Ovechkin, Carey Price put on a show with superstar showdown in Montreal

Alex Ovechkin, Carey Price put on a show with superstar showdown in Montreal

The best of the NHL was on display Monday in Montreal where the Capitals edged the Canadians 5-4 in overtime. Within the game, a superstar matchup emerged as the top goal scorer of his generation locked horns with arguably the best goalie in the world in an incredible bout that lived up to all the hype that surrounded the game.

”It’s great for the fans, great for everything,” Brett Connolly said. “It’s good to see two really good players go at it like that.”

Throughout his career, Alex Ovechkin has tormented Montreal goalie Carey Price. In 24 regular season games, he has scored on Price 18 times. On Monday, Ovechkin added two more goals to that total.

In the first period, Tom Wilson delivered a blistering pass through traffic right to the tape of Ovechkin who tipped it in past a helpless Price who had been waiting for the shot. He would add a second goal in the third period from the office with the Caps on a two-man advantage.

At that point, a hat trick seemed like a foregone conclusion, but that’s when Price began to battle back.

Price robbed Ovechkin of goal No. 3 with not one, but two brilliant saves in the third period to help force overtime.

With the puck on the left wall, Ovechkin charged the net from the right midway into the third period. Connolly managed to find him with the pass and Ovechkin delivered a one-touch shot that Price snared out of the air Statue-of-Liberty style. Somehow Price managed to get over from post to post to snag the puck with the glove and he made sure to put some extra flair on the save.

With the score still tied at four, Ovechkin made one final push to win the game in regulation.

This time it was Wilson on the right with Ovechkin setting up for the one-timer on the left. Wilson delivered the pass and Ovechkin fired what would have been a buzzer-beater goal with just two seconds left in regulation. Price slid to cover the cross-ice shot, but could not get completely over in time to block the shot. He lifted his blocker up in desperation and just managed to catch the puck and send it out of play.

“Obviously Alex made a great shot, hit the knob of his stick,” Braden Holtby said. “It’s one of those unlucky things. It just happens.”

It was a spectacular save the brought that Montreal faithful to their feet and even drew recognition from Ovechkin himself.

Ovechkin’s initial reaction was one of disbelief, but he soon began applauding along with the crowd and skated over to give the netminder his due.

“It was a pretty cool moment, pretty beautiful save and the fans was cheering for him,” Ovechkin said. “I was kind of same.”

The Caps would get the last laugh with the overtime winner, but this was a rare occasion in which the result of the game as largely overshadowed by the drama that unfolded between two players.

Ovechkin finished the game with two goals against Price, while Price finished with 29 saves including two third period beauties to deny Ovechkin his hat trick.

Capitals head coach Todd Reirden was effusive of his praise of both players after the game.

“It’s stars like that that put on performances like they both did tonight that just make it worth every dime that it costs to come to the game and worth the price of admission tonight for certain with those two."

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