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Capitals Rewind: Caps erase deficit to beat Kings

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Capitals Rewind: Caps erase deficit to beat Kings

The Capitals took down one of the best teams in hockey on Tuesday night by beating the Los Angeles Kings at home.

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Despite lack of production, Andre Burakovsky sees clear improvement in his game

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USA Today Sports

Despite lack of production, Andre Burakovsky sees clear improvement in his game

Five games into the season, there are only four Capitals players who have failed to record a point. Only one of those players has played in all five of the team’s games and that is Andre Burakovsky.

It is not exactly fair to call five games a “streak” but this is hardly the first time in his career Burakovsky has suffered an offensive drought.

This year, however, Burakovsky has a very different attitude than what we’ve seen from him in the past.

“I think I've been so far really positive about everything,” he told reporters after practice on Tuesday. “Obviously the only thing that's missing is finding the back of the net. I think I'm skating good, I'm doing the right things. The one thing I can probably do better is getting more opportunities to shoot the puck and take it to the net.”

Burakovsky, 23, has at times struggled with the mental aspect of playing professional hockey, especially his confidence. That has led to inconsistencies throughout his career.

In the past, he has always been very hard on himself for poor play. Suddenly a bad shift can become a bad game, a bad week, a bad streak and a bad month.

“I really was hard on myself and gave myself a really hard time,” Burakovsky said. “That's something I told myself I have to change this because I can't be as negative on myself when things aren't going my way. I have to just find a way to be positive about it and I think I've done that. I mean, I've been hearing from people that I've been way more positive around myself. Like before, I could always just be so mad at myself after games for three or four days. Now I'm just, every shift, have a bad shift, I'm just forgetting about it, looking for the next one.”

To help his mentality, Burakovsky worked with a sports psychologist over the summer back home in Sweden.

The results have not been evident on the scoresheet, but head coach Todd Reirden said he can definitely see a difference in the young winger’s play and confidence.

“I think he's getting some more consistency to his game,” Reirden said. “That being said, he hasn't been able to get on the scoresheet like he'd like to be. But I think he's limiting the number of chances against. For him, it used to be lots of chances for, lot of chances against at both ends and I think that right now he's becoming a little bit more well-rounded and in turn, maybe a little bit of the offensive game is sacrificing at this point, but it's a lot easier to do it this way than go the opposite way.”

The fact that Burakovsky is turning into a more well-rounded player is good, but someone with his level of offensive skill cannot simply afford to go without a point for too long. He needs to be able to find that production while also playing well without the puck.

No one is going to mistake Burakovsky for a shutdown forward.

But when talking to both the coach and player, there is no real sense of urgency yet. So as long as Burakovsky is playing well and staying positive, expect the offense to come.

“I think these five games, I think I had a tough one against Pittsburgh, but the rest have been pretty good,” Burakovsky said. “I've been feeling good my body and I'm just going to keep going and just kind of come out and shoot.”

“He is making the right decisions away from the puck, defending properly, helping our team that way and then having that be his basic foundation as a player,” Reirden said. “Then anything he can add offensively is obviously needed and something that will be focused on after we've gotten those areas squared away.”

 

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are not happy with Caps' Lars Eller

The Toronto Maple Leafs are not happy with Caps' Lars Eller

On Saturday, the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals faced off against one of the hottest young teams in the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was viewed as a marquee matchup and it certainly lived up to its billing with both teams battling in a tight, well-played game.

In the end, Toronto walked away as the 4-2 victors in one of their better wins of the young season, but not everyone left that game impressed.

A team that already boasted super-star talent Auston Matthews added John Tavares in the offseason as a free agent giving the Maple Leafs a formidable one, two punch at center. For most of the game, the Caps were able to shut down that center tandem.

Lars Eller was asked after the game how the Caps were able to keep the Leafs’ big stars in check and he indicated that perhaps Tavares and Matthews were not as formidable a pair as they had been made out to be.

“We’re used to playing against [Sidney Crosby] and [Evgeni Malkin],” Eller said. “Everything kind of drops from there so it’s not that special. It’s a good team like a lot of others. They’ll probably be a playoff team, I think.”

Not surprisingly, that quote caught Toronto’s attention, especially forward Nazem Kadri.

Per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Kadri called Eller’s comments “bulletin board material.”

With 12 points in seven games, the Maple Leafs currently boast the top record in the league. Toronto is far from perfect, however, and their defense remains a major question mark in whether this team is a true Stanley Cup contender.

But as to whether or not they are a playoff team? That seems like a pretty safe bet.

The Caps and Maple Leafs will meet twice more this season on Jan. 23 and Feb. 21. Both games are in Toronto.  

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