Everything just seems to be hitting the back of the net for Washington right now. Monday’s 6-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes marked the eighth straight game in which the Capitals scored four goals or more and the fourth time in the past six games the team scored six goals or more.
One factor in the team’s recent offensive explosion is also one of the most overlooked: The defense.
Through the first 25 games of the season, Washington had only three goals from its blue liners. Two of those goals were from Karl Alzner.
In the 22 games since, the defense has accounted for 15 goals including two from Dmitry Orlov on Monday.
“He has a tremendous shot, obviously,” Alex Ovechkin said after the game. “We always tell him to shoot more pucks.
“He’s more like [Nicklas] Lidstrom. Russian Lidstrom.”
That’s lofty praise, but Monday’s game was not just about Orlov’s individual effort and neither is the defense’s sudden offensive production.
Carolina goalie Cam Ward was slow to react on Orlov’s second goal of the game as Lars Eller stood right in the face of the veteran netminder.
“Especially on the second goal, was in front of the goalie and I think he didn't see my shot so I think it's great for them,” Orlov said. “They go to the net and if I don't score at least [they] can keep the goalie in and get rebound.”
The goal highlighted one of the biggest points of emphasis for the Caps this season: Getting traffic in front of the net. With the staking themselves in front of the net, that has left more opportunities for the defense to step into the play and fire shots and get more involved in the offense.
“In order for a defenseman to score, especially from the [blue line] in this league, you need those screens and those screens to be thought out,” Braden Holtby said, “Not just stand in front of the goalie. We started working on crossing in front of the goalie and you can see the results since.”
It’s not just about making the pretty plays anymore. The team’s current hot streak has been more about deflections, screens and rebounds than finesse plays and breakaways. The goals may not be as pretty, but the final score sure is.
Holtby was quick to give credit to the defense as well, but as a goalie, he knows that it’s a heck of a lot easier to stop a shot from the blue line if he can see it all the way through as opposed to having to fight through traffic to locate the puck.
“Obviously you’ve got to shoot in the right place,” Holtby said. “I'm not taking anything away from the D, but in this league you've got to create traffic in order to give them a chance to score.”