Capitals

Quick Links

Prediction recap: Old streaks die hard

Prediction recap: Old streaks die hard

The Capitals were handed a loss at Verizon Center for the first time in 2017 as they fell 4-2 to the Dallas Stars on Monday.

Here's a recap of the three bold predictions for the game.

1. Washington will trail at some point in the third period - Correct

The Caps entered the third period trailing 3-1, but the opportunity for the comeback was there. Washington was in complete control at that point and T.J. Oshie pulled them within one before Patrick Sharp's empty-netter sealed the deal.

RELATED: Ref explained to Trotz why Caps lost coach's challenge

2. The Caps will take fewer than four penalties - Correct

Washington only went to the penalty box twice and the first call on Kevin Shattenkirk was a weak one.

3. Washington will score on the power play - Wrong

The Caps had four opportunities against a penalty kill on pace to be the worst in the salary-cap era and they couldn't cash in. Washington's power play has good numbers but has looked inconsistent for much of the season. If you're wondering why a top ten power play needed the addition of a player like Shattenkirk at the trade deadline, this is why.

2017 results: Two more predictions for the win column! At this rate, my prediction rate may actually look respectable by the end of the season.

Correct: 29.5
Wrong: 47.5
Push: 3

MORE CAPITALS: Seeing Holtby pulled was 'biggest disappointment' of Monday's loss

Quick Links

Wild tame the Caps as Washington fails to add to their division lead

Wild tame the Caps as Washington fails to add to their division lead

WASHINGTON – After the Caps and Tampa Bay Lightning treated fans to one of the best games of the season, the Minnesota Wild came to Washington and did just enough to walk away with a 2-1 win on Friday.

The Caps were able to fire 58 shots on goal against the Lightning, but managed only 22 against Minnesota, easy pickings for Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. With the loss, Washington was unable to add to its three-point lead atop the Metropolitan Division.

Here are four reasons the Caps lost.

An emotional letdown

Wednesday’s game between the Caps and Tampa Bay Lightning was one of the best, most intense, well-played game of the regular season in the NHL. Friday’s game was…not.

One reason the playoffs are such a grind is because of how much each game takes out of the players emotionally. Washington looked like a team that was still trying to recover from Wednesday’s playoff preview and the emotional letdown led to some pretty rough hockey. Passes were hard to connect, shots were not on target, the puck management was poor, nothing seemed to come easy for the Caps at all.

Perhaps the epitome of the type of night it was for Washington came early in the third period. With the game tied at 1, Tom Wilson came out of the penalty box and was fed an alley-oop breakaway pass by Nicklas Backstrom. The puck, however, never settled for Wilson and when he tried to move to the backhand it simply rolled off his stick. Wilson had a golden opportunity to give Washington the lead, but walked away without so much as a shot on goal.

The power play

The first three power plays of the game all were awarded to Washington, but the Caps failed to convert on any of them. Getting the puck into the zone was a struggle and even when they did get it in, it usually was taken right back after one bad pass and sent in the other direction. The threat of Alex Ovechkin is usually enough to open space on the power play, but that was not the case on Friday. The pass just was not there all night and still Washington tried to force the puck to him at times rather than take advantage of the room that opened up on the right side of the ice.

The Caps managed just as man shots on goal (one) in those three power plays as the Wild’s penalty kill.

Getting caught in the neutral zone

With the puck loose in the neutral zone, Brooks Orpik stepped up to try to get possession. Jordan Greenway swept the puck away from him and then just kept his feet moving to turn the corner around a trailing Tom Wilson. Braden Holtby went down to the butterfly, but Greenway deked around him and buried it into the net. He had plenty of room because Orpik was trailing the play after losing it in the neutral zone and Luke Kunin boxed out Nick Jensen.

Getting caught in the trap

Washington managed to battle back and tie the game at 1 in the second period, but the Wild retook the lead in the third period thanks to a neutral zone trap.

Matt Niskanen had control of the puck and was looking for the breakout. He thought he had Ovechkin open, but Zach Parise stepped up and swept his stick into the passing lane at the last second. Ryan Donato fed it back to Parise and Washington’s breakout was suddenly a 2-on-1 in the other direction.

Neutral zone turnovers are so dangerous because you instantly have gone from offense to defense with no time to get into position. Sure enough, the Wild caught the Caps completely out of position with one defenseman challenging Parise and three red jerseys trailing him meaning there were four Caps players on the right side of the ice and none covering Kunin. Parise found him with the pass and Kunin buried the puck into the top corner for the game-winning goal.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Playoff Push: Games to watch this weekend for the Metropolitan Division

Playoff Push: Games to watch this weekend for the Metropolitan Division

With seven games and coutning remaining in the regular season for Washington, the Capitals are looking for all the points they can get to hold onto their lead over the Metro. But with the road ahead getting tougher, each result will have massive implications for playoff seeding.

After falling 5-4 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday, Washington has a three-point lead over the Metro. From there, the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins each have a four-point lead over the Hurricanes, who are sitting in the first wild-card spot, and the Blue Jackets are one point out of a playoff spot.

As the postseason looms, the current race is a close one, and the games this weekend could ultimately decide who faces who in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and if the regular season ended today, the Caps would play host to the Carolina Hurricanes. Still, there's plenty of time left and things can always change; here are the games to keep an eye on heading into the weekend.

  • New York Islanders (42-25-7, 91 points) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (36-30-8, 80 points)

Though the Isles are currently tied with the Penguins for second in the Metro, they hold the tiebreaker with fewer games played. Recently, they were shutout by the Montreal Canadiens 4-0. Carey Price made 28 saves, and the Canadiens moved into the second wild-card spot with the win.

They'll take on the Philadelphia Flyers, who are still fighting for a playoff spot and are 6-4 in their last 10 games, in a Saturday afternoon matchup. The Islanders will have a chance to diminish Philadelphia's last gasp at a playoff spot, while also moving ahead of the Penguins and staying in the fight for first.

Pittsburgh Penguins (40-24-11, 91 points) vs. New York Rangers (28-32-13, 69 points)

The Penguins still have a shot at taking the Metro lead away from Washington, but they've played 75 games and have lost their first chance at a tiebreaker. Pittsburgh slugged out a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators Thursday and have gone 6-2-2 in their last 10.

After taking on the Dallas Stars, also in a heated playoff race in the West, Saturday, Pittsburgh will face a cellar-dwelling New York Rangers team that has lost four straight, but is still looking to spoil their division rivals' season finishes.

  • Carolina Hurricanes (40-26-7, 87 points)

The Hurricanes have snuck into the first wild-card position, nd it's looking more likely than not that is the team the Caps will face in the first round. Riding goalie Petr Mrazek's improved play in net, the Canes have managed a 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games.

After falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday, the Hurricanes will look to redeem themselves against the Minnesota Wild Sunday, who are fighting for one of the coveted wild-card spots in the Weest and face the Capitals Friday. With a victory, they can extend their lead and maintain their hold on that  first wild-card spot.

  • Columbus Blue Jackets (40-30-4, 84 points)

The Jackets are on the cusp of the playoffs this season, just one point out. Even after making a push to sign Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Keith Kinkaid at the trade deadline, they've had trouble racking up much-needed wins. They could not crack even in their last 10 games, with a 4-5-1 record, including a loss to Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers 4-1.

With time flying fast, Columbus needs to scrounge as many points as possible, starting with a must-win against the Vancouver Canucks Sunday. However, the victory won't come easy; Vancouver has won three straight and is still very much in the running for a shot at the playoffs.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: