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Who's hot and who's not?: The Caps' offense (finally) has come alive

Who's hot and who's not?: The Caps' offense (finally) has come alive

Once a week this season, we're taking a closer look at the numbers and pointing out a few trends that every Capitals fan should know about.  

Hot

Braden Holtby

The hottest player on the Caps right now is, without a doubt, their Vezina Trophy winning goaltender, who leads the league with six shutouts after blanking the Blackhawks on Friday. It was his fifth shutout in 14 starts. Entering Saturday’s games, Holtby is now top three in every meaningful metric for a goaltender—first in shutouts, second in goals against (1.85) and third in both save percentage (.933) and wins (21). “When he’s been in the zone or having good stretches, he just looks calm,” Coach Barry Trotz said after Saturday’s optional practice. “Every goaltender I’ve had that goes through stretches where they are seeing the puck really well and things are going their way, they just look very calm. Looks like it’s in slow motion for guys.” The combination of Holtby’s stellar play, the team’s commitment defense and a third-ranked penalty kill has the Caps leading the league in goals allowed per game (1.95).  

Steady line combinations

Trotz switched up his lines up following the Caps’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils on Dec. 29. Not only have the Caps won eight straight games since the changes, they’ve also scored 35 goals. “The lines started getting an identity and you just let them keep creating that identity,” Trotz explained. “We’ve been fortunate; we’ve had good health. It’s easy to keep the lines together when you’re not ravaged with injuries. It’s been good for us.” After Friday’s 6-0 win over Chicago, the Caps are up to seventh in goals per game (2.98). Last season, they finished second in that category (3.02).

Alex Ovechkin

Since enduring a dry spell in late November and early December, the Caps’ captain has ranked among the league’s most productive players. In fact, he’s amassed nine goals and eight assists in the last 16 games, putting him sixth among all players in that timeframe. With 21 goals in 42 games, the 31-year-old is on pace for 41 goals this season, meaning he’ll need to pick it up in the second half if he hopes to hit 50 for the fourth straight year.

Nicklas Backstrom

He’s got goals in three straight games and 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in the last five games. The most memorable assist, of course, was the set up pass on Ovechkin’s 1,000th point against Pittsburgh. Backstrom now leads the Caps with 40 points, putting him on pace for a fourth straight season with 70 or more points.

Evgeny Kuznetsov

The second line center has two goals, seven assists and three multiple-point performances in the last six games. Is Kuzy back for real this time? Time will tell.

Nate Schmidt

After registering one point from Nov. 18-Jan.3 (16 games), No. 88 has been channeling his inner Nicklas Lidstrom. In fact, Schmidt has racked up a goal and four assists over the past five games, including a pair of multiple-point outings.

Not

Penalties

There’s not a whole to nitpick these days. But there are still a few areas the Caps want to clean up in the second half of the season. One of them, of course, is penalties. It’s been a well-documented issue in recent weeks. But if the Chicago game was any indication—just a pair of minors, their lowest total in 14 games—they’re headed in the right direction.

Power play

The unit popped a couple against the Penguins, but it’s still a bit chilly by the Caps’ lofty standards. Dating back to Dec. 21, a span of 12 games, the power play has produced a meager four goals on 31 opportunities. Overall, the unit ranks 16th (18.0 percent) on the season, a year after ranking fifth (21.9). Interestingly, the Caps received no power plays in either game against the Blackhawks this season, marking the only two times that’s happened all season.

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How to watch: Capitals vs. Blues preseason Game 2

How to watch: Capitals vs. Blues preseason Game 2

Starting the preseason on a three-game homestand, the Capitals are 1-0 entering their matchup with the Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. This game will be one of five more chances for roster battles to be settled as the Capitals look to shore up their team and send assignments to Hersey and beyond.

In the home opener against the Chicago Blackhawks, Caps heartthrob Tom Wilson notched an overtime game-winning goal to seal Washington's first victory of the year. Aliaksei Protas shined for all to enjoy as well, tallying three points (goal and two assists, including one on Wilson's overtime effort).

After this game, the Capitals face the Blues once more in the preseason on September 27th in St. Louis and of course for the regular-season opener on October 2, also in St. Louis.

CAPITALS-BLUES PRESEASON GAME 2: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. St. Louis Blues

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Wednesday, September 18, 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Blues preseason game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Blues preseason game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7

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Ovi's adorable toddler celebrates dad's birthday with balloons at practice

ovijr.jpg
Washington Capitals via Twitter / @capitals

Ovi's adorable toddler celebrates dad's birthday with balloons at practice

It's Alex Ovechkin's birthday! Arguably the greatest shooter of all-time, definitely #1 Capital ever, and king of the boys and girls and babes turned 34 on Tuesday.

To celebrate, the captain's son Sergei came to practice with his mom, Nastya Ovechkina and Twitter almost broke over the cuteness.

The league shared a video from Nastya's Instagram story, revealing an "OVI JR" #8 jersey. I mean...

It doesn't get much cuter than that! But wait.

NBC Sports Washington's JJ Regan snapped the above photo with Ovi holding Sergei as he chats with assistant GM Ross Mahoney while Nastya looks on. 

Ovi also stayed behind to sign some autographs for fans at practice. 

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