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Who's hot and who's not?: Holtby is rediscovering his Vezina winning form

Who's hot and who's not?: Holtby is rediscovering his Vezina winning form

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.

RELATED: Prediction recap: Caps dominate Tampa from start to finish

HOT

Braden Holtby

-- After Friday’s 4-0 blanking of the Bolts, Holtby now has three shutouts this season, including two in his last five starts. Only Devan Dubnyk (5), Tuukka Rask (4) and Peter Budaj (4) have more. Since the 2012-13 season, Holtby has 23 shutouts, which is tied with Rask for the most shutouts during that timeframe. (Carey Price is second with 22.) In his last eight starts, Holtby is 5-1-2 with a .949 save percentage and 1.47 goals against average.  

Dmitry Orlov

-- Orlov made the highlights Friday night for his aerial set-up pass to Alex Ovechkin against the Lightning. But he’s actually been setting up goals with regularity for a while now. In fact, the 25-year-old defenseman has seven assists in the last nine games, putting him on pace for a career-best 33 helpers. Seems the defensive pair tweaks are working out for everyone involved, huh?

Nicklas Backstrom

-- With a pair of assists against Tampa, Backstrom now needs just three to become the 10th Swede to record 500 assists for his career. The 10th year veteran has eight points (two goals, six assists) in the last eight games and 18 points in the last 20. Backstrom leads the Caps with 29 points; Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson are second with 24.

Penalty kill

-- The Caps have faced five shorthanded situations the past two games…and did not yield a shot on goal on any of them. Over the past six games, the penalty kill has allowed just one goal. As a result, the unit is up to sixth in the NHL at 84.8-percent after scuffling near the bottom of the league for a time earlier this season.

 

NOT

The Caps’ upcoming schedule

-- The players and coaches had better enjoy this three-day break (and manage to get some rest, too). Because it’s going to be crazy on the other side of it. The Caps return to action Tuesday in Brooklyn…and then it’s a full out sprint for three weeks, with a game scheduled every other day for 21 straight days.

Evgeny Kuznetsov’s faceoffs

-- Kuznetsov has never been particularly strong on faceoffs. In recent games, though, he’s struggled more than usual. In fact, he’s won fewer than 40-percent of his draws in six straight games, including just 27.3-percent (3 of 11) vs. the Lightning. That marked his third-lowest percentage of the season. Overall, he’s fourth among the Caps’ full-time centers at 41.4-percent. 

The Caps' record in shootouts

--After Wednesday's 3-2 loss in Philly, the Caps fell to 1-3 in games decided by shootout this season. Considering how tight the playoff race figures to remain down the stretch, every point matters. As a result, the Caps have dedicated a little more time in practice to shootout drills. Will it pay off? (I'll have a little more on this next week.)   

MORE CAPITALS: Carlson and the Caps' D are starting to 'heat up' offensively 

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Capitals' offense can't take off in shutout loss to Jets

Capitals' offense can't take off in shutout loss to Jets

Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck shut the Capitals' offense down with 33 saves on Thursday, handing Washington its first shutout loss since Dec. 16.  The Caps saw their brief two-game win streak end in disappointing fashion as they did show the same offensive burst or physical dominance they had in recent games.

Here is how the Caps lost.

A distance shot

Ilya Samsonov turned aside 29 of the 31 shots he faced, but the first goal he allowed was one he will probably want back.

Dmitry Kulikov set up shop at the blue line and fired a slap shot that wired into the top corner over the blocker of Samsonov. Nicklas Backstrom came out to challenge Kulikov and provided a bit of a screen, but from that distance and with no deflection, that's one Washington needs its goalie to grab.

Overall, it was a really solid game for Samsonov, but this is one he needed.

Connor Hellebuyck

One reason why Kulikov's early goal loomed large was because Washinogton just could not solve Winnipeg's netminder. Hellebuyck stopped all 33 shots he faced for the shutout.

The Caps had chances, but you would like to see a bit more traffic in front of the net to make life harder for Hellebuyck. He was seeing the puck really well and it was going to take more traffic, more screens, more deflections to beat him on Thursday. Washington needed an ugly goal and they couldn't get it.

The power play

The Caps had only three power play opportunities for the game, but had a golden opportunity in the second period down 1-0 when Neal Pionk was called for hooking and just three seconds after his penalty expired, Anthony Bitetto was given another hooking penalty.

Washington had virtually four straight minutes of a power play at the end of the second period in a one-goal game...and could not do anything with it.

A quick release

Kyle Connor had a litlte room to work with in the high slot and he made the most of it, firing a shot to beat Samsonov and give Winnipeg the 2-0 lead.

Mark Scheifele found Connor from behind the goal line and Radko Gudas steped up to challenge, but Connor had a lethal quick release to put the puck in the back of the net.

No punch

One of the most noticeable differences the last few games when Washington was starting to play better was how physical the Caps were playing again. They manhandled the Penguins and wore them down in the third period. The physical play was a major aspect in Washington's dominant start on Tuesday as well when it looked like the Caps were just going to dominant the Jets.

There was none of that on Thursday.

This game lacked a lot of the physical edge that the Caps had used the last few games to dictate the play and it was very noticeable in what was a very sleepy affair.

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One Capitals player reveals the key to the hit food cart he started in college

One Capitals player reveals the key to the hit food cart he started in college

On the ice, Garnet Hathaway is known for being an enforcer who isn’t afraid to rack up the penalty minutes for getting into fights. Outside the arena, however, he’s made a name for himself as an entrepreneur.

When he was a student-athlete at Brown University in 2012, Hathaway dipped into the family business of selling lobster. Alongside teammate Mike Juola, he hitched the Lazyman Lobster Stand around Rhode Island during his summer breaks to make a few extra bucks in between hockey practices.

“Mike Juola and I got an old sausage cart that was in Fenway [Park], kinda transformed it a little bit…cleaned it a lot,” Hathaway told Capitals teammate Nic Dowd on Monumental Sports’ Level with Me segment. “But I’d drive up to Maine every week, get the meat, bring it back down and sell lobster rolls.”

They hit their fair share of road bumps along the way, with a significant portion of their earnings going right back into buying the lobster from Hathaway’s father—especially at first. But the experience also taught Hathaway the value of learning from mistakes.

The Capitals signed the 28-year-old to a four-year, $6 million contract in July after he spent the first four seasons of his career with the Calgary Flames. Hathaway, who signed with Calgary as an undrafted free agent, didn’t earn consistent playing time until his third season. He turned in a career year in 2018-19, scoring 11 goals with eight assists in 76 games.

Once he got to D.C., it didn’t take long for Capitals fans to catch on to his shellfish-selling past.

Three games into the season, a fan was spotted wearing a No. 21 jersey with “LOBSTAH” printed where Hathaway’s name should’ve been. For his birthday a month later, a young Capitals fan baked him a cake with a lobster on it.

The Hathaways’ passion for lobster runs deep, as Garnet’s father, John, owns a lobster shack in Kennebunkport, Maine. The young Hathaway was a business entrepreneurship major at Brown, so it was only natural that he spread the reach of the family business.

“I should’ve definitely [kept doing it],” Hathaway said. “I had no idea that we had to start an LLC, we had to get a health code—”

“That makes sense, you’re selling seafood,” Dowd cut in. “Not just hot dogs.”

As a full-time NHL player, Hathaway has fallen out of the lobster-selling business. But even after making stops in Calgary and Washington, miles away from his place of business in Rhode Island or hometown in Maine, the lobsters have continued to find him.

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