Washington Capitals v Tampa Bay Lightning: Pre-Game Report

Washington Capitals: 42-22-7; 8-2-0 in last 10

Tampa Bay Lightning: 54-13-4; 8-2-0 in last 10

For the first time since May 23rd, 2018, the Washington Capitals will face off against the dominant Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. In a do-or-die Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, the Capitals snagged the title in a 4-0 shutout over the Lightning, and would ultimately go on to win their first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history.

Tampa Bay has already clinched a 2018-19 playoff berth, and currently boast the most impressive record in the NHL. They are currently on 3-game win streak, but previously topped out at 10 wins straight back in Feburary. The Lightning were undefeated for the entire month of February (in regulation) until the Boston Bruins snapped that 10-game win streak on the final day of the month. You may remember how dominant last years’ Lightning team was for much of the regular season. They, however, eventually lost steam, finished out 3rd overall, and the Nashville Predators won the Presidents’ Trophy. However, this year, with an almost-identical roster, Tampa has all but guaranteed a Presidents’ Trophy win. Many argue the Cup is Tampas’ to lose this year. On Thursday, a third period comeback allowed the Lightning to beat the already-eliminated Detroit Red Wings, 5-4.

The Capitals remain a Metro division powerhouse, climbing their way up the standings. In the 21 games prior to the All-Star Break, the Caps were 10-8-3. Since the break, they are 15-5-1. A 5-2 win over the Flyers on Thursday kept them in first place in the division. A win tonight by the Capitals and/or a loss by the Islanders will keep them there. The Capitals have been Metro Division champions three times (8x additional prior to changes in division naming), and are hoping to snag the title for the fourth consecutive season.

Braden Holtby (27-17-4) is expected to get the start for the Caps tonight. With 7 wins in his last 9 starts, the go-to-goalie seems to be hitting his stride just in time. It certainly helps that backup goalie Pheonix Copley is so reliable, as to allow Holtby rest prior to the playoffs. Andrei Vasilevskiy (33-8-4) will be in between the pipes for the Lightning. The Capitals were able to solve him last season. Many of the goals the Caps scored during the ECF were top shelf, or 6- and 7- hole; above the waist, so to speak. Has Vasy altered his MO? It seems so; take a look.

Below is the Capitals’ expected lineup per Isabelle Khurshudyan.

Coverage begins at 6:00pm on NBCSWA with Caps Face-off Live, followed by Caps Pregame Live at 6:30pm, and puck drop shortly after 7:00pm.

Capitals land Islanders 3-1, and Josh Bailey’s No Good, Very Bad Day.

TLDR: Capitals top Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, Ovechkin scores his 45th goal of the season, Jakub Vrana predicts the future, and a bizarre empty-netter (credited to Oshie) give the good guys their 3rd win in a row. 

After a dominant 7-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, The Washington Capitals packed their bags, and took off for Long Island to take on former head coach Barry Trotz and his rejuvenated New York Islanders team. Last night, the Islanders ‘welcomed’ back former captain John Tavares, and beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-1. With the Islanders and Capitals, respectively, in first and second place in the Metropolitan division, a win by the Caps could once again tie the Isles with 81 points. The two teams have split their season meetings, with both winning on the road.

Pictured: Current standings in the Metro, heading into tonight’s game

The Islanders, playing their second game in as many nights, started off deceivingly fast and refreshed. An early save by Caps goaltender Braden Holtby just seconds in kept the score at zero a piece. Less than three minutes into the period, a horrific turnover by Dmitry Orlov ended up in a walk-in-the-park goal by Tom Kuhnhackl, giving the Isles a 1-0 lead. Although the Capitals are not unfamiliar with early deficits, it is unfavorable to play a catch-up game. The Islanders were gifted the first power play of the game, due to an interference penalty by Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals penalty killers successfully kept the score 1-0. Caps forward Jakub Vrana continues to impress, creating opportunities in front of the net, and frustrating the opposition to no end. However, it was the strong Isles forecheck that frustrated the Capitals. It seemed as though every time the Capitals snagged the puck, the Isles quickly pick-pocketed it away from them. The refereeing at Nassau Coliseum definitely favored the home team. Despite playing a generally good first period, the Capitals need to stop giving up goals in the first five minutes of every period. Heading into the second period, the Caps were lucky to be down by just a single goal.

Pictured: Capitals’ forward Jakub Vrana (Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports)

Once again, the refereeing bias reared its ugly head early in the second period. The Isles got away with some shenanigans, but it was Brett Connolly that would receive a two-minute minor penalty for tripping. Lucky for the Capitals, the Islanders ran out their power play time without a goal. If the Capitals are to win this game, it will be accomplished with accuracy and precision. Although there was no scoring to speak of in the middle frame, both teams had a number of good opportunities. Isles goaltender Thomas Greiss has been extremely impressive all season, stopping all 19 shots faced tonight, and has 5 wins in his last 7 starts (TheScore). Aside from the single goal in the first, Holtby has been very sharp, and the goal post was his friend tonight. Through two periods, the Capitals lead with 19 shots on goal, to the Isles 13.

During the second intermission, the Caps headed back to the drawing board.  The Capitals played with an increased drive and desire to start off the third and final frame. Somehow, in a flurry of activity in front of the net, Jakub Vrana was able to sneak the puck past Greiss, finally giving the Caps the equalizer.

The Capitals would earn their first power play of the night, thanks to an interference call against Isles captain Anders Lee. It didn’t take more than a couple of seconds with the extra man for Caps captain Alex Ovechkin to pot his 45th goal of the season, giving the good guys their first lead of the night.

The Capitals went back on the power play after Anthony Beauvillier was called for goaltender interference, but play ended up as 4-on-4 for 1:46, as John Carlson went off to the box for high-sticking. For the first time all evening, play finally opened up, and the Caps ended up with the extra man for 4-on-3 play, and then the extra man, as Ovechkin was tripped by Ryan Pulock. The Caps were unable to score on the power play, but neither did the Islanders, and with under eight minutes left in regulation, the score remained 2-1. Carl Hagelin has been increasingly more visible as he plays more games with the Caps. Tonight, his speed and finesse immediately stood out. Even prior to having been promoted to the third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly, Hagelin’s grit and almost magnetic eagerness to the puck is evident and welcomed. In typical Barry Trotz fashion, with under two remaining, the Isles bench boss pulled the goalie for the extra attacker, and the Caps snagged an empty-net goal, courtesy of a failed clearing attempt by Islander Josh Bailey. T.J. Oshie would eventually be credited with the empty netter. With 18 games left, Braden Holtby would rack up his 18th win of the season, stopping 21 of 22 shots faced.

The Capitals will walk out of Nassau Coliseum with two much-needed points, and are now tied for first place in the division. They will play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden for another Sunday matinee, this Sunday March 3rd.

FiCP’s Three Takeaways of the Game:

  1. Tonight’s win solidified our expectations that the Caps will be able to make a deep run in the post season.
  2. While we don’t like to play a come-back game, the Caps can and will do it.
  3. The Caps went ‘hard to the net, and stayed there’- J. Vrana

Kreda, A. (2019). John Tavares, Returning as an Enemy, Faces the Wrath of Islanders Fans. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/sports/hockey/john-tavares-islanders-leafs.html.

TheScore. (2019). Thomas Greiss: Stats, Age, News. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/players/1043.

Caps End Six Road Games Falling to the Sabres 5-2 But Ovechkin scores 44th Goal

After six games on the road, the Washington Capitals will reencounter the fans, though the result Saturday could have been better. The Caps have won and lost three out of six games, including a 3-0 shutout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. And since December 22. the Caps haven’t defeated anyone without giving up at least one goal, until they beat the Ottawa Senators by 4-0. Continue reading “Caps End Six Road Games Falling to the Sabres 5-2 But Ovechkin scores 44th Goal”

Caps Drop Leafs 3-2; Holtby Heats Up

TLDR; The Washington Capitals win 3-2 on the road, and goals by Alex Ovechkin, Brett Connolly, and Toronto-native Tom Wilson keep the Caps within a single point of the Metro division-leading New York Islanders.

As to be expected when these two face-off, the first period was fast and crisp. Two massive saves early-on by Caps netminder Braden Holtby kept the score 0-0. The Capitals did a great job playing of keep-away, and successfully seemed to ‘bother’ the Leafs, as they gave them very little room to operate. Both teams registered a number of high-quality scoring chances, but it was the Capitals who had the better of the two. Due to a lack of coverage and a scrambling Frederik Andersen in the crease, the Caps had two empty-net opportunities, but were unable to pot the puck. Capitals forward Jakub Vrana is truly beginning to develop and mature as a player, and is now creating his own opportunities in front of the net. Although neither team scored in the first period, the first frame was neither slow, nor boring. No power plays to speak of either, but the Capitals registered 12 hits and 9 blocked shots. Both Holtby and Andersen appeared confident and comfortable, blocking all 21 shots faced between the two. Tonight, for whomever scores first, the luck will be ever in their favor.

Four minutes into the second period, The Capitals were awarded the first power play of the night, as Morgan Rielly received a two-minute minor penalty for holding. It did not take long for captain Alex Ovechkin to score his 43rd goal of the season, giving the good guys a 1-0 lead. Shortly thereafter, the Capitals returned to the power play, as Nikita Zaitsev received a two-minute penalty for interference, but did not score. For a team that leads the league in fewest penalty minutes, the Toronto Maple Leafs have landed in the penalty box eight times and have drawn too-many-men penalties twice in the last 4 games (Toronto Maple Leafs). Halfway through the period, the Capitals faced their first penalty kill, as defenseman Michal Kempny went to the box for tripping. After successfully keeping Toronto off the board during the penalty, Brett Connolly snagged his 15th goal of the season, and the Leafs suddenly found themselves down 2 goals to nil (Washington Capitals). Per Capitals analyst Alan May, the Caps lead the league in second period goals with 80 tallies through 60 games.

Pictured: Brett Connolly donning the Washington Capitals 2018-19 alternate jerseys

With just under 30 seconds remaining in the second, tempers flared, and both Andre Burakovsky of the Caps and Connor Brown of the Leafs were sent to the penalty box with matching two-minute penalties for crosschecking and hooking, respectively. The teams will start the third period playing four-on-four for another 90 seconds.

While neither team scored on the remainder of a 4v4 stint from the second it did not take long for Toronto to cut a two-goal deficit to one. A deflection off of a failed wrap-around attempt by Andreas Johnsson gave the Leafs some life in Scotiabank Arena, and eliminated the chance of a shutout by Holtby. The Capitals need to improve on their face-offs, and perhaps another acquisition prior to the trade deadline could help the team in that category. Moments later, Caps defenseman John Carlson was called for hooking, and the Caps went back on the penalty kill. Much to the dismay of Leafs fans, Tom Wilson, shorthanded, scored his 16th goal of the season, and re-established Washingtons’ 2-goal lead. In a flurry of goals and penalties, the Capitals received another power play, as Jake Muzzin was called for slashing, but did not convert. With about 30 seconds remaining in the game, John Tavares tipped up the Leafs 3-2, but the Capitals were able to sneak out of Toronto with a win. Braden Holtby stopped 40 of 42 shots faced, but he could not have done it without the Capitals’ defense.

FiCP Three Takeaways of the Game:

  1. The Capitals defense was exactly what we needed it to be; strong to the puck, blocking passing and shooting lanes, and protecting Holtby when compromised.
  2. The Caps special teams are improving; the Power Play units are scoring, and the Penalty Kill units are keeping opponents off the board.
  3. Braden Holtby has reached his mid-season form.

theScore. (2019). Washington Capitals Roster. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/teams/15/roster.

theScore. (2019). Toronto Maple Leafs Stats. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/teams/5/stats.

NHL Trades and the Capitals

There is lots of fodder for thought floating around the internet about the NHL trade deadline and who is likely to move where. Although the Capitals pretty much sat tight with the last round of trades, they could make some interesting trades this time. The deadline is just around the corner: on 3 pm Monday, Feb. 25. It’s gonna be a fun week to watch! Continue reading “NHL Trades and the Capitals”

Caps End Homestand on High Note Before Falling in Columbus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Washington Capitals wrapped up their season-long six game homestand and kicked off a long road trip this week. On Saturday, the Caps overcame a 3-1 and 4-2 deficit against the Florida Panthers. They rallied to force the tie but ultimately fell short in overtime 5-4. The Capitals rebounded in the final game of the homestand on Monday night with a 6-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings before kicking off a six-game road trip in Columbus where they were blanked by the Blue Jackets 3-0.

Continue reading “Caps End Homestand on High Note Before Falling in Columbus”

Capitals Defeat Canucks 3-2 with Alex Ovechkin Achieving Another Milestone

The Washington Capitals defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena. Coming off the break, the Caps have won two of their last three games to pull closer in the Metropolitan Division race. Their record improves to 28-18-6 and thanks to losses by the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, they are now in second place just two points behind the first place Islanders.  Continue reading “Capitals Defeat Canucks 3-2 with Alex Ovechkin Achieving Another Milestone”

Capitals Winning Streak vs. Bruins Gets Halted at 14 Sunday

The Washington Capitals had simply owned the Boston Bruins. They had not lost to them since March 29, 2014. Since then, which was stretched to four seasons and nearly five, the Caps had won 14 straight against the Bruins. That is the longest active streak in the NHL. The Caps were coming off a thrilling win over the Calgary Flames Friday night with Evgeny Kuznetsov coming through win the game-winner with under a minute left that snapped a seven game winless streak. Washington was hoping to make it two in a row on Super Bowl Sunday in the second game of a season-long six-game home stand. This was the seventh consecutive season the Caps were part of the appetizer before the big game.  Continue reading “Capitals Winning Streak vs. Bruins Gets Halted at 14 Sunday”

The Pregame: Caps Are Back in Town

After John Carlson, Braden Holtby and Todd Reirden took part in the NHL All-Star weekend festivities in San Jose and the rest of the team enjoying extra time off with both the All-Star break and the NHL mandatory bye week, the Caps are back in action. The team practiced on Thursday afternoon at MedStar Capitals Iceplex and will hold a morning skate tomorrow morning (or today if you’re reading this now) to gear up for a Friday night tilt. The second half push begins tonight with the Calgary Flames coming to Capital One Arena. The Caps hope a break can help them snap their seven game winless streak, something we hadn’t seen in quite some time.  Continue reading “The Pregame: Caps Are Back in Town”

Braden Holtby and John Carlson Lead Metropolitan Division to All-Star Game Win

Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and defenseman John Carlson were well represented at the NHL All-Star Game in San Jose last week. With coach Todd Reirden at the helm of the Metropolitan Division, the trio contributed to wins over the Atlantic and Central Divisions to win the All-Star Game and split the grand prize of one million dollars. Continue reading “Braden Holtby and John Carlson Lead Metropolitan Division to All-Star Game Win”