Washington Capitals Road Trip Battles

The Washington Capitals started their longest road trip (four games in nine days) of the season in Boston. We had our concerns about the teams they would meet–especially the top three in the Pacific Division. Boston was not a bad game. Coach Trotz said he was pleased with the team’s ability to battle through adversity and take the win. The Caps recorded 100 points on the trip and according to the Washington Capitals “This season marks the fastest the Capitals have reached 100 points in franchise history (65 GP) and Washington became the 10th team in NHL history to reach the 100-point plateau in 65 games or less” They headed for the west coast on a high.

And then the real battle began. The Ducks proved to be tough opponents. The Caps barely walked away with the win. The LA Kings highlighted the chinks in the Capitals defensive armor and their “comeback” team reputation was tarnished. It was even worse when they played the San Jose Sharks resulting in a 5-2 loss. It is apparent that the coaching staff needs to consider some adjustments it they hope to lead the team back to a final run, which might include one of these teams.

Is it time to panic? It seems that many have been waiting for the signal to start the wringing of hands. We think not. This has been a learning week. It comes at a good time when the Capitals are in a good position to secure their spot in the playoff berth. This gives them some latitude to improve The Caps are now 49-14-5 with 103 points. They end their road trip 2-2.  In addition, the Capitals’ 103 points already mark the fifth-most points in franchise history. We aren’t worried yet, but we think there is room for improvement. Some things to consider:

  • How can they improve the first period and gain more control over the game.
  • Do they need to bring back some of the fourth-line players to  stir things up?  Michael Latta and Stanislav Galiev were scratches the whole series,
  • They are still giving their opponents to many opportunities to score with all the penalties.
  • Alex Ovechkin isn’t scoring right now. He has had three assists in the last five games. We can’t help but ask what distracted him during this road trip?
  • TJ Oshie is back to scoring and doing what he does best in the shootout. He has three goals in the last five–all power-play goals.
  • Andre Burakovsky showed real promise. He had a goal and two assists. Evgeny Kuznetsov and he are creating openings to score. Kuzy had three assists in four games.

 

Bottom line: NO it is NOT time to panic. It is time to learn, correct, and succeed.

Caps Hit 100 points with a  2-1 over Boston

Even though the Caps gave up the first goal in the first period, this was an improved first period. During the second period  the Capitals penalty kill would be successful, thanks to goaltender Philipp Grubauer and his iron friend, defenseman Karl Alzner, who tied the game. The score was tied when the final buzzer sounded, forcing the game into overtime with the Caps and Bruins tied 3-on-3. The OT was active and eventful. Matt Niskanen, set up by Andre Burakovsky, blasted one past Tuukka Rask and the Capitals finally collect both points in Beantown. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer had a great night in net for the Capitals. at this point in the season, the Caps still have not lost two consecutive games in regulation.

Caps over Ducks

Monday night in Anaheim, the first of three California games this week, the Caps discovered just how difficult this road trip could be.  Braden Holtby squared off against John Gibson between the pipes. The Caps would again trail in the first period with a  1-0 at the end of 20 minutes. The Capitals started the second significantly better than the firstbut not by much. After 40 minutes, Capitals Captain Alex Ovechkin did not have a shot on goal yet and the second ended with no goals. Thankfully in the third, Andre Burakovksy tied the game with a beautiful pass by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Mike Richards almost scored the game-winner with less than a minute left in regulation; however, it was OT time. 

The Russian connection almost ended the game. Matt Niskanen almost scored another game winner. There were too many Ducks with 1:40 left in the extra session but 15 seconds later T.J. Oshie was called for closing his hand on the puck. Braden Holtby made some great saves on the Ducks. No goals were scored in the extra session so the game needed the shootout to decide a winner. T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom secured the win for the Capitals in the shootout.

LA Kings Crowned Pacific Leaders

There was some emotion before the game as Justin  Williams and Mike Richards entered the Staples Center to old friends and fans, who honored both Stanley Cup winners with standing ovations.  Holtby got the start again for the Caps and Jonathan Quick got the start for the Kings. Yet again, the Caps were in the hole early by allowing the opposing team to score first. They also seem now to enjoy their trips to the penalty box. The Caps picked up the pace early in the second period; however, LA had some very impressive and extensive offensive zone time which zapped the energy out of the Caps. They managed to add a goal to tie the game late in the third and force an overtime.

After knocking Drew Doughty down with his power shot, Ovi almost ends it about 40 seconds into OT but is stopped by Quick who was deep in his crease. LA tried the same but was denied by Holtby. There was a lot of very fast back and forth, up and down the ice before Jeff Carter went top shelf on a sprawling Holtby to give the Kings the victory. The Caps erased a three goal deficit to force overtime, and then gain a point. With this win, the Kings reclaimed the Pacific Division lead.

Losing Their Way in San Jose 

Washington Capital sand San Jose Sharks met for the Caps last game of their west coast trip. . Philip Grubauer got the start in net for the good guys while Martin Jones was in for the Sharks. Even though the Sharks got on the board first, the Caps had nine shots on goal to the 11 by San Jose. Jay Beagle orchestrated an almost goal that led to some scrapping after the whistle.Twenty seconds into the second, the Sharks were called for another penalty, giving the Caps a 5 on 3 power play, which the Caps took advantage of. However, the Sharks had a 2 on 0 breakaway and scored a shorthanded goal, giving them back the lead.  Caps and Sharks tied, 2-2  The third period looked like a bad version of the  “comeback Caps” we are unfortunately used to seeing lately. Bad passing, turnovers and sloppy play gave way to two San Jose goals before the period was three minutes old. The Caps spent way too much time in their own zone. But alas, our boys could not pull off the victory. Hard to do with only 4 shots on goal all period.

 

 

Comeback Caps Stifled by Sharks Offense

On Saturday, the Washington Capitals made the trip from LA to San Jose to take on the Sharks in the last game of their west coast trip. Already another late night for us DC area fans, we hoped our boys could bring home a victory that brings them closer to clinching a playoff spot. Philip Grubauer got the start in net for the good guys while Martin Jones was in for the Sharks. Taylor Chorney, Michael Latta and Stanislav Galiev were the Caps scratches.

PERIOD 1Ready, set, roll

The Caps came out looking well-rested and ready to play. They had some good chances on net and were not sitting on their heels. Even though the Sharks got on the board first, the Caps had nine shots on goal to the 11 by San Jose. Jay Beagle orchestrated an almost goal that led to some scrapping after the whistle. Good to see the boys have their feisty pants on tonight. Late in the period, Jason Chimera took a stick to the face and gave the Caps their first power play, which carried over to the second period.

PENALTIES-Jason Chimera called for slashing, and Nick Spaling called for high sticking.

GOALS-Joe Thorton scored, assisted by Brenden Dillon.

SCORE– Caps down, 0-1

PERIOD 2Break Even

Twenty seconds into the second, the Sharks were called for another penalty, giving the Caps a 5 on 3 power play, which the Caps took advantage of. However, the Sharks had a 2 on 0 breakaway and scored a shorthanded goal, giving them back the lead. Caps had their own 2 on 0 breakaway but were shut down by Martin. Evgeny Kuznetsov had a beautiful pass that ended up off a Caps stick and into the back of the net, allowing the Caps to pull even with San Jose again. With 12.1 seconds left in the period, Jay Beagle was awarded a penalty shot, but was poke checked by Martin.

PENALTIES-Brett Burns called for delay of game, Joe Thorton called for boarding, and Evgeny Kuznetsov called for hooking.

GOALS-TJ Oshie scored his 21st goal of the season, assisted by Nicklas Backstrom, Patrick Marleau scored shorthanded, assisted by Joel Ward, and Justin Williams scored his 20th goal of the season, assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov.

SCORE– Caps and Sharks tied, 2-2.

PERIOD 3- Here we go again

Well the third period looks like the bad “comeback Caps” we are unfortunately used to seeing lately. Bad passing, turnovers and sloppy play gave way to two San Jose goals before the period was three minutes old. The Caps spent way too much time in their own zone. Although he allowed a soft goal to start the period, Grubi played pretty good. He had some great saves and kept the Caps within two. But alas, our boys could not pull off the victory. Hard to do with only 4 shots on goal all period.

PENALTIES– None.

GOALS-Joe Pavelski scored, assisted by Joe Thorton, Brenden Dillon scored, assisted by Chris Tierney, and Brent Burns scores an empty net goal, assisted by Nick Spaling.

FINAL SCORECaps lose, 2-5

The Caps are now 49-14-5 with 103 points. They end their road trip 2-2. They fly home tonight and have their next game on Tuesday, March 15th, against the Carolina Hurricanes at 7pm. Hopefully, the boys can seal their playoff spot where they are most loved, at home, in front of their own fans.

Caps Know the Way to San Jose

The Washington Capitals are looking to end their Pacific Division road trip on a high note on Saturday as they meet the San Jose Sharks. After starting off sluggish last game, the Caps roared back in the third with three unanswered goals and got a point in their 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

The Sharks have been hanging in there to keep their heads above water and in the playoff hunt. Currently, they sit as the seventh seed in the conference, third in the crowded Pacific behind the Kings (84 points) and Ducks (83 points). With 15 games remaining and a possible 30 points on the table, the Sharks are capable of rising up with some help from the other teams in the west.

The Caps have won two of three on the road trip, only dropping their last game to the Kings 4-3 in overtime. Holtby struggled early but steadied the ship against the Kings and looks to be the starter on Saturday night. The Caps definitely need to start off games better than they have lately. In the last 4 games, the Caps have been outscored 7-0 in the first period.

Caps Pregame

The Caps roll into San Jose looking for win number 50. The last time the Caps played the Sharks, Alex Ovechkin was benched for one game due to waking up late and arriving late to  practice. The Caps proceeded to play their worst game of the season and lost 5-0 on home ice and gave newbie goaltender Martin Jones a shutout.

Fortunately for Washington, the Sharks are struggling at home this season with a 12-15-3 record for a league-low 27 points. The Caps need to take advantage of this and continue a winning trend in San Jose after snapping their 20 year losing streak in San Jose in 2014.

The Caps have the trio of Kuznetsov, Backstrom and Ovechkin with 68 points, 62 points and 61 points respectively. Braden Holtby has 15 games to win seven more and tie Martin Brodeur’s single-season win record. His current season record is 41-8-4 with a 2.25 GAA and .922 save percentage.

  • Alex Ovechkin has not scored in four straight games for the third time in his career.

San Jose Sharks Pregame

Joel Ward is probably not thrilled to see the Caps. He is in the midst of a season-high eight game scoreless drought and probably wants nothing more than to snap out of it against his former team. This game will feature some great players on both sides. The San Jose duo of Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton have 64 points apiece while defenseman Brent Burns has matched a career high with 60 points this season.

Martin Jones looks to be the net minder starter with a 33-18-4 record, 2.29 GAA and a .918 save percentage this season. The third year goaltender has cemented his status as San Jose’s starting goalie.

  • Brent Burns had nine points the last five games before it was snapped the other night.