If you didn’t know who Clayton Keller was before the Capitals played the Coyotes at the Capitals One Arena back on November 6th, you should now. Scoring his 11th goal beating Holtby low stick side, he out waited the Vezina trophy winning goalie after freezing him with a nice no look shot on a 2 on 1. One minute into the game and he looked quite comfortable in shooting the puck. The 7th overall pick in 2016 could be a outside contender for rookie of the year as he’s been a sign of positivity for the desert dogs through an otherwise disastrous season thus far. The Coyotes sit dead last in the NHL standings with only 19 pts and 7 regulation wins so far. And it’s only Christmas break .. wow.
Keller, who stands 5’10’ and weighs in at 168 lbs, is a speedy player who thinks quick and can score highlight reel goals. First garnering some national attention at the 2017 World Championships as an 18 year old, the shifty center registered 5 G’s and 7 pts in eight games to help Team USA to a Gold medal. The NHL rookie of the month for October has levelled off since his torrid start where he had 11 G’s and 17 pts in the teams first 17 games. Since then he’s scored 1 goal and 9 assists in the last 19 games.
The Caps have shown great team defence in neutralizing the oppositions speed as we’ve seen vs Edmonton and Toronto in the past and will look to contain Keller and the other dynamic forwards like Max Domi to prevent high opportunity scoring chances by forcing them outside and collapsing in front of the Caps net. I feel Keller will have a couple scoring chances where Grubauer (I assume he’s playing) will be called on.
The Arizona Coyotes start a lengthy road trip with a trip to Verizon Center for a meeting with the NHL’s best team. Rookies Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Louis Dominque have been solid for the Coyotes and of course the Capitals have their own share of young superstars. Marcus Johansson did not play in this game due to illness.
First Period: Capital Penalties
The Capitals started out fast and spent more time in the Arizona zone than their own zone. Jason Chimera was his normal speedy self and had some scoring chances.The Capitals penalty kill remained effective as Justin Williams took a seat in the penalty box twice. The Capitals captain took a seat in the final minute of the first period for boarding Jordan Martinook.
Goaltenders Braden Holtby and Louis Domingue remained spotless after one period.
PENALTIES: Justin Williams for hi-sticking (X2) and Alex Ovechkin for boarding
Second Period: Kuzy Ties the Game.
Coyote Kevin Connautonscored on a 3-on-2 to open the night’s scoring. Jason Chimera got a breakaway immediately after but he could not settle a rolling puck. The Capitals got their first power play of the game and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on the man advantage. The Capitals would get more chances on the power play but Arizona goaltender Domingue was solid, stopping the Caps from taking the lead. The Coyotes went to the power play late in the second. Jason Chimera and Oliver Ekman-Larsson exchanged some punches and heated words at the bench as the period ended.
GOALS: Kevin Connauton scores his 4th of the season (Assists: Thomas Reider and Viktor Tikhonov); Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his 18th of the season (Assists: Alex Ovechkin and Andre Burakovsky)
PENALTIES: Martin Hanzal (slashing); Michael Stone (Hi-sticking); Antoine Vermette(tripping) and Tom Wilson (charging)
SCORE: Tied 1-1
Third Period: Richards First As a Cap!
There would be no penalties from the scrum at the end of the second. The Capitals would go to the power play once more but no goals. Then Ovechkin would score to give the Capitals their first lead of the night, 2-1. 26 seconds later, Mike Richards scored his first goal as a Capital. Richards received two standing ovations for his first Caps goal. Arizona was not pleased after Richards put the rebound past Domingue. The Coyotes got within a goal a minute later. The Capitals would hold the Coyotes to no shots on goal on a later power play and would be victorious over the Coyotes.
Mike Richards shot and first goal as a Washington Capital.
GOALS: Alex Ovechkin scored his 39th of the season (Assists: Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov); Mike Richards scored his 1st of the season and the game-winning goal, (Assists: Tom Wilson and Jason Chimera); Connor Murphy scored his 5th of the season (Assists: Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Justin Martinook)
PENALTIES: Jared Tinordi(holding); Alex Ovechkin (illegal stick); Nicklas Backstrom (tripping)
SCORE: Caps win 3-2.
The Capitals are still the NHL’s best team (44-10-4, 92 points) and Arizona provided a good battle. There were times the Caps looked a little sloppy out there, maybe the season is wearing on them. Coach said later that he doesn’t believe they have become complacent. They still want to win and they still play each game to win.
Just keep on, keeping on Caps.
The Capitals will practice at 11:30am on Tuesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
The next game is on Wednesday at Verizon Center against the Montreal Canadiens.