Capitals Weekly Roundup: Success amidst defeat

By Zach Rice

Yet again, the Caps are on top.

An eventful four games of hockey left the Capitals with a 2–1–1 record on the week. The Caps had their most infuriating stretch of games to open up the week, losing in heart-wrenching fashion to a very talented Florida Panthers team and a lackluster Chicago Blackhawks squad. The Capitals rebounded, however, led by stellar goaltending from Ilya Samsonov versus the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Anaheim Ducks to retain a lead in the standings.

While the week was solid, the loss against the Panthers still stings; it was painful, depressing and downright embarrassing.

These words can’t even begin to describe the disastrous third period against the Panthers. The Capitals were sitting on a comfortable 4–1 lead after two periods, and then the third period happened. The Capitals completely fell apart, as they allowed 25 shots on goal and only created two of their own scoring opportunities. Throughout the period, the Panthers dismantled the Capitals by forcing numerous Washington turnovers that led to three of their four goals. Florida scored five on five, short-handed, on the power play and with 15 seconds left in the game, another power play dagger to seal the deal. 

Washington looked to rebound against the underwhelming Chicago Blackhawks, but unfortunately, it was more of the same subpar hockey. In the back and forth battle, the Capitals struggled to score despite a flurry of scoring chances. They were finally able to grasp their first lead early in the third period when Garnett Hathaway finished off a beautiful long range pass from Nic Dowd. Despite a mediocre performance from the rest of the Caps roster, Dowd, Hathaway and Carl Hagelin’s line continued to play spectacularly, as they’ve done all season, putting up two goals. The Caps kept the lead for a short 10 minutes before the Blackhawks struck back. After a painful, scoreless overtime, Marc-Andre Fleury made the final save on Alex Ovechkin in the shootout, giving Chicago the 4–3 shootout victory.

In TJ Oshie’s long-awaited return, the Capitals ended their losing skid against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a very well-rounded performance. The Caps dominated in shots on goal, hits and time of possession. Ovechkin had his 20th goal of the season and 750th of his career to pair with an excellent performance in goal by Samsonov, who shielded 17/18 shots fired at him. The game wasn’t necessarily anything special, but it was needed coming off the previous disappointing losses to gain momentum for the following game against the Anaheim Ducks.

Shockingly, the Capitals won a game that didn’t end in regulation. Entering the game against the Ducks, the Caps were a Minnesota Vikings-esque 0–6 in games decided after regulation. A combined five goals were scored in an eventful second period, but the third period was scoreless. Per usual, the Caps were unable to score in overtime, but Samsonov saved the only shot on goal of the overtime session. Luckily, in the shootout, Daniel Sprong, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson were able to hit the back of the net to secure the win for the Caps.

Here are three takeaways from a strange week of hockey:

Washington’s overtime play has to improve

Washington is dreadful in overtime. The Capitals are 0–5 in overtime this year and two of their games this week went to a shootout due to their inability to score three on three. The most crucial part of overtime is forcing takeaways and converting them into breakaway opportunities, which the Caps have failed to do. In order for the Caps to improve their overtime play, they have to give the opponent less time in their defensive end with high pressure. This should lead to blue line mistakes for the opponent and breakaway goals for the Caps. Thankfully, this shootout win for the Caps should give them a little more confidence when a game is decided past regulation.

TJ Oshie is vital to Washington’s success

The return of TJ Oshie was critical in the Capitals two wins this week. Oshie is a player whose presence in the locker room is felt by everyone because he is just so dang positive all the time. In his first game back, Washington kept it pretty easy on T.J, as Oshie played just 16 minutes. However, his performance against the Ducks lifted the Caps to a much-needed victory. Oshie filled up the stat sheet, accumulating two hits, a blocked shot, three shots on goal and an assist in 21 minutes of play. Caps fans have missed his energy on the ice, and it sure is great to have him back.

The victory against the Ducks is monumental

This Capitals win was unlike any other game we’ve seen this season, and it can be broken down into three major changes. First, the Caps finally won a non-regulation game. Although they were unable to score in overtime, the Caps kept it scoreless and were able to emerge victorious in the shootout. Second, Peter Laviolette adjusted the lines in the third period. The third period was scoreless in the game, however, the Caps offense was promising. The mixed lines created great opportunities and the decisions made by Laviolette look like they could be effective in games from here on out. Lastly, Wilson dropped the gloves for the first time all season. This fight was not just Wilson’s first of the season, but also the team’s first. For the Capitals, this established that they can be a physically dominant team for the rest of the season. Both the fans and players were excited by the fight that Wilson clearly dominated.

Hot take: Washington wins both games by two or more goals next week

The Capitals have just two games next week, one against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins and the other against the Buffalo Sabres. The highly anticipated matchup against the Penguins on Friday will be exhilarating to say the least. When the two teams faced off three weeks ago, the Caps smoked Pittsburgh 6–1. In the agonizing loss for Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby delivered a cheap shot on Martin Fehevary, meaning that Washington may be seeking retaliation on Crosby. The Caps are hot right now and will be as motivated as ever to crush the Penguins again. Next, the Caps head to Buffalo to face the lowly Sabres. No explanation needed here; Buffalo is not good, and the Caps will hopefully cruise to an easy win and will continue to lead the Metro Division.