Capitals weekly roundup: Mountains and valleys

By Zach Rice

The rut continues. The Caps just can’t seem to build any momentum, as a couple of road victories were overshadowed by losses to inferior teams at Capital One. Hopefully, two wins to end the week can spark something in Washington.

The goalie woes continued against the Blue Jackets, as Phoenix Copley’s first start was…less than ideal. After allowing four goals on 19 shots, Copley was pulled for Ilya Samsonov, who settled into the game and saved the first six shots he faced. Unfortunately, Patrick Laine scored the game-winner with 45 seconds left in regulation, as four goals wasn’t enough for the Caps to win.

The Capitals rebounded against the lowly Canadiens with a 5–2 victory. Thankfully, Samsonov returned from injury and got the start in net, saving 42 of the 44 shots he faced. Center Joe Snively had his best game of his career, as the 26 year-old rookie scored two goals and tallied an assist.

Three nights after one of Samsonov’s best games of the season, he allowed four goals on just 26 shots against (checks notes)… the Senators?! In the opposing net, Anton Forsberg allowed just one goal on 33 shots and saved the last 24 shots he faced. It’s tough to win games when you concede a short-handed goal and go 1/6 on the power play.

Against the Predators in Nashville, a 33-save performance by Samsonov lifted the Caps to a bounce back victory. After the Predators tied the game up at one apiece, the Caps erupted with two goals in the following two minutes. An empty-net bomb from Ovi with 1:23 left iced the game.

In one of the most exhilarating games of the season, the Caps squeezed out a 5–3 win against the Flyers. The Flyers took advantage of a horrendous effort on defense to grab a 3–2 lead with less than four minutes remaining. After that, Gordie Howe-I mean Garnet Hathaway reeled off two goals to give the Caps the lead with 1:12 remaining. For the second game in a row, an empty-netter sealed the deal.

Here are three takeaways from an up and down week of Caps hockey:

The Caps need Vitek Vanecek back

Despite a solid week from Samsonov in goal, the Caps desperately need another solid goalie, at the very least. Vanecek went down over two weeks ago, and Samsonov has played in every game except one, and that one game was the most enjoyable. Copley isn’t a NHL-caliber goalie and proved why he shouldn’t be a backup against Columbus. Without Vanecek, Samsonov is playing in an overwhelming amount of games. If the Caps don’t want to trade or acquire a stud goalie for a playoff run, they need to at least find a viable backup option until Vanecek returns. 

Joe Snively deserves more ice time

As somewhat of a hidden gem, Snively has scored four goals in five games this week while seeing minimal ice time. The center position is loaded in DC and the lines shouldn’t change, however, he should regularly see 15+ minutes of ice time per game with the way he is playing. Even though he is just a rookie, increased ice time could help him develop into a valuable player.

The power play needs to improve

It’s no secret that the Caps have underperformed on the power play all season, and it may be because it revolves too much around Ovi. Everybody knows that Ovi is lethal from the office, however, the Caps have two other All-Stars on the line. They have the goal-scoring and playmaking to score without Ovi. Obviously, Ovechkin will be the primary threat, but using him as a decoy or a passer could greatly elevate the power-play.

Hot Take: The Caps are one player away from being legit Cup contenders

As of right now, the Caps are a playoff team that aren’t quite contenders. A goalie is the most important asset and would provide the Caps the most, but any elite player would be game-changing for the Caps. Despite some young, exciting talent, the Caps need to sell out to win now. Ovi is 36, Oshie is 35, Backy is 34 and Carlson is 32. Four cornerstones of this team are only going to get worse from here on out, so it’s time for the Caps to get aggressive.