Capitals weekly roundup: The Caps have their swagger back

By Zach Rice

It seems as though Washington is getting red hot at the perfect time. This week they’ve gone 3–1, scoring 16 goals in the past four games and earning seven of a potential eight points.

The first of three games in the Caps’ Canadian voyage began in Calgary against the Flames who have been exceptional this year. Despite allowing four goals, Vitek Vanecek did well in net, but the offense won the game for the Caps as they put up five goals to outdo the Flames’ four. Alex Ovechkin continued his impressive reign by scoring twice, and defenseman Nick Jensen totaled three assists as well. Beating the second best team in the Western Conference on the road demonstrates how hot the Caps are right now.

Connor McDavid and the Oilers were too much for the Caps and outlasted them in overtime. Nevertheless, the game was full of excitement. The Caps held a 2–1 lead going into the third period thanks to stellar goaltending by Ilya Samsonov to make up for less than average defense. In the third period though, the Oilers dominated the Caps. After stealing all of the momentum by taking the lead halfway through the third period, the game felt over. The Caps had no offense with an empty net. Thankfully, Oshie grabbed the Caps a point with a miraculous goal in the last two seconds, sending the game to overtime. Unfortunately, McDavid scored the game-winner in OT for the Oilers.

Following the loss, the Caps played a very similar game against the Canucks, but it went their way this time. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the first two of his three goals in the first period. Following a scoreless second period, the Canucks then scored three goals in the first five minutes of the third period, electrifying Vancouver. In response, Kuzy scored his third goal of the game to solidify his second career hat-trick. The game remained 4–4, forcing an overtime decision. Just 42 seconds in, Eller scored, granting the Caps the win.

In a historic night in the district, the Caps won in a shootout against the Islanders. Ovi surpassed Jaromir Jagr for third on the all-time scoring list, as he continues to chase Wayne Gretzky. For the third consecutive game, there was a scoring frenzy in the third period and the game went to overtime. The Caps had total control in overtime, but Semyon Varlamov was a brick wall and Washington couldn’t find the back of the net. Thanks to Vitek Vanecek, who saved seven of eight shots in the shootout, the Caps came out on top.

Here are three takeaways from a high-scoring week of Caps hockey:

Power-play unit was better

This week, the Caps were 3/10 on the power play due to noticeable changes in the setup. Two of the three goals were scored in the first 20 seconds of the two minutes, due to aggressive passing and a fast tempo. Movement was the key to all three goals. 

The defense needs to step up

It isn’t every week that your offense is going to average four goals a game, so the defense isn’t going to be bailed out quite like they have been. Neither Vanecek or Samsonov played poorly this week, despite a save percentage around .900 and 3.5 goals allowed per game combined. The defensive unit is fully healthy and mostly to blame for this high GAA, so the Caps need to exert more effort and play better as a team in front of the net to make the job easier for the netminders

Kuznetsov is a beast

Without Kuzy this week, it’s fair to say that the Caps could’ve lost some of the games they miraculously won. Kuzy scored all three of his goals this week against the Canucks and spread his assists out in the other four games. Kuzy’s playmaking and scoring ability was on display and, hopefully for the Caps, he is able to continue taking advantage of this confidence. 

Hot Take: Caps end the season hot

With just 21 games left in the season, the playoffs are quickly approaching. The Caps have been written off as a weak team who will likely lose in the first round of the playoffs, but the past week has displayed the Caps potential as a team in the playoffs. If the defense can improve, the Caps will put themselves in a position to do decently in the playoffs.