Saturday, January 14, 2017

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 42: Washington Capitals 6 - Chicago Blackhawks 0

If seven was heaven, then eight is great.  The Washington Capitals made it eight wins in a row on Friday night with a surprisingly easy 6-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at Verizon Center.  The loss ended a four-game winning streak on the part of the Blackhawks, while the Capitals extended the league’s longest active winning streak, five more than the three-game streak held by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Washington scored the game’s first two goals in bang-bang fashion in the seventh minute.  It started with a car wreck just inside the Chicago blue line that had several Caps and Blackhawks tumbling over one another.  Out of the commotion, Daniel Winnik picked up a loose puck at the far edge of the left wing faceoff circle and fed Jay Beagle filling in behind him.  From the top of the circle, Beagle let loose with a shot that squirted between goalie Corey Crawford’s pads at the 6:04 mark. 

Fans didn’t have time to settle back into their seats before the red light came on again.  Matt Niskanen started the rush with a cross-ice pass from his own blue line to Alex Ovechkin heading up the left side.  Ovechkin beat Jonathan Toews along the wall into the Chicago end and spied T.J. Oshie charging down the middle.  Ovechkin hit Oshie in stride, and Oshie relayed the puck across to Nicklas Backstrom on his right.  Backstrom found himself with all but an empty net at which to shoot, finding the back of the net at the 6:17 mark to make it 2-0.

Brett Connolly got his sixth of the season late in the first period.  Some hard work by Andre Burakovsky got the play started.  Carrying the puck to the Blackhawk blue line, he got position on Richard Panik to give him an opportunity to send it in deep.  With the puck eluding anyone’s control behind the net, Burakovsky followed up and hounded Tanner Kero into giving it up along the end wall.  It came out to Lars Eller who could not get a good whack at the bouncing puck.  He got enough of it to move it across to Connolly circling out from behind the net to Crawford’s right. Before any Blackhawk could get over to defend him, Connolly swept the puck behind Crawford, and it was 3-0, 17:49 into the period.

The score remained that way for most of the second period, but Tom Wilson added to the lead late in the frame.  Eller started the play by picking up a loose puck in the Washington end and skating it out and down the right side.  He fed it ahead to Nate Schmidt closing on the Chicago blue line.  Schmidt darted down the wall, slammed on the brakes, and even as he blew a tire and started to tumble to the ice, he snapped a pass to the front of the net where Wilson was arriving.  The puck was slowed ever so slightly by defenseman Brian Campbell, but not enough to keep it from getting to the blade of Wilson’s stick, and it’s next stop was the back of the net to make it 4-0, 17:01 into the second period.

Mid-way through the third, the Caps scored off a rush yet one more time.  It was Schmidt starting things by skating the puck out of the Washington end up the left wing.  Just before hitting the Chicago line, he fed Nicklas Backstrom in the middle.  Backstrom slid the puck across to T.J. Oshie on his right.  What Oshie intended from there wasn’t entirely clear.  He chipped at the puck in what looked like a half-pass, half-shot, but it deflected off defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and past Crawford’s glove to make it 5-0 at the 8:11 mark. 

Jay Beagle, who started the scoring, ended it for the Caps in the last 90 seconds when he puit back a John Carlson drive past Scott Darling, who had come in to relieve Corey Crawford after the Oshie goal.  It sne fans off into the night in a happy frame of mind on a 6-0 win.

Other stuff…

-- The six goals scored by the Caps was the most allowed to an opponent by the Blackhawks this season.  It was the fourth time this season that the Caps scored six or more goals, the first time against a Western Conference team (the others were against Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Toronto).  He has both of his two-goal  games this season and half of his goal total against Chicago.  And here is the oddest Beagle fact of all… In the three games in which he has points against Chicago, his scoring line is identical among them: 2-0-2, plus-2.

-- It was Jay Beagle’s fourth career multi-goal game.  The Caps moved to 29-1-5 in games in which he scored a goal in his career, 58-6-7 in games in which he recorded a point.

-- Beagle led the Caps with eight shots on goal, a career high.  He became the 15th Capitals to record eight or more shots on goal in a game since the 2004-2005 lockout (Alex Ovechkin has done it 122 times). 

-- Eleven different Caps recorded points, and with that, every Blackhawk finished in minus territory for the night.

-- Karl Alzner played in his 500th straight game and played a thoroughly Alzner type game.  He had one shot on goal, no points, one blocked shot, and finished a plus-4, tops on the team.

-- Nicklas Backstrom finished with a goal and an assist for his tenth multi-point game of the season and his third in a row.  He now has a five-game points streak in which he is 3-7-10, plus-7.

-- T.J. Oshie had his eighth multi-point game of the season (1-1-2) and extended his points streak to three games.  He is 4-6-10, plus-9, over his last seven games.

-- The Caps scored their first goal on their 13th shot attempt in barely six minutes of play (on their sixth shot on goal to go with six blocked shot attempts and one missed shot).  When Jay Beagle scored that first goal, the Caps out-attempted the Blackhawks, 13-3.

-- The Caps allowed the Blackhawks just two power play opportunities, the fewest allowed in a game since the Caps allowed the Philadelphia Flyers a pair of chances on December 21st.  It broke a string of ten straight games allowing opponents three or more power play chances.

-- The shutout continues quite a run for goalie Braden Holtby.  Over his last 13 appearances, he is 9-2-2 (one no-decision), 1.34, .950, with five shutouts.  In five games since he was pulled after 20 minutes against Toronto, he is 5-0-0, 0.60, .978, with three shutouts.

In the end…

The Capitals dominated early, late, and in-between.  How bad did they make it for the visitors?  It was the most lopsided loss suffered by the Blackhawks in more than five years  This was as complete a game the Capitals played this season. They won the shots on goal (34-24), the shot attempts (60-55), possession (52.38 percent at 5-on-5, according to, and of course, on the scoreboard.  The one thing they didn’t do was draw a penalty to get a power play chance, but the flip response to that was that the Blackhawks never really got close enough to a Capital with the puck often enough to commit an infraction.

That the Caps are putting this streak together against the quality of competition they have faced suggests it is the best hockey the club has played since perhaps the 2009-2010 season, if not longer.  These things don’t last forever, so enjoy it while it’s taking place.  And hope they can call on some of this in a few months.

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