Saturday, October 17, 2015

A TWO-Point Night: Capitals 4 - Hurricanes 1

The Washington Capitals made it three wins in four games this season with a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.  You can read our recap of the contest over at Japers’ Rink,  but we had a few more thoughts on the game…

  • The Capitals now have their top-six forwards healthy with Nicklas Backstrom’s return to the lineup in this game.  Carolina is an earnest bunch, but they have a skills deficit that the Caps exploited frequently.  In that context, we are a bit cautious about reading too much into one game, but boy, that top-six was impressive in controlling pace and momentum.
  • In baseball, a distinction is often made between a “pitcher” and a “thrower.”  You could make a similar distinction in hockey, that being one between a “puncher” and a “player.”  You can see the evolution of one to the other playing out before your eyes in Tom Wilson’s play this season.  It is not yet showing up in his numbers (0-1-1 in four games), but he is looking more and more to make plays than he is looking for something to hit or punch.  Evidence?  Wilson was credited with no hits in this game.
  • The Caps allowed only 19 shots on goal.  As of this writing, they are second in the league in shots allowed per game with 25.5 (St. Louis: 24.2).  It helps to be able to take care of business at both ends of the ice.
  • If there was anything odd about the play of the top-six forwards, it might have been the fact that Evgeny Kuznetsov did not record a shot on goal and had only one shot attempt.  He also took a penalty and lost nine of 14 draws.
  • John Carlson scored his second goal of the season in this game, tying him for the league lead among defensemen, and his five points is tied for second.
  • Backstrom had a three-point night (1-2-3).  He had four such games last season, for those of you expecting this sort of thing every night.
  • An odd number: 1.  The fourth line of Brooks Laich, Andre Burakovsky, and Chandler Stephenson only took one faceoff in the defensive end all night (Laich beat Elias Lindholm).
  • Carolina had more shots in 7:22 of power play time (11) than they did in 50:32 of even strength time (eight).
  • The Caps converted both power play chances they had in this game.  That makes them 5-for-13 in four games (38.5 percent).  That is second to the Colorado Avalanche (41.7 percent on 5-for-12).  We’re betting one of those teams will maintain their high rand and that the other will not.
  • The Caps were very efficient on their power play – two goals on three shots in 1:56 of total ice time.

In the end…

Good teams make hay while the sun shines, or at least when facing a team that is struggling.  Carolina came off a big win against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night, but they could not sustain that high level of play on a second consecutive night.  The Caps just applied steady pressure from the first drop of the puck, and they continued applying it until the Hurricanes wilted.  After four games, the Caps look like a team that knows it can win, and win in different ways, but not so caught up in themselves that they would leave a team like Carolina slip through the cracks.  That will be the balance they have to strike this season, between swagger and cockiness.  On this night, they found that balance just fine.