Sunday, March 20, 2022

A NO Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 64: Stars 3 - Capitals 2

The Washington Capitals treated their fans to a late afternoon matchup at Capital One Arena against the Dallas Stars, who were coming to DC to play the back half of back-to-back games, dropping a 4-2 decision to the New York Islanders on Saturday.  The Stars were left with the task of trying to slow down a Caps team that was 7-0-1 in their last eight games entering this contest.  The Stars had the advantage early, scored first, and ultimately held on for dear life at the end to escape Washington with a 3-2 win.

First Period

Dallas opened the scoring 2:17 into the game when Alexander Radulov redirected a shot from Esa Lindell that was slowed down by goalie Vitek Vanecek, but he was right there to nudge the loose puck the last three feet past Vanecek’s right pad to make it 1-0, Stars.

Washington received the game’s first power play at 5:04 of the period when Jani Hakanpaa was sent off for holding.  Dallas killed off the penalty to preserve their one-goal lead.

The Caps drew another penalty when Tyler Seguin hooked Tom Wilson on his way to the net 9:25 into the period.  The Caps went 0-for-2 when this man advantage expired without a goal.

Martin Fehervary was whistled for tripping at the 17:15 mark to put the Stars on their first power play.  Dallas converted when Roope Hintz split the Caps defense at the blue line and broke in alone on Vanecek.  Before Michal Kempny could close the gap, Hintz slid the puck under Vanecek to make it a 2-0 game.

The Caps got their third power play of the game 18:43 into the period when Radulov wrapped up Fehervary and was sent off for holding.  The Caps had some chances from in close but could not find the back of the net, the remaining 43 seconds of the penalty carrying over to the second period.

-- Dallas outshot the Caps, 11-9, in the period, while the Caps had a 22-21 edge in shot attempts.

-- Conor Sheary and Evgeny Kuznetsov led the Caps with two shots on goal apiece; Kuznetsov and John Carlson leading with four shot attempts apiece.

-- The Caps won just seven of 20 faceoffs in the period, Lars Eller the only Capital over 50 percent (3-for-5/60.0 percent).

Second Period

The Caps did not convert the remaining time on their power play, and Dallas skated on with their 2-0 lead.  And then the Caps went to their fourth power play when Jamie Benn was found guilty of tripping at 4:30 of the period.  This time, they converted 23 second into the man advantage, Evgeny Kuznetsov winning an offensive zone faceoff to John Carlson, who fed Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer that beat goalie Jake Oettinger cleanly on the glove side to make it a 2-1 game 4:53 into the period.

Hintz restored the two-goal lead, taking a bump pass from Tyler Seguin at the top of the crease and one-timing the puck over the right shoulder of Vanecek to make it 3-1, 10:38 into the period.

That would end the scoring in the period, with the Stars taking a two-goal lead into the second intermission.

-- Washington outshot the Stars, 15-10, for the period, but Dallas out-attempted the Caps, 26-23.

-- The Caps performance in the circle has been brutal in this game; they were 7-for-25 for the period.

-- Kuznetsov, who seems to have the puck glued to his stick in this game, led the Caps with four shots on goal through 40 minutes.  John Carlson had eight shot attempts through two periods.

-- The Caps had a 21-13 edge in credited hits through two periods.

Third Period

Dallas frustrated the Caps for much of the first half of the period, but the Caps broke though in the ninth minute in the period when Dmitry Orlov took a feed from Tom Wilson in the middle of the ice, changed his angle to use a Stars defender as a screen, and snapped a shot past Oettinger’s blocker to make it 3-2, 8:56 into the period.

The Caps drew a late power play when Michael Raffl was sent off for tripping at the 15:01 mark.  The Caps failed to convert and emptied their net shortly thereafter, Vanecek to the bench for a sixth attacker.  The Caps played with a lot of energy with the extra man, but they could not solve Oettinger for the tying goal, and Dallas skated off with a 3-2 win.

Other stuff…

-- The loss was the first in regulation in March for the Caps and snapped an eight-game points streak (7-0-1).

-- This was the first game that the Caps lost in regulation when allowing three or fewer goals since they dropped a 2-1 decision to Philadelphia on February 26th, a string of six straight wins in those situations snapped.

-- Washington outshot the Stars, 38-23, and out-attempted them, 67-51.

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov led the team with six shots on goal, Kuznetsov and John Carlson leading the team with ten shot attempt apiece.

-- Lars Eller and Brett Leason did not have a shot attempt.

-- Garnet Hathaway led the team with seven credited hits; 14 of 18 skaters had at least one.

-- Washington was 23-for-62 on faceoffs (37.1 percent).  All five Caps taking draws finished under 50 percent.

-- Alex Ovechkin’s power play goal made it 15 games in the last 20 that the Caps have had at least one power play goal.

-- Justin Schultz had five of the Caps’ 14 blocked shots.

-- Vitek Vanecek allowed three goals on 23 shots.  Not his best game, perhaps, but Vanecek has not allowed more than three goal on home ice this season (18 games).

In the end…

Perhaps it was to be expected.  After an intense week preceding this game, including a chippy, hard-fought win in Carolina to end the road trip, a letdown might not be surprising.  And the Caps certainly looked as if they were suffering one in the first period.  But their intensity ramped up as the game wore on, this game being one of those “they just ran out of time” efforts in which they were clearly the better team late in the game.  But Jake Oettinger had a very good game for the Stars in goal and might have been the ultimate difference in this one.  File this game away, and get ready for St. Louis on Tuesday.


Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 23

Week 23 was a very good week for the Washington Capitals, among the most satisfying of the season.  And, it solidified their hold on a playoff spot while inching closer to the New York Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division standings.

Record (3-0-0)

Week 23 was the first perfect week, record-wise, since week 12, when the Caps went 2-0-0, and the first perfect week with three or more games played since Week 5, when the Caps went 3-0-0.  It was an extremely satisfying week, the Caps opening the week with a win in the Gimmick against the New York Islanders and former coach Barry Trotz, a pasting of the Columbus Blue Jackets that all but ended the sliver of hope Columbus might have had of catching the Caps for a playoff spot, and a playoff-like come from behind win in another Gimmick over the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, one of the most difficult cities for opponents to win in the NHL.  The week left the Caps just three points behind the New York Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division and five behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for second place.

Offense: 4.33 / game (season: 3.30 / 10th)

Even considering the seven goals the Caps hung on Columbus in a 7-2 win, it was a good week for the offense.  The 4.33 goals per game were tied for the third-best scoring offense for the week (with Winnipeg), trailing Edmonton (6.33) and Nashville (5.00).  The odd thing about the scoring offense rankings was that Columbus, who scored only twice in the loss to the Caps, still finished fifth in the league for the week in scoring offense (4.25 goals per game, tied with Vegas).

Eight different Caps recorded goals for the week, led by Alex Ovechkin and Anthony Mantha with three apiece.  John Carlson’s goal against Carolina in the last game of the week broke a ten-game drought in goal scoring.  Connor McMichael snapped a 12-game streak without a goal when he tallied against Columbus.  Axel Jonsson-Fjallby notched his first NHL goal when he scored against the Islanders.

Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov led the Caps in points with four apiece.  Mantha, Conor Sheary, and Nicklas Backstrom added three apiece.  In all, 15 Capital skaters recorded points.

Defense: 2.67 / game (season: 2.78 / 8th)

It was neither a good, nor a bad week for the Caps in allowing shots on goal, the 31.0 shots per game allowed tied for 14th-fewest in the league for the week.  Their performance at 5-on-5 was a bit better, the 132 shot attempts over the three games tied with Boston and Dallas for seventh-fewest in the league for the week.

Four Capitals were on ice at even strength with no goals scored against for the week – Tom Wilson, Danial Sprong, Axel Jonsson-Fiallby, and Connor McMichael.  Three Caps were on ice for five even strength goals against – Dmitry Orlov, Nick Jensen, and Conor Sheary.  John Carlson and Martin Fehervary had the best goal differential on ice at evens, each with a plus-5.  Ovechkin, Orlov, and Jensen were at the other end with a minus-2 for each player.

Goaltending: 2.53 / .914 (season: 2.63 / .909 / 7 shutouts)

It was a perfect week for the netminders in terms of wins, but that is where the similarity ended.  Vitek Vanecek won the first two games of the week, stopping 68 of 73 shots his two outings (.932 save percentage).  He was especially effective in first periods, stopping all 24 first period shots he faced in his two games. 

Ilya Samsonov drew the difficult assignment of facing Carolina, and his performance illustrated the difference between effectiveness and efficiency.  He was effective in terms of keeping the Caps in the game in a very difficult venue for visitors, and he did prevail in the end, stopping all three Carolina freestyle shots in the Gimmick to earn the win.  But his efficiency could have used some work, allowing three goals on only 20 shots, a .850 save percentage.  Still, a win is a win is a win, and that’s the object of the exercise.

Power Play: 3-for-8 / 37.5 percent (season: 19.4 percent / 21st).

Another big week for a power play that has been quite formidable of late.  The 3-for-8 week was the third straight week that the Caps finished at or over 30 percent, going 11-for-29 (37.9 percent).  It was the third consecutive week that the Caps posted three or more power play goals and fourth in the last five weeks. 

Alex Ovechkin had two of the power play goals, and Evgeny Kuznetsov had the other.  Five skaters recorded power play points, led by Ovechkin (three) and Kuznetsov (two).  The Caps spread the power play time around, ten skaters getting at least a full minute of power play ice time.

Penalty Killing: 7-for-8 / 87.5 percent (season: 80.9 percent / 12th)

It was a good week on the other side of special teams, the 7-for-8 week being the fourth week in the last five that the Caps finished the week with a penalty kill of 87.5 percent or better (90.2 percent over those five weeks).  Nine different Caps skated at least four minutes shorthanded for the week, led by Trevor van Riemsdyk, who logged 9:50 in shorthanded ice time.

Faceoffs: 101-for-195 / 51.8 percent (47.4 percent / 28th)

It was on of those weeks that might have looked better than it was for faceoffs.  True, the 51.8 winning percentage for the week was a welcome surprise, but the Caps did not have as good a result in the ends, going 35-for-69 in the offensive end (50.7 percent) and 30-for-63 (47.6 percent) in the defensive end.  The Caps were 36-for-63 in the neutral zone (57.1 percent) to improve the overall numbers.

Of the four Caps to take at least ten draws, Nicklas Backstrom had the best week at 34-for-58 (58.6 percent), including a fine 10-for-16 in the offensive zone (62.5 percent).  However, Backstrom’s offensive zone performance was given back, and then some, by Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was 8-for-26 in the offensive end (30.8 percent).  Connor McMichael had a fine week in this area, going over 60 percent in both ends of the ice.

Goals by Period

It was a case of starting and ending games in style with the Caps owning a plus-4 goal differential in the first and third periods of games.  Second periods were a problem, the Caps scoring only two goals and allowing five.  It was consistent in the context of the entire season to date, the Caps holding a plus-19 goal differential in the first periods of games and a plus-23 third period differential.  The second period has not been as happy a result, the Caps with a minus-5 differential for the season at week’s end.

In the end…

There might have been a few things to pick at in Week 23, but that’s what would be…picky.  Three wins in three tries made the blemishes, few that were there, largely irrelevant.  Washington seems to have shaken off the two-month swoon they had to start the new year, and that is good news as the team head into the stretch run.

Three Stars

  • First Star: Alex Ovechkin (3-1-4, minus-2, two power play goals, 13 shots on goal, 21 shot attempts, eight credited hits, shootout game-deciding goal, passed Jaromir Jagr for third place all-time in goals scored)
  • Second Star: Anthony Mantha (3-0-3, plus-1, 12 shots on goal, 16 shot attempts, six credited hits)
  • Third Star: Evgeny Kuznetsov (3-1-4, minus-1, 11 shots on goal, 15 shot attempts)