Let me start off by apologizing. After a successful first week of the new and improved “re:CAPS,” I am not at home this week and, therefore, unable to make a video breaking down the last week of Washington Capitals’ games. That’s why this is coming at you in blog form. I’m mostly sorry that you won’t get to see my dashing face, or hear my unparalleled comedic timing, or the unwavering passion in my voice as I provide my unmatched and honest knowledge of the game. You, the reader, deserve better.
However, these are the circumstances, and what you’re reading is the solution. Without further ado, let’s discuss the last four games the Capitals played over this past week.
4-1 Win vs. New Jersey Devils – October 21st
This game saw Vitek Vanecek back in the net for the Capitals, and Connor McMichael staying in the lineup as well. This was a game I figured the Caps would win seeing as how they won all eight games against the Devils last season, the Devils were missing their two starting goalies and were also missing Jack Hughes.
The Capitals knew this as they struck early off the stick of Ant Man, Anthony Mantha. He collected the first goal of the game off of a pretty simple play. He stood in front of the net, the puck slowly came to him, and he just swatted it with his backhand. That’s it. That’s the goal. But it was awesome to see him get on the board and continue to score this season.
The next goal came from a ridiculous backhand by the often-forgotten Dmitry Orlov. Alex Ovechkin came in and ripped a puck on net. However, instead of scoring with the shot, the puck rebounded out to the middle of the hashmarks because Ovi exclusively shoots bullets. Orlov collected it while coming in from the left side, which really only left him with his backhand as an option. This proved to be fine as he sniped it above the goalie and past a scramble in front to give the Caps a 2-0 lead.
Daniel Sprong made it 3-0 when he was literally shot out of a cannon, collected a puck off the wall on the far blue line and undressed Scott Wedgewood (one of three players on the Devils with “wood” in their last name which is kind of crazy) for his first of the season. Sprong hasn’t been very noticeable this season, so it was good to see him use his speed and hands to get on the board.
Then it was the comeback kid, Evgeny Kuznetsov, who scored a goal to make it 4-0. This goal was like Mantha’s, where it just came to Kuzy at the side of the net and he swatted at it and it found its way in. Kuzy kept his hot start going and continued his revenge tour which is covering most of North America now.
The Devils would score one, but the real MVP of this game was Vanecek. He made some phenomenal saves to keep the Devils out of this game because there were times that they were pressing hard. One save in particular came immediately after the Devils’ goal that could have changed the direction of the game late had VV not sprawled out into the splits to make the save.
Caps win 4-1.
4-3 Loss vs. Calgary Flames – October 23rd
A Capitals game during the mid-afternoon? What can go wrong?
The Capitals played at 1pm against the Flames on this particular Saturday, but they didn’t know this since they started playing at 2pm against the Flames.
Calgary dominated early, scoring three quick goals in the first period and outshot Washington 13-9. The Caps woke up in the second, as Evgeny Kuznetsov remained hot against the Flames (ba dum tsh) with a shorthanded goal to make it a 3-1 game. I continue to praise Peter Laviolette for putting Kuzy on the penalty kill and this goal is a perfect example of why he should be there.
Also, this is a thing:
The next goal would also come from the Capitals, this time it was defenseman, Martin Fehervary, as he potted his first goal of his NHL career with assists coming from Ovi and Tom Wilson, who, despite not scoring, leads the team in assists this season. Not bad for a guy who should be banned from the league!
None other than Alex Ovechkin, who made it a tied hockey game at 3-3, would complete the comeback for the Capitals. He was just given all kinds of time and space, and when you give that to the greatest goal scorer of all time, you will run into trouble. This also made it five straight games with a goal for Ovi, so ask that guy if he’s slowing down and see what he says.
Also worth noting that, after his stellar performance against New Jersey, Vanecek was pulled in this one after letting up three goals on 13 shots. It definitely wasn’t his strongest game, but the Capitals’ first period was bad on all accounts, so it’s not really fair to look at Vanecek and blame him. It was probably just a move to give the Capitals some kind of urgency to play with, and it worked seeing as how they got back into the game.
Nobody would score until overtime, where Elias Lindhom buried his third of the game to put the Capitals away.
The Caps absolutely stole a point after going down 3-0. Although their start was absurdly bad, it’s nice to know that this team can claw back when they need to if they do and earn a point if they have a slow start to the game. This doesn’t excuse the first period or the loss in general, but they did steal a point to maintain their point streak.
7-5 Win vs. Ottawa Senators – October 25th
This was the textbook definition of a barn-burner.
For this one, Ilya Samsonov was given the net back to start, which was a fair decision after he took over in relief against the Flames.
Additionally, Nic Dowd was out with a lower-body injury, so both rookies, McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre, slotted in this game. Something I liked was that both players were playing their natural centre positions instead of having to shuffle around to make things work. That can only benefit them moving forward, especially Lapierre, who played on the “fourth” line with Sheary and Sprong.
This game started quickly with the Senators burying a weak shot from the boards that we all know Sammy would like to have back. It was just a perfectly placed shot.
Oshie got the ball rolling for the Capitals not too long after with an absolute tuck from in tight. Just collected a broken pass, turned and roofed it far side.
Oshie would score the next goal as well, and it would, again, be an absolute snipe. Dating back to last season, I’m not sure this guy has scored an ugly goal in like two years. Maybe the first Caps’ goal of the season this year, but that’s about it. Mantha slips him a dirty backhand sauce pass which Oshie just unloaded top shelf to make it 2-1. Also, Connor McMichael collected his first NHL point with an assist on this goal.
Then, Big D*** Nick Jensen rips a shot from the point that finds the back of the net to make it 3-1. Jensen has been way more active offensively than I am used to him being, and, had his rocket in game one counted, he would have three goals already this season. Not bad for a third-paring defenseman with negative power play time.
To close out the period, the true offensive defenseman on the team, John Carlson, received the puck on the left side. He held it for a while as an Ottawa player knelt down to block his shot. Carlson snuck around him just enough to see the net and ripped a wrist shot top shelf. One of the sexier goals this season and it’s not up for discussion. This chased Ottawa goalie, Anton Forsberg, from the game and closed out the first period.
However, the game was far from over. In the second period, the Senators crawled back from a 4-1 deficit to tie the game at 4-4. I couldn’t believe it. I thought the Caps had the Sens dead-to-rights, but they tied it up. The first goal was another tough one by Samsonov he would want back, the second one was on an abbreviated power play after a weak call on Oshie, and the tying goal was Carlson trying to rim a puck around the wall but hitting an Ottawa skater and then the puck bouncing right out in front. These aren’t excuses, it was just simple breakdowns that all happened within a short amount of time that led to the game being tied. It’s an inexcusable lead to cough up to an objectively worse team, but thankfully it didn’t define the game.
Of course, Ovechkin was disgusted by the fact this game wasn’t already over so he stepped up and blocked a shot (but I thought he doesn’t even go in his defensive zone?), collected the puck on a breakaway and slid the puck five hole to re-claim the lead and make it a 5-4 game. This was Ovi’s sixth goal in his sixth game, the guy is just hungry this year; I don’t know how to describe it. He’s finding all different kinds of ways to score and is doing so at a scary pace. Not to mention, only two of his goals this season have come on the power play, and I’m not sure if any of them are his trademark one-timer from his office.
Oshie would then wrap the puck around the Sens’ net with seven seconds remaining in the second period. It bounced off a D’s skate and slid in the net for his third of the game, and the fifth hat-trick of his regular-season career. McMichael grabbed his second career point with another assist on this Oshie goal. The Capitals took a 6-4 lead heading into the third.
Although the Capitals’ gave up three goals in this period, they did re-take a two-goal lead, which, again, is impressive to show that they aren’t collapsing when things get tough. However, this was still not a great period for them by any stretch of the imagination.
In the third period, the Senators still looked like the better team with long shifts in the Capitals’ zone with possession. After a particularly dominant shift, Drake Batherson scored to make it 6-5, and also to record his first career hat-trick to match Oshie’s.
Again, Ovi was just sick of it and decided to put the game away. Wilson fed Ovi a slick pass right in the slot, which, you don’t need to tell Ovi what to do when he has the puck there. He fires it in for his seventh on the season to make it 7-5 and give Willy his seventh assist on the season.
Samsonov didn’t look great on the first two goals, but after that he really picked up his play. Even though he let in three more goals, the Sens had plenty of opportunities that Sammy made sure didn’t go in. He played a better game than the numbers would show here.
Also, Kuzy took a bit of a night off here which, in all honesty, he deserved.
After a cocaine-fuelled game (even though Kuzy ironically didn’t play a role), the Capitals hung in there and left Ottawa with a victory.
3-2 Loss vs. Detroit Red Wings – October 27th
This game was just tough. No other words, no creative descriptions. This game was just plain tough.
For this battle, Daniel Sprong found himself to be the odd man out as Dowd returned to the lineup and Lapierre stayed in (but was moved to left wing). I will touch on this a bit after I discuss this game.
This was also Mantha’s first game back in Detroit since the trade, which I’m sure was emotional for him. This guy is a hell of a player, and although he didn’t do what Jakub Vrana did at the end of last season and isn’t as explosive, he has a greater overall impact on the game. He enters every battle when he’s on the ice and, more often than not, comes out with the puck. He does a lot of little things right while also being extremely gifted offensively. Yes, it was still an overpayment, but I think Caps fans realize now that we got a hell of a player back.
Vanecek was also given back the starter’s net. I am a big fan of how the goalie situation is working this year, particularly with Vanecek. He looks better than he did last season, so when he plays a few games where he looks great and then finally looks human (like in the Calgary game), Samsonov can step in for a few and get his reps until he doesn’t look great. It is obviously concerning that our future franchise goalie isn’t looking as strong as Vanecek, but if we have two goalies playing really well then, for the time being, I have no complaints.
Would you believe that Alex Ovechkin started off the goal scoring in this one? On the power play, Eller slid a pass across the crease to him which he actually didn’t score on. However, on his knees, the rebound came right back to him and he had enough time to recollect it and put it in the net for his eighth of the season, which leads the entire NHL. You can never marvel at this guy enough, he just keeps scoring. It’s incredible. Remember when I said he’d score 38 goals this season? That was smart.
That was all the scoring done in the first period, and in the second period it was Kuzy who woke up after last game and decided to get back on the scoresheet with a goal four seconds into a power play. The second the draw was done, Kuzy moved in from the right wing and just fired it on an unsuspecting Thomas Greiss and it went five hole to give the Caps a 2-0 lead. We got the bird celly and everything; He is feeling himself this year and on his fifth goal of the season (he had nine all of last year).
After that though, it was pretty much all Red Wings, as they stormed back to tie the game early in the third period before possessing the puck for all of overtime before scoring and winning 3-2.
The real loss in this game was T.J. Oshie, who blocked a slap shot from in-close and is now out week-to-week with a lower-body injury. He was seen in a boot and on crutches at a local rink in the D.C. area, which tells us it’s not too minor of an injury he’s dealing with. He has been playing well and is not an easy player to replace, but I think we can all agree that we’d rather this happen now than later in the season.
In terms of the game, Greiss played a great game because the Capitals actually had more shots overall than the Wings. That’ll happen, but also the Capitals gave up a 2-0 lead, making it three games in a row where a lead of two or more wasn’t safe (Caps came back down 3-0 in Calgary, Sens came back down 4-1 against the Caps), which can’t keep happening.
Although I’m plenty happy that the Capitals haven’t suffered a regular-season loss yet, this was a game they should’ve won and their play in their last three or four games hasn’t been great. They’ve spent a lot of time in their own zone getting outworked by the other team. They just have an exceptional offense that can strike when they get the chance.
Here’s a name you probably haven’t heard in a while: Conor Sheary. He has been extremely quiet so far this season having racked up only three assists and no goals in seven games. This is actually part of a bigger issue so far this season, which is depth scoring. Where is it? Ovi and Kuzy are over-performing and Osh is right there alongside them, but where is the depth scoring? Sprong is getting scratched because he isn’t scoring enough, Sheary hasn’t scored at all and the fourth line, aside from a Nic Dowd goal early on, has been quiet. I know that isn’t the role of the fourth line, but this team needs players other than the top line putting the puck in the net. The Caps need the depth scoring they received last season and have received in so many seasons prior that make them so dominant in regular season.
The Capitals play the Coyotes tonight, and it looks like Ilya Samsonov will be starting. Also, Nic Dowd is questionable and Oshie remains out. That means that Brett Leason may make his NHL debut tonight, so we will have to see how that goes as Dowd is a game-time decision.
Also, this is happening:
That shouldn’t make anybody mad, right?
Anyway, that’s all for this written version of re:CAPS. Sorry it’s so long, but I’m realizing that covering four games is a lot quicker to say on camera than it is to type. I think I’ll go back to that next week. Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far, and if you have, tweet @bdotlittle saying, “How did you have Ovi only scoring 38 goals you idiot?” That will be a fun little friendly way of knowing you read it all. Stay tuned for next week’s video, which won’t be a blog, because it’ll be a video. PEACE ✌️.