The Washington Capitals are sitting in an unfamiliar position, fourth in the suddenly unstoppable Metropolitan division, currently holding a wild card spot. While their underlying possession numbers continue to be solid (second at score adjusted five-on-five play), their overall performance to date could be described as unconvincing.
Preventing goals-against is not their issue. On defense, the Caps are allowing the third fewest five-on-five shot attempts in the league. Thanks to those low shots against and a .940 team save percentage, they are also allowing goals against at the third-lowest rate.
The situation could be worse on offense. The Caps are producing shots at the ninth highest rate, and goals are coming at the 11th highest rate. By most metrics, they are still a good team. But, as we’ll see, they are being kept afloat at even-strength mostly by some familiar faces. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Caps could really benefit from some added production by depth forwards and the defense.
On a night where a franchise record 20,662 stuffed animals were donated to charity, the Hershey Bears organization also saw a milestone achieved by one of its newest players.
22-year-old rookie Zach Sanford scored his first professional goal during Hershey’s 4-2 victory over Syracuse, Sunday night. After Nathan Walker forced a turnover, the Australian hit Sanford with a pass in front of the crease. Sanford then beat Crunch goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis with a pinpoint perfect shot over the blocker 23 seconds into the third period. The goal made it 2-0 Hershey.
Garrett Mitchell’s first period goal on Sunday gave the Bears a 1-0 lead. But more importantly, it unleashed a hailstorm of plush toys from the GIANT Center’s stands.
During the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss, Hershey Bears fans set a new franchise record when they threw 20,662 stuffed animals to the ice. The result was pure chaos.
While the Washington Capitals lost their third straight game Saturday night, there were positives to take out of their matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, as they peppered 35 shots on net, scored their first goal in over 109 minutes of play, and managed to pick up a point.
And then there was Evgeny Kuznetsov’s shootout goal.
The Caps are 24 games into the season and are barely hanging onto a playoff spot. Guys like Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, and Justin Williams haven’t been producing as expected. There’s been a lack of offense from the blue line, as the offensively talented trio of John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, and Dmitry Orlov have combined for one goal. The special teams, generally a strong suit among recent Caps teams, rank in the middle of the pack.
Meanwhile, Barry Trotz has stayed cool, calm, and collected through it all. He’s been given plenty of reasons to take away ice time from guys like Kuznetsov or Burakovsky, or scratch Orlov after his mistakes in the third period against the Islanders. But, instead of running out of patience with certain players, Trotz has gone to bat for his guys. He kept a level-headed approach in reacting to Orlov’s miscues against the Isles and expressed confidence that Williams will soon break out of his slump.
In other words, much like Buck Showalter, Trotz likes his guys. And, while some may mistaken his calm for complacency, I think Trotz deserves credit for the approach he’s taken through the bumps of the first 24 games.
There are reasons to be concerned about this Caps team. But there’s also reason to think things will get better. While the former approach may be easier right now, that’s not where the snapshot is headed today. Let’s take a look at the numbers, with an attempt to focus more on what’s gone right and why things might get better.
The Hershey Bears were unable to push their win streak past four games Saturday night against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, losing in overtime 3-2.
With five minutes left in the game, Travis Boyd scored on a pinpoint wrister to force an extra frame. The game would mark the third straight game that Boyd has scored a goal and the sixth straight in which he has recorded at least one point. He has recorded at least one point in two thirds of games this year for the Bears (14 of 21)
Chris Bourque scored the only other goal for the Bears in the game. Vitek Vanecek stopped 25 shots in the overtime loss.
Sunday’s game against Syracuse will be Teddy Bear Toss Night.
The Washington Capitals nearly forgot how to score there. They had the puck in Tampa on Saturday night, but they just couldn’t muster much danger for Ben Bishop. For a while, it seemed as if Nikita Kucherov‘s goal would be enough to drop the Caps, but Nick Backstrom injected life with a power play marker in the third.
Overtime gave us nothing, and the Bolts won it in the shootout.
It had been almost 110 minutes since Washington’s last goal. Things looked dire, but Nick Backstrom has finally reminded the Caps how to score.
Two very sad teams are facing off this evening. In their last two games, the Caps lost bad to both the Islanders and the Maple Leafs. Now, they will be in Tampa Bay to play the Lightning, who are coming off a three-game road trip with zero wins. Both will be looking to break this depressing streak, especially Washington during their power play. Yikes.
Currently, Tampa Bay is sitting fourth in the Atlantic division which is exactly where the Caps are in theirs. While Washington might be currently sitting in the same spot, that doesn’t mean they’re equal especially considering Tampa Bay has played three more games. The Lightning are also at a slight disadvantage with their empty captain spot. Steven Stamkos is hurt and not expected to play for about the next four months.
We begin at 7:00 PM on CSN.
|Team||Record||Possession||PDO||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||13-11-1||49.45%||101.0||23.9%||81.3%|
Friday night, the Hershey Bears held on for a 4-3 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on the backs of Christian Thomas and Travis Boyd.
After two second-period tallies, Thomas took sole position of the team lead in goals (11) over newly-graduated Jakub Vrana. On a first period assist and the game-winning goal in the third, Boyd moved into first on the team in points with 19.
Top prospect defenseman Madison Bowey also scored in his first game back following a four-game absence with a lower-body injury. Joe Cannata stopped 23 shots in the Bears’ fourth straight win.
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