Evgeny Kuznetsov just authored one of the most beautiful assists of the season. As he skated around the Bruins’ net, Kuznetsov threw a no-look pass behind-his-body to Marcus Johansson, crashing the net. Tuukka Rask, who was following Kuznetsov around the net, was caught off guard by the play, and Joe Hanson tapped the puck home for his 20th goal of the season– a career high.
That was a dumb period. (Photo credit: Justin Tang)
On this festive weekend, the Caps looked to clinch a playoff berth with a regulation win over the Senators. Instead, they dug themselves a huge hole early. Somehow, they came back. Then they blew it again. Oh well. Put down your matzo and wine, it’s no time for a yeast-less party.
Marcus Johansson has been one of the Washington Capitals’ most improved players this season. One of the main reasons Johansson has set a career high in goals is that he is shooting the puck more than he ever has in his career. I talked about this back in December. Here’s a quick recap:
In terms of shots per game this season, Johannson is averaging 2.04 shots. If he were to maintain this over an 82 game season, he would have 167 shots on goal, shattering his previous career high of 107 he set last season. If, Johansson were to pump 167 shots on net in a season and shoot at his career average of 12.8 percent, he would score 21 goals, which crushes his career high of 14 set in 2011-12.
However, Johansson’s play hasn’t appeared as strong lately. Including his empty net goal against Columbus, Johansson has just three goals over his previous 21 games. Something is up.
With just a few days left before a trade deadline, managers around the NHL are comparing their teams to the rest of the league and looking for the pieces needed for a playoff run. With the new playoff format, it’s especially important to overmatch the division rivals you are likely to face early in the postseason.
The Caps, despite sitting just fourth in the Metropolitan division, keep up with the teams above them in most statistical categories. But there is one area in which they are struggling: the second line.
In the first period, John Carlson scored on a point shot off a face-off. Or so we thought.
The puck took about a half-second to reach the net, but when the footage is slowed down, you can see two Caps forwards may have got their sticks on it.
As the puck passes Troy Brouwer, it definitely ramps up off his stick.
Photo: Patrick Smith
Previously, I looked at the Caps power-play zone entries.
From a team perspective, the Caps obviously generate more shots on controlled zone entries than uncontrolled entries, as does just about every hockey team on the planet. Some of the Caps power play struggles in December can be attributed to them not attempting to carry the puck in as much.
Individually, that story highlighted Marcus Johansson‘s role on the power play as Plan A for zone entries. Johansson was responsible for the puck on entry 44.6 percent of the time he was on the ice in the 10-game sample, nearly 20 percentage points higher than any other player on the top unit. Johansson was very successful, entering with control 89.3 percent of the time he was responsible for the puck.
Photo: Patrick McDermott
There’s been a lot written about the Caps’ play with a lead lately both here and elsewhere. And then there were Barry Trotz’s postgame comments following the loss to the Oilers last week that left some people scratching their heads. It’s a popular topic for good reason. The Caps are fourth in the league in possession when trailing and ninth when tied, but they fall to 17th when they have a lead.
Trotz recently expanded on his thoughts on the team’s play with a lead to Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post.
“A good example of that was end of the second period. There’s 20 seconds left, just make a good play or get it out and don’t try to be too fine. That’s to me managing the game and managing the situation.”
Psssssst. Hey, Marcus Johansson. Your head coach is talking about you.
Just put some toilet paper on it like you cut yourself shaving.
Hockey injuries are common. Cuts, scratches, lost teeth, and even arterial sprays are rather commonplace for pro players. Less so for coaches, but poor Barry Trotz bled for his team on Thursday.
Marcus Johansson bopped Trotz in the noggin following a hit with Luke Schenn in front of the Caps bench.
The first half of the season was a struggle for Evgeny Kuznetsov. Lately though, we’ve been seeing some more confidence from Kuzy during even strength. Playing Toronto on Wednesday night, Kuznetsov skated nearly the length of the ice on a 2-on-4 attack before dishing to Marcus Johansson for a beautiful, one-timer goal.
It was a delicious apple– of the Russian variety!
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