After Friday’s Caps’ 3-2 win over the Ducks, Adam Vingan of NHL.com put out this tweet:
On Dec. 4, the Capitals trailed the Islanders and Penguins by 12 points each. Two months later, they trail by one and two, respectively.
— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) February 7, 2015
(If you’re not already following Adam on Twitter, please do so now.)
That’s a pretty impressive run for the Caps. Here’s each Metro team’s record from December 4 to February 6.
A few days removed from Adam’s tweet, the Caps now sit three points behind the Islanders and two behind the Penguins. Let’s take a look, at the team level, at some of the possible underlying factors behind the Caps’ substantial gains in the standings since early December.
When you’re on a four-game losing slump, the very best thing you can do is play one of your biggest rivals on the second day of a back-to-back.
The Pens are pretty banged up, but the Capitals are full-on desperate right now. I’m expecting fireworks. It’s on that NBC Sports’ rivalry night thing at 8 PM.
Crash the net.
|Team||Record||Possession||PDO||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
Another day, another chance at redemption.
First off, nobody’s panicking here. I said NOBODY’S PANICKING HERE but maybe just a teensy and perhaps a little urgency might be good?
Last night, playing against the Blue Jackets and their preposterous annoying cannons (can we dump those in a river pleeeease), we didn’t see as much of the sloppy play visited upon us since mid-January. Still, we did see too many penalties and overall our game still isn’t looking as tight as it had been looking. Time for a little more yelling we think, Coach Trotz.
How was your holiday break? Did you get any good gifts? I got a neat shirt. Please, please, please tell me you washed your RMNB shirt before you put it on. This is serious, man. Promise me.
Tonight the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Capitals at Consol. It’s the first match-up of the season between the two– at 7:30 PM on NBC Sportsnet. It’s gonna be a show.
|Team||Record||Possession||PDO||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
Matt Niskanen, late of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is one of the marquee defensemen expected to go to free agency tomorrow. New Caps beat writer Alex Prewitt covered the buzz around Niskanen in the Post this morning.
A move to Washington would keep Niskanen with his old defensive coach, Todd Reirden, who coached the blueliner in Pittsburgh and can speak knowledgeably about the player to the Caps front office. And at a glance, Niskanen looks like a very strong player.
Let’s check out ExtraSkater.com, which is the best site on the internet next to the Benedict Cumberbatch Name Generator. Last year with Pittsburgh, Niskanen saw 53.4 percent of shot attempts belong to his team during 5v5– a number 7.3 percent better than when he was off the ice. In 2012-13, he had a 51.2 percent shot-attempt percentage, a 3.6 percent improvement compared to when he was on the bench.
That looks fantastic, but hold on a second.
The home team led their lower-seeded opponent three games to one. Then the goalie got hot.
In those final games, the opposing goalie put up a brick wall and his defense kept shots to the outside. Despite a massive advantage in possession, the home team– a favorite to win the Cup– lost game seven.
Despair reigned. The team’s star, an exemplar of offense, failed to score when it counted most. The team’s goalie looked manifestly flawed.
So the team looked inward. Where did we go wrong? Is this the wrong way to play? Who do we blame?
All the eyes turned to the coach.
Since entering the NHL in 2000, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been a laughingstock. Sure, Rick Nash’s goal scoring gave them some respectability, and they had that weird playoff appearance in 2009, but it wasn’t until last week that I finally found respect for the franchise and its fans.
Then something magical happened at the Columbus Zoo, which changed everything.
Photo: Gregory Shamus
It was right around this time last year the Washington Capitals kicked off a hot streak that lofted them to the postseason. Losing twice in as many days to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps don’t look like liable to do that again.
The Penguins aren’t a great team. They’re way top-heavy on offense and somewhat disadvantaged on defense, but they’re still way way better than the Caps– both in composition and execution.
Evgeni Malkin sort of owned an offensive-zone shift against Orlov and the top line, releasing an actual perimeter shot that Jussi Jokinen delected in. That was all the goal-scoring we got until Crosby beat Orlov, Carrick, and Halak to make it 2-0 with five minutes left. The Caps mounted a little comeback attempt, but forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.
Pens beat Caps 2-0.
One legged ant-eater (Photo: Nick Wass)
Caps-Pens! The biggest rivalry in DC sprots! With only 18 standings points between them–
Wait, really? The Pens are that far ahead? Oh golly. Lean times in the District.
Moving on… the Caps need to make up some ground in the eastern conference if they want to make the playoffs, but they’re gonna have to do better than what they did on Monday night. Giving up an early goal and Sidney Shot from the Sidney Spot gave Pittsburgh enough of a boost early on to fend off a Caps surge in the second.
Chris Kunitz scored all of 46 seconds in, taking a pass of Sidney Crosby and beating Mike Green on his way to the not-perimeter. Eric Fehr fought back with a nifty finish set up by Jason Chimera, but the Pens fired back with Crosby’s one timer on the power play.
The Caps tied it up in the second as Nicky Backstrom banked a pass of some poor Penguin in the paint. That was fun, but then Chris Kunitz restored the Penguins lead off a rebound off Halak’s pads a little after the halfway mark.
The Caps could not convert a late-game power play. Cram.
Pens beat Caps 3-2.
Photo: Chris Gordon
Sunday was Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s first full day as an official Washington Capital, and we were all over it. Our intrepid reporters were at Kettler Capitals Iceplex first thing in the morning, taking photos, and covering his first press conference. But we also got a couple minutes with the man himself to chat in his native tongue.
RMNB’s own Igor Kleyner and Kuznetsov chatted about his first few hours in Washington, expectations for the Penguins game, and comparisons to Evgeni Malkin. Igor’s got your translation below.
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