Week Two Recap: Caps Stay Atop East

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Posted January 25, 2021

John Carlson shows off his new jersey (via the Caps)

Despite being in the midst of the NHL’s second major covid controversy, the Washington Capitals managed to collect 5 points in 3 games and stay just above the rival Penguins in the division standings.

Many will argue that Washington should have taken both games this week but multiple special team faults in Tuesday’s game against Pittsburgh prevented a clean week from happening.

Despite notching four goals in the contest, the Capitals managed to blow a 4-2 lead and inexplicably allowed a 3-on-5 shorthanded goal. Pens goalie Casey DeSmith does deserve credit for an outstanding pass to send forward Teddy Blueger in all alone but the lack of awareness by the Caps power play crew was disappointing.

Adding on to their special team’s woes, the Capitals were unsuccessful on the penalty kill. Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel managed to break through for Pittsburgh on two of their three power plays.

Even with the lack of success with man advantages, the Caps found themselves at a deadlock after three periods and had a chance to grab two points. But 3-on-3 overtime has Sidney Crosby’s name all over it and he was able to pounce on a rebound off a Kris Letang point shot and slid the puck home past Vitek Vanecek.

Just a day before their scheduled matchup in Buffalo, the Capitals were informed that four of their most integral pieces on the roster would be sidelined for at least four games in addition to a $100k fine on the organization due to a breach of covid protocol. It is reported that Ilya Samsonov, who was found to be covid positive, gathered with teammates in a hotel room which is strictly against the NHL’s coronavirus protocol.

Not having captain Alexander Ovechkin, top-four defensemen Dmitry Orlov, number one center Evgeny Kuznetsov, and starting goalie Ilya Samsonov is a tough hill to climb, but through two games, Peter Laviolette’s crew still found success as they gained 3 points in 2 games. It is expected that the four Russians will miss at least the next two games.

Even though they were missing four key players, the Capitals did what they have been doing every game so far this season–grab at least a point.

On Friday, in what ended up being a back and forth high paced game, the Capitals were able to squeak out a shootout win behind Jakub Vrana’s goal and assist and Zdeno Chara’s first point as a Washington Capital.

On the Sabres side, fans saw a glimpse of the future with a beautiful goal by 2019 7th overall pick Dylan Cozens. Veteran Eribc Staal also notched his first tuck as a Saber but John Carlson’s shootout winner extinguished all celebration for the new Buffalo players.

Buffalo, though, would return the favor during a Sunday afternoon contest and collect a shootout victory of their own. Justin Schultz scored his first with Washington and Nik Backstrom recorded two power play points.
Vitek Vanecek would have his best game as a professional and stop 45 pucks.

Similar to the week’s first game against Pittsburgh, the penalty kill was an issue as all three of Buffalo’s goals came with a man-up. Collin Miller, Victor Olofsson, and Eric Staal lit the lamp for the Sabres.

In the sudden death shootout, it was superstar Jack Eichel who scored the game-winning goal and gave his team the extra point.

While the Capitals are steadily gaining points, overtime/shootout losses will not be enough to keep them in the playoffs in such a competitive division.

With three matchups between the Islanders and Bruins next week, it will be no easy task to collect at least two out of three wins. Especially with Ovechkin, Orlov, Kuznetsov, and Samsonov still absent from the lineup. There is a chance that they will be able to return to face Boston on Saturday evening.

Will we continue to see these close, nerve-wracking games, or will Peter Laviolette’s Capitals begin to end games in regulation?