Week 4 Recap: Pointless

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Posted February 8, 2021

Ovechkin had a good week, but the Caps didn’t. (Caps Outsider)

The Capitals’ sizzling hot start simmered down this past week. In fact, it was literally pointless. After failing to lose in regulation through their first ten games, Washington got a wake-up call and it found out the East Division is probably the deepest and toughest in the entire NHL.

So why did the Caps post an 0-3 record this past week? Is it that Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ilya Samsonov, and Jakub Vrana all missed at least a game this past week while on Covid protocol? Or is that Vitek Vanecek just isn’t ready to carry the load yet as he was pulled in the most recent defeat on Sunday? Or maybe it’s that the oldest team in the NHL may be starting to struggle in a tight, adapted schedule. Despite that, let’s look at a recap of the previous week’s performances.

The first of three losses for the Caps came in the most devastating fashion against the now division-leading Boston Bruins. After taking a commanding 3-0 early in the second after a John Carlson power play blast, the Capitals surrendered a goal from superstar David Pastrnak. Pastrnak scored again before the halfway mark of the third and Craig Smith tied the game minutes later. With the game tied 3-3 and under three minutes left, Boston’s Brandon Carlo scored the eventual game-winner. Brad Marchand slid the puck in the empty net a minute later to solidify the comeback with five unanswered goals.

After a heartbreaking loss on Monday, Washington faced the New York Rangers.

Unfortunately for Washington, Ryan Strome deflected a puck in early on and the Caps were never really able to get a consistent four-line game going against a sharp-as-can-be a goaltender in Igor Shesterkin.

Then Anthony Bitetto, who hadn’t scored an NHL goal in three years, made the Washington defense look silly and doubled New York’s lead midway through the second.

The Capitals did gain some momentum at the end of the middle period as former Ranger Carl Hagelin scored off a fortuitous bounce of Shesterkin’s glove and into the back of the net.

In the third, Washington coach had one strategy in mind and that was to play Alex Ovechkin as much as he could–and that he did. Even with the top guys getting seemingly all the ice time for the Caps, Ryan Strome’s second of the fay after a gorgeous play by Artemi Panarin put the game out of hand.

Despite a wicked wrister from Ovechkin to bring the score back within one with nine minutes remaining, the Caps could never breakthrough and an empty-net goal by Pavel Buchnveich certified the 4-2 result.

Before Sunday’s bout with the Flyers, it was announced that both Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie would not be available for the contest. With Laviolette forced to rely on Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin to do almost all the heavy lifting, it was ironic that the Flyers’ depth scoring is what gave them a dramatic 7-4 victory.

Despite Ovechkin being the most dominant man on the ice with four points and highlight-reel plays, it was the Flyers who battled more and drew out the game to their advantage.

After giving up four goals on 13 shots, including two to Scott Laughton, Vanecek was pulled in favor of Craig Anderson to start the final frame.

With the game tied 4-4 going into the third period, Sean Couturier introduced Anderson to the party and gave the Flyers a 5-4 lead just 31 seconds into the period. The goal allowed Philadelphia to play a very conservative style of play. Washington found themselves suffocated in the neutral zone often throughout the period and Laughton’s hat trick goal put the game out of reach.

After going 0-3 this week after failing to fall in regulation prior, there is cause for concern but with Kuznetsov, Samsonov, and Oshie likely to return to the lineup this upcoming week, the concern needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

The Caps are still comfortably five points clear of a playoff spot and have one of the most skilled, complete rosters in the league.

Washington will face off against the Flyers again on Tuesday before heading to Buffalo to face the Sabres twice. The Capitals will conclude the week of games on Sunday in Pittsburgh.