Week 13 Recap: Caps Salvage Week And Stay Atop East

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Posted April 11, 2021

T.J. Oshie got his 600th career point on Sunday. (Caps Outsider)

After two losses to start the week, the Caps finished with two straight wins to maintain the top spot in a tightly-contested East Division. 

The Caps opened up their week of play on Tuesday against the New York Islanders, the team they’re closest with in the standings. While the defense looked strong and made the game tight, the Isles picked up the 1-0 win and handed Washington its first shutout loss of the season. Despite the loss, Vitek Vanecek had an efficient outing for the Caps, saving 38 of 39 shots. Coach Peter Laviolette has continued to start and test both goaltenders, a sign that the Caps are still not sure who the future starter will be.

As for the Islanders, they have been in top form lately, pushing the Caps in the race for the top spot in the East Division. The Isles will be a tough opponent moving forward, especially come playoff time. New York also got stronger in the last week with key additions such as acquisitions Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils, which they received in exchange for a first round pick in the 2021 draft and a conditional fourth round pick in the 2022 draft. 

The Caps have also been making moves as Richard Panik was put on waivers earlier in the week, allowing Daniel Carr to be called up in place of Daniel Sprong. Panik cleared waivers later in the week and has been used by Laviolette as a healthy scratch in the past. Sprong also circled back into the lineup later in the week. 

Washington resumed play on Thursday against the Boston Bruins, looking to bounce back from Tuesday’s tough loss. Coach Laviolette used the game against Boston to play around with some defensive pairings as the Caps have continued to look for a solution to issues defending the net.  Unfortunately, more trouble ensued as the Bruins came out hot, gaining a 3-0 lead early in the second period. The Caps made a comeback attempt, using a 5-on-3 advantage to get goals from Alex Ovechkin and T.J. OshieOshie’s goal was his 12th of the season while Ovechkin netted his 20th goal of the season, number 726 of his career. However, Boston scored a late power play goal to take the 4-2 win, handing the Caps their fourth loss in the previous six games. 

After two straight losses, the Caps fell to second place in the East Division for a brief moment, but rebounded on Friday night with another win against the last-place Buffalo Sabres. An early goal from Brenden Dillon (his second of the season) set the pace early for the Caps. Ovechkin followed suit, scoring in back-to-back nights and netting his twenty-first goal of the season, number 727 of his career. The goal on Friday brings Ovechkin within four goals of Marcel Dionne (731) for fifth on the all time career goals list. The Sabres made the game interesting and even hung with the Caps, coming within one goal; but Washington hung on for the 4-3 win in the end, after a washed-out goal. 

Washington made another move Sunday by trading Jonas Siegenthaler to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Arizona’s third round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. The trade not only gives the Caps a pick but some salary cap space, granted not very much. 

The Caps finished their week on Sunday with another matchup against the Boston Bruins. This time around was different as the Caps were red hot to start the game, and didn’t let up. Unlike on Thursday, the Caps were the ones putting up three goals first with Oshie, Lars Eller and Conor Sheary all getting on the scoresheet in the first period.  The momentum and aggressive play of the Caps carried into the next period as Washington put up another three goals. Sheary’s second goal of the night extended Washington’s lead to four and another two goals, one from Nic Dowd and one from Tom Wilson respectively, extended the Caps lead to six. The Caps were 3-for-4 on the power play, an impressive stat that has not always been a prevalent factor in Washington’s success. A late goal from the Bruins proved meaningless as goals from Oshie and Eller brought the tally to eight goals on the night, aiding them in a 8-1 victory, the Caps’ largest margin of victory this season and first eight goal game since January 9, 2010 in which they were victorious 8-1 over the then Atlanta Thrashers.  

With the win, Vanecek improved to 17-7-3 on the season, which brings him ten wins from matching the most wins by a Caps goaltender in his rookie season.

Picking up points and wins will be crucial for the Caps moving forward. With a tight race in the East Division, Washington will need to stay vigilant, fix key issues and find their offensive rhythm. When the Caps top scorers are clicking, the team is a real threat and can be a true contender. The Caps power play unit is dangerous, yet sometimes has trouble finding the net. Just this past week Washington was 2-for-10 on the power play before Sunday (with each of their goals against Boston on a two-man advantage). If the Caps can find their rhythm on the power play, it will spell danger for opposing teams, especially in the playoffs.

The Caps have also been one of the best teams in the league on the penalty kill. If Washington can stay consistent on the penalty kill, it will help aid their defense and help the Caps avoid falling into big deficits (the Caps have had trouble with deficits as well as blowing leads).

Next week the Caps are back in action on Tuesday as they play host to the Philadelphia Flyers followed by another game on home ice against the Sabres on Thursday. 

The Caps will play the Flyers once again on Saturday before finishing the week in Boston to play the Bruins on Sunday.