After two terrible road games where the Caps looked like they had no interest in playing hockey, the Washington Capitals showed up for real on Saturday night.
Much like last Friday’s win over Pittsburgh, every Caps player brought something to the table against the Minnesota Wild and the result was a 3-1 victory at Capital One Arena.
T.J Oshie, Dmitry Orlov, and Evgeny Kuznetsov tallied for Washington while Braden Holtby made 30 saves for his 11th win. The Caps are now 11-9-1 (23 points).
Below are nine thoughts and analysis on an impressive win.
Oshie was one of the few players who showed up in Nashville and Colorado and he was the best Cap again on Saturday night. The Osh Babe had a goal and an assist in 19:09 of ice time. His board battle win helped set up Orlov’s GWG. Simply put, the Caps are nowhere without #77.
Oshie’s line was dominant all game. Nicklas Backstrom was superb at both ends of the rink and had four shots on goal. A few of those were quality chances. Chandler Stephenson continues to make the most out of his opportunity and he’s solidified himself on that line. His screen on Alex Stalock on Orlov’s GWG turned a routine save into two points. #18 didn’t get a point on that tally, but he’s a huge reason why the puck went in. Good things happen when you go to the net. Stephenson also earned a late penalty shot due to his speed, but he was stopped trying to go five hole.
Kuznetsov, who was nonexistent on the road trip, played excellent against Minnesota. He had a nice power play goal in front on a great feed from Alex Ovechkin and he assisted on Oshie’s 10th of the season. #92 had seven shots on net and he didn’t overpass. That will pay dividends downstream if he keeps shooting the puck.
The Gr8 missed the last 11 minutes of the 2nd period when a puck ramped up off his stick while forechecking and took out his upper lip. The Russian Machine Never Breaks though, and his great feed to Kuzy after Lars Eller drew a double minor for high sticking on Ryan Suter sealed this game. Ovi was good in this one with five shot attempts in 16:46. He continues to skate well and is much faster than he was the last few years. He’s able to use his speed again to create chances.
The Caps had 43 shots on goal, including 22 in the 3rd period when they were protecting a one goal lead. They played smart and simple hockey when ahead and if not for Stalock, would’ve have won in more lopsided fashion. The 43 SOG is a season high for the Capitals.
Getting the first goal is so important for this team, especially at home. Washington is now 6-0-1 overall when notching the first tally. Grabbing a lead at Capital One Arena also allows Caps Coach Barry Trotz to dictate the matchups he desires.
Special teams played a big role in this one. Washington went two for five on the power play while killing off four of five Wild man advantage situations. On one of them Minnesota didn’t even get a shot off.
The Holtbeast was excellent again, including a great glove save in period two while being interfered with. Holtby is so solid in net and makes hard stops look routine. He’s the team MVP at the quarter pole.
Overall this win was all about effort and playing smart. There was nothing fancy about the Caps style and strategy and the results show that. This team has lots of talent, they just need to put out the effort and play smart hockey on a more consistent basis.
Notes: the face-off battle was a draw, 30-30. Backstrom went 10-6…Jakub Vrana, who was scratched in the loss to the Avs, returned to the lineup and was much stronger on the puck…the Caps face the Calgary Flames at home on Monday night at 7 pm.