It has been an average week for Washington hockey. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, soundly defeating three playoff contenders in a row has become “average” for this year’s Capitals team. Coming out of a frustrating 3-2 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday, the Caps went on to beat the Bruins 5-3 at home Wednesday, travel to Montreal for a 3-2 Saturday matinee victory over the Canadiens and return home for a 5-0 shutout of L.A. on Super Bowl Sunday.
The Bruins swaggered into the Verizon Center riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak, hoping to play the fatigued Caps they watched lose to one of the weakest teams in the Metropolitan division just a day before. Instead, the Bruins found the Caps doing what they do so well recently: scoring goals.
A nifty breakaway goal by T.J. Oshie, a wicked wrist shot from Alex Ovechkin and a game-winner by Brett Connolly all contributed to a decisive win for the Caps against an increasingly desperate Boston team. Wednesday’s win was satisfying, and yet supremely unsurprising, especially on home ice. The Caps have now won nine straight at the Verizon Center, outscoring their opponents 45-12 in that stretch. An exciting win on NBC Wednesday Night Rivalry over a playoff-contender still fighting for their spot was just a regular day for the Caps.
Saturday’s win was a bit less run-of-the-mill. Facing up against the leader of the Atlantic Division on the road appeared to be quite the challenge, but the Caps eventually pulled out a victory the way they have been winning every other game: depth scoring and reliable goaltending.
Goals from fourth-liner Jay Beagle and third-liner Andre Burakovsky, backed up by a solid night from goaltender Braden Holtby, secured the win for Washington. Head Coach Barry Trotz noted the importance of secondary scoring in the Capitals’ dominant play.
“When teams are shutting down our some of our other lines, the Lars Eller line or the Beagle line steps up. That’s been the secret for us, the depth of our team. Those guys are stepping up when other guys are getting shut down,” Trotz said. Speaking of depth, Connolly tallied an assist on Burakovsky’s goal, extending his point streak to two games.
The Caps then decided the party should not stop there. It is understandable that in back-to-back games against two of the league’s top teams, a team may slow down a bit. It is even more understandable if the back half is against a team coming in with a five-game winning streak, three of which have been shutout victories.
Someone forgot to relay these excuses onto the Caps, however, who handled the Kings in a 5-0 victory. Goals from bottom six liners like Lars Eller and — you guessed it — Brett Connolly, in addition to Oshie, Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson made the victory a decisive one. A 38-save performance by Philipp Grubauer sealed it, as he earned his third shutout of the season. At 16-2-1 in their last 19 games, it is becoming clear that this is not just a good team hitting their stride — this is a team with a purpose. With key players like Oshie, Karl Alzner and Williams becoming unrestricted free agents this summer, it is plain to see that this team feels a sense of immediacy to finally win a Cup this season.
“I’ve played on other teams where you could win three, four in a row, then you could get maybe a little satisfied and feel too good about yourself,” Eller, a newcomer to the Caps this season, noted. “It doesn’t seem like this team is sitting back and feeling too good about themselves.”
And from where I am sitting, it does not look like it either. I am just happy to be along for the ride.
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