Game 5 Preview: Through the Fire and Flames (WSH/CGY)

Over the weekend, the Washington Capitals closed out their four game homestand against the Carolina Hurricanes with a 4-1 victory. The Capitals went 3-1 in their opening homestand, but now must head out on the road for a west coast swing.

If you are a Capitals fan that lives East, you will need to stay up later for games this week as the Capitals take their three-game Western Canada road trip. The Capitals open their trip tonight against Calgary, then they will travel to Vancouver on Thursday night, and then they will swing back to Edmonton on Friday night. Calgary and Vancouver were both Western Conference playoff teams last season, so these games will be a good challenge for the Capitals.

The Capitals and Flames met twice in 2014-15 and both clubs each took one of the meetings. The Capitals defeated the Flames last season in Calgary 3-1, but the Flames returned the favor in DC days later and defeated the Capitals 4-3 in overtime.  Brooks Orpik did a good job making his presence known in Calgary last year:

This is the first of two meetings between the Capitals and Flames in 2015-16. The Flames will visit Verizon Center on November 13.

The Calgary Flames are young and fun to watch. They were magical to watch in 2014-15 as they were one of the best “3rd period comeback” teams in the NHL.

The Flames have a special young nucleus of players that includes Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, and Dougie Hamilton. All of these players mentioned are 22 years of age or younger and they have only scratched the surface of their full potentials.

In addition to the young nucleus of players, the Flames have built up a very deep blueline. Flames Captain Mark Giordano is one of the most underrated defenseman in the business. Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie, and Dennis Wideman round out their stellar top four defensive group.

Leading the Flames behind the bench is Bob Hartley, who is last season’s Jack Adams Award winner as the NHL’s Coach of the Year. Hartley has a wealth of NHL Head Coaching experience as he has been the coach of the Colorado Avalanche, Atlanta Thrashers, and Calgary Flames. Hartley won the Stanley Cup back with Colorado in 2001.


The biggest story out of DC right now is the return of Nicklas Backstrom last Saturday night. He finished with 1 goal and 3 points in his season debut and played just over 15 minutes against Carolina.

Backstrom’s return certainly provided an additional jolt to the Capitals potent attack. The Capitals scored were 2/2 on the powerplay against Carolina and Backstrom notched the primary assists on each of the powerplay tallies. Right now, the Capitals powerplay is humming along at 38.5% effective, which is 2nd best in the NHL right now behind Boston (38.9%).

With Backstrom’s return to the lineup, the Capitals have more flexibility for their top lines. With Evgeny Kuznetsov playing so well right now on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and TJ Oshie, why should the coaches break up that chemistry? Backstrom does not have to rush back in to his normal top line spot just yet. He can anchor the Capitals second line, which will hopefully give the Capitals an even better offensive attack.

The Capitals need to take at least 3 points on their Western Canada road trip in order for it to be a success. The most important thing they need to do against Calgary is they need to match the Flames work ethic. The Flames have been a little slow out of the gate so far, so they should be playing with some desperation. If the Capitals can match the Flames work ethic and give a full 60 minute effort, there is no reason why they should not walk away with some points.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 – CSN-DC; SN360; 9 PM ET

Washington Capitals: 4 GP: 3-1; 6 pts; Third in Metropolitan Division
Calgary Flames: 5 GP: 1-4; 2 pts; Seventh in Pacific Division


Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Justin Williams
Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich – Michael Latta – Andre Burakovsky

Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Dmitry Orlov – Nate Schmidt

Braden Holtby
Philipp Grubauer

Calgary Flames
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Michael Frolik
Sam Bennett – Mikael Backlund – Jiri Hudler
Brandon Bollig – Matt Stajan – David Jones
Joe Colborne – Markus Granlund – Josh Jooris

Mark Giordano – Dougie Hamilton
Kris Russell – Dennis Wideman
Brett Kulak – Deryk Engelland

Karri Ramo
Jonas Hiller

Capitals – TJ Oshie: Oshie is getting very comfortable on the Capitals top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Oshie has 4 points in the last 2 games. The 28-year old Everett, WA native has already displayed a ton of skill for the Capitals. He has already become an important part of the Capitals highly ranked powerplay. Oshie is very good at finding the soft areas in his middle position in between the circles, and he is not afraid to hover around the net. He registered 6 shots on goal in just under 20 minutes of icetime against Carolina.

Flames – Mark Giordano: The 32-year old defenseman and Flames Captain logs a ton of minutes for the Flames. He plays in all situations, and plays against the opposing team’s best players. Alex Ovechkin will probably see a lot of Giordano when he is on the ice. Giordano has been my pick for the Norris Trophy the past couple of seasons, but unfortunately, his seasons were cut a little short due to injuries.

By George Fousssekis

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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