“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” is a great way to describe the second of three matchups between the Washington Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres on December 30th.
With the Capitals win of 5-2 over the Sabres, the best of times comes not only in the form of the actual goals scored but also in their significant achievements. First, there’s the team’s 9-game win streak catapulting the Capitals to the top of the NHL over the Dallas Stars. In addition, the win gives Braden Holtby a 16-0-1 record over his last 18 games with two shutouts – reaffirming his position as one of the league’s top goalies. Alex Ovechkin scored twice tonight marking his second multi-goal game of the season. And, once again, Evgeny Kuznetsov demonstrated his masterful stick handling skills with two assists, one to Ovechkin who when asked how he knew Ovi was in front of the goal Kuznetsov playfully responded, “I smelled him.” Finally, Andre Burakovsky who seems to be struggling this year on fourth line found the net late in the third period for his first goal in 31 games.
These achievements and many, many others show the depth and nature of this team. Coach Barry Trotz said, “I thought Ovi and the big line really stepped up. I thought our defense core as a whole really got resilient.”
But in this game, with the good, also came the ugly and tonight, the ugly came in the form of injuries to front line center Nicklas Backstrom and third line Jay Beagle both in the second period. While Trotz expects Backstrom to play in tonight’s game against the Hurricanes he said that, Beagle’s injury will require upper body surgery and he will be out for an extended period. See the game recap posted earlier today NoVa Caps Game Recap 12-30 for a video of Beagle’s injury.
Despite these injuries, the Capitals were able to dominate this game. Despite injuries to key players like John Carlson, Brooks Orpik who has missed 22 games, Michael Latta, and now Beagle and Backstrom the Capitals draw upon their other strengths to find the wins. “I’ve felt good about our resiliency for a while,” said Trotz. “Tonight we just saw some backbone when it was needed, let’s just find a way to win. They’ve proven time and time again to be very resilient. They just kinda blow things off and say hey, next man up.” With the Capitals, and the depths of talent that they possess on all lines, the next man up is also getting the job done.
By Stephanie Judge