On Thursday night at Verizon Center, the Washington Capitals took the ice and squared off against the Vancouver Canucks. The Capitals defeated the Canucks 4-1 in a game that did not really seem competitive.
The Capitals made the Canucks pay for their defensive breakdowns in the game. Even when the Canucks had a lengthy 5 on 3 powerplay in the third period, the Capitals never really lost control of their game after the Canucks converted once on it. The Capitals outshot the Canucks 40-30 in the game, and only 4 of the Capitals 18 skaters did not register any shots on goal.
The Capitals young players, mainly Tom Wilson and Evgeny Kuznetsov, had strong games and led the Capitals with 6 shots on goal a piece. Caps fans may have noticed some line juggling as Barry Trotz had a line of Andre Burakovsky-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson at various points in the game. There is a lot of faith shown from Barry Trotz sticking his young players all on the same line together.
With a 33-7-3 record, the Capitals are showing why they have such a massive attack. They have 4 lines who can all generate and produce shots on goal. Every Capitals line can produce something during any game. The skaters play as a 5-man unit on the ice.
Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner has never been known for his offensive scoring ability. He has always been a trusty stay-at-home defenseman. Alzner tallied a goal and registered 3 shots on net against Vancouver. He was involved in the play and looked very confident throwing pucks toward the net. Alzner’s willingness to shoot pucks and to be active in the offensive plays is a visible sign that the Capitals 5-man attack has drastically improved.
The Capitals 5-man attack is also helped by the team’s physical play. The Capitals outhit the Canucks 20-8 in the game. The physicality from the Capitals gave the Canucks defensive core fits in the game in the form of turnovers. Surprisingly, the Capitals only rank 17th in the NHL hits department. Their hit totals should steadily rise once Brooks Orpik gets back into the fold.
When one watches this Capitals team, they will see that they “attack in waves.” The Capitals have 4 forward lines and 3 defensive pairings that always seem to be involved in unison in their attack. The Capitals are a pretty big team, and they play like a big team. The Capitals play a heavy game, which is something they did not really do in the Boudreau or Oates era. They use their size and their speed to their advantage, especially against a smaller and older team like Vancouver.
The Capitals are a force to be reckoned with around the NHL. There are not many other teams around the NHL who can get the production the Capitals get from their forward lines and defensive pairings. The Capitals have a lot of players who bring multiple things to the ice for every game. A complete 5-man attack will pay dividends for a long playoff run in the spring.
By George Foussekis