Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports
Recently, NoVa Caps previewed the recent five-game road trip in “The Feisty Five: How The Next Five Games Will Test the Capitals, which took a look at how the Capitals would fare in he next five games, against the Rangers, in Boston as well as against their Western Conference foes in California in the likes of Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose. We take a look back at what we’ve learned.
Right before the Capitals headed out, the team wrapped up its season series with a home game against their dreaded divisional rival, the New York Rangers. The Capitals found themselves in an early 1-0 hole in the first period, courtesy of a Jesper Fast tally. A little over 10 minutes later, that deficit was 2, as Keith Yandle scored on the power play. The Capitals then rallied back with 2 goals in the second period with a scrappy goal from Jay Beagle, and pulled even with a slick power play goal from T.J. Oshie late in the period.
Alas, the rally was short-lived, as the Rangers scored a mere 17 seconds into the third period, and the Rangers held on to the 3-2 over the Capitals.
The Capitals then embarked on a 4 game road trip, which saw the team play these games in a 7-day span. The Capitals posted a 2-2-1 record, and while each game had some good points, there were some areas of the Capitals game that are cause for concern.
In each game the Capitals continued with the trend of giving up the first goal in the first period. While the Capitals were able to bounce back and beat both Boston and Anaheim, this proved to be the Achilles’ Heel for the Capitals with their games against the Kings and the Sharks, losing both games in overtime and regulation, respectively.
With that said, what are some of the good things the Capitals can take away from this trip? What are some of the aspects of the Capitals game the could be improved upon? Should Capitals fans be concerned about the level of play the team displayed?
As stated before, the Capitals showed great ability to come back from a deficit in their games, and were able to match the tight checking skills of the Boston Bruins and were able to keep up with the speed of the Anaheim Ducks, before eventually pulling out the wins in extra time.
The same could be said about the Capitals efforts against the Los Angeles Kings as well. While the team fell behind 3-0 after the first, the team was able to battle back and salvage one point, only to lose in overtime.
Again the Capitals fell behind the Sharks in their contest, and were able to come back and tie, before the Sharks forged ahead and took the contest in regulation.
Another thing that was concerning during this road trip was the fact the Capitals were again struggling on special teams. The Capitals went only 2 for 11 with the extra man, and giving up a shorthanded goal against the Sharks in their last game raises a red flag regarding the team’s ability to handle special teams situations. One could argue that the team has been without John Carlson, which has caused the Capitals to be not as sharp in these situations.
The Capitals would be best served by creating chances down low in front of the net, instead of passing several times, not taking shots as they should. If the Capitals can use someone in front of the net to be a screen, and help create deflections, the Capitals could parlay this into better success on the power play.
Staying with special teams, one other item of note: it would seem that the Capitals are taking silly penalties, which lead to these teams getting an early jump on the Capitals. A couple of examples of this were the games against Boston, where the Capitals took an early penalty, which lead to the Kings scoring on the power play, and in the Anaheim game T.J. Oshie negated the power play in overtime when he closed his hand over the puck.
The fact that the Capitals continued to give up the first goal in all of these games, and struggled on special teams lead to the Capitals not doing as well as fans would have hoped. Couple that with playing 5 games in 7 days spelled trouble for the Capitals.
Many are saying that this trip was a good test for the Capitals to see where they stand amongst the league’s better teams out west. While the Capitals were able to pull off a win against the Ducks, the slow starts against both the Kings and the Sharks came back to haunt them. Not only the slow starts worked against the Capitals, but their special teams play was also a note of concern, as they were not able to convert on the chances given to them. Also regarding the special teams, the penalty kill was not as sharp as it should have been, as the Kings were able to convert one of their power play chances, and the Capitals gave up a short-handed goal and a power play goal against the Sharks.
This Capitals team is one of the best in recent history, but one has to wonder if the large points lead in the division as well as the league has the Capitals feeling bored, almost complacent. The Capitals will need to regroup and refocus over these next 4 weeks in order to make sure they remain competitive.
By Andi Sobolik