AP Photo/Nick Wass
The Washington Capitals have turned on the heat over the last couple of weeks. Winners of seven straight games, the Capitals road ahead does not get any easier, as they are set to embark on a four-game Eastern Conference road swing.
On this current road trip, the Capitals will visit Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and New Jersey. Two out of these four clubs are currently holding a playoff position, but Philadelphia is still within striking distance.
The Capitals are beginning to warm up at the right time with the regular season winding down. They currently hold a two-point lead in the Metropolitan Division over the New York Islanders.
PENALTY KILL HAS BUCKLED DOWN
Over the last five games, the Capitals penalty kill has been flawless. The Capitals have killed the last sixteen penalties against the opposition.
Having good special teams is key in the early spring and into the postseason action. The Capitals powerplay is dangerous and is still ranked 10th in the league at 21.8% effectiveness.
On the other side of things, the Capitals penalty kill has been not very good at times this season. It was near the bottom five for most of the season, but has crawled up a little in recent weeks. The Capitals penalty kill is at 79.7% effectiveness, which is ranked 21st in the NHL.
THE NEW ACQUISITIONS ARE CONTRIBUTING DURING THE WIN STREAK
The additions of Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen at the NHL Trade Deadline seem to be paying off.
Both players that were acquired are paying off on the Capitals penalty kill. Hagelin has given the Capitals a boost on the penalty kill up front as he is a very disruptive player with his speed. Hagelin’s speed and breakaway ability is something that is making opposing teams more concerned on their powerplay chances against the Capitals.
Jensen’s presence on the blueline has taken some penalty killing time away from other Capitals defenseman. Dmitry Orlov and Michal Kempny are being used more sparingly on the penalty kill, as Jensen has jumped into this role with the club.
With Jensen and Hagelin sharing icetime with other Capitals players, it gives the Capitals better balance heading into the postseason. More players can get more rest with less icetime down the stretch. The playoffs are a tough test, and it is nice to have depth players that can contribute in various areas of the game during this tough point of the season.
NICKLAS BACKSTROM IS QUIETLY LEADING THE WAY
Backstrom is one of the most valuable and versatile Capitals players on the roster. He has recorded a goal in the last three games for the Capitals. Over the last seven games, Backstrom has recorded 5 goals and 9 points.
Backstrom is one of the most underrated players in the league. With his ability to contribute at both ends of the rink, Backstrom deserves more national recognition for what he brings to the Capitals hockey club.
By: George Foussekis