The final score of Thursday’s game between the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders did not replicate the action on the ice. The Islanders defeated the Capitals 3-0, snapping Washington’s three-game win streak and it was the second time this season that the Caps were held off the scoresheet.
Based on the score, one might think that the road team dominated from start to finish. Yet that was not the case. The Capitals (4-4-1) controlled the pace of play for the first two periods. Their Corsi for was 64.4% at even-strength and the Caps outshot the Islanders 32-21. However, Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov was the difference, stopping all 32 shots and coming up with key saves.
“We’ll look at a lot of the positive things we did to create that. From a forecheck standpoint, ozone movement standpoint and then get back to work on the same thing that’s plagued us through nine games,” Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery said after the loss. “Being able to finish in those opportunities, create more havoc, make it more difficult on goaltenders. When we need to find areas to deliver more tips, screens, rebounds, second-chance opportunities; all those things we’ll continue to hammer home and work on in practice.”
Here are three things that stood out in Thursday’s loss.
Strong Sustained Zone Time
The Capitals had lots of sustained pressure in the offensive zone, which was the story of the game for the first two periods.
“I think there is more room to be creative and finish those chances that we have. I feel like the last pass has to be better and everything has to be better but eventually you know sometimes that’s the game,” Evgeny Kuznetsov said. “You feel like you control everything but they lead the way and they defend well. There are a lot of good and bad clips that we can learn from.”
Washington’s best chances came in the first period. Shortly after Ryan Pulock’s opening tally, which came 22 seconds into the game, the Caps went right back to work and strong periods of time in the o-zone. The first Grade-A chance came from Dylan Strome. He was wide open in front of the net but sent the puck over the Islanders goaltender.
— Capitals Replays (@capsreplays) November 2, 2023
The Caps continued to pile on pressure and had a gorgeous passing sequence between Rasmus Sandin, T.J. Oshie and Sonny Milano, but Varlamov was able to squeeze the pads.
— Capitals Replays (@capsreplays) November 2, 2023
So while the Caps did a good job of getting in on the forecheck and having sustained pressure, the bounces would simply not go their way once again.
Lots of High Danger Chances; Good Net-Front Presence; Can’t Finish On Rebounds
Going along that same trend of outplaying the opposition, the Capitals had 16 high-danger chances through 40 minutes of play. The Islanders only had three. This makes Thursday’s loss even more frustrating.
The Caps had decent net-front presence but struggled to bury the loose pucks.
They came close though. Oshie was battling in front of Varlamov and Hardy Häman Aktell threw the puck towards the net, and it bounced off of Oshie’s hip and into the net. However, the play was called back due to goaltender interference. But those are the kinds of goals that the Capitals need more of.
“It’s that traffic in front of the net that is gonna cause these pucks to fall in,” defenseman Nick Jensen said. “If we keep doing what we’re doing and keep attacking the net and take the goalie’s eyes away a little more often, it’s going to be tough for these goalies to play when they can’t see the puck.”
Pulock’s goal was because of the net front traffic in front of Darcy Kuemper. The Capitals have yet to score one of those greasy goals in front of the net, where they are battling for the puck with a plethora of traffic.
“You can’t just keep chalking it up, ‘Oh, at some point.’ We’re in game nine and we’re not scoring five-on-five at all. So, why? That’s not a small sample size. That’s not two games. That’s not three games. That’s nine games,” Carbery said. “We are not finishing, finding ways to do all those things that I described at the beginning of up tonight of screen tips, ugly goals, rebounds, those things.”
Not A Great Night for Darcy Kuemper
Darcy Kuemper let up two goals on the first two shots of the game, and then he gave up the Islanders’ last goal of the game on their sixth shot. He did not face a lot of rubber until the third period when he stopped all 12 Islander shots.
Pulock’s goal was from the point and Kuemper was screened on the play. The second goal he had no chance on as it was an odd-man rush. Brock Nelson’s tally is the one that he’d probably like to have back. Kuemper was a little deep in his crease and Nelson was falling down.
It looked like the Capitals netminder thought Nelson was going to pass across the ice, but he ended up going five-hole instead. So while there are still issues with Washington’s defense, Kuemper could have come up with some big saves like he has shown to do in the past.
Notable Numbers and Observations
- Was not a very good night for the power play. It went scoreless for the second straight game. It is now 0-for-6 in the last two contests.
- Connor McMichael looked very strong at center. Was very effective on the forecheck
- T.J. Oshie is bound to get a goal at some point. He has been playing great hockey and continues to battle in front of the net. He also wore a neck guard during the game.
- The Islanders blocked 23 shots and the Caps only had 6
- The Caps PK was 2-for-2
- Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Dylan Strome and John Carlson had tough nights. Each of them were on the ice for all three goals. Strome and Ovechkin’s point streaks have ended.
- The Capitals had 18 high-danger chances at even-strength
- Washington had 37 scoring chances and 25 shot attempts. 14 of those scoring chances came in the first period and 15 came in the second.
The Capitals will look to get back into the win column when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, Nov. 4 at Capital One Arena.
By Jacob Cheris