Capitals Make Statement In Back-To-Back Wins Over Divisional Opponents

Photo: X/@Capitals

Though the NHL season is only 15 games into the season, the Washington Capitals were put to a big test over the weekend to show the hockey world what they were truly capable of.

The Capitals (7-4-2) were scheduled to play two Metropolitan Division rivals on consecutive nights, and on the road: The New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders. Two teams that are on complete opposite ends of the hockey world when it comes to style of play.

The Devils are a high-octane, speed-based team with a plethora of offensive firepower, while the Islanders are a stingy defensive squad that suffocates the opposition. They had an established identity, and the Caps were still trying to find theirs.

However, Washington won both games because of a commitment to playing a gritty style of hockey and having a next man-up mentality that has yet to be unlocked through the first 11 games of the season.

Heading into New Jersey, the Capitals were going to be without Trevor van Riemsdyk, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, and Anthony Mantha, who took a puck to the face against the Florida Panthers.

This forced Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery to tinker with his line combinations, and he ultimately went with a trio composed of Beck Malenstyn, Nic Dowd and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. They combined for six points (three goals, three assists) over the weekend and gave the Caps life.

“That’s where I felt like tonight we get the first time this year we had sort of our natural, quote-on-quote fourth line with [Malenstyn], real identity, Aube-Kubel and [Dowd] and quite frankly the way that potentially we saw it in a lot of different scenarios from the summer of what our fourth line would look like,” Carbery said after the win against New Jersey.

Meanwhile, the Caps were hit with another wrinkle against the Devils. Martin Fehervary suffered a lower-body injury in the second period. He did not return for the rest of the game and Washington was playing with five defensemen in what was eventually a one goal game. But the Capitals hunkered down and did not let the snowball effect take over and defeated the Devils 4-2.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us to see what we have for the future. If somebody goes out, somebody get hurt or something happens, we can put another guy in and they gonna play solid,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said after Saturday’s win on Long Island.

Moving onto New York, Carbery talked about how he wanted his team to do a better job at getting traffic in front of the opposition goaltenders and forcing tip plays and getting after rebounds. The last time the Caps faced the Islanders, they were blanked 3-0 on home ice and the first goal the Isles scored in that game, was because of net-front traffic. The Caps had not scored a goal in similar fashion prior to Saturday.

Dowd’s game-winning tally in the second period was because of traffic in front of Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Aube-Kubel was robbed at the doorstep, but Dowd plucked the puck out of mid-air on the rebound try. A kind of goal that you’d typically see in a playoff game.

The grittiness continued for the rest of the contest. The Capitals showed dedication to sacrificing the body and making Hunter Shepard’s job easy. That commitment led to a season-high 31 shot blocks and the Caps would go on to sweep the two-game road trip.

Malenstyn and Lucas Johansen led the team with five blocked shots. Johansen even got rewarded with a career-high 20:11 minutes of ice time.

 “You need those types of wins some nights you know, they’re gonna come a little easier, and those are always nice, but that was a gritty one,” Dowd said. “It’s great for those young guys to get in those types of situations because there’s going to be times, middle of the year, end of the year, playoffs where you’re going to look to those guys, and it’ll be nice for them individually to say ‘I’ve done this before. I’ve been here’.”

“It was a character win,” Carbery said. Difficult circumstances with the back-to-back, on the road losing a few bodies mid trip and so for us to find a way, it wasn’t pretty at times and [we] had to defend quite a bit but we found a way.”

Following Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Islanders, the Caps are third in the Metropolitan Division, sitting two points behind the Carolina Hurricanes with two games in hand.

 The Capitals will have to bring those two mindsets once again on Tuesday when they host the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Vegas Golden Knights.

By Jacob Cheris

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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10 Responses to Capitals Make Statement In Back-To-Back Wins Over Divisional Opponents

  1. Anonymous says:

    Kuemper didn’t play. That helped as well.

  2. Prevent Defense says:

    Ahoy NovaCapsFans Staff

    How about a quick Salary Cap Summary for the suddenly resurgent Washington Capitals!

    The “Cap Friendly” and “Puckpedia” and similar websites out there – they’re all incomprehensible finance-speak to me. I’m an engineer, not a necromancer

    Backstrom just “went on LTIR” and I can’t find the transaction – nor any re-adjusted Caps’ salary pool or Cap hit – among the various Black Magic “NHL Cap Calculator” sites

    One prominent Caps Fan site projects that signing Edmundson and Pacioretty will “be easier now” with LTIR Backstrom. But hard numbers? I bet you guys have this down pat. Thanks much

  3. Dave says:

    It’s not incomprehensible finance-speak. Just recalculate the dividend on the coefficient of the base discount rate delta with the correlation of the leverage ratio on the blockchain omega yield. See? Easy as pie

  4. DWGie26 says:

    Yep, CapFriendly has had Backstrom on LTIR for about a week, but no official announcement (which I assume was on purpose).

    Without doing all of the calculations, it looks kinda like this:
    * Lots of guys on IR (Mantha, TVR, Keumper) so no salary relief on those guys
    * Patches (2M) and Edumunson (1.75M) will come off LTIR and we need space for them
    * we get 9.2M in Cap Relief for Backstrom – some will be used by Patches and Edmundson and call-ups
    * so roughly we have 5-6M in Cap Space

    I suspect we will be very careful and see how the season progresses with the players we have between NHL and AHL. We’ll look for younger players whom other teams can’t for don’t want to sign (like Strome). We don’t NEED anything right now so we’ll be applying leverage while rolling what we have.

    • Anonymous says:

      I just feels like we are a natural partner for Calgary when they eventually throw in the towel and look to move Lindholm and Huberdeau

      • DWGie26 says:

        Huberdeau is a hard no. He is 30, makes 10.5M and is under contract for another 7 years. Lindholm is interesting at 28 and is an UFA and end of year. But I think we’re more looking at people like Dillon Dube who is 25, Free agent at end of year, and Calgary may want to move him.

        The pivot continues to be Kuzy. Is he a top 6 center of the future. McMichael is showing he can be a 3C. Could be a 2C. And then can Lapierre be a 3C at NHL sooner rather than later. Feels like we need to ride Kuzy train again this year and maybe next as well.

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