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Caps win one for the Road - Columbus tonight, Holtby In

February 12, 2019, 10:14 AM ET [1 Comments]
Marcus Boutilier
Washington Capitals Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, however, the Washington Capitals ended their 6-game homestand with a 6-4 win over the visiting LA Kings and Evgeny Kuznetsov had 4 points as he continued his hot stretch of late. The win gave the Caps a 4-1-1 record on the homestand and now at 31-18-7 overall, it helped keep pace in the battle for the Metro Division crown now three points back of New York Islanders in first and four points up on Pittsburgh and Columbus.

Coach Todd Reirden had been looking for a strong finish to the homestand before they head out on a massive 6 game road trip and will play 12 of their next 16 on the road. Issues with penalties being taken and players not performing to championship levels for 60 minutes has plagued the team, though since the All-Star break it’s been better. Tonight wasn’t perfect as the Caps took senseless penalties and still were victim to another ongoing concern of turnovers as they had 18 giveaways compared to 7 of LA.

However, even on less than perfect nights, when you have a player like Kuznetsov going you can mask a lot of problems. Struggling with taking penalties himself at times, he was benched for a brief period by Reirden last week and has since responded. The slick-skating Russian put up 6 goals and 6 assists on the six-game homestand with 2 goals and 4 points vs the Kings last night. When Kuzy is on he is arguably the best player in the NHL, including that 97 guy in Edmonton. He can control the tempo and settle down the play in the offensive zone better than anyone in the league. McDavid beats you off the rush and with speed, and although he’s no slouch in offensive zone possession to be sure, Kuznetsov can do it at a snail’s pace if he wants. He dictates the game. Few players do that. It’s unfortunate we only see that Kuzy once every few games. And he’s always a great quote…

The much-maligned Andre Burakovsky has been responding to the trade rumors with some fairly decent play as he collected an assist in the win to give him points in three straight (1G,3A). With the deadline fast approaching on the 25th of Feb, he is certainly making it tougher for GM Brian MacLellan to deal him. Or, he’s making it easier. Depends how you look at it I suppose.

Alex Ovechkin would score his league-leading 38th goal and Christian Djoos added his first of the year after returning to active duty on the weekend. Ovechkin has been quiet on the goal front coming in with only 3 goals in 9 games but he scoring his first in 5 last night and added an pair of assists.

Jakub Vrana continues to have a great campaign as he continually adds to his breakout year scoring his 17th goal.

The RFA at the end of the season should be having some discussions about an extension one would have to think. If I’m GM MacLellan, I am locking this guy up sooner than later. He has grown as a player and is able to drive play on his own with his speed. Notable, on a team that can’t seem to stay out of the box, is Vrana only has 16 penalty minutes. He had 12 of them by October 19th! He is playing a two-way game and is not being dumb about it.

Pending UFA Brett Connolly scored to remain hot as well with his fourth goal in 4 games. The player is likely pricing himself out of DC in the summer as he will certainly look to capitalize on his career season at his age. Some players have taken a bit of a cut to stay with the Caps in the past, so maybe there is something there. Connolly has always expressed his appreciation for the Caps organization to give him this chance so we’ll see what that is worth in dollars.

Pheonix Copley made 29 saves for his 12th win on the year and continues to provide decent goaltending giving the Caps confidence in resting starter Braden Holtby. His 3.02 GAA is higher than you’d like to see, but with the Capitals propensity to give up high-quality scoring chances it’s not that shocking.

The Caps will now play a back-to-back against division rival Columbus tonight in Ohio as they start their longest road-trip in 15 years as they will not return to DC for 12 days with 6 games on the schedule. Losers of three-straight and with only 5 points out of their last seven games on the road it’s important the Caps get off to a good start tonight.

Braden Holtby will start for the Capitals. He recorded one of his two shutouts this season on Dec.8 in a 4-0 win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus but the Jackets have returned the favor twice on DC ice this year with a pair of 2-1 wins.

Game time tonight is 7PM EST from Nationwide Arena.
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