WSH 3, NYI, 2 - New Caps Step Up
The Washington Capitals beat the New York Islanders on a goal by Justin Schultz with 26 seconds left in regulation. The entire bench jubilantly erupted in celebration as the puck hit the back of the net. This was a big game for the Capitals. Not only because they were severely undermanned, but because it was against essentially the exact same Islanders squad that bullied the Capitals in the playoffs last year. Craig Laughlin said in his postgame remarks “this was the best [Capitals] win he has seen in years considering how undermanned they were.” The Capitals were missing Ovechkin, Orlov, Kuznetsov, Samsonov, and Tom Wilson. Towards the back half of the third period, the Caps also lost Nicklas Backstrom and Lars Eller from injuries they sustained in the third period. This is a gutsy win the team can build on for the rest of the season.
Here are some key takeaways, random stats, and observations from the game:
Second Period Woes – The second period continues to be consistently the Capitals worst period every game all season. The Capitals were outshot 14-9 in the second today and they took three minor penalties in the period alone. They were able to escape to the third period with a 2-2 game. Through seven games so far this season, the Capitals are getting outshot 54-92 in the second period. For reference they hold a cumulative 80-66 shot advantage in the first period this season. For third period shots, it is practically a wash with the Caps taking 54 and their opponent taking 55. The Capitals have also given up the third most second period goals in the league with 11 total. The Islanders will look back at those three power plays they were not able to convert in the second period as huge missed opportunities when the ice was really tilting their way.
Islanders Scoring Drought – The Islanders are averaging 1.83 goals/game with just 11 total goals in six games played. This ranks dead last in the league. In addition, they ranked 24th in the league with 28.3 shots/game. It was evident in my eyes tonight they really wanted to test rookie goaltender, Vitek Vanecek. They did not seem shy to throw the puck on net and just hope for something good to happen. I don’t have the final shot attempt stats but through two periods, the shot attempts total between both teams was 90 shot attempts. Well above average. The Islanders failed to convert on all three power plays against a Capitals penalty kill that just allowed three power play goals to the Buffalo Sabres.
Islanders Defense – Through five games this season the Islanders had only allowed six five on five goals all season. That ranks second best in the league for teams who have played a minimum of five games. They had also only allowed eight total goals in five games. The last time they did that was 44 years ago. Generally speaking my take on the Islanders right now is that they are one of the best in the league with goals/against but they are really struggling to score consistently right now. I wouldn’t panic too much if I were Islanders fans. The Islanders had some really strong moments throughout the game. When they get the puck in deep and are able to generate a cycle, man are they tough to stop. I was getting flashbacks to the 2019-2020 playoffs in the second period with the Islanders cycle game going strong in the second period.
Daniel Sprong – Sprong has been playing really well lately, he just hasn’t been able to put the puck in the back of the net. His speed and breakout transition reminds me a lot of Jakub Vrana. Tonight he scored his first ever goal as a Capital and boy was it pretty. This is why the Caps acquired Sprong and this is why he was inserted into the lineup (even before all the injuries.) With Ovechkin and Kunetsov out of the game, the Capitals needed someone to step up and score and Sprong was there to answer the bell.
Offensive Defensemen – In typical Peter Laviolette fashion, the defensemen are constantly jumping up into the offense. This is night and day compared to what we saw the last two years under Todd Rierden. On the first goal tonight, it was John Carlson who scored down low on the left on a rebound to bury the PPG. Then of course it was Justin Schultz who buried the game winner out of an aggressive breakdown with 30 seconds left in the game. The initial breakout was set up by Brendan Dillon. I really like what I am seeing from Justin Schultz this season and I think he is a perfect fit for the system Laviolette runs.
Facceoffs - Heading into this game, the Islanders ranked first in the league with a 58 percent faceoff%, the Capitals ranked 27th with a 45% faceoff%. I was expecting the Islanders to steamroll the Capitals in faceoffs all night. This game ended in a 50-50 even split in faceoffs. While faceoffs are only a small aspect of the game, I thought the Capitals had timely face off win after timely faceoff win all game. For example, when the Islanders had three power plays in the second period, the Capitals won all three faceoffs to start those penalties and were able to clear the puck from the zone. Sure that doesn’t mean much but when you started to see how well the Islanders were moving the puck and generating momentum in the zone, every second the Capitals ended up killing off from those faceoff wins was huge.
Vitek Vanecek is just in pure beast mode right now. Keep riding him while he is hot.
The Capitals have yet to lose in regulation this season. They lead the East division with a 4-0-3 record, 11 points.
All in all, just a fantastic win for the Capitals. Next game is Thursday against the Islanders at 7pm ET. The Islanders might roll with Sorokin even though Varlamov gives the team the best chance to win. In Sorokin’s two starts this season, the Islanders have scored zero goals to help him out. Considering how depleted the Capitals are, this is a prime opportunity on paper to get him his first NHL win.
Lastly, I want to take a moment to just say that I still love Barry Trotz, Lane Lambert, and Mitch Korn. I am genuinely happy to see them having so much success with the Islanders organization. Former Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov leads the league in SV% at.966 and is second in GAA with 1.00 GAA after tonights game.
Thanks for reading and Go Caps
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