Washington Capitals at Vancouver Canucks Preview: Keys to the Game

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals are looking for a win against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. Following a crushing 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames, the Capitals are looking to rebound by taking down a hot Canucks team.

Vancouver is currently 8-4-1, with their 17 points good for third in the competitive Pacific Division. Their most recent win was an overtime victory against the St. Louis Blues, with star centerman Ryan Kesler scoring the game-winning goal.

Kesler currently leads the Canucks with seven goals and was recently named a Star of the Week by the NHL. Facing a lineup that is on a three-game winning streak will be a challenge for the Caps, who had an unusually poor showing against the Flames.

Washington was unable to capitalize on any of its four power plays, although their penalty kill was successful on each of Calgary’s three man advantages. The Caps were simply outplayed; the Flames led in every area of play, with the exception of hits.

The Caps shocked no one as they stumbled out of the gate, and their penchant for slow starts cost them early as Kris Russell scored just 1:04 into the first period. The game was only downhill from there, as the Caps struggled with puck possession and unsurprisingly defense. While Jason Chimera notched his third goal of the season and Aaron Volpatti his first as a Capital, there were few bright spots for the Caps.

Despite being hung out to dry by his defense, Braden Holtby was pulled over halfway into the first period, posting a .786 save percentage. In relief, Michal Neuvirth’s numbers were also far from stellar, with a .895 save percentage. Though it’s unknown who will start in goal tonight, the man between the pipes must be prepared to make tricky saves and expect rebounds, as John Tortorella’s Canucks will come out with all pistons firing.

The Canucks are a team the Capitals cannot allow to gain momentum. Washington’s slow starts are a persisting issue and can’t be chalked up to an off day. The Caps need to rejuvenate their power play and above all improve their defense.

If the Caps can’t score, they at least need good defense. While Mike Green must focus primarily on his defensive duties, tallying a goal or two would be great. John Erskine can’t afford to lose a speedy Canucks team, especially when they’re hammering pressure in the Caps’ zone. All Caps defenders need to step up their game and make life easier for Holtby and Neuvirth.

Otherwise, they better shape up offensively – or hand the Canucks an additional two points.

Topics: NHL, Washington Capitals

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