The Washington Capitals’ first victory in nearly two weeks arrived last night in the form of a shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens. Tonight, the Caps head north to take on the ailing New York Islanders, who have dropped their past five games. Numbers can be telling, especially in the case of tonight’s opponent. To give you some perspective, the Islanders have 19 points. From that angle, only two teams trail them: the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers, both of which have been struggling mightily.
To be fair, the Capitals haven’t been playing a stellar game as of late. That they’re still in second in their division speaks volumes about the quality of the Metro (the division, not DC’s transit system.) But last night’s game was a fairly accurate representation of the Washington Capitals this season.
They’ve been lazy in the first period and are outshout tremendously as a result. They often rely on luck to carry them to a win, or force an individual player to bear the brunt of their weaknesses (I’m talking about you, Alex Ovechkin and Mikhail Grabovski.)
However, the Caps can demonstrate flashes of solid play. When it’s successful, their penalty kill shows that there may be hope for Washington defending its own zone. While some goals are soft, others are the product of careful positioning and crisp passes. Then, the Caps throw their hard work out of the window by allowing a goal immediately after.
Inconsistent is a good word to describe this team, though it seems that some reliability has been found. The second line is now comprised of Eric Fehr (who had a productive outing against the Habs), Grabovski, and Troy Brouwer. Each member of the trio notched at least a point last night. And with Brooks Laich out of the lineup for the second game in a row, the linemates will have a chance to provide secondary scoring and improve their defensive play.
Fehr, Grabo, and Brouwer won’t be the only ones looking to make a good impression on Adam Oates. Dmitry Orlov has been called up again, but he’s actually in the lineup for a change. Per Katie Carrera, he’ll likely be playing as half of the third pairing, alongside fellow Hershey blueliner Tyson Strachan.
Another new face is Philipp Grubauer, a prospect called up from Hershey. He’ll be Braden Holtby’s backup, as a result of the injury Michal Neuvirth sustained during yesterday evening’s warmups. Unfortunately, Neuvirth did not travel with the team to Long Island, nor was he able to claim his role as starter against Montreal.
Regardless of who is in goal, the Caps should be able to add another win to the books. Despite the offensive power of captain John Tavares and his linemates Tomas Vanek (right, he plays for the Islanders now) and Kyle Okposo, the Isles are lacking offensively. Their defense isn’t much better, and without Evgeni Nabokov tonight, there’s no reason for Washington not to return to D.C. without two points.