Washington Capitals vs. Vancouver Canucks: Three Things To Watch For


Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals will square off tonight with the Vancouver Canucks as the Caps continue their western Canadian road trip. What should fans keep an eye on?

The Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks will enter play tonight sitting in different situations. The Capitals are looking to continue their strong start while the Canucks look to break a two-game losing streak. Both of those losses have come on home ice. The Canucks look to avoid making it three straight.

Fans are becoming more and more familiar with this revamped Capitals roster. It features newcomers such as T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, who have endeared themselves to fans already with their strong play. With the lines from the win over the Calgary Flames likely to stay the same, here are some things to keep an eye on against the Canucks.

1. The Second Line

Enough attention has been paid to the Caps first-line, which features Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie. Nicklas Backstrom was placed on the second-line upon his return. He is flanked by Marcus Johansson on his left and Justin Williams on his right. 

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One thing that has been associated with Backstrom for most of his career is his reluctance to shoot with Ovechkin on his side. As the second-line center, he has quickly appeared to become a goal scorer on that line. He has three goals in just two games. Backstrom was the one hammering in a one-timer off of a beautiful pass from Williams. Capitals fans are used to it being the other way around.

Though not many expected Backstrom to be separated from Ovechkin, it has worked wonders so far. The Caps have two potent scoring lines. They may make up the best top-six that this franchise has ever iced.

Marcus Johansson has looked very good so far this season and has reaffirmed that he belongs in the top-six. Justin Williams has been as good as advertised. He’s been winning battles in the corners and distributing the puck really well. His goals will come soon.

Two lethal scoring lines will be big in overwhelming teams like the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have scored more than three goals just once while the Capitals have done it in four out of their five games. As long as the Caps defense can continue to be stingy, the offense has enough firepower to win them a lot of games.

2. Killer Instinct

The Capitals have forever been plagued by their inability to close out games. Even as recently as last season, the team could go up 2-0 and would struggle to hold on for a one goal victory. This year has been a different story. Each victory has come by at least two goals.

Against Calgary, the Caps got behind early. After tying the game, the fan in you probably knew that it was going to be a close game. The Caps came out hard in the second period. Ovechkin scored within the first minute to make it 2-1. The Caps kept the foot on the gas and were up by three at the end of the second frame. The Flames scored quickly to begin the third. It was normal to think “here we go again.” The Caps responded with two goals before the end of regulation and won by a score of 6-2.

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The Caps absolutely need to have this killer instinct if they want to win the Stanley Cup. They have been fortunate to get off to quick starts in most of their games. If they can do that once again in Vancouver, it will be very interesting to see if they can turn this style of constant attack into a habit.

3. Stronger Competition

Though the Capitals have had a strong start. The one black mark thus far is that they haven’t had the toughest competition as of yet. At the same time, it is very encouraging that even if they haven’t consistently faced top-level competition, they have won in convincing fashion.

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Of the Caps early season opponents, the only two teams at or above .500 have been the San Jose Sharks and the Chicago Blackhawks. They handily defeated the Blackhawks, but the Sharks demolished the shorthanded Capitals, who were missing Backstrom and Ovechkin.

The Vancouver Canucks have a 3-1-2 record, so they certainly qualify as a higher level opponent at this point. Being able to put together another strong performance against the Canucks would further convince us that this year’s team is the real deal.

Next: Capitals vs. Canucks: Game Preview, Live Stream, Start Time, TV Info

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