Washington Capitals vs Sabres: Can home cooking help them find a win?

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports /

After starting the season with a series sweep, the Washington Capitals were just handed one of their own. Can the Home Opener rejuvenate them to a win?

The Washington Capitals have had two very different series to open the season. In the first series, it appeared they were on the right path to have a very good and balanced attack and completed a sweep of the Buffalo Sabres.

They followed this up with what appeared to be a very tough matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, that from most observers would feel is a good effort with just bad results.

But by the end of the second game, it shows that the Capitals have a lot of work to do.

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Starting with the inability for them to seal the win when in their hands. In their first game against the Penguins they held the lead at the conclusion of the first period but would allow them back in the game shortly into second period. Again right after regaining the lead in the game off a powerplay, they allowed the Penguins to yet again tie the game less than 3 minutes after taking the lead. This concluded with a shootout loss.

In their second matchup this was even more evident. The Washington Capitals not only had a two goal lead but they held one twice in the game and would go on to allow the Penguins to force overtime. It began with a short handed goal on a 5 on 3 power play where the Capitals allowed DeSmith to place the puck above all their attackers to a wide open Teddy Blueger for the shorty.

This took all the steam out of the Capitals it seemed, as they couldn’t capitalize on any of the scoring chances they had while the Penguins would again tie the game. Thanks in part by a ill timed penalty by T.J. Oshie, the Pens would send the game to OT with all the momentum.  Of all people Sidney Crosby would put the nail in the coffin of the game, on a bad rebound from Vanecek no less.

Hopefully with the Washington Capitals getting their home opener tonight they will look at this as an opportunity to reset their season with a good overall game. Although this will be rather difficult given their Russian four will be sidelined for the next 4 games. In order to compete they will need the other leaders to step up and take charge, hopefully, we will see a big game from Backstrom, Carlson, Wilson, and Oshie. These are the moments to look for new additions like Chara and Schultz to step up and contribute. But are they playing the same team they met at the beginning of the season?

The Buffalo Sabres are much like the Capitals, since playing the Caps in the opening series they have been two different teams. The next series againt the Flyers, they would open it up with a 6-1 throttling in their favor. But followed that up with a 3-0 loss. One way the Capitals might win it without their best player, starting goalie, second line center and top 4 defenseman, is to allow the Sabres to handle the puck and play off their action. In the three losses by the Sabres they held the puck possession at a higher rate than in their one win; CF% of 51.4 (Game 1 Caps), 52.7 (Game 2 Caps), 59.6 (Game 2 Flyers) versus 49.0 (Game 1 Flyers).

Can the Washington Capitals flip the script while shorthanded?  Who will step up in their absence?  Here is how to find out:

Date: Friday, January 22nd
Time: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Capital One Arena
TV Broadcast: NBC Sports Washington
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, Caps Radio 24/7
Live Streaming: fuboTV has live NHL games on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, and USA in which you can stream from your phone, television, and all your favorite devices. This is a service that broadcasts live TV over the internet, no cable required. Watch your favorite teams, network shows, news, and movies on 100+ channels. Plus on-demand entertainment including full TV series. fuboTV is currently available in the United States, Canada, and Spain.

More. Washington Capitals: Russian four to miss next four games. light

Bonus Fantasy Hockey Coverage:

For those of you who enjoy the fantasy sports scene, here are a few of the players in this contest to consider putting into your starting lineup before the game starts:

Stats when playing against Buffalo Sabres:

Zdeno Chara (103 GP: 13 G, 37 A)

Stat line from first series against the Sabres: +3, 4 SOG, 20:11 ATOI

Justin Schultz (19 GP: 2 G, 8 A)

Stat line from first series against the Sabres: +3, 2 SOG, 16:38 ATOI

Conor Sheary (11 GP:  5 G, 4 A)

Stat line from first series against the Sabres: 1 A, 0 SOG, 9:46 ATOI

Surprise Fantasy Game: Tom Wilson

Wilson had 26 previous chances against the Pittsburgh Penguins to make a big impact. While he almost always makes an impact it usually isn’t on the scoresheet. He previously scored 3 goals and 3 assists good for a 0.24 P/GM. So when he was able to score two goals in this game alone is a pleasant surprise. This just carries on a great season for Wilson who is currently tied with Alex Ovechkin for points lead for the team, and does lead the team in goals with 3 goals in 4 games.

Sleeper Fantasy Game: TJ Oshie

Oshie was a key contributor right away with an assist on Eller’s first goal on the year. But he also committed a key penalty late in the game that would result in a near game misconduct. However, it still resulted in a PP to the Penguins giving them the tying opportunity, which they achieved.  For this reason, he is a sleeper pick, someone who could be helpful but also negate his positive contribution. This is the line Oshie toes all the time with his high energy play, so we need to take the bad with the good.

Slacker Fantasy Game: Nicklas Backstrom

For someone who has had good success against the Penguins with 56 points in 50 games played including a goal in the game Sunday. Backstrom followed that up by going blank on the scorecard and being on the ice for a goal by way of the -1. While someone who has done more in assisting others in their goals against Pittsburgh, he wasn’t in the action enough to turn in a point. He will most likely bounce back pretty quick.