DC Sports Day

Treff: The Caps Continue to Roll

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Four goals last night for Washington, four different goal scorers. The Caps defeated the late-starting Tampa Bay team last night by the score of 4-2. Although the Lightning made a third period charge, the team looked hapless for most of the game, making mistakes that are usually only seen at much lower levels of hockey. The only bright spot for Tampa Bay was the goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, maybe the best young netminder in the league. It was hard to watch him being exposed every which way by a defense that was completely out of position for most of the night.

But this article is about the Caps and about their team play and versatility. It is well known that you do not want to take a penalty against this team; for the past several years, Washington has had the number one or number two powerplay in the league. Before last night, it was sitting seventh in PP effectiveness and people were wondering about the “slump”. But no need to worry, last night the Caps went three for four with the extra man against the Lightning. Now the team is third in the league, with two effective powerplay lines. The change in lines on the powerplay makes it possible that over the course of this season, giving this team an extra man is even more lethal than in the past.

If you look at the scoresheet, you would think that five on five play with Tampa Bay was more even. But that was not the case. Washington dominated with puck possession and shots at even strength through the first two periods. In addition, the team played great defense, holding Lightning top forwards Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov without points last night.

Importantly, TJ Oshie broke through last night, getting his first goal in seven, and second goal in 13 games. Oshie, who came to the Caps as a summer acquisition, is one of the keys to the team’s success. He does other things–like reach out with his stick to break up a pass while lying prone on his stomach as he did last night, but this team needs his offensive prowess to compete for the Stanley Cup.

Now only a point behind the Rangers for the Metropolitan Division lead, the Caps have really put their team game together. With three lines that are offensively dangerous, very good defensive play, a lethal powerplay, and very reliable goaltending, this team is rolling along. Even more important than where they are however, is the direction in which the Caps are going. To get far in the playoffs, a team has to be able to make adjustments–adjustments to playing style, adjustments to injuries, adjustments to the grueling season. According to Head Coach Barry Trotz, that is what he is already doing. Just last night, he tweaked the team’s game to address what the coaches saw were certain vulnerabilities of their opponent.

And the team is adjusting to injuries. Despite the ironman status of both John Carlson (400 consecutive games played) and Karl Alzner (398 consecutive games played), veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik has been out since November 12, 2015 (eight games). Of the eight games in which Orpik has been sidelined, Washignton has won six.

It remains to be seen whether the grueling schedule of the regular season and the playoffs stymies the Caps, but thus far, their game is far from tired.

Washington plays in Toronto tonight and then does not take the ice again until Thursday, December 3, 2015.