Tuesday night the Caps beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 and put their first four-game losing streak since 2014 behind them. For 40 minutes this game had everything you’d want, with Alex Ovechkin ending his own goalless streak, a gorgeous Evgeny Kuznetsov goal, and the second goal of the year by the smiliest Capital, Nate Schmidt.
Alas, at the beginning of the third period the Caps promptly allowed a goal and then took their sixth and seventh minor penalties of the night, resulting in another goal against. But then something awesome happened… the Caps held the Wild without an even strength shot attempt for the final 19 minutes of the game. You read that right. Final shot attempts at five-on-five were 48 to 36 in favor of the Caps.
Despite scoring a goal and being mentioned in the bullet above, we are breaking the rules and giving this to Evgeny Kuznetsov. Ovechkin and Backstrom had obviously great games, and Dmitry Orlov also had a strong night, as did the rest of the second line. But the Caps desperately need the dangerous version of Kuznetsov, and that’s exactly what they got. Matched up against tough competition (albeit without a single defensive zone start), Kuzy used his speed and skill to skew the game to the tune of 18 five-on-five shot attempts in favor of the Caps to just three against.
The penalties… good lord, the penalties. With another seven minor penalties last night, the Caps have now racked up a -31 penalty differential on the year. Somehow that isn’t the worst in the league, but it’s close. Third most, to be specific, behind only Colorado and Anaheim who are both tied at -33. It has felt for a while like the Caps take more penalties than other teams, sometimes spanning multiple seasons, but this year… something happened. Right around December 29, the Caps hurled themselves off of Discipline Peak and never looked back. They have been in an utter free-fall ever since. Just look at the chart below, which is red and black to signify fans’ rage. I’m not going to even venture a guess at what might be the cause, but it’s a disturbing trend that they need to reverse ASAP.
Stats courtesy of Corsica.Hockey, NaturalStatTrick, and Hockey-Reference.
Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI.
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