Tonight the Capitals are in L.A. to take on the Kings in what could be a preview of the 2016 Stanley Cup finals. In fact, every game on the Cap’s three game Western Conference road trip could be a potential preview of the 2016 Stanley Cup finals.
On Monday the Caps went into Anaheim and ended the Duck’s 11 game winning streak. They needed a shoot-out to do it, but the fact is, they did it. Despite an almost identical stat-line, theScore reported head coach Bruce Boudreau post-game saying, “I don’t think skill for skill we can match those guys [the Caps] in the middle of the ice”. The Caps have always had skill. That isn’t news to anyone. The theme for the Caps this year is finding a way to win. The Caps are doing it again and again. And that is news.
If Holtby lets in 3 with a .889%, the Caps score 7. If the Caps aren’t filling the net, Holtby (or Grubauer for that matter) is there to shut the door and carry them through to OT where they can put that neutral zone skill to work in 3 v 3.
But tonight isn’t about numbers for the Caps. It’s about the big picture. On Monday, as I mentioned, they were in Anaheim, tonight they are in L.A., and Saturday sees them in San Jose. The Ducks, Kings, or Sharks could end up in the Stanley Cup. However, the East goes through the Caps. They’ve earned that this year.
This 3 game swing through the West is a perfect mock exam for Caps. They travel and play in the Western time zone, with at least 1 day of rest in-between each game, and play against 3 of the top 6 teams in the Western Conference. If they aren’t approaching this road trip as a mini-series with the goal of capturing 5 of 6 points, which I’m sure they are, it’s a wasted exercise.
And that is why I took the Caps tonight. Tonight is not about L.A. and how good they are. Because L.A. is good. It’s all about Washington finally tracking down that coveted trophy that has alluded them for, well, forever. This team is that good. It has it all. But, even according to Capitals GM Brian MacLellan, time is of the essence. That is why this road trip will not be wasted on Washington and they’ll come away with 2 points tonight in what promises to be a hell of a hockey game.
The Salt is real. Washington losses 4-3 in OT.
One of two things happened tonight; either the Capitals were unaware they were in a hockey rink, playing a hockey game, or they had one hell of a night last night.
The Caps mustered 6 shots in the first period. L.A. managed to put 14 on Holtby. The Caps took 2 penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game. L.A. capitalized on the first scoring just 4:52 into the contest. L.A. would add two more before the end of the frame. Washington, the Washington I wrote about, didn’t show up tonight. Not yet anyways.
The second period was scoreless. Both teams managed 7 shots.
In the third the Caps showed up. The Caps that were, before tonight, 49-13-4. It’s intimidating to watch. They command the rink. Washington put 18 shots on net in third scoring on 3 of them. Orlov showed off some fancy stick work cutting through the slot and tying the game with just under 4 minutes left. The Caps looked like they were about to do it. They looked like they were going to find another way to win a game they had no business winning.
3 v 3 is scary. It’s especially scary when you have two teams with this much talent flying up and down the ice. Just over half way through the second frame, Doughty turned around at the Caps blue line opting to regroup rather than force a 1 on 2 situation.
A Capitals forward took a slow change. Meanwhile, Lucic and Carter came flying off the Kings bench with a full head of steam towards the Cap’s end. Doughty quickly put the puck up the left wing to Lucic and joined the rush. Washington was caught. They had one defensemen back, Ovechkin in the middle of the ice, and thanks to the slow change, a man just coming off the bench. Doughty joined the rush forcing Ovechkin to take him, Carter cut to the outside of the right wing, Lucic feathered a pass through to the wide open Carter and Holtby was left sprawling across to make a save that just couldn’t be made. Not tonight.
Caps show up late. Costs them a point. There is a positive in them for this. They went down 3-0 to the Kings and came back. They willed it. Just wasn’t enough tonight. Caps lose. I lose my first hardnosports bet, of course.