Caps have glaring areas for improvement

Chris Russell
May 29, 2018 - 12:53 am
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Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

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The Capitals dropped Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final here in Vegas on Monday night, 6-4, and the final score was probably not indicative of how ‘tilted’ the ice was in favor of the expansion Golden Knights for much of the night.

The Knights out-shot the Caps 34-28 and out-worked Washington around the net and pounced on seemingly every loose puck to take a 1-0 series lead, with Game 2 here at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday night. Coverage begins at 6:30 ET on 106.7 The FAN.

It’s been 20 years since the Capitals played in a Stanley Cup Final game and they’ve never won one and if they continue to play in their own defensive zone like they did on Monday night, it might be another 20 before either happens.

They were simply brutal.

The Golden Knights' first goal was a rocket blast on the power play but the next four goals before an empty-netter were all loose pucks off rebounds or from behind the net and pucks that the Caps defense could not gain control of, and it killed them.

“They come hard,” Braden Holtby told 106.7 The Fan and other reporters after the game. “You can’t take a breath when the puck's around the net with them. It’s one of their strengths.”

The Caps simply must be better in this area on Wednesday and the rest of the series or they have no shot.

The first Vegas goal was on the power play after a bad penalty by Andre Burakovsky in the Caps offensive zone off a blast from Colin Miller. There wasn’t much Holtby could do and he was partially screened but the Washington penalty kill continues to struggle. They’ve now allowed 16 goals in 62 chances or a 74.2 kill %. That’s not good. Period.

Especially to a power-play unit that came in 10th in the NHL during the playoffs at (9-of-51, 17.6%). Vegas was the 9th best extra-man unit during the regular season, so they’re a good unit overall but the Caps cannot get beat in this area.

Washington showed some fight. Down 1-0, they made it 2-1 on hard-earned goals by Brett Connolly on a deflection and Nick Backstrom but then quickly allowed the game-tying goal to end the first period tied 2-2. That’s when things turned a bit sour again.

“I didn’t like the first part of the second period,” Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz said, and for good reason. The Caps got pushed around and quickly gave up a third goal.

Once again, they struggled around their own net with rebound control and to then gain possession of the puck.

The other huge storyline of the night was Tom Wilson hitting Vegas top-line forward Jonathan Marchessault with a shoulder-to-shoulder hit in the neutral zone.

After a long conference with the officials, Wilson was given a two-minute minor for interference, which was the correct call but it was a coincidental minor with David Perron.

“It was a good clean hit. It’s playoff hockey. That’s what I saw,” Wilson said. “Right after he got up, he [Marchessault] said ‘good hit’.

Marchessault left for a brief period and was cleared from concussion protocol and eventually returned to the ice.

He had a slightly different account after the game according to reporters in the Vegas locker room. “I never saw it coming. He hits me blindside. It’s a little late,” Marchessault said. “The league’s going to take care of it.”

Wilson was suspended for three games for a much different hit in the Penguins series victory.

Golden Knights Head Coach Gerard Gallant said, “We were upset about it. It was a big hit….It’s a late hit." He added, “For me, it should have been a major penalty.”

Tuesday, we’ll find out if the NHL Player Safety group agrees or disagrees. Nothing should be done, but that doesn’t mean that will be the case.

 

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