Big Win, Tough Loss

The Caps picked up a huge win in Buffalo on Wednesday and have now won four of their last five. While most varieties of new and old media have focused on Alex Ovechkin’s goal drought and subsequent goal spree, or the Caps’ unorthodox three-goalies-on-the-roster situation, here’s something that has gone past virtually everyone’s radar. Washington has allowed just 37 goals in its last 16 games. That’s 2.31 per game after the Caps had allowed 3.12 per game over the season’s first 52 contests. The Caps have allowed just nine goals in their last six games, a stretch during which they’ve gone 4-1-1. It’s the best sustained stretch of defense for Washington since before the lockout, and it couldn’t be happening at a better time.

Unfortunately, one of the Caps’ defensive stalwarts was lost in the Buffalo game. Center David Steckel suffered a broken finger and will miss 2-3 weeks of action. Steckel entered Wednesday’s game with a face-off win pct. of 56.3, seventh best in the league among those centers with 600 or more draws taken on the season. The Caps will miss Steckel’s prowess in the circle, and also his knack for penalty killing. Steckel averages 3:46 per contest in shorthanded ice time, fourth among all NHL forwards.

As expected, Atlanta offered little resistance to the Hurricanes and Carolina walked to a 6-3 win over the Thrashers on Wednesday. (That’s eight losses in a row for Atlanta.) The Caps now trail the Canes by three points in the Southeast Division standings and are two points behind eighth-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference standings.

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3 Comments on “Big Win, Tough Loss”

  1. Harrison Says:

    Interesting, we thought he was playing with an injured finger. He got whacked during one of the last two home games and was on the bench icing an index finger. He and the trainer kept looking at it then.

  2. Luc Bertrand Says:

    Very good observation, Mike. Given the fact that much has been said about the weakness of Caps defense, these figures are indeed impressive and can’t lie. Probably the improved involvement of forwards as first defense line has reduced the pressure over the Caps young defensemen, in addition to creating turnovers in the opposite zone. The presence of good checkers in each of the trios, more inspired goaltending and growing confidence at defense are probably key factors, apart, obviously, of the offensive explosion of the first line (Ovechkin/Backstrom/Kozlov). The way the Caps play since the transaction deadline is very promising for the last stretch before the playoffs. Three of their four wins were against opponents who have always given tough time (NJ/Bos/Buf) throughout their history.

    David Steckel will be missed for sure. Hopefully, good players are ready to be moved up from Hershey and we should see Steckel again in time for the first round of the playoffs.

    I am confident the Caps will pass the Hurricanes and will probably finish higher than Philadelphia and Buffalo. During the rest given to Cristobal Huet to relief his back problems, Brent Johnson should be given as much playing time as possible to ensure we have three top shape goalies for the playoffs. Go Caps to the end!

  3. Mike L Says:

    Steckel will definitely be missed, but the Caps can move Brooks Laich into a checking center role if they want, or have Gordon take more of the draws and get Laing in the game more often. There are any number of ways to handle this.

    Hopefully this weekend we’ll have Huet back for Sat. afternoon and then Olie can get win 300 vs. Pittsburgh on Saturday.

    Also nice is that Carolina has a game tonight vs. Minnesota. They’re a good team and hopefully will do well vs. Carolina (who had to play yesterday and then travel, while Minnesota last played on Tuesday.) A nice win by the Wild tonight and suddenly its the Caps with 2 in hand and down 3…

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