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The Washington Capitals are looking like super contenders in this very beginning of the NHL season. They are sitting with a 5-0-3 record through the first eight games of the season, which is very impressive, especially not having one regulation loss.
The spectacular play coming from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin has lifted the team. This has been key, along with having younger players producing while key players are injured including Capitals’ all-time assist leader Nicklas Backstrom and recently hurt T.J. Oshie.
Alex Ovechkin is having one of the best starts to the season in his career. The 36-years-old left winger has notched a point in each of the first eight games, which matches his hottest start since 2005 when he was just a rookie. After a season of uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic and not having summer training camp, Ovechkin is looking to continue to stay hot through the reminder of the season as he leads the NHL in goals with nine and is tied for most points with Connor McDavid with 15.
John Carlson on Ovechkin’s success and if it’s surprising: “He’s only done it for 17 other years too. Maybe he had one down year out of 17. No, there’s no surprise from us.”
Here’s what Ovechkin had to say after winning the last game in October against the Arizona Coyotes 2-0 at home in Capital One Arena:
“When we play simple, we move the puck in the offensive zone, move our legs in the neutral zone, it gives us more opportunity to create and have chances.”
Evengy Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson complete the first line with Ovechkin, the best looking first line in the league currently. Kuznetsov has five goals and seven assists thru the first eight games. Contributing factors from the Capitals’ young core have paid dividends and given confidence to the rest of the squad.
Martin Fehervary, Hendrix Lapierre and Connor McMichael are the newly added speed that provides success for this older Capitals’ team line rotations. Each rookie player has recorded a point already in the first eight games. Goaltending and defense are things to focus upon for the start and mid-portion of the season.
“It was a good month,” defenseman Justin Schultz said. “Obviously not losing in regulation, it’s nice. It’s a good start for us. Obviously still got to work on some things. Got some injuries right now, it’s tough, but just sticking with it and perfecting our systems, coming to the rink every day working hard and not slowing down here.”
The Capitals are 23rd out of 32 teams with a 77.3 penalty kill percentage, which must be worked on. Surprisingly they are number one in the NHL in shot against per game with 25.8 average, meaning they’re not putting a lot of pucks on net yet and still they’re scoring goals and winning games. Also, when the Capitals add Nicklas Backstrom back, their power play percentage will rise up again because they’re sitting in the middle of the league with 19.4% at 17th out of 32.
Goalies Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek are off to a good start without allowing a regulation loss on their records through eight games. Vanecek has a slight better Goals Against Average percentage with 2.26% while Samsonov has 2.43%. Look for both to continue to find their rhythm as the season moves forward.
John Carlson, as he usually does, leads the defensemen in points with five: two goals and three assists. The highlight of the defensemen so far has been how the Capitals have shifted activating the defense in the offensive zone. Nick Jensen, Dmitry Orlov, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Justin Schultz all have the freedom to get pucks on net, keep the cycle going in the offensive one, and keep pressure on the opposing teams forwards.
The Capitals have to withstand keeping success with key injuries to players and continue to receive all-star production from their top-two lines. They come into November with tough opponents, starting away against the Tampa Bay Lightning and then traveling to visit the hot Florida Panthers.