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Washington Capitals: A Halfway Point Check-In

The current NHL season consists of 56 games. The Washington Capitals have played 25 games and are just over halfway through their season. Here are some of the key storylines from the season so far.

Offensive Depth

The Capitals have excelled offensively this season. Washington has yet to be shut out this season and has put up respectable numbers of goals in all but a few games. The Capitals have also excelled on the powerplay, scoring 16 powerplay goals through 61 powerplays.

Image Courtesy of AP Photo

The flexibility and talent of Washington’s offense have generated their offensive success. In late January the Capitals had several forwards, including Alexander Ovechkin, who were ineligible to play. Head coach Peter Laviolette was able to reorganize Washington’s offense and call numerous players up from the taxi squad. The Capitals were able to avoid any regulation losses even in the absence of some of their key players.

The Capitals have also seen production from all of their forwards. Nicklas Backstrom leads the team in points with 29, but it is not just star players who do the scoring. Every Washington forward has scored at least two goals, including those on the fourth line and those who have missed a significant number of games. The same cannot be said for other teams, some of whom have seen less production from their star players.

Capitals defensemen also get involved offensively. John Carlson has the second-most points on the team with 20 points. All defensemen have been joining rushes, making smart passes, taking shots, and helping out significantly on offense. This aspect of Washington’s game has been very important to their success this season.

Defensive Struggles

While Washington’s defense may be exceptional at scoring goals and playing offense, they have some struggles with defending their own net. The Capitals have seen far too many blown leads and high-scoring losses this season.

Image Courtesy of AP Photo

Washington defensemen are plenty physical and do a good job with takeaways in the neutral zone and along the boards. However, they often leave opposing players wide open in front of the net or waiting at the backdoor for a pass. More times than a few these open players have scored goals.

The occasional two-on-one situation is another struggle for Washington. Opposing teams are often able to easily pass and set up dangerous plays when they enter the Capitals’ zone with a two-on-one advantage. Poorly timed line changes and a lack of backup on pinching in the offensive zone create such opportunities against Washington.

While Capitals forwards are effective on defense, they also contribute to some of the defensive struggles. Too many times have Capitals fans seen a forward skating slowly back towards the defensive zone or standing around while the other team sets up a play.

Goaltending

Washington goaltender Ilya Samsonov was forced to take time away from the team after testing positive for COVID-19 in January. In his absence, rookie goalie Vitek Vanecek stepped up and performed exceptionally. Vanecek has become a dependable and important part of the Washington roster.

Ilya Samsonov has since returned from his fight with COVID-19 and a brief stint with the Hershey Bears. The two young goaltenders now appear to be splitting games, with one playing one game and the other the next game. Both are capable netminders and will continue to assist the Capitals in winning games.

Moving Forward

The rest of the season should be just as exciting as the first half for Capitals fans. Goal scoring and playmaking will continue to excel. Physical play and hard-fought wins are a given, especially as Washington plays long-time rival Pittsburgh and new rival Boston.

Defensive play for the Capitals has improved since the beginning of the season. Hopefully, Washington will continue to develop and improve its defensive strategy to lead the team towards more wins.

The Washington Capitals are currently a strong playoff contender and fans should expect them to remain so. Barring any significant losing streaks, the Capitals are set to finish the season in position to head to the postseason. Playoff games with Washington are always fun to watch, so Capitals fans should hope that the team keeps up their momentum and head towards the playoffs.

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