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The Blue & Gray Press | November 19, 2017

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Capitals turn things around after beating the Oilers but their poor defense continues

Capitals turn things around after beating the Oilers but their poor defense continues

By ANGUS LONG

Staff Writer

Late on Saturday night, the Washington Capitals continued their Western Canadian road trip with a 5 to 2 win against young superstar, Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. The game started out as if more of the same was in the Caps future after coming off a 6 to 2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

Edmonton went up 2 to 0 with three minutes to go in the first period but because of an odd man rush caused by Alex Ovechkin, and a nifty move by defenseman, John Carlson, this led to a Devante Smith-Pelly one timer to cut the lead in half with only 18 seconds left in the first. Alex Ovechkin would go on to notch three assists in the win and was on the ice for all but the empty net goal scored by Jay Beagle, who stole the 5 to 2 victory.

Goaltender Holtby stood on his head making 38 saves in the win. Other notable moments include Evgeny Kuznetsov’s second goal of the night. Kuznetsov made a ridiculous move on Max Talbot, faking a wrap around and bouncing it off the back of Talbots leg pad to score.

Holtby stood on his head after the Caps’ defense let up 40 shots. However, while many would go straight to criticize the defense after the injury of veteran defensemen, Matt Niskanen, on Oct. 14. The issue is not with the amount of shots, but the quality of shots they have given up since the Niskanen injury.

In the games that Caps have played, they have averaged 31 shots against per game. Before the injury they averaged 34 shots against per game. Since the Niskanen injury, the Caps have gone 2 to 4 and have been outscored 14 to 25. Many fans are questioning the leadership of the Caps.

Brooks Orpik, an assistant captain, along with the pair, John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov, should step up to fill those gaps in their defense. While the defense is lacking experience, the skill and promise is still there. While it is going to take some hard games and an increased workload on both Caps’ goalies, the only true way of developing these defensemen is through NHL game experience.

A trade for a defenseman is not coming as of now for a few reasons. One, the Caps can not afford it right now. The Capitals currently possess a total of $1,161 dollars in cap space under the NHL’s very strict cap limit. While that does mean we can bring in a player of equal or lesser value than the players we ship out. This brings me to reason number two, we do not have assets to trade, well at least no logical assets anyway.

The Caps can not afford to lose any of their youth players or draft picks. The Caps desperately need a new wave of prospects in their system, after not having a first round pick in the system from last year, or a second-round pick, or a third. The only logical move would be to move the backup goalie Philipp Grubauer.

So as of right now, a trade does not seem likely.

While the Caps may not have another season where they finish with the best regular season record, they will still make it into the playoffs. At the end of the day, this mediocre start may be a good thing for the Caps. It acts as a reality check for the team and fanbase, which have become complacent with winning in the regular season over the last few seasons. The Capitals are still a good team, they just need a jumpstart after the lull in the last couple of games. This win over a Stanley Cup favorite can do just that.

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