Alex Stalock stood on his head but the Caps wanted this one after 2 bad losses & facing their old coach
Very rarely is it a good thing to face a good team after they’ve lost 2 consecutive games, especially if those losses were bad losses where they gave up a lot of goals. When that happens, a good team will fix the problems and come out ready to play the next game. Washington lost 6-3 in Nashville and 6-2 in Colorado before facing the Minnesota Wild. The were also sure to be pumped up to play against their former coach in Bruce Boudreau and their former teammate in F Daniel Winnik and, of course, they’re at home so you knew they were going to play a lot better defense and they always shoot the puck, A LOT!!!
The Wild went with the same lines that were a key part of the great 6-4 comeback win against Nashville on Thursday night. This game wasn’t as fun but it had it’s moments. Most of those moments happened on the Wild’s end of the ice. Backup goalie Alex Stalock got the start since the Wild are beginning a stretch of 5 games in 8 days alternating between being on the road and at home and Alex hadn’t played since November 6th at Boston and hadn’t started a game since October 31st vs Winnipeg.
Alex has played great all season. There isn’t any step back when the Wild go to him to give Devan Dubnyk a breather or to keep giving the backup a start to keep him ready. The team doesn’t have to play any different when he’s in goal where in year’s past, that may not have been the case. Strangely enough, former Wild backup goaltender pitched a shutout for his new team, the Los Angeles Kings, tonight.
Washington took the lead a little over halfway into the 1st period when they received a power play due to a boarding penalty committed by Kyle Quincey on T.J. Oshie. The Washington Capitals power play is one of the most fearful in the league. Alex Ovechkin is the main reason for that but they also have Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeni Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and John Carlson on their 1st Power Play unit. That’s a lot of firepower and playmaking to defend against.
On the Caps first power play, they set up with Ovechkin in his familiar spot on the left faceoff circle with D John Carlson playing the point, Backstrom at the right half-wall, Kuznetsov to the right of the net and Oshie in the right slot (from the point-of-view as if you’re looking at Wild goalie, Alex Stalock):
Backstrom only has two options. He can only really pass to Kuznetsov by the net or Oshie in the slot but he has time and space. There’s no pass available to the point or a good angle to get the puck to Ovechkin. He could shoot but there’s really nothing to shoot at with Kuznetsov and Stalock covering the entire net.
Ryan Suter is too far away to effect either pass and if he passes to Kuznetsov (which ends up being the play), Suter will likely follow the puck and turn towards Kuznetsov and turn his back on Oshie. The Wild have been great on the Penalty Kill this season and had killed 17 straight before this power play so they are confident and it’s very easy to second-guess a play after looking at the replay multiple times from multiple angles.
On this play they had really eliminated all but the two options of Kuznetsov by the net and Oshie in the slot. The easy choice is to give them the pass to Kuznetsov but they left a slight opening for him to make a one-time pass to Oshie who then made a one-time shot to the upper left corner that Stalock really had no chance to save.
What could they have done different? Again, this is second-guessing, not actually covering a play with two passes and a one-time shot that happen in less than a second. Pass, pass, shot, GOAL! That’s really fast. That being said, I believe it comes down to trusting your teammates and talking during the play. Suter should trust that Stalock and/or Spurgeon have Kuznetsov and instead of turning towards Kuznetsov, back up and take away Oshie as an option, taking away the most dangerous shot available. Spurgeon could have trusted Stalock to cover Kuznetsov and instead of going in front of his own goalie and maybe screening him, he could’ve taken away the far side of the net. All of them can talk during the play, too.
Stalock could save he’s got Kuznetsov or tell Suter to cover Oshie and tell Spurgeon to take away the cross-ice pass to Ovechkin. Staal could say he’s got Oshie and tell Suter to take away the pass down low and tell Spurgeon to take away the pass to Ovechkin. Winnik could move down and say he’ll get Oshie and cover the pass to the point, too. Again, this is all easy to say and I’m sure they are talking on the ice and have a plan on what they want to do. Reacting to a play instead of reading it doesn’t usually work very well.
Sorry. I may have rambled on that one and that goal happened very quickly.
The Wild would come back to tie the game at one with a power play goal of their own on a Nino Niederreiter goal off a rebound. Mikko Koivu throws the puck at the net with Mikael Granlund in front of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. Granlund tips the shot and gets another shot on a rebound then another rebound goes to Nino and he puts in the back of the net while falling to the ice in a battle for position. A goal is a goal. Dirty or pretty, they all count the same.
Unfortunately, the Capitals would take another 1-goal lead only 44 seconds later on a one-time blast from the point from Dmitry Orlov. Niklas Backstrom skated right in front of Alex Stalock as the shot was being launched and it went upper left. That shot needs to be blocked or the D-to-D pass needs to be taken away. Chris Stewart really did nothing on that play. He allowed the pass to the left defenseman that he’s supposed to be covering and he also allowed the pass over to the right defenseman for the one-time. Tyler Ennis could probably have been higher and closer to his defenseman, too. He could help take the D-to-D pass away, too. Neither of them really affected the play in a positive way.
Shots were 43 to 31 in favor of the Capitals and 22-10 in the 3rd period, also in favor of the Capitals. The Wild had their chances to tie it up, a point-blank shot from Kyle Quincey headed to the upper right corner is barely stopped by the catching glove of Braden Holtby,
and a Suter had a shot that went off Holtby’s shoulder and hit the crossbar but they couldn’t tie it up and Washington would score another Power Play Goal to give them a 3-1 lead late in the 3rd period. That goal was another crazy goal that seem to happen to the Wild way too often for some reason. Call it Puck-Luck or whatever but it’s crazy how many goals the Wild have scored against them that go off their skates or sticks into the net or to the opponent for an easy shot in the wide open net.
This one was a shot from Ovechkin from the left point that may have been a pass. Anyways, to goes off of Jonas Brodin’s stick then hits Kuznetsov’s right skate up to his stick and in.
They were, as always, some questionable calls by the officials. There was a play in the 2nd period where Nino was hit from behind and seconds late Staal looked like he was hooked while battling for the puck along the boards and there was no-call on either of them. Then, the Capitals were given a 4-minute power play when Ryan Suter was called for a double-minor for high-sticking Lars Eller in the face.
Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau was telling the official that it was a follow-through from Suter trying to clear the puck and it shouldn’t be a penalty. Boudreau backed off his initial thoughts in his postgame interview but I think he has a good case. A shot went through to Stalock. He stopped it but left a small rebound and Suter was going to clear the puck away as Lars Eller was coming in to jab at the loose puck. Eller’s stick gets under Suter’s stick and Suter sticks rides up Eller’s stick into his face. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a replay of it. Here’s the rule from the 2017-18 NHL Rulebook:
He was, in my opinion, clearly trying to clear the puck. He doesn’t even know Lars Eller is coming for the rebound. He can assume that, yes, but he doesn’t know where he’s coming from to get at the rebound. Ryan Suter only knows he doesn’t want a puck loose in front of his own net and his own goalie. Is he supposed to anticipate and read the mind of his goalie and know he’s going to cover it up? That’s almost impossible and nobody really wants to be in the mind of a goaltender anyways.
In the end, the Wild played well but could’ve probably played better in front of their goaltender who saved 40 of 43 shots and kept them in the game. They need to shoot the puck more, especially on the power play. Shoot the vulcanized rubber at the net. That’s where it wants to be. When you shoot, hit the net and be ready for rebounds and deflections so you are the first player there and you can keep the puck in the offensive zone.
Alright, that’s it. The Wild face the New Jersey Devils tonight at home at 7pm at the Xcel Energy center so…