The Washington Capitals (7-6-1) take on the Arizona Coyotes (2-12-1) tonight at the Capital One Arena. It’s time for the Capitals’ offensive powerhouse to step up and shine.
Venue: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
Date: Monday, November 6, 2017
Time: 7.00 PM
TV: NBCSWA, FS-AZ
By Glynn Cosker
DCpuckDrop Managing Editor
The 2017-18 NHL season started well for the Washington Capitals – especially for the team’s star players. There were some big wins, goals were flowing like water, and Alex Ovechkin was on fire during the first five games. However, instead of building upon such a strong start, the Capitals are now looking slightly average. The top-six forwards have provided lackluster performances of late, with the other set of forwards stepping up and securing wins for their team. Tom Wilson, Lars Eller and Chandler Stephenson on the third line combined for 10 points over the Capitals’ last two games. It’s time for the Capitals’ powerhouse forwards to produce the goods. Tonight, is their best opportunity this season.
Capitals Faced Likely Postseason Foes – And Edged Them
The last two teams the Capitals played – the New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins – should have beaten Washington in each outing. Instead, the Caps squeaked through by one goal each time – thanks to that third line. Each of those wins were achieved despite the Capitals being out-shot 38-19 against the Islanders (out-shot 16-2 in the third period) and despite being completely outplayed by the Bruins for most of that game. After those wins, the Capitals seemed happy that they were able to defeat likely postseason opponents.
“From where we sit right now,” said Capitals defenseman John Carlson following the Bruins game, “every game matters. But certainly these divisional and conference opponents, they’re huge. Especially with the way the playoffs work nowadays, and how the seeding goes, those are four-point games within your conference that you don’t want to be looking back and saying, ‘Oh, I wish we just came out a little faster or a little better or had a better finish,’ or something like that. With where we’re at right now, those games really matter and every point that we can get is big, especially against those opponents.”
It’s A Season-Defining Game For the Caps
However, postseason it is not, and convincing wins they were not. If the Caps end up against either the Islanders or the Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and play like they did the past two games, it will be a quick series – and not in a good way for Washington. The Arizona Coyotes are a disjointed team at the moment, unable to retain a lead during most of their 15 games and enduring some major difficulty between the pipes – they’ve tried four goalies so far, and none of them have gained traction. Arizona is the one team that favorites for the postseason are expected to defeat handily. So, tonight, a team with Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Braden Holtby should beat the Coyotes. Anything less will be a reflection on how the remainder of this season may play out for Washington.
Could A Caps Trade Be Upcoming?
Except for the Florida Panthers, every team the Capitals lost to so far this season has a winning record as of today. With the Coyotes coming to town, the preceding statistic is ominously important. If the Capitals were to lose tonight, on home ice, against the team with the most goals allowed this season (62 total; 4.13 per game, on average), against the team with the worst record in the NHL, against a team that has lost eight of its last 10 games – if the Capitals were to lose – it would be a defining moment in the season for Washington. A loss would surely light a fire under the organization’s upper management, making them do something to improve the Capitals’ lot in life; a loss tonight might make Capitals GM Brian MacLellan delve into the trade market for at least one top defenseman – possibly even a top-six forward as well.
So, believe it or not, there is plenty on the line tonight for the Washington Capitals against the Arizona Coyotes. The Capitals barely beat their last two opponents, and it’s time for each player to step up and stand out, because they won’t have a better chance to do so all season.