The Washington Capitals are currently the best team in the league — and Monday’s effort showed why.
Playing a physical and fast-paced game, the Caps dominated in a number of categories and also saw a strong effort from their special teams, which generated a power-play goal and three penalty kills on four Anaheim power plays.
“I think you can see how we started the game, we controlled the puck, we controlled the game, you can see the result,” Alex Ovechkin said to reporters following the win. “We [stick] together. It’s a very good sign.”
With their second consecutive victory, Washington has now advanced to 16-3-4 on the season (36 points) and have just one regulation loss and is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games, while also winning two straight.
Here are three takeaways from the win.
Braden Holtby shines again
It wasn’t the best start to the season for “Holts” but all of that appears to be behind him now, coming to a stop after being pulled against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 14.
Holtby stopped 32 of 34 shots for Washington on Monday, good for a .941 save percentage. With that performance, he is 11-1-3 and has now won his last seven starts, going 9-0-1 in his last 10 games.
Not to mention, in his last five starts, Holtby has a .938 save percentage, and through a total of 16 games, the 30-year-old boasts a 2.91 GAA and .906 save percentage.
With Monday’s win, he took the league lead in wins, while also officially hitting 25,000 career minutes at the NHL level.
Alex Ovechkin scores his 15th
Ovechkin’s known for his expertise from “the office,” and the Great 8 didn’t disappoint on Monday. On the Caps’ sole power-play opportunity, Evgeny Kuznetsov was able to deceive the Ducks’ blueline, convincing them of a coming shot, before sliding the puck across to a waiting Ovechkin, who scored one of his classic goals.
The tally is Ovechkin’s 15th of the season, bringing him within two goals of the NHL scoring lead currently held by David Pastrnak. He’s now 11 goals behind Teemu Selanne for 11th in all-time scoring and is on pace for 53 goals, which would be his second consecutive 50-goal season and the ninth of his career.
After having gone three games without a goal, Ovechkin now has two goals in his last three games and points in six of his last seven, bringing him to 25 points in 23 games.
Carlson extends his point streak
Since becoming an alternate captain for the Caps this season, Carlson has been dominant for Washington. Showing his puck-moving prowess from the blue line, he put up two assists on Monday, extending his point streak to seven games.
On pace for 121 points, he’s been one of the league’s top scorers, currently sits third in the league in scoring with 34 points on the season. And as of right now, he’s way ahead as the Norris frontrunner.
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Not only that, he’s playing well in his own end, leading all Capitals in ice time with 25:25 minutes per game, while showing strong chemistry alongside Michal Kempny. If he can keep up his performance, which features speed, passing, shooting and the ability to start the breakout and join the rush, the Capitals can make a deep run this season.
Bottom-6 paying their dues
Washington doesn’t need to Panik (ha) when it comes to secondary scoring this season. With a strong bottom-6, the Caps are finally starting to see more from the bottom-6.
Fifty seconds into the game, Richard Panik scored his first of the season with the team, taking the monkey off his back. With that goal, he should be able to develop more confidence and provide more offense moving forward.
“You have to stay positive, keep trying and eventually it’s going to go in and that’s what happened tonight,” Panik told reporters postgame.
“We played really good we generated chances i think we found something for sure.”
One player in particular, though, has been great on the bottom-6, and that’s recent call-up Travis Boyd. Before being sent down to the Hershey Bears following Washington’s game on Nov. 9, the 25-year-old has registered points in back-to-back games since his call-up — a goal and an assist — following what could be a long-term injury to Nic Dowd.
His performance against Boston led him to be promoted to the third line, where he’s likely to stay for now, and he could very well make a case to stick with the team in a full-time capacity with six points in eight games this season with the big club.
Still, by far the top line for the Capitals on Monday was the fourth-line, which generated plenty of physicality — including a second-period brawl — and a lot of speed, grit and grunge on the forecheck, which led to a goal for Chandler Stephenson.
“I thought we played well right from the start. Didn’t give them a lot of zone time. . . it was a good effort overall,” Brendan Leipsic told reporters.
Overall, these are things Washington needs to keep their season going strong, and it seems like things are working for the team that’s been buying in so far.