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Capitals vs. Flames Recap: Kept Out in Calgary

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The Caps had no answer for the Flames’ top line.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Calgary Flames Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Philipp Grubauer put together a very good performance in net, but the Caps only put one goal on the board and ended their road trip with a 2-1 loss.

First, here's Sunday night's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: Philipp Grubauer. He made a number of great saves in his best performance of the season.
  • Minus: Passing. The Flames’ gap control was very good and they paid attention to the middle of the ice, consistently intercepting passes or otherwise disrupting the Caps’ attempts to exit their defensive zone and enter the offensive zone.

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:

  • The Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and Micheal Ferland line gave the Caps fits all game long, and it started less than three minutes in. Monahan managed to get loose in front of the net, corral a puck lofted toward the crease, and get a good shot on Philipp Grubauer, who made a toe save. A few seconds later, on a 2-on-1, Grubauer had to make another nice glove save on Gaudreau.
  • Calgary made it difficult for the Caps to make “east-west” plays crossing either blueline, but the Caps didn’t always make it difficult. Just 3:30 into the game, T.J. Oshie didn’t notice Matthew Tkachuk jumping into a passing line in the defensive zone, and that turnover led to a nice chance for Mikael Backlund (and another good save by Grubauer).
  • The Caps eventually did settle down and started to generate chances over the remainder of the period. They had two really good opportunities—one, Oshie on the rebound of a Dmitry Orlov shot, and another, a Jakub Vrana breakaway. But Mike Smith was sharp on the first and Vrana put the second wide.
  • The Flames got on the board early in the second, as Ferland deflected Brett Kulak’s point shot past Grubauer. Ferland was in the zone originally as Calgary was changing, but passed the puck once reinforcements came, and got open in the slot (between three Caps players) at just the right time.
  • Calgary almost got a second goal immediately after, as Troy Brouwer got a breakaway but hit the post. The Flames also hit the post in the third (Ferland shot) and the crossbar in the first (Ferland deflection of a Gaudreau shot)..
  • The Flames started to take over the game in the second. They were stifling in and around the neutral zone, taking away the center of the ice, and the Caps were slow to adapt (and/or didn’t have the legs to keep up).
  • The Caps finally got on the board in the third. T.J. Brodie’s outlet pass hit the linesman and bounced back to Oshie, who passed to Vrana. Vrana shot and the puck squeaked by Smith (who had a strong game as well).
  • Grubauer continued his strong evening. Carlson pinched even though the Caps had three forwards deep, and the Flames went 4-on-1 the other way. Gaudreau and Mark Giordano went back and forth, but Grubauer anticipated and made a glove save on Giordano’s one-timer.
  • The Monahan line got the go-ahead goal around halfway through the third. The Flames again foiled the Caps at the blueline when Dmitry Orlov couldn’t carry the puck across, and Gaudreau and Monahan went the other way 2-on-1. Although Alex Ovechkin hustled back and Carlson slid to prevent the pass, both focused on Gaudreau, who curled and found Monahan open at the far post.
  • Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Devante Smith-Pelly were quiet. The Flames were +19 in 5-on-5 attempts for the game; about 14 of that came with Giordano and Dougie Hamilton on the ice against that trio. The Caps need much, much better.

The Caps weren’t awful, especially for the second night of a road-road back-to-back, but they weren’t particularly strong, either.

Matt Niskanen is eligible to return in a little over a week, and maybe another reliable two-way puck-moving defenseman is what this team needs—because while the blueline has shown some promising signs, the forwards still leave something to be desired.