Here’s Wednesday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Braden Holtby has won 61% of his games games, with the 250th victory of his NHL career tonight, which is the highest percentage among active goaltenders with at least 250 wins as he improved to 19-9-2 against the Eastern Conference this season.
Minus: Faceoffs are still an issue with the Capitals winning just 30% (14-of-46) from the dot.
And now, this…
Big night for “at least the Phillies got Harper” Twitter. pic.twitter.com/S3ApjkSa1f— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) March 7, 2019
1. The Caps tilted the ice heavily over the first six minutes and Alex Ovechkin used tremendous vision from one knee to find Tom Wilson on the doorstep to give Washington the early 1-0 lead. After missing the first quarter of the season Willy now has 19 goals for the first time in his career (in just 43 games!) and has been hot of late with scores in three of the last five games. It was also the first time that the Caps have scored first since their game against Toronto on February 21st.
2. In a very weird sequence of events, an overly bashful (or somewhat unaware) Brett Connolly didn’t realize he had, like, scored a goal, but he did! All the way after a commercial break the referees backtracked and credited Connolly for giving the Caps the 2-0 lead. The goal was the 17th of the year, a continued career high, and is just four points shy of reaching the 40-point plateau for the first time in his career. Time and again he has proved to be a tremendous acquisition by the Capitals in 2016, where he has fully resurrected his career which began with high first round draft pick expectations that are now perhaps starting to be met on his third NHL squad.
3. Ovi did what Ovi does when left all alone at the top of the faceoff circle on the powerplay, making it 3-0 on his league-leading 46th goal of the year just under three minutes into the third period. With the tally Ovechkin is just now four goals shy of passing Brendan Shanahan (656) for 13th place on the NHL’s all-time goals list.
4. Not to be outdone Andre Burakovsky ended Brian Elliot’s night just under a minute and a half later, unassisted.
After allowing four goals on nineteen shots, Cam Talbot came on in relief, who then proceeded to surrender a goal on the first shot he faced, this one courtesy of Nicklas Backstrom, for his 16th of the season from Nick Jensen (his first point as a Capital.) In addition, Jensen also set his career high mark for points in a season with two goals and 14 assists. If you blinked, you missed it as the Caps recorded three goals on three shots in just 3:10.
5. We can sum up the first two periods of this game in a series of three Tweets:
Flyers welcoming a Golden Knights fan to town, how nice pic.twitter.com/ecehkuyzwF— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) March 7, 2019
Since “welcoming” Bryce Harper to Philadelphia on the board, it’s been Imagine Dragons for the Flyers.— Ted Starkey (@TedStarkey) March 7, 2019
6. Philippe Myers saved the Flyers the embarrassment of a shutout with just 11 seconds remaining the second period, but the Caps went to the third with a 5-1 lead. The strong second stanza for Washington continues their streak of being strong in the middle stanza, where they lead their opponents by a 89-66 margin this season.
7. For a team in the pursuit of a playoff spot, the Flyers came out incredibly flat tonight. Entering the night, they were tied for 14th in the league in goals but are averaging over 3.5 tallies per contest since the second week of January. In addition they had just three regulation losses in their last 23 games -- tonight was a very different story. They played like a desperate hockey team but ultimately now seven points out of the playoffs with 16 games to play, the vast majority of them against teams they look up at in the standings, this feels like a potentially back-breaking result tonight.
8. Coming back to the Capitals two mid-season additions in Jensen and Carl Hagelin, both were sensational tonight and now two weeks after their respective acquisitions the consensus is that they have been welcome additions to the lineup. Jensen showed off his wheels tonight as he scored his first D.C. point, and showed some incredible smarts in the defensive zone, jumping into passing lanes on several occasions. Hagelin, who spent years haranguing the Caps in the playoffs for the Rangers and Penguins also provided some high energy play, and stood up for a late stick-chop on Backstrom in the first period. While there are clearly some issues the Capitals need to sort out on the stat sheet, namely getting out-worked on the faceoff dot 32-to-14, these two have provided a spark at just the right time.
9. In a totally on-brand third period, the Capitals made things more difficult than they needed to be as Claude Giroux tallied his 20th goal of the season just 10 seconds into the third, while Scott Laughton tallied his 10th of the season with 12 minutes remaining to score three straight after the Capitals tallied the first five of the contest. While it can certainly be hard to a) play with a five-goal lead so early in a game and, b) go up against a squad with everything to gain, this is being a sneakily obnoxious (and very much not cute) trend for Washington as they keep finding ways to make games more interesting than they need to be.
10. With the victory between the pipes tonight, Braden Holtby became the second fastest goaltender among the 55 in league history to reach the 250 win mark in just his 409th career game and trailed only Ken Dryden who got to the plateau in just 381 games. Holtby is 18-9-2 against Eastern Conference teams this season, with an league-best 2.47 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. Among goaltenders with at least 45 games played this season, Holtby ranks sixth in even strength save percentage (.919).
The Capitals extended their winning streak to five straight and move to the top of the Metro division with the Islanders idle this evening. With the victory, Washington is now 25-10-4 against Eastern Conference opponents this year, with 15 games remaining, 13 of which are against Conference foes.
While the final score was not wholly indicative of the tush whuppin’ the Caps laid on the Flyers through the first half of the contest, it felt as though it was reflective of their season in a nutshell: show flashes of brilliance but take shifts off for periods at a time. While the final score is what mattered tonight, it will be interesting to see when the Caps start to activate their playoff mode in the final weeks of the season. (Seriously, click that link though.)