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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Panthers 4, Caps 1

October 22, 2017
Home Woes – In 41 home games during the 2016-17 NHL regular season, the Washington Capitals suffered a mere seven regulation losses. But more recently, regular patrons of the Capital One Arena have found victories by the home team to be much more sporadic. 

The Caps dropped their third straight home game in regulation on Saturday night, losing 4-1 to the Florida Panthers. It’s the first time in nearly four years (since Nov. 20-29, 2013) that the Caps have gone three straight home games without collecting a standings point, and they’ve managed to score just three goals in those three games. 

Dating back to the final home game of the 2016-17 season, and including the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs and a three-game preseason homestand this fall, the Caps have won only four of their last 15 home games, scoring just 27 goals and getting shutout four times. Washington has scored more than two goals in only four of those 15 games. 

Even tossing out the trio of preseason games, where there isn’t nearly as much emphasis on winning, the Caps are 4-8 with 25 goals in their last dozen games at home, and they’ve been blanked three times during that stretch.

“We have played fairly well here,” says Caps coach Barry Trotz, “we just haven’t gotten the results here. I can’t say we didn’t play well here [on Saturday] for a good portion [of the game], especially at five-on-five. We played better than they did, but we didn’t get the results. When you say we’re not playing well, that’s more indicative of the record versus the way we have played.” 

The schedule hasn’t been conducive to going on a strong home ice run, either. For the first time in their franchise history, the Caps are starting the season with six straight one-game homestands. They won’t play consecutive home games until Nov. 10-12, more than a month into the season.

Saturday’s loss leaves the Capitals at 1-3 on home ice this season, the team’s worst start at home since it moved to downtown D.C. nearly two decades ago. The last time the Caps started a season with as few as two points through four home games was in 1996-97, their last full season at USAir Arena in Landover. 

Matching Pops – Although he sat out the Caps’ first three games of the season as a healthy scratch, and although his average nightly ice time of 14:37 ranks sixth among all Washington defensemen, rookie blueliner Christian Djoos is second only to John Carlson in scoring among Caps defensemen. 

Djoos scored Washington’s lone goal in Saturday night’s loss to the Panthers, his second goal of the season and his third point in six games. Djoos has scored the only two goals from the Caps’ defense thus far this season. 

Djoos’ father – Par Djoos – played briefly in the NHL (he was also a teammate of Nicklas Backstrom’s father Anders in the Swedish Elite League). The elder Djoos was also a defenseman, and he played in 82 games over parts of three seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers from 1990-93. Par Djoos totaled two goals and 33 points in those 82 career NHL contests, so his son has now matched his NHL goal total in 76 fewer games. 

The 600 Club – Caps right wing T.J. Oshie skated in his 600 th career NHL game on Saturday night against the Panthers. He has piled up 175 goals and 426 points along the way, including 65 goals and 116 points in 157 games in a Capitals sweater. 

Earlier this month, we asked Oshie to compare how he approaches a new season at this stage of his career as opposed to how he did so when he was younger. 

“I feel like when I first came into the league,” says Oshie, “I wanted to get points and I wanted to play as much as possible. That’s changed for me at this point. Now I look at it like I want to play a little less, so that I stay fresher throughout the whole year and I just want to win. The points for me at this stage of my career don’t matter anymore. It’s just the wins/losses column. I want to get a ring and I don’t really care how I get it. That’s where I’m at.” 

Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears spent Saturday night on the road in Grand Rapids, seeking their first victory of the season in a game against the defending Calder Cup champion Griffins. The results were positive.

Behind the 24-save netminding efforts of Adam Carlson and the first hat trick of Chandler Stephenson’s professional career, the Bears improved to 1-3-0-1 on the season. 

After spotting the Griffins an early 1-0 lead, the Bears pulled even on Stephenson’s shorthanded goal at 17:18 of the second period, Riley Barber and Hubert Labrie assisting. 

Hershey grabbed a 2-1 lead on Garret Mitchell’s first goal of the season at 4:10 of the third. Chris Bourque and Stephenson assisted on the Mitchell goal.

Stephenson netted his second of the night on a Hershey power play at 6:16 of the third, expanding the Bears’ lead to 3-1. Wayne Simpson and Lucas Johansen earned assists on the second Stephenson strike. 

After the Griffins closed to within one, Stephenson completed his hat trick and the scoring for the game with an even-strength goal at 16:18 of the third, Bourque and Barber assisting. Stephenson’s hat trick included a shorthanded goal, a power-play goal and an even-strength goal.

The Bears finish up a busy weekend of three games in as many nights on the road in the Midwest when they pay a visit to Rockford to take on the Ice Hogs on Sunday afternoon. 

Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays earned a 3-2 road win over the Jacksonville Ice Men on Saturday night. Goaltender Jeff Jakaitis earned his second win in as many nights with a 20-save performance.

Joe Devin scored the first South Carolina goal, and Andrew Cherniwchan chipped in with a pair of tallies, both of them shorthanded. Cherniwchan scored once in the second and then his goal in the third broke a 2-2 tie and stood up as the game-winner. 

The 2-0-0-0 Stingrays are idle until Friday when they visit the Admirals in Norfolk. 

By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Caps with seven shots on net, 11 shot attempts, and 29:48 in ice time … Brooks Orpik led the Capitals with four hits … Backstrom, Orpik, Carlson and Andre Burakovsky led the Caps with two blocked shots each … Jay Beagle won nine of 11 draws (82%) on the night.

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