Feeling Grubi – Caps backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer doesn’t get a lot of home starts, and he doesn’t get a lot of starts playing behind a rested team, either. But he started at home behind a rested Washington group on Tuesday, and the results were excellent. Grubauer stopped 37 of 38 shots to help the Capitals to a 3-1 victory over Vancouver Canucks at Capital One Arena.
The only shot to get through Grubauer was a deflection while the Canucks enjoyed a two-man advantage. Daniel Sedin’s five-on-three power-play goal came at 8:23 of the first, and it staked visiting Vancouver to a 1-0 lead.
Washington scored three unanswered goals in a span of 9 minutes and 44 seconds of playing time that bridged the first two periods, and the Caps might have scored twice as many goals if not for some good goaltending from Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, and some missed opportunities and overpassing on the part of the Caps.
Even the three goals Washington did score must have seemed like vast riches of goals to Grubauer, who isn’t accustomed to such offensive largesse on the part of his teammates. Coming into Tuesday’s game, Grubauer received an average of 1.9 goals per start in offensive support. Tuesday’s game marks only the fourth time in Grubauer’s 11 starts that Washington has managed to score as many as three goals for him.
Grubauer has now permitted one or zero goals in four of his last five starts. Over his last six appearances (including one relief effort), Grubauer is 3-0-2 with a shutout, a 1.04 GAA and a .965 save pct. He has permitted just two five-on-five goals in those last six appearances.
Grubauer faced – and stopped – 20 shots in the third period of Tuesday’s game, but most were from long distance. This barrage came after he saw just four shots in the middle 20 minutes of the contest.
“It’s a little challenging,” says Grubauer of a sleepy second period at his end of the ice, followed by a busy third. “Because you’ve got to stay mentally more into the game. If you have a lot of shots, you kind of go with it. If you don’t get that, you’ve just got to stay prepared. It’s the same thing with not playing for a long time. I was saving my energy for the last one there and I think we kept it really simple, and got the win.”
After the game, Washington winger Devante Smith-Pelly expounded upon his team’s play in its own zone against the Canucks.
“Just boxing out early,” says Smith-Pelly, “good sticks, making sure we were finishing our checks and sticking on guys. They had 40 shots, but I think a lot of them were just roaming around the outside and just shooting it. We did a good job in our zone tonight, and when they did get quality chances, Phil shut the door.”
Five And Dime – Washington’s Tuesday night victory over Vancouver was its fifth win in succession, its longest streak of the season to date. It was also the Capitals’ 10
th straight win on home ice this season, tied for the fourth longest streak of its kind in franchise history.
The Caps put together a pair of modest three-game winning streaks early in the season before they were able to stretch a streak to four straight. Then they had a pair of four-game winning streaks before expanding this one to five in a row against the Canucks.
On home ice this season, the Capitals are 18-5-0, and they’ve won 16 of their last 18 games in the District.
Home Run – The Caps’ current 10-game winning streak on home ice is their longest of the season, obviously, and it’s tied for the fourth longest home winning streak in franchise history.
Last season’s Caps established the standard with 15 straight victories in the District, and virtually the same group of players rolled up a dozen wins in a row at home a season earlier, in 2015-16. Washington had a 13-game home winning streak in 2009-10 and another 10-game spree back in 1999-00.
You’re My Boy(s), Blue – The Caps’ blueline continues to contribute to the team’s attack, and a defenseman had a hand in each of Washington’s three goals in Tuesday’s game.
John Carlson scored Washington’s first goal of the game, and Madison Bowey set up Lars Eller’s beauty of a rush goal from the high slot, late in the first period. Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov assisted on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goal early in the second.
Washington defensemen have contributed five goals and 18 points to the team’s offensive cause in the last five games. On the season, Caps blueliners have totaled 17 goals and 72 assists for 89 points in 43 games, an average of 2.07 points per game.
The 200-Foot Loft – With Washington up by two goals late in Tuesday’s game and Markstrom pulled for an extra Vancouver attacker, Grubauer had a brief and unique opportunity. He came into possession of the puck with a bit of time and space, perhaps just enough time and space with which to launch a long loft shot at the vacant cage 200 feet away from him. Instead, Grubauer froze the puck for a face-off in the Washington end.
After freezing the puck, Grubauer was seen having a brief conversation with teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov was asked whether he told Grubauer that he should have tried to score.
“Yeah,” says Kuznetsov. “He kind of thinks he doesn’t have a lot of time, but I always love when goalies try to score, even if they’re going to catch the puck and score in our net. But I will try that any day. If the goalies can shoot and score, that’s probably the best, best memories.”
Standing Up – Early in the third period of Tuesday’s game, Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik came into possession of the puck at the Vancouver line and barreled in alone on Markstrom. Just after he let go of his shot – which went wide – he was the recipient of a high, hard hit from Canucks defenseman Ben Hutton.
That didn’t sit well with Smith-Pelly, who challenged Hutton, and the two were sent off for fighting. Smith-Pelly incurred an additional minor and a 10-minute misconduct, penalties that took him out of commission for the remainder of the third period.
“I just thought it was maybe unnecessary, I don’t know about dirty,” says Smith-Pelly. “I just thought it was kind of unnecessary, so I just had to jump in there.”
Tuesday’s bout was the first of Smith-Pelly’s NHL career and just the second fight for Hutton.
“I love that we had people sticking up for Brooks,” says Caps coach Barry Trotz. “Brooks is a guy that is one of the most beloved guys in our room, number one. Number two, I thought he was terrific tonight. He was solid in every area of the game. I thought he was really terrific. From my standpoint, I just like the fact that we’re playing for each other.”
According to hockeyfights.com, the Caps have had a total of 12 fighting majors this season, with Tom Wilson accounting for seven of those. The other five involve five different players: Smith-Pelly, Orpik, Andre Burakovsky, Alex Chiasson and Liam O’Brien.
The 200 Club – Eller’s dazzling first-period goal was also the 200
th point of his NHL career. Eller has 92 goals and 108 assists in 565 career games in the league.
By The Numbers – Carlson led the Caps with 24:16 in ice time and five blocked shots … Jakub Vrana and Wilson had six shots on net each to lead the Capitals, and Wilson led the team with eight shot attempts and seven hits … Eller won eight of 12 draws (67%), T.J. Oshie won four of six (67%) and Jay Beagle won 10 of 16 (64%).