February 2, 2019 | 7:10pm ET
By Sammi Silber, The Fourth Period
COMMITMENT PULLS CAPS OUT OF SKID
Braden Holtby, goalie
WASHINGTON, DC -- Although the final horn signaled the end of Washington’s seven-game losing streak Friday, it was a bench brawl that ultimately signaled that Washington’s woes were over.
Nicklas Backstrom took down Johnny Gaudreau in the Capitals’ crease, which subsequently led to a heated exchange between Brooks Orpik and Matthew Tkachuk, as well as Tom Wilson and Rasmus Andersson.
In an emotionally-fueled matchup without captain Alex Ovechkin, who was serving his one-game suspension for missing the All-Star Game, the Capitals stuck to a committed game that helped them put their skid behind them.
“It was a big team effort from top to bottom, our leadership group did a really good job,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “We stuck together to the very end.”
Before the All-Star break, Washington had struggled in many different areas of their game. First, the team was having trouble converting at even strength and on the man advantage, and were being heavily outscored. This eventually led to a chance-for-chance mentality, and while Washington started to find the back of the net, they’d give up opportunities the other way.
It was a style that Reirden said didn’t live up to the standards of “Washington Capitals hockey,” and when the team dropped seven straight and dropped to second in the metro, it was a wake-up call. Things needed to change, especially with the playoff race getting tighter.
“That’s not the way we need to play to win hockey games. We obviously haven’t been winning much lately… it’s a reality check,” Braden Holtby had said. “This is not good enough to win. From me, from all of us.”
Coming back from the break, the Capitals knew they needed to respond and knew it would come as a challenge, with Ovechkin out and Calgary being the top team in the Western Conference. However, they made a collective decision to play with urgency and control the tempo.
It was this approach, as well as a buy-in effort from the bench, that helped Washington not only snap the skid, but show they’re ready to keep moving in the right direction.
“Obviously when you’re in a hole like that, you have to just commit to the little things and keep it simple… I mean you’ve just got to get back to basics. Nothing too special,” Nic Dowd said.
In addition, Washington saw contributions from three different lines Friday, and are starting to get more secondary scoring. The bottom-6 had also played a big part, and moving forward, it will continue to be crucial as the Capitals look to get back to basics.
The victory Friday showed plenty of upside for Washington, especially when it came to facing adversity; they also lost key member Lars Eller to a lower-body injury during the game and had to make do with a shorter bench. However, it’s that response to adversity that has, and should, power the Capitals and help put the past behind them.
“We base our team’s success off the system we play and the trust we have in each other as opposed to one or two people and individual skill,” Holtby said. “We believe in everyone on our team that they can get the job done.”
The Capitals will face Boston Sunday, looking to build off their victory and continue to push forward and prepare for the latter half of the season.
“It’s behind us now obviously. We’ll try and take stuff from it, but we’re looking forward,” Tom Wilson said. “We’re not looking back.”