Washington Capitals didn’t lose all momentum during pause

Well, the pause wasn’t as detrimental for some teams as it was dramatically assumed to be. After an extended break, NHL action resumed and the Washington Capitals returned to action. The Capitals earned points in their final three contests. On Dec. 29, the team beat the Nashville Predators 5-3, then defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 Dec. 31. However, they lost their first game in 2022 to New Jersey 4-3 in overtime.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Capitals’ 4-3 Overtime Loss to Devils – 1/2/22

The safety pause was necessary, and that is ultimately what matters. On their return, the question was whether the time away would have hindered their progress or allowed their aging stars to get a little more rest. The answer was yes.

Capitals Recover from Pause with 3-Game Point Streak

Before the Nashville game, it wasn’t looking good for Washington. Six new players were added to COIVD protocols, which left the defense drained. They did however get back Nicklas, Evgeny Kuknetsov, T.J. Oshie. The fanbase was graciously grateful for the return.

Offense stays the course

The three aforementioned players scored a point against Predators. Kuznetsov had two points, while Backstrom had one against the Red Wings. Unfortunately, both Backstrom and Oshie needed to be absent Sunday’s matchup with New Jersey, and Kuznetsov posted a minus-3 rating in what was a flawed team performance veiled by a rally to save a point.

Alex Ovechkin’s stellar play continued, scoring three more goals and 1 assist during the stretch that brought his season total up to 50. He also set the record for the most assists against Detroit. Most power-play goals ever recordedHis 275th.

This level of production from the top-six talent wasn’t surprising but was still reassuring. On the other hand, it was the play of John Carlson that really propelled the Capitals during the team’s return because, well, he had to step up.

Defense finds ways to remain solid

Carlson had four points against Nashville (one goal, three assists), one assist against Detroit (one assist), and another against the Devils. He had a plus-5 rating, averaged 24:35 of the ice time in the three-game period, which was the best on the team.

John Carlson, Washington CapitalsJess Starr/The Hockey Writers

Michal Kempny was the big return. The veteran defenseman struggled during the preseason after coming off years of injuries but was recalled from the Hershey Bears, Washington’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, out of urgency. In protocol were Justin Schultz and Martin Fehervary as well as Dennis Cholowski and Martin Fehervary.

Kempny did a great job. Kempny was asked to spend a lot more ice time, an average of 19:44 in each of the three games. Although he did register an assist against Nashville, his performance in the New Jersey and Detroit games was not as good. The combined score of both games was minus-2. This can be somewhat excused considering his return to NHL play.

Two Capitals defensemen also made debuts. Both Alex Alexeyev, and Lucas Johansen played well in their respective debuts. Alexeyev, who was expected to make his debut in the season, skated for 10 minutes 35 against the Predators. Johansen had an assist in 12 hours 18 of ice time against the Red Wings.

Jensen and Schultz were both back in the lineup against Devils. Washington’s ability to win five points and concede 2.33 goals per contest despite the uncertainty surrounding their season was a pleasant surprise.

Capitals are Moving Forward

Washington currently has 48 points, tied with New York Rangers as the NHL’s most-points leader. That, however, will certainly change because the Capitals don’t play again until Friday due to their game versus Montreal scheduled for Tuesday being postponed. Washington then has brutal back-to-back road games with St. Louis and Minnesota, two of the Western Conference’s top-five teams.

Related: Wild’s Struggles Continue, as They Fall to Blues in Winter Classic

Capital One Arena is 10-3-3 for the Capitals this season. After a good return from the break, the team essentially just needs to keep the ship steady considering it’s been wobbling since October. The offense has been its usual self, but must be wary of burning out toward the season’s end. The defense has been somewhat of a surprise, but if they’re able to stay consistent, with a strangely inconsistent lineup, the team will be set up for a long playoff run, especially if Kempny can prove he’s the player he once was. One thing is certain in this uncertainty: A veteran star is always there to step up during these unpredicted situations.

While there are some areas they need to improve on, like power-play production or finishing games, Peter Laviolette, the head coach, has been able to adapt well to any injuries or illnesses that his team has sustained and has provided his rookies with a steady dose, without overworking his young core into regression.

This has been the case for all NHL franchises this season, as well as the league office’s approach to making sure 2021-22 happens in full and the players and personnel are safe and healthy. We hope it stays that way.

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