The Runner Sports

Capitals Wil-Son Their Way To Game 4 Victory

When the puck dropped for Game 4, the Washington Capitals trailed their playoff series 2-1 to the Toronto Maple Leads. Now, they will head back to Verizon Center with an even series after their 5-4 win Wednesday.

Washington got off to another hot start in Game 4. TJ Oshie made it 1-0 three minutes into the game by beating a sprawling Frederik Andersen. Two minutes later, Alex Ovechkin struck on a power play to put Washington up 2-0. Zach Hyman redirected a Jake Gardiner point shot to cut the lead in half. Later, Tom Wilson deflected a Lars Eller shot through Andersen for a two-goal lead. Wilson then made it 4-1 by finishing a great passing play from Andre Burakovsky. James van Riemsdyk struck in the second period and then Auston Matthews scored in the third to make it 4-3. Oshie snuck his second goal of the game through Andersen’s pads for a 5-3 score. Tyler Bozak scored with 25 seconds left to make it 5-4 but that was as close as Toronto would get.

Even as I sit writing this article, I want to give a standing ovation to the player of the game, Tom Wilson. Head coach Barry Trotz decided to promote Wilson to the third line for this game and it paid off with interest. Wilson had his first two-goal game of his career and made, undoubtedly, the play of the game. Seconds before his first goal, he dove headfirst into Braden Holtby’s crease to knock a rolling puck away from the goal line that was on its way in. He then got up the ice to deflect Eller’s shot into the net. He later made another big play by knocking Morgan Reilly off a loose puck and then transitioned to offense to score on a 2-on-1 rush with Burakovsky. Great call coach Trotz.

Now, let’s look at what the team did well on as a whole. First, they dominated the turnover battle and it wasn’t even close. They turned the puck over a mere nine times to Toronto’s 29. Forwards attacked the Maple Leaf defenders which caused them to cough up the puck. Ovechkin led the way for Washingon with 2 takeaways, continuing his excellent series play.

Next, blocked shots. The Capitals won this battle by a 22-17 margin due in large part to their defensemen. Dmitry Orlov led Washington with 5 blocks followed by Kevin Shattenkirk’s 4 and Brooks Orpik’s 3. John Carlson also contributed 2 blocks of his own. It’s great to see the team showing increased sacrifice as the series goes on as it prevents scoring chances from getting through to Holtby.

Faceoffs were another bright spot for Washington as it was in Game 3. Washington won 53% of their draws compared to Toronto’s 48%. Their first goal came off of an offensive zone faceoff win by Backstrom, something Washington struggled with early in the series. Lars Eller led Washington centers with a 64% winning rate. Even TJ Oshie chipped in with a 71% effectiveness when he took draws. This is an area that Washington should continue to improve upon going into Game 5.

Now, for the bad.

My first issue may sound like a cheap excuse but there’s no denying that the officiating in this series has been suspect (for both sides). Nowhere was that more apparent than Nate Schmidt’s disallowed third period goal. The goal was called back when the referee deemed that Nicklas Backstrom interfered with Frederik Andersen. Funny considering most of the contact was done by Andersen with Backstrom attempting to show that he was trying to move. Andersen wrapped his stick around Backstrom’s leg’s, preventing him from moving out of the crease. This call could have had a huge impact on the game. The goal would have given Washington a three-goal lead. Instead, it remained 4-2 with Toronto scoring a minute later to make it 4-3. A horrendous error by the officials that could have had serious repercussions on the final score.

Bad luck continues to plague the Capitals in the way of opposition bounces. Toronto regularly scores goals where pucks hit off Capitals players and make it into the net or drop near the crease for tap-ins. See van Riemsdyk and Matthews’ goals. Washington can never seem to get many bounces to go their way and have had to rely on almost perfect shots to beat Andersen for much of the series. If the hockey gods are reading this, how about sending some more bounces the other way? At least make it fair.

Speaking of bad luck, what in the world is happening to Evgeny Kuznetsov? The poor kid simply can’t buy goals. He scored on an almost zero angle shot in Game 3 but otherwise has had a plethora of chances that just won’t go in. Seconds after Oshie opened the scoring in Game 4, Kuznetsov found himself on a breakaway. He got Andersen down…and shot the puck wide. Nine times out of ten, that’s a goal for Kuznetsov. I don’t know what the issue is but something’s got to give for the Russian youngster.

My last big problem with Game 4 was something that cost the team Game 3: stupid penalties. With a 4-2 lead in the dying seconds of the second period, Lars Eller took a delay of game penalty for a faceoff violation. Seconds later, Brooks Orpik was sent off for slashing and it was a five-on-three for Toronto before you could blink an eye. Thankfully, the Capitals killed off the man advantage but penalties like that can’t be taken against a team like Toronto.

At the end of the day, Washington held their ground and came out with a win. They didn’t allow Toronto to force overtime and earned themselves a tied series.

What’s Next: The Capitals will return to a Verizon Center that will be rocking the red when the puck drops for Game 5. Puck drop will be at 7 PM on Friday night.

Andrew Markowitz

Longtime Capitals fan hoping to see a Stanley Cup parade in D.C. this year...or at least once in my life

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  • Titty Thomas

    Hey Andrew. Its your good old friend Titty Thomas here. Love the articles this season. As always, this one is Titty Approved!!!!!

  • Titty Thomas

    Why do you never respond to my comments Andrew? Titty Thomas is your biggest fan!