Jan 4, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby (70) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Capitals 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Capitals: Behind Enemy Lines

Fresh off of last night’s defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Buffalo Sabres return home to play a fellow cellar-dweller.  It’s a winnable game, folks!

Dec 29, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) stops a shot by Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19) during the game at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s Opponent: The Washington Capitals

Record: 23-21-8, 54 pts.

Standings: Thirteenth in Eastern Conference

Current Streak: Won one

Washington is a team who desperately needs to begin finding some consistency.   It’s hard to believe, but not too long ago, this team was sitting in second place in the terribly-named Metropolitan Division.  Now?  Try seventh.

*That should make you feel good, Sabres fans, since we never had a reason to get our hopes up this year!

The Capitals thumped the Montreal Canadiens 5-0 last night, which ended an 0-5-2 winless streak.  Washington saw three players notch their first goal of the season last night, had 13 players score points in that contest, and got a second shutout this season out of netminder Braden Holtby.

Great, right?  Sure – except that even with those 5 goals from last night, the Capitals have scored just 13 goals in its last 8 games.  Hmm: 13-5, 8-1 = the Capitals made me do math!  Me angry!

*And the answer is the Capitals had only scored 8 goals in the 7 games before beating Montreal.  I’s is so smart!

Part of the reason that Washington has struggled to score goals, and win games, as of late is that this team is 1-23 on the power play during the last eight games.  Hell, even with their five-goal outburst last night, Washington was 0-8 with the man advantage!   This is the same team who was tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the best power play in the NHL on January 15.  Since then, they have fallen to fourth.

Tsk, tsk, Washington!

And it’s not just their offense and power play that has been inconsistent – there’s a reason why the name “Ryan Miller” keeps getting mentioned in trade rumors that involve the Capitals.  As our own Caitlin Campbell wrote here not too long ago,

The Capitals would like Holtby to be their goalie of the future, but he needs to be groomed and mentored by a veteran and that’s where Ryan Miller and the equation enters. Ship Miller to Washington, he’ll own the crease while he backstops the Capitals into the playoffs and mentors Holtby before either re-signing or leaving in free agency.

Holtby drew some attention during the 2011-2012 playoffs, but he has been largely up-and-down since then.  Meanwhile, his backup, Michal Neuvirth, won the starting job last season, lost it during the playoffs, and hasn’t regained it since, causing him to demand a trade.  Goaltender stability, this is not, so I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Miller’s name associated with the Capitals more and more, especially if the Caps can put together a nice little winning streak and sneak their way back into the playoff chase.

The Buffalo Sabres hold the edge in the season series 2-0 so far, so cross your fingers and hope the Sabres can complete the sweep tonight!

Interesting tidbits:

Mikhail Grabovski is still out with an ankle injury

– Despite missing two games in this stretch, Alex Ovechkin has six goals over the Capitals’ last 14 games.  The rest of Washington’s top nine?  13 goals among them, with only Jason Chimera scoring more than twice (he has scored three)

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