Vrana is dangerous, Panik is struggling and the Caps are taking too many penalties

J.J. Regan

WASHINGTON -- Braden Holtby came out on the wrong end of Saturday's goalie duel as the Capitals fell 2-1 in a seven-round shootout against Jackob Markstrom and the Vancouver Canucks.

Observations from the loss

An important point

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There are no moral victories in professional sports. The Caps lost in a game that seemed very winnable given how things played out. Having said that, this is a valuable point. With no Nicklas Backstrom, Nic Dowd, Carl Hagelin or Garnet Hathaway, this is the most shorthanded this team has been in several years and the bottom-six on offense resembles the Hershey Bears more than it does the Caps. Reirden said only that he was "hopeful" Backstrom and Dowd could be back for Wednesday's game, but neither has practiced yet. Hathaway remains suspended for one more game and Hagelin is on LTIR and not eligible to return until Dec. 2. The lineup could very well be the same Wednesday against the Florida Panthers.

With the New York Islanders hot on Washington's heels within the division, you can't just punt on these three games and six points.

Getting a point out of this lineup against a good Vancouver team matters. It could have been two, but one is better than none.

Vrana has worked on adding the one-timer to his arsenal

There are a lot of things that Jakub Vrana does really well. He is very fast and has a good shot. If he wanted to, he could make a decent career out of that. Great players are the ones that continue to add to their skillset. While I would not label Vrana as a "great" NHL player just yet, I am impressed with the amount of work he puts into adding to his game. The one-timer is something we see a lot more of this season than last and he has used it effectively.

If you watch Vrana's goal on Saturday, you are not going to mistake him for Alex Ovechkin. The shot does not have much zip on it like Ovechkin's whose shots hit the back of the net and are out before a goalie can even really react to it. Vrana's shots, however, are very well placed. This one happened to hit the top corner perfectly to beat Markstrom who did not allow another goal even in seven rounds of a shootout.

One big improvement in Vrana's game this year was also evident and that is his positioning. He has done a good job putting himself in a position to score this year and he really seems to be reading the game well offensively.

Time to Panik?

Todd Reirden was not pleased with the two penalties the team took in the first period that not only killed their momentum, but also resulted in Vancouver's lone goal of the game. He specifically referenced Richard Panik's trip of Elias Pettersson that gave the Canucks a two-man advantage when asked if it was time to stop talking about penalties and start punishing.

"I did do that today with a penalty that puts us down 5-on-3," Reirden said. "There was some ice time that was missed there. That's what we'll continue to have to be the statement on that. In particular, that's one that was pointed out between periods. Most teams are converting at a high rate 5-on-3 and I felt like that was a game that we were carrying the play in the first and we let them back in with that."

From when Panik's penalty expired with about four minutes left in the period until about 4:48 into the second period, Panik played only 22 seconds.

I have defended Panik from his detractors all of whom ignored how difficult it can be for players to come into a new team and were too quick to write him off. This, however, was a bad game.

Hathaway, Dowd and Hagelin were all out. Those are three of the team's top forward penalty killers all out. Chandler Stephenson was already in the box, another penalty killer, and Panik tripped Pettersson with an obvious call. You can't make that mistake in that moment. Not only did it give Vancovuer a two-man advantage, but it took a fifth penalty killer off the ice.

Panik now has only one point in 15 games. He was playing well defensively and his offensive play seemed to have improved since he returned from a shoulder injury. Saturday's game, however, was a definite step back.

Faceoffs

Believe it or not, the Caps won 55-percent of their draws against Vancouver. Evgeny Kuznetsov won 11 of the 16 faceoffs he took, good for 69-percent.

How do you pick who goes in the shootout?

After seeing John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov, two defensemen, shoot in consecutive rounds in the shootout, I was curious as to how Reirden picked who went. The longer a shootout goes, the more difficult it becomes to pick the shooter. I asked him about this after the game.

"You practice it, some guys have done well in practice so you go to that a little bit," Reirden said. "Then it becomes a hunch a little bit there as well. Guys that you think have gone before in that situation, there is pressure in those situations as well. But it's a little bit of hit or miss on that."

Turning point

Up 1-0 in the first period, the Caps were dominating. They were in complete control until Stephenson was called for interference and just 62 seconds later Panik joined him in the penalty box after tripping Pettersson. Pettersson would go on to score on the two-man advantage he drew to tie the game at 1, the only goal Braden Holtby allowed the entire game.

Play of the game

This was wild.

Keep in mind that all of this happened after Markstrom denied Alex Ovechkin on the breakaway too.

Stat of the game

Vrana is evolving as a player and is turning into a very dangerous offensive weapon for the Caps.

Quote of the game

Vrana got the lone goal of the game for the Caps against Markstrom, but was denied on the shootout. He was asked about how he decided what to do with this shot:

"Well when you have a tree in the net, you gonna figure out with how he's gonna move. I don't know, man. I just look up where is the free spot. He was so much, he was so in the net, he didn't go out at all. I think the go-to was to surprise him with the shot. I mean I didn't fake anything. I should have maybe fake him a little bit first. But that's history now. It just didn't work out today."

Fan predictions

The Caps gave up five power plays for the game, far too many and it was why they were not able to keep control in the first period.

In other words, you were wrong.

Keep trying guys.

Penn State lost by 11. They haven't looked right since that loss to Minnesota.

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Vrana is dangerous, Panik is struggling and the Caps are taking too many penalties originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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