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Takeaways: Sheary, Vanecek Clutch, Capitals Blank Yotes To End Road Trip



Washington Capitals forward Conor Sheary could play a bigger role in 2021-22.

The Washington Capitals came to Arizona on a mission: to bounce back and close out their road trip with a win, and to continue to shake up the East playoff picture. They accomplished that and more against the Coyotes, the last Western team left on the regular-season schedule.

Vitek Vanecek and the Capitals tightened up on defense, while Conor Sheary and John Carlson provided the offense in a quiet but solid 2-0 win over the struggling Yotes, who dropped their ninth straight game. Washington went 3-1-1 on its five-game road swing and again tied the Penguins for third in the Metro and the Bruins for the first Wild Card spot. However, they remain in the WC2 spot as they do not own the tiebreakers.

Here are the takeaways from the victory.

Vanecek Shuts Door As Defense Keeps Coyotes At Bay

After a number of starts for Ilya Samsonov, Vanecek made his return to the crease for his first start in a week with a big opportunity to get back in the race for the starting job for the Capitals heading into the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He did not disappoint and capitalized on that chance.

Vanecek moved well between the pipes and stopped all 19 shots faced for his fourth shutout of the season, tied for fifth among goaltenders this season. There were a couple of fumbles early, but he was confident throughout, came in clutch and also made the right saves at the right time.

The Czech netminder also got solid play in front of him. Washington’s blue line did a great job on the backcheck and was able to shut down a lot of Arizona’s chances. Meanwhile, the Capitals didn’t allow them to pile on the pressure or spend extended time in their zone and also spent a majority of the time in the offensive zone and on the forecheck.

Sheary, Carlson Continue To Thrive

Sheary has been one of the team’s top versatile forwards this season, contributing on offense and also playing a solid two-way game and having chemistry on any line. Of late, he’s been on the second line with Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom and has fit in there well.

READ MORE ON WHN: How Johansson Has Been Meeting Laviolette, Capitals’ Expectations

The 29-year-old winger got the Capitals going after going hard to the net and tapping in a Nicklas Backstrom pass off a rebound in front to make it 1-0 just about 12 minutes into the first period.

It marked Sheary’s 18th goal of the season, and he also added an assist later on Carlson’s empty-netter. His 18 goals mark his highest total since 2017-18. He also has five points in his last six games, including two multi-point outings. Sheary has nine multi-point outings this season and is up to 41 points, marking his first season with at least 40 points since 2016-17.

Later in the third, Carlson secured the victory with an ENG to make it 2-0. It was the 32-year-old blueliner’s 16th goal of the season, a new single-season career-high. He ended up leading all Washington skaters with 23:38 minutes.

No. 74 has points in eight of his last nine games and continues to provide offense while elevating his play in his own zone to boot.

Power Play Comes Up Empty As Capitals Stayed Disciplined

The Capitals played some clean hockey on Friday, not taking one penalty but drawing four power-play opportunities. It wasn’t an ideal night on the man advantage, though, as the team couldn’t get anything past Karel Vejmelka on the power play.

Washington will have to get its PP going when it comes to playoffs, especially if they will be facing a top-tier opponent.

Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes

  • Justin Schultz picked up a helper on Sheary’s goal and now has six assists in his last six games.
  • Nic Dowd also dished an apple and now has points in four of his last six games, with six points over that span.
  • Lars Eller had a strong night, leading the team with four shots and also going 10-for-14 (71 percent) in the face-off circle over 16:36 minutes.
  • Martin Fehervary and T.J. Oshie were tied for the team lead in hits with three apiece.
  • Speaking of hits, though, the Capitals were dominated in that department, being outhit 32-15.