T.J. Oshie has been heating up at the right time for the Washington Capitals. The 31-year-old winger hasn’t had the most impressive season to date, but that is subject to change. In his last seven games, he’s gone from feeling frustrated to returning to the form of a first-overall draft pick.
Oshie, acquired from the St. Louis Blues in 2015 in exchange for Troy Brouwer, was brought in to provide additional offensive depth for the Capitals. In his first season “Rocking the Red,” he recorded 51 points. The following 2016-17 season he exceeded his point totals by scoring a career-high 56 points. This season he has 44 points – his lowest production in three seasons in Washington. Statistically, this season is consistent with Oshie’s career totals but he hasn’t been consistent throughout the year.
It can be frustrating trying to snap a scoreless streak. You question what you’re doing wrong, grip your stick too tight and miss golden opportunities that would otherwise be on the scoresheet. So, what do players do to break out of a funk? Some get analytical and check the scouting reports to find their opponent’s weak spot. Most will look for a goaltender’s weak spot or which defenseman loses his coverage easier in the defensive zone.
Other players will look for that perfect shot to beat the goalie bar down. Nothing hypes up a player more than a highlight reel goal, right? While these techniques can make a player feel more secure in their efforts, they aren’t always the answer. Most of the time it takes putting your nose to the grindstone, digging deep, and simplifying your game.
Back on Mar. 15, Oshie snapped a 20-game goal drought by doing just that. He beat the New York Islanders twice that night. The following night he added another goal in the second half of the home-and-home series. In his last seven games, Oshie has netted five goals and dished out three assists for eight points in eight games. Not only did he end his scoreless drought but he began a scoring streak which is very impressive. When asked what has changed about his game, Oshie said,
Everyone has been asking me what’s changed, I don’t know. She’s going in now and it’s feeling good. My linemates have been doing a good job on getting me the puck when I get to open areas. I think if anything I’ve just felt a little more free to go in and find a spot, pick it, and let it rip. Before I was really focusing on the pre-scout of the goalie, where you should shoot, and where most of the goals go in. Now, I’m just getting back to playing a little more free, a little more natural, and the puck’s finding the net for me.
Heading for Familiar Territory
The Capitals will encourage Oshie to continue to feel free. How could you not in the nation’s capital? He’s cycling the puck, making smart plays in the offensive zone, and finding the back of the net. Getting the monkey off his back has come at the right time, not only personally, but for the team.
The Caps are known for their lethal offense. With the return of Oshie’s game, he’s again part of the secondary scoring that helps take the pressure off Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin. The team ranks atop the Metropolitan Division with 99 points, seven ahead of the rival Pittsburgh Penguins (whom have three games in hand). If Oshie can keep riding this resurgence, he could be the catalyst that helps separate Washington from the rest of the division for the remainder of the season.
With the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the horizon, it is critical that the Capitals continue firing on all cylinders and finish the season on a high note. It’s no secret that the playoffs haven’t been kind to them in recent years. It will be the depth players, like Oshie, that will need to use their high hockey IQ to step up at key times, make pivotal plays, and help put the points on the board. With the pressure to succeed being placed on other teams, this could be the year that Washington breaks their playoff curse.