Getting the Point Across…and Down (Metropolitan Division Notebook)

It took a while for Evgeny Kuznetsov to become an established star in the NHL after being a first-round pick in 2010, but he's putting it all together in 2015-16. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
It took a while for Evgeny Kuznetsov to become an established star in the NHL after being a first-round pick in 2010, but he’s putting it all together in 2015-16. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

If you’re well-versed in the world of crossword puzzles, as this sports writer and crossword blogger happens to be, one would know that the standard size of a grid is 15 squares by 15 squares; therefore, being able to find 15-letter entries that span the entire grid can do wonders to creating the best crossword puzzle possible, in terms of quality entries (called “fill” in the crossword world) and construction.

Some Washington Capitals players may know that already, given their reported interest in taking on these black-and-white pieces of art and trivia on a near-daily basis. A recent Washington Post article documented the adventures of some of the Caps players tackling the Washington Post crossword, as well as other nationally syndicated crosswords like the USA Today. While the article suggests that the players aren’t master cruciverbalists (people who are adept at creating and/or solving crossword puzzles), they’ve certainly almost perfected their play on the ice, as the Caps own the best record in the NHL, winning 35 of their 43 games so far. At 73 points, Washington has the highest point total in the league, with the team that owns the second-highest points total, the Chicago Blackhawks at 68 points, having played three more games (49) than Washington (46).

Here are a few reasons the Capitals are well on their way to the best record in National Hockey League, using 15-letter fill to make the point…and get you closer to finishing that grid!

Clue: He scored two goals in the Capitals’ win over Columbus on Tuesday.

Answer: NICKLAS BACKSTROM. The All-Star, who’s centering the No. 1 line that includes new 500-goal scorer Alexander Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, has scored a point in eight of his last 10 games. He’s also on pace to score the most goals since his 33-goal campaign in the 2009-10 season.

Clue: Washington’s version ranks fifth in this category.

Answer: PENALTY KILL UNIT. One of the team’s few weak spots over the past few years, the team’s current 84.8 penalty-kill percentage would be the highest for the squad since the 2010-11 season, as well as the second-highest penalty kill percentage since the turn of the century.

Clue: Russian who leads the Washington Capitals in scoring.

Answer: EVGENY KUZNETSOV. Fooled you, huh? Besides, Alexander Ovechkin wouldn’t have fit (17 letters). But Kuznetsov does, and, in his third season as a Cap after being the team’s first-round draft pick in 2010, has emerged as a real force, especially since he’s formed a good chemistry with second-year pro Andre Burakovsky and former Stanley Cup winner Justin Williams.

With the snowstorms that have hit the DC Area, Washington’s next two games have been postponed, which means the team will have an entire week off from competition before its next game at home against Philadelphia on Jan. 27. That means definitely more time for crosswords – and more time for Washington to recuperate and make their charge towards their ultimate goal: playing in the STANLEY CUP FINAL (15 letters).

[Cover photo (Washington Capitals) courtesy of Maddie Meyer/Getty Images]

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