The Caps have announced this morning that they have re-signed centerman Brooks Laich to a six-year contract worth an estimated $27 million. Laich would have been an unrestricted free agent if a deal hadn’t been struck by Friday, July 1; letting Laich go could’ve been a step backwards for the team.
Fortunately, the Caps stepped up and held on to one of their more dynamic on-ice leaders. The center had made it known that he preferred to stick around the DC area, fully intending to return to the Caps locker room in the fall. Today, that’s a surety for at least the next six years.
“My intent the whole time was to return. That was the only option. We got to a point where it got very close to the draft and I really wanted to get the deal done so I knew for sure I’d be going back to Washington,” Laich told Caps media senior writer Mike Vogel. “You never know could happen at the draft; they could have made trades or gone in another direction. I didn’t want to lose Washington.”
“He was important to our team,” said General Manager George McPhee in the Caps press release. “We had to sort out what kind of commitment he wanted to make and what kind of commitment we wanted to make. But as we got further along in the process and really got a more comprehensive view of contracts in the league and where he fits with those players and those contracts, it seemed like he was right in line with a lot of them.”
Laich’s continued presence will keep the Caps’ veteran center line intact, joining Niklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson up the middle.
The Capitals went toe-to-toe with the New York Rangers in an intense physical game, scored two quick goals in the second period, then locked down the defense to hang on for the 2-0 victory and a 2-0 lead in the series. Michal Neuvirth made 22 saves to earn his first NHL post-season shutout in front of a lively and appreciative crowd last night at the Verizon Center.
The Rangers showed more fire and hustle in the first period, outshooting the Caps 13-7, outhitting by a margin of 18-11, and generally dominating puck possession. The bodies were flying, and more then one player took the short trip down the corridor to the locker room for repair, only to be back on the bench for the next shift. Continue reading →
Semyon Varlamov faced a penalty shot. courtesy of PackaPucksPics
The Caps couldn’t muster enough energy last night to play a complete hockey game, falling to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout. “I feel like at some points in the game we were just coasting a little bit instead of pushing the envelope and that’s what bit us in the end,” said rookie defenseman John Carlson, probably the best player on the ice in red last night. “We gotta be able to compete and beat any team that’s going to come hard because everyone is going to be fighting for their lives in the playoffs.” Let’s hear it for rookie leadership.
Indeed, the Hurricanes were five points out of the playoffs coming into last night’s game and will likely have to win all of their remaining games to qualify for the playoffs, so the intensity was high. And after resting some key players during a recent road trip, the Caps lineup last night looked remarkably like a playoff team. Continue reading →
In an entertaining battle of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, the Capitals outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers last night to win 5-4 in a shootout in Philadelphia and clinch a spot in the playoffs. In their first game this season without scoring leader Alex Ovechkin, the Caps took advantage of their early chances to jump out to a 3-0 lead after just 22 minutes.
When Philadelphia changed goalies, the momentum swung the other way as the Flyers out-hustled and out-muscled the Caps to score four unanswered goals. “Our biggest problem in the second period was turning the puck over,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “The first period, we didn’t have any turnovers. We got it out, we got it deep. In the second and third period they were putting more pressure on us but we were turning the puck over.”
With five minutes left in the game, the Caps looked thoroughly beaten. But Mike Knuble, who had a dominating night with a goal and two assists, set up Marcus Johansson for a one-timer to force overtime. After a scoreless overtime, Alexander Semin scored the game winner in the shootout to seal the deal. Continue reading →
Holtby Save on Shorthanded Cogliano Breakaway courtesy of ‘clydeorama’
The Capitals’ season-long retooling project took a strong step forward last night as an offensive explosion propelled the Caps to a 5-0 win and a shutout for rookie goalie Braden Holtby against the Edmonton Oilers at Verizon Center. The Caps rediscovered the wonders of the power play scoring two goals on the man advantage in the second period. Alex Ovechkin lead the fireworks with two goals and an assist, as Eric Fehr returned from an injury to add two more lamp-lighters.
The retooling effort that got underway in earnest in mid-November has aimed to play a style more suited to success in the post-season. This has included playing “responsible” hockey with a focus on defensive assignments and middle zone traps. After two years of ever-increasing offense firepower under coach Bruce Boudreau, the change has felt more like shock therapy. Continue reading →
Jason Arnott Has Had an Immediate Impact courtesy of ‘clydeorama’
The Capitals came from behind twice to defeat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 last night at the Verizon Center. General Manager George McPhee is looking awfully good this morning as newly acquired Jason Arnott scored the winning goal in the third period. Once nearly unbeatable at home, the Caps won back-to-back home games for just the first time since November. Sitting in second place in the Southeast Division and fifth overall in the Eastern Conference, the Caps are looking to move up in the standings with 17 games to go.
The Caps got off to another uneven start in the first period, playing aggresively but not wisely. Passes were not connecting, and there were too many turnovers and missed defensive assignments. The Blues had several excellent scoring chances with passes going through the slot or even through the crease, and one shot rang off the post. The Caps gave up numerous odd-man breaks, and finally a 3-on-2 turned into a 1-on-0 and Alex Steen beat Michal Neuvirth top shelf to make it 1-0. Continue reading →
So the NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the Washington Capitals made the most of it. Truth be told, the Caps started a few days ago, acquiring Marco Sturm off waivers from Los Angeles, and then added two new pieces of the current puzzle yesterday. Dennis Wideman joined the blue line corps early in the day, and the biggest catch came at the buzzer with the Caps announcing the acquisition of center Jason Arnott from New Jersey.
Do the Caps believe they’re ready for the post season with these three players? Caps management seems to think so. Let’s break it all down and see if we agree. Continue reading →
UPDATE 3:00 pm: Looks like Jason Arnott is indeed coming to Washington. Preliminary reports have Arnott coming in, and Dave Steckel going out, along with a 2nd round draft pick. We’ll have a complete rundown of these two trades and what it may mean for the Caps tomorrow.
Today’s NHL Trade Deadline day and as in year’s past, I’m glued to various hockey sources for trade news. Many suspected the Caps to be busy, and it looks like they’ve busted out a trade today. We’ll update as news hits, and look for a feature tomorrow with an in-depth recap of today’s moves.
As of 11:50, Mike Vogel broke the news that Washington has traded with division rival Florida, sending minor leaguer Jake Hauswirth and their 2011 third-round pick in exchange for defenseman Dennis Wideman. The puck-moving d-man has 9 goals and 33 points this season, but also sports a whopping minus-26.
After a wild 7-6 victory in Anaheim and the reappearance of Alexander Semin to the goal category on Wednesday, it looked as if the spark had returned to the Washington Capitals. The Caps moved on in their West Coast tour with a stop last night in San Jose to face the struggling Sharks.
Both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom knocked in tallies last night; Ovechkin ended with a goal and an assist for another solid game. “Ovi looks like the old Ovi now,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “I hadn’t been able to say that but in recent games he has been, so let’s hope he continues. The energy he’s playing with, he’s coming back hard and he’s not staying upright and his shifts were short. And all those things encompass a good leader. That’s what he was doing.”
After the game tied up at one apiece after the first period – both goals coming in the last three minutes – it was a slow, tight defensive grind by both teams going into the third. The Caps had jump, something lacking in recent weeks, but the Shark’s blue line did not allow a lot of scoring chances. “We are holding a lot of teams to two goals,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “That is allowing us to have a chance to win games.” Continue reading →
Last year at this time, DC was buried under Snowmaggedon. The Caps lit the region with a hard-fought win over the Penguins as everyone prepped for the Super Bowl. This year, it’s deja-vu…sorta.
The Caps came into this afternoon’s contest on a mission to establish themselves and their game plan. After their dominating win over Tampa on Friday, it was imperative the Caps continue their new-found momentum as the Pittsburgh Penguins visited the Verizon Center.
Pittsburgh, however, arrived missing two of their marquee players. Sidney Crosby was currently out of the lineup due to lingering concussion symptoms from a Jan 5 game against Tampa Bay, and Evgeni Malkin was out, awaiting a second opinion on his torn MCL/ACL in his right knee. (Malkin may be out for the season at this point.) Continue reading →
On a night when Washington saluted former Capitals’ feisty scoring star Dino Ciccarelli, the Caps looked like they wanted to start where Dino left off 19 years ago. Washington came out with blazing hot sticks, shooting the puck and crashing the net. The defense was jumping into the action, and the Caps looked like the explosive offensive team of last season. Unfortunately, the Montreal Canadiens looked like the team that eliminated the Caps from the playoffs last year, too. The combination of suffocating defense and opportunistic offense paid off again for the Canadiens. Continue reading →
‘Matt Hendricks’ courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
A late fluky goal led to a shootout loss for the Caps, marring an otherwise strong defensive performance and a stellar evening for Matt Hendricks last night at Verizon Center. The Caps took a precarious one-goal lead into the third period against the New York Rangers only to let victory slip away. The Rangers managed to tie the game late in the period, then outlasted the Caps in a high-scoring shootout to win 2-1.
The last time these two teams faced off in Madison Square Garden on December 12, the Rangers handed the Caps the worst pounding of painful 8-game losing streak. This time, the Caps showed up ready to play … except they forgot to shoot the puck. The registered only one shot on goal in the first 12 minutes of play, and only 11 shots through the first two periods. “We’ve been passing up shots to create plays,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “You score your goals by shooting the puck and going to the net.” Continue reading →
In Canada, the big sport is ice hockey, and it doesn’t get any bigger than “Hockey Night in Canada” in Toronto. Think Monday Night Football in Dallas or Green Bay.
The Caps arrived in town to face the Maple Leafs after a couple of shaky road games and with a minor league goaltender. Alex Ovechkin, who loves a big stage – led the Caps to victory with a hat trick, and rookie goalie Braden Holtby stopped 36 shots as Washington defeated Toronto 4-1 on Saturday night.
None of Ovechkin’s goals were the type of highlight-reel material that Caps fans have come to expect from the Great 8. He scored on a tip in, a rebound, and an empty net. But the common thread was Ovi’s hustle, positioning and discipline – characteristics that are becoming the defining features of the 2011 Capitals. “It’s the only way we’re going to win,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “Grinding games out is what we’ve been doing lately. We’ll probably continue to do it. … It might not be the most exciting brand of hockey in the world, but everybody seems to like winning hockey these days, so that’s what we have to do.” Continue reading →
Last night’s game in Philadelphia started out in what seems to be typical Caps fashion this season: get behind by a couple goals, then remember there’s a game going on, play the comeback card, and hope for the best.
It’s a very risky strategy (if you want to spin it that way) and the problem is, doesn’t always work. Especially against teams like the Flyers, who currently sit atop the Eastern Conference. After last night’s 3-2 overtime win, the Flyers are now 8 points ahead of the once-leading Capitals.
Jeff Carter scored 91 seconds in on a wrap-around goal to put the Flyers up 1-0. Claude Giroux wristed one in the second, and the Flyers were looking pretty dominant. And suddenly, the Caps were in the final frame in a very familiar position: behind. Continue reading →
“Hey, you interested in tickets to the Winter Classic?”
It was a question I never actually thought I’d hear. Sure, the answer was a no-brainer – of course my wife and I wanted to go to this year’s outdoor matchup between our favored Penguins and our hometown Capitals. Need more be said?
Since that simple back-and-forth flurry of emails with my friend back in August, I’ve been on pins and needles in anticipation for the game coming up this Saturday at Heinz Field in our old stomping grounds of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Long-time readers here obviously know of my acute love of hockey in general and the Penguins in particular. Through the last few years, I’ve developed a grudgingly healthy respect of the Washington Capitals as well and it hasn’t hurt being able to cover the team for this site over the last year, either. Attending the 2011 Winter Classic, however, goes beyond a simple hockey game or even the intense rivalry between the two teams. It’s a chance to enjoy hockey in its nearly purest form – outside on ice – and the fact it includes the two teams of my adult sports fan life is simply a bonus.
The Capitals bounced back from their tough loss to Pittsburgh before the holidays with a 3-2 win over division rival Carolina. And more importantly, Alexander Ovechkin put an end to his goal-scoring drought after Mike Green corralled a wildly bouncing puck and sent it through the crowd. The puck deflected off a Carolina player to Ovechkin, who snapped it in behind Cam Ward. The goal, which proved to be the game winner, was his 13th of the season.
Mathieu Perreault continued to impress last night, wristing in a great Alexander Semin no-look pass that slide in front of the net, giving the Caps a 1-0 lead in the first period. David Steckel broke the 1-1 tie in the second after a great pick by Ovechkin as the Hurricanes were bringing the puck into center ice. Despite Tuomo Ruutu’s quick tip-in to start the third period, the Caps held on to grab their third win in four games.
“Our division’s pretty tough, so any game within the division, coming out with two points is huge for us,” Steckel said. “Especially a game after two days off. We wanted to come out and make sure we’re doing the right things and keep kind of the ball we’ve got rolling. I know we lost last game, but it’s indicative of the way we’re playing. If we keep playing like this, good things are going to happen.”
The Caps face the Montreal Canadiens in DC on Tuesday before packing up for the Winter Classic.
‘Gordon Celebrates His First NHL Goal’ courtesy of ‘clydeorama’
It took a couple of minor league call-ups to get the Caps out of their scoring funk. Andrew Gordon and Jay Beagle, brought up from the AHL Hershey Bears on December 15, scored the first two goals for the Caps, and Washington went on to beat the New Jersey Devils 5-1 last night at Verizon Center.
There were two desperate teams on the ice to start the game. The Caps came into this game to try to string together a couple of wins and leave the eight-game skid behind them. The Devils needed to make up for the 7-1 loss in Atlanta on Saturday and their awful 1-7 record in December.
The new-found discipline of strong forechecking and playing deep in the offensive zone paid dividends as the Caps had a number of good scoring chances early in the game. Gordon lit the lamp first for the Caps, recording his first NHL goal with a strong push to the net as Marcus Johansson chased down a loose puck and whipped a perfect pass to the crease. Continue reading →
For about 30 minutes of hockey, it looked like the Caps might break out of their slump. But it turned into another night of missed opportunities, and Caps dropped their seventh game in a row to the visiting Anaheim Ducks, 2-1 in overtime. Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was too much for the Caps as he made a defensive play to save a certain goal in the first period and then scored the game winner in OT.
After a tentative start for both teams, the Caps pressed to find an advantage. In the 15th minute, Nicklas Backstrom buzzed in from center ice. Matt Bradley and Brooks Laich crashed the slot in front of Ducks’ goalie Jonas Hiller. Backstrom circled the net and found John Carlson sneaking down from the point. Carlson shanked the shot, but Hiller had already committed. Laich took a backhand whack at the rebound and found the back of the net. It was exactly the kind of goal the Caps needed: bodies in front of the net, a broken play and a lucky bounce leading to a goal. The Caps were earning their bounces by making things happen. A few minutes later Laich slipped another one past Hiller only to have Getzlaf sweep it off the goal line. “We had the puck most of the night,” said Laich. “We were the ones with the chances.” Continue reading →
‘Vokoun Keeps the Puck Out’ courtesy of ‘clydeorama’
The Florida Panthers came to town last night with a losing record but a hot goalie. The latter proved to be the difference. Florida netminder Tomas Vokoun turned away all 36 shots to earn a shutout on the way to a 3-0 victory over the listless Caps last night at Verizon Center. The Caps dropped their fourth straight contest, going 0-8 on the power play. It was the first time the Panthers had won a game in regulation in nearly three weeks.
Washington dominated play in the first period, outshooting Florida 18-6. The Caps had five straight power plays in the first period – including nearly two minutes of 5-on-3 action – but were unable to slip one past Vokoun. As well as Vokoun played, however, the Capitals’ power play lacked energy, with players content to pass the puck around the perimeter and very little presence in front of the net. The best opportunity came when Alex Ovechkin took a shot from 30 feet and beat Vokoun cleanly on the glove side, only to watch the puck bounce harmlessly off the post. Failing to take advantage of opportunities doomed the Caps. “We had, I think, 20 minutes of power play” said Ovechkin. “We didn’t play how we have to play. We played so casual and you can see the results.” Continue reading →
‘IMG_2566.jpg’ courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
Alexander Semin owns the Tampa Bay Lightning. At the Verizon Center last night, Semin scored his second hat trick in as many games against the Lightning this season. It was Semin’s third hat trick of the year, and the Caps went on to crush the Lightning 6-0.
The Capitals’ defensive corps also had an outstanding game, even with Mike Green out of the lineup. Three defensemen – John Carlson, John Erskine and Tom Poti – scored for the Caps. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, the NHL scoring leader, was held off the score sheet for only the fourth time this season. “We pay a little more attention to him,” said Erskine. “Especially on the power play. We try to take him away a little, and it seemed to work tonight.” Tampa Bay mustered only 17 shots in the game.
The Caps got off to a quick start scoring just three minutes into the game. Marcus Johansson won an offensive zone faceoff back to Carlson who one-timed it over the shoulder of Tampa Bay netminder Mike Smith for a 1-0 lead. Continue reading →