On the coldest night of the winter so far, Mike Green returned to the ice at Verizon Center warm Caps fans’ heart, as the Caps defeated the Flames, 3-1. Though he was not his usual sterling self throughout the game, with a little over 15 minutes of playing time, Green was back in action in the Red on Tuesday night in front of a a packed house happy to see him.
The Capitals struck early, with a power play goal in just the second minute of the night off a beautiful one-timer by Ovechkin, fed by Marcus Johansson, on a well-executed 2-on-1 after some strong neutral zone play. The neutral zone would be the focus of the first period, with the Caps transforming gradually into the Dale Hunter-lead team that fights hard in the neutral zone to maintain control of the game through the middle part of the ice. For the most part they’d succeed in pushing for possession battles outside of their own end. Ovechkin said post game, “Everybody’s buying into everything and working very hard. That’s the most important thing. No one is taking it easy.”
Pretty good for a team that folk said was in complete disarray and out of the Stanley Cup picture three months ago. The Caps current streak now exceeds its lowest point of the season, the eight-game losing streak in December that led up to the Winter Classic. The highest high is now greater than the lowest low.
And Washington is looking to get higher.
The questions have been about the offense. Why haven’t they been scoring? What is wrong with Ovie? Traditionally though, with this group and this coach, scoring has not been a problem and the Caps are showing signs of getting out of the doldrums that plagued them throughout the middle of the season in the scoring department. The defense this year has been surprisingly competent in front of young, solid goaltending. Through the nine-game win streak, Washington has given up 13 goals for an impressive 1.44 goals against per game.
The question becomes – can these new defensive dynamics lead the Caps to the Promised Land?
Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green are NHL All-Stars. Should the Capitals have had some more? Well, perhaps there is this one guy . . .
At one point this year it seemed like Alexander Semin was a no-brainer All-Star. Through November he was by far the MVP of the Capitals and it looked like in a contract year he was going to play motivated hockey. He was hitting, he was moving his feet and most importantly, he was lighting the lamp.
But, when it comes to end results, it has been effective hockey.
The first period against the Panthers on Saturday night at Verizon Center was atrocious. Washington played a cute but ultimately inefficient style of hockey for the first 20 minutes before grinding through the final two periods to seal a 3-2 victory over Florida.
For most of the night actually, the Capitals were almost laughably bad. Drop passes turned into self-zone clears. Back passes turned into partial Panther breaks and rushes. Giveaways were rampant (12 on the night against the Panthers three) and play was overall sloppy. It was not one of the beautiful games.
It was just a game. In December. And for the Caps, it was a good one.
Washington continued its climb out of its November/December funk, claiming a 3-0 victory over Montreal at Verizon Center on Tuesday night. Semyon Varlamov picked up his sixth win, and second shutout, of the year with 25 saves while out-dueling Carey Price and setting the tone for what turned out to be a solid defensive effort for Washington.
“No, not really. We wanted to beat Montreal because they play Tampa next,” coach Bruce Boudreau said when asked if beating Les Habitantes made the win more special. “We figure if we can beat them then all of a sudden they go down there and are more desperate and hopefully come up with a good couple of games in Florida. No, because if we are sitting here in April and we play whatever team and we don’t have success, it is going to mean nothing and you guys [the press] are going to be all over us again.”
It wasn’t everything the Caps wanted for Christmas, but it came pretty close.
The Washington Capitals lost in the shootout last night to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. Drama filled? This game had it in spades. You’d think a game like that would be a great centerpiece for a sports reality show or something… Maybe HBO Sports could get on that?
Despite the 3-2 loss, the Caps have a lot to be pleased about. Going into tonight, the Caps were on a two game win streak after a brutal eight game tailspin. The wins came against Ottawa and New Jersey, not exactly tough challenges for the Caps to overcome. Last night’s game against the rival Penguins was a true test of grit, and the Caps passed with flying colors. No fan should be hanging their head this Christmas.
“We’re back. We’re back to the style of hockey we can play,” said defenseman Karl Alzner. “That was one of the questions that [was] going around. Hopefully, we silenced a few of them. We had a low scoring game and we played solid for 60-minutes. It was a grade-A effort from our team. That’s what we like to see.”
Playing their third game in four days (and fifth in eight), the Caps managed to hold off an equally tired Atlanta team last night 6-4 with a ripping shot from John Erskine with just under seven minutes remaining. It was Erskine’s second goal in four games; previously, he’s had seven goals in 336 career games. There was some joking in the locker room that the sudden burst of offense from the defenseman of late was from the new mustache. “Yeah, the ‘stache has been good luck this month,” he joked. “I talked to the wife and I might be keeping it for a while.”
“He’s let a couple of really good shots go this year. He’s finding the mark,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “He’s a big strong guy and when he gets it all he can score. Good for him. He played real hard.”
Erskine and the rest of the Caps defense stepped up on the offense in the third period, finally shutting down a resurging Thrashers team that took advantage of another lackluster Caps second period. The Caps came out strong in the first with team captain Alexander Ovechkin notching his 10th goal of the season after Thrashers goalie Chris Mason bobbled the slapper and deflected it into the net behind him. Mike Green then took advantage of a penalty to Atlanta’s Ben Eager, slamming home a slap shot near the point on the power play. The Caps finished the first period strong and it looked as if the Caps were on their way to blowing out the visitors. Continue reading →
Sunday night’s early evening game against the Flyers was full of opportunities for the Capitals to assert their dominance, but it was Philly that struck first. Nikolay Zherdev scored onthe breakaway against Braden Holtby in his first NHL start. Holtby would block 23 of 25 and earn the second star tonight, including three beautiful back-to-back-to-back saves against a Flyers onslaught in the third period.
Eric Fehr and Alexander Semin would chalk up regulation goals in the first and the second for the Capitals, in an offensive performance that was mostly lackluster. The Caps would pepper Bobrovsky with 39 shots, striking just three times tonight. Worse were the missed connections from the Caps offense, which just couldn’t connect on the cross tonight, and had a number of difficulties clearing the puck.
The best chance for the Caps to finish off the Flyers came with 3:55 remaining in the third. Chris Pronger got booked on a double-minor for high-sticking, as he swatted defenseman Dave Steckel in the nose. The physical game was almost entirely in Philly’s corner tonight, with the Flyers outhitting the Caps 30-17, and that’s what got them into the situation that cost them the game. The Caps started overtime playing 5 on 3, and just 29 seconds into the period, Mike Green beat rookie minder Bobrovsky high on a laser shot to claim the victory.
Congrats to Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green being named a finalist for the NHL’s Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s top defenseman. Green was named one of three finalists on Friday, alongside Drew Doughty (LA Kings) and Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks).
Green was a finalist last year and a runner-up to Boston’s Zdeno Chara. Green led all defensemen during the regular season in goals (29), points (76), assists (57), and power-play goals (10). He faces some tough competition for the Norris with Keith and Doughty; the winner will be announced on June 23 during the NHL’s awards show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Cheer on Green and the Caps tonight as they attempt once again to close out their first round playoff series in Montreal versus the Canadiens.
The Caps have claimed the top slot in the Eastern Conference and dominated their division. Despite sitting in a relatively safe spot for the playoffs – which begin in a little over two weeks – the Capitals have made a point to tell the fanbase they’re not going to take it easy these last few games.
Saying it is one thing. Proving it is another.
The Ottawa Senators came into Verizon last night riding a four-game win streak; the Caps were sitting with two losses. Ottawa hasn’t clinched a playoff spot just yet, even though they’re a pretty sure bet for fifth seed. But both teams are looking to hold the balance of rest and form during the last few games of the season; go into the playoffs after a stressful stretch run and a team could flame out early from exhaustion. It’s a balancing act that requires teamwork and a delicate coaching touch.
Last night, however, the Caps just couldn’t pull off that balancing act. Senators captain Alexei Kovalev scored on the power play in overtime with just 19 seconds remaining, giving the Caps their third loss in a row and the Senators a much-needed boost to extend their win streak to five. Continue reading →
A healthy scratch in Monday’s loss against the Stars, Tomas Fleischmann made quite the impact when he returned to the lineup in last night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Banging home a ripping shot from the right circle in overtime, Flash scored the game-winner and brought the Caps within one game of clinching the Southeast Division.
The Caps had quite the list of scratches for last night’s contest, no thanks to the very full roster of talent now on hand as team prepares for the playoffs. Boudreau has been rotating players through the scratch list in a delicate juggling act to work in new players and keep the team as rested as possible for the playoff run a little over five weeks from now. “I don’t like doing it but as long as we can, we’ll keep rotating guys in and out of the lineup to keep them fresh and sharp,” commented Boudreau after the 4-3 OT win. “The players don’t like it, but they understand it. They know what the common goal is, so they’re doing it for the common goal.”
Jose Theodore knocked away 28 shots against a struggling Hurricane team that showed some fight in fits and starts. Defenseman Mike Green had two power play goals, increasing his season total (and league lead for defenseman) to 17. Alex Ovechkin added two assists in his points race and Alexander Semin opened the scoring with his 31st of the season on a great backhand shot, fed by Brendan Morrison.
It was a reunion of sorts on the ice as well; former Caps defenseman Brian Pothier was on the ice for the Canes, and former Canes Joe Corvo and Scott Walker suited up for the Caps. The players were exchanged in a last-minute trade deadline rush only a week ago.
The Capitals can clinch the Southeast Division with either a loss by Atlanta tonight or garnering a point in Friday’s home contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It’s been a busy and eventful last two weeks in the Washington DC sports world. The Caps are ON FIRE!!! The Wizards might be getting there. And we’ve had some solid developments for those out-of-season teams, some expected, some not so much.
Last Two Weeks: 7-0
Place:1st in the Eastern Conference
With yesterday’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals are on a 10 game wining streak tying their 1984 franchise record.
Defender Mike Green will be out for the next two games for an elbow to the head of Michael Frolik during Friday night’s game. Green’s absence yesterday was a huge disadvantage for Washington, as Green is the league’s leading defensive scorer. However, with Ovechkin’s third period goal, they managed to pull out the victory.
Over the next two weeks, the Caps are out of town quite a bit, traveling to Boston, Ottawa and Atlanta. Look for a solid match against the Penguins at the Verizon Center on February 7th.