Backstrom Takes a Shot
courtesy of Clydeorama
With a minute to play in the game, it did not look good for the home team. Trailing the Anaheim Ducks by a goal, the Caps had pulled the goalie for an extra attacker in a last ditch effort to to tie the game. They needed a heroic effort and Nicklas Backstrom responded to the call. He snagged a long rebound and beat the diving goaltender to tie the game at 4-4 with 42 seconds left in the game. Minutes later, Backstrom scored again in overtime for the win, causing the Verizon Center to explode in jubilation.
It was not all so pretty. The Caps were back on their heels for the first 30 minutes as the speedy Ducks controlled both the tempo and the puck. Anaheim, who had scored only six goals in the previous four game, managed to score two goals on Tomas Vokoun in the first period and another early in the second to take a commanding 3-0 lead. Continue reading
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
A year ago, the Capitals were the high-flying, big scoring red machine that cut through the Eastern Conference regular season like scissors making a paper snowflake. They led the league in scoring with 313 goals and were buoyed by the best top line in the game in Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin.
This year has not been so kind.
The difference is striking, on the ice and by the numbers. Washington’s struggles on the ice have been well chronicles and denizens of the Verizon Center hope they have been remedied with the additions of another puck moving defenseman (Dennis Wideman) and a bona fide second line center (Jason Arnott) brought to D.C. at the trade deadline.
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Last year the Caps scored 3.82 goals per game, more than half a goal higher than second place Vancouver at 3.27. The top line of Ovie, Backstrom and Semin tallied 3.93 points (goals and assists) per game. The top eight scorers on the team averaged 7.86 points per game. An amazing seven Caps scored more than 50 points with six of them above 20 goals.
Where has the production gone?
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
Fitting that Semyon Varlamov was in goal last night as the Caps visited St. Louis. Across the ice was a remembered foe from last year’s aborted playoff run, goalie Jaroslav Halak. Traded over the summer by Montreal to a rebuilding Blues team, Halak has shown his new team that last year’s playoff stand in three separate series was not a fluke.
Nonetheless, the Caps came loaded for some personal revenge.
Coach Bruce Boudreau says he never mentioned Halak’s name in the locker room. “We didn’t have it on the board,” Boudreau said. “We didn’t care who was in the net. Last year was last year and we’re just looking forward to hopefully the rest of this year and see where it leads.” For sure, however, most every Caps player knew who they’d be facing on the ice. The question was, would the specter of April past derail a Caps team looking for their fourth win in a row?
Not a chance. Continue reading
courtesy of ‘bhrome’
Michal Neuvirth earned his first NHL shutout as the Caps downed division rivals Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 to start a three-game road trip. Neuvirth made 29 saves, including a spectacular cross-crease glove save to rob Carolina catain Eric Staal on an apparent open net, as he improved his record to 6-2.
It wasn’t pretty hockey, but the Caps demonstrated that they can play aggressive on the boards and at both ends of the rink as they put together perhaps their best effort of the season. Coach Bruce Boudreau made a statement by starting the game with his fourth line of Matt Bradley, David Steckel and Matt Hendricks. The Caps strategy of cycling four lines and playing shorter shifts paid off as the fourth line produced the first goal of the game half way through the first period. Good hustle and scrappy play around the net by Bradley and Steckel allowed John Erskine to take an open shot from the point. Steckel made a quick pass off the rebound even as he was falling to the ice and Matt Hendricks was able to poke it past Carolina goalie Cam Ward for a 1-0 lead.
That goal was the only difference for the next 41 minutes as Neuvirth and Ward dueled with great saves at both ends of the ice. The Caps negated a couple of second period power plays with penalties of their own. Finally the first line broke open the game with Nicklas Backstrom putting back a rebound off a Mike Knuble shot with eight minutes remaining in the contest. Backstrom added an empty-netter to seal the victory and record his third goal of the season.
“I thought that was easily our most complete game by everybody.” said Boudreau after the game. “You got contributions from the fourth line and the penalty killing. The goaltender was great. Everybody did a good job.”
The Caps play tonight in Minnesota against the Wild, and will face the Calgary flames in Calgary on Saturday night.
courtesy of ‘bhrome’
The two biggest questions the Caps had going into last night’s contest with the New York Islanders were: “When is Nicklas Backstrom going to score?” and “Is the power play ever going to be effective?”
Both questions were answered with less than four minutes remaining in regulation; Backstrom’s deflection of an Alexander Ovechkin slap shot on the power play proved to be the game winner in a 2-1 win for the Caps.
Granted, Backstrom got an assist on Ovechkin’s second period goal, but you could tell he wanted more. Having been demoted to the second line at the start of the game, swapping places with Tomas Fleischmann, Backstrom was put back on the first line at the start of the second, and that’s when things began to click. “I thought they needed a break,” Coach Bruce Boudreau explained after the game. “And by the start of the second period, I thought they’d had a long enough break.” The strategy seemed to work. “Once (Backstrom) got the assist I just knew he was going to get more, because he never stops at just one once he gets a little bit of a roll going.”
The Caps came into the game having converted only 1 of their last 13 power play attempts. The Islanders gave the Caps plenty of chances to redeem themselves; it was the last power play opportunity that produced Backstrom’s game winner. The team now sits at converting 2 for 17, a dismal 11%, compared to last year’s league-dominating 25%.
Things looked a bit rocky at the start. The Caps were sluggish and let the Islanders dominate in their end. Even an early fight by new winger DJ King failed to provide much spark. King took on Trevor Gillies in the corner less than three minutes into the game in a rousing fight. It was an rousing introduction for the fiesty winger to the Verizon Center crowd, despite his eventual takedown by Gillies. Continue reading
courtesy of ‘afagen’
Going into last night’s game, the Capitals knew they were going to be tested. This week, the Caps face both Stanley Cup finalists from the last two seasons and Coach Bruce Boudreau knew it was going to be an examination of sorts for the team. Coming off a 5-3 win against the Flyers on Sunday and winning four of their last five, the Caps were looking to impress. (And possibly get Ovechkin his 250th career goal.)
They did, but not in any way you’d think.
While the Capitals did skate out with a 3-2 win over an injury-ridden Detroit team, the Caps weren’t performing at their finest. Detroit controlled most of the game, dominating in the offensive zone and sewing up their defense around Osgood. The Caps started the game extremely weak, with only 3 shots on goal in the first period. The Caps forwards came on in spurts, but couldn’t sustain any consistant pressure against Osgood. Despite some stellar play by Jason Chimera early in the first to give Nicklas Backstrom a couple of shining opportunities to score, the Wings just dictated the pace of the game. Jose Theodore decided to have a good night, however, and kept the Caps even with the Wings through the first two periods, handling several breakaways with skill.
Then came the third period. Continue reading
courtesy of ‘pimguy’
Nicklas Backstrom announced he was withdrawing from participating in the NHL YoungStars game during the All-Star Break festivities this weekend in Montreal. “This year I felt like it made more sense for me to give someone else that opportunity and use this time to rest and prepare for the second half of the season with the Washington Capitals,” Backstrom said in a prepared statement. “I can assure Caps fans that I’m not injured.”
Backstrom took part in last year’s game and currently leads the Caps in assists (36) and is second in points (48). He’ll be replaced by David Perron of the St. Louis Blues.