courtesy of bhrome
Typically, the period between the NHL Awards night and Unrestricted Free Agent day – known to non-hockey fans as July 1 – can be one of tumult, surprise, or downright boredom. It’s when the front office of every team takes the spotlight, working last-minute contract deals, shuffling trades for salary cap space, and executing the yearly NHL Draft. Year to year, it can be hot, cold, or lukewarm for any organization.
This year, the Washington Capitals have been hot. How hot? Enough that I’ve had to morph this article from a NHL Draft day summary into one that encompasses several changes from the Caps’ front office over the last few days. And the initial prognosis – such as these can be in the off season – is that the Caps may have finally found the last pieces of their playoff enigma.
A fast recap: in the last week, we have 10 new draft selections, a new coach, a new second-line center, and sayonara to two players (with a third possibly on the horizon). Shall we dive into the changes? Continue reading →
Two weeks ago, the Capitals came into their game against the Boston Bruins on the hockey equivalent of fourth and long: reeling from consecutive losses and missing their captain, Alex Ovechkin. With the help of a hat trick from an unexpected source, diminutive Mathieu Perreault, the Caps hung on to beat the Bruins and set the stage for today’s Super Sunday rematch. Continue reading →
The Capitals won their first game in regulation under new coach Dale Hunter, and their second victory since the bench boss’ debut. Like the last win, this one came against the Ottawa Senators. We’d also like to take a moment to welcome back Alex Ovechkin, whose goal last night was reminiscent of seasons past, when he actually played like a superstar.
The game wasn’t an easy win; the Caps had to rack up four goals in the third period in order to finish the comeback. But a win is a win right now, with the Caps having stumbled their way down the Southeast Division standings.
Ovechkin showed up on the score sheet after a five game drought; he scored on a beautifully skilled play in the third period to give the Caps a 3-2 lead.
Returning veteran Jeff Halpern knocked in his second of the season, putting the Caps on the scoreboard.
Troy Brouwer had his second Gordie Howe hat trick of his career, assisting on Halpern’s goal, scoring the team’s fourth marker, and taking on Jesse Winchester in the first period.
Nicklas Backstrom’s power play goal in the third ended an 0-for-24 slide in the special teams department; it was also the team’s first road PPG in over a month.
The Caps had 44 shots on goal.
Inconsistent play kept Ottawa in the game, even late in the third.
The Caps still racked up the penalties, giving the Senators seven chances throughout the game (not counting Brouwer’s fisticuffs).
The power play still sputters; the Caps had a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:47 in the first period but failed to take advantage of it.
“I glad [sic] we got the win and of course it’s nice it to get a goal, finally. Last couple of games I tried to score, but this time it worked.” Alex Ovechkin, on ending his goal drought.
Many in the hockey world saw last night’s match-up between our Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers as a heavyweight showdown. In one corner, the undefeated Capitals who’ve won despite stretches of sporadic play and missing superstars. The other, a rebuilt Flyers squad looking to prove their makeover wasn’t just for show.
And then enters Alexander Ovechkin. Consistently successful against the orange-and-black, Ovie didn’t disappoint as he helped the Caps blow the game wide open and stuck the Flyers with their first regulation defeat. Continue reading →
Newly acquired goaltender Tomas Vokoun was rock solid against his former team, leading the Caps to a 3-0 shutout (his first of the season) over the visiting, division rival Florida Panthers behind goals from Marcuss Johansson and Alex Semin in front of a large weeknight Verizon Center crowd. The Caps remain undefeated, moving to 5-0 on the season, their best regular season start in team history. Continue reading →
Saturday night it all begins again: 30 teams, 1 cup. After a crushing four-games-to-none defeat in the second round of the playoffs at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning this spring, the retooled Washington Capitals return to the Verizon Center to rock the red against the Carolina Hurricanes and officially kick off their 2011-12 NHL campaign.
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 →
For the third year in a row, Alex Ovechkin won the Breakaway Challenge in the NHL All-Star Skills Challenge last night in Raleigh, NC. In a competition judged by the fans by text voting, each shooter took four breakaway attempts. Ovechkin faced off against goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins. On his winning shot, Ovie used the butt end of his stick to control the puck in over the blue line, then dropped to his knees before flipping the stick around and deking past Fleury to score on the backhand. He won with 39% of the fan votes.
The All-Star Game is today at 4PM. The Caps return to action Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center.
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 →
At the beginning of the season, many fans of the Caps pretty much wanted to fast-forward to mid-April and get going with the playoffs. Going into this year’s campaign, the Caps looked pretty good on paper and were predicted to be yet again runaway winners of the Southeast Division and one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference.
Now? Well, it’s not all doom and gloom – but reality has definitely sunk in.
The Caps currently sit second in the Southeast Division, one point behind the current leader, Tampa Bay. And two points behind the Caps? The surprisingly strong Atlanta Thrashers. This year’s division race will not be a repeat of last year, when the Caps had sealed their division title before the Ides of March with a thirty point cushion. It will come down to the wire again, much like 2007-08, when the Caps wrested the title from the Carolina Hurricanes on the last game of the season.
When comparing the first half of this season to the last two, the Caps are virtually in the same spot. Currently sitting with 52 points this year, it’s only three points less than last season and five points less than two years back. True, it is “less than,” which annoys many fans to no end. But considering the adversity and issues the team has had to deal with so far, the fact that they’re not less than 10 or 15 points back is something to take a bit of pride in. Or is it?
In a Winter Classic between the NHL’s top two greatest players, neither had a hand in the game that unfolded before the 68,111 people at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field or the national audience viewing on NBC. The Capitals, who grabbed two points in a tight Eastern Conference race with a 3-1 win, saw Eric Fehr and Semyon Varlamov show up as the heroes for the evening.
Despite the uncooperative weather, the Caps managed to even the score from the last time the two teams met. The game, originally scheduled to start at 1 pm, had been moved to 8 pm due to a rainy cold front that rolled through the area. As the game unfolded, light rain fell in spots, making the ice less than optimal but still playable; it didn’t hinder either team from plowing full force into the other.
Bottom line, however, was that no one left the game last night unsatisfied. The Winter Classic, much hyped over the last month, lived up to its billing for fans, coaches, and players of both teams. “It was one of the best experiences of my life,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. “I can’t imagine football players play every game like this. It’s unbelievable. It’s the kind of thing you want to do all the time, go out and play like this.” Continue reading →
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.
There’s an old saying that goes “it’s darkest before the dawn” or somesuch. Maybe the Caps need to engrave that mantra in the locker room, because this last stretch of games sure look as bleak as the Washington skies this morning; if the team lives up to its preseason hype in April, then this could be where things seemed bleakest. Continue reading →
The Washington Capitals lost to Dallas last night, the victims of a Texan robbery. With only 7 seconds to go, defenseman John Carlson’s shot looked like it would sent the game into overtime just as Stars defenseman Karlis Skrastins and Caps winger Alex Ovechkin got tangled up and plowed into Stars goalie Andrew Raycroft. The referee blew the whistle and waved off the goal, saying that Ovechkin had interfered with Raycroft.
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 →
Fresh off their shellacking of New Jersey on Saturday, the Caps were looking to extend their success last night against Ottawa. The Senators were looking for some redemption after being pasted by Toronto and in search of their first point on the season. A point they got, but the Senators left the Verizon Center winless, thanks to the overtime heroics of one Alex Ovechkin.
With a great fake, Ovechkin slammed a low shot home past Pascal Leclaire with only 31 seconds remaining in overtime, giving the Caps their second win in a row and on the season. The goal capped a high intensity game that by rights, Ottawa could’ve won.
“Only Alex can play like he did and still score the overtime goal and be the hero,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “That’s what superstars do. That’s why he’s out there in the last minute – because he can win you a game at any chance.”
The Washington Capitals made an emphatic statement in their home opener tonight at the Verizon Center: “This is our house.” After unfurling pennants for last year’s Southeast Division Championship and the President’s Trophy, the Caps soundly beat the New Jersey Devils 7-2 in front of a boisterous sell out crowd.
The Caps bounced back from two early deficits to dominate the Devils in every facet of the game. Scoring short handed, on the power play, and even on a rare penalty shot, the Caps demonstrated their fearsome goal scoring talent, chasing veteran netminder Martin Brodeur after 40 minutes.
The Caps generated momentum early in the first period, keeping most of the action in the New Jersey end of the ice. But two early defensive lapses in the Washington zone resulted in two first period goals for New Jersey. Rookie defenseman John Carlson started the Caps scoring when he intercepted a pass during a line change and scored with a rising wrist shot from just inside the blue line.
The Caps opened up their 2010-11 campaign last night in Atlanta. With high expectations for the team by many, the Caps were looking to jump out of the gate to redeem themselves from last season’s playoff collapse.
With only six shots in the first period, it wasn’t exactly a well-oiled Caps machine that hit the ice. Showing signs of struggle all through the evening, especially in their own zone, the Caps ultimately skated to a 4-2 loss to the new and improved Thrashers.
The evening started out rough as Atlanta’s starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec collapsed, unconscious, to the ice just over two minutes in. Pavelec was taken off the ice on a stretcher and regained consciousness later in the evening at a nearby hospital. (According to the Thrashers this morning, no serious health problems have been detected and Pavelec remains under observation.)
Tomorrow is the start of the 2010-11 NHL regular season, pretty much the only sport that matters in my household. Around the DC area, the Washington Capitals are becoming – if not already – the number two sports franchise, and with good reason: unlike many of the other pro teams in the area, the Caps have been consistent winners the last several years.
Today’s date, actually, should probably be declared a local holiday. Why? Well, five years ago on October 5, some rookie with the number 8 on his sweater hit the Verizon Center ice in the season opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Forty seconds into the game, Alexander Ovechkin – the rookie in question – hit defenseman Radoslav Suchy so hard against the glass that one of the supports broke loose and hit the ice. A portent of things to come? If so, Ovechkin had two more signs to stamp his arrival to the NHL that night – his first two goals of his career, one of them a great one-timer from Jeff Halpern. At the end of that game, there was no doubt: Ovechkin – and the Capitals – had arrived at the next level.
It’s been an Ovechkin-fueled rocket ship ride for the Capitals since, with no sign of stopping.