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Entries with the tag: washington capitals
Note: This post was written in complete and total anger. It very well might be nothing more than the babbling of a mad man. After I’ve cooled off, I’ll post a more levelheaded review.
I don’t know why I let myself buy into this. For 90% of the season, I firmly believed this team was not a Stanley Cup team. When they made the move for Erat (don’t get me started on that again), I said it made no sense for a non-contender team to make that move. And yet, here I am. Sitting in complete disgust after they laid a massive egg against the Rangers in Game 7. Disgust at the product I just saw on the ice and that I was dumb enough to buy it.
Every Cap fan knew that we would see a different Ranger team now that the series has shifted to New York. The Ranger offense had been so anemic that, logically, it could only improve. The question would only be whether or not the Capitals could continue their defensive success. The answer, as we learned last night, was not what we would have hoped.
Prior to the game, Braden Holtby voices some of his concerns with the Capitals being “too loose” going into Game 3. Ten minutes into the game, it seemed his concerns were unfounded. The Caps had already killed off yet another Ranger power play and were already up 1-0 thanks to Nicklas Backstrom. But then, the looseness seemed to arise. And sure enough, Brian Boyle leveled the scoring as a Ranger power play expired. A power play that the Caps had effectively limited.
It just had to be the Rangers, didn’t it? As if both teams had not had enough of each other over the past five playoffs. It honestly does not feel like there are any story lines left to see play out. We’ve seen rookie goalies stand on their heads (Varlamov and Holtby). We’ve seen a team completely collapse in practically no time (Joel Ward double minor). We’ve even had to answer the question of which team had the loudest fans. Is there anything we haven’t seen? I guess we’ll find out starting Thursday. ON TO THE BREAKDOWN!
Last night during the Washington/Toronto game, CSN Washington asked the viewers, as they do every game, to weigh in on a particular matter via Twitter. The topic of the day was, essentially, what has been the biggest reason for the Caps’ surge over the past month. While not every person tweeted the same thing, the overarching theme was the strong play of Alexander Ovechkin. I can find no error with that reasoning. Ovechkin’s recent discovery of old ways has certainly been the driving force to turn this season around.
A few days ago, I was talking to a buddy of mine about the Caps’ chances during these last few weeks. He remarked “This team is good, but if they had somebody like Erat, I’d say they are a solid cup contender.” Now, a bunch of you are no doubt going to call me a liar, that nobody could have had that foresight. And you’d be right. Because this team is not a Martin Erat away from the Cup.
In Martin Erat, the Caps will get a 31-year-old right winger. This season, he has 4 goals and 17 assists over the span of 36 games. Had this been a regular season, he would be looking at 7 or 8 goals at this point. He is coming off a career year, where he scored 19 goals and 39 assists. He has eclipsed the 50 point mark in 5 of the past 6 seasons. They do also get Michael Latta, but I don’t expect anything from a guy with 184 PIMS in the AHL.
A little over an hour ago, Washington Post’s Katie Carrera reported that Brooks Laich will make his debut tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Laich was injured while playing in Switzerland during the lockout and, in my opinion, has been a large missing piece in the team’s search for consistency.
While Laich’s stats have been declining over the past couple of seasons (down to only 41 points last season), he has arguably been the most consistent performer over the past 4 years. While I understand the team’s logic in handing the captaincy to Alex Ovechkin, I still feel that Brooks Laich would have been the better choice. He typically logs heavy minutes on the both the powerplay and the penalty kill either as a pivot or on the wing.
Last night, Mike Milbury had some not-so-nice things to say about Ovechkin. While I personally think Milbury typically talks down about Ovechkin, this was different. I usually end up zoning out half-way through because it’s usually the same old shtick that gets old after two or three hundred times. I felt a little different listening to him this time. It wasn’t a sense of agreement (though I’m not saying he was wrong). It was a sense of total embarrassment.
Over the past two seasons, I’ve always been the optimist with Ovechkin. I was a firm believer that he would eventually rediscover his goal-scoring ways and would be back in the hunt for the Richard. I guess in a lot of ways, I still think it will happen. Yet, this was not why I was embarrassed listening to Milbury tear Ovechkin apart. It’s quite simply because the guy being made the fool was a member of the Washington Capitals.
While I may have thought this day would never come, the Capitals are less than a week from opening the season down in Tampa Bay. What begins that night is a sprint of 48 games to attempt to make the postseason. There will be no time for elongated losing streaks or periods of uncertainty. Any team looking for a shot to lift the cup will have to come out firing on all cylinders. Those who stutter, will more than likely fall to the wayside. This could spell disaster for a Capitals team that has more questions than answers at this point.
Who is Adam Oates, the coach?
Any fan who has been around since the 90’s can easily recall the incredible talent that was Adam Oates. He was one of the most gifted playmakers of his time. He is now a hall of famer. That’s Adam Oates, the player. We honestly don’t know what he is like as a coach. This is his first shot to lead a team solo. Given his offensive successes with the Devils and Lightning, he figures to be more offensive than Dale Hunter, but is he is extreme as Boudreau was? As a player, he was able to hold his own on the defensive side of the game, but he hasn’t been responsible for running a blueline before.
Aside for strategy, how does he handle a dressing room? Is he capable of spurring a third-period comeback? If the problem with Boudreau did have to do with Ovechkin, can Oates handle him? He is given a lot of credit of turning around Kovalchuk’s career, so hopefully he can rejuvenate Ovechkin’s goal numbers.
The Washington Capitals have chosen former player, Adam Oates, as their replacement for Dale Hunter as head coach. Oates will join the Capitals fresh off of a Stanley Cup finals appearance as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils. He spent the last two years with the Devils, after being an assistant for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Aside from those assistant gigs, Oates has never been a head coach at any level.
As a player, Oates played 19 years in the NHL, including parts of 6 seasons here in Washington. Like Dale Hunter, he was a member of the 1998 Washington Capitals team that took the franchise to their only Stanley Cup finals. He ended his career with 341 goals and 1079 assists in 1337 games and 5 All-Star Game selections.
The Washington Capitals acquired center Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars for Cody Eakin and a 2012 second rounder (54th overall). The Capitals, and us fans, are hoping that McPhee has finally found the 2nd line center he has been looking for since Sergei Fedorov left in 2009.
Mike Ribeiro (32) is coming off his 6th season with the Dallas Stars. In his 74 games played last season, he scored 18 goals and 45 assists. He averaged just over 20 minutes a game last season, more than any other Stars forward. The one knock on his game is that despite being the top center for Dallas, he was not entrusted with many faceoffs. His 808 faceoffs ranked him 3rd on the Stars last season and he only won 42.2% of them, a number I would like to see improve a tad. He is in the final year of a contract that will see him make $5 million next season.
Here we are, a little over a month removed from the Capitals exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs. Despite not playing, the Capitals have had one of the busier Junes. We immediately learned of Dale Hunter’s decision to not return as head coach next season, instead returning to London. Then we had the word from Alexander Semin’s agent, Mark Gandler, made it very clear that Alex would be heading to free agency. Of course, this claim was later refuted by Semin, but who knows with them Russians. Add in the decision to not offer contract renewals to Jeff Halpern and Mike Knuble, and the Capitals have set themselves up for one of the busiest summers in recent years.
To be fair, none of the events within the past month should have come as huge surprises. We all knew that despite being one win away from the Conference Finals, there was not a whole lot of happiness with the way this season transpired. When teams that should be dominating falter, massive shake-ups are quite common. We all remember what happened in Philadelphia last summer with Carter and Richards. The issue now is whether the Capitals choose to continue to invest in their previous draft classes or they go all out in free agency.
For the 3rd time in the past 4 years, the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers will meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In both of the previous 2 series, the Capitals and Rangers met in the first round of the playoffs, with the Capitals advancing on both occasions. This time around the two will meet having already advanced past the first round and, more importantly, the Rangers will be the ones with the home ice advantage. Here’s a quick look at what each team did in the regular season to get here. Parentheses note league rank.
Last night, after having stolen home ice from the Bruins via a 2-1 2OT win on Saturday, the Capitals fell to the Bruins in Game 3 4-3. Zdeno Chara gave the visitors the game winner with just under 2 minutes to go. To make the sting all that much worst, Chara’s point shot found its way in via the blade of Roman Hamrlik’s stick as he attempted to clear some traffic in front. The Caps may have finally found some of the offense that they were lacking in game one, but they have lost the discipline.
We all knew the Bruins would be coming into D.C. looking to get the Caps off their games. What was a potent offense in the regular season had been choked out by Dale Hunter’s defense-first style in the first 2 games. It was clearly not in their gameplan to be heading to D.C. with their only goals coming from Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot. All that frustration finally went and flipped the switch on Milan Lucic, who made it his goal to disrupt the discipline of the Caps as much as he possibly could. Oh, it worked, big time. Lucic would end up making 3 trips to the box for extracurricular, but he made sure to take a Cap with him each time.
While it may have been in doubt during the closing weeks of the regular season, the Capitals do begin a playoff series tonight against the 2nd ranked Boston Bruins. While this will mark the 5th consecutive year that the Capitals will be a part of the playoffs, it is the first time since 2003 that they will enter the playoffs as a lower seed. That time around the Capitals were unable to hold onto a 2-0 game lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and eventually bowed out in 6 games, thanks to a Martin St. Louis triple overtime goal at the MCI Center. An interesting note, 10 players who suited up for Tampa in that series still play in the NHL, while only Jeff Halpern and Dainus Zubrus remain of the Capitals’ players.
This time around the Capitals have the daunting task of trying to dispatch the defending Stanley Cup champs. Here is just a quick stat comparison of the teams and respective leaders. Parentheses note rank in league.
Just as it seemed that the Washington Capitals were about to shut the door on the Buffalo Sabres, they let them right back in via a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. Despite a late tying goal from Jason Chimera, his 20th of the season, the Caps were unable to hold off the Lightning as Steven Stamkos scored his 57th of the year with just over 2:00 remaining in the 3rd period. Stamkos would later pot his 58th in a vacated net. While it may not have been giving up a 2-goal lead, this game continued to show the lack of confidence the Washington Capitals have in themselves.
Look, we all need to hit the road sometimes. Whether it is business, holidays, or a simple getaway, we all are forced to leave the comfy confines of our home at some point. The Washington Capitals know this better than anyone, as they find themselves on the road quite a bit. Always the considerate bunch, they have decided to help out in the designing of some equipment that is a must-have for the person on the go.
The Capitals Road Pillow
Last night, the Capitals fell 3-2 in Winnipeg. Even just watching it on television, you could get a sense of how intense the game was. The 15,000+ fans in the MTS Centre only added to this feel, who made it hard to hear Joe B at times. In the past, it has been like these games that has caused Ovechkin to elevate his game to a dominating pace. What we saw Saturday, though, was a player who lacked any sense of purpose.
Everything was in place to light a fire under Ovechkin. It was an intensely physical game, in Canada, with the entire crowd booing him every time he had the puck. In the third period, there appeared to be a perfect time for Ovechkin to put in a classic rush, eventually putting the puck behind Pavelec. He gathered the puck, sped down the right wing side, and only had Grant Clitsome standing between him and jumping into the glass. Clitsome was a late round (271st overall) 2004 draft pick of the Blue Jackets. Prior to this season, he played just 42 games for the Blue Jackets and eventually was picked off of waivers by the Jets. These are the types of guys that a fired-up Ovechkin leaves in his wake. Instead, we watched as Ovechkin was sent face-first to the ice by a well-placed hip check. He simply got back up and skated out of the zone, as the fans jeered him and cheered Clitsome.
Today had all the makings of a busy day for the Washington Capitals. Currently sitting in 9th place, the Caps looked primed to make a move that could push them into the playoffs. This though process seemed reinforced as they started off the day by placing Nicklas Backstrom on LTIR, effectively taking his $6+ million cap hit off the books for the remainder of the season. This turned out to be all for naught, as the trade deadline has come and gone without the Capitals making one move.
The Capitals appeared to be in the market for a quality center who could help the Capitals fill the hole left by Nicklas Backstrom. They also seemed to have quite a few pieces that were expendable. Over the past couple of weeks, we have watched as players like Mike Knuble and Roman Hamrlik found their way into Hunter’s doghouse, and seemed to be important factors in bringing in that coveted center. The Capitals also had lucrative young players, like Cody Eakin and Matthieu Perreault who could have helped sweeten the deal. Instead, the Capitals will now be forced to fight their way into the playoffs with a team that struggles to win consistently, or on the road.
Last night the Washington Capitals fell to the San Jose Sharks 5-3 at Verizon Center. If you watched this travesty, you know that the score line was more of a 5-1 with some window dressing. The main issue with this game was not that the Sharks simply were unstoppable, but that the Capitals could not get out of their own way. It was a game ripe with blind, behind-the-back passes to nobody in particular, poor clears, and a pass-first, shoot-poorly mentality. More than that, it showed me that the Capitals, and fans alike, need to stop kidding themselves.
I am not calling for the throwing in of the towels, but, as it sits, the Capitals cannot afford to keep making these same decisions. Firstly, the coaching staff needs to change their mindset. Before the game last night, it was announced that Tomas Vokoun was too sick to back-up Neuvirth, so they simply called up Braden Holtby on an emergency basis. While Neuvirth did play the previous afternoon, Holtby actually played 60+ minutes the previous night. With Holtby only being able to stay up until Wednesday, I assume Hunter saw it as a good point to get a first-hand look at Holtby. This is all fine and well if you are not fighting for playoff hope and haven’t already told Neuvirth he is going to start.
Last spring, the NHL watched as Joel Ward, a defense-first power forward, had a bit of a coming-out party in the playoffs. Despite being averaging less than a half of a point a game, Ward led his Nashville Predators with 7 goals and 6 assists while averaging over 20 minutes per game (he only averaged 17 in regular season). With the Capitals having seen their offence dry up in the post season, specifically the likes of Alex Semin and Mike Green, George McPhee was keen to spend money, if it meant getting more goals in the postseason. With Ward taking offers from several angles, McPhee admittedly overpaid for the winger.
Yesterday, Brendan Shanahan certainly had an interesting day. He had 2 disciplinary hearings scheduled regarding 2 incidents in the same game. To make matters more interesting, the victim of one of the incidents was the transgressor in the other. The result of these hearings? Alexander Ovechkin suspended 3 games for charging Zbynek Michalek, while Michalek received no further punishment for his elbow to the back of the head of Matt Hendricks. To me, this is one of the weirdest decisions rendered by Shanahan this year.
Before I get into this, I do want to state that I think that Shanahan has done a good job this season. I think that compared to the baffling decisions by Colin Campbell over the last years, Shanahan’s no-nonsense approach and his detailed videos have been a god-send. Also, take a moment to check out both videos.
Over the past 11 games, the Capitals are 8-3. In that span, they have outscored their opponents by a combined 28-22, limiting their opponents to a goal or less 6 times. In 7 of their 8 wins, their opponents have scored below their average. All of this points to a team that is finding its stride defensively. The caveat to this appears to be a team that’s offensive production is faltering.
As it stands right now, the Washington Capitals are currently ranked 9th in goals/game, averaging just over 2.8 goals. Most fans should agree that 9th is a pretty good place to be. The issue is at shots/game. For the season the Caps sit at 26th in the league in shots/game, averaging 27.6 a night. That would be nice, if it weren’t for the fact that they are averaging less than 22 per night over the last 11 games. This includes a current 2-game stretch of recording less than 20 shots. They have hit 30 shots just once in the past 11 games, in the 5-2 loss to the Sharks. They are currently giving up over 10 more shots than they are taking, although much of those are coming late in the 3rd, with the Caps protecting a lead.
What this all creates is a paradox. We are watching a team regularly succeed, without taking shots. How big of a problem is this? Looking at their last 11 opponents, we see only 4 current playoff teams, 2 of whom to the Capitals lost.
As I had written numerous times while Boudreau was still coaching, the key to success for any team is finding consistency. While this is typically referring to players at a high level, I also intended it to prove that coaches must provide players with the chance for consistency. That was a problem with Bruce. He became impatient with the lack of chemistry between new additions and the corps, so he was repeatedly inserting new players into the line-up and juggling the lines. With Dale, we have seen a much longer leash given to players in their attempts to hit their strides.
Last night, in the 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders, we saw Dale move some lines around late in the game. In an attempt to get the Caps on the board, Tomas Kundratek found himself with only 1 shift in the third period. This was due in large part to the moving of Laich to the blueline and bringing Cody Eakin up to the 2nd line. Although this is nowhere near as much juggling as we saw under Bruce, I worry that this could be the first step in the wrong direction.
Last Tuesday, Capitals fans everywhere were delighted with the return of Mike Green, after missing 23 consecutive games with a groin injury. An injury that, supposedly, might never fully heal. Midway through Green second game back (@SJ 1/7/12), Hunter shut him down again. Hunter said it was because of tightness, and not a hit he took, but it does little to dispel my worries. Green did not practice with the team on Sunday.
It might only be January, but it is worth reminding that Green is currently in the last year of his deal. A deal that sees him make 5.25 million. Given some of the current contracts, that number was expected to increase dramatically. Since 2008, when Green signed his current deal, we have seen many comparable blueliners sign contracts worth North of 7 million annually. Most recently, Buffalo gave Christian Ehrhoff a deal that gave him 10 mil for the first season. Most fans would have been more than happy to give Green this raise. He is one of the most popular players on this team, and most would probably be in favor of unloading Alex Semin, if it meant that Green would stay.
With last night’s 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames, the Washington Capitals remained perfect, with Mike Green that is. Despite the fact that the Capitals currently sit in 7th place in the Eastern Conference, they are actually now 9-0 when Mike Green is in the line-up. Last night marked his first game since taking a hit from Devils’ forward Ryan Carter on November 11, 2011.
We learned last week that Green’s injury might never fully heal. As such, it became important for his reinsertion into the line-up be as gradual as possible. Hunter decided to ease the process by choosing to scratch Matthieu Perreault (Semin also scratched for injury) and dress 7 defensemen. It definitely made for some odd line combinations at time, including a shift that put Ovechkin and Hendricks on the ice together. Green spent the majority of his ice time (15:43) skating with rookie Dmitri Orlov. With Orlov regularly joining the rush, Green was able to play a bit more passively, lowering injury risk. He did see a little bit of PP time, but was kept out of penalty killing situations.
Given the poor starts the Capitals have had in recent games, it was understandable to be concerned for the arrival of the high-flying Rangers on Wednesday. Maybe the game against the Sabres was a wake-up call because the Capitals were clearly more prepared for this game.
Between the Pipes: The last time the Capitals tangled with the Rangers, the Caps were completely outplayed in a 6-3 loss. In that game Michal Neuvirth gave up 6 goals on 33 shots while Henrik Lundqvist only needed to make 18 saves to get his team the W. This time around both teams opted for a goaltender change. After Neuvirth’s poor performance against Buffalo, Vokoun got the start against Martin Biron, who was giving Lundqvist the night off. Even though Biron is no longer the goalie he was in the 2008 playoffs, he is still quite capable, entering Wednesday’s game with a 7-1 record.
Last Friday, the Capitals spotted the Devils a 3-goal lead before scoring 3 in the 3rd to force OT. Although they did end up losing in the shootout, the Capitals were lucky enough to overcome a sleepy start to leave New Jersey with a point. Last night in Buffalo, the Caps were not as lucky. The Sabres roared out of the gate, putting 3 behind Michal Neuvirth in the first 10 minutes, and then another past Vokoun. The Capitals were able to hold them off the score sheet the remainder of the game, but only mustered 2 of their own.
The Capitals were essentially doomed from the start, as Roman Hamrlik was called for delay of game only 9 seconds from the start of play. Less than a minute later, Drew Stafford found space between Alzner and Wideman and had an easy feed to Jason Pominville, who easily put the puck past Michal Neuvirth. Three minutes later, the Sabres were able to add another off a seemingly innocent play. Matt Hendricks won a defensive zone draw back to Karl Alzner. No sooner had Alzner received the puck, Matt Ellis simply grabbed it off of his stick and threw a back-hander past Neuvirth. Neuvirth would only last another 6 minutes, as he would be pulled for Vokoun after a Christian Ehroff point shot found its way past Michal’s blocker. While the first 2 goals were defensives gaffs, this one shouldn’t have been in back of the net. The Sabres would add a 4th goal, 2nd on the PP, 3 minutes later. Brad Boyes easily cut across the slot and feed Brayden McNabb, who fired home his first of his career.
To say that the Capital’s goaltending has been subpar in the first third of the season would be a bit of an understatement. Tomas Vokoun, who I thought would be a revelation in net, has struggled to find his rhythm. While his numbers aren’t awful, 12-8; 2.81; .906, Tomas has yet to be good enough to steal games for the Caps. Neuvirth, meanwhile, was has been downright bad. Yes, he was hung out to dry in a few games under Bruce, but this still has not been the Neuvy that we saw last year. Last night in Winnipeg, Michal took a big step to returning to form.
Neuvirth stopped all 26 shots the Jets threw out him, en route to his first shutout of the season and his 5th career. At times, he was the only thing keeping the Caps in the game, specifically a first period that saw the Jets outshoot the Caps 14-7 and outchance them 8-4. Even as the Caps’ offense came to life in the second half of the game, Michal was needed as the Jets were able to muster up a few odd-man rushes. Even better than his statline was how he looked on the ice. He was out challenging, something he had not done consistently since the first game of the season. Although I still believe Vokoun can succeed, I think that Neuvirth has probably earned the next few starts. It very well could be that Neuvirth’s poor play was simply a result of the injury he picked up in the first week of the season. Hopefully Neuvirth’s resurgence will push Vokoun to find his stride.
Today I had the pleasure of joining Mick Kern on Sirius XM HomeIce’s The War Room to talk about the recent coaching change(s). It was a great experience for my first radio interview. Here is the audio.
Some other quick notes to get out:
The Dale Hunter era of the Washington Capitals officially began last night with a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues. Despite getting the lead first, thanks to Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals were unable to give Dale a win on his first night behind the bench.
As expected, Hunter received a warm homecoming from the Verizon Center crowd. His infamous game 7-OT goal against Philadelphia was shown numerous times, and the fans were able to take in a video montage of Hunter’s time in D.C. during a TV timeout. Despite the “butterflies in the tummy,” Dale looked at home behind the bench and seemed to be constantly in the ear of the players.
added 2:05pm (Paul), added video below of GM George McPhee explaining the change.
Shortly after 8 am this morning, the Washington Capitals announced that Bruce Boudreau had been fired after 4 years as the head coach, having been replaced by former Capital captain, Dale Hunter. Hunter played 12 seasons with the Washington Capitals and is the only NHL player to have amassed 1,000 career points and 3,000 PIMs. He had spent the last 10 years coaching the OHL’s London Knights, having coached both John Carlson and Dennis Wideman. This will be Hunter’s first ever NHL coaching job.
Earlier this week, Bruce Boudreau celebrated his 4-year anniversary as bench boss for the Washington Capitals. Nobody can doubt the amazing work he has done in those 4 years. He took a team that had not made the playoffs in 4 years and turned them into a perennial contender almost immediately. He is generally given the majority of the credit from taking the Caps from last in the East to a division title. The team gradually improved over the next few seasons, culminating in a monster 2009-2010 season that saw the Caps notch 54 wins while tallying over 300 goals. The following year, despite leading the East again, was a step back as they struggled a bit in implementing Bruce’s new hybrid defense.
After starting the season to a sizzling 7-0 start, the Capitals have now lost 4 straight and 6 of the last 7. To make matters worse, the Capitals scored only 1 goal in each of their games this week, while allowing the other team to cash in for 14. To say that the Capitals are in a bad place is an understatement. On to the goals.
The Washington Capitals lost to the Nashville Predators Tuesday night by a score of 3-1. After playing 50+ scoreless minutes, Brouwer took a pass from Johansson off the rush and fired a wrister past Rinne. What looked to be the lone goal in a game dominated by both goaltenders quickly faded as Nashville quickly drew even and added a winner with under a minute to go. Shea Weber would salt the game with an empty netter from the neutral zone.
At the NHL level, a team cannot succeed based on the fact that they simply have good players. True success comes when a team is able to use the players in a way that allows each one to contribute in their own way (goals, assists, shot blocking, etc.) and do so on a consistent basis. This season the Capitals clearly have some good pieces, but have yet to show the consistency needed to find continual success. Yes, they have won 10 games out of 15, but they have also had only 1 game that saw them play a complete 60 minutes (Florida).
Consistency, in large part, is the responsibility of the coaching staff. The players do need to execute, but the coaching staff is responsible for establishing a system that allows for success. There is a lot that a coach must do to get the team to that level, but it really comes down to 2 things: choosing the right players and using them effectively. In my belief, Bruce’s constant tinkering has hindered the ability of the Caps to hit a long-term stride.
As I still look to figure out what I want this blog to look like, I will be experimenting with some various formats for game write-ups. The material should be mostly the same, just may look a little different.
The Capitals remained 6-0 at home this season, thanks to a come-from-behind, OT victory over the Anaheim Ducks. This was one of those games where a team does not deserve to leave with points, and somehow leaves with 2. Even with the Caps resiliency, it was hard to see the Caps coming out of that game with any points. What will be remembered most about this game are the changes that were made on the day of the game.
The Capitals have been rather busy in the last 48, so here is a quick rundown of what you might have missed:
On Monday, D.J. King asked the Capitals to place him on waivers. He has clearly become unhappy with his role in the organization and simply wishes to have the opportunity to play elsewhere. I can’t blame King for this, and I’m actually surprised he was still a member of the team on opening night. Since joining the Capitals via a trade for Stefan Della Rovere, he has been a kind of afterthought in the organization. Last season, King featured in only 16 games. In those 16 games, he picked up 2 assists and 30 penalty minutes while playing less than 6 minutes a game. In his lone game this season, he recorded one shot and played less than 7 minutes.
When the organization acquired him, they saw him as the tough guy that they lacked. Unfortunately for King, Matt Hendricks’ stellar training camp and preseason made a tough guy—with absolutely no scoring touch—unnecessary. Today, King cleared waivers but is still practicing with the team. My guess is that the team is simply giving him a place to skate while they figure out what to do with him.
The Washington Capitals, after starting the season on a 7 game winning streak, are officially now on their first losing streak of the season. Unlike the game in Edmonton, the Caps will be unable to blame this loss on “not getting the right bounces.” The Caps may have finally put together a second period worth remembering, but their 1st and 3rd periods were downright awful, especially defense-wise.
The Capitals were handed their first loss of the seasons Thursday night by the Edmonton Oilers. Despite showing near-complete domination in the 3rd period, the Caps were unable to overcome a slew of penalties that saw them shorthanded on 8 occasions. Nikolai Khabibulin didn’t make things any easier for the Caps, making 34 saves on 35 shots and was spectacular when needed.
To say the Caps took a lot of penalties is a bit of an understatement. By the end of the game, the Caps had taken 9 minor penalties, 6 of which were stick infractions. They handed the Oilers 5 power plays in the 2nd period alone. The final count for both teams ended up as 9 penalties for the Caps and 6 for the Oilers. What is a bit upsetting to Caps’ fans is the fact that the Caps were whistled for all 9 penalties in the first 2 periods while the Oilers were only whistled for 3. Prior to Thursday night, the Caps were the least penalized time in the league. Only the game against Pittsburgh saw the Caps take more penalties than their opposition. In my game write-up for the Pittsburgh game, I credited the discrepancy to the fact that the Caps didn’t work hard enough to deserve power plays, while the Penguins did.
The Edmonton game was a whole different beast.
The Washington Capitals are now the last remaining undefeated team thanks to a 7-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. For the second consecutive game the Capitals have gone up against a playoff-favorite and responded by putting up a combined 12 goals and only conceding 3. While it has to be said that Detroit did have to play the night prior and then travel to Washington, it should not take anything away from this victory.
The Washington Capitals continued their impressive start to the season as they handed the Philadelphia Flyers their first regulation loss of the season by a score of 6-2. Despite a second period that saw the Flyers dominating the time of possession, the Caps played a rather sound game at both ends of the ice. Even when the Flyers did go one their runs of dominance, the Caps’ defense forced them to keep the puck along the board and at the point, effectively leading to them taking some low quality shots. When the Flyers did manage to get the puck into the slot, Vokoun was magnificent as he repeatedly stone walled the Flyers forwards.
Even with the great game by Vokoun, fans have to be most pleased with the 2-goal performance by Alex Ovechkin. While we may never see Ovechkin put up the goals he used to, I think it surprised most people that it took him 6 games to record a multi-point night or score a goal that wasn’t a deflection. Ovechkin, like the majority of his teammates, has gotten progressively better over the winning streak but he needs to keep working. The days are long gone when he could just skate in the zone, fire the puck at will and expect to put up 50 goals. Both goals last night were a result of Ovechkin getting to open areas and being ready. For Ovechkin the shot volume does matter, but so does shot location and timing.
For the first time in their 37-year history, the Washington Capitals have begun a season with 5 consecutive wins thanks to a 3-0 win over a much beleaguered Florida Panthers. Over this 5-game stretch, the Caps have netted 17 goals and only allowed 11. They are now 1 of only 3 teams in the Eastern Conference (with Philadelphia and Toronto) to remain undefeated in regulation thus far and are the only true undefeated team. While a 5-0-0 run is bound to contain multiple high points, the best sign during this run is that the Caps have gotten progressively better, particularly in their own end, shown by allowing only 1 goal over the past 2 games.
On more than a few occasions in the past few seasons, the Caps played in some ugly games. These were games in which the team seemed to lack any sense of offensive consistency or chemistry. Needless to say, these typically ended up as a mark in the loss column. Last night’s game against the Penguins had all of the makings to be one of those games. The Caps were out-shot 41-19 last night, including 18-3 in the 3rd period, where the Penguins tied the game late. They spent prolonged periods of time simply trying to get the puck on the Penguins’ side of the ice, usually only to dump it in and change lines, as they were exhausted by the furious fore-check by the Penguins.
Despite all of these factors going against them, this year’s Caps escaped with a win, albeit in the form of a 3rd consecutive OT.
In yesterday’s recap, I remarked that Vokoun might have trouble sleeping due to the play of Neuvirth against Carolina. I can’t say for sure if that was true, but Vokoun was clearly not on the top of his game for his first start as a Capital. Vokoun surrendered 5 goals on 28 shots, including 3 from severe angles. Luckily for Vokoun, the offense showed up for him and managed to get him his first victory as a Cap, albeit one of the shootout variety.
It did not take long for the Lightning to pounce on Vokoun. From behind the goal line, Teddy Purcell threw the puck to the crease. The puck would click off Mike Green’s leg and past Vokoun. While not Vokoun’s fault, it still was a rough one to open up the game with. Six minutes later Bruno Gervais caught Vokoun leaning off his post and fired it past him from an almost impossible angle. That one Vokoun will have to take the blame for. He found himself in the doghouse once again when Brett Clark’s pass from inside the trapezoid clicked off Vokoun’s skate and into the net. He did find some redemption, however, in overtime when he stonewalled Stamkos on a set play and was perfect in the shootout. If you look at the game as a whole, Vokoun seemed like he could make impossible saves only to let in the “gimme”’s. I would not expect to see Vokoun play like that again this season.
I think it is fair to say Tomas Vokoun might feel a little uneasy as he lays in bed tonight. Vokoun, who found out earlier this week that he would not start, was forced to sit and watch as Michal Neuvirth absolutely stonewalled the Carolina Hurricanes. The score-line will show that the Hurricanes put 3 behind him, but he can’t be blamed for any of them. Let’s get to the breakdown.
Outside of Neuvirth, the biggest bright spot for the Capitals was their third line of Chimera, Laich, and Ward. Their combination of great speed and grit repeatedly hemmed the Canes’ top line in their own zone. Unfortunately, this line was unable to capitalize on any of their increased pressure. This was a theme found in all 4 even-strength lines. Several times throughout the game, especially around the midpoint of the second period, the Capitals were able to roll their lines without allowing the Hurricanes any sustained pressure. Luckily for the Caps, they were able to develop a couple of goals off the rush and, more importantly, the power play.
Tonight, hockey finally makes its return. While the Caps do not kick their season off until Sunday, there are some great games on the schedule tonight, so check them out. All Caps fans should have some interest in the Flyers/Bruins game (7pm on Versus), as former Cap Jaromir Jagr makes his return to the NHL after a 3-year stint playing in the KHL. I do not plan to try to hide my smile the first time he finds himself on the wrong end of a Zdeno Chara check.
As much as we all enjoy hockey in all forms, it all comes down to the team from D.C. as they once again begin their quest for the Cup. It all starts with Carolina as they look for their first win since they eliminated the Rangers in game 5 of round 1 last spring. Here are my predictions:
Throughout the 2010-2011 season, the Capitals employed 7 different centers for extended periods of time: Arnott, Backstrom, Fleischmann, Gordon, Johansson, Perreault, and Steckel. Of those seven, three remain on the roster this year (Backstrom, Johansson, Perreault) with only two having guaranteed spots on the opening night roster (Backstrom, Johansson). Even with the signing of Jeff Halpern, the Caps still find themselves short down the middle. To complete the line-up the Caps have three possible options: Perreault, Sjogren, or Laich.
Before I get into my personal observations from the first day of Caps’ training camp I want to pass along the biggest news of the day:
Tarik El-Bashir, of the Washington Post, reported earlier that Tom Poti did not pass his medical test on Friday. Poti has not played since January due to a groin problem.
I was running a little behind schedule today so I missed the majority of the first group. While I didn’t get to see the big guys (Ovechkin, Green, Semin…) skate in the group, I was able to catch the goaltender specific workout of group A. Aside from that I was able to catch all of the group B and C practices. Here are some things I noticed: