Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Alex Prewitt of Capitals Insider,
At the end of his first regular season atop the Washington Capitals’ front office, General Manager Brian MacLellan discussed the transformation that unfolded under his watch. Last summer, MacLellan was the surprise in-house successor to George McPhee, charged with reshaping a franchise that missed the postseason for the first time in seven years. His moves were minimal but calculated: hiring Coach Barry Trotz, three summer signings, two deadline trades. And in just his third interview session since the season began, MacLellan assessed the Metropolitan Division’s No. 2 seed, a team with home-ice advantage in the first round against the New York Islanders.
“Obviously it’s a noticeable difference in the way we play and the energy that’s brought in the room and on the ice,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch and develop throughout the year. I feel optimistic that it’s going to continue to move into the right direction and grateful that it’s happened.”
MacLellan echoed what several players have voiced in recent days: that the Capitals’ current style would lead to more postseason success. While serving as an assistant general manager, mostly in a professional scouting role, MacLellan watched Washington reach six straight postseasons but never advance beyond the second round.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
We've all been fooled before by the regular-season Caps, who turned into pumpkins when midnight struck in the playoffs, but these guys look different this year.
"This is a different team than before," observed one NHL scout at Thursday’s game. "They’re more physical, they look heavier."
One Caps player quipped to me on the way out of the rink after Thursday's morning skate that people were sleeping on his team.
"We're going to surprise people in the playoffs," said the player,
Thing is, I’m not sure anyone is sleeping on the Caps. People are taking notice.
They are indeed a heavier team. These aren't your older cousin's Caps of yesteryear, when it was all about offense. This appears to be a team that can grind out a 2-1 game in the playoffs, something that was difficult for Washington teams of the past to figure out.
from Neil Greenberg of The Washington Post,
Alex Ovechkin is at it again. He scored his 52nd and 53rd goal of the season Thursday night, passing Peter Bondra to become the franchise’s all-time leader with 474 goals. He joins the Sharks’ Patrick Marleau and the Devils’ Patrik Elias as the only active career goal-scoring leaders for their current team.
It has been a record-setting season for the Russian superstar. Ovechkin became the sixth player in NHL history to reach the 50-goal plateau six times or more, joining Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne. He is the fifth player to score at least 30 goals in each of his first 10 seasons. The others: Gretzky, Bossy, Mike Gartner and Jari Kurri. However, his goal-scoring peers played in a time when goal scoring was plentiful.
from Dan Rosen of NHL.com,
A key stat of yours that jumped out to me was ice time. You exceeded 20 minutes of ice time in 10 of your first 19 games, but only in 11 of the past 46. Now some of these games you're in the 19:50s range so take that for what it's worth, but it's not around 22, 23, 24 or 25 as it had been for you in the past. Has playing fewer minutes been better for your overall game?
"Well, I definitely enjoy playing a lot of minutes and sort of a more prominent role, but in this case this is my role now for this team and I think it's helped me in the sense of being able to stay healthy throughout the season. When you log a lot of minutes and you are an offensive defenseman you can get targeted at times, and in that case you can sustain injuries. It's been a good balance. I'm comfortable with my role right now. Sometimes you've gotta put your ego aside for the betterment of the team."
Do you think this team is better suited to win a championship this season than even the team that won the Presidents' Trophy in 2009-10?
"Oh absolutely. It's feelings. I think we're definitely more structured than we've ever been. The whole team has bought into that structure. The relationship and camaraderie outside the rink is the best it's ever been. I think we're getting older and a little more mature in the sense that we're all focusing on the same thing now."
“I’ve been rooting for a Nashville-Washington [Stanley Cup] Final since the first day of the season,” “Things worked out really good for all of us. We’re happy with where we are in Nashville and Barry has done a great job with the Capitals. We both have teams that are capable of doing some damage in the playoffs.”
-David Poile, GM of the Nashville Predators, via Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.
NEW YORK (March 27, 2015) – Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson has been fined $2,000 as supplementary discipline under NHL Rule 64 (Diving/Embellishment), the National Hockey League announced today.
Wilson was issued a Warning following an incident flagged by NHL Hockey Operations during NHL Game No. 936 against Toronto on March 1. His second Citation, which triggered the $2,000 fine, was issued for an incident during NHL Game No. 1057 at Minnesota on March 19. Wilson received a minor penalty for embellishment on the play, at 14:45 of the second period.
You can see the play below...
from lJay Palansky of the Toronto Star,
To be fair, Ovechkin has had a good season and there really aren’t any forwards that have stepped up and separated themselves from the pack. Still, giving Ovechkin the MVP would be a travesty.
Mainstream analysts see that Ovechkin’s 47 goals leads the league by 7, he has a +/- of +11 — which looks positively stellar compared to the disastrous -35 he put up last year — and that the Capitals are going to make the playoffs. That’s all they need to know.
To them I say it’s time to look beyond goals. Ovechkin’s offensive numbers actually aren’t particularly impressive. In 5-on-5 play, he’s 90th in the league in points per 60 minutes. Plus, Ovechkin has only 26 assists, a microscopic 14 of which are 5-on-5. Since 1970, the fewest assists by a forward to win MVP in a full season was 45 — and that was by Brett Hull in 1990-91, when he potted 86 goals. Even adjusting for the overall decrease in scoring in the league since 1991, Ovechkin’s season isn’t in the same universe,
The love from some in the analytics community is more unexpected. Their argument focuses primarily on Ovechkin’s solid shot attempt differential of 54.5 per cent. They then apply some magic analytics pixie dust by disregarding Ovechkin’s actual goal differential to calculate what the Capitals’ “expected” goals for and against when Ovechkin is on the ice would be if Ovechkin’s linemates and goalies had a “league-average shooting and goaltending,” rather than the considerably below-average shooting and save percentages they actually have.
from Alex Prewitt of Capitals Insider,
As the first postgame question came Sunday night, Coach Barry Trotz reviewed the events of the Washington Capitals’ 2-0 victory over the Boston Bruins in his mind and considered the juxtaposition. Forty-eight hours earlier, he had derided a listless defeat against the Dallas Stars and commanded his players to patch their problems, to which they responded by calling a closed-door meeting. He called a surprise practice the next day and put the Capitals on blast, threatening lineup demotions. He proclaimed that hosting Boston would truly reveal the character of a group reeling from two straight home defeats.
And now, after goaltender Braden Holtby made 32 saves, center Nicklas Backstrom claimed the franchise’s assists lead, defenseman Nate Schmidt scored his first goal of the season and the team staved off the foe in closest pursuit of its top Eastern Conference wild card spot, Trotz needed little time to answer what was posed: Could he have asked for a better response?
“Not really,” Trotz said. “I think that just shows there is good leadership in the room. They had to make it happen. There’s a great response. They had the closed door [meeting]. We had to get urgent, let’s get playing well. I thought we came out, good start, I thought we had a lot of urgency, we had a lot of detail, we had a lot of commitment, got big penalty kills when we needed, got great goaltending from Holtby. A lot of good things. All over I thought we had pretty good structure against a pretty good team.”
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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