Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Chuck Gormley of CSN Mid-Atlantic,
A year ago, the Capitals were 2-0-2 with six points after their first four games under new coach Barry Trotz. This season they also have six points after four games (3-1-0) as they head into tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames (8:30 pregame, CSN).
But the players and coach agree there is a big difference in the learning curve.
“There was so much to learn last year,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I’d come home from the rink and my head hurt.”
After a quick 3-0-2 start to last season the Caps struggled, losing six of their next seven games. By early December they were still treading water with a 10-10-4 record after 24 games.
“If you don’t get off to a good start you’re chasing the eight ball all year,” Trotz said. “If you’re not in the playoffs by Thanksgiving the odds of getting in are pretty small. Last year we weren’t and we beat the odds a little bit.”
Ovechkin managed to smile throughout much of his mea culpa, and fans largely seemed willing to shrug off this episode. It’s one thing when a goofy rookie tight end like Fred Davis snoozes through practice; the best hockey player in franchise history gets a bit more leeway. Yes, you’d rather this incident didn’t involve the veteran captain with a reputation for enjoying life, but Ovechkin has missed 12 games over five seasons despite playing like an adolescent high on Marshmallow Fluff. Leave the hyperventilating to loud-suited Canadians.
-Dan Steinberg of DC Sports Bog at the Washington Post where you can read more on the Washington Capitals.
via Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post,
“Really, it’s our video coach in the room, he’s on the headset to Steve Spott, who’s on our bench, and Johan Hedberg, who’s our eye in the sky, and the three of those guys really are the ones who make the call on that,” DeBoer said. “I’m just the puppet calling the timeout and telling them what we’re challenging. Can’t take any credit for that, but it was a great catch for our group and at a big time. That was a turning point, that goal called back.”
Trotz didn’t exactly object with the decision.
“The standard is pretty tight,” Trotz said. “If you ask any coach that gets one called off, I was going, ‘Really? That’s pretty light on that side,’ but there was contact. The standard is contact, and it’s absolutely right. … To the letter of the law, it was a good call, I guess. I don’t totally agree.”
The Sharks won the game 5-0.
from Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington,
It’s not every day religious beliefs are openly expressed in hockey locker rooms, but Pope Francis’ historic two-day visit to Washington may change that, at least for the next day or two.
With the leader of the Catholic church scheduled to make stops at the White House, the Basilica of the National Shrine, the Capitol and St. Patrick’s Catholic church, Capitals defenseman John Carlson said he’s anxious to hear what the pontiff has to say.
“It’s something I’ve never been around for; it’s cool to see,” said Carlson, a Catholic who was born in Marlborough, Mass., but moved to Colonia, N.J. as a child and attended St. Joseph in Metuchen, N.J. as a high school freshman.
“I think he’s awesome. I think his ideals are definitely a change of pace and I like what he does.”
FYI, Isabelle is the new beat reporter for the Washington Post.
Dan Rosen of NHL.com answers questions from the fans...
Do you think the Capitals finally have the team around Alex Ovechkin to make them contend for the Cup?
The answer is yes, I do think the Capitals have the team around Ovechkin to contend for the Stanley Cup this season. I like the coaching philosophy, the style of play, the commitment from the players, the depth up front, the consistency that you have to expect from the defense corps, and the elite goaltending they should again receive from Braden Holtby. I like all the ingredients in Washington now.
The Islanders were able to get Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk before the start of last season. Who gets dealt for cap purposes before the start of this season?
Leddy and Boychuk fell into the Islanders' laps last season because Snow was patient, smart and shrewd. He had the cap space and realized the problems of the Chicago Blackhawks (Leddy) and Boston Bruins (Boychuk), understood their needs, and made it happen. He should have been nominated for the General Manager of the Year Award off those two trades alone.
As for this season, it wouldn't shock me if the New York Rangers traded a defenseman, possibly Kevin Klein ($2.9 million AAV). They have Raphael Diaz, and Dylan McIlrath either has to make the team or be subject to waivers on a return to Hartford of the American Hockey League. I don't think he'd clear waivers. Maybe he gets traded. That definitely wouldn't shock me.
The Detroit Red Wings could also be thinking about trading a defenseman, most likely Kyle Quincey ($4.25 million AAV). They've got seven NHL defensemen along with several young blue-liners that played under coach Jeff Blashill in Grand Rapids of the AHL, including Alexey Marchenko, Nick Jensen, Xavier Ouellet and Brian Lashoff. Trading Quincey would clear some space, give GM Ken Holland some flexibility, and allow for a younger defenseman or two to make the team out of camp.
more Q & A...
from Alex Prewitt of Capitals Insider,
Still working back from offseason hip surgery, Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is expected to remain sidelined through the team’s seven-game preseason exhibition slate, Coach Barry Trotz said Saturday.
“Backie is still the same,” Trotz said at Germain Arena, where the Capitals are participating in a four-team prospects tournament “He’s skating and if he keeps going, he’ll keep progressing and get cleared at some point to come to the main group. Once he comes to the main group, I think he’s a few weeks away. That won’t be for a little while. I don’t expect him to be playing in any of the exhibition games. I really don’t. If they tell me yes, then I’ll be happy.”
Otherwise, the Capitals might begin the regular season without the services of their first-line center and alternate captain, though Backstrom isn’t expected to sit much longer. After undergoing the arthroscopic operation in late May, Backstrom has taken his time with rehabilitation, preaching a better-safe-than-sorry approach for his recovery. Backstrom recently conducted a simulate skate test with strength coach Mark Nemish, another important step forward as mobility and strength in his hip return.
from Alex Prewitt of Capitals Insider,
T.J. Oshie emerged from the stick room dressed in his new Washington Capitals white jersey with his new number, 77, pasted onto the back of his helmet, trailed by a camera documenting his first skate with his new team. He stepped onto the bench at the practice facility, already feeling comfortable inside his new office, and leaned two fresh sticks against the glass. He eyed both then chose one, smiling as he turned toward the ice.
“Oh boy,” he said. “Let’s see how these new twigs work.”
Only a dozen or so fans were present for the occasion, a far smaller crowd than that which snaked around the building in mid-July, lining up for the forward’s autograph. Then, Oshie had just begun wrapping his head around the trade that sent him to the Capitals for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a third-round pick.
Come Wednesday morning, a new batch of tasks had presented itself to Oshie. It wasn’t quite as hectic as the torrential week in late July, when he and his future wife moved into their new Minnesota home, attended their wedding then spent two days in the hospital, because she endured the ceremony with kidney stones. But it came close.
from Katie Brown at NHL.com,
The Washington Capitals spent this offseason trying to fix what went wrong in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when they were eliminated by the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round after holding a 3-1 series lead.
Since drafting Alex Ovechkin with the first pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Washington has been one win from advancing to the Eastern Conference Final three times (2011, 2012, 2015), but the Capitals haven't been able to earn that victory.
Ovechkin turns 30 on Sept. 17, so the time for Washington is now.
"I felt the window to win with him was 10 years old," Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said in July. "He's a fantastic player. He plays hard all the time, and I feel I haven't met my commitment to him, that we would build a team that would be able to win Stanley Cups.
"The difference between winning and losing is just so small, so I do not think our window as an organization is closing."
Ovechkin scored 53 goals last season to become the sixth player in NHL history with six 50-goal seasons. With Ovechkin able to produce at an elite level, the onus is on general manager Brian MacLellan to help the Capitals make the most of Ovechkin's prime.
MOSCOW, August 19. /TASS/. NHL Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin is ready to play for the Russian national ice hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics even if the NHL bans him from coming to South Korea, he told journalists on Wednesday.
"The same situation was with the  Sochi Games, they said NHL could not be allowed to come," Ovechkin said. "I hope the sides will reach an agreement."
"Anyway, I and other players will definitely come [to the Olympics2018]," he added.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held from February 9 to 25, 2018, in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
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