March 5, 2015

About Katie Brown

Katie Brown is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Capitals. She resides in Arlington, VA, and developed a love for the sport of hockey as a youngster while watching her brothers play. Katie works at a nonprofit organization by day but the rest of her time is devoted to watching, writing, and talking about hockey and perfecting her mean one-timer. She is co-host of Girls Just Wanna Have Puck podcast. You can follow Katie on Twitter @katie_brown47.

Three stars: Washington Capitals 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 3

First star: Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin increased his goal scoring total with two against Columbus. He leads the league in goals with 43, and shares the points lead with Nicklas Backstrom with 67.

Second star: Nicklas Backstrom. If he isn’t a Hart contender already, he’s making a strong case for it. Backstrom shares the league lead  with 67 points – and 49 of those are assists.

Third star: Braden Holtby. Holtby earned his 31st win of the season, and stopped 27 of 30 shots in his record 56th start of the year. He is quite literally a beast.

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

First star:

Braden Holtby.

It seems like he should have more, but his 7th shutout of the season was no less impressive. He stopped all 32 shots thrown his way.

 

Second star:

Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin scored his 40th and 41st goals against Toronto on Sunday night, and earned  an assist to boot. If he scored 50, no one would be surprised.

 

Third star:

Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom earned his 47th assist Sunday night, and is a serious contender for the Hart Trophy. Yeah.

Washington Capitals Game 64 Recap: Holtby earns 7th shutout of season against Maple Leafs

On his first shift of the night, thirty seconds into the game, Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 40th goal of the season against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The next one came a little bit later, but the Capitals didn’t really need it.

The Washington Capitals won the game 4-0. Braden Holtby stopped 32 shots, and is now tied for second place among NHL goaltenders with his seventh shutout of the season.

“Ovi got us off to a great first shift and scores,” said Barry Trotz. “I thought our first period that the [Toronto Maple] Leafs had some really good looks. [Braden] Holtby was really good for us. I thought he was the difference maker and we got better as the game went on.”

Tim Gleason didn’t even get a chance to skate with the team before taking the ice against the Maple Leafs, and his new teammates applauded his adaptability.

“Tim [Gleason] played a great game tonight,” said Marcus Johansson. “He was solid all night long, not many mistakes. Just played strong and physical and then simple. That’s what we need. We’ve got a good feeling in here, and when we play like we did tonight, I think we are pretty hard to beat.”

Gleason, who was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, logged 18:34 of ice time with defensive partner Mike Green. He spent a little time on the PK, and had three hits.

The Maple Leafs are a struggling team, and exactly the type the Capitals needed to face to snap a three-game losing streak. Losing three straight games wasn’t reason to worry just yet, but was magnified by the four consecutive wins that preceded it.

Washington faces Columbus, Minnesota and Buffalo this week, with Minnesota being the only team that might end up a challenge for them. Buffalo is in full tank mode, and Columbus’ roster has been decimated by injuries.

Three stars: Washington Capitals 0, Carolina Hurricanes 3

First star: Braden Holtby. This game could have been 5-0 if it weren’t for Braden Holtby. His diving “insect save” in the third period was his best of the night.

Second star: Matt Niskanen. He took a hard shot off his bottom and was part of the PK unit that held Carolina’s squad off on both of their attempts. Niskanen had 2 shots on goal and 6 hits for the night.

Third Star: Karl Alzner. Alzner was also great on the PK in Carolina, and his one shot on goal was a great chance in the third period. He finished with three hits and 21:28 TOI.

Washington Capitals Game 62 Recap: Penguins edge Capitals 4-3 in final meeting of season

OVECHKIN SCORES LEAGUE-LEADING 39th GOAL IN THIRD

Poised to sweep the season series against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins,  all the Washington Capitals had to do was not let anything get in their heads. Two penalty-ridden periods and undisciplined play by Washington led to a 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh.

Alex Ovechkin’s 39th goal of the season was Washington’s lone highlight of the game, and low points included Tom Wilson ending up in the Penguins’ bench and skating around the rest of the game like a heat-seeking missile hell bent on any target he could find.

The only player that saw less ice time than Wilson’s 7:09 was Michael Latta, who played 4:21. Wilson was absent for most of the third period, and that is not-so-coincidentally when the Capitals decided to buckle down and chip away at Pittsburgh’s lead.

It was far too little and far too late. Emotions ran high, but in the wrong direction. Before the first intermission buzzer rang, Pittsburgh had already won.

Any team plays better when they can keep their feelings in check in the face of a heated rivalry. Simple gamesmanship would dictate that by allowing the other guy to get the best of you early on, he automatically has the upper hand. You make mistakes, he takes advantage.

Barry Trotz summed this up: “I thought we took all bad penalties, unnecessary penalties. I mean, you can get momentum off the penalty kill, but we’d get momentum off a penalty kill and then we’d take another penalty. Those are just unacceptable for me. You’re not going to win hockey games.”

Wilson, who is by no means a fourth-line scrub, does not conduct himself in a manner befitting a first-round draft pick. He has slightly fewer PIMs than last season, but he can’t seem to clean up his act for very long.

Some of this is not his fault, since you really can’t blame him for trying to make every second of ice time count when he’s on such a short leash. You do have to wonder if things would be different if he was given a little more ice and increased responsibility beyond being the resident tough guy (a label he rejects, but his record speaks for itself).

Tonight, the downward spiral began with an altercation with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin during warmups, and bled out into every second Wilson was on the ice. Sure, Wilson’s antics may get the bench fired up, but he is continually putting his team at a disadvantage and engaging in potentially reckless on-ice behavior.

He’s already beginning to earn a reputation as a potentially problematic player, a label that will become increasingly difficult to shed as his career progresses.

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers 2/8/15

First star: Alex Ovechkin.He’s now tied with the New York Rangers’ Rick Nash for the league goal-scoring lead. His power play goal was one of few things that went Washington’s way against the Flyers. When will teams learn not to leave him open in his spot?

Second star: Evegeny Kuznetsov. He’s getting more ice time and has better linemates than he has all season, and seems to be thriving under the added responsibility. He fished the puck out of Nicklas Backstrom’s skates and dished it to Ovechkin, who scored the Caps only goal against the Flyers.

Third star: Braden Holtby. Holtby gets a star for simply being alive after the sheer number of games he’s played this season. His 46 games played leads the league.

Washington Capitals Game 54 Recap: Missed opportunities haunt Capitals in 3-1 loss to Flyers

A season-low shots on goal total and an otherwise underwhelming showing for the Washington Capitals led to a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon.

Alex Ovechkin scored Washington’s lone goal in a 14-shot outing, the team’s fewest since March 18, 2011. Braden Holtby faced 25 on his end from the Flyers.

Philadelphia gave Washington six power play chances, but they were able to convert only one on Ovechkin’s 33rd of the year.

It seemed like Philadelphia was daring the Capitals to take over the game, and they had plenty of opportunity to do so. Perhaps no chance was as ripe as Flyers goalie Ray Emery replacing Steve Mason, who was carted off the ice with an undisclosed lower body injury in the second period.

“We were all saying that on the bench, this is a great opportunity for us to be able to pepper him and we just didn’t do it,” said defenseman Karl Alzner. “It just wasn’t a good game for us.”

The Capitals have been able to string together winning streaks of three games all season, but never more than that. A fourth consecutive win has been elusive, but the players don’t really keep track of that stuff. They just want to win.

“I don’t really look into it,” said Alzner. “Obviously you want to have as many wins in a row as possible. It’s just a weird coincidence that we can’t get past that, but if we can keep going three-and-one, three-and-one, three-and-one, I don’t think anyone would be upset with that. We gotta take advantage of the opportunities we have.”

Brooks Laich doesn’t feel that Sunday’s game was a measuring stick for Washington’s chances during their California road trip, nor the prospect of the trip a motivating factor in the team’s performance.

“We had good success on that trip last year,” said Laich. “We don’t look at that and put extra emphasis on this game.”

“We battled for two months here to close the gap and could’ve today sat at number one in the division. That’s enough of a motivation right there.”

Washington Capitals Game 53 Recap: Kuznetsov’s resurgence key to the second line’s success

Evgeny Kuznetsov has struggled to find his niche in the lineup this season, but he seems to have found some chemistry with linemates Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer. Their line accounted for both of the Washington Capitals’ regulation goals in their 3-2 shootout victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

Kuznetzov earned two assists, Chimera scored a goal and collected an assist, and Brouwer had an assist, which came off a diving keep-in play at the blue line, which led to Chimera’s tying goal.

“I’m sure that we’ll get a couple more games together, and hopefully we can utilize that,” said Brouwer. “We were real good as line tonight, and not just because we created two goals, but we were sustaining some pressure. When we were in our d-zone, we were being able to get out of our zone fairly quickly.”

Kuznetsov’s linemates had nothing but praise for the rookie during their postgame scrums.

“He’s making plays out there,” said Chimera. “Our line probably could have had three or four more. It was fun playing with those guys tonight. Kuzy’s playing at the top of his game right now, so pretty fun for him.”

“We kinda let Kuzy just control the play like he needs to, and he made a lot of good plays….head up, seeing the ice real well,” said Brouwer. “And he was able to find guys in good areas.”

Chimera has faced his own adversity this season, too. He was a healthy scratch in Ottawa Friday night, so coming back with a strong, two-point performance against a top NHL team speaks volumes for his resiliency.

Trotz took a chance with putting these three players together, as a coach does any time he composes a lineup, and his faith was rewarded handsomely.

“At the beginning of the year, that was partly the reason he [Kuznetsov] was bouncing around up and down the lineup. Lately, he’s been able to get Trotz’s trust, and we got put out for important d-zone faceoffs against some pretty good players sometimes,” said Brouwer. “Whenever you can have the coach’s confidence to put you out in all situations, it just makes it easier for him to run the bench, and it makes it easier for us to play.”

Kuznetzov’s two assists marked his third multi-point game this season. He has seven points in his last seven games, and points in three consecutive games.  He has 22 points on the season.

“With Kuzy, he’s really starting to come through with his offensive ability and get himself on the score sheet. It’s only going to be good things for our line, which means we’re going to play more,” said Brouwer. ”We’re going to be utilized a little bit more. Me and Kuzy have been pretty comfortable with each other lately. We’ve just been trying to find a spark in the last 10 or 15 games or so, and I think tonight was a real good one for us. “

 

 

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Ottawa Senators 2/5/15

First star:
Braden Holtby.
Holtby’s 25 saves led the way for Washington’s 2-1 win in Ottawa, and his 25th win of the season, which is good enough for sixth in the league amongst fellow goaltenders for regular season wins.

Second star:
Alex Ovechkin.
He is now tied with Rick Nash for the NHL goal scoring lead with 32, thanks to his game-winner in Ottawa.

Third star:
Jay Beagle.
It may have been a weird line change that left Beagle on the ice for the play that led to Ovechkin’s game-winning goal, but whatever the twist of fate, he collected perhaps the nicest assist of his career on the ensuing sequence.

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Los Angeles Kings 2/13/15

First star: Braden Holtby. Holtby is tied for the league lead in shutouts with 6. His 4-0 shutout of the L.A. Kings was his third straight in regulation, and he’s tied with Cory Schneider for most games played this season (44). He’s carrying the load, and doing a mighty fine job.

Second star: Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom gets the second star because of his really sweet goal on Jonathan Quick, his 16th of the year. With his assist on Troy Brouwer’s second goal, number 38 on the season, Backstrom moved into fourth place in league scoring. Only Jakub Voracek has more assists (41).

Third star: Troy Brouwer. He played in his 500th NHL game and scored two goals in Washington’s whipping of the L.A. Kings. Brouwer has three points in his last five games.

 

 

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