April 21, 2014

Brouwer, Chimera, and Ward to represent Canada at 2014 IIHF World Championship in Belarus

Three Washington Capitals will be representing Canada at the World Championship in May, according to the official Capitals press release. Despite failing to make the playoffs, all three players notched career years- Brouwer and Ward in goals, and Chimera in points and assists.

Press release: 

ARLINGTON, Va. – Washington Capitals forwards Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward will represent Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk, Belarus. The World Championship begin on May 9 and conclude on May 25.

Brouwer, 28, will represent Canada at the World Championship for the first time. The Vancouver native registered 43 points (25 goals, 18 assists) in 82 games with the Capitals this season, setting new career highs in goals, points and power-play goals (12). Brouwer finished the season ranked tied for sixth in the NHL in power-play goals, first among Washington skaters in hits (210) and second on the team in goals.

Chimera, 34, will be making his third World Championship appearance. The Edmonton native has recorded eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 18 career games at the tournament. Chimera earned a medal in each of his previous World Championship appearances, winning gold with Canada in 2007 and silver in 2008. He has represented Canada at two World Championships (2007, 2008) and at World Junior Championship (1999). The 6’3”, 216-pound left wing registered 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games with the Capitals this season, setting career highs in assists and points.

Ward, 33, will represent Canada at the World Championship for the first time. The Toronto native registered 49 points (24 goals, 25 assists) in 82 games with Washington this season, setting career highs in goals, assists, points and power-play goals (6). Ward earned his first career hat trick on Nov. 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers and finished the season ranked third on the team in goals and points.

 

Washington Capitals Game 79 Recap: Capitals beat Blues 4-1

Throughout the second half of the season, the Washington Capitals had a chance to help themselves but couldn’t do it. Now, they must rely on the bad luck of other teams for their playoff fate. Riding the momentum from their shootout win against the Islanders on Saturday, the Capitals stymied the league-leading St. Louis Blues, 4-1.

Alex Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game, his 50th of the season. Ovechkin is the first player in the NHL this season to reach that mark, and will likely be the only one. This season is the fifth 50-goal campaign of his career.

Though the Blues out shot-attempted the Capitals by double, the Capitals dominated on the scoreboard.

Mikhail Grabovski opened the floodgates with his second period goal, his 13th tally of the season. Nicklas Backstrom added another even-strength goal, his 16th of the season, to round out the period for the Caps.

Leading 3-1 heading into the third period, the most dangerous lead of all, the Capitals hung on, and got more help from Backstrom.

Backstrom tallied his 17th of the season a power play goal, to put the Capitals up 4-1.

Braden Holtby was stellar, stopping 28 of 29 shots in the win. There was a lot of buzz surrounding the starting goaltender situation preceding the game, but Holtby’s performance pushed it to the background.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were officially eliminated from playoff contention tonight, but even if the Capitals win their remaining three games, there is still a mathematically slim chance they will make the playoffs.

Washington Capitals Game 78 Recap: Caps rally to beat Islanders in shootout, 4-3

With their chances at the postseason dwindling to almost nothing after Friday’s loss, the Washington Capitals headed to face the New York Islanders in the first of two back-to-back games they will play in the next week. The Capitals rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie the game late in the second period and take the game to the shootout, winning 4-3.

Braden Holtby started the second game of the back-to-back games, a smart coaching decision by Adam Oates. Holtby was stellar, and stopped 33 of 36 shots faced in regulation and overtime, and stopped all Islanders shooters in the shootout as well.

The Capitals let the Islanders dictate the pace of the game in the first period, allowing 17 shots in the 20-minute frame. They were fortunate to escape the period only down 0-1.

Lack of urgency has been an evident problem for the Capitals lately. They simply have not looked like a team that wants to win games and secure the postseason. During the second period, they only managed 4 shots on goal through 10 minutes.

In that span, the Islanders scored two goals and the Capitals one. Down 3-1, it looked over for the Capitals, but they have a penchant for comebacks in Long Island.

Adding to Evgeny Kuznetsov’s early second period tally, Nicklas Backstrom scored his 15th goal of the season. Joel Ward sweetened the pot with his 23rd of the season, late in the second period. The most notable thing about this game was not the comeback, but the fact that each Capitals goal was scored at even strength. They went 0-for-5 on the power play.

Mike Green and Jason Chimera collided during the first period in what will likely go down as the worst breakout of all time, causing Green to sit out the rest of the game, and forcing the Capitals to roll five defensemen. Not ideal, but Holtby kept the Capitals in the game, as he has many times this season.

The chances of the Capitals actually making the playoffs are still statistically very slim, even if the Leafs lose the rest of their games. If they’d pulled a point or two out of last night’s game against the Devils, they may still have a pulse, but the postseason is probably out of reach for the Capitals at this point.

Washington Capitals Game 77 Recap: Capitals lose hard to Devils, 2-1

A lackluster showing during their homestand and on the road against the Nashville Predators left the Washington Capitals even more desperate for points and the postseason. They knew heading into Friday’s game against the New Jersey Devils that they simply had to win – no other result would be acceptable. The Caps watched their hopes slip away with a hard-fought 2-1 regulation loss to the Devils.

After Adam Oates’ uncharacteristic indictment of Alex Ovechkin “quitting” on a play that led to a Nashville goal, it was clear everyone was feeling the pressure. Ovechkin cut the tension a bit by scoring the game’s first goal, his 27th even strength goal, and 49th of the season.

Oates blew up the Jay Beagle experiment after six games (probably six games too long) and reunited Ovechkin with Nicklas Backstrom, and a now healthy Mikhail Grabovski. It took Ovechkin about 10 minutes of being separated from Beagle to score an ES goal, where the Caps have struggled much of this season.

The Capitals let off the gas in the second period, and allowed the Devils back in the game. They only managed seven shots during the period, while the Devils doubled up on that.

Cory Schneider handily stopped a Capitals chance at one end, and the Devils took it back and scored. The goal was officially credited to Tuomo Ruutu. Schneider was brilliant in net for the Devils, allowing them to remain spotless on the penalty kill all night.

Jaroslav Halak was equally as capable for the Capitals, keeping them clean despite five Devils power plays, and facing 31 shots.

The third period remained knotted at 1-1, until Ryan Carter took advantage of a bad defensive break by the Capitals and beat Halak for the go-ahead goal.

With the Capitals loss, New Jersey has now jumped ahead of Washington in the Metropolitan Division and the playoff race.

They face the New York Islanders on Saturday, and continue the road trip to St. Louis on Tuesday, and Carolina on Thursday. Barring huge failures by Columbus, New Jersey, and Toronto, if the Capitals can’t pull together points, they may miss the postseason for the first time since 2006.

Washington Capitals Game 74 Recap: Caps start slow, lose to Bruins, 4-2

Entering Saturday’s contest against the Boston Bruins, the Washington Capitals knew the door to a playoff spot was ajar. Toronto and Columbus both fell to their respective opponents the night before and subsequently failed to gain any ground in the race for a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. All the Capitals needed to do was step over the threshold, and they’d be that much closer to the postseason.

It was almost as if they didn’t realize the chance they had. A slow start; a third period flurry; a 4-2 loss.

Braden Holtby, who has a history of good starts against Boston, did his best. But the rest of the team did not. He made a number of crucial saves, including a robbery of Chris Kelly in the first period, but the rest of the team could not deliver what they needed most – goals. Or, at least not enough when it mattered to win.

The best forward line for the Capitals of late has been the “third” line of Jason Chimera, Joel Ward, and Eric Fehr, and they were the ones who delivered the team’s first goal, while they were already mired in a 3-0 hole. Chimera scored his 14th of the season with 10 seconds remaining in the second period.

In the third, the Capitals seized a bit of momentum back. It was the way they wanted to play, but it was too little, too late. They need to begin games this way, not find their rhythm while attempting to chip away at a two-goal lead.

“I thought that most of the third period, we took the play to one of the best teams in the league. That’s a positive for us,” said Fehr. “Definitely don’t want to take that long, but we know they are a good team, and in our own rink, we should be able to use momentum and create chances.”

Once again, in the dying seconds of the third period, a puck found the back of the net for the Capitals. Young hope Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his second goal of the season, but it was too late. The Capitals had found the recipe, but they were already cooked.

Washington Capitals Game 73 Recap: Capitals fall 5-4 to Kings in shootout; Kuznetsov scores first career goal

After a surprisingly successful west coast swing, the Washington Capitals faced the Los Angeles Kings for the second time in a week, this time on home turf. After running off with a lead to start the game, the Capitals couldn’t hold the Kings comeback, and lost 5-4 in the shootout.

The Capitals got off to a great start (on the power play, as it were). Alex Ovechkin scored his 47th goal of the season, assisted by John Carlson and Troy Brouwer.

Less than five minutes later, Ovechkin scored on a power play again, his 48th goal of the season assisted by Brouwer and Nicklas Backstrom.

While the first period was all Capitals, the second period belonged to the Kings, who spent much quality time in the Caps zone, and had something to show for it. Mike Richards scored on the power play, and the Kings continued to chip at the Caps lead.

In the meantime, Chris Brown, Troy Brouwer, and Nicklas Backstrom each had their turn going down the tunnel for various ailments. Brown and Brouwer returned to the game, but Backstrom did not. Capitals coach Adam Oates told reporters post game that Backstrom is not undergoing concussion protocol, and called it an “upper body injury”.

Dustin Penner scored his first goal as a Capital late in the second, assisted by Brown, who’d just returned to the bench. The assist marked Brown’s first NHL point. The momentum didn’t carry to the third period the way the Capitals would have liked.

The Kings scored three unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead halfway through the third period.

John Carlson took a hooking penalty with a minute left in regulation, but the Capitals iced a penalty kill that Karl Alzner called “desperate”. So desperate, in fact, that it led to Russian youth Evgeny Kuznetsov’s first career goal, a shorthanded tally that sent the game to overtime.

Alex Ovechkin scrambled to the goal line to retrieve the puck for Kuznetsov, and the crowd began throwing hats, because they thought he was the one who scored.

“It was a big goal that actually got us a point,” coach Adam Oates said. “Shorthanded. It was a good play. We won a draw, Orly [Dmitry Orlov] makes a nice run up the ice, which gives us a chance to get the goalie out. We dumped it in, and then I’m sure they relaxed just enough; it’s a weird situation. Sometimes those goals go in. It was a big goal for him and us; it gets us a point.”

The Capitals fell in the shootout, but got a little help from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who fell 5-3 in regulation to the St. Louis Blues.

Ovechkin collided with Jack Hillen in the neutral zone during overtime, which appeared to render Hillen unconscious. Hillen was able to stand and leave the ice, and Ovechkin returned to play despite looking a little shaken up after the hit.

Two points were what they needed, but they had to settle for one. There’s still work to be done if they want to make the playoffs, and their next obstacle is the Boston Bruins on Saturday. Maybe the Leafs will help the Capitals out a little more in the meantime.

Washington Capitals Game 69 Recap: Capitals edge Leafs, 4-2

After a dominating first period, the WashCapitals led on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, but allowed the Toronto Maple Leafs to creep back into the game in the second period, but held them off in the third period for a 4-2 win.

Troy Brouwer scored his 19th goal of the season on the Capitals’ first power play of the game for the early lead. It was assisted by Swedes Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom. Johansson played the puck from behind the net to a wide-open Brouwer in the slot.

The lone even strength goal scored by the Capitals in the first period was Jason Chimera’s 13th of the season, which deflected off his skate and in. Joel Ward took the initial shot, and thought the goal was his, which would have been his 20th of the season.

Ward got his 20th goal, a career-high, for real this time, on the Capitals’ second power play. Dustin Penner parked himself in front of James Reimer in the crease, and dexterously slid a no-look pass in Ward’s direction. Ward put a wrister behind Reimer, and the Caps were comfortably in the lead at 3-0 with most of the first period behind them.

Late in the first, despite the Leafs only managing two shots on goal the entire period, Troy Bodie nicked Jaroslav Halak for a goal, ending the period down 3-1.

Shades of the second-period collapse against the Canucks on Friday evening began to appear again in the second period against the Leafs. The Capitals were outshot 20-6 in the period, and the Leafs scored their second unanswered goal, edging the Caps’ two-goal cushion to 3-2.

With the seconds waning in the third period and Reimer pulled, Troy Brouwer banked a shot from the defensive zone off the boards towards the Leafs’ empty net. Nick Backstrom had the presence of mind to follow the puck all the way down without touching it, to ensure that Brouwer would get his second goal of the game and 20th goal of the season. It was his third multi-goal game this season.

Karl Alzner gushed to reporters after the game about Backstrom’s selfless play. “He’s one of the best players in the world.”

The Capitals will now head to California on what is their toughest road trip of the season. No teams have come away from a west coast swing with three wins, and the Capitals know they need to bring home at least four points to have a chance to make the postseason.

“You’ve got to win them all,” said Adam Oates in his postgame presser. ”We haven’t played L.A. yet, but we played Anaheim here. We could’ve won the game, and San Jose same thing. I know they’re better than us in the standings, but you’ve got to have the attitude you’re going to beat them.”

 

OPINION: Arguments for fighting in NHL weaken in face of player safety

“It’s a part of the game.” 

“It protects players.”

“Players should stick up for their teammates.”

“It helps teams win games.”

If these phrases look familiar to you, it’s because the pro-fighting contingent of hockey fans has pounded you over the head with them like haymakers.

Here’s the thing about those claims–they aren’t true. None of the logic commonly used to defend fighting in the NHL is fact-based or proven in any way. In Wednesday night’s game between the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers, the mini-line brawl triggered all these excuses and more.

Fighting is not a part of the game.

Yes, violence is a part of the game, and hockey is an inherently violent sport, but fighting is a part of the game the same way the shootout is a part of the game, if you choose to subscribe to that logic.

The shootout wasn’t always a part of the NHL, and at some point in time, will no longer be a part of it. (The shootout doesn’t have much in common with fighting aside from disrupting the flow of a game, but the point still stands.) The same goes for fighting. Just because it is there now, and has been in the past, doesn’t mean it should be, needs to be, or always will be a part of it.

Fighting does not protect players.

The notion that fighting “protects” players is ridiculous. Teams that dress less-skilled players and deploy them for 4 minutes a night — in the name of ”protecting” their star players — usually end up just retaliating for clean, hard hits or incidental contact on their goalie. These players serve no other purpose than to physically maim their opponent. For want of protecting a teammate, they could end someone else’s career with several well-placed punches. Most of these guys can’t play. They are dead weight.

Cheap shots, slashing in retaliation, slew-foots, etc. have been in the game for a century, and remain today. No amount of “protection” or “enforcing” has managed to drive this nonsense from the game. Honest, legitimate player safety rules, enforced on the ice, by the league, and by teams themselves, is the only answer. To this point, the league has allowed certain teams to dictate policy when it comes to fighting and violence in hockey.

One day, I hope, if fighting does still exist in the NHL, the “goons” are not just goons. I believe that every player on a team should possess actual hockey skill and contribute to the team in other ways besides propelling their metacarpals into someone else’s skull.

Hockey is a physical sport, and any time the human body is subjected to any extreme force, including a hard body check, it causes trauma to the brain. Now think about the force exerted by a fist to someone’s head. Over time, that can lead to undiagnosed concussions and traumatic brain injuries.

While we can’t completely rid the game of hitting, and nor would we want to, shouldn’t we want to see the amount of potential brain trauma reduced as much as possible? The answer is yes.

Fighting does not help teams win games.

Sure, a fight can boost momentum, that much is true, at least. Hockey is an emotional game. But what matters at the end of a game is the score on the scoreboard. The team with the most goals wins the game, not the team that spars the hardest.

There are no moral victories in hockey.

On many occasions, I’ve seen the losing team praised for showing “grit” and “heart” because they came out on the winning end of a couple fights. “They were trying to get the bench fired up,” it is then said. Do you want to know another way to “fire up the bench”? Score goals. Finish your checks. Play smart hockey. Don’t break another guy’s orbital bone,  because that doesn’t improve your place in the standings. In fact, it’s probably sending your team to the penalty kill, where your opponent will likely score a goal. You are putting your team at a disadvantage, and thus making it less likely they will win a game.

Most people who know me, or at least follow me on Twitter, can attest to how outspoken I am about fighting in hockey. I cannot count the amount of times I’ve heard the prior arguments and more, including being urged to find a new sport, and being told that I should find a new sport to watch. What you and these other people may not realize is that I, too, was once a fan of fighting. It’s exciting. It boosts your adrenaline.

But at some point, I realized that the toll taken on the athletes who play these types of roles is not only detrimental to their long-term health and longevity in the sport; it’s detrimental to the game. People I’ve spoken with who are not hockey fans have told me they are turned off by seeing line brawls and fights whenever they turn on a game. As many people as are attracted to hockey because of fighting, the same proportion are alienated by it.

If the league wants to reduce the amount of head injuries to players,  why not rid the sport of something that is probably the main cause of it? It’s a gross double standard.

The NHL has clearly started thinking about it, instituting rule changes that require all players entering the league to wear visors, and penalizing players for taking off their helmets prior to a fight (they’ve also started doling out penalties to those who think they are clever by removing their opponents helmet before a fight, as well). It will be years before fighting is phased out of the league, but the NHL is taking baby steps toward protecting the health of its players and the sport as a whole.

The health of the players who play the game we love to watch should be considered paramount. The long-term effects of continued brain trauma are well-known, the emotional and psychological effects of it are probably not thought about too much. It’s time to start thinking about it.

_________________

Katie Brown is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Capitals. She grew up in Virginia and Maryland, currently resides in Arlington, VA, and developed a love for the sport of hockey as a youngster while watching her brothers play. She combined her enthusiasm for the game with her love of writing after college. Katie has covered the Capitals as credentialed media for two seasons for several area blogs before joining the DSP staff. 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. You can follow Katie on Twitter @katie_brown47.

Washington Capitals Game 60 Recap: Capitals scrape by Panthers, 5-4

After a two week hiatus, the Washington Capitals got back in action against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Florida. They managed to squeak out a 5-4 win after losing a two goal lead twice throughout the game.

The Capitals got off to a strong start. They scored two quick goals, Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich respectively, and managed to hang on to a one-goal lead at first intermission.

Mikhail Grabovski, sidelined with an ankle injury for several weeks prior to the Olympic break, went down awkwardly in the first period, and appeared to reinjure his ankle. He did not return to the game.

Playing a team with the worst power play percentage in the league certainly worked to the Capitals’ advantage tonight. The Panthers had 6 power plays, and the Capitals were perfect on the penalty kill. Braden Holtby was obviously a big part of this, and made 30 saves on 34 goals against the Panthers.

The Capitals were also perfect on their own two power plays, with both goals scored by Troy Brouwer.

Alex Ovechkin scored the game winning goal, had two assists and was among two other Capitals with three-point nights, Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich both had a goal and two assists apiece.

This game looked as if it was all Capitals for a while, but the Panthers snuck back into the game twice, scoring two quick succession goals to tie the game 4-4 with 10 minutes left in the game.

The Panthers were a lowly opponent the Capitals should have been able to put away easily, but instead blew several leads and allowed them to creep back into the game. If the Capitals do end up in the playoffs, they aren’t going to be able to get away with these types of games against better teams. Their fortitude will certainly be tested during their upcoming schedule.

 

 

Washington Capitals Game 59 Recap: Capitals shut out Devils 3-0; Erat scores his first of the season

The Washington Capitals have five Olympians on their roster, but before they set off for Sochi they had one more task to complete. After sacking the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, the Capitals finished off their four game homestand with another victory, a 3-0 decision over the New Jersey Devils.

The Caps enter the Olympic break on a 5-2-1 tear.

Braden Holtby got his second start of the week, and earned his third shutout of the season.

Julien Brouillete, called up from Hershey this week to aid an ailing Caps defense, scored the first goal of the game in the third period and the first of his career, with his parents in attendance as well.

“I’m sure he’s flying high right now. Big goal,” said Adam Oates. “But you know what, Backy [Nicklas Backstrom] won a draw. That’s what it’s about. You win a draw, we get it across the blue line, you throw it to the net with a little bit of a screen and you’ve got a chance to get a goal.”

Martin Erat experienced a milestone of sorts himself, as well. The Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra man to try to tie the game with two minutes left, but Erat fired a wrister at the empty net, finally scoring his first goal of the season, just before his trip to the Olympics as a member of the Czech team.

Troy Brouwer scored his 100th career goal just a few seconds later to cap off the win.

Adam Oates was impressed with the patience of his players during a game that was sleepy at times.

“Obviously the Devils play that kind of game. They are willing to play it every night, and it’s a frustrating team to play. They don’t give you much. I looked up with nine minutes left in the third period, and I think it was 20 each in shots. Both teams played stingy. It was good.”

%d bloggers like this: