December 3, 2021

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.

 

 

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 3, St. Louis Blues 4

 First Star: Alex Ovechkin. Time and time again, he’s had to hoist the rest of the squad onto his back. He did that against St. Louis, but sometimes one man can’t do all the work. His 31 goals currently leads the league. Ovechkin had three points in the 4-2 loss.

Second Star: Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom’s 52 points (15 G, 37 A) is good enough for him to sit in fifth place in the NHL in points. He contributed two assists against St. Louis.

Third Star: Karl Alzner. Much has been said about the coaches asking Alzner to step up his offense this season, and so far, he’s achieved a career-high four-goal season. His goal against the Blues was a good bit of revenge for the stitches over the eye he ended up with after being boarded by David Backes.

Washington Capitals Game 50 Recap: Caps fall short in 4-3 loss to Blues

Playing the second of back-to-back games has been problematic for the Washington Capitals, and it proved so again on Sunday, as the Caps fell to the St. Louis Blues at home 4-3.

Karl Alzner took a hit from St. Louis Blues center David Backes in the second period of the Capitals’ Sunday afternoon matinee at Verizon Center.

While Alzner fought for the puck along the boards, Backes approached, and stapled Alzner to the boards. The defenseman dropped to the ice and emerged from a tangle of skates and fists bleeding from a cut over his left eye. [Read more…]

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins 1/28/15

First star: Braden Holtby. He backstopped the Capitals to a 4-0 win and plugged the holes for three penalty kills. He got his 23rd win, fifth shutout of the year, and second shutout of the season versus Pittsburgh.

Second star: Mike Green. Green is a polarizing character amongst fans, but it is undeniable that when he plays well, the team does well.  He added a lovely goal and an assist in an overall dominating performance Wednesday, his 10th multipoint game of the season.

Third star: Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom logged two assists in the win, his 10th multi-assist game of the year. He’s collected 25 points in his last 22 games. This guy has 35 assists through 48 games.

Honorable mention: Eric Fehr, who’s playing his first real season at center, for his beastly performance in the dot, winning  17 of 22 faceoffs. That’s 77.3%. Word.

 

 

Washington Capitals Game 48 Recap: Holtby’s 27 saves help Capitals blank Penguins 4-0

Like many teams after the All-Star break, Washington Capitals couldn’t seem to find their footing. Before the break, they lost three straight games, and that spilled over to their first game back in Columbus.

After four straight losses, three in regulation, it almost looked like time to worry. A 4-0 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Penguins appears to have righted the ship, for the time being. [Read more…]

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets 1/27/15

First star:

Matt Niskanen.

Niskanen set up two of Washington’s three goals in the 4-3 loss and logged the second-highest ice time of all skaters with 22:43 (only Karl Alzner had more), and two shots on goal.

Second star:

Braden Holtby.

He allowed 4 goals on 30 shots and an otherwise somewhat poor outing, but he was Washington’s best penalty killer. Columbus had 5 power plays, and came up empty on all of them thanks to Holby and the PKers.

Third star:

Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Kuznetsov collected a goal (his fifth of the year) and an assist (12) in the loss. He finished the night with a 14:09 TOI and two shots on goal.

Opinion: Capitals should relegate Peters to Hershey and call up Grubauer for remainder of season

When the Washington Capitals signed free-agent goalie Justin Peters to a two-year, $1.9M ($950k/yr.) contract in the offseason, it seemed like a good fit for both sides, and was lauded as one of the smarter free agent signings of the summer of 2014.

With that deal, the Capitals locked up a serviceable backup to Braden Holtby for less than $1M per year. A goalie tandem with a cap hit of less than $3M a year? Sounds like responsible cap management by Brian MacLellan, similar to what George McPhee was able to pull off with the Braden Holtby–Michal Neuvirth duo in 2013-14. Both goaltenders were secured for $3.8M/yr.

In July, when Peters signed with the Capitals, he told the Washington Post:  “I was looking for an opportunity, an opportunity to play, an opportunity for the coaching staff, a goalie coach like Mitch [Korn]. It just seemed like the puzzles and the pieces came together, and also the organization and the confidence they showed in me. I was able to meet the staff, I was able to meet the training staff, the equipment guys, I was able to meet a lot of people in the organization.”

Much has changed since then. The confidence of the staff and the “opportunity to play” that Peters spoke about in July do not seem to be the case any longer.

Saturday night in Dallas, Peters saw his first start in six weeks, a 5-4 loss. It was just his seventh start of the season. The loss could hardly be blamed on Peters, as it was the second of a back-to-back road game. It did bring to mind a few lingering problems. Namely why Peters sees so little starting time. Is there a lack of trust from the coaching staff? Holtby has been exceptional, so is he merely a victim of circumstance? Or is he just not good, at all?

Peters has a career .904 SV% and a record of 22-31-8 through 76 NHL games. The likely answer is that he isn’t that good, but it’s not as if he’s had a chance to prove himself this year, or will even get an opportunity to do so.

It’s simple math, really. If the Capitals want Holtby to be fresh for a playoff run in April, he needs a backup that can start a game once a week rather than once a month. This is why management should relegate Peters to Hershey and call up Philipp Grubauer for the remainder of the season.

It would be prudent to provide Holtby with a backup that can share the load but not make it necessary for him to carry a ridiculous amount of starts. Out of 45 games this season, Peters has amassed a SV% of .864 and a 2-4-1 record in his meager 7 starts. Holtby’s count is now at 38 starts, with a .923 SV%, and a record of 22-9-7.

Holtby’s 20 consecutive starts were impressive, to say the least. This has nothing to do with his abilities. He can carry the team if he needs to. The problem is that he shouldn’t have to do it for 70 games and have nothing left in the tank come playoff time, especially if the Capitals hope to make any kind of deep run.

At this juncture, it’s possible Peters could play better. However, it’s clear the coaching staff isn’t willing to let him do so. If there was any belief that he could, he probably wouldn’t have been sitting for 6 weeks while Holtby figuratively lit the NHL on fire.

This is where Grubauer comes in. Last season, during Adam Oates’ reign of terror and subsequent three-headed goalie monster, Grubauer played in 17 games and posted a 6-5-5 record with a  .925 SV%. In 25 games with the Hershey Bears this season, Grubauer is 12-9-3 (3 shutouts) and a .920 SV%.

Peters will have to go through waivers if he’s sent to Hershey, but with all respect to him, since he’s not exactly in danger of being claimed, this shouldn’t be huge worry. He’ll still be making his $950K salary in the AHL, which is a bitter pill for management to swallow, but less so when you think about what could happen in the event of an injury to Holtby, and asking Holtby to potentially make 70 starts this season could very well lead to that. What to do with Peters for the remaining year of his contract is another consideration. Maybe a longer stint in the AHL would be beneficial to Peters in the long term, and he could end up returning to Washington to back up Holtby next season.

Grubauer’s development shouldn’t be a concern, either. He’s a bit fresher and will likely not sit as much as Peters has thus far, not to mention that getting NHL playing time will build trade value, if the organization should choose to use him as a bargaining chip in the future. As long as he’s in the AHL, he’s not going to be worth much, tradewise.

All things considered, Grubauer would be a better backup to Holtby than Peters has been this year.

Holtby, who is far and above Washington’s number one goalie for this season and the near future, will be a RFA this summer, and will probably get an enormous raise, as Pat Holden from Russian Machine broke down last week. He thrives on a steady workload, as we’ve seen, but running him into the ground during the regular season and expecting him to hold up during a playoff run is not a sustainable option.

 

Follow Katie on Twitter at @katiebhockey

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