July 7, 2020

Washington Capitals Game 72 Re-Cap: Caps lackluster in 5-2 loss to Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks faced the Washington Capitals without captain Jonathan Toews while Caps star center Nick Backstrom is still out with the same type of concussion injury as Toews (the good news is that Nick is skating more and more everyday).

The Hawks came into the contest 6-3-1 in their last games contests, sitting at sixth place in the rough and tumble Western conference. Meanwhile, the Caps were trying to upright the ship after Friday’s loss to Winnipeg.

To say the boys were struggling would be an understatement. They were hemmed in their end for much of the first period with no shots on goal until 16 minutes into the game (from Mike Green). The Caps’ defense seemed to be skating in mud allowing the Blackhawks to conduct skating clinics in their zone. [Read more…]

GAME 65 RE-CAP: Capitals Scoring Woes Linger in 1-0 Loss to Flyers

The Washington Capitals led the Philadelphia Flyers in just about every statistic on the game sheet last night. Except where it counts. Ilya Bryzgalov made 34 saves, sending the Caps to their second consecutive home shut out loss, 1-0, in front of a fairly mixed crowd at Verizon Center.

The Flyers came into tonight’s contest missing two of their key defensemen, Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros, both ailing with lower body injuries. For the home team, Mike Knuble was back in the lineup after being scratched for four games and Michal Neuvirth got the start after Friday night’s fiasco against New Jersey.

During his first shift, Karl Alzner did a nice job of keeping Jaromir Jagr and his signature mullet out of Neuvy’s territory. Alzner was just one of his teammates to ramp up the physical play that is ever so present whenever the Flyers come to town. [Read more…]

Quiet Southeast Division at NHL Trade Deadline

By now, everyone knows that Washington Capitals GM George McPhee decided to stand pat with his current roster at the trade deadline on Monday rather than “sell the farm” of talented youngsters and upcoming prospects for a potential rental who might help the team in a playoff push.

It’s certainly shaping up to be an extremely tight race to the finish – as of this writing, the Caps are only three points behind Florida out of first in the division and Winnipeg trails Washington by one measly point for the eighth spot in the conference. This year’s trade deadline turned out to be much ado about nothing, with rumors of blockbuster trades rapidly dissipating as the clock ticked closer to 3 p.m. [Read more…]

GAME 59 RE-CAP: Caps steamrolled by Canes in embarrassing 5-0 trouncing

The Washington Capitals are in the unfamiliar position of possibly being out of the playoff race for the first time in many seasons.  Last night, they travelled to RBC Center in Raleigh, NC to face a Carolina Hurricanes team sitting in last place in the East. Unfortunately, Carolina played like their playoff lives depended on it instead of the Caps, as the Hurricanes cruised unchallenged to a 5-0 blanking of the reeling Capitals.

The Caps remain two points behind Florida for first in the Southeast Division and one point behind Toronto and Winnipeg for the eighth seed in the conference.

The Canes were without the services of their marquee goaltender, Cam Ward and agitating defenseman Tuomo Ruutu. For Washington, an ailing Dmitry Orlov was scratched due to undisclosed illness. [Read more…]

Capitals face bitter rival Pittsburgh at end of tough road trip

Washington Capitals (25-19-2, 52 points, 8th in Eastern Conference) at Pittsburgh Penguins (26-17-6, 60 points, 6th in Eastern Conference)
Sunday, January 22, 12:30 p.m.

While meetings between the Capitals and the Penguins may not have quite the same level of vitriol with Pittsburgh’s captain still out with concussion symptoms, it’s pretty safe to say there’s still no love lost between the two.

Unfortunately, concussions have been too prominent a theme in the NHL this year. Sidney Crosby is still undergoing treatment for lingering symptoms and closer to home, our own Nicklas Backstrom is one of a string of stars sidelined by a head injury. The Penguins saw the return of one their other key cogs, Kris Letang just this week. Letang missed 21 games with a concussion suffered at the hands of the Habs back in November. The mop-haired defenseman wasn’t the only casualty that night; one of the Pens’ other top defensemen, Zbynek Michalek, also left with a head injury. Jay Beagle’s pal, Arron Asham, is the latest player to be felled by a concussion; he is out indefinitely and won’t be suiting up against the Caps on Sunday.

The injury-plagued Penguins have been cursed with the same inconsistency as the Capitals of late. They lost their first four games in the month of January, but the victory against the Rangers Wednesday and Montreal Friday puts them on a five-game winning streak.

Despite the injuries, handily beating the league-leading Rangers is evidence that they’re still not a team to be taken lightly. Evgeni Malkin scored two of Penguins four goals against the Blue Shirts, boosting his points total to 54. Geno’s latest performance places him in first place atop NHL point leaders. Malkin and his line mates James Neal and Chris Kunitz, have accounted for half of the Pens’ goals this year.  Friday, the Pens overcame a 4-2 deficit in the third period to tie the Canadiens at 17:17, and went on to win in a shootout.

The Capitals normally have no problem ramping their game up when it comes to the Pens and they’ve won two of the last three contests. In the absence of Backstrom, Marcus Johansson has stepped up and has set his career high in assists and game-winning goals this season (3). It remains to be seen which net minder will get the start in the Steel City, but Michal Neuvirth certainly made a case for himself with his shutout performance in Montreal.

The Caps come off a strange week where they’ve played in three straight 3-0 shutouts, losing to the Islanders at home, winning in Montreal, and losing again in Carolina, where once again they looked lifeless and disinterested.  The Pittsburgh game comes at the end of a three-game road trip, and the Caps need to put in a good performance for their own confidence.

With both teams fighting to advance their standings in the Eastern Conference in a nationally televised game (sure to be full of insightful commentary by everyone’s favorite, Mike Milbury), there’s sure to be no shortage of fireworks.

Caps Shut Out 3-0 by Rival Hurricanes

118 members of the Washington Capitals Fan Club were in the house at RBC Center in Raleigh to cheer on the team tonight. I sure hope they at least got some good Carolina bar-b-q on the trip, because the game was a total stinker in the form of a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Capitals came out flat and sloppy from the first face off. In the opening minutes of the first period, a bad turnover almost led to an Andreas Nodl goal.

Rookies Tomas Kundranek and Dmitry Orlov were a risky defensive pairing but it was some of the veteran d-men making the most glaring errors. The highlight of the night was Matt Hendricks dropping the gloves with Derek Joslin with several juicy punches landed by both at the 15:07 mark. Hendricks has been the team’s sparkplug of late with four fights already this month, including one in each of the past two games.

The game’s first power play came midway through the first period when youngster Justin Faulk tripped Marcus Johansson, but it was Carolina who capitalized on the Caps’ man-advantage aafter John Carlson turned the puck over to Jussi Jokinen. Jokinen managed to break away to beat Vokoun for the short-handed goal at 12:43.

The boys got another shot at the power play when Tuomo Ruutu went to the box for high sticking. They almost experienced deja-vu all over again in the form of another shorty as Jiri Tlusty stole an errant puck; thankfully, Vokoun stopped him at the door.

Mike Knuble had two key opportunities early in the second, one on an empty net, but the Canes’ defense had his number. Meanwhile, Vokoun robbed Carolina wunderkind Jeff Skinner, on the following play.

Knuble took a penalty for holding at 6:17 but the penalty killers were successful in keeping the Canes off the board. At the 7:28 mark, another bad turnover gave Jokinen his second clear shot of the night that was quickly gloved by Vokoun.

Jeff Skinner had another stellar opportunity but the Caps’ net minder held fast. In the ensuing scramble, Dennis Wideman was called for interference. Jussi Jokinen took full advantage of the Caps’ failure to clear the puck and scored his second short-handed goal of the evening shortly before the second period horn.

The number of shots on goal didn’t increase much in the final stanza. Two of the better chances came from Cody Eakin, who pinged the post early on, and Carlson, who was stopped by Cam Ward.

The Caps were called for too many men in the waning minutes (seven men to be exact) and Carolina went to the power play. As Vokoun tried to stop (or trip) Jiri Tlusty, it backfired on him for the Canes’ final goal.

Despite a flurry of action in the final minutes of the third period, the Capitals averaged a measly seven shots a period. And it was not Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin or Marcus Johansson, but Hendricks who led the team in shots in tonight’s stinker.

The Hurricanes came into this game in last place in the Eastern Conference. But it was Eric Staal (with 2 assists) and crew that brought the energy to outshoot and outskate the lifeless Capitals.

The inconsistent play on the part of Washington continues, much to the dismay of the Caps’ faithful. It’s anyone’s guess which team will actually show up for another showdown with Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Capitals Share Their New Year’s Resolutions

Between all the practice and travel, professional hockey players mark the New Year holiday with their own personal resolutions and family traditions. I had a chance to catch up with a few of the Capitals after practice on Thursday and quizzed them about their 2012 New Year’s resolutions and their favorite New Year’s traditions.

Like most of us who are parents, Mike Knuble said his resolution for 2012 was to “have more patience” with his children. When asked about his most memorable New Year’s, he of course shared his memories of being in Pittsburgh last January 1st for the 2011 Winter Classic. He said the presence of all the families made it extra special and the timing of the game gave them all a chance to stay up late enough to ring in 2012. “Most people are holidayed out by New Year’s Eve, but that weekend was really special for all of us,” recalled Knuble. Having just commemorated his landmark 1,000th NHL game, Caps fans certainly hope that the veteran leader is sporting the red for many more New Years to come.

Mike Knuble (Stock Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Next up was the jovial Troy Brouwer. Brouwer, who despite his snarly demeanor on the ice seems like one of the most happy-go-lucky guys in the room, said his 2012 resolution is to be “more positive, an all-around more positive guy.” Brouwer, who was born in picturesque Vancouver, BC, said one of his fondest childhood memories of the holiday was when his mom would give them pots and pans to bang in the street once the clock struck midnight. Sounds like an awfully fun (and patient) mom to me! Since he’s been in the NHL, of course he hasn’t had a chance to create any new New Year’s Eve traditions as he’s usually playing or on the road. He said when the opportunity permits he’ll get together with team mates for dinner at a familiar spot and enjoy a glass of champagne or two at midnight, but when 12:01 rolls around, the guys are usually on their way home especially after a hard-fought game.

Gritty right winger Joel Ward says he’s not really big on resolutions but if he had one, it’s to reconnect with old friends from back in his hometown of York, Ontario. Ward said he didn’t really have any staid traditions of childhood New Years past, other than it gave him an excuse to go out and enjoy some time with his friends.

The Caps marked the last night of 2011 on a high note, with last night’s win against the Blue Jackets. As we head into 2012, fans hope that their newfound resolve and confidence carries the team all the way into the playoffs. Hope you all had a happy and safe New Year’s Eve and wishing everyone much love, health and happiness in 2012!

GAME 34 RE-CAP: Caps Fall to Sabres in Dismal 4-2 Performance

The last visit the Caps paid to First Niagara Center in Buffalo ended in an embarrassing 5-1 rout, one which ultimately ended up being the last stand for former head coach Bruce Boudreau. In the early stages of tonight’s game, it appeared to be déjà vu all over again. And though the final score last night was not quite as embarrassing, the performance was no better than that of Boudreau’s swan song, as the Washington Capitals fell to the Sabres 4-2, before a sold-out crowd roaring their approval at every opportunity.

With the win, Buffalo leapfrogs the Caps in the standings and Washington plummets to 11th in the conference.

Roman Hamrlik put the boys short-handed as he took a delay of game penalty seconds after puck drop which led directly to a Sabres’ power play goal from Jason Pominville. Unfortunately, Hamrlik’s errant ways set the ugly tone for the first period and things went quickly downhill from there.

Whether they indulged in too much holiday cheer or just flat-out weren’t ready to play, tonight’s performance was perhaps one of the ugliest we’ve seen thus far this season. At 3:10 of the opening period, Matt Ellis scored again for Buffalo. The Capitals caught a break at 8:11 when bad boy Patrick Kaleta headed off for tripping but the resulting power play proved fruitless with only one mere shot on goal, a disturbing trend during this malaise period for the Capitals.

The Capitals slogged through the first period and the night was especially unkind to goaltender Michal Neuvirth. Former Vancouver Canuck defenseman Christian Ehrhoff gave the Sabres a 3-0 lead midway through the period with a wicked wrist shot that marked the end of the evening for Neuvy, who allowed three goals on six shots. Tripping seemed to be the penalty of choice for the night and Alex Ovechkin went guilty as charged to the box at 12:39, leading to a Sabres power play that led to their fourth goal of the game. The Capitals trudged off to the dressing room, leaving a plethora of unanswered questions and flabbergasted faithful, after a dreadful and uninspired 20 minutes of play.

Though they didn’t see any more scoring, the second period momentum still swung in Buffalo’s favor.

The hit of the night belonged to Robyn Regehr, who had a rare and bone-jarring check on Alex Ovechkin into the boards. With less than 20 seconds left the in the period (and well after many a Caps fan switched channels to catch the World Juniors), it was the Capitals’ fourth line that finally got them on the board. Crash-creaser Matt Hendricks tipped the puck into the net with an assist from Mathieu Perreault.

The third period saw a more consistent effort by the Caps (albeit too little, too late) and a nice showing by Tomas Vokoun, which included a stonewall stop on a Drew Stafford breakaway. As mentioned earlier, tripping was the call of the night and it was Patrick Kaleta’s second tripping penalty of the game that led to the Caps’ second tally. As Brooks Laich screened Ryan Miller, Alex Ovechkin blasted the puck past Miller for a 4-2 score.

Alas, that would be all the offense the Capitals could muster on a night they’d like to quickly forget. After an offseason arrival of a few fresh faces and a mid-season coaching change, there seem to be no quick fixes for the inconsistent play and lack of jump that is ailing this team. Tonight’s loss places the Caps at the 11th spot in the Eastern Conference, a lowly rank they haven’t seen in the past few years. They don’t have much time to regroup until they meet the Conference’s first place New York Rangers on Wednesday – with a gaggle of HBO cameras in tow.

GAME 21 RE-CAP: Caps Falter in Stinging 6-3 Loss to Rangers

The New York Rangers paid a post-Thanksgiving visit to the Verizon Center in hopes of breaking out of their scoring slump, while the hometown Washington Capitals hoped to extend their recent win streak to three in a row. Alas, the Caps came out sluggish and sloppy in a stinging 6-3 loss to the rival Rangers.

At around the 15:00 mark of the first period, Dmitry Orlov had a clean pass to Joel Ward (who was clearly wide awake after oversleeping and missing a team meeting earlier in the week, earning him a seat in the press box on Wednesday under the new accountability code). The red lights on the goal post went on, drawing cheers from the crowd. Upon closer review, King Henrik Lundqvist made a rather nifty pad save on what would have been a sweet marker.

At 11:04, Alex Semin took his signature hooking call and to the amusement of the media folk in the press box, just skated right to the sin bin with no objection to the call (it does seem to be his home away from home sometimes, eh). New York’s Brian Boyle evened it up seconds later as he wood-chucked John Carlson in the corner. On the 4-on-4, Jason Chimera blasted a rocket towards Lundqvist that was promptly stonewalled by the veteran net minder.

Much of the first period was a sleeper, with the Capitals taking too many sloppy passes in their zone and not clearing the puck. In their defense, the Rangers didn’t seem to be  very speedy either – my guess is too many turkey hangovers on the ice. The Rangers, unfortunately, would find their scoring prowess at the expense of too many defensive gaffes on the part of Washington in the last two periods.

At 15:31 of the first, Roman Hamrlik tried to slow down sniper Marian Gaborik and took as seat for hooking. The penalty woes continued when Alex Ovechkin got into a scuffle at the whistle and was charged with roughing at 17:56. Boy how those Rangers like to get under their skin! At the end of a slow first period, shots were even for both teams (eight apiece) and both teams held scoreless.

The second period started at even strength but it wasn’t long until the Rangers found their offense in the form of a goal by Gaborik, assisted by Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov. A sprawling Jeff Schultz could not block the puck which blasted by Michal Neuvirth. The boys from Broadway weren’t done there, however. Less than four minutes later, at 6:52, Anisimov tallied the Rangers’ second marker on the power play, quieting the holiday matinee home crowd.

The Capitals’ uninspired performance lagged on and the Rangers struck again at 7:55 with goal number three courtesy of Ruslan Fedotenko. Apparently that shook the boys up and Ovechkin proceeded to crush Gaborik in the corners once play resumed. Seizing the momentum (and crashing the net – always helpful), Troy Brouewer finally got the Caps on the board at 8:53 with help from Nicklas Backstrom and Carlson.

The Caps got their third power play of the day as Michael Sauer hooked Ovi in the corner. Captain America John Carlson made them pay with a wicked blast from the point that blew past Lundqvist (with help from pals Marcus Johannson and wunderkind Orlov).

The momentum swung back in New York’s direction as Neuvy let in a plain ugly goal from Bryan Boyle, boosting the Blue Shirts to a two-goal lead at 16:49. At the end of the second period, the Rangers led the Caps in shots with 23-17.

The third period didn’t get any better for the boys in red as free agent of the summer Brad Richards scored the Rangers’ fifth goal. Not to be outdone, Ovechkin took a feed all the way up the left wall and went top-shelf on King Henrik, a brilliant goal reminiscent of the Ovi we haven’t seen in awhile.

The fun didn’t last so long though as Neuvy‘s shaky afternoon in goal dragged on and he was unable to kick out a puck from Fedotenko, who lit the lamp at 11:40. Note to self: the Capitals’ defense left Fedotenko as wide open as Target on Black Friday – right in front of the net!

The Rangers return to the Big Apple with a big win while Washington’s Bruce Boudreau is left with the question of how to fix what is ailing this inconsistent Capitals team. The absence of Mike Green from the lineup notwithstanding, the defense has been struggling to say the least. Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik were both -3 on the night and were benched for much of the third period. Post game, the disappointment was evident in the locker room as Troy Brouwer, Carlson and Ward all blamed the defensive lapses on the loss, with Ward admitting that they “left Neuvy out to dry at times” this evening.

Meanwhile, a somber Boudreau was pressed with questions about how to regain confidence after allowing consecutive goals. Boudreau quipped, “We start to feel sorry for ourselves, then we score a goal, and say: ‘Oh, we’re back into it. Once it started with those four goals, it seemed to snowball. This is a league where you can’t feel sorry for yourselves.” He also noted that this whole week they’ve emphasized one-on-one battles, but obviously concept that was not put to task consistently in tonight’s lackluster loss.

The boys have one morning skate to regroup before they take on the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow – another team looking to rebound from a tough loss (at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets).

GAME 14 RE-CAP: Caps Win First Game of Home-and-Home Over Devils 3-1

After a sloppy loss to Dallas on Tuesday, the Capitals headed north to visit the New Jersey Devils at “The Rock” Friday night, in the first of a home-and-home series. With an emphasis on tightening up their defensive play and better control the puck along the walls, the Caps welcomed back Mike Green to the lineup after missing six games with an ankle injury. On the other side of the ice, Ilya Kovalchuk was still sidelined by injury for the home team.

Mike Green (Stock Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Unfortunately, the Capitals got into some penalty trouble early on as Alex Semin added to his mounting number of infractions (make that 10 minors) with a hooking call midway through the first period, and then an uncharacteristic boarding call was whistled against veteran Mike Knuble a few minutes later.

New Jersey’s wunderkind Adam Larsson had a momentous night at the expense of Tomas Vokoun at 13:06 of the first period when he sniped a rocket high over Vokoun’s right shoulder to net his first-ever NHL goal and get the Devils on the board first.

The recurring theme through the bulk of the opening stanza, however, was the lack of shots on goal by the visiting Capitals. By the end of the first period, the Caps had only managed six shots into the legendary Martin Brodeur’s crease (on the other end, the Devils had seven). The waning moments of the period also seemed to bring to an end the welcome return of Mike Green, when a dirty hit by Ryan Carter – that appeared to be a knee-on-knee collision – took Green down to the ice in a heap. Green was then taken immediately through the locker room tunnel to be examined, much to Caps’ fans’ dismay.

Fans were relieved to see Green back on the bench at the beginning of the second period, where the opening minutes saw a flurry of red jerseys swarming Vokoun’s net. David Clarkson had a great scoring chance early on in the frame but his shot pinged off the post so loud it was probably heard across the Hudson River.

At the 3:26 mark of the 2nd, Petr Sykora took down Vokoun and was sent to the box for goalie interference, giving the the Caps their second power play of the night. Green went in for one power play shift but returned to the dressing room, apparently still shaken up from the earlier hit. Less than five minutes later, the Caps got another chance on the power play as Mark Fayne took a seat for hooking, but were unable to connect.

Fayne found himself in hot water yet again minutes later, as a delayed hip check on the scrappy Joel Ward sent him back to the box for interference. They did not score on their fourth power play, but captain Alex Ovechkin tied the game with less than three minutes left in the period just after Fayne’s penalty expired.

Ovechkin was parked on the right side of the net at the faceoff with d-man Anton Volchenkov directly in front of him. A bouncing puck courtesy of Dennis Wideman’s shot ended up at Ovi’s feet and he beat a sliding Brodeur to get his team on the board. Meanwhile, Ovechkin’s BFF, Alex Semin, saw only a few seconds of ice in the last half of the period – head coach Bruce Boudreau sending a message to the enigmatic and frequently- penalized winger.

Alexander Semin (Stock Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Gabby seems to be very serious about the accountability issue, seating not only Semin (8:25 TOI) but also Cody Eakin (7:07 TOI) for much of the game. With the Caps rolling with three lines, Alex Ovechkin was luckily on his game, hitting with ferocity and even blocking shots. With less than 22 seconds left on the clock in the second Jason Chimera’s retaliation punch sent him to the box for two minutes for roughing, giving the Devils a power play to start the final period.

New Jersey was unsuccessful on the period-opening power play, although a trip by Mike Knuble gave them yet another chance. However, on his first shift after his stint in the box, the speedy Chimera stole the puck from Patrik Elias, flew up the middle and beat Brodeur to net the Caps’ first short-handed tally on the season!

The scene quickly got chippy in the middle of the third as the Caps’ hitting ramped up several notches. Chimera and Troy Brouwer had several thundering hits against the boards while Ovechkin gave the rookie Larsson a “proper” welcome to the NHL.

In addition to piling up the hits, the Caps made sure there were plenty of bodies crowding New Jersey’s crease. There were at least three obstructing Brodeur’s view when Marcus Johansson lit the lamp on a rebound at 10:43 to give his team a two-goal advantage!

John Erskine, recently returned to the line-up, was whistled for a hook with less than four minutes left, but Vokoun and the penalty killers kept New Jersey off the board. Despite several last second efforts by the likes of Elias and Zach Parise as the Devils added the sixth man, Vokoun was stalwart in goal holding the Devils to just the one goal.

These two teams will see other tomorrow – same time, different place – as they meet again at Verizon Center. We shall see if Semin got the memo after being benched and hope that the Caps take on the Devils at home with the same level of effort they displayed in tonight’s win. After the game, Boudreau confirmed that Semin was benched and reiterated that Caps need to practice what they preach about accountability. He also provided an update on Green, saying he was listed as “day-to-day.”

%d bloggers like this: