October 30, 2014

Washington Capitals 2014-15 Season Roundtable Part VI: Burakovsky, Kuznetsov or Wilson?

We’re a little late to the party here, but District Sports Page conducted a roundtable with staff writers and friends of the site to discuss pertinent issues surrounding the 2014-15 Washington Capitals.

Our panelists: Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief; Katie Brown, Staff Writer; Eric Hobeck, Staff Writer; J.J. Regan, Contributor; Abram Fox, former contributor, Harry Hawkings, Editor at Rock the Red.

Part I: Grade the Caps offseason and their biggest acquisitions
Part II: What is your single biggest area of concern?
Part III: What do you expect out of Alex Ovechkin this season?
Part IV: Are you satisfied with the goaltending situation?
Part V: How many games do you expect Brooks Laich to play?

Part VI: Which young player makes a bigger impact this season, Burakovsky, Kuznetsov or Wilson?

Dave: I think eventually Kuznetsov will be the most impactful player of the trio, but I think all three have solid futures as NHL players. Kuznetsov has an intrinsic, dynamic element to his play that you can’t teach and once he develops some of the secondary attributes that Barry Trotz wants out of all his players, he’ll thrive at this level.

That’s not to take anything away from Burakovsky or Wilson. In fact, I can envision the three of them playing together as a second line in the not-too-distant future. It’s not hard to look at Kuzy and Bura and not envision them developing chemistry like another Swedish center and Russian winger on the team. Wilson could be the prefect complement to the duo with his size and skill level.

Katie: At the end of last season, when Kuznetsov finally arrived in Washington, he had all the hopes of an impact player placed upon him. Now that Burakovsky has made the team, is playing second line minutes, and is clearly extremely skilled, I think Burakovsky will outscore Kuznetsov. I’m not so sure about Wilson’s role this season, once he returns from injury, but I think it would be fair to predict he won’t be doing fourth line time. Ideally, it would be nice to see all three young players in the top-6 at some point this season, and there’s certainly room for that.

Eric:  I think it’ll be Kuznetsov, barely. He looked good in the games he played toward the end of last year and has gotten some valuable advice from Ovechkin.

J.J. : Burakovsky. He is getting his shot at second line center and he has responded well. Kuznetsov will move up from the fourth line sooner rather than later, but he will likely be moved around as a wing as he continues to adjust to the North American game. As for Wilson, I would not be surprised if he spent some time in Hershey this year. The Caps want to see him develop into a top six forward, but given the number of players the Caps have on offense right now, he might be better served to get top line minutes in the AHL before taking a more significant role with the Caps.

Abram: Burakovsky. The kid has a magical touch with the puck, and will singlehandedly carry the fourth’s line offensive output, assuming he stays there. If he develops the way the team hopes, he’ll drastically improve the offense. From what we’ve seen early on, the skill is there, he just needs to not be tied down on a line with some combination of Beagle, Latta, O’Brien, or Volpatti.

Harry: I think Evgeny Kuznetsov will have the biggest impact on this team. As good as Burakovsky has looked, he will almost certainly slow down a little bit and is still learning a new position. Wilson, even when healthy, won’t see a lot of ice time with the players he deserves to play with because of how many highly-payed veterans the Caps have down the right side. Ultimately, Kuznetsov has the most polish, is probabaly the most talented, and is likely to see the most opportunities. A top-four finish among Caps forwards in scoring is not out of the question.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings 10/29/14

Unfortunately for the Capitals, the Red Wings took home two points tonight. The Caps got a break due to a phantom goalie interference call in the first period, and outshot the Wings for a lot of the game, but they weren’t able to do a whole lot with their power play, and coughed up the puck quite a bit.

Caps lose 4-2.


First Star:

Andre Burakovsky.

He’s had three assists in his last four games. Who knew back in training camp when he assumed the position of center that he’d adapt so naturally to it? Barry Trotz, probably. He skated the first part of the game on the first line with Ovechkin and Ward, but Trotz shook up the lines throughout the game. No telling where he’ll be next game. He does seem to have good chemistry with Johansson and Brouwer, so it would make sense to deploy that line as such.


Second Star.

Troy Brouwer.

Brouwer snapped his scoreless streak with a snipe from the Ovi spot on the power play. The P1 and P2 as designed by Trotz is working out rather nicely,


Third Star.

Braden Holtby.

The Wings had 4 power plays, and Holtby assisted capably in killing all but one, where Pavel Datsyuk let off a shot that you wouldn’t blame any goaltender for not being able to stop. Holtby didn’t have answer for the cause of the team’s turnovers, obviously, but did comment to reporters that it’s his job to cover for the mistakes made by his teammates, and that he’d wished he’d done a better job of that.

Honorable mention:

Jason Chimera’s nose. Seriously. It was gross. http://t.co/N42aYir10x

Washington Capitals Game 9 Recap: Capitals lose 4-2 to Red Wings, turnovers galore

It was an eventful night at Verizon Center, where the Washington Capitals returned from a not-so-fun roadie to take on the Detroit Red Wings, who were missing Johan Franzen, but still had Pavel Datsyuk up their sleeve. Detroit handed the Caps a 4-2 loss,their second straight, and third in four games.

The first period featured a phantom goalie interference call on Luke Glendening, which waved off a goal and gave the Caps a power play. The Caps outshot the Wings for the first half of the game, but turned the puck over unnecessarily, which led to goals-against that could have been avoided. They had a winnable game in front of them, but couldn’t seal the deal. Instead, Pavel Datsyuk’s wicked shot put the game away for the Wings in the third period.

There were a few bright spots, however. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his first goal of the season, and Troy Brouwer snapped his four-game goalless streak. Andre Burakovsky continued his reign of terror with an assist, his second in as many games and his third in four games.

Brouwer had a lot to say about how the Caps played, and what they need to do to avoid the type of game they had Wednesday:  “We’ve got to go back to our base, which is a five-man forecheck, five-man d-zone. Come up the ice together, play together. When we start getting individual, that’s when we get ourselves into trouble because we aren’t predictable anymore. We don’t know what guys are doing on the ice. And when you do have a turnover, guys are out of position because they don’t know exactly what’s going on. We’ve got to continue, right to the end of the game, whether we are winning or losing, to be predictable. Play the way we are supposed to play. Those are the games we won.”



  • The Red Wings’ first goal was waved off for “goalie interference.” Huge break. It was a bad call, and should have been an actual goal, as Holtby was clearly not interfered with. He skated out to play the puck, and tripped of his own accord as he re-entered the crease.
  • Jason Chimera’s nose did this, it was grotesque, choose your poison: https://twitter.com/RegressedPDO/status/527608573753561089 http://t.co/N42aYir10x
  • Evgeny Kuznetzov scored his first goal of the season, and Braden Holtby earned a secondary assist. Goalie assists are the best assists.
  • Bad: lots of turnovers, and not the yummy kind.
  • Andre Burakovsky played on the first line, and got another assist. He’s good.
  • Troy Brouwer, who was held without a point for four games, finally broke that streak with an Ovi-like snipe from the circle on the power play.

Washington Capitals 2014-15 Season Roundtable Part V: How many games for Laich?

We’re a little late to the party here, but District Sports Page conducted a roundtable with staff writers and friends of the site to discuss pertinent issues surrounding the 2014-15 Washington Capitals.

Our panelists: Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief; Katie Brown, Staff Writer; Eric Hobeck, Staff Writer; J.J. Regan, Contributor; Abram Fox, former contributor, Harry Hawkings, Editor at Rock the Red.

Part I: Grade the Caps offseason and their biggest acquisitions
Part II: What is your single biggest area of concern?
Part III: What do you expect out of Alex Ovechkin this season?
Part IV: Are you satisfied with the goaltending situation?

Part V: Over/under on games Brooks Laich plays? [Ed. The survey was distributed before Laich's current injury. Some answers came in before, some after.]

Dave: 45 games. Just when it looked like Laich was finally getting his wheels back after the long recovery from groin surgery, he takes a hard (but not flagrant or in anyway dirty) check in the left shoulder and is back on the injured list. It sucks, because the player the Caps signed to a six-year deal is just not that same solid two-way player anymore. Not even close.

They say that getting injured is a repeatable skill like anything else, and Laich seems to have mastered it. At some point, accumulation of injury is going to rob Laich of his usefulness in the NHL, if it hasn’t gotten to that point already.

Katie: I’m hoping his upper-body injury (looked like his shoulder) sustained against the Panthers on Saturday is relatively minor. I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t his groin, which appears to be holding up well so far. I’d bet the over he dressed for 60 or more games this season.

Eric: I’ll put the over-under at 65 and take the over.

J.J.: 55. He says he’s healthy, but we’ve heard that before. Laich has had almost no impact at all in the first four games with only one assist. Is he actually healthy? Who knows? But it is a safe bet he won’t be healthy for 82 games.

Abram: 49.5

Harry: If I worked for Bodog, I would set the over/under at 50.5. He certainly does not look as fragile in the early going and has reportedly been pushing his surgically repaired groin muscle all summer long. I would probably take the over if I were a betting man if for no other reason that Laich would probably play until he could not physically skate at this point. He wants to be a part of it that badly.

Washington Capitals Power Rankings Week 3

To summarize: Mike Green is having The Best Week Ever, and the Caps escaped from western Canada with a 1-2 record. They’re still 4-2-2 on the season, so it’s not as bad as it looks. The Caps looked great in Edmonton, but hockey isn’t fair, so no points there. In Calgary, they worked hard and grabbed a few points. Vancouver is the new San Jose for the Capitals, because they just can’t win there. They looked a bit tired, but three games in 4 nights tends to tire one out.

There are a couple guys that I think are due for a goal or two, so maybe they can get that out of the way this week. The Caps play 3 of their next 4 games at home.


Rank Player The whatfor 
1 Mike Green Green leads the team in scoring with 8 points (3g, 5a). Though he was held scoreless during the Caps 3-1 win over the Flames on Saturday, Green already has 3 multi-point performances through 7 games. The only defenseman in the NHL with more points than Green is San Jose’s Brent Burns.
2 Marcus Johansson The Swede has already equaled his even-strength goal total (3) from last season, and it took him 72 fewer games to do it.
3 Andre Burakovsky Burakovsky skated with the second line for most of the three games this week, but was bumped to the third line during Sunday’s game in Vancouver, centering Jason Chimera and Joel Ward. His 2 assists this week are good enough to tie Nicklas Backstrom for a total of 7 points on the season.
4 Braden Holtby He allowed 3 goals in the loss to the Oilers, but finished with a .952 save percentage in the 3-1 win over the Flames. Not a bad week. He sits at .922 SV% through 5 starts this season.
5 Nicklas Backstrom He added a goal in Calgary and an assist in Edmonton. He failed to register even a shot on goal in the loss to the Canucks.
6 Joel Ward One half of the third line “twins,” Ward scored 2 goals in Saturday’s win in Calgary.
7 Brooks Orpik The other Brooks logged 10 hits and an assist in Calgary, and pretty much hit anything that moved in Western Canada.
8 Alex Ovechkin No goals this week for Ovechkin, after 3 games played, and he’s been scoreless since the Caps’ 6-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on 10/16. Oh, and he should probably cut back on the shot-blocking thing.
9 Justin Peters He’s only gotten 3 starts this season, but his performance in the Caps’ loss to the Canucks on Sunday kept the game much closer than it looked.
10 Eric Fehr Though he was momentarily separated from the top line for a bit, Fehr has spent the majority of the season skating with Backstrom and Ovechkin. He’s logged just 2 assists in 8 games. One of those points came while he was reunited with the third line.
11 Evgeny Kuznetsov Kuznetsov is another player who is due to get off the schneide any time now. He briefly centered a line with Johansson and Brouwer on Sunday, and I suspect his lack of production has more to do with his linemates and ice time than anything else.
12 Nate Schmidt This young defenseman hasn’t made an impact on the scoreboard, but he’s logging quite a few minutes with partner Mike Green and is averages 14:26 TOI.
13 Karl Alzner Alzner assisted on Nicklas Backstrom’s 3rd period goal against the Calgary Flames. He took a penalty against Vancouver that led to a flurry of scoring – 3 goals in less than 2 minutes.
14 Troy Brouwer Brouwer hasn’t scored a point since 10/16 against the Devils. He was credited with 4 hits in the 4 games since, but there’s opportunity for him to produce a bit more if he’s skating on the first and second lines as he did this week and getting power play time.
15 Jason Chimera Not an exciting week for Jason Chimera. He’s registered just 2 points in 8 games.
16 John Carlson Carlson scored a power play goal in the loss against Edmonton, but didn’t contribute to the offense on the road trip otherwise.
17 Matt Niskanen One assist this week, and a whole lot of penalty killing.
18 Liam O’Brien Pretty nice week for O’Brien. He scored his first NHL goal in Vancouver, and got punched in the face by Matt Hendricks in Edmonton.
19 Michael Latta Not a remarkable week for the center, other than an assist on Joel Ward’s second goal in Calgary, which was Latta’s first point of the season.
20 Jay Beagle Made his return to the lineup in Edmonton. He had an otherwise uneventful week.
Brooks Laich Still out with an “upper-body” injury, per the team.
 – John Erskine Sidelined due to neck surgery. I’m doubtful he’ll crack the lineup any time soon.
 – Aaron Volpatti IR. Still.
 – Jack Hillen Scratched this week.
 – Tom Wilson His return to Hershey could signal an appearance in a Caps sweater sometime soon.
 – Chris Brown Scratched this week.
 – Dmitry Orlov Yup, still on IR.


Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Calgary Flames 10/25/14

In honor of Jay Beagle’s grand homecoming to Calgary, the Washington Capitals pulled out a 3-1 win over the Flames.

Joel Ward started the scoring for the Caps in the first, then Dennis Wideman (yeah, that Dennis Wideman) tied things up before intermission. Ward got past Kari Ramo again for the lead, and the Caps never looked back. Nicklas Backstrom’s tally made it 3-1, and suddenly the road trip started to look pretty good.


First Star:

Joel Ward.

Last year, this guy locked himself in a bathroom stall and broke his career goal and points record. This year, he has 4 goals and 1 assist through 7 games, and it’s looking like another good year for him. The remarkable thing about his 2-goal performance against the Flames was that he wasn’t skating with his twin, Jason Chimera, or Eric Fehr. In an effort to shake up the lines a bit after a frustrating night in Edmonton, Trotz bumped Fehr up to the first line, and Ward to what is ostensibly the fourth line with Liam O’Brien and Michael Latta, and Chimera skated with Jay Beagle, the hometown boy, and that other Russian guy, Evgeny Kuznetsov.


Second Star:

Braden Holtby.

He didn’t see a whole lot of action, but answered when called upon. He had a couple “yeah-my-teammates-really-needed-this-save” moments in Edmonton, and rectified those mistakes with a nearly perfect performance in his 20-save win.


Third Star:

Nicklas Backstrom.

One goal, a breakaway, and an overall stand-up guy earns Backstrom a spot on this list (again). He is only really here because he scored his 3rd period goal with 19:19 remaining in the period and I wanted an excuse to post this video:

Honorable Mention

Brooks Orpik, who should actually be the third star but there isn’t a dated music video to accompany his team-high 10 hits.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Vancouver Canucks 10/26/14

Three games, one win and two losses, two out of six possible points on the road. Not ideal, but the Capitals are sitting on a 4-2-2 record after 8 games, which is actually pretty good.

Add Vancouver to the list of places the Caps can’t seem to win in. They haven’t won a game in Vancouver since 2001, when the Sedins were practically babies.

Marcus Johansson scored his third goal of the season off a neat feed from Andre Burakovsky in the second period, then the Canucks added three goals in less than two minutes. The Capitals took a bunch of penalties and then rookie Liam O’ Brien scored his first career NHL goal in the second period, but a Vancouver empty-netter with a minute left in the third snuffed any hopes of a tie. Canucks win 4-2.


First Star:

Marcus Johansson.

Johansson is actually shooting (i.e. not passing up shots) and looks more confident than ever on the ice. Andre Burakovsky’s nifty pass to Johansson was one of two that got past Ryan Miller all night, and was #90’s third goal this season, which is equal to his even strength goal total from last season. Johansson began the night skating with Burakovsky and Troy Brouwer, but lines were shuffled and he ended up with Evgeny Kuznetsov as his center. Who knows if that will stick, though.

Second Star.

Justin Peters.

He may not have come up with the win, but Peters was a key component to keeping the Canucks off the board in the first period. The penalty kill wasn’t stellar tonight for the Caps, and Peters covered for the rest of the team’s defensive lapses capably. His last few starts haven’t been the best, but you can’t fault him for the losses.

Third Star.

Liam O’Brien.

The surprise rookie put himself on the map for something else besides face-punching. This is a facet of his game that he hopefully will put to use more often. He finished the night with 5 shots on goal and TOI of 8:04. O’Brien and Latta seem to have a bit of chemistry, so maybe Trotz will keep them together amidst the shuffling of lines of late.


Washington Capitals Game 8 Recap: Canucks score 3 in second to drop Caps

The Washington Capitals played the last of a 3-game western Canada road trip Sunday night in Vancouver against the Canucks. For the most part, they played like they’d been on the road for the better part of a week, falling to Vancouver 4-2.

Though the Caps scored first, the Canucks registered three goals in a less than two minute span and the Caps never really rallied.

After a ragged, scoreless first period, the goals fell like rain in the second. The Caps (4-2-2) broke on top as Marcus Johansson took a nice feed from Andre Burakovsky and buried it for the 1-0 lead — Johansson’s third of the season at even strength, which matches his total from last season.

Vancouver then scored in rapid-fire fashion, dropping three goals in the span of 1:47.

Henrik Sedin removed the Canuck goose egg, banging home a rebound from a sharp angle on the power play, in which John Carlson failed to clear the puck twice.

Just 1:22 later, the Canucks took advantage of an awkward line change by the Caps, and as a result Nick Bonino came in on Justin Peters alone as beat him cleanly to put the Canucks up by one.

Finally, 25 seconds after the second tally, Luca Sbisa held a puck in at the point and fired a slapshot past a screen Justin Peters to make it 3-1 Vancouver and the Canucks were making the Caps look tired and slow.

But the Caps didn’t quit despite the deficit. In fact, less than two minutes later, Liam O’Brien niftily redirected Mike Green’s centering pass past Ryan Miller (20 saves) for his first NHL goal and the Caps went into the dressing room for the second intermission down one at 3-2.

 Unfortunately, the third period saw no more goals except for Vancouver’s empty net goal with 1:01 left after John Carlson committed a delay-of-game penalty, throwing a puck over the glass with 1:38 remaining in the game.

The Caps return to DC to host the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday at 7:00 pm.

  • The Caps were outshot 34-22. It’s the first time this season the Capitals have allowed more than 30 shots on goal.
  • It seemed like the men wearing striped shirts were in the last game of a 3-game road trip as well. They called the Caps for five minor infractions and the Canucks just two, including a too-many-men call. But both of Vancouver penalties came while they had a man advantage already, so the Caps never did get a full power play on the night.
  • Alex Ovechkin managed just two shots on goal and four hits. it’s the fourth straight game Ovi’s been held pointless. Ovechkin led the forwards in ice time with 19:00.
  • Justin Peters made 30 saves and several terrific ones in the first period. But he was cleanly beaten on Bonino’s goal and while Sedin’s came on the power play, it bounced in — and out — of his catching glove.

Washington Capitals Game 7 Recap: Ward twice as nice after demotion

After dropping the first of the three-game western Canada swing Wednesday in Edmonton, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz jumbled the lines again, moving Joel Ward down to the fourth line for Saturday night’s tilt in Calgary.

Perhaps the motivation worked, as Ward had two goals to pace the Caps over the Flames 3-1 in the Saddledome.

The Caps (4-1-2) got on the board midway through the first. Calgary turned the puck over trying to kill a penalty and Ward collected the loose puck along the left wing and beat Karri Ramo stick side for a 1-0 lead.

Calgary tied it up late in the period. Troy Brouwer took an unnecessary retaliation roughing penalty and with just 10 seconds remaining in the frame, Dennis Wideman slipped one past Braden Holtby. It was Wideman’s fifth goal in six games.

In the second, the Caps re-took the lead and it was Ward again. Michael Latta took a stretch pass from Brooks Orpik and raced into the zone and behind the net. He centered the puck and Ward kicked it from his skate to his backhand and beat Ramo to go up 2-1. It was Ward’s seventh career multi-goal game.

Nick Backstrom made it a two-goal game just 41 seconds into the third. Karl Alzner sprung the Swedish centerman and Backstrom used a Calgary defenseman as a screen in the middle of the ice and whipped a wrist shot past the screened Ramo and a 3-1 cushion.

Braden Holtby made 20 saves, none bigger than the kick save he made on Paul Byron on a breakaway midway through the third.

The Caps move on to Vancouver to face the Canucks Sunday night at 9:30 pm Eastern.

  • Brooks Orpik had a tremendous game on the blueline, registering an assist and 10 hits. He was a physical force all night.
  • Alex Ovechkin didn’t factor in the scoring, but played another solid game all around with four hits and a terrific backcheck on what would otherwise have been a short-handed breakaway for Calgary.
  • Troy Brouwer had a noticeably tough night. The veteran winger took the bad penalty which led to the only Flames goal of the night, he made a pair of turnovers on consecutive shifts in the third when he stopped skating, and whiffed on a wide open empty net late in the third. Smashed sticks at the bench = 2.
  • Caps were 52% in the dot and outshot Calgary 30-21. They were credited with just five giveaways on the road.

Washington Capitals 2014-15 Season Roundtable Part IV: Satisfied with the goalies?

We’re a little late to the party here, but District Sports Page conducted a roundtable with staff writers and friends of the site to discuss pertinent issues surrounding the 2014-15 Washington Capitals.

Our panelists: Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief; Katie Brown, Staff Writer; Eric Hobeck, Staff Writer; J.J. Regan, Contributor; Abram Fox, former contributor, Harry Hawkings, Editor at Rock the Red.

Part I: Grade the Caps offseason and their biggest acquisitions
Part II: What is your single biggest area of concern?
Part III: What do you expect out of Alex Ovechkin this season?

Part IV: Are you satisfied with the goaltending situation? [Read more...]

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