December 22, 2014

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils 12/20/14

For what seemed like the millionth time (okay, actually the fourth, and final time of 2014), the Washington Capitals played the New Jersey Devils. This time, it was the bookend of a three-game road trip, in which the Caps were 2-0-1, the only black mark being a 20-round shootout loss to the Florida Panthers. The Caps are 6-0-2 in their last 8 games. Not shabby.

Braden Holtby pitched the shutout in the 4-0 win, propped up by goals from Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin, and two from Nicklas Backstrom.

First star: Braden Holtby. He’s 6-1-2 in the month of December. Holtby stopped 21 shots in his second shutout of the season, his 14th win of the year.

Second star: Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom scored his ninth and tenth goals of the season, and assisted on Mike Green’s game-winning goal. He leads the team with 34 points (10g, 24a) and has collected seven points in his last four games.  He’s ranked fifth in the NHL in assists.

Third star: Alex Ovechkin. Held to 4 games without a goal, he was overdue for one, and what a stunner it was. The goal was his 15th of the season, and Ovechkin has 4 points in his last 4 games.

Washington Capitals Game 32 Recap: Ovechkin provides exclamation point in whitewash of Devils

It was a sleepy game to start in New Jersey, but Alex Ovechkin opened everyone’s eyes in the third period with a highlight reel goal to finish off the Devils.

All the big guns were firing for the Washington Capitals on Saturday as Ovechkin and Mike Green both tallied once and Nicklas Backstrom added another two goals to down the New Jersey Devils 4-0. [Read more…]

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

First star: Mike Green. Green was crucial to Washington’s winning effort in Columbus, with his assists on Troy Brouwer’s game-tying goal and Eric Fehr’s overtime game winning goal. It was arguably one of his strongest performances of the season. His end to end rush just 42 seconds into overtime ended up on the stick of a streaking Eric Fehr, who was essentially airborne, and whacked it past Sergei Bobrovsky for the 5-4 win.


Second star: Eric Fehr. He scored the above game-winner, his seventh goal of the season, and collected an assist on Joel Ward’s first-period goal.

Third Star: Karl Alzner. He’s not a guy that typically lights up the scoresheet, but this season, Alzner is bringing the heat. His third period goal was his second of the season and tied the game at 3-3. He also nabbed an apple on Ward’s first period goal.

Honorable Mention: Michael Latta’s slick pass to Jason Chimera in the first period.


Washington Capitals Game 31 Recap: Fehr’s overtime goal gives Caps win in wild one

Now 31 games into the 2014-15 Washington Capitals season, few observers know what to make of the team. On some nights they look reminiscent of the Capitals that were on display from 2008-11, and other nights they look like they’ve barely improved from the relative disaster that was the Adam Oates era.

If Thursday’s game was any indication, though, some improvement has been made.

Eric Fehr scored less than a minute into overtime to give Washington a 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, a win that moves the team back into third place in the Metropolitan Division, if only for one night. The Caps’ playoff chances increased 5.2 percent to 66.5 with the victory, a win that they very nearly gave away. [Read more…]

DSP REVIEWS: Episode 1 of Epix Road to Winter Classic: Capitals vs. Blackhawks

Journey with us, back to Tuesday night, when Epix debuted its first episode of Road to the Winter Classic. It was just like HBO’s 24/7, only even more melodramatic and over-scripted. Anyway, District Sports Page’s Capitals crew watched, took notes, and provides these reviews, which probably coincide greatly with what you already thought about it.

Dave: To be honest, I couldn’t care less about the family narratives these shows give us. I know there’s a large section of the fan base that want to see the players and coaches with their kids. I get that it “humanizes” them. I really do. I just don’t care. So if the best parts of this hour of hockey-related content comes from them showing the family aspects or how quirky Mitch Korn is in his living arrangements, I’m not gonna be happy.

If the league gave us a premium subscription channel of the benches, creases and locker rooms mic’d up — and no other sound — I’d pay at least double, if not triple, than what I already do for Center Ice. That’s what I want to see and hear. And there wasn’t enough of it.

As for the “interviews”, I found it particularly difficult to sit through the semi-scripted narratives that were presented. More real-life, less faux documentary, please. And what was with the backwards chairs?

Most memorable line: “I have a four-year college education.” Joel Ward, responding to Jason Chimera accusing him of only “reading the pictures” in the newspaper.

1 1/2 pucks out of four.

J.J.: The narrator first refers to the Caps as a “proud franchise.” Maybe Washington sports have left me a bit jaded, but I feel you need more than one conference championship before you can be labeled a proud franchise.

The show tackled the issue of whether Alex Ovechkin was coachable right away. Despite everyone on the team, every coach and every analyst close the team saying that uncoachable narrative surrounding the Great 8 is overblown, every armchair GM continues to run with it. Multiple coaches come and go and Ovechkin remains, so all of the team’s problems must stem from him. It’s lazy analysis and I was glad to see the show tackle it right away. Granted it’s not as if Barry Trotz can go on camera and say Ovechkin is a pain and they can’t work together, but I liked seeing their interactions with one another.

Bruce Boudreau was the breakout star of the HBO series in the Caps’ first Winter Classic and unfortunately this first episode lacked that kind of show-stopper personality. Barry Trotz was featured prominently and showed why he is one of the most likeable people in hockey, but he didn’t steal the show the way Bruce did.

Maybe I’m just weird, but did anyone else notice that for every one-on-one interview they had the players and coaches sit backwards in a chair like he’s the cool kid in high school? Why? It didn’t really bother me until the interviewed Ovechkin who was too big for the chair. He looked like a teenager trying to sit in a toddler’s big wheel.

Hockey players are just different. If my face ever looked like Brian Bickell’s did in this episode, I’d be in the emergency room just hoping I didn’t have the bubonic plague.

Line of the night: An angry Trotz wanted an explanation for the Jason Chimera penalty that cost the Caps the game against Columbus and was promptly told, “You were on the power play all f***ing night.”

Overall it was a good episode, but not great. What makes these shows fun is getting to see the real world of hockey, the part most people don’t get to see. I love seeing the coaching the pregame/postgame speeches, the interactions during the game, etc.

This episode did a lot of game by game recap. Most people watching this show know what happened in each game and those who don’t can look it up. That’s not why we’re watching. We want to go deeper than that. I even wanted to see more of some of the Chicago storylines like how Scott Darling prepared for his first game or felt afterwards. There was none of that, just more recaps. Save that for SportsCenter.

2 pucks out of four.

Katie: Most memorable quote:  “It’s a really, really nice apartment, but we don’t have … really nice things.” -Tom Wilson, on the apartment he shares with Michael Latta.

Biggest surprise: How little time was devoted to things that probably deserved longer segments. It felt rushed.

Biggest laugh: Joel Ward and Jason Chimera chirping each other in the locker room while Ward was reading the paper. It captured them perfectly.

Least favorite part: The overwrought writing and lack of memorable music. Hockey is intense, Epix, we know this. The voiceover felt bland and was too heavy-handed for my taste. Show, don’t tell. Let people actually see things rather than explain to them what they’re seeing.

While the production value was good, the episode itself felt rushed. It seemed like the series was geared toward attracting new hockey fans, rather than people who watched because they are already fans. Ted Leonsis talking about Alex Ovechkin and how much the team wants to win a cup was overkill. Every team wants to win a cup, and no one in their right mind thinks Ovechkin is a coach-killing scrub. Spend more time on developing stories, and less time on game footage. Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn have the greatest possibility of stealing the show. Their segments were arguably the most interesting.

2.5 pucks out of four.

Eric: Most memorable quote: “If I step on toes, I step on toes” -Barry Trotz

Biggest surprise: With a lot of the folks that worked on HBO’s productions coming over, I was slightly surprised by the heavy use of archival footage early on, and an overall lack of “behind the scenes” footage and heavy emphasis on game footage compared to the past couple seasons.

Biggest laugh: I loved hearing Scott Darling list all the teams he’d been part of in the past four years. I lost track at nine.

Least favorite part: I didn’t enjoy what I thought was an over-emphasis of Chicago. I’ll chalk that up to an Epix oversight, but I remember HBO giving each team relatively equal airtime in 2010-11, 2012-12 and 2013-14.

In general, I thought that it wasn’t as good as the three HBO editions of the series. With that said, I’m willing to give Epix a pass simply because they haven’t done anything like this before. I was pretty underwhelmed with the production value and I’m glad I watched, but there was a lot left to be desired.

2 pucks out of four.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals at Florida Panthers Dec. 16

In the most #CapsCats game ever, the Washington Capitals fell to the Florida Panthers 2-1 in a shootout that lasted 20 rounds, beating the previous league record for shootout rounds previously held by a Caps-Rangers game in 2005.

Troy Brouwer scored a power play goal for the good guys, Derek McKenzie potted one for the Kitties, and both Braden Holtby and Roberto Luongo were exhausted after the 20-round shootout gimmick.

With no further adieu…

FIRST STAR: Braden Holtby. The dude made 25 saves in regulation plus overtime and was once again the best player on the ice for the Caps. The only goal allowed came after a bad turnover behind the net by Mike Green.

SECOND STAR: Alex Ovechkin. He was a hitting machine and his pass to Brouwer in the slot for the power play goal was born of tremendous vision and surgeon’s precision on the pass.

THIRD STAR: Brooks Orpik. Why not? Was credited with seven hits and I’m making it a rule that every time Orpik scores in a shootout he has to be awarded at least one of the stars of the game.

Washington Capitals Game 30 Recap: Caps come up short in epic shootout with Florida

By Brian Barnard

Following their Saturday night victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Washington Capitals faced another former Southeast division rival on Tuesday. The Caps were greeted in Sunrise by a surging Florida Panthers team that has gone 5-3-2 over its last ten games. When the two squared off in mid-October, the Caps won a 2-1 shootout victory.

This time around, the Panthers returned the favor, winning the game 2-1 after a shootout that went 20 rounds and involved rally helmets on the bench. It was officially five rounds longer than the previous record-holder, the Capitals vs. the Rangers at MSG in 2005 (see, Marek Malik). [Read more…]

Pucks, sticks and Namaste; a new culture for the Caps

Previous to this season, I covered the Washington Capitals full-time for six seasons, but last Friday was the first time I visited the Caps locker room under new Head Coach Barry Trotz.  It was also the first time I’ve seen players getting quickly out of their pads for…yoga.

That’s right, yoga.

“We think it’s a necessary element in staying fit, staying flexible,” Trotz said. “I think yoga helps with the blood flow. It helps with relaxation, it helps for healing, all those things. That’s the reason that we do that.”

In a league where the games are decided by the thinnest of margins, every team is looking for an edge and Trotz has brought a brand new culture to DC.

“We try to do [team yoga sessions] a couple of times a month,” Trotz said. “If a player misses a game, that’s a lot of money to an organization. So we don’t want our players to miss any time. It’s just another way of [living a] healthy lifestyle, if you will.

Everything from what we eat, to how we train, to how we travel, sleep habits, all those things are considerations for us to have success…by facilitating things like that, you develop good professional habits. We ask our players to try to find that next level and become the best at what that do and give themselves the best chance to be successful. That’s modern sports.”

One man who has rarely been called “modern” is long-time Capitals color man and former NHL player Craig Laughlin.

“We were lucky if we stretched back in the day.”

Laughlin played in the 80’s when working out meant getting out of bed, but now he preaches yoga at the Network Hockey Development Program that he runs.  “We have yoga classes twice a week. I’m such a big believer that I’m going to give it a try this summer.”

It’s a trend that’s spreading throughout the NHL.

“I think probably half the teams, maybe three-quarters of the teams do [yoga]. I know a lot of players do it in the summer,” Trotz added

One player who has done it for years on his own is veteran Capitals forward Brooks Laich.

“Personally I’m a huge believer in yoga. I do yoga twice a week throughout the summer, have for the last five years and I have a [trainer] hired that I just do one-on-one personal yoga — I believe that much in it. I think it’s obviously great for your flexibility but it also allows you to strengthen some muscles that you normally wouldn’t pay any attention to.

We usually do it later on in the week where guys are a little bit more sore and we do a re-energizing and kind of lengthening session, that helps the body recover, rather than putting yourself through a hard workout where maybe you’re not going to get as much from it. I’m a tremendous believer in it and I’m really happy that we implemented it this season.”

Yoga has been stereotyped as more of a workout for women, but that stereotype is being broken.

“I’ve seen yoga grow and more men coming to classes,” says Karolynn Hilaski, who is a registered and trained yoga instructor at Core Power Yoga in DC.

“I believe that men are also seeing results in flexibility, range of motion, and their breathing, which all leads to better performance with physical activities such as personal fitness goals and sports.  Alongside, mental clarity is known to be a huge part of yoga. This also aids in better performance in many activities including work, everyday life, and sport related activities.”

An 82-game regular season can put a huge toll on your body — not only physically, but mentally as well — which is another big benefit of yoga.

“I think it’s just a little different break for the guys, schedules been pretty hectic as of late,” Capitals veteran forward Joel Ward said. “Try to mix in different activities, just try to keep things fresh and keep the mind going. It’s been helpful for sure.

The guys have been adapting really well and obviously you want to maintain that flexibility as much as you can and at the same time maintain and keeping that brain moving.”

Yoga is here to stay and will only rise in popularity as more and more sports teams implement it.  So next time you run into your favorite Caps player, make sure to say “Namaste”.


Sky Kerstein is a Contributor to District Sports Page. Sky grew up in Chantilly, Virginia and is a 2001 graduate of Chantilly High School. Sky graduated in 2005 from Western Michigan University where he was a communications major. Sky got his start in radio interning for WTOP sports and then became the Caps reporter for the Capitals Radio Network. Sky also was a producer for two years for Major League Baseball Network Radio on SiriusXM Radio. Sky was the Capitals beat reporter at 106.7 The FAN for several seasons and has covered the Redskins, Nationals & Wizards for The FAN. Sky also calls high school play by play for the Gameday Broadcast Network and has covered every professional team in the DC and Baltimore regions. You can follow Sky on Twitter @SkyKerstein.

Washington Capitals Game 29 Recap: Backstrom’s hat trick helps lift surging Caps over Lightning

By his own admission, Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom woke up from his pregame nap in a “grumpy” mood. The 27-year-old Swede was not-so-blissfully unaware of what was to come.

Backstrom’s natural hat trick gave Washington a 3-0 lead in the third period, and Eric Fehr’s empty-netter provided the icing on the Capitals’ 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in front of a very enthusiastic Verizon Center crowd on Saturday night. [Read more…]

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning 12/13/14

The Washington Capitals knocked off one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference for the second time in a week, topping the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 behind Nick Backstrom’s first career hat trick in the regular season.

First star: Nicklas Backstrom. It’s hard to believe he’d never had a regular season hat trick before tonight, but it’s true. Backstrom’s first and only career hat trick came on April 17, 2010, in Game 2 of the ill-fated playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. Backstrom’s natural hat trick was his 17th career multi-goal game and 10th multi-point game of the season.

You’re going to want to see this:

Second star: Tom Wilson. Wilson, when he keeps his nose clean, is an important part of the team’s offense. He collected two assists, and now has four assists in his last four games and it was his third career multi-point game and his first career multi-assist game.

Third Star: Braden Holtby. Holtby made 26 saves in the 4-2 win, his 12th victory of the season. He’s won 4 of his last 5 starts, and is 4-1-1 in the month of December. Any doubts about Holtby’s capability to be the starting goaltender are long gone. As long as he keeps playing this well, he should continue to get the majority of the starts in net for the Capitals.

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