November 23, 2014

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres 11/22/14

This one wasn’t as bad as it looked. The Capitals outshot and outplayed the Sabres, basically everything but outscore them, which is kind of how you win games.

Matt Niskanen

He scored the lone Capitals goal (his first in a Capitals sweater) in the 2-1 loss, registered 4 shots on goal, and played 24:16 (tied with John Carlson for team-high TOI). The goal came on the power play, where Niskanen filled in capably for Mike Green, who left the game after taking only one shift in the third period.

Braden Holtby

Holtby keeps getting better and better. This one loss didn’t mar his SV% too much (he finished the night with a .923), and he’s looking more like the goaltender that the Caps need and expect him to be each night.

Alex Ovechkin:

He didn’t score a goal in the loss, but he registered 8 shots on goal and 5 hits. He played 20:06, which was second to Nicklas Backstrom’s (who played 21:56) TOI for forwards.

Washington Capitals Game 20 Recap: Enroth leads Sabres to 2-1 win over Capitals

“I think we believe we can beat any team in this league, and honestly, any team in this league can play really well on a given night, so you can’t just say because of the Buffalo Sabres’ record, it’s a gimme, and obviously it showed tonight,” said Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby after the team’s 2-1 loss to the lowly Buffalo Sabres.

The Capitals lobbed 44 shots and the kitchen sink at Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth, but a one-timer from defenseman Matt Niskanen, his first of the season, was the only puck that made it to the back of the net.

Niskanen was filling in at the quarterback position on the power play for Mike Green, who left the game after taking only one shift in the third period.

Barry Trotz told reporters after the game that he didn’t think Green’s injury was serious, but was planning on checking with trainers at some point to confirm.

Holtby stopped 26 of 24 shots, but the blame for the loss could hardly be put on him. Both Buffalo goals were of a fluky nature. Matt Moulson’s second period goal bounced off the boards and over Holtby’s paddle. Holtby called it“one of those freak goals.”

“I was leaning far to my left to be able to see it, the initial shot. I kind of had to move to my right to begin with, and I took a strange hop, lost my footing somehow. I think it went off Carly’s stick and bounced over mine,” he said.

It’s hard to believe it took 20 games for Matt Niskanen to score his first goal as a Capital, but that can be chalked up to not getting as much power play time as Green or John Carlson. If Green is out for any length of time, expect Niskanen to continue filling Green’s spot at the point on the first power play unit.

Niskanen thought that while there were some good takeaways from the game, the Capitals could have done a few things better, like get traffic in front of the net.

“A lot of pucks hit the net. We could get more bodies in front of the crease,” said Niskanen. “Their goalie was good tonight, but I think he saw too many. More than we would like. We’ve got to start working that into our game. We’re doing a lot of good things, but goalies in this league, if they see shots, they’re going to stop them most of the time.”

Nicklas Backstrom, who registered only one shot on goal in the loss, thinks the team is better than their record shows.

“I think we are playing better at home than the results look like. We’ve got to find a way to start winning home games as well,” said Backstrom.  “We have to show teams that this our barn and this is where we are going to take most of our points. We need to change that for sure.”

Washington Capitals Game 19 Recap: Ovechkin’s late tally lifts Caps over Avalanche

Alex Ovechkin has scored many legendary goals in his career, and he’s done so since he arrived in the league in 2005. The one he scored late in the third period on Thursday probably won’t be remembered on the level of “The Goal” in 2006 or his second-round playoff hat trick in 2009, but tonight’s tally may go down as one of the most important anybody on the team scores this season.

[Read more…]

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Colorado Avalanche 11/20/14

The Washington Capitals finished their three-game road trip with four out of six possible points, capped off with a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

Nicklas Backstrom channeled Peter Forsberg for his first period goal, Daniel Briere got one back for the Avs, but before the second period was over, Jason Chimera scored his second of the season. Colorado inched back with a Tyson Barrie goal in the third, but Alex Ovechkin scored his 9th of the season for the win.

 

First Star:

Alex Ovechkin.

Two-point night for the captain. This guy has scored some zany goals over the course of his career, and he added to his resume with this beauty of a game-winner:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QN6Ucr2jHgg

 

Second Star:

Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom scored a goal and an assist on the win. His assist came on Ovechkin’s crazy third period game-winner.

 

Third Star:

Braden Holtby.

Holtby looks like he’s rebounded from his early season struggles. He’s  4-1-1 in his last 6 games, and stopped 27 of 29 shots in the win, with a SV% of .931.

 

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Arizona Coyotes 11/18/14

In Arizona, Jay Beagle got one, and Eric Fehr got the biggest fish in overtime for the win. Two points, and the Capitals are off to Colorado.

 

First Star:

Eric Fehr.

This season has been weird for Fehr, from playing on the first line to being a healthy scratch. Trotz trusted Fehr enough to keep him on the ice during 4-on-4 overtime, and his confidence paid off with an OTGWG. Fehr only played 10:21, so bonus points for efficiency.

Second Star:

Braden Holtby.

Holtby seems to be coming out of the rough patch he’s been in of late. He was instrumental in the Caps’ 2-1 win, and stopped 23 of 24 shots for a SV% of .958. He’s the difference between the games the Caps should have won and the games they are winning.

Third Star:

Tom Wilson.

Wilson should be commended for his physical play in Arizona. He threw some heavy hits, but it is worth noting that he kept his nose clean and didn’t engage in any extracurriculars. He’s a talented forward and should focus his efforts there. He finished the night with 6 hits, 2 SOG, and 13:55 TOI.

Washington Capitals Game 18 Recap: Capitals down Coyotes with Fehr’s overtime winner

The Washington Capitals needed an extra inning to decide their game against the Arizona Coyotes, where Eric Fehr scored the winning goal. Caps win 2-1.

After a rough weekend with losses to St. Louis and New Jersey, the win was a good bounce back from two straight losses. With the victory, the Caps now stand in 3rd in the Metropolitan Division with 19 points.

Jay Beagle scored his second of the season in the first period, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson evened it up for the Coyotes. In overtime, Fehr netted his third of the season for the game-winner.

A few notes:

  • Braden Holtby stopped 23 of 24 shots for a SV% of .958. Holtby, like his beard, was majestic. He’s finally bouncing back.
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov skated 7:32, the second lowest TOI next to Chris Brown, who skated 6:36. Barry Trotz says he’s trying to find minutes for everybody, but burying Kuznetsov on the fourth line clearly isn’t working.
  • The Capitals had 24 shots on goal, including 4 in OT. They had just 2 SOG in the second period.
  • Shot attempts were tied at 50 for both teams.
  • The Capitals were 0/3 on the PP, but were perfect on the penalty kill, killing all 4 Coyotes power plays.
  • Tom Wilson had another strong showing. He led the team with 6 hits, had 2 shots on goal, and played 13:55. Good look for him.

The Colorado Avalanche are up next for the Caps on Thursday at 9 PM eastern time. Since it’s not a back-to-back, expect Holtby to get the start in net. Ride the wave, Trotz, ride the wave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington Capitals Power Rankings Week 6

Two losses in three games, (St Louis was rough), but Ovechkin and Johansson are scoring a bit and Backstrom wants all the assists. Brooks Laich is still out, but Tom Wilson only missed one game with whatever it was he had (at least it’s not the mumps).

Rank Player The whatfor
1 Nicklas Backstrom Two points in three games for Backstrom. The 2 assists came against CBJ on 11/11, which the Capitals won 4-2.
2 Marcus Johansson Johansson continues to improve. He logged 2 goals in the Caps win against CBJ, and his 8 goals on the season are on par with Alex Ovechkin and Joel Ward who both have 8 goals apiece as well. .
3 Joel Ward Ward scored his 8th goal of the season in the Caps’ 4-1 loss in St. Louis, tying him with Ovechkin and Johansson, who also have 8 goals apiece.
4 Troy Brouwer Brouwer has 1 point in the Caps last three games, an assist in the win vs. CBJ.
5 Mike Green He stands at 12th in points for NHL defensemen, and has two assists in his last three games. He’s been a consistently positive possession player for the Caps this season.
6 Alex Ovechkin He’s tied for the Caps points lead with Backstrom, and scored 2 goals in the win vs. CBJ.
7 John Carlson Carlson doesn’t have a point in his last three games, and it doesn’t look like he’s seeing a lot of PP time, but he’s taking the brunt of ice time for Caps defensemen (he played 24:51 in St. Louis).
8 Matt Niskanen He hasn’t collected a point is 5 games, but his steadying presence on the blue line should not go unnoticed.
9 Eric Fehr Tom Wilson’s return bumped him back to the third line, and since Joel Ward is the only member of “Gang Green” to see any significant PP time, there’s not been a real opportunity for Fehr to add to his totals.
10 Andre Burakovsky The rookie has 12 points on the season, and collected an assist on each of Johansson’s goals vs. CBJ. He’s tied for 2nd in points by NHL rookies.
11 Braden Holtby Two wins in his last three starts with a SV of .909. That number will likely improve. His puck-handling gaffe against the Devils cost the team the win, however.
12 Karl Alzner Nothing remarkable this week, but Alzer continues to work hard and fly under the radar, as always.
13 Evgeny Kuznetsov He’s been held scoreless in his last 5 games, and still sits with 6 points on the season.
14 Brooks Orpik Orpik is wrangling heavy minutes and heavy hits, but the hits should be taken with a grain of salt. Hitting that much means you don’t have the puck very much.
15 Nate Schmidt He’s collected two assists in his last three games after going scoreless for 14 games to start the season.
16 Jason Chimera Chimera isn’t having a great start to the season as far as goals or points. Only 2 points in 16 games.
17 Tom Wilson Wilson missed one game as a precaution on 11/11. Trotz called him the “best player” on the ice in the loss in St Louis.
18 Jay Beagle Beagle has seen time on almost every line this season. The coaching staff clearly has a lot of confidence in him, and he’s being rewarded for his hard work.
19 Michael Latta Latta has just one assist in 14 games, and while he isn’t a standout, he does his job well.
20

 

21

Justin Peters

 

Chris Brown

His only start this week was a loss, and his SV% is a dismal .882.

Since his call up on Nov. 14, Brown hasn’t added any offense, but he’s a good fourth line energy player.

Brooks Laich Yup.
 – John Erskine Sidelined due to neck surgery. Doubtful he’ll crack the lineup any time soon.
 – Aaron Volpatti Still. On. IR.
 – Jack Hillen Scratched this week.
 – Liam O’Brien Healthy scratch for 3 games this week..
 – Dmitry Orlov He’s skating, but not ready to play yet.

 

 

Three Stars: Washington Capitals @ St. Louis Blues 11/15/14

The Washington Capitals lost their second straight game on Saturday night, falling to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday on the road, 4-1. There weren’t many stellar performances by any of the Capitals – actually there weren’t really any. That said, here are the District Sports Page Three Stars of the game.

First Star: Joel Ward

Ward had his eighth goal of the season in the second period, tying him for the team lead along with Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson. It appears that reuniting with Barry Trotz, who was his head coach in Nashville from 2008-11, has done wonders for the veteran forward’s game.

Second Star:  Tom Wilson

Wilson was good for a game-high six hits and also fought Ryan Reaves late in the second period; although the skirmish didn’t provide the lift to his team that he might have wanted, his heart proved to be a strong one.

Third Star: Justin Peters

I know, I know, he let in four goals. But he also made 30 saves and was a primary reason why the game didn’t end 7-1, which it very well could have.

Washington Capitals Game 17 Recap: Caps dismantled by Blues in worst loss of season

If you’re looking for positives to take away from the Washington Capitals’ 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, you’ll have to look very hard. Even then, you may not find any.

Joel Ward supplied the lone tally for Washington, a goal in the second period that tied the game at one goal apiece. It came at 6:38 of the second period, a wrister from the top of the left circle that got through Brian Elliott after he made what appeared to be the initial stop. Otherwise, it was largely a dud from the boys in white, as there were no players with a positive plus-minus rating and a meager 25 shots registered on the night. It was the largest margin of defeat (three) that Washington has been dealt so far in the young season. Some thoughts:

  • Joel Ward’s hot start to the year continued, as he is tied for the team lead in goals with eight, joined by a couple of guys named Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson.
  • Justin Peters let in four goals, and most of them weren’t exactly pretty ones to give up (not that any are, to be fair). He was caught out of position on the first one, gave up a juicy rebound on the second and horrifically misplayed the puck on the Blues’ third goal by David Backes. There was little the 28-year-old netminder could do about the final one, but by then the game was all but decided. With that in mind, though, he did make a couple of crucial saves that kept it from being a laugher.
  • A slow start basically doomed the team, as they were outshot 13-7 in the first and looked about as out of it as they could over the first 20 minutes. Blame that on their second game in as many nights.
  • One goal in two straight games isn’t good, it has to be said. The good news is that they get two days to get back into a groove before a road date at Phoenix on Tuesday.

Washington Capitals Game 16 Recap: Capitals shut out by Devils 1-0, Holtby’s misplay leads to game-winner

Close games are often defined by who dares to make the first mistake. On a slow Friday night in D.C., the Washington Capitals came out on the wrong end of a close game with the New Jersey Devils, excellent at playing the sleepy game, who won 1-0.

The defining play was a misplay of the puck behind the net by Braden Holtby. Holtby left his nest to “create a battle,” he told reporters. He was trying to find Marcus Johansson, but was slashed by Jaromir Jagr as he played the puck.

“I hadn’t touched the puck very much throughout the game, so I didn’t really know what their forecheck was, and I turned around and saw the two guys pressuring pretty hard, so that usually means their half-wall guy is open.”

“I tried to be patient with my read, and I took too long, probably made the wrong read, and the guy [Jagr] slashed my stick when I went to clear it. At that point in the game, you have to pick the safe play, and I didn’t, and it cost us,” said Holtby.

Holtby was forced to let go of the puck, and it caromed to a ready and waiting Mike Cammalleri, who scored the game-winning goal in to a virtually empty net. Brooks Orpik was in front, but he didn’t stand a chance.

“In hindsight, a 0-0 game- at that point you just need to rip it up the half wall, up the glass, a safe play. That’s a mistake I can’t make,” said Holtby. “It looks unfortunate, cause its 0-0, but you can prevent that from happening by realizing what time of the game it is, what type of game it is, and then not being fancy with the puck. “

Holtby stopped 27 of 28 shots, and defenseman Karl Alzner thought his goaltender “played great.”

“I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but it looked like that guy [Jagr] got a good hack on him right as he was going to play the puck,” said Alzner. “That’s happened to me before and you can’t really do much about it, so it’s just a tough break. He played a great game and that’s the way we have to look at it.”

The Capitals were packing up to head to St. Louis shortly after the game, and the back-to-back game doesn’t give them a whole lot of time to dwell on their bad luck. These types of games are won or lost in a split second.

“Obviously we would have liked to be on the winning end of that, said Alzner. “That’s a big game for us, but the effort was pretty good for us, so we’ve got to be somewhat happy with that. But those two points are the ones we need.”

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