March 2, 2015

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

First star:

Braden Holtby.

It seems like he should have more, but his 7th shutout of the season was no less impressive. He stopped all 32 shots thrown his way.


Second star:

Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin scored his 40th and 41st goals against Toronto on Sunday night, and earned  an assist to boot. If he scored 50, no one would be surprised.


Third star:

Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom earned his 47th assist Sunday night, and is a serious contender for the Hart Trophy. Yeah.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 4

FIRST STAR: Alex Ovechkin. Fully engaged Ovi in this one. A goal, which gave the Caps late life, five shots on goal, three blocked, five more missed and eight hits.

SECOND STAR: Jason Chimera. Two assists, though took a bad penalty during a string of bad penalties in the second period.

THIRD STAR: Troy Brouwer. Goal and an assist. 7 of 11 in the dot.

Goat of the game: Tom Wilson. Hate to kick a guy when he’s down, but there’s no place in the game for instigating contact during warmups. Total bush league move by a guy whose luster is starting to come off.

Dealing with the Devils: Why trading for Jaromir Jagr makes little sense

The NHL deadline is fast approaching and the Washington Capitals are in need of a right wing. It just so happens that the New Jersey Devils stink and have a pretty good right wing on the last year of his contract.

That wing, of course, is Jaromir Jagr.

Of all the players the Caps could target at the deadline, Jagr is the most intriguing given his history with the team.

Jagr came to Washington amid much fanfare and excitement in 2001. After two lackluster seasons, he was traded to the New York Rangers as the Caps dismantled their team in order to rebuild.

Now with the team in need of a right wing, many are wondering if Jagr could return to Washington in a deadline deal.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 61 Recap: Caps win streak snapped in Philly

The Washington Capitals’ four-game win streak was brought to an end on Sunday with a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite battling back from a 2-0 deficit, the Caps were unable to finish off the Flyers and instead gave up a late third-period goal for the loss.

The Caps had another sluggish start and found themselves down 2-0 in the second period. Claude Giroux snapped an 11-game goalless drought with an early power play goal and Wayne Simmonds added another power play tally in the second. Tom Wilson finally got the Caps on the board and Joel Ward caught Philadelphia goalie Robb Zepp off guard with a rolling puck chipped into the top shelf to tie it in the second. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 59 Recap: Backstrom, Caps fly to first-class victory over Jets

Five tripping penalties by the Winnipeg Jets, four goals against Ondrej Pavelec, three points from Nicklas Backstrom and two first-period goals led the way to one solid win for the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at Verizon Center.

A pretty calm start for both teams led the way to a pair of goals in the last six minutes of the third. John Carlson opened the scoring, with a seemingly deflcted shot from the point with traffic in front off Pavelec. Ovechkin turned not only Pavelec, but the entire Winnipeg backcheck, inside-out with his league-leading 38th goal, with less than two minutes left in the period.

“Right now, in this kind of moment of the season, you look at different teams and you just have to play to get points,” Ovechkin said. “Every point right now is a very important point and we have to show the best game. All the guys have to sacrifice their body and play well. [Tonight] was great. It was the plan, to make a push. Since the first drop of the puck, from the first face off, all the lines play well, everybody does their job, and that’s why we get success.”

[Read more…]

Alex Ovechkin rediscovered his “edge” by ditching the razor

Remember back when Alex Ovechkin played the swashbuckling superhero, scoring goals at a pace no one else in the league could, slamming bodies to the ice and boards like a wrecking ball, and grinning that gap-toothed smile through a scraggly beard with shaggy hair flowing out from underneath his helmet, infuriating opponents, officials and the Canadian media at every turn?

What’s that you say? Everything old is new again?

In his past two games, Alex Ovechkin’s on-ice actions have been met with derision from his opponents and media across the country. First, Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf called him a “diver” in response to this retaliatory slash.

Then, in Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh, Ovechkin gave Kris Letang a pretty healthy slash across the ankles and the diminutive Letang crashed hard into the end boards, which caused the Penguins to really get off their game chasing the Caps around instead of concentrating on winning the game. Arguably, Ovechkin could (should) have been called for a two minute minor on the play, but the on-ice officials really let the game get out of hand.

By the reaction of the Penguins media contingent, you’d think Ovechkin assaulted Letang a la Todd Bertuzzi, instead of chopping at a puck in the offensive zone and ending up on Letang’s boot.

Regardless, until recently Ovechkin has kept his nose fairly clean with regards to this type of activity. But it seems as if Ovechkin has his “edge” back, for lack of a better term.

For the first several years of his career, Ovechkin was a devil-may-care dervish, playing with reckless abandon. He was suspended several times for roughness as he plowed through defenders as often as he scored goals, making enemies across the league.

The Great 8 was often criticized for his rough play, and specific members of the Canadian media took every opportunity to tear down Ovechkin for anything the Russian player ever did — namely, being non-Canadian.

For the past several seasons, though, until very recently, Ovechkin has been a much more mild-mannered version of himself. As early playoff series losses mounted, as coaches came and went, as schemes became more and more defense-oriented, as he was asked to change positions, at times Ovechkin seemed joyless, a lesser version of himself.

Gone was the gap-toothed smile much of the time. Gone was the leap into the glass after scoring big goals. Gone, mostly, were the bone-shattering questionable hits.

A search for “What’s wrong with Alex Ovechkin?” yields 32 million hits.

Sure, Ovechkin still scored goals and delivered hits by the dozen. But it just didn’t seem like he had his old swagger, beaten down by playoff and Olympic losses.

At the start of this season, he was scoring, but not at his normal rate, as he — as well as the rest of the team — adjusted to Barry Trotz’ systems. But over his last 27 games, Ovechkin has 24 goals. He’s simply carrying his team.

And now, he’s getting under the skin of his opponents as well. It seems like he’s enjoying himself more and more on the ice. Maybe it’s just coincidence that his contract with Gillette ran out over the winter and Ovechkin had returned to the scruffy look. Maybe it’s not.

Maybe that stupid shaving contract was a metaphor for Ovechkin being forced into something he was not. Maybe now, after several seasons of “What’s Wrong with Ovechkin” we’re seeing the “real” Ovi back on the ice.

It’s been too long.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 1

FIRST STAR: Alex Ovechkin. Should we just change this to the Ovi Star? Pretty goal, assist, seven SOGs, another four that didn’t make it that far. Also, though his chop shot on Letang should have been a penalty, the Pens spent the rest of the third looking for retribution on anything in white instead of playing the game. Seriously, MVP anyone?

SECOND STAR: Nick Backstrom. His assist on Ward’s 5-on-3 goal was perfection. Again.

THIRD STAR: Braden Holtby. He’s allowed one goal to the Penguins this season on 91 shots over three games. Huzzah!

HONRABLE MENTION: Shouts out to the defensive corps. Except for on Pitts’ sole goal, they did a very nice job of keeping the crease clear for Holtby and limiting what Crosby and Malkin were trying to do.

Washington Captials Game 58 Recap: No shutout, but two points again against Pens

Braden Holtby had not allowed a goal to the Pittsburgh Penguins in two previous games this season. The Pens finally got into the scorebook against him — though it took a collision pushing him into the net to do so — but the Washington Capitals had more than enough answer, emerging victorious at Consol Energy Center 3-1.

After winning 3 of 4 on the long road trip, the Caps are now one point behind the Rangers and Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Joel Ward scored on a 5-on-3 with 4:13 left in the third period to break a 1-1 tie and lift the Caps to a win which caps a most successful four-game road trip.

Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist for the Caps (31-17-10), to go along with seven shots on goal and John Carlson added an empty-net short-handed goal very late in the third. [Read more…]

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 5, Anaheim Ducks 3

First Star: Alex Ovechkin. C’mon. Two goals, retaking league lead. Two assists, giving Andre Burakovsky some momentum to stay on the top line (and in the lineup, period). Ovechkin is carrying this team right now (wen has he not), yet gets very little mention as an MVP candidate. Does the nationals (Canadian) media have Ovi burnout? Sure. But they are sleeping on another incredible season. Hard to imagine this Caps team contending for playoffs without another stellar season from the Great 8.

Second Star: Andre Burakovsky. Two pretty goals, courtesy of Mr. Ovechkin. Bura’s had some ups and downs this season, but obviously the talent is there. Barry Trotz has gotten some grief on the way he’s handled the young talent on the roster, but he’s not just looking at this year’s results (unlike the previous coach), but also looking forward like a coach that knows he has job security. It’s not how you start… Evgeny Kuznetsov’s game has progressed of late as well. Hopefully Trotz can figure out how to get Tom Wilson going again, because I envision a time in the not-so-distant future made up of the three.

Third Star: Justin Peters. Justin Peters? Seriously? After I tweeted this in the first?

Peters has been, frankly, miserable this season. But after the very rough first period, he settled down and made some quality saves in the second and especially in the third as Anaheim was scrambling to get back in it, with 30 saves in total, including 11 on the penalty kill. Credit begrudgingly where its due, but primarily because he’s set the bar so low for himself this year.

Washington Capitals Game 57 Recap: Ovechkin’s four-point night fuels Caps to a wild win

The Anaheim Ducks tried to jump on the Washington Capitals early, but Alex Ovechkin had other plans. The captain kept the Caps in it early with two first period goals and tacked on two assists to lead the Caps to the 5-3 win in Anaheim.

A crazy first period saw four penalties called and four goals scored. The Ducks took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 early in the first, but twice Ovechkin was there to tie it as the teams traded two goals apiece before 10:30 had passed. After a shaky start, backup goalie Justin Peters seemed to settle down allowing the Caps to take control in the second. He finished with 30 saves on 33 shots. [Read more…]

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