January 16, 2018

Washington Capitals Game 25 Recap: Caps and Holtby win streaks end as Caps fall to Jets in OT

GAMES ENDS ON CONTROVERSIAL OVERTIME GOAL AFTER LENGTHY REVIEW

(Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mark Scheifele scored with 19.9 seconds left in overtime — but not before an almost interminable review of a potential offsides play — and the Winnipeg Jets ended the Washington Capitals six-game winning streak 2-1 at the MTS Center in Winnipeg.

Caps head coach Barry Trotz asked for the review, hoping that Jacob Trouba would be ruled offsides before receiving an entry pass from Blake Wheeler as time was winding down. But after several minutes of the referees huddled around a tablet computer at the scorer’s desk, the play was ruled inconclusive and allowed to stand.

Long before that, it was Braden Holtby, once again, saving the Caps’ (Canadian) bacon. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 16 Recap: Caps end of game surge is extinguished by the Flames in OT

WASHINGTON CAPITALS PLAYED WITH “URGENCY” IN THIRD PERIOD BUT IT WASN’T ENOUGH TO WIN

“I’m not happy with the overall result,” stated Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz after the 3-2 overtime loss to Flames, however, “I think the positive is that we came back and got a point…our team is better than one period of hockey.”

The Washington Capitals hosted the Calgary Flames on Friday the 13th making it their third game in just four days, with the first two games on the road. The travel fatigue seemed to effect the Caps and had only one shot on goal for the first ten minutes.

Calgary was skating very fast and the Caps struggled to keep up with them for the first forty minutes. The Caps felt the urgency and bounced back in the third. Trott referred to the third and fourth lines as his “workers” and credits the bottom six for stepping it up. Michael Latta and Jay Beagle scored for the Caps.

“Latta was a spark plug,” said Trotz. Michael Latta scored his first goal of the season and his second career goal (11/15/13 at DET). Latta has earned 12 points (2g, 10a) in 77 career NHL games.

Goalie Braden Holtby had the night off and Philip Grubauer was in net for the Capitals and stopped 26 of 29 shots in his third start of the season. Trotz called Grubauer “pretty sharp” and made some critical saves to keep the Caps in the game.

Captain Alex Ovechkin still has the monkey on this back and wants to get the goal and move on. Coach Trotz weighed in at the post-game presser.  “Today I did [sense mounting pressure] for the first time. I think he wants to get it [passing Sergei Fedorov (483) for first place among Russian-born NHL players in career goals]. There’s no question. I haven’t talked to him about it, but the best advice I can give him is to ‘play your normal game.’ He’s scored a gazillion goals in this league, and to our team: don’t look for Ovi [Alex Ovechkin] to score that goal. Don’t overpass. He’s scored a lot of goals. Play the way we play, and I guarantee you, he will score that goal, and he’ll score many after that.”

A few of the players had shared their thoughts about playing with urgency and resiliency of the team.

Brooks Laich: “With a caliber of hockey team that we have, we expected more. I know it’s three games in four nights, but they traveled last night too, they played last night. There’s no excuses. If you look at our hockey team, I think it’s a game that we should’ve had. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get it.”

Michael Latta:  “We’ve got a lot of great character in this room. It shows. We could’ve had a couple more in the third, I feel like, We’ve got a great group in here. We never give up, that’s for sure.”

Andre Burakovsky : “I think we have so much energy… I think everyone can really go for 60 minutes here. At the end of the games, other teams are getting tired but we can just keep going. I think we kind of know that we have to come back every time we get the puck behind their D [defense]. That’s the way we want to play, that’s where we’re good. That’s something we have to do all the time, not just at the end.”

Congratulations to Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz for coaching his 1,294th NFL game which ties Jacques Martin for 10th place on the all-time NHL games coached list.

Washington Capitals lit up the ice at Verizon Center in Washington DC to represent the French flag in honor of Paris victims during the National Anthem. Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Capitals lit up the ice at Verizon Center in Washington DC to represent the French flag in honor of Paris victims during the National Anthem. Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

 

Caps Notes:

- The Capitals outshot Calgary 36-29 and won 33 of 65 faceoffs (50.7%).
- Washington has held its opponents to 30 or fewer shots in 14 consecutive games (10/15-11/13), marking the longest streak since the Capitals held their opponents to 30 or fewer shots in 14 consecutive games during the 1999-2000 season (1/6/00-2/3/00). The franchise record for most consecutive games holding an opponent to fewer than 30 shots is 20 games, set during the 1984-85 season.
- The Capitals have posted a 6-2-1 record at home this season and have earned a point in four consecutive games at Verizon Center (10/30-11/13: 3-0-1).
Tonight’s attendance was 18,506, the Capitals’ 278th consecutive sellout at Verizon Center.

NEXT GAME: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at Detroit Red Wings at 8:00 p.m. (ET)

What we did and did not learn from this year’s playoffs

What we learned:

Clutch matters

In this age of analytics this is a phrase you may hear a lot: “There’s no such thing as clutch.” (For example, you can see that here, here and here).

The math may say it doesn’t exist, but there’s just no mathematical formula for players like Joel Ward or Jonathan Toews. [Read more…]

Despite familiar collapse, this season was a success for the Caps

New year, new coach, same result. The Washington Capitals saw their season come to an unceremonious end on Wednesday with a Game 7 overtime loss to the New York Rangers and once again, it felt far too early.

But for all the similarities to the team’s past failures, there were clear signs of progress over the course of the season and the playoffs.

It may not feel that way right now. The Caps lost to the Rangers in the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons despite having a 3-1 series lead. It is the fifth time the Capitals have lost a series when up by 3-1 and the tenth time the team has lost when leading by two games. The Caps still have not made it past the second round since 1998, well before Alex Ovechkin came to Washington.

Yet, this is also the team that failed to make the playoffs just one season ago. In his first season as coach, Barry Trotz made the Caps into a hard-nosed, balanced team. He took this underachieving roster and made them into playoff contenders in just one year.

Rather than meddle with all aspects of the game and every position as Adam Oates did, Trotz delegated responsibilities to trusted and respected assistants such as Mitch Korn, who transformed Braden Holtby into one of the league’s top netminders, and Todd Reirden, who helped the Caps  improve defensively from 21st in the NHL with 2.79 goals against per game to 7th with 2.43.

Under Trotz’ tutelage, Alex Ovechkin became a more defensively responsible player, improving last season’s comical plus/minus of -35 to +10 in the regular season. Analysts were absolutely effusive in their praise of the Great Eight throughout the season saying he was a more complete player and a better leader. Clearly he was and that’s an important step.

Rookie playmakers also flourished under Trotz. In his first season with the team, Tom Wilson was locked in a closet by Adam Oates and given less than eight minutes of ice time per game. That’s less ice time than notable stars such as Ryan Stoa, Casey Wellman and Chris Brown. It’s even less time than Oates gave Martin Erat despite how clearly he distrusted Erat.

Under Oates, there was seemingly no plan in place for what to do with Wilson or how to develop him and we saw no noticeable improvements in his first season because of it.

That was not the case this year with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky. Both players cycled up and down the lineup. Both saw their time in the press box and Burakovsky was even reassigned to Hershey. Yet, there was a clear focus on developing them. Both rookies played key roles with the Caps in the postseason, especially Kuznetsov, who had a breakout performance with five goals and two assists.

The bottom line is that this is a team that missed the playoffs last year with a coach and general manager making decisions based solely on the present with little regard for the team’s future. This year, not only did the Caps develop some of their top players for the future, they also took the Presidents’ Trophy winners to overtime in Game 7 in the second round.

One favorable bounce of the puck could have the Caps facing Tampa Bay right now. That’s all that separated them from the conference final.

As much as it may sting now, overall this season was a clear success. The reason it doesn’t feel that way is because of how the team lost. Losing yet another 3-1 series lead is hard to swallow, especially since the Caps came 101 seconds away from winning Game 5. Seeing Henrik Lundqvist on his way to the bench lifting his arms in triumph before he could get there will be an image that haunts Caps fans for years to come.

Trotz, however, was not the coach when the Caps were swept by Tampa Bay in 2011. He was not behind the bench when Montreal pulled off the unbelievable upset in 2010. No one with the team now was on the roster for the Caps’ collapse against Pittsburgh in 1992 or the Easter Epic in 1987.

In terms of this team, right now, this team showed progress.

Consider this: if back in October someone had said the Caps would take the Presidents’ Trophy winners to seven games in the second round of the playoffs, wouldn’t that have been considered a success?

OPINION: Caps face date with sad destiny in Game 7

Even before those in this area had heard of the men that go by the names Ovechkin, Backstrom and Trotz, the stigma was firmly in place.

A lost 2-0 series lead to Pittsburgh in 1996 led Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser to label the Washington Capitals as “choking dogs,” a notion that has become all-too-familiar for one of hockey’s most loyal fanbases. It seemed for a bit as if those fans would be rewarded with a monumental win this past Mother’s Day, only to leave Verizon Center shaking their heads and collectively asking themselves  — and each other — one thing.

How can this be happening again? [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 6 Recap: Late rally not enough as Rangers force Game 7 with 4-3 win

Down 4-1 in the third period, the Washington Capitals nearly dug themselves out of a deep hole. With nine minutes and change left, they pulled back within one goal of the New York Rangers but a late power play was squandered and the Caps could not find the equalizer. In falling to the Rangers 4-3, the Caps are forced into playing their second Game 7 in as many series this postseason Wednesday night back at Madison Square Garden.

[Read more…]

New World Order: Capitals frustrating opponents with “playoff hockey”

The quotes that came out of the New York Rangers room after their Game 4 loss to the Washington Capitals had an eerie and familiar quality to them for fans of the Caps.

“Offensively, we’re fighting it,” center Derek Stepan said. “We haven’t done it all year and, right now, we’re fighting it. [The Caps] are doing a lot of good things defensively and they’re blocking shots and when we’re getting our looks, [Braden] Holtby’s making saves. It’s certainly frustrating.”

“It feels like they have an answer for everything,” said Derick Brassard, the Rangers’ lone goal scorer.

“It’s not like we’re playing bad,” Brassard said in the postgame. “We’re playing some good hockey. It’s just we didn’t have that problem all year scoring goals, and now they’re making it really challenging for us. They block everything. They’re in front of the lanes.”

If Caps fans hear those words and think they sound familiar, it’s because that’s what the Caps used to say routinely as they were frustrated by defensive-minded teams and ousted from playoff series after playoff series in year’s past.

It was five years ago this month that forever changed this franchise. After winning a President’s Trophy, the Caps entered their first-round series with the Montreal Canadiens as prohibitive favorites. Not just in the series, but to win the whole dang thing.

But the Canadiens dumbed down the hockey, packed their defensive end, and rope-a-doped the Caps into outshooting themselves and eventually won the series in seven games. It’s a very similar stance the current iteration of Capitals are carrying out against the Rangers, this season’s President’s Trophy winners.

It might not be entirely intentional. This Caps team would like to play with more pace and score a few more goals. But so far the recipe has them on the brink of advancing. We’ve seen this movie enough times to know that nothing is over until it’s over, but the Capitals can’t be in a better position to succeed after four games.

The frustration coming out of New York is palpable. The Rangers want to use their speed and skill to play an up-tempo game. They don’t believe the Caps can keep up with them in a track meet. That was the case here for many seasons, as well. But that seems like many, many moons ago.

Since that April disaster against Montreal, players have come and gone. Three different head coaches have lost their jobs. The general manager was fired. That was five years ago, if you can believe it.

Now, Barry Trotz has the Caps playing the defensive stance. The Caps are being lauded for their hard work, their intensity, their brand of “heavy” hockey. The Caps are dominating in the faceoff circles. The Caps are winning battles along the boards and in the slot — on both ends.

The Caps are playing “playoff hockey”, and Trotz has them one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. Nothing is over until its over, but the Caps have to like where they are sitting and the effort they’ve exerted to get there.

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 4 Recap: Burakovsky scores twice, Caps one win from advancing over Rangers

With every clap producing a louder concussive effect than the one prior, and every scream and shout seemingly ricocheting around the arena, the Washington Capitals sapped every ounce of energy from their adoring fans and moved that much closer to doing something very special.

André Burakovsky scored magnificent goals in the second and third periods, and Braden Holtby continued his borderline absurd playoff run as Washington defeated the New York Rangers 2-1 on Wednesday night at Verizon Center. The win gives the Capitals a commanding 3-1 series lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 7 Review: Kuznetsov’s late tally wins Game 7 over Islanders

The puck at his stick along the boards next to the right circle in the New York zone, Evgeny Kuznetsov smoothly drove to the right of Jaroslav Halak, waiting for just the right second when the old Washington nemesis committed a bit too much.

What resulted was a cacophony of sound that physically shook the upper deck of Verizon Center and a highlight-reel moment which lifted demons that had plagued the Capitals franchise for nearly three decades.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 5 Review: Washington moves to brink of second round with 5-1 drubbing of Islanders

With an iron will and tenacity that no opponent could counter, the Washington Capitals strode onto the ice Thursday night with a grand opportunity. A good performance with a result to match would put them on the verge of their first Eastern Conference Semifinal appearance in three seasons.

Down a goal early, they weren’t fazed. Rising to the occasion, five unanswered goals, two from Evgeny Kuznetsov, lit a fire under the Verizon Center faithful and made for a 5-1 win over the New York Islanders in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. [Read more…]

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