April 19, 2015

Caps-Islanders Round 1 Preview: Once more against Halak

The Washington Capitals sit 16 wins away from claiming their first Stanley Cup, four of which must come against the New York Islanders. Here’s a breakdown of their first round matchup.

Islanders offense vs. Caps defense

Islanders: 2.99 goals per game (4th), 175 5-on-5 goals (4th), 33.8 shots per game (2nd), .592 win percentage when scoring first (25th), .545 win percentage when trailing first (1st)

Caps: 2.43 goals against per game (7th), 140 5-on-5 goals against (12th), 28.9 shots allowed per game (11th)

The main weapon on the Islanders is John Tavares, the 24-year-old superstar who finished second in the NHL in points this season. The offense hinges on him, but not in the same way the Caps’ offense hinges on Alex Ovechkin. The dynamic center is just as adept at setting up goals as he is at scoring them and leads the team both in goals (38) and assists (48). For much of his career, the Islanders have relied far too much on Tavares to carry their offense but that is no longer the case. Kyle Okposo is second on the team in points despite missing 22 games with a detached retina and provides a major threat on the Islanders’ second line. They also have had young talent step up with Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Anders Lee all enjoying breakout seasons. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 81 Recap: Holtby stellar in Caps’ win over Bruins

Three times this season, the Boston Bruins went up against Braden Holtby. Three times they exited the ice without a single goal.

Holtby made 27 saves and Washington scored two goals early in the first period en route to a 3-0 win over the Bruins on Wednesday night at Verizon Center.

The win certifies that the Caps will play in the 2-3 matchup in the Metro Division. If the Islanders lost Thursday night, the Capitals will finish as the No. 2 seed. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 80 Recap: Strong Goaltending and Deflections Give Caps Edge in Detroit

The Washington Capitals had a busy 24 hours, heading to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena after a tough overtime loss to the playoff hopeful Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. The Detroit Red Wings, another playoff contender, are beset by injuries, and fielded a team without physical players such as Justin Abdelkader, Erik Cole, and Johan Franzen.

The Red Wings came into the game 5-9-2 in their past 16 games, but had the return of forward Drew Miller from injury and were able to beat the Minnesota Wild last night in a shootout. The last time the two faced off in January, the Capitals came away with a 3-1 victory.

The Caps were able to exploit Detroit’s injury woes, coming away with a critical two points. With the New York Islanders idle and the Pittsburgh Penguins losing to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Caps’ win helped to launch them back into second in the Metropolitan division standings, one point ahead of the Islanders and four ahead of the Penguins. Pending the result of the other games tonight (Ottawa vs. Toronto), the Capitals’ victory helped to solidify their standings and another chance to lock up a playoff slot.

First period

After a few possession changes early, the Capitals earned a power play at when Daniel Cleary got called for high-sticking on Brooks Laich 1:51 into the game. The Caps had trouble finding lanes to the net for the first minute of their power play, but took advantage of their opportunity. A lucky bounce for Evgeny Kuznetsov found the stick of Detroit’s Drew Miller, a deflection that launched past goalie Petr Mrazek and gave the Caps an early lead. Matt Niskanen and Mike Green were credited with the assists.

Alex Ovechkin drew a holding call at 10:18 on Henrik Zetterberg. Detroit pushed hard, but faced good defensive play from the Caps and were unable to convert to tie the game.

Second period

The second period started with heavy pressure from the Red Wings, keeping the Caps on their heels as they tried to fend off plays from the point and slot. Braden Holtby did a great job of turning away pucks, limiting rebounds that would have led to opportunities.

The sustained pressure led to a penalty call as Brooks Orpik drew a tripping penalty on Luke Glendening at 1:56 while trying to clear the front of the net. Fortunately, the Caps defense forced most of the chances for Detroit to the outside and prevented scoring opportunities.

Mike Green proved his slapshot is back at 4:42 of the second. Blasting a rocket from the top of the faceoff circle, Green’s shot glanced off defenseman Drew Miller and found a way past Mrazek’s glove, careening into the top of the net to give the Caps a 2-0 lead. Both Tim Gleason and Alex Ovechkin had assists on the goal.

At 5:38 of the period, the Capitals had an opportunity to put the game out of reach and take a big lead when the Red Wings were called for too many men on the ice. Despite the free chance, the Caps could hardly put any oomph into their power play and had issues with turnovers.

Another opportunity presented itself when Marek Zidlicky was called for clipping at 10:28, upending Tom Wilson on the blue line. This time, the Caps kept the puck in the Red Wings zone but were unable to find a lane to the net. With the penalty winding down, the Caps put pressure in front of the net, but it led to a goalie interference call against Joel Ward when he lunged for the puck behind Mrazek at 12:14 of the period. The Red Wings quickly capitalized on their power play and forward Darren Helm scored his 14th goal of the season, a chip-in shot at 12:59 of the period. Pavel Datsyuk was responsible for setting up Helm, with another assist credited to Teemu Pulkkinen.

The Red Wings had a great chance to tie it up with the second period winding down when Mike Green was called for a delay of game penalty. After a couple of close calls and rebounds, the Caps were able to move the puck out of the zone — but Troy Brouwer used his glove to clear it, drawing another penalty and giving the Red Wings a two-man advantage for a minute and a half.

Fortunately for the Caps, the Wings were unable to synchronize their power play and set up a goal-scoring play. A couple of timely clears helped out, preventing Detroit from finding the tying goal. Braden Holtby had an incredible split that left Caps fans mesmerized, but also concerned about the immediate impact of a groin injury. Thankfully, bad news was averted as the Caps trainer quickly cleared Holtby of any serious injury and he played on.

Third period

The third period started slowly, with the Caps playing conservatively to maintain the lead. They were active when needed to turn away the Wings rushes, but also relied heavily on Holtby who turned away several shots from the points and the ensuing rebounds. Given the close game, the Caps wisely shied away from drawing penalties to ensure that Datsyuk and the Wings wouldn’t have another power play opportunity.

Final takeaways

Holtby had another impact game, with key saves to keep the Caps in the game. The second and third periods shots on goal were dominated by Detroit, but Holtby stayed strong and kept the Caps in the lead.

Mike Green has had some big goals of late. His blue hockey stick has been magic, making significant and timely contributions to the Caps goal-scoring efforts.

Unnecessary and unfortunate penalties. The dazzling goaltending of Holtby has bailed the Caps out for much of the regular season, but this trend has to stop as we look towards the playoffs.

Red Wings’ left wing Drew Miller had a tough night, with both of the Caps goals coming via deflections off him.  He might want to watch his stick and glove for the next few games.

Washington Capitals Game 79 Recap: Caps erase disastrous start but lose in OT

The Washington Capitals entered Saturday night’s game with a chance to clinch a playoff spot, but they will have to wait at least one more day after losing to the desperate Ottawa Senators in overtime.

In the first ten minutes of the game, the Caps took three penalties and allowed three goals to put themselves in a 3-0 deficit that looked insurmountable. After regrouping in the locker room, a different Capitals team came out to dominate the remainder of regulation tying the game at three, but another mistake cost them in the extra frame. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 75 Recap: Slow start dooms Washington as Caps come up short

Exasperated sighs and disappointed faces told the tale on Saturday afternoon in the Washington Capitals locker room. Squandering an early 5-on-3 power play, the Caps spotted the Nashville Predators a 3-0 lead before clawing back to pull within a goal twice. A late flurry of shots with an extra attacker wasn’t enough, and Washington ultimately fell 4-3 to the Predators at Verizon Center.

[Read more…]

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 4, Buffalo Sabres 3 (SO)

FIRST STAR: Evgeny Kuznetsov. The rookie had one of his better games of the season, with a power play goal, shootout goal and eight shots on goal.

SECOND STAR: Alex Ovechkin. Did not score, but had a whopping 22 shot attempts (9 SOG, 10 blocked, 3 misses) with three credited hits, and it seemed like twice or thrice that. Ovechkin was pretty much a one-man wrecking crew and get very little help from his mates, especially of the veteran variety.

THIRD STAR: Braden Holtby. Did not have his best game of the season, but playing the second of a back-to-back on the road he was still sharp, spectacularly so at times, and he needed to be since his defense took much of the night off.

Washington Capitals Game 70 Recap: Washington stellar in win over Boston

Before Sunday night’s game against the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz discussed the mindset needed of a team vying to secure a spot in the postseason, saying that his team’s work ethic had “slipped a little bit.”

For all 60 minutes, Washington’s worth ethic was on display as they took control of momentum from the opening shift en route to a 2-0 win over the Bruins at Verizon Center.

Energy from both the Caps, who only added to their playoff cushion with the victory, and their fans played a role from the beginning and helped deliver Washington to just their second win in the last five games, a set that made up a season-long homestand.

At 12:34 of the first, John Carlson struck from the point on the power play, and the Caps finally had something to show for their physical domination and unwillingness to back down the Bruins’ own physicality.

Nate Schmidt scored a rare goal with 6:23 left in the second, his first of the season. “I actually was trying to look to see if there was off the back side of the post because the [Boston] forwards were coming up trying to block it,” Schmidt said. “I was just trying to get it to the net, let’s be honest,” he said with a laugh. Not only was the defenseman exuberant in the huddle immediately after the goal, he clearly wore the emotions of a player with a sizable weight lifted off his shoulders in the locker room afterward. “It’s like ‘finally.’ It’s like, you’re just glad it finally happened but I guess there was no better time, better late than never.”

Backstrom’s assist on the Carlson goal moved him into first place by himself on the franchise’s all-time assists list, breaking a three-way tie with Alex Ovechkin and Michal Pivonka, who had 418 each. He extended his lead with a secondary helper on the Schmidt tally.

Backstrom called the feat a “nice bonus,” adding, “it’s always [nice] when you get credit for something; maybe you’ve done something good. But, you have to remember, that I played with a lot of good players over the years and without the teammates, coaches and the fans, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Braden Holtby had 32 saves on the night, extending his career high for shutouts in a season to eight.

CAPS NOTES

  • Backstrom’s two assists extended his league-high total for the season to 56.
  • Trotz said that Dmitry Orlov (wrist) would have increased intensity with his rehabilitation this week, and that he had a higher probability of going to Hershey for a rehab assignment after the Caps return from a three-game road trip early next week.
  • In addition, Trotz said that he had yet to make a decision on whether Philipp Grubauer or Holtby would start the back end of the team’s back-to-back set on Monday night in Buffalo.
  • Interestingly, Holtby leads the NHL in shutouts since the 2012-13 season with 16.
  • Tom Wilson had a game-high six hits, while drawing a penalty and committing none.

Washington Capitals Game 67 Recap: Capitals hand 6-1 loss to struggling Sabres

­The Buffalo Sabres started the scoring against the Washington Capitals, but the game quickly slipped away from them as the Caps scored six unanswered goals to win 6-1. It was the Sabres’ fourth consecutive loss.

Alex Ovechkin scored an NHL-leading 44th goal on Washington’s second power play attempt of the night. Ovechkin was also awarded a penalty shot later in the game after Andre Benoit was called for holding on a breakaway, but did not convert on the attempt. [Read more…]

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Minnesota Wild

First star:

Braden Holtby.

He looked all set to tie Marc-Andre Fleury for the NHL lead with 8 shutouts, but all that was spoiled late in the third period. Minnesota’s second goal took three tries to swat in, and Holtby made a sprawling save just seconds before. He can’t steal every game.

Second star:

Curtis Glencross.

New guy Glencross has a nickname that followed him to Washington that originated from his days in Edmonton. “Scoreface,” they call him. He said someone must’ve had a “brain-wave” about it.

Third star:

Marcus Johansson.

Johansson hit more iron tonight than a golfer on a typical day, and he was all over the ice. Whatever the post didn’t stop, Dubnyk did.

Washington Capitals Game 66 Recap: Wild score two in third period to top Capitals 2-1

Jason Pominville’s two goal performance led the Minnesota Wild to a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals Thursday, their fourth straight win. It was Minnesota’s seventh win in eight games.

Both Pominville’s goals came in the third period, and blew the game wide open after nearly 50 minutes of a stingy defensive game.

Minnesota was forced to play much of the game with five defensemen after a hard hit by Tom Wilson and Brooks Laich knocked defenseman Matt Dumba out of the game in the first period.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk stopped 21 shots to earn his 26th win of the season. Dubnyk has won 13 of 19 games since joining the Wild. Washington goalie Braden Holtby made 30 saves in his 57th start this season.

“It was a close game, like we expected it, “ said Holtby. “We got an early lead, and it was kind of a battle after that. It’s a fortunate bounce, goes their way on the first goal… games go like that sometimes.”

Washington’s only goal came courtesy of Curtis Glencross at 2:51 of the first period. The goal was Glencross’ first with the Capitals after being traded from the Calgary Flames March 1, and his 10th of the season.

Glencross’ goal came on Washington’s only power play opportunity against Minnesota’s second-ranked penalty kill, which was 47 on their last 48 shorthanded situations.

“They’re a team that battles hard and competes hard, and they do a good job blocking shots and getting in lanes,” said Glencross. ”They see the middle of the ice good, and they collapse good in front of the net, so they don’t allow a lot through the middle. That’s the key to a good penalty kill.”

Alex Ovechkin was kept out with an upper body injury against the Wild, and missed his first game of the 2014-15 season. Washington struggled to produce offense without their leading scorer.

“He takes away the eyes of their top players,” said defenseman Karl Alzner. “He makes them think twice. He stretches the zone, he comes in hard, he’s good one-on-one. He really makes defensemen and their forwards play tougher minutes.”

Andre Burakovsky, recalled from the Hershey Bears, took Ovechkin’s place in the lineup, and skated with Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom on Washington’s top line. Burakovsky logged 16:49 TOI, his third highest this season.

Washington was held to just 25 shots in the loss, in a game marked by heavy hits and tight defense.

“It’s sort of like trench warfare. You just have to take your inch-by-inch, and when you make a mistake, they’re going to capitalize on it,” said Washington coach Barry Trotz. “That’s how they are, and I thought we played a pretty solid game overall.”

 

 

 

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