May 28, 2015

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…]

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 3, New York Islanders 2

Here are the DSP Three Stars from the Caps’ 3-2 overtime win over the Islanders on Saturday afternoon.

FIRST STAR: Braden Holtby was nothing short of magnificent, as his 30 saves — 18 in the final 25 minutes — were the instrumental factor in the win.

SECOND STAR: Brooks Laich’s assist on the Caps’ second goal was just part of his contribution, as he joined Tom Wilson and Jason Chimera in adding a team-high four hits.

THIRD STAR: Matt Niskanen tied the game just before the first intermission and provided a significant lift heading into the break, and Washington maintained a lot of that energy for much of the remainder of the game.

Washington Capitals Game 60 Recap: Holtby stymies Islanders in shootout as Caps win 3-2

In arguably their biggest win of the regular season, the Washington Capitals lost a one-goal lead late in the third period, only to see Braden Holtby stop all three shots he faced in the shootout and secure a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday at Verizon Center.

The Caps got the lead from Eric Fehr with 5:34 to go in regulation. Fehr got the puck in the Washington zone via an errant New York pass, and fed Brooks Laich near the center line. Laich gave it right back to Fehr, who put a blistering snap shot past Johnson from the slot.

The Islanders forced overtime with 48 seconds left after Washington played a conservative game for the final few minutes, as Ryan Strome put a tight-angle shot behind Holtby as the Islanders skated 6-on-5 with the goalie pulled.
[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 54 Recap: Missed opportunities haunt Capitals in 3-1 loss to Flyers

A season-low shots on goal total and an otherwise underwhelming showing for the Washington Capitals led to a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon.

Alex Ovechkin scored Washington’s lone goal in a 14-shot outing, the team’s fewest since March 18, 2011. Braden Holtby faced 25 on his end from the Flyers.

Philadelphia gave Washington six power play chances, but they were able to convert only one on Ovechkin’s 33rd of the year.

It seemed like Philadelphia was daring the Capitals to take over the game, and they had plenty of opportunity to do so. Perhaps no chance was as ripe as Flyers goalie Ray Emery replacing Steve Mason, who was carted off the ice with an undisclosed lower body injury in the second period.

“We were all saying that on the bench, this is a great opportunity for us to be able to pepper him and we just didn’t do it,” said defenseman Karl Alzner. “It just wasn’t a good game for us.”

The Capitals have been able to string together winning streaks of three games all season, but never more than that. A fourth consecutive win has been elusive, but the players don’t really keep track of that stuff. They just want to win.

“I don’t really look into it,” said Alzner. “Obviously you want to have as many wins in a row as possible. It’s just a weird coincidence that we can’t get past that, but if we can keep going three-and-one, three-and-one, three-and-one, I don’t think anyone would be upset with that. We gotta take advantage of the opportunities we have.”

Brooks Laich doesn’t feel that Sunday’s game was a measuring stick for Washington’s chances during their California road trip, nor the prospect of the trip a motivating factor in the team’s performance.

“We had good success on that trip last year,” said Laich. “We don’t look at that and put extra emphasis on this game.”

“We battled for two months here to close the gap and could’ve today sat at number one in the division. That’s enough of a motivation right there.”

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 3, Detroit Red Wings 1

The Washington Capitals were outshot 27-17, but led the only place it counted — the scoresheet — as they beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 at Verizon Center. Troy Brouwer, John Carlson and Joel Ward all scored, Braden Holtby had another terrific night, and Jimmy Howard was taken off on a stretcher after injuring himself on Brouwer’s goal.

Oh, and Nicklas Backstrom was snubbed once again for the All-Star game. Shame.

All in all, if you’re outshot by 10 at home and win, you take it.

First Star: Braden Holtby. I’ve been reluctant of too much praise for the fear of ruining a good thing, but Holtby has really taken his game to another level. Is he finally living up to his talent? Is the flourishing under the tutelage of Mitch Korn, goalie whisperer? Whatever, he’s run his record to 20-8-7 and is thriving as the Caps workhorse in net.

Second Star: John Carlson. Another guy I’m normally slow to praise, but Carly had a goal and five blocked shots.

Third Star: Brooks Laich. On the scoresheet again with an assist and really just rounding into playing shape and contributing it seems like on a nightly basis.

Honorable Mention: Barry Trotz, for coaching his way through the shiner left behind when Marcus Johansson bopped him in the face the other night with his stick. Way to fight through it coach.

Washington Capitals Game 39 Recap: Caps find redemption against Leafs in high-scoring affair

The Washington Capitals rode into frosty Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night red-hot. Coming into the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Capitals lost just one regulation game over their past fourteen, a 10-1-3 record since Dec. 4.

With a sugar high from last week’s exciting Winter Classic victory and a home win against the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon, the Capitals continue to enjoy a great start to 2015. Their year continued rolling along with a 6-2 blowout win against the Leafs, a dominating performance that exacted revenge for their 6-2 loss in Air Canada Centre on Nov. 29. [Read more…]

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 4, Florida Panthers 3

The Washington Capitals knocked off the Florida Panthers 4-3 in regulation on Sunday afternoon. For our full recap, click here.

First Star: Alex Ovechkin. Goal (19), assist. HIs power play one-timer was from his sweet spot and his assist on Burakovsky’s — which turned out to be the game-winner — was just a case of Ovi wreaking havoc. 3 SOG and 3 hits too.

Second Star: Brooks Laich. Used the croquet move (through the wickets) for his goal. 3 hits too.

Third Star: Matt Niskanen. No points, but five shots on goal. Combined with John Carlson’s four SOG and Karl Alzner’s goal, the defensemen are doing a real good job directing rubber toward the net.

Washington Capitals Game 38 Recap: Caps use second-period rally to defeat Panthers

Another post-goal meltdown had the Washington Capitals on their heels and the fans on edge. Barry Trotz has talked about resilience since the first day of training camp, and got just that from his team on Sunday evening with a 4-3 home win over the Florida Panthers.

[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”.

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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 26 Recap: Ovechkin scores two as Caps hold Lightning at bay

Three critical road games against two division opponents and team among the league’s elite, and three games where an early goal gave the Washington Capitals a win. Alex Ovechkin scored just 40 seconds into the game, and the team got consistent scoring throughout as they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Tuesday.

The Caps held the league’s most prolific offense to just two goals, and never trailed their former Southeast Division rivals.

[Read more…]

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