May 24, 2022

Washington Capitals Game 3 Recap: Caps dominate defending Cup champs


After a thumping from the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, the Washington Capitals came out flying Thursday night for a red, white, and blue 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Good ol’ American boys John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and Matt Niskanen put up a combined five points on the night.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Caps win without a contribution from the captain, who completed a dazzling passing sequence with his second goal of the season in the third period. [Read more…]

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…]

Winter Classic: The fan experience


The Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks line up for introductions before the Winter Classic, Jan. 1, 2015. (photo courtesy Erika Schnure)

I moved back to Sweet Home Chicago from Washington, DC in 2011, but that hasn’t stopped me from keeping up with the Washington Capitals. I’m that weird person who shows up to Chicago Blackhawks viewing parties in a John Carlson t-shirt and drives a car with a custom Capitals-dedicated Illinois license plate. Thankfully, all my Blackhawks fan friends understand, and I’ve even convinced some of them to change any negative opinions of the Capitals and their players. They, however, have been unsuccessful in convincing me to like the song “Chelsea Dagger.”

Even when it was only a rumor that Washington, DC would be hosting the 2015 Winter Classic, I knew I had to go. When that rumor was confirmed by Capitals owner Ted Leonsis during the 2013 Capitals Convention, I made a mental note to save up for the trip.

On New Year’s Day, my boyfriend (a Blackhawks fan) and I ascended the escalator out of the Navy Yard Metro station and encountered a huge mass of people. Initially, we were hoping to get into the “fan experience” area in the Bullpen, but the line to get in stretched around the block, and security was being stingy with allowing people to enter. Instead, we met up with some friends at a local bar, and around 11:30am, we headed toward the entrance of Nationals Park.

The line to get into the park was long, but moved surprisingly quickly. After a quick bag check and wanding, we were in the ballpark gates in around 10 minutes. Despite the crush of people outside, the park was very maneuverable and never once felt claustrophobic. When we dropped by a concession stand to get some lunch, we were shocked by the incredibly short lines.


A display outside section 102 of Nationals Park during the 2015 Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks. (photo courtesy Erika Schnure)

In Section 102, we found our seats and discovered we were seated next to two Blackhawks fans who had traveled from the Quad Cities in Illinois to be there. Everyone in the section was incredibly friendly and just happy to be attending such an event. My section was not the only one without conflict: Capitals fan Abram Fox, sitting in Section 133, “found the entire atmosphere to be positive.”

The execution of the event was nearly flawless. I never stood in line for concessions or a beer vendor, and amazingly, I never encountered a line at the restroom. Even when I stopped at the merchandise store during the second intermission (mostly to avoid hearing Lee Greenwood), the store was crowded but orderly, and cashier lines were swift and efficient.

The only snag I ran into had to do with the ushers. As I was returning to my seat after grabbing a beer, I was about to head down the aisle, as there was a stoppage in play, when the usher stopped me and said I had to wait for the whistle. As I mentioned, play was already stopped. I looked at the usher, a little confused, and said, “But they’re not playing right now.” He was insistent, and so was I. Finally, he caved and let me go before the next faceoff. Others reported similar experiences with ushers. I don’t really blame the ushers — they’d probably never ushered a hockey game before in their lives.

Despite the usher situation, the entire Winter Classic experience was incredible. Nationals Park looked beautiful, everyone was in very high spirits, and thankfully, we were treated to a very exciting game. My Blackhawks fan companion wasn’t happy with the score, but it didn’t put a damper on the day for him. He called it an “unforgettable” day.

Capitals celebrate the 4-3 win

The Washington Capitals celebrate a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2015 (photo courtesy Erika Schnure)

Winter Classic: Caps top Blackhawks on Brouwer’s late goal

For everyone associated with the Washington Capitals — the organization, the team and the fans — the 2015 Winter Classic could not have gone any better. Perfect weather conditions, perfect ice conditions, just the right amount of pageantry and celebration, an overflow capacity crowd of 98.5 percent Caps fans, a well-played game by both teams, and a game-winning goal by the home team with less than 13 second remaining.

Troy Brouwer’s power play goal with 12.9 seconds left in regulation lifted the Washington Capitals over the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in the NHL’s regular season showcase, the 2015 Winter Classic.

Brouwer’s goal was set up by a very light hooking call against Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews with 1:13 remaining. It just another in a long line of strange penalties and no-calls in what was an uneven and disjointed officiated game against both teams — perhaps the only blemish on the day.

Karl Alzner was carrying the puck in the left corner when Toews’ stick glazed Alzner’s midsection, not even enough to slow the Caps defenseman or knock him off the puck. Regardless, referee Francois St. Laurent’s arm raised, sending Toews to the box.

During the power play, the Caps won a faceoff at center ice and Alex Ovechkin carried the puck into the offensive zone. He tried to get a shot away, but was slashed by Brandon Saad. Two Blackhawks reached for the puck, but Brouwer was there first. He spun an whipped a shot that beat Chicago goalie Corey Crawford to the glove side.

Brouwer seemed to not see the puck go in at first, then dropped his stick, clenched both fists and raised his arms in the air as his teammates clobbered him in celebration.

Saad was whistled for a penalty on the play, but the damage was already done.

The game was played at a 2-2 tie much of the second and third periods. What started with offensive fireworks in the first 23 minutes ended as a tense, defensive struggle decided on a pair of power plays.

The Caps scored on theirs late, and the Blackhawks failed on theirs in the second period, a 5-on-3 for 1:31.

At 9:18 of the second, Tom Wilson was whistled for goalkeeper interference as he and Crawford linked skates above the top of the crease after Wilson had been knocked off-stride by a Blackhawk defender.  Just 29 seconds later, John Carlson clubbed Chicago forward Andrew Shaw with a two-handed shiver to the upper chest and was sent off for high-sticking.

But the Caps killed the ensuing 5-on-3 and the remainder of the second penalty to keep the tie intact.

Braden Holtby was again superb. He made 33 saves, including four on Chicago’s five power plays.

Eric Fehr started the scoring 7:01 into the game. He tracked down a loose puck, outraced Brent Seabrook into the zone and skated in on Crawford. After a quick deke, Fehr beat the goalie glove-side for his 11th goal of the season and third outdoor goal of his career, becoming the NHL’s all-time leading goal-scorer in outdoor games.

Alex Ovechkin, who had a monster game, collected his 18th of the season at 11:58 of the first, beating Crawford on a rebound of a shot by Mike Green from the point.

Patrick Sharp made it 2-1 less than two minutes later on a power play goal with Nick Backstrom in the box for holding, and Saad tied it at 3:15 of the second period after a bad turnover by John Carlson turned into a tic-tac-toe between Toews, Marian Hossa and finished by Saad.

At the end of the day, the win was worth two points in the standings. But the spectacle of the Winter Classic at Nationals Park will long linger in the minds of Caps fans, the organization, the players and the league for years to come. The festivities were everything the league could hope for in these games, and the game D.C. went off spectacularly.

Winter Classic: Leonsis calls 2015 game “the best Winter Classic”

For the host team, sometimes a Winter Classic win feels like more than two points, but you can hardly fault them. The hockey world was watching, and the Capitals delivered. Troy Brouwer scored the game-winner for the Washington Capitals against his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks, with seconds remaining in regulation. The Capitals won 3-2, and it was as thrilling a finish as you’d expect from an event like the Winter Classic. It was made for the big time.

After Washington’s victory, Washington Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis cautioned, as if to remind himself, “I don’t want to make this more than it is.”

The Winter Classic has been the NHL’s marquee event since 2008, and Leonsis had been gunning for one of his own ever since his Capitals visited the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2011.

In the end, the game is still worth two points, but Leonsis hopes it is a signal of future successes for the franchise he’s devoted so much to over the years.

“I mean, I’m hoping that we can continue to be a franchise that can accomplish bigger things that winning the Winter Classic.”

For Leonsis, it wasn’t only about the spectacle, it was about the experience. His deep investment in the event and its execution added an emotional factor to the day.

“I knew that our fans would fill the stands, be a sea of red,” said Leonsis. “I knew that the NHL really has their execution of this event down. And we were good hosts. We spent a lot of time – I personally spent a lot of time – walking around the building. I saw all the care over every detail.”

Leading up to the event, some felt that there wasn’t a lot of buzz or excitement surrounding the Chicago – Washington matchup, since both teams have played in multiple outdoor games, and neither are conference rivals. So while the game was worth as much as any other regular season contest, it didn’t possess the spark that typically accompanies matchups between divisional and conference rivals.

Despite doubts, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wouldn’t have allowed Washington as the host of the game if he didn’t believe it would succeed.

“The fact of the matter is, we wouldn’t have brought the Winter Classic here, despite Ted’s persistence, if we didn’t think it was right,” Bettman told reporters after the game. “It’s Ted’s persistence, not just in pursuing this event, but in making the Caps such an important part of the sports scene in Washington.”

“It’s Ted’s pursuit and persistence — in making the Capitals such an important part of the community – that brought us to the point that we believed that by bringing the Winter Classic to Washington we could have a great event and that’s what we had.”

Leonsis felt the league’s faith in his franchise was rewarded. “It does feel good to have the league believe in us, and I think this was the best Winter Classic.”

“If you look at the quality of the game, the speed of the game, the quality of the ice … I think the weather was absolutely perfect. And to win at the buzzer basically, it makes for great theater, great drama.”

Besides his team winning the game, Leonsis cherished a moment he witnessed before the fanfare of the day began.

“I was walking to do an interview this morning, and there was a mother and daughter, and they had their arms around each other, and they just had the biggest smiles on their faces. I just stopped, and I looked at them,” said Leonsis. “One of the ladies blew me a kiss. I mean, those are the kind of moments you want to capture. You want to make lifelong memories.”


Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Chicago Blackhawks 11/7/2014

The Washington Capitals finally found their way back into the win column Saturday night with a 3-2 win in Chicago, and they didn’t even need a shootout to win it!

After going down 2-0, the Caps scored three unanswered goals to down their Winter Classic foes in Chicago and snap a five-game losing streak.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 81 Recap: Caps dump Blackhawks 4-0 in meaningless exhibition

In a completely meaningless hockey game at the end of a lost season, the Washington Capitals defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0 before a less-than capacity crowd at the Verizon Center Friday night. That the Blackhawks had nothing to play for other than not getting any more injured than they already are speak a lot to the final score of the contest.

Jaroslav Halak made 33 saves in the shutout.

The Caps got going early in the first period. Just 1:03 in, Marcus Kruger went off for a holding penalty. 1:01 into the power play, John Carlson slid the puck to Alex Ovechkin in his normal spot in the left wing faceoff circle and as he’s done so many times before, Ovechkin buried it past Corey Crawford, registering his 51st goal of the season.

A few minutes later, Dmitry Orlov’s shot from the point was knocked down, redirected right to Jay Beagle, alone on the right post. Beagle calmly knocked it to the back of the net for his third of the season and the Caps had a two-goal lead before the half-way point of the first period.

On the next shift, Joel Ward sprung loose on a breakaway and beat Crawford stick-side, but his shot rang off the post.

The Capitals made it 3-0 just 1:19 into the second period. Ovechkin handed the puck to Nick Backstrom and the Swede sent a shot from an almost impossibly tight angle past Crawford for his 18th goal of the campaign.

They tacked on another one with 3:44 left in the frame. Beagle, again on the doorstep, banged home a pass from Jason Chimera from behind the goal for his second of the game, and his first multi-goal game of his career.

The Capitals conclude the 2013-14 season Sunday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning, at which point a critical offseason will commence.

Washington Capitals Game 1 Recap: Grabovski notches hat trick but Caps fall to Blackhawks, 6-4

For the third time in a week, the Washington Capitals took on the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, but this time, it counted for something. Unfortunately for the Caps, it counts more for Chicago, as two late goals by the defending Stanley Cup champions led them to a 6-4 win in the season opener

After a long banner-raising ceremony honoring the Cup champs, the puck was finally dropped on a brand-new NHL season.

Emotions ran high on both benches: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, freshly back from his torch escapades in Greece; and the Blackhawks, still riding the wave of their Cup run.

The Hawks wasted no time getting on the board. Brandon Bollig scored just 4:06 into the first. But it seemed that for every goal the Blackhawks buried, the Capitals sneaked one past Corey Crawford shortly after.

And how fitting it was that the first Capitals goal scored this season was by its captain, Ovechkin, and even more apropos, on the power play, which proved to be as efficient as ever Tuesday night.

Patrick Kane scored near the end of the first; Mikhail Grabovski got one back for the Capitals. And so it went.

Brent Seabrook put the Hawks up 3-2; Grabovski deflected the first of two Mike Green power play shots to even things at 3-3.

Less than five minutes later, Grabovski deflected another Green point shot to make it 4-3 to give him his first career hat trick in his first regular season game as a Capital.

But only a few minutes later Brandon Saad got behind the Caps defense — notably veteran John Erskine — and equalized it for the Hawks. Defenseman Johnny Oduya increased the lead by one several minutes later on a goal Braden Holtby would probably like to have back, deflecting off his catching glove and slipping by him into a gaping net, to make it 5-4 Blackhawks late in the third.

The Capitals had a prime 5-on-3 opportunity late in the third period they couldn’t make good on, then another 50 seconds with a one man-advantage that yielded scoring chances but no goals. Crawford, as he has been so many times for the Blackhawks, was brilliant in killing the Caps power play.

It would be remiss to not mention the three assists Nick Backstrom had, all on the power play. Grabovski finished with three goals and an assist, and Ovechkin added an assist on Grabovski’s power play goal as well.

Despite pulling Holtby in the final minute, the Capitals still came up short to the reigning champions. Mike Green attempted a diving save in front of the empty net to thwart Marion Hossa’s scoring attempt, but the Hawks were awarded the goal.

In the end, it was a rousing opening night act. The Caps did many things right. They did many things wrong. They had a third period lead they could not hold. In the grand scheme of things, a one-goal loss to the defending champs on their home ice isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it feels like an opportunity slipped through the Caps hands in this one.

Washington Capitals Game 72 Re-Cap: Caps lackluster in 5-2 loss to Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks faced the Washington Capitals without captain Jonathan Toews while Caps star center Nick Backstrom is still out with the same type of concussion injury as Toews (the good news is that Nick is skating more and more everyday).

The Hawks came into the contest 6-3-1 in their last games contests, sitting at sixth place in the rough and tumble Western conference. Meanwhile, the Caps were trying to upright the ship after Friday’s loss to Winnipeg.

To say the boys were struggling would be an understatement. They were hemmed in their end for much of the first period with no shots on goal until 16 minutes into the game (from Mike Green). The Caps’ defense seemed to be skating in mud allowing the Blackhawks to conduct skating clinics in their zone. [Read more…]

Caps in Advance: Week 23

Things were looking bad for the Washington Capitals a few weeks ago, when the team was shut out in consecutive home games and saw several teams, including the Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres, vaulting them in the race for 8th in the Eastern Conference.

Since then, the Caps have taken seven of eight possible points in their past four games to establish themselves in the 8th spot, with a four-point lead over ninth-place Winnipeg. For a few glorious minutes after Sunday’s 2-0 shutout of the Toronto Maple Leafs and before the Florida Panthers’ 2-0 win over Carolina, the Caps were even in first place in the Southeast Division. As it stands now they’re just one point back of the Panthers, who have a game in hand on Washington.

Tuesday’s game against the Islanders is the first of a five-game, coast-to-coast road trip for Washington. Less than a month remains between now and the end of the regular season, and this road trip is the last significant stretch of road games the Caps will face. It’s incumbent on them to continue their winning ways with points against several middle-of-the-pack teams, particularly the rival Jets and a strong Chicago Blackhawks squad. [Read more…]

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