July 18, 2018

Washington Capitals Game 18 Recap: Ovechkin breaks record but Caps fall to Stars

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

ALEX OVECHKIN BECOMES ALL-TIME LEADING RUSSIAN-BORN GOAL SCORER

Alex Ovechkin finally broke Sergei Fedorov’s record for goals scored by a Russian-born player, tying the game at two in the third period. But moments later, Jason Chimera’s turnover, on a play where he said, “I [effed] up,” put the puck on Jason Spezza’s stick for a point-blank shot, and the Washington Capitals fell to the Dallas Stars 3-2 at Verizon Center.

Ovechkin’s ninth of the season marks his 484th career NHL goal, eclipsing one-time teammate and Hall of Famer Sergei Fedorov. [Read more…]

Building a lineup out of the Caps’ castaways

Mike Ribeiro addressing media during Washington Capitals Development Camp Day 6 Scrimmage at Kettler,  7/14/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Ribeiro addressing media during Washington Capitals Development Camp Day 6 Scrimmage at Kettler, 7/14/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

After seeing Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro torch the Washington Capitals last Saturday, fans in the Verizon Center were left wondering, what if?

What if former general manager George McPhee had held onto the team’s top prospect in Forsberg and found a way to re-sign Ribeiro? Would those players be producing at the rate they are now for the Nashville Predators? How much better would a Caps’ team that lacks secondary scoring look with Forsberg’s 59 points and Ribeiro’s 60?

Those are the questions that will keep fans up at night. [Read more…]

Caps Pick Up Ribeiro, Say Goodbye to Eakin in Draft Day Deal

For the second year in a row, the Washington Capitals addressed a major roster need at forward in a draft night deal, picking up center Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars in exchange for forward Cody Eakin and the 54th overall pick in this year’s Entry Draft.

In Ribeiro, General Manager George McPhee hopes to have finally found an answer to Washington’s absence of a second-line center. The 32-year-old Montreal native, with 10 NHL seasons under his belt, has recorded at least 51 points in his past eight campaigns, including a career high 27 goals and 56 assists for the Dallas Stars in 2007-08. Last season, Ribeiro recorded 18 goals and 45 assists in 74 games, ranking 17th overall in the NHL in points and 11th in assists among centers. His 63 points would have put him second in the Capitals last year, behind only Alex Ovechkin. [Read more…]

Caps in Advance: Week 21

There are three games on tap for the Washington Capitals this week, but I can guarantee that this morning every member of the team is squarely focused on the trade deadline at 3 pm this afternoon.

With positive results on both ends of a back-to-back over the weekend, Washington positioned themselves as buyers on trade deadline, or at least not sellers.  General manager George McPhee is renowned for not showing his hand when it comes to trades, so expect some surprises today.

Around 20 games remain in the regular season, and the Southeast Division is going to be a three-team dogfight for the next five weeks.  The Capitals, Florida Panthers, and Winnipeg Jets all sit within three points of each other; as the league standings currently hold, the Division winner will be the 3rd seed in the playoffs, and the other two teams will be battling for the final spot in the Eastern Conference.  The teams sitting in 4th-7th have begun to separate from those in 8th on down. [Read more…]

Aucoin up, Eakin down first of many moves for Caps?

Keith Aucoin mixing it up in a January game for Hershey. (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

The Washington Capitals made a flurry of moves Thursday for what may be just the start of a very busy couple of weeks for GM George McPhee as the NHL trade deadline approaches.

The move with the most obvious impact was sending forward Cody Eakin down to AHL Hershey and recalling forward Keith Aucoin.  Aucoin, 33, leads the AHL in points (70) and assists (59) with 11 goals in 43 games with Hershey this season.  Aucoin in only 30 assists shy of matching the AHL record for assists in one season.  He’s a seasoned AHL playmaker and right now, the Caps can use all the veteran help they can get.

Eakin, 20, has four goals and four assists in 29 games with the Capitals this season.  A widely heralded prospect, Eakin just hasn’t been able to get on a run with the Caps, and recently has been helming the fourth line, getting around six minutes a game under Coach Dale Hunter.  At this point in his development, it’s better for him to be playing every day at Hershey getting plenty of playing time.

The switch starts to address one of the major needs for the Capitals, though it still perpetuates another.  The Caps are getting very shaky contributions from their centers and Aucoin brings a more seasoned game than Eakin right now.  Unfortunately, it’s not just on the offensive end the Caps need help with regard to their center position.  On defense, the center has to act as a third defenseman, and Aucoin is small in stature (listed at 5’11, 170) as are fellow centers Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault.

It’s not a perfect fit, but the Caps need to try everything at their roster disposal until they decide to get into the market for a second line center.

The Capitals also made a pair of minor league trades Thursday.  In one, they sent RW Matt Ford to Philadelphia in exchange for 22-year old defenseman Kevin Marshall.  Marshall recorded five points (two goals, three assists) for AHL Adirondack this season and appeared in 10 NHL games for the Flyers, collecting eight penalty minutes.  He was a second round pick (41st overall) in the 2007 entry draft for Philly.

In the other deal, the Caps acquired center Mike Carman from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for defenseman Danny Richmond.  Carman, 23, scored six points (three goals, three assists) for the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL.  Carman was a third round pick (81st overall) of Colorado in the 2006 entry draft.

Both players will report to AHL Hershey.  Marshall gives the Caps a little more blue-line depth in the organization.

Matt Ford and Danny Richmond, shown here in a January game in Hershey. (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

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Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Capitals coverage on Twitter @CapitalsDSP.

Capitals recall fighter Joel Rechlicz from AHL Hershey

On the first day back from the NHL All-Star break, the Washington Capitals made a move to address what apparently some in the organization felt was a need, signing and recalling noted pugilist Joel Rechlicz from AHL Hershey and placing the 24 year old forward on the active roster.  He will wear No. 54 for the Caps.

Joel Rechlicz at Caps Training Camp in Sept. 2011 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Rechlicz, known for his hammer fists in the “A”, has one goal and one assist in 27 games with Hershey this season.  He leads the AHL in penalty minutes with 184.  Last season for the Bears, Rechlicz played 28 games and posted one goal and 132 PIMs.

Rechlicz has accumulated 562 penalty minutes in 105 career AHL games with Hershey, Bridgeport and Albany.  The 6’4″, 220-pound forward played 23 HNL games with the New York Islanders in the 2008-09 season, with one assist and 95 penalty minutes.

Eakin, 20, has collected eight points (four goals, four assists) and a plus-three rating in 27 NHL games this season. He made his NHL debut on Nov. 1 vs. Anaheim and recorded his first NHL point (an assist) and scored his first NHL goal on Nov. 4 at Carolina.

Just by looking at his stats, one can tell that the only “skill” Rechlicz brings to the Capitals is his fighting skills and he uses them whenever he gets the chance.  It’s interesting — and maybe a little distressing — that the Caps feel like they need this type of presence on the team these days.  Of course, the way Coach Dale Hunter has employed his fourth line, it’s not like Rechlicz will be taking up the roster space of anyone that was playing a whole lot anyway.

Of course, this could just be a temporary situation, with the Caps on the road this week against Tampa Bay and Montreal, with noted antagonists Steve Downie and Rene Bourque.  Regardless, Rechlicz won’t play more than four minutes a night and will only be asked to punch someone when he does get a sweater.

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Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Capitals coverage on Twitter @CapitalsDSP.

GAME 48 RE-CAP: Hattie for Matty; Caps win without young guns

It’s awesome. You can’t describe that feeling. This is what you dream of. You dream to play in the NHL, but when you get a hat trick, it’s even better. It was just a great feeling.” –Mathieu Perreault after his first career hat trick.

While President Obama was addressing the Nation a few blocks away, the Verizon Center erupted in shock and joy as Mathieu Perreault got his first career hat trick and the Washington Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins, the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, 5-3.

Ice scattered with hats and Hat Trick graphics on scoreboard for Perreault

Earlier in the day, things looked grim to some. The last game that both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom did not play was back on Jan. 31, 2006. Last night was the first game without all three “big stars” since they were drafted, (Ovechkin, Backstrom and Green).The Washington Capitals needed to have players step up their game. And they did indeed. [Read more…]

Caps fourth line bringing little to the table

In recent years, the Washington Capitals fourth line might not have generated a ton of offense, but at least they had a very discernible sense of purpose.  This season, it’s mostly just the left over forwards on the roster jumbled together.

A comment on today’s links post over at Japers Rink spurred a discussion of the role the Caps have asked their fourth liners to perform.  One commenter pined for the days of Matt Bradley skating around, kicking ass and taking names.  While that particular sentiment isn’t unique, it’s also just one function the players on those fourth lines were asked to fill.

The last couple of seasons, the Capitals featured two face-off and penalty kill specialists in Boyd Gordon and David Steckel.  They were both ranked near the top of the face-off leaders in the league and took a bulk of the defensive zone face-offs for this team.  Both players served multiple roles on the team, played a lot on the penalty kill, and forechecked well.

Also on that fourth line was resident bad-ass Matt Bradley, who apparently carried an aura of greatness that transferred to those around him.  But seriously, Bradley forechecked as hard as anyone, had a knack for cashing in against the tougher teams in the league, and filled the Matt Hendricks role when Hendricks still thought of himself as a goal scorer.  But not only did Bradley fight, but it’s how he did it; sticking up for his teammates, putting his body on the line against tougher opponents, stepping in to defend his skilled players when they needed protecting.

Anyone remember this?  Matt Bradley bled for this team and his teammates.

That fourth line featured players that filled multiple roles for the Caps.  Gordon and Steckel killed penalties and took big face-offs.  Bradley brought energy and his willingness to get punched in the face.  The line had a set role for the team, and served as a cohesive unit.

As Caps fans are all too aware, all three have left for greener pastures.  Steckel was traded at the last deadline for the now-departed Jason Arnott, the most recent player brought in to fill the black hole that is “veteran second line center with leadership”, while Gordon and Bradley were allowed to walk via free agency, their places to be filled with younger and less-expensive options.

The Caps fourth line is currently composed of a small, offensive-minded and defensively challenged center, usually rookie Cody Eakin or long-time Hershey shuttle frequent flyer Mathieu Perreault, one winger who’s greatest attribute is his work ethic (Hendricks) and another that, despite his general toughness, doesn’t really bring any discernable skill to the table (Jay Beagle). 

None of the four play special teams.  They have seven goals combined.  Eakin and Perreault have been less than stellar in the dot.  Granted Hendricks occasionally drops the mitts, but he does so reluctantly and mostly against other middleweights in the “get the team and fans fired up” mode.  And other than getting knocked out by Arron Asham, I’m not sure what Jay Beagle does for this team.

It’s apparent coach Dale Hunter wonders the same thing by the way the doles out playing time.  Hendricks, Perreault, Eakin and Beagle receive the least amount of average time on ice per game for anyone that has suited up for the Caps in more than four games this season.  None of the four average even ten minutes per game.

Jeff Halpern was brought in this season in the Boyd Gordon role.  In a perfect world, Halpern would be centering the fourth line, taking the tough defensive-zone draws and killing penalties.  But with the injury to Nicklas Backstrom, and Marcus Johansson’s inability to take a strong grasp of the second line center slot, Halpern has had to help out in the Top Six, which is a whole ‘nother problem.

In the grand scheme of things, the Caps have much bigger problems than the state of the fourth line facing them as the second half of the season grinds away.  They aren’t getting enough shots on goal or creating enough scoring chances.  They have injuries to two of their three best players with no real timetable for their return.  They have a rookie NHL head coach trying to implement a different approach to hockey.

But it is emblematic of the state of affairs for the Caps.  Essentially, the third line (Chimera-Laich-Ward) is filling the role of the fourth line in years past.  Unfortunately, the current fourth line is just little-used, poorly matched spare parts.

Caps injury news: Green to LTIR; Eakin up from Hershey

The Washington Capitals this afternoon recalled forward Cody Eakin from AHL Hershey and placed defenseman Mike Green on Long Term Injured Reserve, eligible to return Feb. 1, according to multiple sources quoting a team spokesperson.

Green has battled a reported groin injury for much of the season.  He tried to return last week, but the return lasted just four and a half periods before he was forced to sit again.  Because to the LTIR designation, Green’s $5.25 million salary is removed from the cap, giving the team greater flexibility making personnel moves.

This is obviously more bad news for Green, who is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season.

Eakin, 20, has bounced back and forth between Washington and Hershey this season on several occasions. He has collected six points (three goals, three assists) and a plus-two rating in 19 NHL games this season. He made his NHL debut on Nov. 1 vs. Anaheim and recorded his first NHL point (an assist) and scored his first NHL goal on Nov. 4 at Carolina.  

 Eakin has recorded 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 18 games with Hershey in the AHL this season.

Eakin uses demotion as opportunity to strengthen skills

Cody Eakin scored his first goal at home (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

For most young hockey players, reaching the NHL is the culmination of a lifelong dream. But many young players that finally get a taste of the NHL fail to understand the reasoning behind being demoted to the American Hockey League after they’ve reached the big leagues. Their inability to grasp the move often leads to poor play in the minors and hinders the chances of getting called back up quickly. Washington Capitals prospect Cody Eakin is the exception to the trend though, as the young 20-year old sees his demotion as an opportunity to strengthen his skills.

Eakin is regarded as one of the more promising center prospects in the Capitals farm system. On the first of November, he got a chance to show his skills in the NHL when the Caps called him up. In almost two months and 19 games of NHL time, Eakin recorded three goals, three assists and was a cumulative plus-2, but the most important qualities he showed while with Washington can’t be quantified in statistics.

Despite showing some true ability, many of them highlighted in the impressive first career goal he scored against the Carolina Hurricanes, Eakin was not getting the ice time he needed to fully develop and harden his skills. Much to any players dismay, Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter informed Eakin he would be sent down on the plane ride back to D.C. after Washington’s 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. The less-than-stellar news didn’t effect Eakin though, as he has a surprisingly resilient attitude despite his age.

“Hunter said I needed more minutes,” Eakin said of being sent down to Hershey. “[I know] if I can get more minutes it will help my game.”

His attitude and the mental side of hockey is something Eakin seems to have a handle on early in his career and it shows in his on ice performance. During an odd-man rush against the Carolina Hurricanes, Eakin took a pass from Alexander Semin and skated through the right faceoff circle and flicked the puck passed Cam Ward for his first career goal. Semin may have been open on the play for a tough pass many youngsters may have tried to force, but Eakin followed his instincts and didn’t fall for the trap many rookies fall victim to.

“When playing you stop thinking and instincts take over,” Eakin said of his playing style that helped him score his first goal. “When you think too much it affects your game.”

While he doesn’t have the puck and admits the Caps probably still have it, the moment of his first goal will most likely be one Eakin remembers for the rest of his life.

Even though he was with the Caps for less than 20 games, the Winnipeg, Manitoba native got to experience things several NHL players don’t get to do in a career. Perhaps none of the moments were more exciting than getting to return to his hometown to face the Jets. Eakin said a “whole bunch” of family and friends attended the game.

“I remember when the Jets left,” he said. “It is great to get to play them in Winnipeg the first year they are back in the league.”

On top of getting to play against his hometown hockey team, after many thought they would never exist again, Eakin was present for Washington’s change in bench bosses. Almost halfway through Eakin’s stint in the NHL, he was part of the change from Bruce Boudreau to current coach Hunter.

Despite only being in the NHL for a short time, Eakin knew Boudreau from development camps and described him as an “honest coach who respects the guys.” He said the only major change from Boudreau to Hunter was the system the team plays. Even though many fans and members of the media think the coaching change should drastically affect the team, Eakin has one fundamental belief no matter who is coaching.

“[The] job of a hockey player is do what [his] coach asks,” Eakin said when asked how much of an effect a coaching change has on a team.

His belief is one many players seem to miss in today’s NHL. For a kid who has little NHL time and was most likely the best player on every junior team he played on, it is a great sign that he understands it is more about the team than himself. Listening to the coach and leader in front of you is a big sign of a player being a good locker room guy, something Eakin seems to be. His attitude certainly can take him a long way if he is able to continue to improve his play and maintain his positive outlook.

At only 20, Eakin has many years of hockey ahead of him, but one could easily mistake him for a professional hockey veteran with his mature attitude. The young prospect’s call up to the Caps was what he described as an “opportunity to get ice time,” but it may end up meaning so much more in the longterm. Hockey is what he said he has wanted to do his whole life and there is a good chance, barring any setbacks, it will end up being what he does for a majority of it.

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