March 28, 2017

Washington Capitals Game 77 Recap: Caps set season high in shots in win over Avalanche

OVECHKIN NETS NO. 46, BEAGLE GETS FANCY AS CAPS DUMP AVALANCHE

Alex Ovechkin scored his 46th goal of the season to lead the Washington Capitals over the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Friday night.

Facing a desperate Avalanche team that needed a win to stay in the playoff hunt, the Capitals (55-16-6) showed that the offense may be back on track — just in time for the playoffs.

Play and goal of the night go to Mr. Jay Beagle. With a great defensive takeaway behind the Avalanche goal he turned the puck and put it behind the back of netminder Seymon Varlamov. See below: [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 19 Recap: Caps crush Avalanche

DMITRY ORLOV SCORES FIRST GOAL SINCE MARCH 2014, FOUR DEFENSEMEN SCORE

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals came out of the gate running, held off a mid-game resistance, and scored late insurance goals to beat the Colorado Avalanche 7-3 Saturday night at Verizon Center.

Seven different Caps players — including four defensemen — scored, Evgeny Kuzntesov had a three-point night and Braden Holtby made 24 saves in the process.

It marked the first time since Dec. 4, 1992 that four defensemen scored a goal for the Capitals (Paul Cavallini, Sylvain Cote (2), Kevin Hatcher (2) and Al Iafrate). [Read more…]

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 2, Colorado Avalanche 1

The Washington Capitals won their sixth in a row at home, Alex Ovechkin became the franchise’s all-time leader in game-winning goals — eclipsing Peter Bondra — and they got another goal from Jay Beagle (good boy). The Caps are now 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, sit alone in third place in the division and are three points behind the Islanders in first and two behind second-place Pittsburgh.

First Star: Hard to not mention Braden Holtby here in this space again. He saw 32 shots against (18 of which came in an exhausting third period), and saved seven out of eight on the penalty kill — the only goal coming off a rebound into a vacant slot. If playing in a franchise-record 24th game in a row and 19th consecutive start is bothering him or tiring him out, he’s not showing it.

Second Star: Alex Ovechkin. C’mon. Power play goal (off a couple of particularly nice backhand passes from 19 and 20). Earlier, beat old buddy Semyon Varlamov through the five-hole but hit the post on another attempt. Has 22 goals and just keeps plugging away.

Third Star: Jay Beagle. Scored his personal-best sixth goal, and they’re all coming from hard work and willingness to crash the net. This one came on a rebound in the slot, and a nifty backhander to boot.

Goat of the night: Varlamov. Was issued a roughing penalty by face-washing Tom Wilson with his goalie gear. Poor form.

Washington Capitals Game 42 Recap: Caps tough out solid win over Avalanche

OVECHKIN’S GAME-WINNER MOVES HIM PAST BONDRA FOR FIRST ON ALL-TIME TEAM LIST

Make it six straight wins at Verizon Center for the Washington Capitals. Braden Holtby had 18 of his 31 saves in the third period, and Alex Ovechkin scored his 22nd goal of the year as the Capitals beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 on Monday night.

Jay Beagle opened the scoring at 7:34 of the first period. After winning an offensive zone faceoff, Tom Wilson directed a shot toward the net from the point. Beagle found the rebound left by former Capital Semyon Varlamov on the backhand and put it home. [Read more…]

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Colorado Avalanche 11/20/14

The Washington Capitals finished their three-game road trip with four out of six possible points, capped off with a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

Nicklas Backstrom channeled Peter Forsberg for his first period goal, Daniel Briere got one back for the Avs, but before the second period was over, Jason Chimera scored his second of the season. Colorado inched back with a Tyson Barrie goal in the third, but Alex Ovechkin scored his 9th of the season for the win.

 

First Star:

Alex Ovechkin.

Two-point night for the captain. This guy has scored some zany goals over the course of his career, and he added to his resume with this beauty of a game-winner:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QN6Ucr2jHgg

 

Second Star:

Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom scored a goal and an assist on the win. His assist came on Ovechkin’s crazy third period game-winner.

 

Third Star:

Braden Holtby.

Holtby looks like he’s rebounded from his early season struggles. He’s  4-1-1 in his last 6 games, and stopped 27 of 29 shots in the win, with a SV% of .931.

 

Caps Quick Take: Game 5 vs. Avalanche

Much like last season, the Washington Capitals aren’t getting out of the gate very quickly. “Like Groundhog Day,” as Troy Brouwer put it in his post-game comments. Following a dispiriting 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche and former netminder Semyon Varlamov, the Capitals find themselves at 1-4-0 and looking up at the rest of the Metropolitan Division. Well, along with Philadelphia, the Rangers and the Devils, all of whom have one or zero wins to their credit. Yes, it’s early. No, it’s not time to “panic.” But if the Caps don’t get things sorted out quickly it could be a long, cold winter.

1) What in the world was John Carlson doing on Colorado’s first goal of the game? If you answered: cruising in no-man’s land, crossing up his goalie and redirecting what should have been an easy save, you get a gold star. Carlson stopped skating the moment he backed over the blue line and took a single cross-over step to go in the general direction of Alex Tanguay, whose little wrister was completely innocent until Carlson made a half-hearted effort to reach for it instead of, you know, play defense.

2) After a nearly one-minute offensive-zone domination by Colorado on the power play, the Caps finally stopped skating and allowed 2013 No. 1 overall draft pick Nathan McKinnon to drift into the slot and shoot uncontested off a feed from Peter Stastny. This is the third rookie the Capitals have allowed to score their first NHL goals in just five games this season. McKinnon did a loop around Steve Oleksy, who was just hanging around the top of the paint, and the rookie found the soft spot in the box and finished. It was a heady play by a naturally gifted scorer.

3) Tanguay’s second goal — Colorado’s fourth of the night — was all on Michal Neuvirth. Granted, Tanguay was unchecked along the goal line, but Neuvirth can’t allow the puck to slip in short-side there. It was just a lack of focus and attention. This time, it was Nick Backstrom that couldn’t get over to help out after Brouwer failed to tie up Stastny behind the goal. Oh, and Colorado was short-handed on the play.

4) Speaking of Brouwer, he was the most vocal of the Capitals following the loss, criticizing his teammates for their lack of passion, work ethic and will to win. After their fifth game of the season. “Didn’t look like we had any passion in our game tonight,” Brouwer said. “We didn’t get the crowd into it. We made it a boring atmosphere for the fans that were here and as a result, we were flat. It’s looking at yourself and wanting to win. It’s about wanting to work hard, wanting to help your teammates out, wanting to win. That’s all it comes down to. Our talent level is there. Our effort’s not.”

5) Something positive? You say would want the silver lining in this one? Eric Fehr’s line played pretty well and their hard work paid off in the third period with the Caps lone goal of the night. Fehr, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward were the only Caps with a “plus” next to their names after this one. Left-handed D-man Nate Schmidt made his NHL debut and did not look out of place. Alex Urbom tied Tom Wilson for team lead in hits with four.

NEXT GAME: Monday at 7:00 pm against Edmonton Oilers.

Washington Capitals Game 5 Recap: Varly returns, Capitals blown out 5-1 at home

Coming into Saturday night’s tilt at Verizon Center, the second of a five-game homestand, the Washington Capitals, 1-3 in four games this season, knew they were facing a tough opponent: the undefeated Colorado Avalanche with former firecracker goalie Patrick Roy behind the bench. Unable to find any rhythm on either end of the ice, the Caps helped the Avalanche’s record remained unstained, falling 5-1 to their Western Conference opponent.

Eric Fehr was the lone Capital to score in between multiple Avalanche tallies. Alex Tanguay scored two goals, No. 1 overall 2013 draft pick Nathan MacKinnon scored his first career goal (the second the Caps have seen in three days, Elias Lindholm of the Carolina Hurricanes scored his Thursday), with Jamie McGinn rounding out the Avalanche scoresheet.

The Capitals lacked jump right out of the gate and the Avalanche fed on that the entire game. Roy told reporters he thought the damage was done after the first period, when the Avs went up 2-0 before intermission. Fehr’s goal lent the Caps some tiny hope, and though they outshot the Avalanche 41-28,  they never mounted anything close to what could be called a rally.

“We jump at them right from the start,” said Roy. “I think we had a really good start. I think the damage was made after going up 2-0. They bounced really strongly in the second period.”

It was a homecoming of sorts for former Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov, who was traded to Colorado in 2011. He made 40 saves on 41 shots in his first appearance at Verizon Center since the trade.

“I think it’s so special for the goalie to beat the old team. I am excited today. We win three games on the road, we get our points and right now we are pretty happy,” said Varlamov.

While the vistor’s locker room was a jubilant place, the home locker room was dismal. The Caps have lost three straight games, and while it may not be time to panic yet, something needs to change and the players know it.

“It’s early in the season, and we can start fixing it now,” Martin Erat told reporters. “We have to just fix mistakes that we make – when it’s one mistake we can’t get another.”

Fehr agreed. “It starts on our end. We’ve got to be stronger; we’ve got make sure pucks get out,” he said.

“I think we need to want the puck a little bit more. We have to win puck battles, whether it’s in our end or their end. We need to play physical, and we need to want the puck.”

Caps in Advance: Week 10

The Dale Hunter era has started to start to see dividends in Washington, D.C., after a slow start to the new coach’s reign. The Capitals won two straight last week, and three of four over the past ten days. Even more importantly, after averaging 1.66 goals/game in Hunter’s first three games as coach, Washington is averaging 4.33 goals/game in the subsequent three games.

Pay no attention to the recent histories of the six teams Hunter has helmed the bench against, he has unquestionably faced some of the class of the league. This week the Caps start again with one of the league’s top team, before visiting a  middle-of-the-pack team midweek, and ending up with one of the dregs of the league over the weekend (Of course, it bears mention that even in light of recent successes, Washington is also squarely middle-of-the-pack).

One thing the Caps have going in their favor is a long break, giving them time to heal and to further practice playing under a new system. The team last played on Friday, and doesn’t take the ice again until Tuesday, giving Washington’s players a rare three full days off.

Will the Caps play better coming off a break? Will any injured players – Matt Hendricks, Jay Beagle – reappear with a little extra time to recover? Probably not, but it can’t hurt to ask.

Whatever happens over the weekend, there’s no question that by Tuesday night, Caps fans will be chomping at the bit to see their team in action against a future conference rival and top team in the East, a current conference rival, and a faraway team in whose (lack of) success Washington has a vested interest.

Games this week:

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13th v. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
7:00pm, Verizon Center
TV: CSN-MA

Records:
Washington Capitals: 15-12-1, 31 points, 2nd in Southeast Division, 8th in Eastern Conference
Philadelphia Flyers: 18-7-3, 39 points, 1st in Atlantic Division, 1st in Eastern Conference
Season Series: 1-0-0

The first time these two teams met, Washington scored five straight goals sandwiched between a pair of Flyers strikes to take a relatively 5-2 win out of Philadelphia. Alex Ovechkin had a pair of goals, one on the power play, while Claude Giroux opened the scoring for Philly.

While Washington’s trajectory has wobbled since that point, things have only been trending up for Philadelphia. Giroux (16 goals, 23 assists) has been the surprise leader of the Black-and-Orange’s success, leading the NHL in points and sitting atop most lists for MVP candidates through the first third of the season. When Philly traded All-Stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on the same day this past June, the wisdom was that Giroux would take advantage of the opportunity to play a larger role in his team’s offense, but no one anticipated the extent to which he would blossom.

However, Giroux left Philadelphia’s game on Saturday after teammate Wayne Simmonds accidentally kneed him in the head. Giroux has passed initial concussion screening tests, but it would not be surprising if the star forward missed Tuesday’s game.

Similarly impressive on the offensive end is Kimmo Timonen, the defensive stalwart who is on pace for a career low in goals (he’s yet to score) but still on pace to set a career high in points, courtesy of 20 assists in 28 games. Timonen also averages over 22 minutes of ice time a game, a stat that will only increase now that the Flyers have acknowledged that team captain Chris Pronger is out indefinitely with “concussion-like symptoms” stemming from a high stick to the face Pronger suffered in late October. Also maintaining a high level of play even with extra responsibility foisted on his shoulders is eight-year pro Braydon Coburn, who was previously the Flyers’ defensive leader prior to Pronger’s arrival two seasons ago.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15th @ WINNIPEG JETS
8:30 pm, MTS Centre
TV: CSN-MA

Records:
Washington Capitals: 15-12-1, 31 points,  2nd in Southeast Division, 8th in Eastern Conference
Winnipeg Jets: 13-12-4, 30 points, 3rd in Southeast Division, 10th in Eastern Conference
Season Series: 1-1-0

Speaking of trajectories, the Jets had been on an upward one in the month of December. Winnipeg won four straight, all at home, to challenge Washington for second place in the Southeast Division. In those four games, the Jets only allowed five goals against, but that all fell apart in a 7-1 road loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.

Luckily for Winnipeg, this week marks the start of another lengthy home stand. The Jets are a dominating 10-3-0 within the friendly confines of the MTS Centre, including a 4-1 dismantling of Washington in mid-November. Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien have continued to spearhead Winnipeg’s offense, and rounding into form to join them is Blake Wheeler (1 goal, 7 assists in his past seven games) and Bryan Little (4 goals, 4 assists in his past six games).

Prior to his terrible game against Detroit, Jets starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec strung together three fantastic games in early December, blanking the Phoenix Coyotes and then holding the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils to one and two goals, respectively. Pavelec has been golden against the Caps the past two seasons, with a 3-1-1 record and 1.51 GAA.

With the Florida Panthers starting to run away with the Southeast Division lead, these intra-divisional games between the Caps and Jets are beginning to take on additional importance. The last time Washington played in Winnipeg, it was clear the visiting team was unable to muster the necessary intensity for a division match-up. Hopefully Hunter will be able to encourage his players to pick up the pace this time, or else the Caps will find themselves behind the eight-ball in the Southeast.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17th @ COLORADO AVALANCHE
9:00pm, Pepsi Center
TV: CSN-MA

Records:
Washington Capitals: 15-12-1, 31 points, 2nd in Southeast Division, 8th in Eastern Conference
Colorado Avalanche: 13-16-1, 27 points, 5th in Northwest Division, 13th in Western Conference
Only meeting this season

For a game between two teams in two different conferences over 1,600 miles apart (as opposed to two teams in the same division over 1,500 miles apart…Winnipeg), playing for the only time this season, the Saturday night matchup between the Caps and Avalanches has a surprisingly healthy number of storylines.

First and foremost is Semyon Varlamov. Washington GM George McPhee sent the former first round pick to the Avs for Colorado’s first round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, as well as a second round pick in either 2012 or 2013. The move was meant to clear the way for Michal Neuvirth to become the team’s starter, though the unexpected availability of Tomas Vokoun changed those plans a bit.

Varlamov started the season with style and aplomb-winning five of eight games in the month of October, including three victories in the shootout-and made McPhee look a bit foolish. Since the calendar turned to November, however, Varlamov fell to earth when he lost seven straight, and now holds a 9-12-1 record with a 3.07 GAA and .898 Save %. Varly now ranks 35th and 34th in the league, respectively, in those categories, and his travails have reflected back on his team, which dropped from first to last in the Northwest. A prolonged run is certainly possible for Varlamov and his young teammates, who include stars-in-the-making Matt Duchene (10 goals, 10 assists) and Ryan O’Reilly (6 goals, 15 assists), both 20 years old, as well as 19-year-old Gabriel Landeskog.

The other storyline, less heralded, is the visit by Hunter to the franchise he began and ended his career with. A second-round pick of the Quebec Nordiques in the 1979 draft, Hunter broke into the NHL in the 1980-81 season as a 20-year-old and played seven seasons, racking up 140 goals, 458 points, and 1,545 penalty minutes in 523 games before getting dealt to Washington in the summer of 1987.

Hunter also ended his career with the franchise in 1999 when he was dealt to the Avalanche at the trade deadline. McPhee, then in his second season as Washington’s GM, moved several key players from the previous season’s trip to the Cup finals when it became clear the Caps were in for a lengthy rebuilding effort. According to the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell:

McPhee offered to let Hunter stay and play every game or be traded wherever he thought he had the best chance to win the Cup. Instead, Hunter asked McPhee where he should be traded.

“Colorado,” McPhee said.

“[Then] that’s where I want to go,” Hunter told McPhee, according to the GM.

At that moment, McPhee made one of the rarest promises you’ll ever hear in sports. The NHL trade deadline was 3 p.m. “At 2:59, if I can’t get anything for you,” McPhee said he told Hunter, “I’ll give you away for nothing.”

Even though Hunter only played 12 regular season and 19 playoff games with the Avalanche before retiring at the end of the season, he very well may still harbor positive emotions toward the club and its history.

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