April 24, 2014

Washington Capitals Game 80 Recap: Caps calm ‘Canes 5-2

Neither the Washington Capitals or the Carolina Hurricanes had anything to play for on Thursday night and for half of the game both teams played like it. Eventually, the Caps were able to exert their dominance and earned a convincing 5-2 win in their final road game of the season.

You had to wonder what the mentality of the Caps would be heading into this one, their first meaningless game since 2007. Luckily for them, the third line continued to be the team’s most consistent line and the Caps were able to ride their strong performance to an easy win.

Joel Ward kicked things off quickly scoring just 1:02 into the game. Linemate Jason Chimera poked the puck away from the defense below the red line and Eric Fehr took the puck and fed it to Ward with a nifty backhand pass. [Read more...]

Washington Capitals Game 76 Recap: Caps lack urgency; shutout by Stars

“If somehow we make the playoffs and we play like this who are we kidding?”
Capitals head coach Adam Oates

Game Recap Co-Authored by Dave and Cheryl Nichols

With seven games left on the schedule, every game is “must win” for the Washington Capitals. On Tuesday, at the Verizon Center no less, the Caps faced a Western Conference team that is in very much the same position. The result: the Dallas Stars spanked the Caps 5-0, all but eliminating the Caps from any further playoff discussion.

“It’s frustrating to see it, for all of us, ” said defenseman Karl Alzner. “We are all asking ourselves the exact same question and everybody wants to do it and be the guy, sometimes it’s being 20 guys and not just the guy, and maybe that has something to do with it. I am not too sure. It’s frustrating. Obviously, we are not happy with the way that we have been playing. Terrible time to go on a skid.”

Dallas broke the ice in middle of a sleepy first period. Tyler Seguin won a puck battle behind the Caps net with John Carlson and fed Jamie Benn at the top of the left wing circle. Benn’s shot headed for Jaroslav Halak’s crest, but Seguin did nice work to drive the net and tipped the puck past Halak on the glove side to put Dallas up 1-0.

The Stars added to that lead in the second. A terrible line change led to a 2-on-0 and Ray Whitney faked Halak out of his skates for his ninth goal of the season. Another defensive breakdown 34 seconds later allowed Dustin Jeffrey to register his first goal of the season, sending Halak to the bench replaced by Braden Holtby, more a wake-up call to his teammates, who left him out to dry all night long.

“We’re all a group,” said Caps Head Coach Adam Oates to the guys in the second intermission, ‘You know what, we’re down and if we come back – we have before, we could – we can’t come back playing wrong. If somehow we make the playoffs and we play like this who are we kidding? We have to figure out a way to get better together. It is just us collectively in here.’ Obviously it’s very disappointing.”

Dallas added insult to injury in the third, with Jeffrey scoring his second of the game, on a feed by the veteran Whitney. As if that wasn’t enough (and it was more than enough) Ryan Garbutt tacked on a short-handed goal with 5:10 left in the contest.

Caps Captain Alex Ovechkin was asked if he had an answer for the reoccurring mistakes.

“It’s hard to say sometimes now. We understand the position and we need the points, but we didn’t get the points. We made some mistakes. We turned over one in our zone, [one] in the neutral zone and it cost us the game.”

“It goes back to wanting to be ‘the guy.’” explained defenseman Karl Alzner. “You want to make the nice play to spark the team, to get a goal or make the nice pass to break us out. Very few teams can do that; it’s about playing simple, and it’s not always fun to play that way, and we sure haven’t helped ourselves by us all being irresponsible on the ice with the puck in all three zones. We’ve got to be smarter and we’ve got to make simple plays.”

The “lack of urgency” was a hot topic throughout the arena and locker room. Goalie Braden Holtby had a strong opinion. “There wasn’t any today, that’s for sure. That was zero urgency.” Defenseman John Carlson agreed, however, explained, “In certain situations. Then I think we over exerted ourselves on other situations that we didn’t need to.”

“The last three games we’ve played,” Holtby paused before completing his thought, “have just not even been close to good enough to play in the playoffs. Or do anything in the playoffs for that matter.”

The Capitals have six games left, likely needing six wins, with their final two games hosting Western Conference powerhouses Chicago and St. Louis. You’re never eliminated until you’re mathematically eliminated, but even the most optimistic supporters have to be prepared at this point for this team not qualifying for the playoffs.

“As a team we thought we’d probably need all seven to get in [to the playoffs], but now we have no choice,” said Caps defenseman John Carlson, “It’s probably going to be a win-out situation.”

The team will need to bounce back from this loss to have any hopes of the playoffs. “You just have to brush it off,” said Eric Fehr. “It’s not going to be an easy one to brush off, but we still have a chance. We still have an opportunity. We’ve got to win some games, we’ve got to go on a roll, but you can’t sulk with games like this. You’ve got to put them behind you.”

Holtby added, “No one played good tonight. Everyone has to expect more of themselves. It’s a collective unit, you can’t point fingers. It’s the Washington Capitals. We have to do better. A lot better.”

Tonight was the 220th consecutive sellout at the Verizon Center and the fans let the Washington Capitals how they felt about the loss.

Holtby sided with the fans. “If I was a fan, I’d be booing us right now. In a tight race, like we’re in, and you lose five nothing, it’s awful.”

Washington Capitals Game 66 Recap: Caps fall behind, then fall to Pens 3-2

“It very tough because the guys played a good game. Probably one of the better games we’ve played against that team. To come out on the short end of the stick is difficult. We did a lot of good things in the game.” Adam Oates

Every game that slips off the schedule is one less opportunity for the Washington Capitals to increase their chances to qualify for the playoffs. There are no moral victories at this point in the season, especially for a team on the outside looking in. On Monday, in front of a divided house at Verizon Center, the Caps lost another one of those opportunities, as they fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins early and eventually lost 3-2.

The Capitals are 0-6-0 against Pittsburgh under head coach Adam Oates.

It’s the Caps fourth loss in their last five games after four straight wins. With 16 games remaining on the schedule — staring at a game in Pittsburgh then a three-game west coast road trip — they are quickly running out of time.

Chris Kunitz scored twice for the Pens — their first and last goals of the evening — sandwiched around a Sidney Crosby goal. Crosby assisted on both of Kunitz’ goals and pretty much had his way with the Caps every time he stepped on the ice. The Penguins were able to take advantage of multiple defensive breakdowns by the Caps, despite being outshot 33-20.

Perhaps when Caps GM George McPhee made his comments about the Caps defensive systems allowing shots from the perimeter, the Penguins didn’t get the memo.

Eric Fehr and Nick Backstrom scored for the Caps. Backstrom’s goal tied the game at two early in the second period as the Caps unleashed a barrage of shots against backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff (31 saves).

But not three minutes later, Kunitz responded with his second of the game, his 31st of the season.

For the Caps, the loss is doubly frustrating as they probably played their best game in three weeks in terms of puck possession, but in the end, the Penguins were simply the better team.

“It’s a little frustrating to really have dominant time of possession and be playing well then find yourself down 3-2 and not being able to recover,” Fehr said. “We had a lot of good chances at the end, and it’s really unfortunate. I thought we threw everything at them, and we were good in the offensive zone. We created chances; we just couldn’t put that last one in.”

The Capitals are currently one point behind both Columbus and Detroit for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and face the daunting prospect of playing in Pittsburgh Tuesday night. With games just falling off the calendar at this point, the Caps can’t afford any more moral victories. Only the ones in the standings matter anymore.

CAPS NOTES: Evgeny Kuznetsov made his long-awaited NHL debut Monday night. Kuznetsov started on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and fellow rookie Tom Wilson, but also took shifts on the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Backstrom, and also got some power play time in as well. Kuznetsov, donning sweater No. 92, played 10:22 in total, with 1:10 of power play time. He has two shots on goal and was credited with a blocked shot.

“I was a little bit worried the first time I stepped on the ice, but with each shift I got better and better,” Kuznetsov said of his performance. “I understood what I needed to do and how I needed to play…This is my first game, but a lot of players have told me that it’s just like the Russian rivalries. [They are] just like that ones we have in Russia, so I know what it’s like.”

Washington Capitals Game 61 Recap: Caps win ugly in Boston 4-2

OVECHKIN’S TWO PPGS LEADS CAPS TO 4TH STRAIGHT WIN; RECORDS 800th CAREER POINT

It certainly wasn’t pretty at times, but the Washington Capitals travelled to Boston and picked up their fourth straight win, defeating the Bruins 4-2 on Saturday.

The Caps got two power play goals by Alex Ovechkin, his 42nd and 44th goals of the season, Joel Ward’s 18th of the year, and the game-winner at 10:53 of the third period on a breakaway by Bruin-killer Eric Fehr.

Braden Holtby made 36 saves, including 4 of 5 on the penalty kill, including several on a critical 5-on-3 kill in the first period.

It’s the Caps fifth win in their past six games against Boston, with a rematch coming up later next week.

Washington took advantage of the penalty-marred affair, going 2 for 6 with the extra man, generating 14 power play shots. Boston had almost as many shots shorthanded and 4-on-4 (4) as they did on the power play (5).

With the win by Philadelphia on Saturday, the Caps remain one point behind the Flyers for third in the Metropolitan Division and an automatic berth in the playoffs. The Caps host face the Flyers Sunday at 12:30 pm ET and again Wednesday in Philly.

 

Washington Capitals Game 43 Recap: Caps blow 2-goal lead but beat Tampa on Fehr’s late tip

The Washington Capitals have blown two-goal leads in in four of their past 10 games, and added to that total Thursday, allowing the Tampa Bay Lightning to come back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game with 5:30 left in the game. But Eric Fehr’s second goal of the game, a tip-in of a shot from Mike Green with 51 seconds left, allowed the Caps to escape with a 4-3 regulation win.

Dmitry Orlov made a nice play to hold the zone and shuffled the puck to Green at the right point. Green lifted a wrister toward the goal that deflected off Fehr, who was camped out just to the left of Lightning goalie Anders Lindback.

The Caps (21-16-6) stayed one point ahead of Carolina, who won earlier in the night, for third place in the Metropolitan Division, but were outplayed for large stretches of the game and were outshot 36-20.

Tampa Bay took advantage of Troy Brouwer errant pass just 4:08 in, as rookie Tyler Johnson went the length of the ice and beat Philipp Grubauer top-shelf to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.

The Caps answered with three goals of their own in the frame, despite being outshot 12-9.

Fehr took a nifty cross-ice pass from captain Alex Ovechkin and snapped it past Lindback (16 saves) for his seventh goal of the season to tie it at 7:04.

Washington then utilized the league’s second-ranked power play twice. Mike Green blasted a shot from center point that Mikhail Grabovski tipped on the way through for his 12th goal of the season at 10: 37.

Then, with just 12 seconds left in the period, Marcus Johansson took a pass from Nick Backstrom on the left pipe and stuffed it through Lindback, for his seventh of the season, putting the Caps up 3-1 at first intermission.

Tampa got one back in the second. Defenseman Victor Hedman sprung B.J. Crombeen along the right wing, and Crombeen lofted a fairly innocuous wrist shot toward Grubauer (33 saves) from 30 feet that somehow eluded the rookie netminder to draw the Lightning within one at 3-2.

Tampa’s Ondrej Palat though he tied the game a few moments later when a cross-crease pass deflected off his skate past Grubauer. But after official review it was determined — very clearly — that he made a distinct kicking motion with his skate and the goal was waived off.

Palat then did tie the game at 14:30 of the third, tipping in a shot from defenseman Matt Carle, completely erasing the Capitals two-goal advantage.

On this night, all it did was serve to set up Fehr’s heroics.

The Capitals host the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night at 7:00 pm.

Washington Capitals Game 38 Review: Caps not sharp but Fehr’s third period marker beats Rags 3-2

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 27: Mike Green #52 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring a goal in the first period during an NHL game against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center on December 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 27: Mike Green #52 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring a goal in the first period during an NHL game against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center on December 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

Eric Fehr’s goal, playing four-on-four with 5:09 left in the game, lifted the Washington Capitals over division-rival New York Rangers 3-2 before a capacity crowd at Verizon Center.

Fehr, playing in his 300th NHL game. took a breakout pass from Nick Backstrom, carried over the blue line, and sent a wrist shot that slipped past Rangers’ goalie Cam Talbot to break a 2-2 tie. The Caps — outplayed in much of this one — withstood the Rangers change the last few minutes of the game to hold on and escape with the two points.

The Caps raise their record to 20-14-4 in the process.

Phillip Grubauer was the Caps player of the game, making 38 saves on 40 shots, and bailing the Caps defense out time and again, especially with the pairing of John Erskine and Steve Oleksy on the ice.

The Caps got out first in this one. With Rick Nash off for tripping, Martin Erat worked the puck down the right wing boards to draw the defense, and backhanded the puck to Mike Green who was waiting at center point. Green unleashed a slap shot that beat goalie Cam Talbot glove side to give the Caps a 1-0 lead just 6:55 into the first period.

The Rangers led the Caps in shots on goal (14-7) and total shots (21-14) in the first frame, with both teams recording three shots on goal during the power play.

New York tied it up a mere 1:37 into the second period. Nick Backstrom was called for a very touchy interference call, setting up the Rags with their third power play opportunity of the night. The Rangers took full advantage, as a big slap shot from Brad Richards from the point was tipped by Benoit Pouliot, who slipped behind John Carlson at the top of the crease.

Despite being dominated for much of the second period, the Caps escaped with a one-goal lead. With just 1:05 remaining in the period, and the Caps getting absolutely housed by the Rangers forecheck, Steve Oleksy was able to bump the puck up along the boards and Ryan McDonagh was unable to corral it. Backstrom picked up the loose puck, skated in on the right wing and snapped a shot low-blocker side to beat Talbot and give the Caps the least deserved lead in all of hockey.

How badly did the Rangers own the second period? By the end of the frame, they held a 50-36 shot advantage – including 17-7 in shots on goal — with three shots on goal against coming in the 1:08 immediately preceding the Backstrom goal.

That lead didn’t last. Just 17 seconds into the third period, and with the Caps on a power play, Ryan McDonagh sprung Carl Hagelin, and Hagelin beat Grubauer 5-hole to knot the game at two.

But Fehr, who had a goal waived off earlier in the game, came through four-on-four to break the tie and the Caps nervously held on to secure the two points.

The Caps play Sunday at 5:00 pm ET when they host the Buffalo Sabres.

Washington Capitals Game 25 Recap: Caps blow 3-1 lead in 6-4 loss to Ottawa

Entering Wednesday’s contest, the Washington Capitals hadn’t lost to the Ottawa Senators in D.C. since March 12, 2006, going 11-0-2 in their last 13 games at home against Ottawa. Make that 11-1-2 now, as the Caps frittered away a 3-1 second period lead, falling to the Sens 6-4 before a bewildered capacity crowd at Verizon Center.

Head coach Adam Oates was visibly frustrated in his post-game remarks, saying, “If guys don’t know that we let one get away, shame on them.”

The Caps got on the board first at 12:10 of the first period. Michael Latta carried the puck to the left wing dot, where he was upended by an Ottawa defender. Eric Fehr swooped in on the loose biscuit and lifted it cleanly past Craig Anderson for his second goal of the season.

Mike Green took a hooking penalty right after the goal, though, and the Senators made him pay, as Bobby Ryan tipped in a shot from the center point by Patrick Wiercioch to even it at one apiece.

The Caps got it right back. Moments after Zack Smith went off for hooking Nick Backstrom on a offensive zone faceoff, Alex Ovechkin passed to the crease. The puck caromed off Troy Brouwer and a defender and went right to Marcus Johansson, standing alone at the right post. All Johansson had to do was push the puck in for a 2-1 lead.

Washington extended the lead to 3-1 just a minute later. Brooks Laich won the puck in the left wing corner and knocked it to Jason Chimera. Chimera’s pass bounced off Joel Ward and with Laich moving to the net, he corralled the loose puck and slipped it five-hole on Anderson.

That’s when things got silly for a bit, and actually changed the momentum of the game. Senators’ forward — and noted pugilist — Chris Neil took a run at Nate Schmidt, delivering a big blow to the Caps defenseman. Neil was whistled for interference on the hit, but Tyson Strachan decided he needed to stick up for his fallen defensive partner and he fought Neil. Strachan was hit with an instigator penalty and 10 minute misconduct to go along with five for fighting, negating what should have been a Caps power play for Neil’s original infraction.

Strachan said he didn’t see the ref signal the original call against Neil and said he felt like he was “doing his job.” Both Oates and Brooks Laich defended Strachan stepping up for his teammate. But it’s undeniable that Ottawa got the better of the momentum from the exchange and that Neil, a veteran, took advantage of the situation to pump some life into his until then moribund team.

The fights carried over to the second period. Aaron Volpatti delivered a heavy body check on veteran Colin Greening, and Greening, who is struggling mightily this season with no goals and just three assists so far, retaliated with a slash to Volpatti’s thigh pads, then both players dropped the gloves.

The Senators then cut the lead to one at 6:36 of the second. With Eric Fehr in the box on a tripping call, defenseman Chris Phillips walked in on the left wing, wound up, and fired a slap shot past the glove hand of Braden Holtby to make it 3-2. It was Phillips’ first goal of the season.

Greening got that first goal a little later in the period. Immediately after springing from the box following his fighting penalty, Greening bore down the right wing and fired a laser past Holtby’s glove side to tie the proceedings at three — and leave the Verizon Center faithful with slacked jaws.

The Senators outshot the Caps in the period 19-3.

The Capitals’ penalty parade continued in the third, as Fehr went off for his second tripping call of the game. Ottawa made good on it right away, with Mika Zibanejad tipping in Jason Spezza’s shot from long distance as he skated through the crease unmolested.

Things continued to go poorly for the Caps for much of the third period, but they got a gift with 3:30 remaining, as John Carlson was hauled down by Zack Smith as Carlson was trying to keep a puck in the offensive zone. On the ensuing faceoff, Joel Ward won the draw and the puck came right back to Carlson at the point, and his wrist shot got through a maze of bodies and went over Anderson’s left shoulder to tie the game at four.

But the Caps couldn’t stand their own good fortune. Just over a minute later, Zack Smith split Mike Green and Schmidt and sent a wrist shot toward net that Holtby simply misplayed, and the Senators retook the lead at 5-4.

An empty net goal by Bobby Ryan with 12.6 second left provided the final margin of defeat.

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 Preseason Game 7: Caps win 6-3 in Friday fight night against Flyers

The latest preseason fashion seems to be fights, fights, and more fights. That didn’t change Friday night, where there were 5 total fights. At least we were spared a line brawl, but tensions flared from the puck drop to final whistle.

All told, there were  103 total  penalty minutes between the Capitals and the Flyers, including a blindside hit on Mikhail Grabovski by Flyers tough guy Zac Rinaldo that will almost certainly result in some type of discipline from the NHL.

Grabovski told reporters he saw Rinaldo coming, but it was too late to react. He was able to regroup and assist on Tom Wilson’s goal later in the game.

Interestingly enough, Wilson told reporters he “grew up watching” Grabovski play. “I know how talented of a player he is, it was nice to be on the receiving end of that pass.”

Eric Fehr continued his preseason scoring run Friday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, a deflection in the first period that beat goalie Ray Emery, who left the cage to play the puck, inadvertently passing it to the Capitals’ Mathieu Perreault. Perreault sent the puck over to Connor Carrick, who fed it to Fehr, who tapped it in while Emery was still out of position.

Alex Ovechkin scored from his wheelhouse on the power play in the first period, and Tom Wilson punched in an easy layup off Grabovski’s slick pass to make it 3-0 in the second.

The Flyers would even the score before the end of the second period with goals by Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds. No need for panic over the blown lead late in the 2nd- the Caps only dressed one of their regular defensemen Friday night, and the Flyers iced basically their regular season starting roster, minus Jakub Voracek.

In the third, Eric Fehr scored his second goal of the night, assisted by Connor Carrick, who had a three-assist night. Fehr also assisted on Ovechkin’s second power play goal.

The Capitals were able to inch ahead in the third after Fehr and Ovechkin’s tallies, winning 6-3 after an empty-net goal from Mathieu Perreault, who has played in only three of the Capitals’ seven preseason games.

” We found the groove right away,” said Perreault. “Getting a goal on the first shift gets you going.”

“We kind of slowed ourselves down in the second with all the penalties and fighting, so we got back to what we were doing in the first in the third, and we did a good job.”

Washington Capitals 2013-14 Position Preview: Right Wing

Before last season, position switch was merely a suggestion among many offered for Alex Ovechkin’s declining numbers, but became reality with Adam Oates behind the bench. It looks like the same crew will be playing for Oates again this year, with the possible addition of Tom Wilson, who could end up being the agitating, pesky, physical player the Capitals need. And he’s skilled, too- two goals so far in the preseason. However, Oates said any decision regarding Wilson making the roster will be decided after training camp.

Eric Fehr:

After spending a season playing for the newly relocated Winnipeg Jets (neè Atlanta Thrashers) in his hometown, and struggling with shoulder problems that kept him out most of the season, Fehr returned to the Capitals organization in 2013, this time, healthy after two shoulder surgeries.

One of George McPhee’s prized first-round draft picks, Fehr never quite lived up to the production expected of him, but has proved himself to be a solid third-line player and last season added the penalty kill to his repertoire. Now, Adam Oates is experimenting with Fehr at center during preseason, but won’t call it anything more than that.

 

Alex Ovechkin:

While it may be difficult to duplicate the success he enjoyed during the second half of the truncated 2013 season (and post right wing transition), a full season of Ovechkin at right wing will no doubt see its share of success, especially under the tutelage of Coach Oates.

The Southeast Division Ovechkin victimized so frequently is a part of hockey history, and the Metropolitan Division is now in its place, rife with familiar foes. Familiar though they may be, the addition of former Western Conference opponents, like the Detroit Red Wings, makes things a pinch more competitive in the Metro Division. But when has the “Great 8” ever shied away from a challenge?

 

Troy Brouwer:

Brouwer scored a career-high 19 goals last season, centered by Mike Ribiero for many of them. This season, he’ll be playing with Mikhail Grabovski and either Brooks Laich or Martin Erat, though it’s likely they’ll split time on the second and third line.

A big, tough forward who is oft a screen for a potential goal-scorer, Brouwer’s role won’t stray far from what was expected of him last season. In fact, Oates uses Brouwer as a comparison for how he wants Tom Wilson to model his game after.

Joel Ward:

Acquired from Nashville in 2011, Ward is a solid contributor on the Capitals’ third and fourth lines. During preseason, Ward’s pairing with Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera has seen a fair amount of success, and appears to have some chemistry. If the Eric Fehr Center Experiment pans out, those three would be quite the energy line during the regular season.

Tom Wilson:

Wilson isn’t a lock to crack the Caps roster this season, but it’s no secret that Oates would like him to stay. Though he hadn’t played an NHL game before May 2013, when he was called up from Hershey to pinch hit in the last two games of the Rangers series (after Martin Erat was sidelined with injury), Wilson has been a standout in every Capitals-held camp this year.

If Wilson doesn’t make the roster, he’ll have to go back to the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL instead of Hershey. Wilson can play in up to 10 NHL games before the first year of his entry-level contract begins, but can’t play in Hershey because of something called the CHL-AHL agreement. In a nutshell, if a player played in juniors before being drafted by the NHL, they must be 20 years old by Dec. 31 of that year or have played four years of junior hockey.

%d bloggers like this: