January 29, 2015

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins 1/28/15

First star: Braden Holtby. He backstopped the Capitals to a 4-0 win and plugged the holes for three penalty kills. He got his 23rd win, fifth shutout of the year, and second shutout of the season versus Pittsburgh.

Second star: Mike Green. Green is a polarizing character amongst fans, but it is undeniable that when he plays well, the team does well.  He added a lovely goal and an assist in an overall dominating performance Wednesday, his 10th multipoint game of the season.

Third star: Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom logged two assists in the win, his 10th multi-assist game of the year. He’s collected 25 points in his last 22 games. This guy has 35 assists through 48 games.

Honorable mention: Eric Fehr, who’s playing his first real season at center, for his beastly performance in the dot, winning  17 of 22 faceoffs. That’s 77.3%. Word.

 

 

Free agent decisions loom large for Caps as trade deadline approaches

Mike Green during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Green during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

As the teams return from the All-Star Break and meaningful hockey starts again, the next big day on the NHL calendar is the trade deadline.

The NHL trade deadline is on March 2 at 3 pm, just over a month away. The task for each team over the next few weeks is to determine what their realistic goals are for this season and going forward so that they can determine if they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline.

On an individual level, general managers need to determine the future of their pending free agents, i.e. who they will seek to re-sign and who already has one foot out of the door.

The Washington Capitals are no exception. There are currently 10 players on the roster who are in the final year of their contract and General Manager Brian MacLellan has to determine now who he wants to see back in Washington next season. [Read more…]

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Dallas Stars 1/17/15

For the second night in a row, the Capitals battled back from a multiple goal deficit, but fell short of a comeback. Justin Peters got his first start since the end of November and it wasn’t a great outing. Rust, maybe. The loss was they Caps’ second loss in as many night,s but they’ll bounce back. Regression happens.

First star: Nicklas Backstrom. He added two points in the 5-4 loss, a goal and an assist on Alex Ovechkin’s third period breakaway.

Second star: Alex Ovechkin. He has four points in Washington’s last two games (both losses), but scored his 25th goal against Dallas and assisted on Backstrom’s third period goal, his 16th assist of the season.

Third star: Eric Fehr. Since the Winter Classic, Fehr has notched six points in seven games, including a two-goal performance in Toronto. His second period goal in Dallas, his 14th of the year, got Washington’s comeback started. He also won 15 of 16 faceoffs. Not bad for a guy who didn’t play at center until last season.

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…]

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.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders Dec. 29

The Washington Capitals forced overtime on the Island and escaped with a point after a furious three-goal third period comeback. Eric Fehr, Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin all tallied. Brooks Orpik injured a knee, but team sources think it’s not quite as bad as it might have looked. An eventful night two days before the Winter Classic.

First Star: Eric Fehr. His 10th goal of the season (I know, right) got the comeback started. It was another greasy one, as Fehr got dumped on his keister in the crease after the shot went through. Fehr is in double-digits, just one coming on the power play. Speaking of which, Caps had four extra-man opportunities, Fehr got 0:00 of power play time.

Second Star: Alex Ovechkin. His goal was a beaut, a long-range wrister that Jaroslav Halak simply couldn’t get his glove up in time to stop. Six shots on goal, five hits and an assist on Backstrom’s marker, springing his running mate for the layup.

Third Star: Brooks Laich. Assisted on Fehr’s goal and was in the crease himself when the puck went in, had four shots, blocked two shots and was on the ice for 5:13 of short-handedness.

Goat of the night: Evgeny Kuznetsov. The young Russian has spent some time in coach Barry Trotz’ doghouse this season, and his four-minute high-sticking penalty with 1:04 left in regulation, that carried over to overtime, and eventually ended with Johnny Boychuk’s game-winning goal at 2:53 of the extra session, will not go over so well with the brass.

Washington Capitals Game 35 Recap: Caps blank Pens in Pittsburgh

Eric Fehr scored twice, Braden Holtby was once again stellar and the Washington Capitals blanked the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 at Consol Energy Center.

Holtby made 31 saves, including nine on the penalty kill, to lead the Caps (18-11-6-42) to break an eight-game losing streak to Pittsburgh. [Read more…]

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

First star: Mike Green. Green was crucial to Washington’s winning effort in Columbus, with his assists on Troy Brouwer’s game-tying goal and Eric Fehr’s overtime game winning goal. It was arguably one of his strongest performances of the season. His end to end rush just 42 seconds into overtime ended up on the stick of a streaking Eric Fehr, who was essentially airborne, and whacked it past Sergei Bobrovsky for the 5-4 win.

 

Second star: Eric Fehr. He scored the above game-winner, his seventh goal of the season, and collected an assist on Joel Ward’s first-period goal.

Third Star: Karl Alzner. He’s not a guy that typically lights up the scoresheet, but this season, Alzner is bringing the heat. His third period goal was his second of the season and tied the game at 3-3. He also nabbed an apple on Ward’s first period goal.

Honorable Mention: Michael Latta’s slick pass to Jason Chimera in the first period.

 

Washington Capitals Game 31 Recap: Fehr’s overtime goal gives Caps win in wild one

Now 31 games into the 2014-15 Washington Capitals season, few observers know what to make of the team. On some nights they look reminiscent of the Capitals that were on display from 2008-11, and other nights they look like they’ve barely improved from the relative disaster that was the Adam Oates era.

If Thursday’s game was any indication, though, some improvement has been made.

Eric Fehr scored less than a minute into overtime to give Washington a 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, a win that moves the team back into third place in the Metropolitan Division, if only for one night. The Caps’ playoff chances increased 5.2 percent to 66.5 with the victory, a win that they very nearly gave away. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 25 Recap: Caps scratch out win over Canes

Eric Fehr converted a turnover into a goal with just over four minutes left and the Washington Capitals defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 on Thursday.

Fehr intercepted a poor pass by Reilly Nash at the Carolina blue line and calmly lifted a wrister past Anton Khudobin for his fourth of the season and the Caps held on down the stretch, including playing most of the last three minutes 6-on-5.

Braden Holtby made 28 saves, including a toe save late in the third that preserved the lead at the time.

Jay Beagle scored first, a mere 2:19 in. Jason Chimera took advantage of Michal Jordan’s misplay at the point and raced down the ice to get a shot off. Khudobin couldn’t handle the rebound and Beagle followed up and dumped the puck into the gaping net for his third goal of the season.

Old friend Alexander Semin scored the Hurricanes only goal. It was Semin’s first of the season and represented his 500th NHL point. Semin took a cross-ice pass from the point by Jay Harrison, beat Andre Burakovsky to the slot and roofed a backhander past Holtby.

The Caps travel to New Jersey to face the Devils Saturday night at 7:00 pm.

Observations:

  • This team really misses Mike Green, especially on the power play. Green missed his fifth game with an “upper body” injury and the power play has been out of sorts the entire time. Neither Matt Niskanen or John Carlson have the same play-making skills as Green can bring.
  • Alex Ovechkin had three shots on goal, one blocked and one miss wit four hits.
  • Coach Barry Trotz spent much of the night matching lines, with the defensive pair of Carlson and Brooks Orpik on the ice any time Jeff Skinner was. The duo kept Skinner off the scoresheet and Orpik blocked a whopping seven shots and registered seven hits. All that is to say is when Orpik was on the ice rarely did the Caps have the puck. Caps fans are going to have to get used to the idea that Orpik is going to continue to be a black hole of offense for the Caps while playing against the opposition’s top line.
  • While Holtby allowed just one goal and did make several key saves, he also puck-handled into two golden scoring chances for Carolina. He continues to make poor plays with his stick when he should be more conservative. In this, he was fortunately it didn’t come back to bite him.
  • Jason Chimera probably played his most effective game of the season. He utilized his speed on the fourth line all night to cause disruption and his play on the first goal is what the Caps hope to see more of. He had five shots on goal with one blocked and a miss.
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