February 1, 2015

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…]

CAPS: 2015 Caps Canine Calendar

Members of the Washington Capitals players participated in the 2015 Capitals Canine Calendar photo shoot to benefit Homeward Trails Animal Rescue at Potomac Regional Overlook Park in Arlington, Virginia.

A limited number of 2015 Caps Canine Calendars will be available for $20 beginning Tuesday, Dec. 2, when the Capitals host the Vancouver Canucks. The Caps Better Halves will help sell the calendars during the month of December at the MSE Foundation table located at section 104 on the main concourse. In addition the calendar will be available for purchase at the team stores at Verizon Center and Kettler Capitals Iceplex. The online sales are closed.

Players being photographed include Karl Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle, Troy Brouwer, John Carlson, Jack Hillen, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Justin Peters, Aaron Volpatti, and Joel Ward with their dogs and Braden Holtby, Michael Latta, Alex Ovechkin, Dmitri Orlov and Tom Wilson with shelter dogs.

Last season $34,044.99 was donated to Homeward Trails through the sale of the 2014 Capitals Canine Calendar.

How could you resist a calendar with your favorite hockey players and adorable dogs? Here are a few of the photos posted on Twitter and Instragram.


@backstrom19 gets some puppy kisses after his shoot. #capscaninecalendar

A photo posted by MSE Foundation (@msefoundation) on

#CapsCanineCalendar shoot with Braden Holtby and Hogan from Homeward Trails Animal Rescue

A photo posted by MSE Foundation (@msefoundation) on

CAPS: Happy Birthday, Jack Hillen


Washington Capitals Defenseman Jack Hillen #38 was born on 01/24/1986 in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Jack Hillen sustained an injury during the Caps home opener when the Hillen was cleanly checked into the boards by Calgary Flames’ Lance Bouma.  However, Hillen’s leg was was caught in an awkward position and fractured  his tibial plateau forcing surgery. Hillen is out for four to six months.

Hope to see Hillen back on the ice soon.

Jack Hillen - Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jack Hillen – Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jay Beagle and Jack HIllen - Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jay Beagle and Jack HIllen – Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)


Caps Quick Take: Game 2 vs. Flames

Caps come back from 0-3 to win in shootout. Probably not the way they envisioned beating one of the bottomfeeders of the Western Conference, but two point is two points. As with the opener, there was some good and some not-so-good, especially the way the Caps got out of the gate in the first period. You’d think they would have had a little more giddy-up. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Or something like that. Anyway, 5-4 win.

1)  Congrats to Connor Carrick on his first NHL goal. He made a real nice move on the Calgary goalie to get him leaning before tucking the puck behind him. That move would have been pretty by a forward. However, the penalty that landed him in the box was a tough one to take. Carrick is talented to be sure, but he’s going to have plenty of growing pains if he’s going to stay in the lineup this season.

2)  Poor Jack Hillen. For the second year in a row he’s knocked out of action before the first week of the season is over. The team admitted it was a lower leg injury, he could not put any weight on it coming off the ice or going down the runway to the locker room. It make the Caps waiver claim of Alexander Urbom that more critical. If they don’t feel like Orlov or Kundratek can help this team right now, they’ll have to get creative and Adam Oates might have to be flexible about this handedness fetish he has for a little while.

3)  Alex Ovechkin is a stud. He’s picked up right where he left off last season, his third Hart Trophy campaign. Not only is he scoring goals, he’s instigating the action and playing physical. Teams have to account for him every time he’s on the ice.

4)  I’m not impressed so far with Braden Holtby’s performance this season. With eight goals in not quite four periods, it’s be tough to be impressed. Sure, his defense isn’t playing great in front of him, but the first goal he allowed tonight was because he wasn’t on his post. NHL players can slip a puck into the smallest of holes, that’s why you can’t give them any. Holtby thought he had the upper left covered, but he left enough daylight to get beaten.

5)  Marcus Johansson had a nice night. After mostly being a passenger in the opener on the road, MoJo must have liked the home cookin’ he got because he had a pretty good game. His three-assist game was Johansson’s first career three-point game and 19th career multi-point game. He was engaged and played a better overall game that his season debut.

Washington Capitals Game 2 Recap: Capitals rally to win 5-4 in shootout, Carrick scores first NHL goal

Not all went as planned for the Washington Capitals during their home opener against the Calgary Flames Thursday night. After falling behind down 3-0 in the first period, and Jack Hillen leaving the game with a leg injury, it was clear the odds were not in the Capitals’  favor. But the Caps finally found their legs and rallied to earn a victory in a shootout, 5-4.

Jack Hillen was injured on a clean hit from Calgary’s Lance  Bouma in the first period, but it was unclear if the injury was to his knee or hip. He left the ice in visible pain, and it was announced that he would not return to the game, leaving the Caps to play with five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

Tom Wilson avenged the hit by trading punches with Bouma, but it didn’t do much to rally the rest of the team. The Flames were already up 1-0, and scored again several minutes later. Postgame, Adam Oates told reporters Hillen had been taken to the hospital, but would only divulge that it was a lower-body injury. Tough luck for Hillen, who was sidelined much of last season with a shoulder injury.

An Alex Ovechkin slashing penalty led to a4-on-4 situation where the Flames tallied again. Braden Holtby (three goals allowed on 11 shots) was pulled before the end of the first period and Michal Neuvirth  stepped in, stopping 27 of 28 shots, stellar in relief.  Holtby will start Saturday, per Adam Oates.

Midway through the second period, a different team began to emerge. Connor Carrick, who had a pretty rough night early (on ice for two goals against), skated out of the penalty box to a clean breakway off a smart Marcus Johansson pass, scoring his first career NHL goal in the process, providing the jumpstart the Capitals needed to chip away at Calgary’s lead.

“Momentum’s  a big part of the NHL hockey game,” said Carrick. “You hear a lot of coaches mention it throughout the league, so anything I can do to swing the momentum our way, I’ll be happy to do, and I was lucky to do it tonight.”

Carrick is in good company. The last Capital to score their first career NHL goal on opening night was Alex Ovechkin on Oct. 5. 2005.

If there was one thing that worked for the Capitals, it was the power play. The Capitals were 2-for-3 on the power play for the night. Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom both scored on the man advantage, and Backstrom’s tally tied the game in the late minutes of the third period.

Three Capitals had multi-point nights: Ovechkin (2g, 1a), Backstrom (1g, 2a) and Johansson (3a).

Neuvirth stopped both of Calgary’s shooters in the skills portion, and Grabovski and Ovechkin sunk their attempts for Washington giving the Capitals their first victory of the season.

Postgame, Oates spoke about the mindset he instilled in the players after the first period that allowed them to come back from a three-goal deficit.

“We talked about how we had 40 minutes to try to get it back. We talked about a couple things we did wrong in the first period and not to give them another one,” said Oates. “We wanted our D [Defense] to be more involved, but not do crazy pinches and give them a free goal – just stay focused and get it one at a time.”

Washington Capitals End-of-Season Roundtable, Part V: How would you rate the defense?

With the conclusion of Washington Capitals season, too early yet again, it’s time for appreciation, evaluation and critique. In this seven part series, the Caps staff at District Sports Page, and a few friends, will be taking an in-depth look at what went right, what could be better, suggest some changes and grade out the team position-by-position.

Our panel: Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief of DSP; Abram Fox, Caps Team Editor of DSP; Katie Brown, Caps Beat Writer for DSP; Sky Kerstein, 106.7 The Fan and DSP contributor; Ted Starkey, SBNation.com and DSP contributor, Adam Vingan, NBCWashington.com; and Harry Hawkings, RocktheRed.net.

PART I: What was the Capitals’ biggest accomplishment this season?

PART II: What was your biggest disappointment about the Caps this season?

PART III: What single adjustment would you advocate for next season?

PART IV: How would you rate the offense this season?

PART V: How would you rate the defense this season?

DAVE: D. I thought, pretty clearly, the blueline was the Caps’ biggest problem this season. In the very beginning everyone was a liability, including the normally stalwart Karl Alzner. I don’t know if it was adjusting to Adam Oates’ system, or the layoff from the lockout (remember, not a single member of the defensive corps played competitively during the lockout), but until about 25 games in, everyone was just getting in each others’ way, pucks were bouncing off skates into their own goal almost every night, and breakouts died in the neutral zone because no one knew what to do with the puck.

When Mike Green came back from his yearly injury absence, things got much, much better, but that because there was nowhere else to go. Green ended up leading the NHL defensemen in goals scored, but teams still keyed their forecheck on clobbering Green any chance they could. John Carlson ended up in the top five in the league in blocked shots, but according to most of the fan base he should have been a candidate to be sent back to the minors early in the season. Pundits wondered for a while, without irony, if Carlson did indeed peak in juniors. Alzner rebounded from his slow start to put together another solid defensive season and even insinuated himself in the play more often this season, and was tied for third on the in shots on goal in the playoffs. Not that Karl being third on the team in shots on goal is a good thing.

The others? A hodgepodge of has-beens, journeymen and never-weres. Tom Poti proved to the team — and probably the league — that his career has come to an unceremonious conclusion. John Erskine enjoyed something of a renaissance, but was completely exposed during the playoffs. Roman Hamrlik, employed by the Caps for a good chunk of the season, was sent packing to sit in the press box at Madison Square Garden instead of Verizon Center. The #fancystat folks loved Jack Hillen’s contribution, but it was really hard to see that translate to success on the ice, and his lack of physical stature left him open to punishment. Steve Oleksy provided some depth, but he’s a career minor league journeyman for a reason, and those reasons were evident if willing to look for them.

Dmitri Orlov and Tomas Kundratek were banished to Hershey, and for the life of me I don’t understand why, especially in Orlov’s case. But both should see plenty of time with the Caps next season.

About the only thing that was legitimately encouraging on defense this season is that Jeff Schultz, finally, took his proper place in the press box after about mid-way through the season. I fully expect the Caps to try to trade the 6’6″ liability, if not simply buy him out under the amnesty clause in the CBA.

ABRAM: 6/10. The defense gets the same rating as the offense, even though they weren’t as good, because Washington’s D corps was working with much less talent. Steven Olesky, a career minor-leaguer, became a stalwart on the back line, and Jack Hillen and John Erskine both earned a great deal more ice time than a putative playoff team would prefer. The Caps were in the bottom half of the league allowing 2.71 goals/game, and allowed a deflating 32.3 shots/game. In the playoffs the defense made a marked improvement, cutting the scoring down to 2.29 goals/game, and limited shots as well, cutting that number down to 29.3/game, fifth best in the league (though it should be noted that five of the top eight teams in that stat were also eliminated in the first round). Notably, the team’s penalty kill stepped it up in the playoffs, finishing the playoffs with a 92.9% kill rate after ending the regular season in the bottom of the league at 77.9%.

KATIE: Aside from Mike Green, Karl Alzner and John Carlson, the blue line was not stellar this season. John Erskine, who signed a contract extension this year, seemed a step or two behind or looked lost for as many times as he blocked a shot or jumped in the crease to save a flying puck. Jack Hillen rebounded from injury and proved to be reliable, and Steven Oleksy, called up from Hershey earlier in the season, provided an inspirational story and a little bit of grit. Overall, the defense wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either, so mediocre with flashes of brilliance should sum it up.


TED:B. Defensively, the Capitals are thinnest, with the top two of Mike Green and Karl Alzner being reliable, but John Carlson was wildly inconsistent this season. John Erskine and Jack Hillen weren’t really the answer, either. While Dmitry Orlov was in Hershey, the bottom end of the Capitals’ defense was part of the breakdown in the series against the Rangers.

ADAM: I’m not sure if I can simply give an entire defensive corps a grade, but I was impressed by the team’s depth. Twelve defensemen played over the course of the regular season, which at one point was a league-high. Karl Alzner and John Carlson continued to grow, while Mike Green looked like his old self again near the end of the season. Jack Hillen was solid when he wasn’t injured, and Tomas Kundratek, Dmitry Orlov, Cameron Schilling and Steven Oleksy proved that the Capitals’ blue line pipeline is strong.

HARRY: I give the defense a B-minus this year.  Mike Green, Karl Alzner, Steve Oleksy (seriously) and John Carlson all had good seasons individually but the bottom half of the defense, like Jack Hillen, John Erskine, Tom Poti, and Jeff Schultz were all inconsistent or downright bad.  The Capitals’ d-zone play never looked right all season; it seemed as though they were running around constantly and their penalty kill was 27th in the NHL at 77.9% and showed little improvement through the season.  In short, there was always an issue with the defense despite the solid play of some individuals, and unlike the offense, it didn’t get noticeably better as the year progressed.

Washington Capitals Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game 3: Capitals can’t grab 3-0 series lead

The Capitals had a golden opportunity to take a 3-0 stranglehold on their first-round series against the Rangers, but a slew of early penalties and a lack of success on their own power play late cost them Game 3 in a 4-3 loss at Madison Square Garden Monday night.

Although the Caps dominated 5-on-5 play for a bulk of the contest, the Rangers – sensing an urgent need to take the contest to have any chance in the series – scored twice in the third to grab the win. Derek Stephan tipped in a Rick Nash shot with just 6:25 left in regulation for the eventual game-winner.

The Caps had a chance late with an extra-man advantage for the game’s final 1:54, but Washington was a bit too passive even with a 6-on-4 and never really got a good chance for the equalizer on Henrik Lundqvist. Instead of shooting, they held the puck, and as a result, couldn’t force overtime.

Washington let a golden chance for a quick series win to vanish as a result, as the Capitals now will have to try and settle for a series split Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, with at least one more game in Washington now on tap for Friday night at Verizon Center.

The night started off well for Washington, as the Caps broke out in front just 4:06 into the game, as Nicklas Backstrom tipped a John Carlson shot past Lundqvist to give the Caps their first first-period lead of the series.

However, after Washington couldn’t convert on a power play shortly after, Joel Ward took a high-sticking minor in the defensive zone – in a flashback to last year’s Game 5 – and the Rangers scored as the minor expired to even the game as Brian Boyle to even the game.

The goal was the Rangers’ first since the first period of Game 1, breaking Braden Holtby’s shutout streak at 124:06, and also was the first goal directly off a Rangers stick in the series.

New York went up just 83 seconds into the second, scoring 8 seconds into a tripping penalty on Holbty as Darick Brassard rifled one past the Capitals netminder. Washington’s penalty-killers were put to the test over the first half of the period, giving up two more minor penalties, but were able to stay within one.

Once the penalty parade subsided, the Capitals were strong at even-strength over the remainder of the middle period, generating one power play and eventually a Mike Green equalizer, as he shot a blast past Lundqvist.

The Rangers, sensing the importance of winning the third period, came out fast in the third, and Aaron Asham caught the Capitals’ defense out of position and beat Holtby just 2:53 into the frame and gave the hosts the lead back.

Washington responded 4:22 later, as Jack Hillen’s shot from the point was tipped by Jay Beagle past Lundqvist, bringing the Capitals even and putting pressure on the Rangers.

New York pressed again after the equalizer, and were able to retake the lead with 6:25 left in regulation, as Derek Stepan tipped in a Rick Nash shot for a 4-3 lead for the hosts.

The Capitals got a late chance with 1:54 left in regulation as Brad Richards caught Alex Ovechkin under his visor for Washington’s third power-place chance of the evening. But Washington played a bit to casually with the power play and failed to convert with a chance to force overtime.

Washington has never held a 3-0 series lead in a best-of-seven series, and now are 0-8 in that situation, as the Capitals will look to earn the split Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

CAPS: Current and Former Capitals Signing Autographs


Several current and former Washington Capitals will be heading out to the Dulles, Virginia on Friday, April 26, 2013 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Autograph tickets are available for purchase. See information below for amount per autograph. Now is your chance to get that something special signed by your favorite Caps.

Braden Holtby – ($65)
Troy Brouwer – ($40)
Jack Hillen – ($20)
Wojek Wolski – ($20)
Aaron Volpatti – ($20)
John Erskine – ($30)

CAPS ALUMNI: (Autographs are FREE with Purchase-see site)

Bryan Watson
Ken Sabourin
Paul Mulvey
Al Hangsleben

See link for more information.

Where: 21100 Dulles Town Circle, Suite #162, Dulles, VA 20166

Jack Hillen - Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jack Hillen – Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Cheryl Nichols is a Columnist and Photographer for District Sports Page. She is credentialed to cover the Washington Capitals and has reported on the community service and fan events for Nats News Network and Caps News Network since 2006. Cheryl is an accomplished action photographer and has been published in The Washington Post and many other local media. She was a credentialed photographer for the 2010 season covering the Washington Nationals. You can follow her on Twitter @cnichols14.

Washington Capitals Game 43 Recap: Caps Make Mincemeat out of Leafs in 5-1 Rout

With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Washington Capitals extended their winning streak to eight games Tuesday night in the Verizon Center in a 5-1 romp over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.

Jack Hillen, Martin Erat, Troy Brouwer, Alexander Ovechkin, and Marcus Johansson scored for the Caps, while Braden Holtby delivered the type of stellar performance in net observers have come to expect, stopping 29 of 30 Maple Leafs shot. Holtby stonewalled Toronto for the first two periods of the game and then some, allowing just the one goal.

Ovechkin was in vintage form Tuesday, feeding off Toronto’s physical play and making his mark known on all aspects of the scoresheet. He netted Washington’s fourth goal – his league-leading 28th of the season – on a one-timer on a feed from Mike Green on the power play. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 40 Recap: Capitals extend win streak to five in Montreal

The Washington Capitals visited the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night, their first trip to the Bell Centre this season, using a late-season winning streak to reach the top of the Southeast Division. They continued their heady play of late, going into one of the most hostile barns in the league and emerged a 3-2 victor for their fifth straight win.

On top of the world (for the moment), the Capitals were riding high off captain Alex Ovechkin’s return to form. Winning four games in a row, the Capitals were ready to prove they could keep pace with a non-Southeast Division team.

Ovechkin, tied for the lead league in goals (25, with Tampa Bay Lighting’s Steven Stamkos), but was still facing criticism because the majority of his goals (21), had been scored against Southeast teams, with only four goals against playoff-contending teams.

Montreal would prove a fine test for Ovechkin, who passed with flying colors. He scored his 26th goal of the season midway through the second period, taking the lead in the NHL scoring race and making another Rocket Richard Trophy look likely to be added to his collection.

Less impressive than the goal itself was Ovechkin’s  stickwork as he flew down the wing, past defenders, before he scored to tie the game at 1-1. It wasn’t a super-new move for Ovechkin, but proof that he’s growing and evolving as a player, no doubt due to being under the tutelage of head coach Adam Oates.

Defenseman Jack Hillen sent a slapper toward Canadiens goalie Carey Price that initially appeared to have been tipped in by either Jason Chimera or Eric Fehr, to put the Capitals up 2-1. Hillen was credited with the goal, but it was eventually given to Fehr, as it looked like he ever-so-slightly tipped it in from his position in the crease. Hillen and fellow defenseman Steven Olesky picked up the assists.

Hillen finally did get his first goal as a Capital, though, in the third period off a shot from the point that beat Price glove side. The Capitals went up 3-1, and Hillen had another two point night, just like that.

Goaltender Michal Neuvirth earned his second consecutive start and was solid all evening, making the saves that kept his team in the game and no doubt rewarding the trust of his coach in his ability to relieve Braden Holtby.

The Capitals held on to win, 3-2, bringing them to five consecutive wins, their longest streak of the season. They are now at 44 points, and holding on to the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

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