August 20, 2014

What went wrong with the Washington Capitals, Part 2: Coaching

The Washington Capitals were officially eliminated from the playoffs last week, something few fans and analysts anticipated at the start of the season.

By failing to reach the postseason for the first time since 2007, the Caps were clearly one of the more disappointing teams this season. This is part two of a three-part series looking into what went wrong for the Caps. Last week, we looked at general manager George McPhee.

This week, we’ll look at the man behind the bench, Adam Oates.

One reason why this season was such a disappointment is because of the success Oates had in his first season as coach. After a 2-8-1 start to the lockout shortened 2012-13 season, the Caps rallied to win the Southeast Division and make their sixth consecutive postseason.

This was especially impressive given the fact that Oates did not have the time in the offseason or a camp to instill his new system and coaching style with the team; he had to take control on the fly and the team responded.

Oates’ initial success made everyone believe the team would thrive in his second year with a full offseason.

That didn’t happen.

So a first-year head coach was able to take over an NHL team with no offseason and lead them to the playoffs, but in his second season the team flounder even with a normal offseason schedule. Doesn’t that seem backwards to you?

Indeed Oates took a huge step back this year with baffling personnel decisions, a stubbornness to change or acknowledge those things that weren’t working and his complete inability to give this team any sort of identity.

Oates got things started early in the season with his handling of Tom Wilson.

Wilson averaged less than eight minutes a game even though McPhee made clear at the beginning of the season that he wanted him to receive significant minutes.  About the only thing Wilson has been allowed to do this season is fight.

Part of the reason he was brought to the NHL was to protect him from players targeting him in the OHL to make a name for themselves. Luckily Oates was there to protect him from those 18 and 19 year olds by throwing him to the wolves in the NHL.

If we are going to talk about personnel, we have to talk about Jay Beagle.

Perhaps the most curious move Oates made this season was moving Beagle to the top line to play with Alex Ovechkin at a time when the team was in desperate need of points.

Just one year ago, Oates stuck Ovechkin with Beagle and Joey Crabb when Ovechkin wanted to move back to left wing. It was a not-so-subtle hint to Ovechkin that if he did not commit to the switch to right wing, he would be stuck with a line he could not produce with.

In one year Beagle went from a ‘punishment’ center to the actual top center. Take a guess as to how well that move worked.

Ovechkin’s line was allowing more goals than it was producing and Oates added Beagle, a more defensively responsible forward, to the top line in an effort to fix the problem.

Dale Hunter’s solution for this was to simply bench Ovechkin, so I applaud Oates’ effort to find a more viable solution, but this move was doomed from the start.

Beagle is a ‘defensively responsible’ forward because he can’t produce offensively. At all. His career high in points is nine, set this season. Even though he played more games this season (62) than he has in any other season in his career and spent time playing with the best scorer in the world, he still managed only nine points.

What really bothers me about this move other than the fact that it didn’t work was that it vilified both Beagle and Ovechkin. Beagle is everything you want in a fourth line player; he works hard, he has an imposing frame which he’s not afraid to use, but he is a horrendous option for the top line. Continually throwing him on the top line where he doesn’t belong exposes his flaws and does not endear him to the fans. He does his job well, but by asking him to do more than he is capable of Oates made Beagle look and feel like a detriment to the team. That’s not fair and it’s not right.

Ovechkin also came under intense scrutiny in the back half of the season as his plus-minus continued to drop, but he can’t improve his plus-minus if he’s skating with someone who can’t produce offensively.

Did the top line allow as many goals with Beagle? No, but they didn’t score any either.

Ovechkin did not score a single point while skating with Beagle. Instead of allowing more goals than they were scoring, the top line just stopped scoring.

And yet Oates would not back down. This experiment should have lasted only a few games, but it went on for two weeks. When asked, what did Oates have to say? “I thought that line hasn’t hurt us.”

What team was he watching?

It was this kind of stubborn refusal to acknowledge any of his team’s struggles or make necessary changes that made this season so frustrating.

The team needed a top six forward and Oates kept Martin Erat on the fourth line until he was traded. The roster is very weak on the left side, but Oates put Dustin Penner on the fourth line after the team traded for him. Oates kept Dmitry Orlov cycling back and forth between Washington and Hershey so many times that he demanded a trade. Oates rode Philipp Grubauer into the ground and refused to play Michal Neuvirth even though that was the only way to raise his trade value. Oates continually played Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer on a line despite the fact that they are two players with two similar playing styles and did not produce offensively together.

McPhee’s hands were also tied in terms of building a roster given Oates’ insistence on playing each player on their shooting side, thus limiting McPhee’s options. Even when he did bring in players that seemingly fit what the team needed, Oates refused to use them.

McPhee may be at fault for not bringing in players that Oates would want to use, but Oates is at fault for not utilizing an optimal lineup.

You can’t convince me that it is better for the team to have Beagle on the top line and Erat and Penner on the fourth. I can’t quantify what giving players like Erat and Penner more time would mean in terms of the standings, but the Caps ended up only three points behind Detroit for the final wildcard spot. Keeping good players on the bench for much of the year could very well have been the difference between a playoff berth and an early summer vacation.

The only way Oates could have justified his puzzling line combinations would be if these players better fit the team’s identity, but there’s a major problem with that argument:  the team doesn’t have an identity.

Can anyone tell me what this team’s identity is? Are they a run-and-gun offense? A defensive stalwart? Grinders and hard-workers? A trap team? A two-way team? Opportunistic? They are none of these.

The fact is even after 82 games I don’t know what they are.

The ultimate failure of Oates this season is that he was never able to instill an identity into the team, unless you believe that identity was bad-turnovers leading to odd man rushes and a complete reliance on the power play. Given that this isn’t Oates’ first season with the team, that is a particularly egregious failure.

The only way you could characterize the Caps this season is by what they did poorly. They could not hold on to two-goal leads, constantly allowed goals after scoring, could not score at even strength, and literally could not win without scoring three goals or more, going 0-25-7 when scoring two goals or less.

These are mental and systematic mistakes that all reflect on the coaching.

Given the roster Oates was handed to start the season, the Caps should be in the playoffs. Is it a championship caliber roster? No, it had some holes, but it was better than how they played.

Oates is a great assistant coach, but that may be his ceiling. He was hired because he was the architect of New Jersey’s power play and had ideas on how to resurrect Ovechkin’s offensive prowess. He accomplished both feats and put together a productive third line, but he did little else.

Ovechkin, Brouwer Jason Chimera and Joel Ward all had great offensive numbers under Oates’ tutelage. Ovechkin even led the league with 51 goals this season.

Before you hail Oates as an offensive genius, however, consider this: 24 of Ovechkin’s 51 goals were scored on the power play where he continues to play on the left side. Nearly half of his goals came on the side Oates moved Ovechkin away from.

Oates didn’t fix Ovechkin, he fixed the power play.

Oates can believe in whatever theories or ideas he wants, but the results from his first full season as a head coach have been downright awful. He is the definition of a meddling coach, tweaking everything from playing side, stick curves and even goaltending style. When things went bad this season he blamed everyone else throwing players like Ovechkin and Jaroslav Halak under the bus all while sticking to his guns on the questionable decisions he himself had made.

In his first season, Oates showed Caps fans a lot to be hopeful for, but that was just not the case in year two.

Next week, I’ll take a look at the players to see what went wrong on the ice.

Washington Capitals Game 81 Recap: Caps dump Blackhawks 4-0 in meaningless exhibition

In a completely meaningless hockey game at the end of a lost season, the Washington Capitals defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0 before a less-than capacity crowd at the Verizon Center Friday night. That the Blackhawks had nothing to play for other than not getting any more injured than they already are speak a lot to the final score of the contest.

Jaroslav Halak made 33 saves in the shutout.

The Caps got going early in the first period. Just 1:03 in, Marcus Kruger went off for a holding penalty. 1:01 into the power play, John Carlson slid the puck to Alex Ovechkin in his normal spot in the left wing faceoff circle and as he’s done so many times before, Ovechkin buried it past Corey Crawford, registering his 51st goal of the season.

A few minutes later, Dmitry Orlov’s shot from the point was knocked down, redirected right to Jay Beagle, alone on the right post. Beagle calmly knocked it to the back of the net for his third of the season and the Caps had a two-goal lead before the half-way point of the first period.

On the next shift, Joel Ward sprung loose on a breakaway and beat Crawford stick-side, but his shot rang off the post.

The Capitals made it 3-0 just 1:19 into the second period. Ovechkin handed the puck to Nick Backstrom and the Swede sent a shot from an almost impossibly tight angle past Crawford for his 18th goal of the campaign.

They tacked on another one with 3:44 left in the frame. Beagle, again on the doorstep, banged home a pass from Jason Chimera from behind the goal for his second of the game, and his first multi-goal game of his career.

The Capitals conclude the 2013-14 season Sunday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning, at which point a critical offseason will commence.

Is Jay Beagle the answer on the top line?

Alex Ovechkin has a new linemate and it’s a curious match.

Jay Beagle is not the kind of player you would expect to see centering the top line, but he’s been playing with Ovechkin for four straight games much to the dismay of most Caps fans.

Beagle has 13 goals and 15 assists in his career; not exactly the type of numbers you would expect from a top line player. He was also a healthy scratch for 18 straight games in the beginning of the season and has played in only 52 of the team’s 72 games.

All of this begs the question, why? Why has Oates moved a fourth line grinder up to be his top line’s center?

The answer is defense.

The three players with the lowest +/- on the team are Ovechkin (-31), Nicklas Backstrom (-20) and Marcus Johansson (-16). While you should never put too much important on +/- as a statistic (remember Jeff Schultz?), it is telling the three players with the worst +/- have spent most of the season playing on the same line together. That means the Caps’ top line was giving up more goals 5-on-5 than it is scoring.

That’s a problem. It doesn’t matter how much Ovechkin scores if the other team is scoring more with him on the ice.

Dale Hunter confronted this problem by simply keeping Ovechkin off of the ice. It was maddening and had every Caps fans screaming at their TVs, wondering why the team’s best player was riding the bench. Hunter was a defensive minded coach so his solution for players who were defensive liabilities was to simply not play them. It was his biggest weakness as a coach.

You have the best goal scorer in the league in Ovechkin, but instead of forcing opposing teams to stop him, Hunter did it for them. Oates is trying something different.

This is where injuries to Brooks Laich and Mikhail Grabovski as well as the team’s need for a top-six forward really hurts. With these injuries as well as the combination of Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr and Joel Ward playing so well, Oates is really limited in what line changes he can make.

An easy fix for the top line is moving Grabovski up. For the season, Grabovski has a +4 in the +/- and the third line is playing well with Fehr at center. I think it would be safe to assume that when he is his healthy, he’ll replace Beagle.

But he’s not healthy, the Caps need points and Oates needs a solution.

Has Beagle on the top line worked so far? Yes and no.

Beagle has played with Ovechkin and Johansson for four games and the Caps have gone 3-0-1 in those games. The top line, however, is not producing. Ovechkin and Johansson have combined for one goal and two assists, all three of which came on the power play, meaning without Beagle on the ice. Beagle meanwhile has no points.

The +/- also has not improved. Oveckin is -2, Johansson -1 and Beagle is an even zero in their four games together.

The Caps have played well in their last four games, but the top line is not producing at all and is still giving up more goals than it is scoring. Pointing to the team’s recent success as evidence that Beagle’s promotion is working would be to discount how well the third line has played, something Beagle has nothing to do with.

The bottom line is that it’s not working and depending on the third line and the power play for all of the team’s offense is not a good plan. The top line has to start producing points.

There are other options. Though Oates has seemingly deemed Dustin Penner to be the next Martin Erat, he is a top six forward and was a +22 in Anaheim this season prior to the trade. Oates could put Backstrom back with Ovechkin and add Penner at left wing (there must be some reason McPhee traded for him, right?).

If he is worried about Penner’s lack of speed, he could mitigate that by moving Johansson back to center with Penner on the wing. Johansson’s speed makes up for Penner’s lack of and center was Johansson’s original position. Even if you like him better on the wing, you can’t tell me Beagle is a better option at center.

The point is, there are other options for the top line and Oates needs to find one. Somehow he has to figure out how to get Ovechkin’s line to be productive at even strength. Putting a fourth line player on the top line is definitely not the answer.

CAPS: Happy Birthday, Jay Beagle

HAPPY 28th BIRTHDAY JAY BEAGLE!

The Washington Capitals forward was born on 10/16/1985 in Calgary, AB, Canada.

Happy 28th Birthday to #83.

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

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

Washington Capitals forward Jay Beagle poses with a participant at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for the Dreams for Kids clinic on Feb. 2 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

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.

CAPS/WIZARDS: Washington Capitals and Wizards Players Team Up with KaBOOM to Build New Playground

Volunteers put the final touches on a Monumental Sports themed playground at Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. The playground’s design is based on drawings created by children who participated in a design day event in July and will provide more than 1,200 children with a place to play. (Photo Courtesy of Monumental Sports)

Volunteers put the final touches on a Monumental Sports themed playground at Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. The playground’s design is based on drawings created by children who participated in a design day event in July and will provide more than 1,200 children with a place to play. (Photo Courtesy of Monumental Sports)

Washington Capitals and Wizards Players Team Up with KaBOOM! to Build New Playground
at Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.

ARLINGTON, Va. – Washington Capitals forwards Jay Beagle, Aaron Volpatti and Tom Wilson and Washington Wizards guards Bradley Beal and Glen Rice, Jr. joined more than 250 volunteers from Eagle Academy Public Charter School and Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, organizers from KaBOOM! and residents of the Congress Heights neighborhood on Thursday, Sept. 26, to build a new playground at the Eagle Center at McGogney.

The new playground’s design is based on drawings created by children who participated in a Design Day event in July. Since the school reopened, students have been playing indoors or on a field with no play structure. The new equipment will provide more than 1,200 children in the neighborhood with a safe place to play.

Volunteers including the Capitals and Wizards players completed the build in six hours, including moving 160 cubic yards of mulch, mixing more than 1,500 pounds of concrete and assembling the play structure.

“The new playground offers kids a great place to be active,” said Beagle. “It was nice to see so many people come together for a cause, and we hope the children enjoy playing outside on the equipment.”

“I am glad to see all of the ideas from the kids from Design Day come to life,” said Beal. “The participation of the volunteers and the excitement of the students made it a great day.”

The playground is the first built by KaBOOM! and Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, but the third built with the assistance of the Washington Capitals. MSE Foundation served as the funding partner for the playground, which cost $83,500.

Washington Capitals forwards Aaron Volpatti, Tom Wilson and Jay Beagle assist with constructing a playground at Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. The playground is the first built by KaBOOM! and Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, but the third built with the assistance of the Washington Capitals. (Photo Courtesy of Monumental Sports)

Washington Capitals forwards Aaron Volpatti, Tom Wilson and Jay Beagle assist with constructing a playground at Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. The playground is the first built by KaBOOM! and Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, but the third built with the assistance of the Washington Capitals. (Photo Courtesy of Monumental Sports)

Washington Capitals forwards Aaron Volpatti and Tom Wilson assist with constructing a playground at Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Monumental Sports and Entertainment Foundation served as the funding partner for the playground, which cost $83,500. (Photo Courtesy of Monumental Sports)

Washington Capitals forwards Aaron Volpatti and Tom Wilson assist with constructing a playground at Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Monumental Sports and Entertainment Foundation served as the funding partner for the playground, which cost $83,500. (Photo Courtesy of Monumental Sports)

Washington Wizards players Bradley Beal (L) and Glenn Rice, Jr. help paint a table near the playground at Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Earlier this summer, Beal assisted the students with the design of the playground. The build is the first joint effort by KaBOOM! and Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation. (Photo Courtesy of Monumental Sports)

Washington Wizards players Bradley Beal (L) and Glenn Rice, Jr. help paint a table near the playground at Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Earlier this summer, Beal assisted the students with the design of the playground. The build is the first joint effort by KaBOOM! and Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation. (Photo Courtesy of Monumental Sports)

Washington Capitals 2013-14 Position Preview: Center

For years, Capitals fans have been clamoring for General Manager George McPhee to do something about that pesky second-line center problem. For a while, it seemed like Marcus Johansson was being groomed for that spot, until Mike Ribiero was signed during the summer of 2012. Ribiero looked like the answer, and for a few short months, he was.

He found chemistry with Alex Ovechkin, served admirably with Troy Brouwer on the second line, and greatly contributed to the success on the Capitals’ power play. He was crafty, he was smart – a playmaker. He also wanted a long-term contract, but McPhee and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis weren’t willing to offer that.

Back to square one, right? No, back to Brooks Laich. “He’s our guy,” said McPhee in July, expressing confidence in his current roster. Several weeks later, Toronto Maple Leafs casualty Mikhail Grabovski signed with the Capitals.

Mikhail Grabovski:

Bought out by Toronto, Grabovski is the frontrunner for the second-line center spot this season, and the answer for a problem that seems to crop up every summer, though not necessarily a long-term solution, since his contract is only for one year. His 2013 season was less than stellar (9g, 7a), but that was more a product of less ice time and not being properly utilized by Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle and less a reflection of his ability. Adam Oates has plans for him to play alongside Troy Brouwer, and he will skate for the first time at Kettler Tuesday morning, after visa issues stranded him in Toronto for most of Capitals training camp. It would be interesting to see what he’s able to contribute to the power play, too.

Nicklas Backstrom:

Backstrom is a mainstay on the Capitals’ top line, and is arguably the best player on the team at any given time. Ovechkin’s goal-scoring streak in the last part of the 2013 season was, in part, fed by Backstrom’s deft hands. Backstrom’s role will probably not differ much from what’s been expected of him in the past. He’s pretty good at what he does. He had a bit of a quiet year in 2013, but look for him to bounce back to his old numbers. He’s due for a comeback this season, and playing with Ovechkin never did any harm to anyone, either. Just as Marcus Johansson.

Mathieu Perreault:

The spunky Quebecois center, who finished with a career-high 16 goals in 2011-12 (his first career hat trick that season didn’t hurt) and 6 goals last season, is a player who always works a little bit harder than everyone else, and it shows. He’s not a top-line player, but holds his own on the Capitals fourth “energy” line (a term Oates would like to steer away from), with guys like Joel Ward and Aaron Volpatti. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see more of his wacky victory celebrations from the bench this season.

Jay Beagle:

During the 2013 lockout, Beagle worked with skating coach Wendy Marco to improve his skating prowess – and it showed. He was quicker and more agile for a player of his skill level. Typically a fourth-line grinder, Beagle’s role evolved to a shutdown center over the last few years, toughing it out with Matt Hendricks and Joel Ward. Things might look a little different on the bottom-six once the season starts, though. Oates is experimenting with Eric Fehr centering the third line in preseason, and if that project works, it could certainly change Beagle’s role in the long run.

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.

Washington Capitals Game 31 Recap: Caps Dominate from Start to Finish, Wallop Jets 6-1

One night after seemingly having everything go their way, the Washington Capitals had another one of those experiences as Brooks Laich scored his first goal of the season to jumpstart a wild night on offense as the Capitals trounced the Southeast Division-leading Winnipeg Jets 6-1 Friday night in Winnipeg.

Alexander Ovechkin added two goals, and Troy Brouwer, Jay Beagle, and Mike Green also scored for the Caps in their second straight victory over the Jets in two nights. Braden Holtby turned away 30 of 31 shots in a stellar performance. [Read more...]

CAPS: Washington Capitals Players and Better Halves Visit Children’s National Medical Center

Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom (19) and defenseman Jeff Schultz (55) work on arts and crafts with patients at Children’s National Medical Center during a Feb. 15 visit. Capitals players have made a tradition of visiting Children’s National Medical Center each season since 1984. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom (19) and defenseman Jeff Schultz (55) work on arts and crafts with patients at Children’s National Medical Center during a Feb. 15 visit. Capitals players have made a tradition of visiting Children’s National Medical Center each season since 1984. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals defenseman Tom Poti works on an arts and crafts project with a child at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. during a Feb. 15 visit. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals defenseman Tom Poti works on an arts and crafts project with a child at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. during a Feb. 15 visit. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Following an afternoon of arts and crafts, Washington Capitals players and their better halves take a group photograph with patients at Children’s National Medical Center. Back row (l-r): Jessica and Tom Poti, Michal Neuvirth and Monika Hybnerova, Ashley and Jay Beagle, Tomas Kundratek and Alannah Dzerdz, Nicklas Backstrom and Liza Berg, Mackenzie Schultz. Front row (l-r): Donna Oates, Jeff Schultz. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Following an afternoon of arts and crafts, Washington Capitals players and their better halves take a group photograph with patients at Children’s National Medical Center. Back row (l-r): Jessica and Tom Poti, Michal Neuvirth and Monika Hybnerova, Ashley and Jay Beagle, Tomas Kundratek and Alannah Dzerdz, Nicklas Backstrom and Liza Berg, Mackenzie Schultz. Front row (l-r): Donna Oates, Jeff Schultz. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

 

ARLINGTON, Va. – During the past two years, 10-year-old Ellie Schleyer has been visiting Children’s National Medical Center for an undiagnosed brain disorder.

In between bloodwork and tests on Feb. 15, she discovered several Washington Capitals players and their better halves at the hospital for an afternoon of arts and crafts.

In the hospital’s atrium Ellie joined several other children along with Nicklas Backstrom and Liza Berg, Jay and Ashley Beagle, Tomas Kundratek and Alannah Dzerdz, Michal Neuvirth and Monika Hybnerova, Donna Oates, wife of head coach Adam Oates, Tom and Jessica Poti and Jeff and Mackenzie Schultz.

“To see the kids get so excited when the guys come is just priceless,” said Mackenzie Schultz. “A lot of kids are here fighting through things that we can’t even imagine at such a young age. Just to put a smile on their face and make one day a little better is so important.”

Ellie’s father, David Schleyer, said the visit had a positive effect on Ellie, who made each player she worked with a piece of art.

“For her, it’s an opportunity to express something other than sadness,” he said. “To see the players giving her time and admiring her artwork says a lot about their character.”

The Capitals have made a tradition of visiting Children’s National Medical Center each season since 1984.

“It’s definitely hard for the children to be in the hospital, so we’re happy to be with them and play games and make them happy,” said Kundratek. “It’s pretty awesome to be here and spend some time with them.”

Located in Washington, D.C., Children’s National Medical Center is the only exclusive provider of pediatric care in the metropolitan Washington area and is the only freestanding children’s hospital between Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Norfolk and Atlanta. Serving the nation’s children for more than 140 years, Children’s National is a proven leader in the development and application of innovative new treatments for childhood illness and injury.

Washington Capitals Game 3 Postgame Audio: Oates, Ovi, Brouwer & Many More

WASHINGTON–The Washington Capitals became the only team in the Eastern Conference without a win as they were blown out, 4-1, by the Montreal Canadiens at home.  Troy Brouwer called the Capitals (0-3-0) “pathetic” while team captain Alex Ovechkin called tonight “embarrassing”.

“We’ve been out-worked three times, we’ve lost three games,”  Brouwer said.

The Capitals gave up two power play goals early in the second period to break what had been a scoreless tie after the first period and the onslaught was on.

“I think play good in the first period,”  Goalie Michale Neuvirth said.  “Couple bad breaks and then the second period cost us the game.”

The Caps were 4-of-6 on the penalty kill in the game and now a dreadful 11-of-18 on the season. [Read more...]

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