November 25, 2014

CAPS: Happy Birthday, Joey Crabb

HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY JOEY CRABB!

The Right Winger was born on 04/03/1983 in Anchorage, Alaska and is now playing with Hershey Bears.

Make sure to wish #15 a happy birthday.

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

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

 

Washington Capitals Game 26 Recap: Late Three-Goal Comeback Powers Washington’s 3-2 Victory Over Carolina

With the season already all but lost, the Washington Capitals earned a satisfying measure of revenge Thursday night with a late 3-2 comeback win in Raleigh over the Carolina Hurricanes, who shut out the Caps in the team’s previous meeting two nights prior. Mike Ribeiro scored the eventual game-winner with just 2:44 left in the third period.

Alexander Ovechkin registered his 700th career point on a power play marker one minute and one second into the third frame that tied the game at two, and earned an assist on Ribeiro’s goal.

Joey Crabb also scored for the Capitals, and Michal Neuvirth made 36 saves in the win, in his first start since February 7. Alexander Semin and Patrick Dwyer scored for the Hurricanes, while Dan Ellis earned the loss, his sixth in six tries versus Washington. [Read more…]

CAPS: Carlson, Crabb, Hendricks and Hillen Skate for Courage Caps

Washington Capitals forward Joey Crabb poses with children assisted by Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors during a skating party at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. The event kicked off the 2012-13 Courage Caps, presented by SKYDEX technologies. 100% of proceeds raised through the sale of Courage Caps and T-Shirts will benefit TAPS. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals forward Joey Crabb poses with children assisted by Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors during a skating party at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. The event kicked off the 2012-13 Courage Caps, presented by SKYDEX technologies. 100% of proceeds raised through the sale of Courage Caps and T-Shirts will benefit TAPS. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson skates with children and adults assisted by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors during a skating party at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. For the second-consecutive season, TAPS is the beneficiary of Courage Caps, team-issued branded hats and T-shirts that will go on sale beginning March 10, when the Capitals host the New York Rangers. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson skates with children and adults assisted by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors during a skating party at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. For the second-consecutive season, TAPS is the beneficiary of Courage Caps, team-issued branded hats and T-shirts that will go on sale beginning March 10, when the Capitals host the New York Rangers. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

 

 

Capitals Host Courage Caps Skating Party
at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for TAPS

Event kicks off 2012-13 Courage Caps presented by SKYDEX Technologies, on sale March 10

ARLINGTON, Va. – Washington Capitals American-born players John Carlson, Joey Crabb, Matt Hendricks and Jack Hillen hosted more than 150 children and adults assisted by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) for a skating party and lunch at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on March 3.

The event kicked off the 2012-13 Courage Caps campaign, presented for the second season by SKYDEX Technologies. Courage Caps are team-issued branded hats and T-shirts that will go on sale beginning March 10, when the Capitals host the New York Rangers.

For the second-consecutive season, TAPS is the beneficiary of Courage Caps. TAPS is a nonprofit organization that provides comfort and care for anyone who is grieving the death of someone who died while serving in the military. TAPS will receive 100% of the proceeds raised through the sale of Courage Caps.

Skating party attendees participated in an hour long skating session with Carlson, Crabb, Hendricks and Hillen.

“We’re proud to be supporting TAPS through Courage Caps,” said Crabb. “A lot of the families have been through some rough things, and it was great to see the kids having fun out here.”

Funds raised will provide peer-based emotional support, regional seminars for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, case work assistance, grief and trauma resources and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for bereaved military families.

Courage Caps and Courage T-shirts will be sold for $20 online at WashingtonCaps.com, at the Washington Capitals Team Store at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and at the Team Store and at stands throughout Verizon Center during Capitals home games. There will also be a limited number of autographed Courage Caps and T-shirts available for sale at WashingtonCaps.com and at the community relations table located behind section 103/104 on the main concourse at Verizon Center.

For $60 fans can purchase a Courage Cap or T-shirt signed by Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green or Alex Ovechkin; for $40 fans can purchase a Courage Cap or T-shirt signed by any other individual Capitals player. Fans will be able to order hats or T-shirts signed by any rostered player online.

A select number of autographed hats will be on sale at the community relations table at section 103/104 on the main concourse at Verizon Center. When the Capitals host the New York Rangers on March 10, fans may purchase hats signed by Backstrom, Green or Ovechkin for $60 each and by Karl Alzner, Troy Brouwer, Carlson, Hendricks, Braden Holtby, Mike Ribeiro or Joel Ward for $40 each.

Since the initiative launched in 2007, the Courage Caps campaign has set a new record each year, raising a total of nearly $322,000 through the sale of nearly 8,000 Courage Caps in five years and more than 3,000 Courage T-shirts in three years. Nearly 2,500 Courage Caps and 2,000 Courage T-shirts were sold last season, raising more than $105,000 for TAPS.

TAPS is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, seminars for adults, good grief camps for children, case work assistance and a 24/7 resource helpline for all who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces, regardless of the location of the death or the circumstances of the death. Services are provided free of charge. For more information about TAPS, visit www.taps.org or call the toll-free help line at 1.800.959.TAPS (8277).

SKYDEX, a privately held technology company headquartered near Denver, is the industry leader in developing innovative protective materials that mitigate shock, vibration and/or energy forces for the most demanding military, commercial and industrial applications. Its technologically advanced innovations include blast-mitigating flooring for combat vehicles, padding for military helmets, vibration-attenuating seating for both ground vehicles and helicopters and shock absorbing decking for high speed boats. SKYDEX is a leading supplier to armed forces around the world. To learn more about SKYDEX Technologies, visit www.skydex.com.

Washington Capitals forward Matt Hendricks skates with an adult assisted by Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors during a skating party at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. The event kicked off the 2012-13 Courage Caps, presented by SKYDEX technologies. Courage Caps and Courage T-shirts will be sold for $20 online at WashingtonCaps.com, at the Washington Capitals Team Store at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and at the Team Store and at stands throughout Verizon Center during Capitals home games. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals forward Matt Hendricks skates with an adult assisted by Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors during a skating party at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. The event kicked off the 2012-13 Courage Caps, presented by SKYDEX technologies. Courage Caps and Courage T-shirts will be sold for $20 online at WashingtonCaps.com, at the Washington Capitals Team Store at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and at the Team Store and at stands throughout Verizon Center during Capitals home games. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

CAPS: Washington Capitals to Host Courage Caps Skating Party for TAPS

Will the Capitals finally get to use all these game pucks in 2013? (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

(Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Capitals to Host Courage Caps Skating Party
at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for TAPS

ARLINGTON, Va. – Washington Capitals American-born players John Carlson, Joey Crabb, Matt Hendricks and Jack Hillen will host more than 150 children and adults assisted by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) for a skating party and lunch at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Sunday, March 3, from 11 a.m. to noon.

The event kicks off the 2012-13 Courage Caps campaign, presented for the second season by SKYDEX Technologies. Courage Caps are team-issued branded hats and T-shirts that will go on sale beginning March 10, when the Capitals host the New York Rangers.

For the second consecutive season, TAPS is the beneficiary of Courage Caps. TAPS is a nonprofit organization that provides comfort and care for anyone who is grieving the death of someone who died while serving in the military. TAPS will receive 100% of the proceeds raised through the sale of Courage Caps.

Funds raised will provide peer-based emotional support, regional seminars for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, case work assistance, grief and trauma resources and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for bereaved military families.

Courage Caps and Courage T-shirts will be sold for $20 online at WashingtonCaps.com, at the Washington Capitals Team Store at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and at the Team Store and at stands throughout Verizon Center during Capitals home games. There will also be a limited number of autographed Courage Caps and T-shirts available for sale at WashingtonCaps.com and at the community relations table located behind section 103/104 on the main concourse at Verizon Center.

For $60 fans can purchase a Courage Cap or T-shirt signed by Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green or Alex Ovechkin; for $40 fans can purchase a Courage Cap or T-shirt signed by any other individual Capitals player. Fans will be able to order hats or T-shirts signed by any rostered player online.

A select number of autographed hats will be on sale at the community relations table at section 103/104 on the main concourse at Verizon Center. When the Capitals host the New York Rangers on March 10, fans may purchase hats signed by Backstrom, Green or Ovechkin for $60 each and by Karl Alzner, Troy Brouwer, Carlson, Hendricks, Braden Holtby, Mike Ribeiro or Joel Ward for $40 each.

Since the initiative launched in 2007, the Courage Caps campaign has set a new record each year, raising a total of nearly $322,000 through the sale of nearly 8,000 Courage Caps in five years and more than 3,000 Courage T-shirts in three years. Nearly 2,500 Courage Caps and 2,000 Courage T-shirts were sold last season, raising more than $105,000 for TAPS.

TAPS is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, seminars for adults, good grief camps for children, case work assistance and a 24/7 resource helpline for all who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces, regardless of the location of the death or the circumstances of the death. Services are provided free of charge. For more information about TAPS, visit www.taps.org or call the toll-free help line at 1.800.959.TAPS (8277).

SKYDEX, a privately held technology company headquartered near Denver, is the industry leader in developing innovative protective materials that mitigate shock, vibration and/or energy forces for the most demanding military, commercial and industrial applications. Its technologically advanced innovations include blast-mitigating flooring for combat vehicles, padding for military helmets, vibration-attenuating seating for both ground vehicles and helicopters and shock absorbing decking for high speed boats. SKYDEX is a leading supplier to armed forces around the world. To learn more about SKYDEX Technologies, visit www.skydex.com or view the SKYDEX online press kit here.

WHO: Washington Capitals American-born players John Carlson, Joey Crabb, Jack Hillen and Matt Hendricks

WHAT: Skating party with surviving military families assisted by TAPS to launch Courage Caps

WHEN: Sunday, March 3, 2013
11 a.m. to noon

WHERE: Kettler Capitals Iceplex
627 N. Glebe Road
Arlington, Va. 22203

Photo Gallery: Washington Capitals present Hockey ‘n’ Heels 2013

Thanks to DSP fan contributors Katie Lucas and Manda Kowalczyk, please enjoy the following photo gallery of this year’s Hockey ‘n’ Heels event the Washington Capitals hosted at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

calle jo

Caps assistant coach Calle Johansson (a defenseman) gave faceoff tips. (photo courtesy K. Lucas)

crabb and hunter

Joey Crabb and assistant coach Tim Hunter gave lessons in shooting the puck. (photo courtesy K. Lucas)

crabb

Gratutitous shot of Joey Crabb. (photo courtesy K. Lucas)

kundra and katie

Rookie Tomas Kundratek shows Katie how to pass on the backhand. (photo courtesy K. Lucas)

kundra

Tomas Kundratek, presented without comment. (photo courtesy K. Lucas)

locker

The eloquent Craig Laughlin, telling a surely riviting story. (photo courtesy K. Lucas)

wolski

Wolski showing a guest the finer points of a wrist shot. (photo courtesy K. Lucas)

manda-locker

That Locker sure is the excitable one, eh? (photo courtesy M. Kowalczyk)

manda-beagle

Jay Beagle, getting ready to pose for pictures. (photo courtesy M. Kowalcyzk)

manda-crabb

Okay, here’s another one of Crabb. (photo courtesy M. Kowalczyk)

manda-ladies in the locker

The group got a locker room tour. (photo courtesy M. Kowalczyk)

manda-hugs

Manda and friend pose with Kundratek. (photo courtesy M. Kowalczyk)

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…]

Washington Capitals Game 3 Recap: Four-goal second period dooms Caps against Habs

“I would say some of our mistakes are pure effort.” Adam Oates, on Caps troublesome 0-3-0 start.

The Washington Capitals haven’t started out 0-3 since the ’93-’94 season. The 2013 version equaled that mark, though, suffering from the same malaise that plagued them in their first two games. A promising first period gave way to a four-goal second frame, and the Caps never could muster a counter-attack as they fell to the Montreal Canadiens, 4-1, before a frustrated Verizon Center, which emptied out after the horn signalling the end of the second period.

The Caps surrendered two power play goals, took six minor penalties in all, could not muster any sustained offense, and looked generally inept defensively, especially their top defensive pair, John Carlson and Karl Alzner, who were on the ice for all four Montreal goals and were eventually split up in the third period. What’s worse, the team admitted to being deflated after allowing two quick goals on the same power play and never recovered.

Washington has been outscored 14-6 this season and are the only team in the Eastern Conference without a point after three games. They have allowed seven goals in 18 power plays against, while going 2-for-12 on their own power plays. [Read more…]

Tuesday Caps Morning Skate Update: Oates, Chimera, Crabb

ARLINGTON, VA–The Caps held their first morning skate at home today as they prepare for their home opener against the 0-1-1 Winnipeg Jets tonight.  The Jets come off a 2-1 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins yesterday afternoon in Boston.

The Caps likely line up tonight is Johansson-Backstrom-Ovechkin, Wolski-Ribeiro-Brouwer, Chimera-Beagle-Ward, Hendricks-Perreault-Crabb, Alzner-Carlson, Poti-Green, Hamrlik-Kundratek, Holtby.

Tomas Kundratek will make his season debut after being called up yesterday from AHL Hershey.  He will be playing in his sixth career NHL game, played in five for the Caps last season, and is an offensive defenseman.  He currently leads Hershey with 13 goals.

Joey Crabb is also in the line-up after being a healthy scratch last game.  Crabb says he brings “high-energy” to the line-up and is a two-way forward.  Watch for Crabb to get some time on the penalty kill tonight.  This will be the first home opener Joey Crabb has ever been in the line-up for.

The likely healthy scratches tonight are Eric Fehr, Jeff Schultz and John Erskine.

Braden Holtby (0-1-0, 6.02 GAA, .824 save pct.) will make his second consecutive start for the Caps.

Adam Oates says the plan, as of now, is for Brooks Laich (lower body) to practice with the team tomorrow, but there is still no timetable for his return.  Laich has not practiced with the team this season.

Listen here to what Adam Oates, Jason Chimera & Joey Crabb had to say following the morning skate today.

Adam Oates Morning Skate Audio

01-22-13 Adam Oates Practice RAW

Jason Chimera Morning Skate Audio

01-22-13 Jason Chimera Practice RAW

Joey Crabb Morning Skate Audio

01-22-13 Joey Crabb Practice RAW

 

Washington Capitals 2013 Positional Preview: The Forwards

With the season opener right around the corner, District Sports Page takes a look at the construction of the roster to start the season. Wednesday, we previewed the defensemen. Today, the forwards.

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

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

Newcomers: Mike Ribeiro, Wojtek Wolski, Joey Crabb
Departed: Alexander Semin, Jeff Halpern, Mike Knuble, Cody Eakin, Keith Aucoin, D.J. King

Nicklas Backstrom
Nicklas Backstrom was headed to one of his strongest offensive seasons to date last season when, during a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames, winger Rene Bourque tried to separate Backstrom’s head from his shoulders with an intentional and flagrant elbow to the head. Bourque got a five game suspension without pay for his indiscretion. Backstrom missed half a season. Backstrom came back for the tail end of the season and the playoffs, though he missed a game of his own for a violent cross-check in the Boston series. All told, the Swedish centerman played 42 regular season and 13 playoff games.

Backstrom played for Dynamo Moscow during the lockout and suffered a reported neck injury, which caused much angst among Caps fans. He saw a specialist in Michigan once he returned to the U.S. He’s been cleared for practice, but it’s clear much of the Caps offensive flows through the 25-year old. His health, and acclimation to new coach Adam Oates’ system, could well determine if the Caps are to challenge for the Southeast Division title — a position they vacated last season unceremoniously.

Jay Beagle
Every team in the NHL could use a guy like Jay Beagle on their fourth line. He’s not especially talented in any one area, but the 27-year old is willing to do anything to keep his spot in an NHL lineup. The 6’3″, 215 Calgary native is a tireless worker, willing to lay down in front of any shot, and has enough size to mix it up in the corner when needed. Beagle played in a career-high 41 games last season, netting just four goals and one assist. But as the season drew to a close, then coach Dale Hunter relied more and more on players that have more heart than skill.

Where Beagle fits into Oates’ offense remains to be seen. He and newcomer Joey Crabb will most likely split time between the ice and the press box this season depending on matchups, but no one on this team works harder, in games or practices, and players like that challenge everyone around them to give better effort.

Troy Brouwer
Brouwer was busy during the lockout. He didn’t play overseas like many of his teammates, but was one of the more vocal players during the CBA negotiations, going so far as to call out teammate Roman Hamrlik when the latter made his opinions known about the situation. Both players said fences were mended in separate interviews at the start of camp, but one has to wonder how much lingering resentment there could be should the Caps get off to a slow start or falter on the ice this season.

On the ice, Brouwer had a decent season last year, chipping in with 33 points (18 g, 15 a). But the right winger often was playing a line — or two, really — above his skill level and just seemed to have trouble keeping up with faster and more skilled linemates. His talent set really is best suited as a second or third line winger but often was asked to ride with Ovechkin and Backstrom, especially early last season. It’ll be interesting to see who Brouwer skates with this year. Already, pundits are speculating Oates wants to have Marcus Johansson on the first line with 8 and 19.

Jason Chimera
Chimera enjoyed a career year last season, hitting the 20-goal mark (20 g, 19 a) for the first time as an NHLer. His speed and skating ability caused matchup problems for opposing defenses all season long, and his extra and unexpected production help pick up some of the slack of injuries and ineffectiveness from some of the Caps top players. It wasn’t enough to overcome the Caps struggles on offense, but Chimera seemed to have a knack for the timely goal, including what turned out to be the game-winner in Game 6 of the first round against the Rangers.

The 33-year old winger will once again be expected to fill out a third line spot, combining with Joel Ward and perhaps Brooks Laich (once healthy) to provide a steady overall game, lightning speed and a little bit of edge.

Joey Crabb
Crabb is a 29-year old Alaska native just coming into his own as an NHL depth player. Last season for Toronto, the 6’1″, 190 winger played in a career high 67 games and set personal bests with 11 goals and 15 assists for a plus-1 rating on a truly dismal Maple Leafs squad.

Crabb has appeared in 144 career NHL games with Atlanta and Toronto, compiling 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists) and 85 penalty minutes. He collected 172 points (73 goals, 99 assists) in 299 career AHL games with Chicago and Toronto. Like Beagle, Crabb is a hard-worker, willing to do what’s asked of him to keep a roster spot. He killed penalties with Toronto and could very well see time with that duty in D.C.

Eric Fehr
It’s a familiar — and unhappy — story for Eric Fehr. A once-promising high-scoring winger with size and skating ability, Fehr suffered yet again through another injury-plagued season last year with the Winnipeg Jets, his first and only season with his hometown team. He managed to dress for 35 games, but his latest shoulder injury left him at less than capacity and the winger scored just two goals and one assist in another lost season.

Still only 27, the Caps were willing to roll the dice on their 2003 first round (18th overall) pick and signed him to a one-year, $600,000 deal. At that price, the Caps aren’t really risking much to give Fehr an opportunity to show he’s regained his health and can contribute as a depth scorer on the wing this season.

Matt Hendricks
Hendricks earned the nickname “The Paralyzer” last season for his wicked moves during several shootout opportunities, including one late in the season where he faked Bruins goalie Tim Thomas to the ice before skating around the fallen goalie and netting the game-winner. Hendricks’ offensive prowess is pretty much limited to the shootout (4 g, 5 a for the season), but his effort, tenacity and back story as a late bloomer — along with his tireless charity work — makes him a fan favorite regardless.

Hendricks’ presence on the fourth line provides the Caps with energy, effort and a bit of toughness. Hendricks has shown a willingness to mix it up with players much bigger or more skilled in the pugilistic arts when necessary. It’s part of the game that the 31-year old winger has reluctantly accepted to help keep a roster spot in the NHL, as if he needed one more trait to endear himself to Caps fans.

Marcus Johansson
When a 22-year old player is third on the roster in scoring for a veteran-laden playoff team, it has to be an encouraging sign. Yet, when Johansson’s name is brought up in most circles, the word disappointment is bandied about just as much as potential. In his first full NHL season, the Swedish forward registered 14 goals and 32 assists in 80 games, splitting time between center and wing. Early indications from training camp would suggest Oates would like to see the speedy Johansson occupy the opposite wing from Alex Ovechkin on the Caps top line this season, a heady promotion indeed.

Johansson’s offensive playmaking skills are rivaled only by his first line mates on the Caps roster, but last year he showed bouts of wild inconsistency, along with trouble in the faceoff circle and defending bigger, stronger veteran centers. Moving him to a wing on a full-time basis could very well be the thing that spurs Johansson into a legitimate scoring threat in the league. With the departure of Alexander Semin, Johansson is going to be looked upon to boost his just over half-a-point per game average from last season. In fact, it will be critical to the Caps success.

Brooks Laich
Everyone’s favorite part-time tire changer came back from the lockout with a groin injury that will keep him from the opening night lineup. In fact, he has yet to practice with the team, limiting his workouts to pre-practice skating drills on his own. It’s not a place the practice junkie likes to be, but he’s come to live with the fact that his body has to be healthy in order to help the team.

“You’re sort of asking me, ‘Should I be more level-headed than what I have been in the past?’ and the answer is yes,” the 29-year old Laich said after skating without his teammates this past week. “But it’s hard when your brain doesn’t really work like that. I mean, it’s – as a competitor, you want to – all you think about is the competition.”

Once healthy, Laich should occupy a spot on the third line with Chimera and Ward to form a versatile and formidable combination that can play shutdown defense or chip in with a few goals when needed.

Alex Ovechkin
Every move Ovechkin makes is captured, analyzed and dissected. Including getting married in the off-season. Will settling down off the ice help the personable Russian sniper maintain his focus and conditioning on the ice? Will he ever be the 40-50 goal scoring dominant force in the NHL again? Has the league caught up? Has he slowed down? Has his physical style of play worn down his body to the point that it’s not capable of what it once did. Question after question.

What we know about Ovechkin is this: his 65 points last season represented a career low, and it wasn’t even close. His overall scoring has gone down each of the last four seasons, a precipitous drop from his career high 112 points and 65 goal season of ’07-’08. It was also the first time in his career he averaged less than a point per game in the playoffs (5 g, 4 a in 14 games).

Ovechkin was benched late in the season and had his shifts limited in the post-season by former coach Dale Hunter, presumably because the player that was once known as a wrecking ball on skates was a liability in Hunter’s ultra-conservative defensive philosophy. Did Ovechkin learn anything from the experience? Will Adam Oates’ system allow Ovechkin the freedom to create while mitigating his defensive liabilities? Are there shades of the dynamic scorer still inside Alex Ovechkin? More questions than answers. But as Ovechkin goes, so go the Capitals.

Mathieu Perreault
The diminutive forward had a breakout season of sorts last season, registering 16 goals and 14 assists in 64 games for the Caps. His scoring has never really been questioned, as he has a knack for the net and a willingness to get into places where his undersized body is put into jeopardy. But simply put, Perreault is too small to really play with the big boys. He is capable as a change of pace type of player, able to take advantage of his quick shot in the right matchup, but just not strong enough to be counted on as a top-six forward in the league.

But there’s nothing wrong with that necessarily. Perreault will once again be part of the depth scoring rotation, perhaps trading sweaters with the recently re-signed Eric Fehr depending on the matchup (and Fehr’s health) on any given night.

Mike Ribeiro
The Capitals long-elusive second line center was acquired in an off-season trade by GM George McPhee for Cody Eakin and a second round draft pick in last year’s draft. Ribeiro is a player that brings skill, speed and much-needed orneriness to the Caps skill lines.  Ribeiro, 32, ranked tied for second on Dallas with 63 points (18 goals, 45 assists) in 74 games during the 2011-12 season. He has collected 560 points (173 goals, 387 assists) in 737 career NHL games with Dallas and Montreal. In 42 career playoff games Ribeiro has recorded 25 points (five goals, 20 assists) and was an All-Star in 2008 during his career season when he scored 27 goals and 56 assists. He’s reached the 50 assist mark three times in his 12-year NHL career.

In addition to his offensive prowess, Ribeiro is known across the league as one of the chippiest forwards, despite being average size (6’0″, 180). He’s as adept at getting into defensemen and goalie’s heads as he is getting into the goal. For a team that has been considered as too “soft” in the past, Ribeiro’s feistiness could very well be as much a boost as his offensive skill.

Joel Ward
Ward was the hero of the Bruins series in the first round last season, following a rebound off a rush by the now-departed Mike Knuble and beating Tim Thomas to end Game 7 of that series in overtime, allowing the Caps to escape a tightly-contested series and advance to the second round, where they met ultimately met their demise against the New York Rangers. He joined his then-coach, Dale Hunter, and Sergei Fedorov as the only players to score a Game Seven game-winning goal in Washington Capitals history.

Go ahead. Click the link. I’ll wait.

Ward, 32, won’t be asked to contribute offensive fireworks like that on a regular basis this season. He only had 18 points last season (6 g, 12 a). His role is that of the shut-down checker and penalty killer. But it sure was fun that night in Boston, eh?

Wojtek Wolski
Wolski was brought in by McPhee as a bargain basement free agent and will get the first opportunity to fill Alexander Semin’s considerable shoes on the Caps second line. Like Semin, Wolski is a bit of an enigma, often described as a gifted offensive player that isn’t willing to put in the work or effort to truly succeed in the league. Wolski even acknowledged as much in his initial interview with D.C. media, describing his career to be “at a crossroads“. The Caps become his sixth franchise in seven NHL seasons and he’s been traded during the season each of the last three seasons.

Wolski was a very highly rated prospect and was a first round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2004. His best season was ’09-’10, when the Poland-born, Toronto-bred winger recorded 23 goals and 65 points in 80 games with Colorado and Phoenix, but he’s never really had things completely “click” for him and he’s never approached those types of numbers since. He played just nine NHL games in ’11-’12 for the Rangers. If Wolski can provide some scoring relief, McPhee will look like some sort of guru. If not, the GM will be looking for help up front at the trade deadline.

As Lockout Ends, Fans Welcome Caps Back to the Ice

At approximately 10:30 pm on Saturday night, the NHLPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding that brought an end to four-month-long the NHL lockout.

At exactly 10:30 am on Sunday morning, a standing room-only crowd welcomed the Washington Capitals with rousing applause as the team, led by netminder Braden Holtby, stepped on the ice for an abbreviated training camp starting less than a week before the start of the shortened regular season.

Capitals fans watch Sunday morning's practice session from the upper level of Kettler Capitals Iceplex.(photo by Abram Fox)

Capitals fans stand to watch Sunday’ practice session.
(photo by Abram Fox)

Other than an on-ice warmup introduction by public address announcer Wes Johnson, Sunday morning’s session was no different than a normal team practice. Because of injuries and the organization’s desire to only bring players with legitimate shots at making the opening day roster to camp, there were just 26 players on the training camp roster and only 24 on the ice Sunday, with Brooks Laich (lower body injury) and Tom Poti (conditioning assignment) both in street clothes.

For fans, the hour-long practice was the first opportunity to see free agent signees Joey Crabb, Jack Hillen, Cameron Schilling, and Wojtek Wolski, 2012 draftee Tom Wilson, and trade acquisition Mike Ribeiro in Capitals uniforms. While those players had technically been members of the Capitals organization for months, former winger Eric Fehr was a surprise attendee. News broke of Fehr’s return late Saturday night, and the 27-year-old winger didn’t technically sign his one-year, $600,000 contract until after the on-ice session ended.

“I’m really excited to be back, [Washington] feels like a second home to me,” said Fehr, who skated in Finland’s SM-Liiga during the lockout.

During the on-ice session Fehr was one of four players wearing the white jerseys of the third line, along with Mathieu Perreault, Matt Hendricks, and Crabb, who signed a one-year, $950,000 contract on the first day of free agency this past offseason. Crabb spent the last two seasons in Toronto, a hotbed of hockey fandom, and was impressed by Sunday’s turnout by Caps fans.

“I didn’t know much about Washington before I came here and the fans seem great…[Kettler Capitals Iceplex] is not the smallest practice rink, so to have a packed house on your first day, it’s great.”

Although Crabb didn’t say it outright, several players gave the impression that they weren’t sure how they and the organization would be received by fans after the lengthy lockout. Schilling, who has played 32 games for the Hershey Bears this season and expects to return there at the end of camp, said he was “surprised” by the size of the crowd, adding that he thought “the packed house…was awesome.”

One of the fans who returned was Suzanne Kang, who made the trip to Kettler on a foggy morning for the first chance to see the Caps in action since last May. Although some of her friends were ambivalent about following the NHL after the lockout, Kang “didn’t consider not coming back for one second.”

“It looked like everyone was happy to officially have Caps hockey back,” said Kang, who added that she “saw a lot of hugging, a lot of smiles, and fans were cheering pretty loudly when the guys hit the ice.”

Training camp continues through Friday, with the team hosting a special open practice on Thursday night in the Verizon Center as part of a Fan Appreciation Week. Washington opens their regular season schedule Saturday night in Tampa, with the home opener on Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets.

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