August 27, 2014

What went wrong with the Washington Capitals, Part 3: the Players

It’s playoff season and though there is still hockey to be played, the Washington Capitals are playing golf.

To discover what went wrong this season, we’ve already looked at general manager George McPhee and head coach Adam Oates, but now it’s time to look at the guys who actually lace of the skates and take to the ice, the players.

Alex Ovechkin led the league this season with 51 goals and yet has come under incredible scrutiny for the Caps’ failure to reach the playoffs. He is the undisputed leader of this team and as he goes, so go the Caps.

Since the Caps have failed to win a Cup and even failed to make the playoffs this season, Ovechkin must shoulder most of the blame, right?

While Ovechkin does deserve some of the blame, to say the team is incapable of winning with him is a gross oversimplification of the team’s struggles.

Despite his 50 goals this season, Ovechkin had a -35, the third-worst +/- in the NHL. Though an imperfect statistic, it reflects a serious problem he had this season, namely that more goals are scored against the Caps at even-strength when Ovechkin was on the ice than the Caps scored..

This does not take into consideration his linemates atrocious shooting percentage, or his coach’s choice of linemates on any particular evening.

Here’s the thing, as a team the Caps had the seventh worst +/- in the NHL with -21. They scored only 139 goals at even-strength and allowed 155 (their five shorthanded goals and 10 allowed make up the difference to -21).

The entire team was terrible at even-strength this season.

The only reason Ovechkin was able to lead the league in scoring was because the Caps excelled on the power play. Twenty-four of his 51 goals were scored with the extra man.

The fact that the entire team suffered at even-strength leads me to believe that the problem is not all due to a specific player, but to the team’s coaching and roster.

In the 2009-10 season, Ovechkin was a +45 and had 50 goals. The Caps also had two other 30-goal scorers in Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom. Mike Knuble was only one goal shy with 29. This season, no other player on the team other than Ovechkin reached the 30 goals.

No team can depend solely on one player for all of its offense or they are left with what we saw this season: 51 goals, no playoffs.

This leads to a lot of unfair (and lazy) analysis of the captain. Clips of him ‘giving up’ on the backend have been replayed ad nauseam by analysts such as Mike Milbury to show how he doesn’t play the game the “right way”, or doesn’t show effort, etc, etc. That’s just plain wrong.

For every clip of a bad defensive play, there’s another clip of him putting the team on his shoulders. People like to point to the April game against Dallas and say he doesn’t show any effort, but in doing so they ignore games like December’s contest against Tampa Bay in which he scored four goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and lead the team to a shootout victory.

This notion that some people have that the Caps are somehow incapable of winning with Ovechkin is also a fallacy. If Ovechkin were to hit the trade market today, 29 teams would be scrambling to see how they could fit him under the salary cap. If Ovechkin ‘incapable’ of winning a Cup, teams would turn their backs.

That of course would not be the case because the notion that Ovechkin can’t win a Cup is hyperbolic nonsense.

Ovechkin is an elite talent who has not yet had the right coach or team around him to win a Stanley Cup. Many will scoff at that, but you cannot oversimplify a championship. It’s very easy to say he’s a great player and therefore should have won a Cup, but that seriously underestimates how difficult winning a Cup can be. Ovechkin is only a part of the equation.

If you want to argue that did not show great leadership this season, fine. As long as he’s wearing the C on his chest, he MUST do a better job defensively. The team feeds off of his energy and when he doesn’t go at full-speed at both ends of the ice it can be frustrating, especially during a season like this one in which the Caps struggled to get the puck out of their own zone.

As for who played well offensively, Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera all had career seasons. Brouwer scored a career-high 25 goals, but like Ovechkin far too much of his production (12 goals) came on the power play. It’s great that he scored 25 goals, but if the Caps were middle-of-the-pack in terms of the power play, Brouwer’s numbers would have been much lower and suddenly his season wouldn’t look as good.

The only players who seemed to do well this season at even-strength were those in the third line, namely Ward and Chimera as the line’s center often changed. These two played fantastic together all season long and will likely remain together next season. Even Oates couldn’t mess this line up.

Defensively, it is hard to fairly judge the play of many of the team’s players given how young and/or inexperienced many of them were. Being in a position where the team needed to ask several players to do more than they were ready for is yet another reflection on the coach and general manager.

John Carlson and Karl Alzner are the team’s top two defensemen by far. Carlson comes with much of the offensive skill of Mike Green, without the defensive deficiencies. Alzner is the team’s best stay-at-home defenseman.

As a pairing, they’re good, but not great. They certainly won’t make anyone’s short list for the best defensive pairings in the NHL. Even so, their play this season was not something that held this team back.

There are two players, however, who did stand out for having a rough season: Mike Green and Dmitry Orlov.

This is one of those cases where the statistics and the eye test do not match up at all. Green and Orlov had the highest and second highest Corsi rating on the team. For a Caps team that struggled so much in terms of possession and production, having a duo like these two can be a major boon…on paper.

Anyone who watched these two, however, cringed every time they touched the ice as a horrendous turnover or ill-advised penalty never seemed far behind.

Remember that game I mentioned earlier against Tampa Bay? The one in which Ovechkin scored four goals to erase a 3-0 deficit? Part of the reason the team was down 3-0 was because Green took four minor penalties and a 10 minute misconduct…in the first period.

Green was tied for the most minor penalties on the team this season. We used to look past how terrible he was defensively because of how well he produced offensively, but that’s not the case anymore. In 70 games, he recorded only 38 points and was supplanted on the top power play unit by Carlson.

Green made $6 million this season and will make $6.25 million next season in the final year of his contract. He is clearly not worth such a high price to the Caps anymore. With big changes possibly on the horizon, he may find himself on the trading block.

As for Orlov, the time has come for him to decide whether he’s going to be a top-four defenseman in the NHL or not. He’s certainly capable of it, but he’s rapidly reaching the ‘put up or shut up’ point.

Oates handled Orlov poorly to start the season giving him the yo-yo treatment between Washington and Hershey, but when he did finally make it on the ice, his decision making was so questionable, you sometimes forgot this was not his first stint with the Caps.

There was no more egregious example of this than the Caps’ game on March 2 against the Flyers.

Orlov scored two goals and the Caps enjoyed a two-goal lead in the third period when he took an unbelievably stupid and egregious penalty on Brayden Schenn.

He was hit with a five-minute major penalty and a two-game suspension. The Flyers came back to win the game in overtime 5-4. With the Caps in desperate need of points, Orlov lost this game for his team. Add that to the multitude of turnovers and stupid plays we saw all season and you really begin to wonder the Caps have anyone behind Carlson and Alzner the team can trust on the blue line.

The Caps struggles on defense were further highlighted by the team’s carousel in net. Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and Jaroslav Halak all took the reins as the Caps’ top netminder at some point over the season with Michal Neuvirth contributing several starts as well.

It’s been well documented that Oates and goalie coach Olaf Kolzig attempted to re-tool their strategy in net by having the goalies play deeper in the crease. The merits of such a change are debatable. There are advantages to this system just as there are advantages to a more aggressive style; it really comes down to your own philosophy.

Holtby struggled more with this change than any other goalie on the team. This comes as no surprise given his aggressive style of play. Eventually, Kolzig shifted tactics to allow him to take advantage of his natural instincts, but by then the season was half over and he had failed to assert himself as the team’s top goalie.

Philipp Grubauer did for a time, but was young, overused and, when Neuvirth was healthy again, under-practiced.

Then there was Halak.

Halak had a .930 save percentage and 2.31 goals against average with the Caps and yet finished with a record of only 5-4-3, failing to vault the Caps back into playoff position. Why? Because goaltending really wasn’t the problem.

Holtby’s struggles, Neuvirth’s inconsistences and Grubauer’s breaking down were all exasperated by the Caps’ defense. Even though Halak played well, it ultimately didn’t matter because he wasn’t fixing the team’s major problem.

So before you give up on Holtby or Grubauer, remember that their struggles in net looked far worse than they actually were because of the defenders they had around them. Holtby and Grubauer should be the team’s two goalies next season and you should feel comfortable with that, provided the defense improves.

Ultimately, the conclusion you should all be reaching by now at the end of third of three articles analyzing the team’s season is that McPhee didn’t do enough this season to build a championship roster, Oates constantly failed to put his team in the best position to win and the players didn’t play well enough on the ice. Each problem contributed to make the others worse until the season became a jumbled mess.

Given all of that, is it really that surprising that the Caps didn’t make the playoffs?

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

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

Game Recap Co-Authored by Dave and Cheryl Nichols

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ovechkin, Carlson both score in easy wins for Russia and U.S.

Alex Ovechkin scored on his first shift of the 2014 Winter Olympics, while John Carlson started Team U.S.A.’s scoring frenzy as both Russian and the U.S. won their first game of the round-robin section of the tournament.

Ovechkin’s blast from the left wing started the scoring for Team Russia as they knocked off Slovenia 5-2. The Great 8 added an assist later on.

Carlson took a drop pass from Phil Kessel on a break and fired a rocket past Jaroslav Halak as Team U.S.A. cruised past Slovakia 7-1.

Nick Backstrom had an assist on Erik Karlsson’s second goal in Team Sweden’s 4-2 victory over Czech Republic, while Marcus Johansson was a healthy scratch. Martin Erat did not record a point in the contest.

 

What to watch for from the five Caps headed to Sochi

(photo courtesy Washington Capitals)

(photo courtesy Washington Capitals)

With the Olympic games underway, Washington Capitals fans will soon be seeing some familiar faces competing in Sochi.

Five Caps will be making the trek to Russia to represent their respective countries. Here are a few things fans should be watching for:

Alex Ovechkin

Obviously the most pressure will be on the Great 8 himself as he tries to carry the host nation to gold. Russia was embarrassed in Vancouver as they were handed a 7-3 drubbing by Canada in the quarterfinals. The Russians have not earned a medal since taking bronze in 2002 and the pressure is on for this team to get back on the medal stand.

Pavel Datsyuk will captain the team, but even so Ovechkin will be one of this team’s leaders as he is among the nation’s biggest stars. He has already been one of the faces of the these Olympics as he unveiled the team’s new jersey and was the first Russian to carry the Olympic torch in Greece as it began its long trek to Sochi.

The question is how will he handle the pressure?

Hockey is a big-time sport in Russia. Players do not dream of growing up and playing for the Stanley Cup. For them, the Olympics are really the pinnacle of the sport. After multiple playoff failures in Washington, some have questioned whether Ovechkin’s leadership is partly to blame.

If he can lead his team back to Olympic glory, he will have answered just about every question about whether he can handle the pressure on the biggest stage. Carrying the weight of Washington will seem like a cakewalk after carrying a nation.

Nicklas Backstrom

Backstrom’s elite skills are often overshadowed by the other superstar on the Caps’ roster. Sweden is absolutely loaded with talent and is one of the favorites to win the gold. The Olympics will offer him the chance to show how good he really is to fans who think of him more as Ovechkin’s sidekick.

It is easy to forget how good offensively Backstrom really is when it seems all he has to do is pass to Ovechkin and watch the show. Backstrom will be an intricate part of Sweden’s offense and a major reason for their success depending on how far they go.

Backstrom can remind the world on the Olympic stage that he’s pretty good too.

Marcus Johansson

With Henrik Sedin’s withdrawal from the Olympics, Johansson got his chance to join Backstrom on team Sweden. Though he is third on the Caps in points with 36, he only has seven goals. He has played incredibly passive this season when on the top line, deferring too much to his teammates.

Anyone can be put on a line with Backstrom and Ovechkin and feed them the puck, but Johansson wasn’t placed on the top line just to be a third wheel. He has his own offensive skills that he just is not utilizing right now in NHL play.

The fact that Johansson was replaced on the top line by Martin Erat is a pretty big sign that he’s not living up to Adam Oates’ expectations for his top left wing.

The Olympics will offer Johansson a chance to be more aggressive offensively. As a replacement player he may not get too much playing time, but hopefully he will take advantage of the time he does get on the ice. He’ll be playing with some good players, but on one of the lower lines he won’t be as overshadowed as he is in Washington. If he can show some aggressiveness in Sochi and bring that mentality home, it will be a huge boon for the Caps.

Martin Erat

Thank goodness he got his first goal of the season Saturday just prior to the Olympic break. Had Erat gone to Sochi and scored before he could even tally one goal this season in the NHL, there would be a lot of pretty bitter Caps fans waiting for him when he got home.

Lost amid his struggles this season is the fact that Erat is still a top-six NHL forward, evidenced by the fact that he is going to Sochi to play for the Czech Republic. Yes, he was called up to replace Vladimir Sobotka, but it is still is a major honor and a vote of confidence from the hockey community.

Sochi now offers Erat the chance to showcase his talents to other prospective NHL teams. The biggest problem Erat has had in Washington is that he just does not fit anywhere into Oates’ lineup. As a result, he has been passed around from line to line and his production has decreased. It’s hard to convince other teams that Erat is a top-six forward when he’s playing on the fourth line and can’t score.

Hopefully Erat will be a better fit for head coach Alois Hadamczik. With a coach who can utilize Erat, he can show that he can still contribute on another NHL team.

John Carlson

Carlson will be the first Capital ever to represent the United States in the Olympics. Widely considered to be the best defenseman on the Caps’ roster, it will be interesting to see where Carlson is in the lineup and how he is utilized by USA coach Dan Bylsma.

If Carlson seems overwhelmed by the tough competition, it will tell fans a lot about the state of the Caps’ defense. This also could be very important for the Caps’ other top offensive playmaker on the blue line, Mike Green.

There has been speculation surrounding Green all season long with his declining production about whether he could be on the trade block. Though a trade before the deadline is not likely to happen, if Carlson plays well it may make McPhee feel better about a possible move in the offseason.
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JJ Regan is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He is an aspiring sports journalist currently earning his master’s degree in interactive journalism from American University and has his own website at regansports.com. He is also a digital freelancer for Comcast SportsNet Washington and Baltimore and is a contributor for Yahoo Sports on the Capitals and Redskins. JJ follows all D.C. sports but specializes in the Capitals. You can follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy.

CAPS: Happy Birthday, John Carlson

HAPPY 24th BIRTHDAY JOHN CARLSON!

The Washington Capitals Defenseman was born on 01/10/1990 in Natick, MA, United States.

John Carlson (aka “Captain America”) was recently named to Team USA for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and is a “dream come true.”

Follow Carlson on Twitter and wish #74 a happy birthday.

John Carlson, Washington Capitals Practice at Kettler, 11/22/2013 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

John Carlson, Washington Capitals Practice at Kettler, 11/22/2013 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Photo credit: Monumental Network

John Carlson with media in front of White House after Olympic announcement. Photo credit: Monumental Network

Washington Capitals re-sign John Carlon for six years - Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Capitals re-signed John Carlon for six years – Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps’ Carlson has Olympic “dream come true”

After John Carlson did the photo-op thing in front of the White House Wednesday evening after being named to the U.S. Men’s Olympic team, he did a telephone press conference as well for media members that couldn’t schlep downtown. The following is the transcript. Please enjoy responsibly.

On his initial reaction and where he heard the news:

“I feel great about it. It’s a dream come true. I was watching the [Winter Classic] at home with my girlfriend and just waiting and waiting finally saw the kid skate up with my jersey on and was pretty relieved. It’s been a good start, first half of the season but obviously with this at the back of your mind you’re always wondering, so it’s nice that it’s come to an end now and obviously even better that I made the team.

On WJC teammates Cam Fowler and Derek Stepan making the team as well:

When I went to lunch with Mathieu Perreault when [the Ducks] were in town Cam was there too, so it’s always nice to catch up with them and I’m looking forward to being on the same team with him again.

Going back to the summer practice at Kettler, did you feel good about chances?

I always knew that I had a great shot to make the team, I just needed to do my job and it would all play out. But I don’t make those decisions, so you never know. So it made it even better today when I found out. Obviously it’s a thrilling experience and positive. I’m just looking forward to getting over there now.

On his favorite Olympic memories:

I think last Olympics was probably the funnest for me to watch. Just based off the competition and knowing people in the games and playing against some of them in certain situations. That was pretty cool. But I don’t think much could beat the ‘Miracle on Ice’ in 1980.

On the roster construction:

I think we have a great team. USA hockey’s doing great over the past five years or ten years now with such strong teams. It’s a positive and I’m looking forward to being on that team.

On what he feels are the strengths of the team:

I think skating. I think even in the last Olympics for the U.S. they were a really fast team. We’re hard on the puck and can skate with any other team and I think that’s important on the big surface like they said. It’s always nice to have that. We’ve got tons of skill and size and creative as well, but I think skating is going to be important in this one.

On hitting Ovi and the possibility of playing against Caps teammates:

It’ll be difference playing again some of your good friends and stuff like that but that’ll make the experience even better, I think in my mind.

On the team’s plan between now and going over to Russia:

I’m sure there’ll be a ton of information they’ll have to give us. They gave us a lot even just in the summer camp, just to kind of guide us into it a little bit. I talked to [Penguins GM and U.S. Olympic ass't GM] Ray Shero a little bit today just for a few minutes, just about congratulatory messages and just chatting real quick. I’m sure they’ll be in touch in the next week or so.

On the challenges of the larger international 100 foot rink:

I just think the angles, more for goalies, for sure it’s huge. For defensemen, your positioning is even more paramount, I think. Making sure that you’re staying in the middle of the ice and get a feel for that aspect of defense. Obviously in the corners and stuff, the battles will be the same. It’ll be fun, being on the open ice. I talked to Marty Erat about it a little bit. He’s trying to tell me few tips about it here and there on the differences and what-not. It’ll be a change, but a great change, for a great thing.

On the Penguins influence and if getting along with everyone will be a problem:

I don’t think so at all. I think even meeting everyone this summer it’s almost like everyone’s friends off the ice even with people you might not like on the ice. In particular, I don’t ‘not-like’ anyone so I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that. It’s a cool tournament in the same sense of the World Juniors where they’re people you need to gel with together right away and you get over there and playing the next day, so there’s a lot more onus on that aspect of the game and I think that everyone’s obviously willing to do what it takes to win.

Comparing attention of the World Juniors to the Olympics:

[The WJC] is a mini version of the Olympics in a sense. I’m happy with my past experience with that, being able to win that tournament was great. It’s a whole different animal playing in another different country, with the atmosphere and the ice and all the teams that will be there will add to how cool it is.

On Ovechkin’s comments that Carlson belonged on Team U.S.A.:

I think it’s great, obviously. We’ve got a close team and it’s nice to hear that, especially from your captain. I’m just glad to be on the team and contribute [to the Caps] and obviously that’s just rolled over in another dream of mine.

John Carlson’s “chance of a lifetime” on Team USA

Photo credit: Monumental Network

Photo credit: Monumental Network

Wednesday evening, John Carlson, newly selected to represent the US in Sochi, Russia in the 2014 Olympics, held court for reporters and fans in front of the White House mere hours after receiving the good news. After being invited to the US team’s orientation camp in August, it was widely speculated that Carlson had a good chance to make the Olympic team, and his strong play in the early part of the season, especially in Mike Green’s absence, undoubtedly made the decision easy for the selection committee.

Carlson fielded questions about the strength of the US team, his safety in Russia, the possibility of playing against his current teammates, and his reaction to the news of his selection. He is the first Capitals player so far to be named to a national Olympic team. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will most likely be representing their respective countries, Russia and Sweden, in Sochi as well. Teammates Karl Alzner and Braden Holtby were invited to Team Canada’s orientation camp over the summer, but don’t appear to be in the mix for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team at the moment.

The former London Knight has represented the US before, in the 2010 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship tournament. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Team Canada, and was named to  NHL.com’s All-Time World Junior Championship team in December 2010.

The full transcript of Carlson’s scrum is below.

Where were you when you found out?

Just at home. I was watching the game [Winter Classic], and then just waiting, trying to wait patiently , but it seemed like the game was five hours long.

Did you get a text in advance?

No, nothing. And then I had everyone, like all my family and stuff, texting me ‘Do you get a heads up? Have you heard anything?’ Everyone thought that I would get to hear something before that, but obviously the outcome was great, so it doesn’t really matter. It was definitely an experience.

What does it mean to not only be representing your country but also DC?

It’s obviously an honor to represent your country, and I feel a bond with DC, so I think it’s really cool even that we get to do something like this – stand in front of the White House. I’ve always loved this city, so it’s got a lot of meaning. That meaning is the same for me, getting a chance to play for my country, I’ve only done it twice before, and it’s a whole other level.

Any concerns about safety?

No comment.

Who have you heard from since you heard the news?

Right now just talking to my family, my parents, and my brother, and stuff like that. Then Ray Shero called me from the team, and just talked to him for five minutes, maybe. That was it. I think we got an email, and I guess they’ll just let us know what the protocol is.

What do you know, and what did Ray fill you in on?

Not much. He just said ‘congrats, you deserve it,’ and ‘keep playing well’.  I think they’re coming to play us before or we’re going there before, so he said we’ll grab a minute to talk.

You got a taste of the orientation camp, what was that atmosphere like?

When I heard that I was named to that, it was still an honor for me. With a unique tournament like that, it’s important to get together and take care of a lot of stuff so you don’t have to worry about it towards the tournament. Obviously, being such a short tournament, everyone knowing each other is a big part of it, too.

Have you ever been to Russia?

No.

What are your thoughts about that?

I think it’ll be great. I heard that the village is going to be unlike anything else, because they just built everything. Everything is going to be close, and easily accessible for all of us. I’m really looking forward to it.

Have you thought about the possibility of facing Alex [Ovechkin] and Nick [Backstrom] on the other side?

Honestly, I haven’t, but I was thinking the other day, I was like ‘okay, let me just make sure, pay a little more attention to what they’re doing out there, just in case’. I guess I gotta keep my eye on them now.

Do you have friends on that team that you’ve played with before?

I’ve played with a bunch of them- not a bunch- a handful, probably, over the years, and at World Juniors. The hockey world is so small that, you go to the camp, and I didn’t think I’d know too many people, and then ten minutes later, you’re like, I actually know over half of them right away.

Can you lean on your 2010 World Juniors experience, and what you got out of that?

Absolutely. I think any type of hockey experience you can take a lot out of, and I see that being for our country as well. It was pretty cool. I’m just looking forward to being a part of this team over there, and it’s going to be a chance of a lifetime.

What kind of team do you think Team USA will be?

What they did with the kids was pretty cool, but once they got to my name, I kind of lost track of everything else. After fifteen minutes of calling people and stuff like that, and hearing from Sergey [Capitals PR], I was like ‘oh, let me look who else is on there’, so I rewinded it. It’s a great team, I think very dynamic players that give the Caps problems all the time, so I think [with] the big ice surface, that we’re going to be pretty fast. I think they were the last Olympics, and that’s all I can really think about right now.

 

Photo credit: Monumental Network

Photo credit: Monumental Network

Carlson named to U.S. Olympic Team

(photo courtesy Washington Capitals)

(photo courtesy Washington Capitals)

Defenseman John Carlson was named to the U.S. Men’s Olympic team Wednesday. The announcement was name at the conclusion of the Winter Classic, where Toronto beat Detroit in a shootout.

From the Caps press release:

Carlson, 23, will be making his first Olympic appearance. The 6’3”, 212-pound defenseman from Natick, Massachusetts, ranks tied for fifth among NHL defensemen in goals this season (7), first among Washington skaters in blocked shots (83) and average ice time (24:41) and second on the team in shots (107). In the last two seasons, Carlson ranks third in goals (13) among NHL defensemen born in the United States, trailing only Keith Yandle (16) and Dustin Byfluglien (15). In 274 career NHL games with Washington, Carlson has tallied 112 points (30 goals, 82 assists) and a plus-26 rating.

Carlson led the Hershey Bears, the Capitals’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, to the Calder Cup championship in 2010, collecting seven points (two goals, five assists) in 13 playoff games. Carlson scored the cup-clinching goal in Game 6 of the 2010 Calder Cup finals against the Texas Stars. That same year, Carlson scored the overtime, game-winning goal to help the United States win the gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championship (WJC) against Canada. He posted three goals and four assists in seven tournament games as an alternate captain and was named to the WJC All-Star Team. In addition, Carlson helped Hershey win the 2009 Calder Cup championship, collecting three points (one goal, two assists) in 16 playoff games.

Washington Capitals Game 19 Recap: Caps resilient in overtime win over the Blue Jackets

The Washington Capitals hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets looking for their fifth straight home victory and it took about one and a half minutes of overtime to accomplish that goal. Captain Alex Ovechkin scored the winning goal with the help of Marcus Johansson, giving Ovi a franchise-leading 13th career overtime goal.

“JoJo [Marcus Johansson] did a great job,” stated Ovechkin. “First through it. And after that I have to go to the net and find a rebound. I get a lucky puck, bounce right to my stick, and we go. It’s always nice to score, and [with an] overtime goal you can feel your best.”

Caps Head Coach Adam Oates’ post-game press conference focused on the competitiveness and resiliency of the Caps to come back and win in overtime. “That’s a playoff game, it just happens to be now, but we need these points, and you have to put yourself into position. Hockey is getting that way every night. We’ve been talking about that for two weeks. Every night it’s a grind.”

The first period was scoreless, however, both teams played solid hockey that period.  “We [Capitals] started [game] better than I anticipated after last road trip,” said Oates. “Think we’re a little tired, trip caught up to us a bit.”

Blue Jackets were first on the scoreboard with a shorty by Brendon Dubinsky early in the second period. Caps answered back about eight minutes later with an even strength goal by John Carlson.

Carlson may have played his best game of the season. Oates said, “For the last little bit, he’s [Carlson] been playing great. Him and Alzny [Karl Alzner] have been solid. They’ve been a rock. They’ve started every penalty kill, which has been very solid for us. [They've played] a lot of minutes and [Carlson] scored a big goal. He’s playing great hockey.”

The Caps started the third period on a power play, however, were unable to score. Joel Ward scored a short-handed goal and the Caps took the lead 2-1. Columbus scored two quick back-to-back goals to make it 3-2. Blue Jackets third goal was frustrating to the Caps because a bouncing puck got past Mike Green making Greenie look like the bad guy.

“The fact that we went down like that [3-2] I think really upset us and lit enough of a fire for us to get back and build the confidence knowing that we were going to win it,” stated defenseman Karl Alzner.

With less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Mikhail Grabovski tied up the game with his 100th NHL career goal and forced game to overtime. Caps are now 10-8-1.

The Capitals travel to Detroit on Friday and then return to Verizon Center for three games next week. The Caps will practice tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

Washington Capitals Game 15 Recap: Caps special in 6-2 win over Islanders

OVECHKIN WITH PAIR OF GOALS IN RETURN FROM UPPER BODY INJURY

The Washington Capitals, paced by five second period goals, leapfrogged the New York Islanders for second place in the Metropolitan Division, beating their once-and-current rivals 6-2 before a not-quite packed Verizon Center Tuesday night. The Caps made good on 4-of-6 power play opportunities and their captain, Alex Ovechkin, scored twice after missing two games with an upper body injury.

“Our power play clicks almost all of the time,” head coach Adam Oates said. “We talk about it all the time, ‘we stop ourselves.’ We should be in a position that we should feel that on a given night we stop ourselves, they don’t stop us.”

It was Ovechkin’s third multi-goal and third three-point games of the season. [Read more...]

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