October 25, 2014

Comparing lineups: have the Caps gotten better?

Caps during National Anthem - Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps during National Anthem – Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz era has officially begun for the Washington Capitals as the team looks to put a lackluster 2013 campaign behind them.

MacLellan began that process in the offseason with several key acquisitions. The opening night roster is about as close as you can get to seeing a general manager’s vision as there are fewer injuries and politics that dictate shifts in line combinations. To see if the teams has improved and by how much, let’s compare this season’s opening night roster to last season’s. [Read more...]

PHOTOS: Washington Capitals Practice, October 7

Dave and I are back in DC for a visit so we went over to Kettler Iceplex on Tuesday, October 7 to watch the Washington Capitals practice. We’re looking forward to the Caps home opener at Verizon Center on Thursday!

Here are a handful of photos from practice. It was great to take hockey photos again! As always, please feel free to comment on the post. I really appreciate feedback. Thanks.

Face Off Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Face Off
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Face Off Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Face Off
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Face Off Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Face Off
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Tom Wilson Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Tom Wilson
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Marcus Johansson Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Marcus Johansson
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Alex Ovechkin
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Eric Fehr Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Eric Fehr
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Chris Brown Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Chris Brown
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Nicklas Backstrom Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Nicklas Backstrom
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Team Huddle Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Team Huddle
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jason Chimera Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jason Chimera
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Marcus Johansson Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Marcus Johansson
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Alex Ovechkin
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jason Chimera Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jason Chimera
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Justin Peters getting advice from Goaltending Coach Mitch Korn Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Justin Peters getting advice from Goaltending Coach Mitch Korn
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Nate Schmidt Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Nate Schmidt
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Assistant Coach Blaine Forsythe and Andre Burakovsky Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Assistant Coach Blaine Forsythe and Andre Burakovsky
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Green Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Green
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

John Erskine Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

John Erskine
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Andre Burakovsky Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Andre Burakovsky
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Assistant Coach Lane Lambert Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Assistant Coach Lane Lambert
Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Braden Holtby Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Braden Holtby Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps Quick Take: Game 4 vs. Hurricanes

If you have a third period lead against a division opponent, and you have any aspiration of making the playoffs and competing to be the best in the league, you have to win those games. Thursday night, the Washington Capitals failed to take care of their business, as they allowed two third period goals, including a power play marker to old friend Alexander Semin, and lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2, to fall to 1-3 so far this season. Not ideal.

1)  Here’s the thing: the Caps dominated the first period in this one, and by every account the score should have been more like three or four to zero after 20 minutes. Alas, Jason Chimera’s fluky marker was the only tally that counted, and the Caps would rue not finishing on a couple more terrific possessions. The third line of Chimera-Eric Fehr-Joel Ward was clearly the best of the crew in that frame.

2) In their first three games the Caps have struggled playing at five a side, but in this one the power play really let them down. Five shots on goal in 6:01 of extra-man isn’t going to cut it. On the other side of the spectrum, the Caps committed seven minor infractions which is bad enough. But John Erskine’s interference — while already down a man — led to Semin’s game-tying PPG.

3) The Erskine/John Carlson duo had a standout game, and not in the good way. They were on the ice for Carolina’s first goal, a puck that bounced off Carlson and redirected over Braden Holtby’s glove hand, while Erskine was tying up no one in particular in front of the Caps net. On Nathan Gerbe’s game-winner, Carlson fumbled the puck in the corner and turned it over, leading to the original shot. Gerbe was on the far post, unmolested and unchallenged by Erskine, who was content to watch pucks bouncing around in the crease.

4) Alex Ovechkin continues to be a dominant force whenever he’s on the ice, despite having only one linemate. Goal, eight shots on goal, two more blocked. The goal was a rarity too, as Ovechkin was occupying the high slot and redirected Steve Oleksy’s shot past Anton Khubodin.

5) Time to play everyone’s favorite game show — Where’s Martin Erat? Tonight, the very expensive fourth-liner skated a season-high 9:15. However, he got just two shifts in the third period for a total of 1:23. The longer Erat plays on the fourth line the worse the trade looks and the calls for a philosophy change will just keep growing louder.

Caps Quick Take: Game 3 vs. Stars

Losing 2-1 on the road against a Western Conference foe in a building you haven’t traveled to in three years isn’t the worst thing in the world. Until you consider that a little more solid effort, especially in your own end, would have stolen a point or two. Things are going to be rough enough in the Caps own division to let little ones like this slip away. Five practice days until Carolina.

1)  The Caps were, once again, completely outplayed at even strength. A lot of that has to do with the fairly lousy play in their own end, sloppy breakout passes and lack of sustained attack in the offensive end until panic set in with about eight minutes to go in the game. If the Caps are still only going to be motivated by urgency and not by competing from the opening drop, they’re going to find themselves in the same situation as last season.

2)  The defense has to find a way to play better. John Erskine was toasted for the first goal, took a bad penalty, and then botched a 2-on-1 coming out of the box. But here’s what you need to know about this game: Erskine tied with Ovi for the team lead in shots on goal, and had one clang off a post.

3)  Martin Erat: 11 shifts, 8:27 TOI. Putting the money aside –which is admittedly a tough thing to do in this situation — Erat has to play more. Has to. Either they need to see some production out of him for justifying trading away Filip Forsberg, or they need to play him to showcase him for a trade. All 8:27 TOI with Jay Beagle as his center is going to do is absolutely suck all of his value. I hardly think Erat will skate on the fourth line in perpetuity, but Adam Oates really should start mixing things up a bit to generate a little more out of 5-on-5 play.

4)  It was a good bounce-back from Braden Holtby, turning away 19 of 21 shots. He’ll win a lot more games than lose with his performance Saturday night.

5)  In the last two games the Caps have played in Dallas, they’ve had a controversial goal waived off and lost by one. This time, Nick Backstrom cross-checked Kari Lehtonen right before the goal. Backstrom clearly didn’t get hit on the play until after he made contact with Lehtonen’s facemask, so it was the right call to waive off the goal, but it’s strange that Backstrom didn’t get two minutes for it in addition to losing the goal. NHL refs, amirite???

CAPS: Happy Birthday, John Erskine

HAPPY 33rd BIRTHDAY JOHN ERSKINE!

The Washington Capitals defenseman was born on 06/26/1980 in Kingston, ON, Canada.

Follow John Erskine on Twitter (@johnerskine04) and be sure to wish #4 a Happy 33rd Birthday.

John Erskine and Joel Ward - Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

John Erskine and Joel Ward – Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

 

John Erskine – Practice April 27 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine poses with Joe, a participant at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for the Dreams for Kids clinic on Feb. 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SKY: C.

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

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

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

CAPS: Current and Former Capitals Signing Autographs

AUTOGRAPH OPPORTUNITY FOR CAPS FANS!

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

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

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

Bryan Watson
Ken Sabourin
Paul Mulvey
Al Hangsleben

See link for more information.

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

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

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

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

Washington Capitals Game 46 Recap: Caps Clinch Southeast Division Title with 5-3 over Winnipeg

In a crucial late-season game for the Washington Capitals, facing the potential of clinching the Southeast Division or slipping behind the Winnipeg Jets and almost out of playoff position, the Caps put together a playoff-caliber effort in Tuesday night’s 5-3 home victory over the desperate Jets.

Spearheading Washington’s efforts were Matt Hendricks, Jason Chimera, Nicklas Backstrom, Mathieu Perreault, and Alexander Ovechkin, who each scored a goal in the victorious effort to sew up the franchise’s fifth division title in six seasons. Braden Holtby made 24 saves in the process of earning his 22nd win of the season. [Read more...]

Washington Capitals Friday Practice Update: Oates, Alzner, Erskine

ARLINGTON, VA–The Washington Capitals held one last practice today before they head out on a three-game road trip that could decide the season.

Eric Fehr (upper body) skated for about 10 minutes before practice, but came off the ice.

John Erskine (upper body), Tomas Kundratek (lower body) & Tom Poti (upper body) all skated today.

Erskine said, “I don’t think I’m ready to play a game yet, but I think I’m getting closer.”

He still hopes to play this weekend or Tuesday.

Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates said Erskine is going on the trip.  They aren’t sure about Tomas Kundratek and Tom Poti isn’t going on the trip.  Eric Fehr isn’t going on the trip to start, will skate at KCI and if he feels good could meet them in Carolina.

Jack Hillen (illness) was back on the ice today after not skating yesterday.

Caps forward lines today: Johansson-Backstrom-Ovi, Laich-Ribeiro-Brouwer, Chimera-Perreault-Ward, Volpatti-Hendricks-Beagle-Wolski

Ovechkin (stitches in chin) left practice early, but Oates says it’s nothing and that he asked to come off early and already got a good sweat in.

Oates said he hasn’t decided who will be in net tomorrow, but did say Braden Holtby & Michal Neuvirth will split the weekend between Buffalo and Philadelphia.

Listen here to what Adam Oates, Karl Alzner & John Erskine had to say following practice today.

Adam Oates Practice Audio

03-29-13 Adam Oates Practice RAW

Karl Alzner Practice Audio

03-29-13 Karl Alzner Practice RAW

John Erskine Practice Audio

03-29-13 John Erskine Practice RAW

Washington Capitals recall Cameron Schilling; Erskine to IR

The Washington Capitals reached into their AHL affiliate again for personnel, recalling left-handed defenseman Cameron Schilling to make his NHL debut Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. Schilling will be inserted into the lineup immediately due to injuries to John Erksine (left hand/wrist), who was placed on injured reserve to make room on the roster, and Tom Poti, who is day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Here’s Schilling’s bio information from the Caps press release:

Schilling, 24, has recorded 14 points (six goals, eight assists) and is a plus-seven in 54 games with Hershey in his first full professional season. He currently leads active Hershey defensemen in goals, plus/minus and ranks tied for second in points.

The Carmel, Ind., native played in 144 collegiate games during his four-year career with Miami, collecting 57 points (eight goals, 49 assists) and 155 penalty minutes. The 6’2”, 197-pound blueliner was a member of two NCAA All-Regional Teams (2008-2010) and helped Miami win the 2010-11 CCHA Championship.

Schilling was originally signed by Washington as an un-drafted free agent on March 27, 2012. He will participate in Tuesday’s morning skate and will wear No. 45 for the Capitals.

Schilling is well-regarded by the Capitals brass and will reunited as a pairing with Steve Oleksy, with whom he partnered earlier in the season with AHL Hershey.

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