November 13, 2019

Washington Capitals Morning Skate Update & Audio for April 17, 2015: Philipp Grubauer, Justin Peters and Barry Trotz

Arlington, Va. – No shortage of news at Kettler Capitals Iceplex this morning, with the Washington Capitals set to take on the New York Islanders in the second game of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Caps goalie Braden Holtby did not take the ice, with precautionary measures in place for someone who’s been a key cog for Washington so far this season.

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Washington Capitals Game 75 Recap: Slow start dooms Washington as Caps come up short

Exasperated sighs and disappointed faces told the tale on Saturday afternoon in the Washington Capitals locker room. Squandering an early 5-on-3 power play, the Caps spotted the Nashville Predators a 3-0 lead before clawing back to pull within a goal twice. A late flurry of shots with an extra attacker wasn’t enough, and Washington ultimately fell 4-3 to the Predators at Verizon Center.

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Three Stars: Washington Capitals 5, Anaheim Ducks 3

First Star: Alex Ovechkin. C’mon. Two goals, retaking league lead. Two assists, giving Andre Burakovsky some momentum to stay on the top line (and in the lineup, period). Ovechkin is carrying this team right now (wen has he not), yet gets very little mention as an MVP candidate. Does the nationals (Canadian) media have Ovi burnout? Sure. But they are sleeping on another incredible season. Hard to imagine this Caps team contending for playoffs without another stellar season from the Great 8.

Second Star: Andre Burakovsky. Two pretty goals, courtesy of Mr. Ovechkin. Bura’s had some ups and downs this season, but obviously the talent is there. Barry Trotz has gotten some grief on the way he’s handled the young talent on the roster, but he’s not just looking at this year’s results (unlike the previous coach), but also looking forward like a coach that knows he has job security. It’s not how you start… Evgeny Kuznetsov’s game has progressed of late as well. Hopefully Trotz can figure out how to get Tom Wilson going again, because I envision a time in the not-so-distant future made up of the three.

Third Star: Justin Peters. Justin Peters? Seriously? After I tweeted this in the first?

Peters has been, frankly, miserable this season. But after the very rough first period, he settled down and made some quality saves in the second and especially in the third as Anaheim was scrambling to get back in it, with 30 saves in total, including 11 on the penalty kill. Credit begrudgingly where its due, but primarily because he’s set the bar so low for himself this year.

Washington Capitals Game 57 Recap: Ovechkin’s four-point night fuels Caps to a wild win

The Anaheim Ducks tried to jump on the Washington Capitals early, but Alex Ovechkin had other plans. The captain kept the Caps in it early with two first period goals and tacked on two assists to lead the Caps to the 5-3 win in Anaheim.

A crazy first period saw four penalties called and four goals scored. The Ducks took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 early in the first, but twice Ovechkin was there to tie it as the teams traded two goals apiece before 10:30 had passed. After a shaky start, backup goalie Justin Peters seemed to settle down allowing the Caps to take control in the second. He finished with 30 saves on 33 shots. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 50 Recap: Caps fall short in 4-3 loss to Blues

Playing the second of back-to-back games has been problematic for the Washington Capitals, and it proved so again on Sunday, as the Caps fell to the St. Louis Blues at home 4-3.

Karl Alzner took a hit from St. Louis Blues center David Backes in the second period of the Capitals’ Sunday afternoon matinee at Verizon Center.

While Alzner fought for the puck along the boards, Backes approached, and stapled Alzner to the boards. The defenseman dropped to the ice and emerged from a tangle of skates and fists bleeding from a cut over his left eye. [Read more…]

Opinion: Capitals should relegate Peters to Hershey and call up Grubauer for remainder of season

When the Washington Capitals signed free-agent goalie Justin Peters to a two-year, $1.9M ($950k/yr.) contract in the offseason, it seemed like a good fit for both sides, and was lauded as one of the smarter free agent signings of the summer of 2014.

With that deal, the Capitals locked up a serviceable backup to Braden Holtby for less than $1M per year. A goalie tandem with a cap hit of less than $3M a year? Sounds like responsible cap management by Brian MacLellan, similar to what George McPhee was able to pull off with the Braden Holtby–Michal Neuvirth duo in 2013-14. Both goaltenders were secured for $3.8M/yr.

In July, when Peters signed with the Capitals, he told the Washington Post:  “I was looking for an opportunity, an opportunity to play, an opportunity for the coaching staff, a goalie coach like Mitch [Korn]. It just seemed like the puzzles and the pieces came together, and also the organization and the confidence they showed in me. I was able to meet the staff, I was able to meet the training staff, the equipment guys, I was able to meet a lot of people in the organization.”

Much has changed since then. The confidence of the staff and the “opportunity to play” that Peters spoke about in July do not seem to be the case any longer.

Saturday night in Dallas, Peters saw his first start in six weeks, a 5-4 loss. It was just his seventh start of the season. The loss could hardly be blamed on Peters, as it was the second of a back-to-back road game. It did bring to mind a few lingering problems. Namely why Peters sees so little starting time. Is there a lack of trust from the coaching staff? Holtby has been exceptional, so is he merely a victim of circumstance? Or is he just not good, at all?

Peters has a career .904 SV% and a record of 22-31-8 through 76 NHL games. The likely answer is that he isn’t that good, but it’s not as if he’s had a chance to prove himself this year, or will even get an opportunity to do so.

It’s simple math, really. If the Capitals want Holtby to be fresh for a playoff run in April, he needs a backup that can start a game once a week rather than once a month. This is why management should relegate Peters to Hershey and call up Philipp Grubauer for the remainder of the season.

It would be prudent to provide Holtby with a backup that can share the load but not make it necessary for him to carry a ridiculous amount of starts. Out of 45 games this season, Peters has amassed a SV% of .864 and a 2-4-1 record in his meager 7 starts. Holtby’s count is now at 38 starts, with a .923 SV%, and a record of 22-9-7.

Holtby’s 20 consecutive starts were impressive, to say the least. This has nothing to do with his abilities. He can carry the team if he needs to. The problem is that he shouldn’t have to do it for 70 games and have nothing left in the tank come playoff time, especially if the Capitals hope to make any kind of deep run.

At this juncture, it’s possible Peters could play better. However, it’s clear the coaching staff isn’t willing to let him do so. If there was any belief that he could, he probably wouldn’t have been sitting for 6 weeks while Holtby figuratively lit the NHL on fire.

This is where Grubauer comes in. Last season, during Adam Oates’ reign of terror and subsequent three-headed goalie monster, Grubauer played in 17 games and posted a 6-5-5 record with a  .925 SV%. In 25 games with the Hershey Bears this season, Grubauer is 12-9-3 (3 shutouts) and a .920 SV%.

Peters will have to go through waivers if he’s sent to Hershey, but with all respect to him, since he’s not exactly in danger of being claimed, this shouldn’t be huge worry. He’ll still be making his $950K salary in the AHL, which is a bitter pill for management to swallow, but less so when you think about what could happen in the event of an injury to Holtby, and asking Holtby to potentially make 70 starts this season could very well lead to that. What to do with Peters for the remaining year of his contract is another consideration. Maybe a longer stint in the AHL would be beneficial to Peters in the long term, and he could end up returning to Washington to back up Holtby next season.

Grubauer’s development shouldn’t be a concern, either. He’s a bit fresher and will likely not sit as much as Peters has thus far, not to mention that getting NHL playing time will build trade value, if the organization should choose to use him as a bargaining chip in the future. As long as he’s in the AHL, he’s not going to be worth much, tradewise.

All things considered, Grubauer would be a better backup to Holtby than Peters has been this year.

Holtby, who is far and above Washington’s number one goalie for this season and the near future, will be a RFA this summer, and will probably get an enormous raise, as Pat Holden from Russian Machine broke down last week. He thrives on a steady workload, as we’ve seen, but running him into the ground during the regular season and expecting him to hold up during a playoff run is not a sustainable option.

 

Follow Katie on Twitter at @katiebhockey

Washington Capitals Game 45 Recap: Third period breakdown dooms Caps in Dallas

The Washington Capitals got off to a weak start against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, a tough 5-4 loss that leaves them wondering how they left two points behind in their swing through the Big D.  Coach Barry Trotz allowed the overworked Braden Holtby the night off, giving Justin Peters the start and a chance to keep the Caps rolling, but Dallas stole the show and left the visiting Caps empty-handed.

Washington, having just come from a demoralizing last-minute loss against the Nashville Predators, could not find a way to sustain momentum, handing over another loss.  The Caps, red-hot over the past fifteen games, were left wondering how to regain the spark that pushed them through December and early January. [Read more…]

Three Stars: Washington Capitals @ St. Louis Blues 11/15/14

The Washington Capitals lost their second straight game on Saturday night, falling to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday on the road, 4-1. There weren’t many stellar performances by any of the Capitals – actually there weren’t really any. That said, here are the District Sports Page Three Stars of the game.

First Star: Joel Ward

Ward had his eighth goal of the season in the second period, tying him for the team lead along with Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson. It appears that reuniting with Barry Trotz, who was his head coach in Nashville from 2008-11, has done wonders for the veteran forward’s game.

Second Star:  Tom Wilson

Wilson was good for a game-high six hits and also fought Ryan Reaves late in the second period; although the skirmish didn’t provide the lift to his team that he might have wanted, his heart proved to be a strong one.

Third Star: Justin Peters

I know, I know, he let in four goals. But he also made 30 saves and was a primary reason why the game didn’t end 7-1, which it very well could have.

Washington Capitals Game 17 Recap: Caps dismantled by Blues in worst loss of season

If you’re looking for positives to take away from the Washington Capitals’ 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, you’ll have to look very hard. Even then, you may not find any.

Joel Ward supplied the lone tally for Washington, a goal in the second period that tied the game at one goal apiece. It came at 6:38 of the second period, a wrister from the top of the left circle that got through Brian Elliott after he made what appeared to be the initial stop. Otherwise, it was largely a dud from the boys in white, as there were no players with a positive plus-minus rating and a meager 25 shots registered on the night. It was the largest margin of defeat (three) that Washington has been dealt so far in the young season. Some thoughts:

  • Joel Ward’s hot start to the year continued, as he is tied for the team lead in goals with eight, joined by a couple of guys named Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson.
  • Justin Peters let in four goals, and most of them weren’t exactly pretty ones to give up (not that any are, to be fair). He was caught out of position on the first one, gave up a juicy rebound on the second and horrifically misplayed the puck on the Blues’ third goal by David Backes. There was little the 28-year-old netminder could do about the final one, but by then the game was all but decided. With that in mind, though, he did make a couple of crucial saves that kept it from being a laugher.
  • A slow start basically doomed the team, as they were outshot 13-7 in the first and looked about as out of it as they could over the first 20 minutes. Blame that on their second game in as many nights.
  • One goal in two straight games isn’t good, it has to be said. The good news is that they get two days to get back into a groove before a road date at Phoenix on Tuesday.

Washington Capitals Game 11 Recap: Turnovers doom Capitals in 6-5 loss to Coyotes

Back from Tampa with a mission, the Washington Capitals knew what they needed to do – win, and they needed to desperately. The Arizona Coyotes, an equally desperate team, seemed like worthy victims. Instead, every Capitals mistake ended up in the back of the net, and the Coyotes rebounded from a 3-1 first period deficit to win 6-5.

Nicklas Backstrom was a shining star, quietly earning three assists in the first period, and surpassing Dale Hunter for fourth place on the Capitals’ franchise assists list. Tom Wilson, John Carlson, and Alex Ovechkin’s goals rounded out the first period.

Arizona scored five unanswered goals in the win. After quickly scoring three goals and leading by two at first intermission, the Capitals eased off the gas – way off the gas. In fact, it was almost like they stopped driving.

A late power play goal by Joel Ward and a tally from Troy Brouwer in the waning seconds of the third narrowed the gap, but that flurry would have been more effective if it had been implemented much earlier.

“Sometimes, I get the feeling we want to playing just as hard as we need to,” Barry Trotz said. “And that is not how I operate. That’s not how you win in this league.”

A few notes:

  • Tom Wilson scored his first goal of the season while skating on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Trotz said at the beginning of the season he envisioned an 8-19-43 first line, but that obviously could not come to pass until Wilson returned from injury. Wilson is a talented winger, and it isn’t shocking that he can excel on a line with two world-class players.
  • Sketchy refereeing or not, the Capitals are routinely allowing their opponents too many power plays, and that was no exception against the Coyotes. The Capitals allowed six power plays to the Coyotes, a season high.
  • Tom Wilson took two roughing penalties in the second period, because he wanted to drop the gloves with someone, anyone (no one would oblige a dance). Wilson is quickly going to learn that he is better off doing more constructive things with his ice time than put his team at a disadvantage because of his reckless behavior.
  • Each goal allowed by the Caps was preceded by a sloppy turnover in the defensive zone. Lazy plays are going to end up in the back of the net, and the Capitals learned even a struggling team like the Coyotes can still make them pay.
  • The Capitals have allowed at least four goals in regulation in four consecutive games. That’s not a great stat for a team with an ostensibly better blue line this season.
  • Nick Backstrom’s three assists in first period marked his 27th career 3-assist game. It broke a tie with Sidney Crosby for most in the NHL since ’07-’08.
  • Alex Ovechkin tied Peter Bondra’s franchise points record (825) with his four-point night (1g, 3a).
  • Don’t blame the goaltender. While Barry Trotz said Justin Peters could have made a few more timely saves, he cautioned that the loss should not fall solely on Peters’ shoulders. The other guys on the ice had a little bit to do with it too.

The Capitals get a day off Monday before they face the Calgary Flames at home on Tuesday night. The Capitals last won a game on October 26 in Calgary. They are 4-5-2 on the season.

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