October 21, 2014

Caps comeback against Sharks could be biggest point earned all season

To say the Washington Capitals came out flat in the first period in Tuesday’s 6-5 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks is an understatement.

As well as the team played in its first two games, it was quite a shock to everyone — including the team — to see it come out so poorly against the travelling Sharks, a team this franchise historically has had its fair share of problems with.

There were problems all night on the blue line. John Carlson, in particular, played poorly and ended up demoted in the third period as Mike Green — who actually had a fantastic game — joined Brooks Orpik on the second pairing.

But the Caps were able to comeback, tie the game, and force overtime to earn a point against one of the better teams in the Western Conference — after falling behind 3-0 midway through the first period.

Considering the situation, then, could erasing a three-goal deficit — and a two-goal margin with less than six minutes left in the game — be one of the biggest single points the Caps pick up this season?

“Yeah. It’s pretty incredible we found a way to come back there and score some goals against a team that hadn’t let a goal in [yet this season],” defenseman Karl Alzner said afterwards. “That’s gotta say something.”

“We started the game playing the way we did in the first two games there in the second period. If we play three periods like that, it doesn’t matter what team it is you’re gonna have a chance to win. We’re happy that we came back against a great team, but we like to think about ourselves and what we did tonight wasn’t enough.

Coach Barry Trotz agreed. “We got a point where we probably could sit here and go ‘We shouldn’t deserve points tonight’, but we got one.”

Trotz also brought up that the Caps have picked up four points in the first three games — all against playoff teams.

It’s problematic for this team to dig a hole for themselves and have to score their way out of it. And they’d especially like to avoid going the shootout route they took so much last season. But a point is a point, and considering their absence form the playoffs last season, they need to accumulate points wherever and whenever they can.

“You gotta commend us for coming back but we definitely had a slow start,” Green said. Green had a goal and an assist, and has scored in both games he’s played thus far.

“You know, we can’t be doing that. We realize how we have to play to be successful. It took us about a period to figure it out. Barry had some words of encouragement in the second and third [periods].  We put our minds to it and we got the job done as far as getting the one point. But we can’t be going to shootout most nights.”

Backup goalie Justin Peters was called on by Trotz to relieve Braden Holtby after the Sharks’ third goal in the first period. It was a tough situation to come into for his first action of the season, but he acquitted himself well under the conditions.

“We were a resilient group tonight,” Peters said. “We were real flat in the first period. I guess now you realize how valuable points are and we’re lucky to come away with a point but it just shows when we get playing we’re a pretty good team.”

PHOTOS: Washington Capitals Home Opener 2014

The Washington Capitals hosted the Montreal Canadiens for the 2014 home opener on Thursday night, October 9. The crowd returned to rock the red for a brand new season. The Habs ended up with the 2-1 in a four round shootout. See DSP’s Three Stars of the Game and game recap.

Enjoy the photos from the player introductions, ceremonial puck drop to kick off the Caps’ 40th Anniversary featuring four Capitals’ greats and the National Anthems.

40th Anniversary Logo - Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

40th Anniversary Logo – Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

INTRODUCTIONS TO THE 2014 WASHINGTON CAPITALS……

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

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

Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 - Caps waiting to be introduced (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 – Caps waiting to be introduced (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps coaching staff and scratched players - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps coaching staff and scratched players – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Matt Niskanen - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Matt Niskanen – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Eric Fehr - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Eric Fehr – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Troy Brouwer - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Troy Brouwer – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Brooks Laich - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Brooks Laich – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jason Chimera - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jason Chimera – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Justin Peters - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Justin Peters – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jack Hillen - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Jack Hillen – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Joel Ward - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Joel Ward – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Andre Burakovsky - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Andre Burakovsky – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Chris Brown - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Chris Brown – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Braden Holtby - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Braden Holtby – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

John Carlson - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

John Carlson – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Liam O'Brien - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Liam O’Brien – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Nate Schmidt - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Nate Schmidt – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Marcus Johansson - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Marcus Johansson – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Evgeny Kuznetsov - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Evgeny Kuznetsov – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Nicklas Backstrom - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Nicklas Backstrom – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Brooks Orpik (Caps Debut)- Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Brooks Orpik (Caps Debut)- Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps Captain Alex Ovechkin - Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps Captain Alex Ovechkin – Caps introductions before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

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

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

CEREMONIAL PUCK DROP……

Former Caps Captain Rod Langway - Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Former Caps Captain Rod Langway – Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Former Capitals Rod Langway, Craig Laughlin, Sylvain Cote and Peter Bondra, wearing the jerseys they played in, to drop ceremonial puck before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Former Capitals Rod Langway, Craig Laughlin, Sylvain Cote and Peter Bondra, wearing the jerseys they played in, to drop ceremonial puck before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

All-time Caps goals leader, Peter Bondra - Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

All-time Caps goals leader, Peter Bondra – Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps Captain Alex Ovechkin skates to join former Caps for ceremonial puck drop - Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps Captain Alex Ovechkin skates to join former Caps for ceremonial puck drop – Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Former Capitals Rod Langway, Craig Laughlin, Sylvain Cote and Peter Bondra drop ceremonial puck joined by Caps Captain Alex Ovechkin and Habs Andrei Markov before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Former Capitals Rod Langway, Craig Laughlin, Sylvain Cote and Peter Bondra drop ceremonial puck joined by Caps Captain Alex Ovechkin and Habs Andrei Markov before Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Handshakes after ceremonial puck drop - Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Handshakes after ceremonial puck drop – Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

NATIONAL ANTHEMS……

Caleb Green and Bob McDonald singing the Canadian National Anthem (featuring the new closed captioning on scoreboard) -Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014

Caleb Green and Bob McDonald singing the Canadian National Anthem (featuring the new closed captioning on scoreboard) -Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014

Caleb Green and Bob McDonald singing the National Anthem -Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014

Caleb Green and Bob McDonald singing the National Anthem -Washington Capitals home opener against Montreal featuring 40th Anniversary cermony, 10/09/2014

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

Habs during the 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)

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

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)

Washington Capitals “40 Greatest Caps”

The Washington Capitals recently announced voting for the “40 Greatest Caps” to commemorate their 40th anniversary season this year. The voting is for 10 additions to the “30 Greatest Caps” they did 10 years ago.

Here’s the entire ballot.

Here’s how the District Sports Page staff voted. Each person could vote for up to 10 players on the ballot: [Read more...]

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 29 Recap: Capitals smash Predators 5-2, Schmidt gets first NHL goal

Nate Schmidt with the puck commemorating his first career NHL goal. (Photo courtesy Katie Brown/District Sports Page)

Nate Schmidt with the puck commemorating his first career NHL goal. (Photo courtesy of Katie Brown/District Sports Page)

Saturday night, the 18th all-time meeting between the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators, proved to contain a few milestones for the home team, who won by a score of 5-2.

Troy Brouwer, scoreless in his last 11 games, with only 5 points in the entire month of November, broke through and scored early in the first period to give the Caps a 1-0 lead. [Read more...]

CAPS: Happy Birthday, Karl Alzner

HAPPY 25th BIRTHDAY KARL ALZNER!

The Washington Capitals Defenseman was born on 09/24/1988 in Burnaby, BC, Canada.

Follow Alzner on Twitter and wish #27 a happy birthday.

Karl Alzner - Washington Capitals practice at Kettler, 3/28/2013 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner – Washington Capitals practice at Kettler, 3/28/2013 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner -Practice April 27 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner -Practice April 27 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Capitals Karl Alzner and young patient showing off matching Weagle tattoos at Children's Hospital Feb. 27 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Capitals Karl Alzner and young patient showing off matching Weagle tattoos at Children’s Hospital Feb. 27 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

 

 

 

 

Washington Capitals Media Day Audio

Audio courtesy Sky Kerstein

Thursday was the Washington Capitals annual media day, where all the players were made available to tell the media they were in the best shape of their lives (except, of course, for Brooks Laich, who left practice with a strained hip flexor) and that they are looking forward this season to competing for the Stanley Cup.

Below you can find the raw audio from many of the Caps players from media day today. In addition, this season once again courtesy of Sky Kerstein, District Sports Page will have the largest online library of raw audio from Caps practices, games and postgame press conferences.

 

09-12-13 Alex Ovechkin Practice RAW

09-12-13 Brooks Laich Practice RAW

09-12-13 Karl Alzner Practice RAW

09-12-13 Mike Green Practice RAW

09-12-13 Nicklas Backstrom Practice RAW

09-12-13 Steve Oleksy Practice RAW

09-12-13 Troy Brouwer Practice RAW

Washington Capitals re-sign Karl Alzner to four-year extension

Karl Alzner's playoff beard in May 2011 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner’s playoff beard in May 2011 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The Washington Capitals announced Wednesday they have re-signed defenseman Karl Alzner to a four-year deal at $2.8 million per year. Alzner, a stay-at-home defenseman, had one goal and four assists in 48 games last season. The Capitals now have Alzner and John Carlson locked up until 2017 for a combined $6.76 million cap hit per season.

According to the indispensable Capgeek.com, the Caps now have a little over $5.6 million under the cap this season, with Marcus Johansson the lone remaining RFA to be re-signed.

GM George McPhee, in a team-released statement, said, “We are very pleased to sign Karl Alzner to a contract extension. Karl is just entering his prime and has been a model of consistency for our organization since he entered the League. He plays tough and valuable minutes against some of the NHL’s top players every game.”

McPhee, head coach Adam Oates, and Alzner are expected to be made available to the media today and District Sports Page will have more when available.

Press Release:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have re-signed defenseman Karl Alzner to a four-year contract extension, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. Alzner will earn $2.8 million per year from 2013-14 through the 2016-17 season. 

“We are very pleased to sign Karl Alzner to a contract extension,” said McPhee. “Karl is just entering his prime and has been a model of consistency for our organization since he entered the League. He plays tough and valuable minutes against some of the NHL’s top players every game.”

Alzner, 24, recorded one goal and four assists in 48 games during the 2012-13 season. He ranked third on the Capitals in average ice time per game (20:57) and finished ranked second in blocked shots (85). Last season marked the third consecutive campaign in which Alzner appeared in every Capitals game (including the playoffs), joining John Carlson as the only two players to appear in every Capitals contest since the 2010-11 season.

The Burnaby, British Columbia, native has collected 44 points (5 goals, 39 assists) and a plus-17 plus/minus rating in 263 career NHL games. Alzner ranks tied for seventh in games played among his 2007 draft class and has ranked in Washington’s top-3 in blocked shots each of the past three seasons. The defenseman has recorded one goal and four assists in 31 career NHL playoff games with Washington and ranked in the Capitals’ top-5 in average time on ice in each of the past three postseasons.

From 2008 through 2010, Alzner appeared in 103 AHL games with the Hershey Bears, collecting 41 points (seven goals, 34 assists) and a plus-57 rating while helping lead the team to the 2010 Calder Cup championship.

A two-time gold medalist at the IIHF World Junior Championship with Canada, Alzner captained the Canadian team in 2007-08 and was named one of the team’s top three players by the coaching staff. Alzner also represented Canada in the 2007 Canada/Russia Super Series and played for the WHL team in the 2006 Canada-Russia Challenge.

The 6’3”, 215-pound blueliner collected 117 points (19 goals, 98 assists) in 260 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League (WHL) from 2004-2008 and was named the WHL Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year in 2007-08.

Alzner was drafted by Washington in the first round (fifth overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

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.

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