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. Brouwer had no idea he’d scored the goal, even after the goal horn sounded, until his linemate, Eric Fehr, skated over to tell him while he was still whacking away, erroneously thinking the puck hadn’t gone in yet. “I think I had at least one more whack, maybe two more whacks, after the horn went off. In situations like that, you have to do whatever it takes,” said Brouwer. “Our line had talked about getting more pucks and bodies to the net and I thought maybe it rattled in after the first shot. I didn’t know I touched it, as you could tell by my reaction.” After a Rich Clune high-sticking penalty gave the Capitals a power play, Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 22nd goal of the season, a set play off a faceoff win by Nicklas Backstrom. The Capitals have scored 15 power play goals in their last 17 games. Ovechkin’s power play goal was the 136th of his career. He needs two more to pass Peter Bondra and move into first place on the Capitals’ all-time power play goals list. Next up was Karl Alzner, who scored his fifth career NHL goal in the first period, a slapshot assisted by Mike Green. It was his first-ever goal at Verizon Center in 148 regular season games as a Capital. “When we played the Islanders last week I think [Alzner] might have had 7 shots that night – 4 legitimate chances,” said Adam Oates, who was complimentary of Alzner’s performance. “It doesn’t always turn into your turn, but the more we work on it, when it is his turn, we need a goal from him or a good play and he got one tonight. Every little touch he makes benefits us big picture.” After a second period with no goals or penalties, the action picked back up in the third period, with rookie defenseman Nate Schmidt scoring his first career NHL goal. Twenty-three seconds later, the Predators got one back –the 13th time this season the Caps have given up a goal shortly after scoring one. By the time Eric Fehr scored his fourth goal of the season, the Caps were well on their way to victory. Fehr and his linemates, Mikhail Grabovski and Troy Brouwer had a pretty good night, combining for 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists), between them. Grabovski , who has four points in his last five games, had two assists, and Fehr, who has five points in his last five games, notched a goal and an assist. It was Grabovski’s fifth multi-point game of the season, and Fehr’s third multi-point game of the season. “We talked before the game [and said] just get pucks to the net and crash and get some rebounds and try to get a greasy one,” said Fehr. “It worked out.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
Karl Alzner Practice Audio
John Erskine Practice Audio
Dave and I are back in DC for a visit so we went over to Kettler Iceplex on Thursday, March 28 to watch the Washington Capitals practice. The last time we saw the Caps on the ice in person was in September before the lockout. We’re looking forward to seeing a few games at Verizon Center in the next couple of weeks!
There was a scary moment when Alex Ovechkin left the ice after catching a puck with his chin. He didn’t return to practice and tweeted photos from the doctor’s office before and after the 22 stitches. Ouch.
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.
Audio courtesy Sky Kerstein
The Washington Capitals were dominated by the Philadelphia Flyers on the road one night after playing perhaps their best game of the season in Tuesday’s shutout of Carolina. Head coach Adam Oates said it was apparent his team didn’t have the jump to compete, for whatever reason.
“We had a terrible start. The first shift and then down quick, playing against a team that needs it as bad as us and we had no answer for them.”
“It’s our first bad game in while and I think it was all of us and we looked a little tired,” Oates continued. “We didn’t have enough fight to fight back through them. I think it’s a little bit of the produce with the league right now because of the lockout with scheduling. Teams are tired. We will chalk it up to that and find ways to work on stuff.”
For Oates’ full comments, along with those of Alex Ovechkin, Phillipp Grubauer (who made his NHL debut with 14-of-14 saves) and the rest, please click the links below.
ARLINGTON, VA–Crazy day today in Arlington as the Washington Capitals re-signed goalie Braden Holtby and defenseman John Erskine to two-year deals as they prepare for the return of Alexander Semin and the Carolina Hurricanes tomorrow.
Braden Holtby, 23, signed a two-year contract extension worth $3.7 million. Holtby has has played in eleven games this season, has a 5-6-0 record with a 3.37 GAA and a .896 Save pct. plus one shut out. Holtby had a 1.95 GAA, .935 save pct. in the playoffs last season. Holtby will start his seventh game in a row tomorrow night.
“Just trying to do it ahead of time,” Capitals General Manager George McPhee said. “We all believe there is a lot of upside there, good young goalie.”
John Erskine, 32, signed a two-year contract extension worth $3.925 million. Erskine has played in eleven games this season and has one goal and one assist. This is John Erskine’s eleventh NHL season and has been playing with John Carlson for the majority of the year.
“I thought he should’ve played more last year,” McPhee said on Erskine. “Unfortunately he didn’t.”
The veteran defenseman is very happy with his current role.
“Things have worked out this season and I’m glad to be here a couple more years,” Erskine said.
If that wasn’t enough, forward Troy Brouwer went off on Alexander Semin and the system they played under Bruce Boudreau.
“Some nights you didn’t even know if he was gonna come to the rink,” Brouwer said on Semin.
On playing under Bruce Boudreau, Brouwer said, “It was very laxidasical…kind of guys were able to do whatever they pleased. There wasn’t a whole lot of accountability and then when we had a little bit of trouble and there needed to be accountability it wasn’t received exactly with open arms, I’ll say.”
Brouwer does though enjoy playing under Adam Oates, “Everyone’s still accountable. Everyone has to do their job, but he’s letting guys play the way that makes them successful.”
Capitals Captain Alex Ovechkin says he still talks to Semin once a week and wishes he was still playing here.
“Yeah. Of course. He’s great player, good guy, but you know it’s a business.”
On the injury front…Mike Green (groin) says he’s “100 percent” and ready to go for tomorrow.
Marcus Johansson (upper body) is still not ready to go. “Marcus is progressing,” McPhee said. “We’ll see how he is the next few days.”
Nicklas Backstrom (sick) missed practice today and went to go see the doctor. ”A little under the weather, we’ll see how he is tomorrow morning,” McPhee said.
Jason Chimera (lower body) left practice early today. “Nothing major, should be fine. Just being careful,” McPhee said.
Brooks Laich (groin) hasn’t skated in nine days. McPhee says he is “concerned about it” and has his “fingers crossed”. McPhee added that Laich’s current treatment that he is on takes two weeks.
McPhee said “we’ll see” if they’ll need to make a recall tomorrow and added that “it’s already been discussed and what we might do if we need to recall”.
The Caps forward lines today looked like Chimera-Ribeiro-Ovechkin, Fehr-Johansson-Brouwer, Wolski-Perreault-Ward, Hendricks-Beagle-Crabb.
Oates said we could see Michal Neuvirth in net on Wednesday in Philadelphia on the second game of a back-to-back.
Listen here to what George McPhee, Adam Oates, Troy Brouwer, Braden Holtby, John Erskine, Mike Green, Karl Alzner, Alex Ovechkin & Michal Neuvirth.
George McPhee Practice Audio
Adam Oates Practice Audio
Troy Brouwer Practice Audio
Braden Holtby Practice Audio
John Erskine Practice Audio
Mike Green Practice Audio
Karl Alzner Practice Audio
Alex Ovechkin Practice Audio
Michal Neuvirth Practice Audio
WASHINGTON–The Washington Capitals are back in the basement of the NHL as they have a total collapse in the third period against the New Jersey Devils and fall 3-2.
“It’s hard,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It’s very frustrating. I thought we were in pretty good control there, playing good. They came out hard in the first and we stuck with it there and that’s what we want to see from this team. It’s frustrating, what happened in the third period there.”
The Capitals committed six minors in the third, five of which put them shorthanded and they were down two men twice.
“You start the third period, you’ve got a lead, then you give them two 5-on-3s in one period, obviously that’s too much,” Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates said. “I thought maybe a couple of calls were tough calls. I didn’t think Alex’s was a call. Bottom line is, that’s too many. It’s been too many times.”
Capitals forward Troy Brouwer received a ten minute misconduct following the game for yelling at the officials and would not talk about the officiating following the loss.
“I’m not discussing it right now. I don’t feel like getting fined tonight.”
But Brouwer did say, “We feel like we were robbed a little bit tonight. Two points, one point, anything kind of that was taken away from us there.”
Alzner summed up the night.
“I thought we played pretty decent. Besides that first ten minutes or whatever it was. I don’t know – whatever the time was in the third – we played a good hockey game. So we take what we’ve been taking out of the games is that we’re right there. We just got to find a way to finish every game because we haven’t been doing it.”
Listen here to what Adam Oates, Troy Brouwer, Nicklas Backstrom, Karl Alzner & Mathieu Perreault had to say following the loss.
Adam Oates Postgame Audio
Troy Brouwer Postgame Audio
Nicklas Backstrom Postgame Audio
Karl Alzner Postgame Audio
Mathieu Perreault Postgame Audio