May 4, 2015

Washington Capitals Game 80 Recap: Strong Goaltending and Deflections Give Caps Edge in Detroit

The Washington Capitals had a busy 24 hours, heading to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena after a tough overtime loss to the playoff hopeful Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. The Detroit Red Wings, another playoff contender, are beset by injuries, and fielded a team without physical players such as Justin Abdelkader, Erik Cole, and Johan Franzen.

The Red Wings came into the game 5-9-2 in their past 16 games, but had the return of forward Drew Miller from injury and were able to beat the Minnesota Wild last night in a shootout. The last time the two faced off in January, the Capitals came away with a 3-1 victory.

The Caps were able to exploit Detroit’s injury woes, coming away with a critical two points. With the New York Islanders idle and the Pittsburgh Penguins losing to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Caps’ win helped to launch them back into second in the Metropolitan division standings, one point ahead of the Islanders and four ahead of the Penguins. Pending the result of the other games tonight (Ottawa vs. Toronto), the Capitals’ victory helped to solidify their standings and another chance to lock up a playoff slot.

First period

After a few possession changes early, the Capitals earned a power play at when Daniel Cleary got called for high-sticking on Brooks Laich 1:51 into the game. The Caps had trouble finding lanes to the net for the first minute of their power play, but took advantage of their opportunity. A lucky bounce for Evgeny Kuznetsov found the stick of Detroit’s Drew Miller, a deflection that launched past goalie Petr Mrazek and gave the Caps an early lead. Matt Niskanen and Mike Green were credited with the assists.

Alex Ovechkin drew a holding call at 10:18 on Henrik Zetterberg. Detroit pushed hard, but faced good defensive play from the Caps and were unable to convert to tie the game.

Second period

The second period started with heavy pressure from the Red Wings, keeping the Caps on their heels as they tried to fend off plays from the point and slot. Braden Holtby did a great job of turning away pucks, limiting rebounds that would have led to opportunities.

The sustained pressure led to a penalty call as Brooks Orpik drew a tripping penalty on Luke Glendening at 1:56 while trying to clear the front of the net. Fortunately, the Caps defense forced most of the chances for Detroit to the outside and prevented scoring opportunities.

Mike Green proved his slapshot is back at 4:42 of the second. Blasting a rocket from the top of the faceoff circle, Green’s shot glanced off defenseman Drew Miller and found a way past Mrazek’s glove, careening into the top of the net to give the Caps a 2-0 lead. Both Tim Gleason and Alex Ovechkin had assists on the goal.

At 5:38 of the period, the Capitals had an opportunity to put the game out of reach and take a big lead when the Red Wings were called for too many men on the ice. Despite the free chance, the Caps could hardly put any oomph into their power play and had issues with turnovers.

Another opportunity presented itself when Marek Zidlicky was called for clipping at 10:28, upending Tom Wilson on the blue line. This time, the Caps kept the puck in the Red Wings zone but were unable to find a lane to the net. With the penalty winding down, the Caps put pressure in front of the net, but it led to a goalie interference call against Joel Ward when he lunged for the puck behind Mrazek at 12:14 of the period. The Red Wings quickly capitalized on their power play and forward Darren Helm scored his 14th goal of the season, a chip-in shot at 12:59 of the period. Pavel Datsyuk was responsible for setting up Helm, with another assist credited to Teemu Pulkkinen.

The Red Wings had a great chance to tie it up with the second period winding down when Mike Green was called for a delay of game penalty. After a couple of close calls and rebounds, the Caps were able to move the puck out of the zone — but Troy Brouwer used his glove to clear it, drawing another penalty and giving the Red Wings a two-man advantage for a minute and a half.

Fortunately for the Caps, the Wings were unable to synchronize their power play and set up a goal-scoring play. A couple of timely clears helped out, preventing Detroit from finding the tying goal. Braden Holtby had an incredible split that left Caps fans mesmerized, but also concerned about the immediate impact of a groin injury. Thankfully, bad news was averted as the Caps trainer quickly cleared Holtby of any serious injury and he played on.

Third period

The third period started slowly, with the Caps playing conservatively to maintain the lead. They were active when needed to turn away the Wings rushes, but also relied heavily on Holtby who turned away several shots from the points and the ensuing rebounds. Given the close game, the Caps wisely shied away from drawing penalties to ensure that Datsyuk and the Wings wouldn’t have another power play opportunity.

Final takeaways

Holtby had another impact game, with key saves to keep the Caps in the game. The second and third periods shots on goal were dominated by Detroit, but Holtby stayed strong and kept the Caps in the lead.

Mike Green has had some big goals of late. His blue hockey stick has been magic, making significant and timely contributions to the Caps goal-scoring efforts.

Unnecessary and unfortunate penalties. The dazzling goaltending of Holtby has bailed the Caps out for much of the regular season, but this trend has to stop as we look towards the playoffs.

Red Wings’ left wing Drew Miller had a tough night, with both of the Caps goals coming via deflections off him.  He might want to watch his stick and glove for the next few games.

Washington Capitals Game 79 Recap: Caps erase disastrous start but lose in OT

The Washington Capitals entered Saturday night’s game with a chance to clinch a playoff spot, but they will have to wait at least one more day after losing to the desperate Ottawa Senators in overtime.

In the first ten minutes of the game, the Caps took three penalties and allowed three goals to put themselves in a 3-0 deficit that looked insurmountable. After regrouping in the locker room, a different Capitals team came out to dominate the remainder of regulation tying the game at three, but another mistake cost them in the extra frame. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 77 Recap: Caps take care of business against Canes

ALEX OVECHKIN SCORES 50TH GOAL OF THE SEASON, TIES BONDRA FOR FRANCHISE LEADER

The Washington Capitals took care of business Tuesday night. They scored early, they responded to a couple of their opponent’s goals, and the best player in franchise history added to his accolades. At the finish, the Caps beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 before a not-quite capacity Verizon Center.

With the two points, the Caps pull within a point of both Pittsburgh and the Islanders, tied for second in the Metropolitan Division and both idle, while further distancing themselves from the now-remote possibility of missing the playoffs.

The Caps got things started early in the first. On a good cycle, Curtis Glencross and Tom Wilson kept the puck deep in the Carolina end and Mike Green snuck into the slot, took the pass from Wilson, and beat Cam Ward for his eighth goal of the season.

Then, the moment everyone was waiting for.

Midway through the frame, Evgeny Kuznetsov entered the offensive zone carrying the puck, drawing the defense to him. He backhanded it to Ovechkin on the left wing, and the Great Eight whipped it past Ward glove-side for his 50th of the season.

Ovechkin becomes the sixth player in NHL history to record six 50-goal seasons, joining Mike Bossy (9), Wayne Gretzky (9), Marcel Dionne (6), Guy Lafleur (6) and Mario Lemieux (6), and with that goal he tied Peter Bondra for the Caps all-time leading goal scorer, with 472 career goals.

“Every year, it’s harder and harder,” Ovechkin said. “But it’s a huge accomplishment with those names up there. It’s always nice. But every year, you don’t know what to expect from yourself, how you are going to play.”

“It was good,” said head coach Barry Trotz. “I mean I hadn’t been around anybody who’s ever scored 50 goals in this league, especially the way it’s so hard to score goals in this league. You know it’s a part of history, a guy who scores 50 in this league right now the way the goal scoring is. Teams check. The goaltenders are so good in the National Hockey League. To get 50, I mean I think I said yesterday, I think he’s like 20 percent than the people next to him.”

But nothing comes easy for this team.

Carolina halved the lead exactly five minutes into the second, as Alexander Semin beat Karl Alzner and Nathan Gerbe was able to take advantage and beat a defenseless Braden Holtby. Later, Tom Wilson got pick-pocketed in the offensive zone, sending the play the other way. Eventually, Chris Terry found Eric Staal completely alone on the doorstep, and Stall buried into the open net to tie the game at two.

The Caps recaptured the lead at 17:06 of the second. Jason Chimera made a really hifty backhanded pass to Brooks Laich, who was streaking through the slot. Laich deked, and slipped the puck past the fallen Ward.

Then, while P.A. announcer Wes Johnson was calling the goal, they scored again. Ovechkin slid it through the crease to Joel Ward, who got enough of the puck to get it past Ward to make it a two-goal game again.

With the assist, Ovechkin tied Michael Pivonka for No. 2 on the team’s all-time assist leader list.

All that was left was for an uneventful third period to play out, which it did.

The Caps resume play Thursday in Montreal.

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.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 52 Recap: Quick two-goal burst in the second proves decisive in Caps’ win

The Ottawa Senators had plenty of opportunities in the third period to tie the game, but Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals’ penalty killers came up big in the third period to preserve a one-goal lead.

Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin both scored in a span of 49 seconds in the second period and that was all they needed to down the Senators 2-1. [Read more…]

Free agent decisions loom large for Caps as trade deadline approaches

Mike Green during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Green during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

As the teams return from the All-Star Break and meaningful hockey starts again, the next big day on the NHL calendar is the trade deadline.

The NHL trade deadline is on March 2 at 3 pm, just over a month away. The task for each team over the next few weeks is to determine what their realistic goals are for this season and going forward so that they can determine if they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline.

On an individual level, general managers need to determine the future of their pending free agents, i.e. who they will seek to re-sign and who already has one foot out of the door.

The Washington Capitals are no exception. There are currently 10 players on the roster who are in the final year of their contract and General Manager Brian MacLellan has to determine now who he wants to see back in Washington next season. [Read more…]

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 2, Philadelphia Flyers 3 (OT)

The Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers played a pretty crummy game Thursday night that neither team particularly deserved to win. Since the NHL makes them play it out anyway, the Flyers got a power play goal in overtime courtesy of Matt Niskanen’s hooking penalty. Oh well, Caps have taken a point in like 239 straight games or something (actually, 14 out of 15), so who cares about leaving one point on the table in January.

Am I cranky?

First Star: Alex Ovechkin. Seems like he’s the first star every time I do one of these things. Maybe that’s because he’s one of the two or three best players in the world today. His power play goal in the first period, his 21st of the season, was his fifth in five games. On pace for his normal 40-plus goals for the season. So much for Barry Trotz’ system holding him back. And the myth that he’s a “different player”? Don’t get me started.

Second Star: Mike Green. Two assists, six shots. A renaissance season from Green, one that — if he stays healthy — will earn him some very big money very soon.

Third Star: Braden Holtby. Playing in his team-record 23rd straight game, Holtby made 30 saves and can’t really be faulted for giving up a rebound goal, a goal on a funny bounce off the back boards or a 4-on-3 overtime goal. He’s been the rock for this team of late and he was frankly the biggest reason this team had a chance to steal two points Thursday.

Goat of the night: Gotta be Matt Niskanen, right? I mean, the play in question was a tough call, but Niskanen put himself in a bad situation, then had to act badly to not leave his goalie high-and-dry. The Caps have now taken penalties in five overtime periods this season, four of which led to goals and losses, which I’m proclaiming to be some sort of record.

Washington Capitals Game 32 Recap: Ovechkin provides exclamation point in whitewash of Devils

It was a sleepy game to start in New Jersey, but Alex Ovechkin opened everyone’s eyes in the third period with a highlight reel goal to finish off the Devils.

All the big guns were firing for the Washington Capitals on Saturday as Ovechkin and Mike Green both tallied once and Nicklas Backstrom added another two goals to down the New Jersey Devils 4-0. [Read more…]

Three stars: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

First star: Mike Green. Green was crucial to Washington’s winning effort in Columbus, with his assists on Troy Brouwer’s game-tying goal and Eric Fehr’s overtime game winning goal. It was arguably one of his strongest performances of the season. His end to end rush just 42 seconds into overtime ended up on the stick of a streaking Eric Fehr, who was essentially airborne, and whacked it past Sergei Bobrovsky for the 5-4 win.

 

Second star: Eric Fehr. He scored the above game-winner, his seventh goal of the season, and collected an assist on Joel Ward’s first-period goal.

Third Star: Karl Alzner. He’s not a guy that typically lights up the scoresheet, but this season, Alzner is bringing the heat. His third period goal was his second of the season and tied the game at 3-3. He also nabbed an apple on Ward’s first period goal.

Honorable Mention: Michael Latta’s slick pass to Jason Chimera in the first period.

 

Washington Capitals Game 31 Recap: Fehr’s overtime goal gives Caps win in wild one

Now 31 games into the 2014-15 Washington Capitals season, few observers know what to make of the team. On some nights they look reminiscent of the Capitals that were on display from 2008-11, and other nights they look like they’ve barely improved from the relative disaster that was the Adam Oates era.

If Thursday’s game was any indication, though, some improvement has been made.

Eric Fehr scored less than a minute into overtime to give Washington a 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, a win that moves the team back into third place in the Metropolitan Division, if only for one night. The Caps’ playoff chances increased 5.2 percent to 66.5 with the victory, a win that they very nearly gave away. [Read more…]

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