January 29, 2015

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…]

Washington Capitals Game 22 Review: Caps go up early, beat Islanders at home

The Washington Capitals and their fans can give thanks on Friday night, as Washington returned to the win column with a 5-2 home win over the New York Islanders. The win comes after the Caps had lost four of their last six games and were in need of regular scoring, and got it in a hurry. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 15 Recap: Ovechkin and Johansson lead Caps over Columbus

After righting the ship against Chicago and Carolina over the weekend, the Washington Capitals, led by Alexander Ovechkin, extended their winning streak to three games on Tuesday evening with a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Verizon Center.

[Read more…]

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Edmonton Oilers 10/22/14

Read the recap of tonight’s game in Edmonton here: http://wp.me/p1QLZd-6Rr

They may have lost to the Oilers, but there were a lot of good things to take away from the Capitals performance in Edmonton, including but not limited to the power play (which is pretty good), and controlling play at even strength. They out-attempted Edmonton 66-36 through 3 periods.

First Star: Mike Green

He missed the home opener, but he has 6 points in five games since his season debut against Boston. When he’s allowed to play like he’s supposed to, he really gets it done. Whatever Barry Trotz is doing agrees with him.

Second Star: Nicklas Backstrom

He is a Steady Eddie if there ever was one. Six points in 6 games, and his assist on John Carlson’s power play goal was his 500th career point.

Third Star: Andre Burakovsky

Despite the fact that he was playing on a line with Jay Beagle all night, he dished the puck to Mike Green and earned a primary assist on the goal. He has 6 points in 6 games (2g, 4a). Let’s hope that line pairing doesn’t last.

Capitals Game Day Notes: Green on skating, Schmidt on fitting in

Much has been made of Mike Green’s resurgence so far this season for the Washington Capitals since his return from the injured list. For the veteran defenseman, it’s been about making adjustments and confidence in the systems that new coach Barry Trotz has put in place.

Asked why it appears he’s skating so much better this season, Green answered quickly.

“Change in system. Everybody’s skating a lot better, to be honest,” Green said after Thursday’s pregame skate at Kettler. “I think that has a lot to do with the structure of our system and being confident within it. It’s just a matter of being consistent throughout the year.”

Green played with Nate Schmidt in his first game and much of the next, but in the third period in Tuesday’s shootout loss to San Jose, Green found himself with veteran Brooks Orpik for a few shifts.

For his part, Green said he’d prefer a regular partner, but realizes the practicality of the situation.

“It’s tough,” Green started, “but you know, it is what it is. This league is all about adjustments and being able to adjust in certain situations. I’d rather have one partner, but it is what it is. I really enjoy playing with Nate [Schmidt] right now. Great young player, good energy, makes smart plays. He’s got all the tools in his trunk. He’s been great.

Schmidt has just tried to soak it all in after making the team out of camp with injuries to Jack Hillen and Dmitry Orlov. “Mike’s just tremendous with the puck. He does a lot of things that hopefully I’ll be able to learn one day, but the last two games that he’s been able to play in he’s been awesome. We played a little bit together last year but we’re just trying to get even more familiar with each other so I can let him do his things. He’s an extremely talented guy. We talk a lot on the bench, a lot of communication. He’s been here for ten years, he knows the ropes, and for me just to soak up as much information as I can from guys like him can only be beneficial for me in the long run.

Schmidt watched with interest this past offseason as the team brought in two veteran blueliners, but he’s taken a “best case scenario” approach to his position on the depth chart.

“Both those guys have been extremely helpful,” Schmidt said of Matt Niskanen and Orpik. “With Nisky being a fellow Minnesotan, just to have that connection with him is really helpful. And Brooksy, is the definition of a pro. He comes to the rink every day, he does everything the right way whether it’s on or off the ice. For me, I don’t even have to talk to him every day to pick up something new because he’s been around and has so much experience.”

Schmidt is realistic about where he stands, but he’s looking to make a good impression while he’s given the opportunity.

“We had those two guys [Orpik, Niskanen] come in and at first glance you’re like, ‘Aw man, I’m gonna be too far down [the depth chart],’ but it opened up a door for me to learn from these guys and go out and contribute to this team. My goal coming into camp was to make the team and try to make it real hard for them to push me down.

I think it’s been going well so far. We have been growing as a D corps each and every day. We had two great games. Last game might not have been our best but we learned a lot from it so I’m excited going forward.”

While his status might be in question when Hillen and Orlov eventually return, he’s going to make the most of wearing the Caps sweater while he can.

“For a guy like me, that’s as much as I can do is take up as much experience of being around those guys. They’ve been through it all — what works, what doesn’t work — those are the types of things that you need to learn as a young player, hopefully at an earlier age than later on.”

Schmidt had a unique view of the organizational struggles last season, being a tweener between the big club and AHL Hershey, both of which failed to qualify for the postseason.

He said the tension could be felt throughout the organization. “It’s kind of a trickle down effect,” Schmidt said. “We were pushing for the playoffs too at Hershey last year and we didn’t make the playoffs. It was kinda tough. I think it was the first time ever both teams missed the playoffs in a long time so it’s a disheartening thing.”

“You want both teams in, you want both clubs to win, cause when you win, good things happen for everybody. Wherever it may be, whether it’s AHL guys getting NHL time here or anywhere else, but this is a great group of guys and it would be special to get back to that here.”

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.”

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