February 1, 2015

Washington Capitals Game 3 Recap: Caps earn point against Sharks despite 3-0 hole

OVECHKIN SCORES TWICE TO LEAD CAPS IN THREE-GOAL COMEBACK

Despite trailing one of the best teams in the Western Conference 3-0 after the first period, and facing a two-goal deficit with 5:51 left in the game, the Washington Capitals earned a point by forcing overtime on Troy Brouwer’s late third period goal.

Unfortunately, the Caps were shut out in the shootout, and fell to the San Jose Sharks 6-5. But considering the start, it could end up being one of the biggest points the Caps earn all season.

The Caps found themselves in an early hole. Just 1:23 into the contest, Joe Thornton won a draw in the left wing faceoff circle to defenseman Matt Irwin, who blasted a long-range shot past Braden Holtby for a 1-0 Sharks lead.

Moments later, fourth-liner Michael Latta was called for elbowing. Though the Caps did a credible job killing the advantage, San Jose struck again with two seconds remaining in the infraction, as Irwin lifted a backhander past Holtby. Irwin was a healthy scratch in the Sharks’ first tow games.

Things got out of hand with just over 10 minutes left in the first, as John Scott — known primarily for beating people senseless — snuck a shot past Holtby on an odd-man rush as Brooks Orpik got caught out of position.

Just like that, the Caps trailed 3-0 and Holtby found a seat on the bench, in favor of Justin Peters making his Capitals’ debut.

“The first period I didn’t like at all,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I just didn’t like our commitment. We were a pass-first team in a shoot-first league in the first period. You’re not going to give a team like the Sharks a three-goal lead and expect to come back.”

The Caps got on the board at 2:51 of the second period. With Tomas Hertl off for interference, the power play put on an impressive passing clinic, with Troy Brouwer feeding Alex Ovechkin at the high point, to John Carlson on the wing, back to Ovechkin and finally to Marcus Johansson, who was camped on the right post.

After a battle for the puck. Johansson tapped it past Antti Niemi for the first goal against the Sharks in three games this season.

San Jose killed the momentum at 14:33, as a harmless looking shot bounced off Eric Fehr and past Peters to make it a three goal game again. Joe Pavelski, who took the initial shot, was credited with the goal.

But as quickly as that came about, the Caps righted the ship. Following an odd-man rush, Mike Green collected the puck in the corner, played keep-away until he could settle into a good shooting spot in the center of the ice, and whipped a wrister past Niemi to make it 4-2.

Moments later, Ovechkin took a pass from Nicklas Backstrom in the high slot and did what only Ovi can do: make a world-class goalie look bad, as he rifled a shot through Niemi to cut the deficit to one at 4-3.

But San Jose made it a two-goal game less than two minutes into the third. Chris Tierney broke up a Caps rush at the Caps’ blue line and fed Tommy Wingels streaking in all alone on Peters. Peters made the save on Wingels’ first shot, but the Sharks winger got another whack at it and snuck it through.

The Caps got another power play with 6:15 left and made good on it, as Ovechkin registered his second of the game and fourth of the season with a wicked wrister from the left wing circle, bringing the Caps within one at 5-4 with 5:51 remaining in the game.

“We had some big efforts,” Trotz said. “I thought [Ovechkin] was the best player on the ice today. He had a couple goals. He’s blocking shots. He’s running over people. He was a beast out there.”

Brouwer tied it just over a minute later, as he took an outlet pass from Green, faked out Irwin who fell, and beat Niemi high glove side to even things up.

Overtime came after a few nervous moments as Backstrom took a high-sticking penalty with less than two minutes left in the third period.

CAPS NOTES:

  • With his assist tonight, Ovechkin passed Mike Gartner (392) for second place on the Capitals’ franchise assists list. Ovechkin now sits 26 assists shy of passing Michal Pivonka (418) for first place on the Capitals’ assists list.
  • Andre Burakovsky earned an assist, extending his point streak to three games (10/9-10/14: 1g, 3a). Burakovsky is the first Capitals player to start his career with a three-game point streak since Alex Ovechkin started his career with an eight-game point streak in 2005.
  • Liam O’Brien earned an assist, marking his first NHL point.
  •  The Capitals scored two power-play goals for the second consecutive game.
  • Washington outshot San Jose 34-23 and outhit the Sharks 26-13.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. San Jose Sharks 10/14/14

Despite trailing 3-0 in the first period to the San Jose Sharks, the Washington Capitals rallied and tied the game late in the third, but fell in the shootout, 6-5. John Scott scored on the Capitals. At least they came away with a point.

First Star: Alex Ovechkin

The Captain scored two goals and logged one assist and eight shots on goal in the Capitals’ shootout loss against San Jose, his 87th career multi-point game. Four goals in two games (one each at even strength and on the power play) is a great start to the season for Ovechkin.

Second Star: Mike Green

In his first two games, Green has notched three points, two of those (1g, 1a) against San Jose. No sign of injury slowdown, and hopefully for the Caps he stays that way. He might be technically a third pairing defensemen on the depth chart, but for skill, there’s probably not a defenseman on the roster that can match Green.

Third Star: Troy Brouwer

Brouwer scored the equalizer that sent the game to overtime, nearly completing the Capitals’ comeback. While Antii Niemi should have probably stopped it, the goal Brouwer scored Tuesday night is the kind of goal the team needs him to score.

Honorable Mention:

Nicklas Backstrom: He finished the night with 2 assists, both dishes to Ovechkin on his two goals.

Liam O’Brien’s tongue: Good thing John Scott only picks on people his own size, or at least he did Tuesday night. Probably because he scored a goal for once.

Washington Capitals Game 2 Recap: Alex Ovechkin scores twice as Caps blank Bruins

After a less-than-encouraging start to the 2014-15 season on Thursday, the Washington Capitals rebounded with a resounding 4-0 road win over the Boston Bruins on Saturday night. Captain Alex Ovechkin scored twice in the first period to give the Caps an early advantage that they didn’t give up.

[Read more…]

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)

What to do with Mike Green

The Washington Capitals overhauled their defensive core this offseason and many are wondering where that leaves Mike Green. With the additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, is there still room for the former Norris Trophy candidate?

With trade rumors flying, the team was quick to declare that Green was still a part of the Caps’ future plans. The Caps would not be the first team to change their minds on a player, however, so let’s explore whether Green should be on the trading block. [Read more…]

MacLellan’s first decision not enough to judge him on

With the NHL offseason now officially underway, the window for compliance buyouts has opened and Brian MacLellan faces his first question as general manager of the Washington Capitals. He answered that question resolutely on Tuesday and closed the door on the possibility that the team would choose to use its second compliance buy out.

“I don’t think it would make sense for any of our players that we pursue that path,” he said. [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?

Opinion: Washington Capitals five biggest changes needed for 2014-15

The Washington Capitals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007. There wasn’t enough talent on hand, the talent available was mismanaged and there was discord between the front office and the on-ice staff. Missing the playoffs should finally be motivation to make the changes necessary for the Caps to truly contend for the Stanley Cup.

Here are the five biggest changes needed by the Caps as they enter what could be offseason full of change and drama.

1) Settle the General Manager and coaching situations.

It’s widely rumored that GM George McPhee’s contract expires following the NHL Draft. Adam Oates has another year on his contract. There’s plenty of evidence (Martin Erat, Dustin Penner, Dmitry Orlov, the goaltending situation, Tom Wilson) that McPhee and Oates’ talent evaluation doesn’t mesh. Somewhere between Ted Leonsis, President Dick Patrick and McPhee, the Caps need to decide who’s going to be in charge of this latest reboot. [By the time you read this on Monday, changes may already have been made.]

Oates’ insistence on players skating on their strong side has handicapped the organization. He’s tried to switch wingers to center (Martin Erat, Eric Fehr) and centers to wingers (Mikhail Grabovski). He played the world’s greatest goal scorer with Jay Beagle as his center on purpose. He’s banished players that were traded for by McPhee to the point of rendering them useless. His systems are indecipherable. In short, the Caps have been a disaster on the ice, much less than the sum of their parts. That falls on Oates.

McPhee is far from blameless. In fact, the collection of defensemen McPhee provided for Oates to employ this season was embarrassing, After the top combo of Karl Alzner and John Carlson, every single defenseman the Caps played this year was flawed. Mike Green isn’t nearly the offensive weapon he was during his back-to-back Norris Trophy finalist days. He still drives play, but his defensive shortcomings and gaffes often lead to bad goals. Orlov is a work in progress — talented, but raw and impetuous. The rest simply aren’t yet, or are no longer, NHL caliber. And it’s been like that the entirety of Ovechkin’s illustrious career. That falls on McPhee.

Either or both could be replaced for 2014-15, and it’s imperative the Capitals figure it out before the draft.

2) Seriously upgrade the defense.

People have said for years the Caps need a “stay-at-home” defenseman, responsible for shutting down opponents’ top lines. But the problem lies deeper than that. The Alzner/Carlson duo are good, but not great. They are a No. 1 pairing in name only. That results in a trickle-down effect. The Caps have some young talent (Orlov, Connor Carrick, Patrick Wey, Madison Bowey), but only Orlov is really close enough to the NHL level to contribute meaningfully next season, despite the experience Carrick gained this season.

The Capitals need to acquire 2-3 legitimate NHL defensemen, including a puck mover. If they can acquire a true top-pairing defenseman — probably via trade — they should do all they can to make that happen, then fill in the other spots with veteran free agents.

3) Improve play at 5v5.

The Caps were one of the worst teams in the league in puck possession, and has gotten consistently worse throughout Oates’ tenure. The team is lackadaisical and sloppy in its own end, the breakouts are unorganized, team defense suffers from lack of structure and focus, not to mention talent level.

One of the biggest problems for the Caps is one of the simplest: attempting to exit their own zone with the puck. Oates and Calle Johansson have instructed the defensemen to get rid of the puck within a second and a half of gaining possession. The idea is that if the puck is being passed, the defensemen aren’t putting themselves in danger of having their head separated from their bodies. While those instructions might have provided better health for some of their blueliners, it also neutralizes much of what makes those players effective.

Mike Green, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov — hell, even Jack Hillen — are puck-moving defensemen. McPhee drafted or obtained these players with the idea that these guys are strong skaters and can carry the puck out of the defensive zone and through the neutral zone, therefore setting up the offense.

But Oates’ and Johansson’s instructions to chip the puck to the neutral zone has instead stymied the offense. Wingers now have to battle for pucks in the neutral zone instead of setting up the attack. Instead of even attempting “dump and chase”, the Caps end up playing “dump and change”, so tired from fighting puck battles that they have to dump and go for a line change.

Either the players or the system has to change.

4) Reduce the team’s salary burden ever further.

McPhee did a great job at the trade deadline to reduce the Caps salary constraints next season by dealing Martin Erat and Michal Neuvirth. He — or whoever will be in charge — should go even further by buying out Brooks Laich (pending health) and/or trading Mike Green.

The Caps already have a good deal of cap space next season, currently $14.2 million. But Laich accounts for $4.5 million against the cap and Green’s hit is a staggering $6.083 million. Neither player is anywhere near what they were when they signed the deals.

Laich was — emphasis was — a 20-goal scoring two-way player. He was equally adept on the power play as he was on the penalty kill. He could fill a center or winger role on a scoring or checking line. But a groin injury sustained while playing abroad during the lockout has destroyed his past two seasons. When he has been able to take the ice, he’s been completely ineffective.

Green was — emphasis was — a two-time Norris Trophy candidate. He possessed singular skill at the position, producing back-to-back 70 point seasons. But again, accumulation of injury (concussions, groin, shoulder) has reduced Green to a shell of the player he once was. His nine goal, 29 assist season wasn’t bad, but the production pales in comparison to the expectation — or paycheck.

Buying out Laich and trading Green would free up another $10 million plus against the cap, giving the Capitals even more flexibility to go about rebuilding this team.

5) Inspire and motivate Alex Ovechkin — or trade him.

Alex Ovechkin is the most valuable asset the Washington Capitals possess. He registered 51 goals in 13-14, but had one 5v5 goal in the last two dozen games. Some of that has to do with Oates’ curious choices for his linemates, some of it was the result of the Caps’ systems, and some of it lies with Ovechkin himself.

His revitalization the past two seasons has occurred on the strength of the Caps prodigious power play. But the team’s inability to drive play at 5v5 has crippled any chance of this team to be successful. While Ovechkin has never played defense with the enthusiasm he utilizes on offense, at times this season he showed open disdain playing in his own end.

Ovechkin himself said the team pays him to score goals. That much is true. But it also pays him to sell tickets and the brand. And he can’t do that cruising through the neutral zone while his man streaks through the slot en route to another goal. This organization has to find a way to motivate Ovechkin to at least make consistent effort in playing defense. He doesn’t even have to be good at it. But as the captain of the team, he at least has to look like he’s trying.

At this point, Ovechkin is part of the problem. No, he isn’t going to be confused for a Selke finalist. But as captain, he needs to be more involved in all aspects of the game. He needs to show effort in every facet of his game. He needs to be a leader. It’s always been said that Ovechkin is a “lead by example” type of leader. Right now, the example he’s setting to Evgeny Kuznetsov and other young players is that defense and accountability doesn’t matter — that he’s above the rules. That’s not acceptable.

It’s simply not enough for Ovechkin to score 50 goals for this team. If it was, they’d have won multiple Cups by now as Ted Leonsis promised they would. If Ovechkin isn’t able or willing to invest the requisite effort to provide a better example to follow, then the organization should seriously consider trading him to a team where he wouldn’t have to carry that burden.

Caps defense leaves fans feeling Green

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day on Monday, it’s only fitting that we keep things green, so let’s talk about Mike Green.

The Caps star defensemen has become the subject of intense scrutiny this season as his defensive deficiencies have been exploited this season by opponents. Many would argue that the Caps need for a top four defensemen stems directly from his inability to defend while still taking top minutes.

The situation with Green is not nearly that clear-cut.

Here are some highlights from a game in which Green committed a costly penalty leading to a goal, then made a poor defensive play in his own zone leading to a second goal.

Oops, that was actually from 2010, not this season. The fact is that Green has never been that good defensively so why does it seem so pronounced now?

The Caps are currently 23rd in the NHL in goals against per game with 2.90. If that holds, it will be their worst since the 2008-2009 season. The team’s defensive struggles are not all on Green, but when the team is not playing well it highlights his poor defensive play.

Previously, fans were willing to look past that since he was producing so much offensively, but his offensive totals have been down in recent seasons thanks in large part to his inability to stay healthy.

Concussion issues have caused him to miss significant time the past few seasons and have created a blueprint for how to play against him. Teams now actively seek to lay big hits on Green to throw him off his game and it seems to work.

If he is so terrible defensively, why is he still second on the team in average ice time per game? Besides the fact that the Caps have no defensive depth whatsoever, Green is also second on the team in 5-on-5 Corsi percentage for.

According to extraskater.com, Green’s 52.8 Corsi percentage is second only to Dmitry Orlov’s. What that means is that when Green is on the ice, the Caps take more shots than they give up. It is also an informal measurement of possession since the more you possess the puck, the more likely you are to control the offensive play.

As a team, the Caps have a 48.4 Corsi percentage. Clearly, they need all the help they can get in terms of possession which makes Green’s role pivotal.

It’s also important to note that Green does not have the benefit of a good defensive partner. Since he takes so many risks offensively, he needs a solid defensive line mate to ensure the team isn’t caught out of position defensively.

There just aren’t enough Karl Alzners to go around.

So while Green is made to look like a bumbling, fumbling rookie time and again defensively, the Caps don’t have a suitable partner to match him with but have to continue playing him big minutes because he helps with the team’s possession.

Okay, so Green needs to get better defensively, but his strength is always going to be on offense. The team clearly needs to find a defensive-minded defenseman this offseason to compliment him.

Problem solved, right? Well, it depends on the salary cap.

Green will make over $6 million next year, by far more than any of the other defensemen on the team. With Alzner and John Carlson the top pair, can the team really afford to pay $6 million to someone who is no longer the best blue liner on the team? The salary cap is expected to go up next season, but a salary as high as Green’s may make it difficult to bring in the caliber player they need.

Another possible solution is a trade. Despite Green’s struggles, he still has value. He is a great offensive defenseman and his name carries weight among fans. Don’t you think teams like Buffalo, Edmonton, or Florida could use a veteran defensemen who can bring excitement back to the fan base?

It seems counterintuitive to trade away one of the team’s top defensemen when that is already an area of need, but overpaying a player has a trickle-down effect on a roster; if he’s not worth the money, he takes away money the team can use to otherwise improve the roster.

The Capitals need to make a decision this offseason as to whether or not Green is still worth $6 million. If not, then a big trade could be coming this offseason. If the Caps should miss the playoffs, this kind of shakeup trade could be just what the team needs.

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