August 20, 2019

Washington Capitals even series; Alex Ovechkin adjusts to reduced playing time

Under Dale Hunter, the Washington Capitals are in the business of winning one-goal hockey games. They have been completely transformed from the high-flying, exciting, offensive-oriented style of play under Bruce Boudreau to the conservative, grinding, defense-first mantra of Hunter and Jim Johnson. So far, it’s worked.

The Caps escaped the first round, winning the closest series in NHL history (every game decided by one goal) and are tied with the New York Rangers at one game each heading back to D.C. for two games at Verizon Center. Obviously, Hunter’s goal is to win the Stanley Cup. He doesn’t care how he does it. He, and his coaching staff, have decided that the best way to win is to keep the games close and low scoring. Every minute of a tie game is victory. But are the methods they are employing good for the team, organization, and the players? [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 2 Re-Cap: Ovechkin silences Garden crowd with game-winner

Alex Ovechkin’s ice time has dwindled to the point that in Game 2 of the Washington Capitals second round matchup against the New York Rangers, he played just 13:36 (with 3:00 of power play time), the lowest total of his career in the playoffs and not too far from the lowest total of his career, period.

But in the third period Ovechkin was on the ice at the right time, sending a wrist shot past a screened Henrik Lundqvist for the game-winner, as the Caps evened the best-of-seven series at one game apiece, 3-2.

With Rangers forward Brad Richards in the box for holding John Carlson on the previous play, Nick Backstrom won a draw in the offensive left wing circle, drawing back to Ovechkin at the point. The Great Eight corralled the puck, wheeled and drifted to the center of the ice as Backstrom did a nice job tying up Rangers forward Brian Boyle from trying to get out to Ovechkin. [Read more…]

In Second Round, Washington Capitals Take On An Evenly-Matched Foe

With the New York Rangers’ 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators in last night’s Game 7, the Washington Capitals’ second round opponents were determined. Washington, the #7 seed, is the lowest remaining seed, while the Rangers are the top seed in the East. As far as the regular season match-up goes, though, that differentiation in seeds – New York earn 109 points in the regular season while Washington only earned 92 – is moot. The Caps and the Rangers met four times in the regular season, with each team alternating wins in regulation across the length of the 2011-12 campaign.

Although this season’s results would suggest these teams are evenly matched, the Capitals are hoping that recent playoff history repeats itself. Before this year’s first round series against the Bruins, Washington had won two playoff series in the Alexander Ovechkin era, both over the Rangers. In 2009 the Caps recovered from a 3-1 series deficit to dispatch New York in the first round a thrilling Game 7 on the strength of a Sergei Fedorov slapper, while in 2011 the boys from D.C. took the series in five closely-matched affairs.

In both of those previous series, however, the Caps were heavy favorites despite the presence of perennial all-world goalie Henrik Lundqvist in New York’s net. This time around the tables have turned, and Washington will have to put together an even stronger effort than in the first round to continue their season. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game Seven Re-Cap: Caps Survive, Advance; Joel Ward Hero

Incredible.

There’s no other way to describe the feeling of the Washington Capitals knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, in overtime of Game Seven, on their home ice.

Joel Ward? He’ll never have to pay for a drink in the city again, living up to his reputation earned last season as a playoff hero. He joins his coach, Dale Hunter, and Sergei Fedorov as the only players to score a Game Seven game-winning goal in Washington Capitals history.

Hunter becomes the only man in NHL history to score an overtime Game Seven winner and coach one. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game Five Recap: Hustle Plays and Dirty Goals Give Caps 4-3 Win, Chance to Clinch at Home

Skill goes a long way in the NHL playoffs, but experience even more so.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the two members of the Washington Capitals whose names are engraved on the steely facade of the Stanley Cup, Mike Knuble and Troy Brouwer, netted lead-taking goals in the third period of Saturday’s Game 5 in hostile Boston.

Brouwer’s power play slapshot with 1:27 left in regulation held up as the game-winner, giving the Capitals a 4-3 victory on the road to take a 3-2 series lead in their first round match-up with the Boston Bruins. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals could take advantage of depth in Game Four with roster tweaks

Will Caps take advantage of Mike Knuble’s experience and size in Game Four? (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

I’m not a hockey coach. I’m not a scout. To paraphrase Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee, if I knew anything about the game I’d be in it.

But it seems to me that there are some peculiarities to the way the Caps’ post-season roster has been constructed, so I’d like to offer my two cents worth. With the extra day off between Games Three and Four, it’s the perfect opportunity for coach Dale Hunter to mix some things up, get a little bit of a different look, and get some fresh legs in there. If the Caps were up in the series, or even tied for that matter, you let things ride. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 73 Re-Cap: Capitals ride first period outburst to 5-3 win over Detroit

In a crucial late-season game against one of the best teams in the NHL, in one of the toughest arenas to play in on the road, the Washington Capitals charged to an early three-goal lead and held off a furious comeback by their unwelcome hosts to drop the Detroit Red Wings by 5-3 margin.

Alexander Ovechkin scored twice on the power play in the first period, and Washington held a three-goal lead less than 15 minutes into the game. Mike Knuble, Keith Aucoin, and Jason Chimera also scored and weekend call-up Braden Holtby made 30 saves to earn the win in his second start of the season. [Read more…]

Is Dale Hunter’s mantra of “play well and you’re in” effective at the NHL level?

The mantra ever since Dale Hunter became coach of the Washington Capitals has been “play well and you’re in.” It’s been that way for the goalies, veteran net-crashing right wingers and Czech defenseman. Jeff Schultz and John Erskine too. But we have to wonder, is it the right way to do things on the NHL level, especially with more veteran players?

Negative reinforcement can be a powerful thing. So too is a fear of failure. Different personalities are motivated in different ways, and we’ve seen this play out with the Caps over the last few weeks.

Michal Neuvirth and Jeff Schultz seem to be playing better after their stints on the bench. Of course, that might be anecdotal. Schultz has always had his strengths and weaknesses, and riding the pine for 20 games hasn’t — and wasn’t — going to turn him into Chris Pronger. With Neuvirth, it might simply be a case of getting the opportunity to play after becoming an afterthought while Tomas Vokoun played so well for that stretch. [Read more…]

CAPS: Players Visit Children’s National Medical Center

“They’re going through tough times right now and to be able to come here and put some time in and put smiles on their faces, it means a lot. We’re really supporting these kids,” said Matt Hendricks after visiting with patients at Children’s National Medical Center.

Capitals Jeff Halpern, Karl Alzner, Matt Hendricks and Mike Knuble with kids at Children's Hospital Feb. 27 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

An hour before the NHL trade deadline, four of the Washington Capitals players – Karl Alzner, Jeff Halpern, Matt Hendricks and Mike Knuble, along with Caps Mascot Slapshot – visited Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Feb. 27, to play video games, color hockey pictures and visit with patients in the hospital’s atrium.

Capitals Karl Alzner giving patient a Weagle tattoo at Children's Hospital Feb. 27 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

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

Capitals Mascot Slapshot coloring with kids at Children's Hospital Feb. 27 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Matt Hendricks has been an active member of the DC community since joining the Capitals, however, now as a new father of three month old twins, these events have even more of an impact on him. “I’ve always felt close to kids, but I think now having two of my own, the bond is a little bit closer, probably more with the parents now,” said Hendricks. “I don’t know exactly what they are going through, but it puts me in that perspective a little bit more.”

Capitals Matt Hendricks posing with patient at Children's Hospital Feb. 27 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Capitals Slapshot and Mike Knuble playing Wii with kids at Children's Hospital Feb. 27 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Capitals Jeff Halpern playing Wii with kids at Children's Hospital Feb. 27 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

The Capitals players along with their wives and girlfriends have made a tradition of visiting Children’s National Medical Center each season. This was the 12th consecutive season the Capitals have visited the hospital. This was the first of two visits the Capitals will make to Children’s National Medical Center this season, as with the Caps Better Halves plan to spend time with patients at the hospital in the spring.

Capitals Mike Knuble with patient and big Caps fan at Children's Hospital Feb. 27 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Capitals Jeff Halpern signing autograph for patient at Children's Hospital Feb. 27 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Capitals Matt Hendricks checking out young patient's new Caps dog tags at Children's Hospital Feb. 27 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Children’s National Medical Center is the only exclusive provider of pediatric care in the metropolitan Washington area and is the only freestanding children’s hospital between Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Norfolk, and Atlanta. Serving the nation’s children for more than 140 years, Children’s National is a proven leader in the development and application of innovative new treatments for childhood illness and injury.

Cheryl Nichols is a Columnist and Photographer for District Sports Page. She is credentialed to cover the Washington Capitals and has reported on the community service and fan events for Nats News Network and Caps News Network since 2006. Cheryl is an accomplished action photographer and has been published in The Washington Post and many other local media. She was a credentialed photographer for the 2010 season covering the Washington Nationals. You can follow her on Twitter @cnichols14.

Caps in Advance: Week 21

There are three games on tap for the Washington Capitals this week, but I can guarantee that this morning every member of the team is squarely focused on the trade deadline at 3 pm this afternoon.

With positive results on both ends of a back-to-back over the weekend, Washington positioned themselves as buyers on trade deadline, or at least not sellers.  General manager George McPhee is renowned for not showing his hand when it comes to trades, so expect some surprises today.

Around 20 games remain in the regular season, and the Southeast Division is going to be a three-team dogfight for the next five weeks.  The Capitals, Florida Panthers, and Winnipeg Jets all sit within three points of each other; as the league standings currently hold, the Division winner will be the 3rd seed in the playoffs, and the other two teams will be battling for the final spot in the Eastern Conference.  The teams sitting in 4th-7th have begun to separate from those in 8th on down. [Read more…]

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