December 9, 2019

Building a lineup out of the Caps’ castaways

Mike Ribeiro addressing media during Washington Capitals Development Camp Day 6 Scrimmage at Kettler,  7/14/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Ribeiro addressing media during Washington Capitals Development Camp Day 6 Scrimmage at Kettler, 7/14/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

After seeing Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro torch the Washington Capitals last Saturday, fans in the Verizon Center were left wondering, what if?

What if former general manager George McPhee had held onto the team’s top prospect in Forsberg and found a way to re-sign Ribeiro? Would those players be producing at the rate they are now for the Nashville Predators? How much better would a Caps’ team that lacks secondary scoring look with Forsberg’s 59 points and Ribeiro’s 60?

Those are the questions that will keep fans up at night. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 51 Recap: Lifeless Caps drop 2-1 to Devils for 7th straight loss

The Washington Capitals, with captain Alex Ovechkin once again with a lower body injury, continued their lackluster play, dropping a 2-1 decision to the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center Friday night.

It was the Caps (22-21-8) seventh loss in a row and fifth consecutive loss in regulation. They drop three points behind New Jersey in the Metropolitan Division and remain just three points ahead of the New York Islanders for eighth — and last — place in the division.

It didn’t take the Devils long to grab the lead. Just 4:57 in, Martin Erat tried to hit Dmitry Orlov with a pass in the offensive zone. The puck got turned over, and the Devils went racing back the other way with the Caps in the middle of a line change. Stephen Gionta kept the puck and fired a slap shot that ate up Michal Neuvirth, with the puck slipping between his body and his blocker arm.

The Caps were outplayed throughout the frame, with plenty of turnovers and lack of urgency. New Jersey took 17 total shots, with 11 going on goal, three blocked and three missing the mark. The Caps managed just 12 total shots — six on goal.

New Jersey scored again quickly in the second period. With Dmitry Orlov off for a holding penalty, Jaromir Jagr found Adam Henrique completely alone on the far post, who tapped in for a 2-0 lead. Jagr’s second assist of the game tied him with Mario Lemieux for 10th all-time in assists in the NHL.

After three power play failures, the Caps finally got on the board at 10:10 of the third period. John Erskine sent a wrist shot toward the net that seemed to get redirected several times, the last by Jason Chimera, who was credited for the goal to cut the Devils lead to 2-1.

But it was too little, too late as the Caps couldn’t muster a shot on goal in the final minute playing 6-on-5.

The Capitals travel to Montreal to face Les Habitents Saturday night at 7:30 pm.

NOTES: Mikhail Grabovski was injured in the second period when he got tangles with Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador. He left the ice favoring his left leg, which appeared to get twisted when Salvador fell on him. He tried to skate at the start of the third period, but went back to the dressing room and did not return to the game.

Washington Capitals Game 43 Recap: Caps blow 2-goal lead but beat Tampa on Fehr’s late tip

The Washington Capitals have blown two-goal leads in in four of their past 10 games, and added to that total Thursday, allowing the Tampa Bay Lightning to come back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game with 5:30 left in the game. But Eric Fehr’s second goal of the game, a tip-in of a shot from Mike Green with 51 seconds left, allowed the Caps to escape with a 4-3 regulation win.

Dmitry Orlov made a nice play to hold the zone and shuffled the puck to Green at the right point. Green lifted a wrister toward the goal that deflected off Fehr, who was camped out just to the left of Lightning goalie Anders Lindback.

The Caps (21-16-6) stayed one point ahead of Carolina, who won earlier in the night, for third place in the Metropolitan Division, but were outplayed for large stretches of the game and were outshot 36-20.

Tampa Bay took advantage of Troy Brouwer errant pass just 4:08 in, as rookie Tyler Johnson went the length of the ice and beat Philipp Grubauer top-shelf to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.

The Caps answered with three goals of their own in the frame, despite being outshot 12-9.

Fehr took a nifty cross-ice pass from captain Alex Ovechkin and snapped it past Lindback (16 saves) for his seventh goal of the season to tie it at 7:04.

Washington then utilized the league’s second-ranked power play twice. Mike Green blasted a shot from center point that Mikhail Grabovski tipped on the way through for his 12th goal of the season at 10: 37.

Then, with just 12 seconds left in the period, Marcus Johansson took a pass from Nick Backstrom on the left pipe and stuffed it through Lindback, for his seventh of the season, putting the Caps up 3-1 at first intermission.

Tampa got one back in the second. Defenseman Victor Hedman sprung B.J. Crombeen along the right wing, and Crombeen lofted a fairly innocuous wrist shot toward Grubauer (33 saves) from 30 feet that somehow eluded the rookie netminder to draw the Lightning within one at 3-2.

Tampa’s Ondrej Palat though he tied the game a few moments later when a cross-crease pass deflected off his skate past Grubauer. But after official review it was determined — very clearly — that he made a distinct kicking motion with his skate and the goal was waived off.

Palat then did tie the game at 14:30 of the third, tipping in a shot from defenseman Matt Carle, completely erasing the Capitals two-goal advantage.

On this night, all it did was serve to set up Fehr’s heroics.

The Capitals host the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night at 7:00 pm.

Washington Capitals Game 24: Caps lose to Leafs in shootout, 2-1

Toronto's Frazer McLaren checks Washington's Michael Latta. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Toronto’s Frazer McLaren checks Washington’s Michael Latta. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

After dropping consecutive contests to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens this week, the Washington Capitals headed to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs and try to get back to their winning ways. The Capitals outshot the Leafs 50-28 in regulation and overtime, but the Leafs take it in the shootout, 2-1.

Despite out shot-attempting and outshooting the Leafs through the first and second period, the Leafs went up 1-0 on a David Clarkson deflection halfway through the second. The goal was reviewed for possibly being played with a high stick, but the call on the ice stood.

Mikhail Grabovski, returning to Toronto for the first time since he was bought out by the team, had a little bit of a scare at the end of the second period. He got tripped up on his way out of the Leafs’ zone and was caught by David Clarkson’s skate right below his right eye. He got stitched up during 2nd intermission and 20 stitches later, rejoined the team in the third period.

Late in the third, Alex Ovechkin scored his 20th goal of the season off a dump in from Mike Green, tying the game at 1-1. As soon as the puck hit the ice, Ovechkin had it on his stick. His quick-release shot beat Leafs goaltender James Reimer and left Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf bewildered.

Ovechkin has 43 goals in his last 45 games. He is on pace for 73 goals this season.

Overtime was not enough to decide the game, so it was up to the shootout to decide the game. Eric Fehr was the only Capital to get a shot past Reimer, who faced 50 shots through three periods and overtime, and after a curious decision to put Brouwer in the shootout (he missed) the Leafs win, 2-1.

The Capitals have a couple of days off to recover from their back-to-back games before they take on the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday and the Montreal Canadiens on Friday, both at home.

 

Washington Capitals Game 19 Recap: Caps resilient in overtime win over the Blue Jackets

The Washington Capitals hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets looking for their fifth straight home victory and it took about one and a half minutes of overtime to accomplish that goal. Captain Alex Ovechkin scored the winning goal with the help of Marcus Johansson, giving Ovi a franchise-leading 13th career overtime goal.

“JoJo [Marcus Johansson] did a great job,” stated Ovechkin. “First through it. And after that I have to go to the net and find a rebound. I get a lucky puck, bounce right to my stick, and we go. It’s always nice to score, and [with an] overtime goal you can feel your best.”

Caps Head Coach Adam Oates’ post-game press conference focused on the competitiveness and resiliency of the Caps to come back and win in overtime. “That’s a playoff game, it just happens to be now, but we need these points, and you have to put yourself into position. Hockey is getting that way every night. We’ve been talking about that for two weeks. Every night it’s a grind.”

The first period was scoreless, however, both teams played solid hockey that period.  “We [Capitals] started [game] better than I anticipated after last road trip,” said Oates. “Think we’re a little tired, trip caught up to us a bit.”

Blue Jackets were first on the scoreboard with a shorty by Brendon Dubinsky early in the second period. Caps answered back about eight minutes later with an even strength goal by John Carlson.

Carlson may have played his best game of the season. Oates said, “For the last little bit, he’s [Carlson] been playing great. Him and Alzny [Karl Alzner] have been solid. They’ve been a rock. They’ve started every penalty kill, which has been very solid for us. [They’ve played] a lot of minutes and [Carlson] scored a big goal. He’s playing great hockey.”

The Caps started the third period on a power play, however, were unable to score. Joel Ward scored a short-handed goal and the Caps took the lead 2-1. Columbus scored two quick back-to-back goals to make it 3-2. Blue Jackets third goal was frustrating to the Caps because a bouncing puck got past Mike Green making Greenie look like the bad guy.

“The fact that we went down like that [3-2] I think really upset us and lit enough of a fire for us to get back and build the confidence knowing that we were going to win it,” stated defenseman Karl Alzner.

With less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Mikhail Grabovski tied up the game with his 100th NHL career goal and forced game to overtime. Caps are now 10-8-1.

The Capitals travel to Detroit on Friday and then return to Verizon Center for three games next week. The Caps will practice tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

Washington Capitals Game 14 Recap: It takes a shootout, but Caps down Florida 3-2

Playing without captain and leading scorer Alex Ovechkin for the second night in a row due to an upper body injury, the Washingt0n Capitals got a solid effort from goalie Michal Neuvirth and goals from Nick Backstrom and John Carlson — his first of the season — to force overtime and a shootout, where all three Caps shooters scored to take two points from former Southeast Division foe Florida Panthers. The resulting 3-2 win evens the Caps record at 7-7-0, good for third place in their new digs, the Metropolitan Division, with 14 points.

Neuvirth, starting in place of Braden Holtby, who played Friday night and went around with noted pugilist Ray Emery, saved 33 of the 35 shots sent his way, including 19 of 20 at even strength.  He allowed a goal to the first shooter in the skills competition, Aleksander Barkov, but denied Jonathan Huberdeau, which led to Nick Backstrom sealing the deal on the next shot.

Washington broke out on top in the first period with the refigured first line of Backstrom, Eric Fehr and Martin Erat. The Caps made an easy transition off a defensive zone faceoff through the neutral zone and into Panthers territory. Fehr brought the puck across the blue line and seemed to fumble it as he made his way into the slot.

But Backstrom alertly corralled the puck and whipped it past a seemingly stunned Scott Clemmensen for his fifth goal of the season, and third in the two games that Ovechkin has been absent.

In the second period, a very poor pass from Brooks Laich, who was covering the left point after Alexander Urbom pinched in on a play, led to Scottie Upshall springing Jesse Winchester on a breakaway. Despite Laich hooking Winchester the last 40 feet of the sprint, the Florida forward got enough on the shot to beat Neuvirth five-hole.

But just 36 seconds later, John Carlson took a nifty feed by Michael Latta on a controlled break and roofed it over Clemmensen’s right shoulder to give the Caps a 2-1 lead after two.

Midway through the third, the Caps had an extended offensive possession on the power play with several good chances, including Mike Green ringing one off the post, but could not get a shot to fall.

But former Caps have a way of haunting the current squad, and Saturday night would be no different. Old friend Tomas Fleischmann tied things up with just 2:38 remaining as the Panthers skated on a 4-on-3.

The power play goal against breaks the Caps streak of 35 consecutive penalty kills.

Despite the Caps getting a power play in the overtime, the extra session ended scoreless. Mikhail Grabovski led off for the Caps in the shootout and made a beautiful move, carrying in on his forehand, then faking a slap shot before slipping it to his backhand and getting the puck just out of the reach of Clemmensen.

Barkov used almost the exact same move against Neuvirth at the other end to even things up.

Brooks Laich was up next, and through he faked himself out — he missed the puck with his last attempt at a deke — the puck eluded Clemmensen five-hole. With the goal, Laich moves to 6-for-18 (33.3%) career in the shootout.

Neuvirth then made a glove save on second-year center Jonathan Huberdeau to set up Backstrom’s dramatic game-winner. Backstrom came in forehand all the way and simply beat Clemmensen without any trickery whatsoever to deliver the extra point to the Capitals.

The Caps have won 18 of the last 23 meetings with the Panthers.

Washington is off until Tuesday night, when they host the New York Islanders at 7:00 pm.

Washington Capitals Game 12 Recap: Caps lulled to sleep by Canucks 3-2

The Washington Capitals completed their western Canada swing with a sleepy game in Vancouver, able to muster just 19 shots on goal, in a 3-2 loss to the Canucks Monday night that was not as close as the score would indicate.

The loss drops the Caps to 5-7-0 on the season.

The Caps were dominated in most phases of the game, but especially in puck possession. Vancouver was able to generate 68 total shots (41 on goal, 12 blocked and 15 misses) compared to 42 for the Caps (19-11-12). The Canucks also controlled the faceoff dot, winning 67 percent of the draws. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Power Rankings: Week 2

Each Monday this season, District Sports Page will rank the active roster of the Washington Capitals “power ranking” style. Cause who doesn’t love a gimmicky, made-for-page-hits power ranking?

The Caps went 1-2-0 last week. They looked good on the power play, but much less so at 5-on-5, especially in their own end. Just two games this week: Thursday against Carolina and Saturday against Colorado.

Rank Player The Good, Bad or Ugly
1. Alex Ovechkin 4 goals, 2 assists, -1, 4 PIMs. Ovi’s picked up right where he left off last season.
2. Mikhail Grabovski 3-2-5, -1, 0 PIMs. Grabbo had a real big night in Chicago and is settling in nicely on the power play.
3. Nick Backstrom 1-3-4, even, 0 PIMs. Backstrom’s would-be goal in Dallas was waived off after he cross-checked Kari Lehtonen in the head.
4. Karl Alzner 0-1-1, -1, 2 PIMs. Karl is logging heavy minutes, befitting as his status as top defensive defenseman.
5. Mike Green 0-4-4, -3, 2 PIMs. Looked like he had a pair of goals in the opener until video review transferred them to Grabovski.
6. Marcus Johansson 0-4-4, +1, 0 PIMs. Was a passenger in Chicago but followed that up with a pair of nice games.
7. John Carlson 0-0-0, even, 0 PIMs. Carlson’s taken just four shots in three games. Expect him to get more involved in the offense this week.
8. Braden Holtby 0-2-0, 4.48, .848. Holtby’s had a couple of clunkers, but looked good against Dallas. He needs to justify Oates’ confidence in him this week.
9. Brooks Laich 0-0-0, -3, 0 PIMs. Laich has managed to stay in the lineup, but you wouldn’t have noticed it by his stat line.
10. Troy Brouwer 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIMs. Notice a theme? Caps have just three goals at even-strength. That’s just not gonna cut it.
11. Joel Ward 0-1-1, -5, 2PIMs. Most noticeable thing he did last week was get stuck in a toilet.
12. Jason Chimera 0-0-0, -4, 0 PIMs. Averaging 15:05 of ice time a night. What’s he doing with it?
13. Michael Neuvirth 1-0-0, 1.22, .964. Neuvy came on in relief in the win over Calgary   and stopped 27 of 28 shots against. That’s what you need from the back-up.
14. Eric Fehr 0-0-0, -6, 2 PIMs. That -6 is worst on the team. With no offense to back that up, Fehr’s minutes   might start to drop.
15. Tom Wilson 0-0-0, even, 5 PIMs. Wilson’s averaging just   6:16 on ice time a night, lowest of any forward still on the roster. How much is he learning at that rate?
16. Steve Oleksy 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIMs. Took Hillen’s spot against Dallas, but Oates won’t go with the off-hand shot at left D for very long, if at all.
17. Jay Beagle 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIMs. Snoopy’s back on the 4th line after Latta was sent out. Can only   do so much with what he’s got.
18. Connor Carrick 1-0-1, -2, 6 PIMs. Carrick had a rough first week in the bigs. Has shown promise for sure, but the penalties and responsibility breakdowns have to get cleaned up if he wants to stay.
19. Martin Erat 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIMs. Just 7:59 of ice time per night. They need to play him, either for production of trade value. 4th line duty with Jay Beagle is sucking all value from him.
20. John Erskine 0-0-0, -3, 4 PIMs. Big John is the poster boy for the Caps problems. He’s getting skated past every single night.
21. Aaron Volpatti DNP. Healthy scratches  first three games.
22. Michael Latta 0-0-0, even, 0 PIMs. Latta looked okay in Chicago, but was sent packing with the waiver claim of Alexander Urbom.
23. Jack Hillen 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIMs. Hillen will be out 4-to-6 months after the collision that left him with a fractured tibial plateau.
HM Alexander Urbom Honorable Mention: Claimed off waivers from New Jersey. Was their 4th ranked defensive prospect. Big (6’4, 215), a good skater and a left-handed shot, not that he uses it all that often.

Washington Capitals Game 1 Recap: Grabovski notches hat trick but Caps fall to Blackhawks, 6-4

For the third time in a week, the Washington Capitals took on the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, but this time, it counted for something. Unfortunately for the Caps, it counts more for Chicago, as two late goals by the defending Stanley Cup champions led them to a 6-4 win in the season opener

After a long banner-raising ceremony honoring the Cup champs, the puck was finally dropped on a brand-new NHL season.

Emotions ran high on both benches: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, freshly back from his torch escapades in Greece; and the Blackhawks, still riding the wave of their Cup run.

The Hawks wasted no time getting on the board. Brandon Bollig scored just 4:06 into the first. But it seemed that for every goal the Blackhawks buried, the Capitals sneaked one past Corey Crawford shortly after.

And how fitting it was that the first Capitals goal scored this season was by its captain, Ovechkin, and even more apropos, on the power play, which proved to be as efficient as ever Tuesday night.

Patrick Kane scored near the end of the first; Mikhail Grabovski got one back for the Capitals. And so it went.

Brent Seabrook put the Hawks up 3-2; Grabovski deflected the first of two Mike Green power play shots to even things at 3-3.

Less than five minutes later, Grabovski deflected another Green point shot to make it 4-3 to give him his first career hat trick in his first regular season game as a Capital.

But only a few minutes later Brandon Saad got behind the Caps defense — notably veteran John Erskine — and equalized it for the Hawks. Defenseman Johnny Oduya increased the lead by one several minutes later on a goal Braden Holtby would probably like to have back, deflecting off his catching glove and slipping by him into a gaping net, to make it 5-4 Blackhawks late in the third.

The Capitals had a prime 5-on-3 opportunity late in the third period they couldn’t make good on, then another 50 seconds with a one man-advantage that yielded scoring chances but no goals. Crawford, as he has been so many times for the Blackhawks, was brilliant in killing the Caps power play.

It would be remiss to not mention the three assists Nick Backstrom had, all on the power play. Grabovski finished with three goals and an assist, and Ovechkin added an assist on Grabovski’s power play goal as well.

Despite pulling Holtby in the final minute, the Capitals still came up short to the reigning champions. Mike Green attempted a diving save in front of the empty net to thwart Marion Hossa’s scoring attempt, but the Hawks were awarded the goal.

In the end, it was a rousing opening night act. The Caps did many things right. They did many things wrong. They had a third period lead they could not hold. In the grand scheme of things, a one-goal loss to the defending champs on their home ice isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it feels like an opportunity slipped through the Caps hands in this one.

Caps Quick Take: Game 1 v. Blackhawks

After every game this season, in addition to our game story District Sports Page will give you five quick takes right after the final horn. Tonight, the Caps went into Chicago on opening night, watched the Blackhawks raise their banners and succumbed to the defending champs 6-4. It was an entertaining game, but the Caps weaknesses — namely the defense — was evident to all who watched.

1) Backstrom to Grabovski to Ovechkin on the power play. Has a nice ring to it, eh? Grabbo in his debut with a solid goal and two tips for a hat trick. Nit a bad way to endear yourself to your teammates.

2) Despite three earlier power play goals, the Caps couldn’t get one with a 1:38 two-man advantage. Pretty much sealed their fate at that point.

3) On Chicago’s second period power play goal, Eric Fehr got sucked in too deep in the box, and when Marian Hossa was able to get the puck through, Brent Seabrook was able to walk right in and get a clean shot off. He’ll get coached up on that.

4) The big concerns about the bottom three defense are very much still there after one game. Connor Carrick had some good moments, but looked lost an equal number of times and took a penalty. Jack Hillen was invisible, so is that good? John Erskine is just slow, and was burned by Brendan Saad badly for Chicago’s tiebreaker in the third.

5) Marcus Johansson was a passenger tonight. He lazily waved his stick at a puck intended for him in the neutral zone instead of going to get it and it went back the other way for a Chicago scoring chance. Later in the period, be made a bad backward pass that ended up in a two-on-one. This is a critical year for him and he didn’t get off to a very good start.

 

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