June 24, 2019

Washington Capitals Game 52 Recap: Caps survive lazy affair, dump Preds on the road

BURAKOVSKY EXTENDS POINTS STREAK TO EIGHT GAMES, KUZNETSOV EARNS 100TH POINT

The Washington Capitals have been playing slow first periods of late. The trend continued Tuesday night in Nashville against the Predators, but instead of the Caps finding that second gear, the pace remained sluggish throughout the affair.

Regardless, the Caps found enough offense in spurts, and Braden Holtby was his usual rock for the team, and the Caps came away with a 5-3 win over the Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

The Caps got on the board first, in the first period. Tom Wilson picked off an errant pass near the Predators blue line, carried back into the zone along the right wing, and found Jason Chimera crashing the net. The pass was threaded through the slot to Chimera’s tape, and the speedy, veteran winger tipped it past Pekka Rinne for the 1-0 lead and his 14th goal of the season. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 75 Recap: Slow start dooms Washington as Caps come up short

Exasperated sighs and disappointed faces told the tale on Saturday afternoon in the Washington Capitals locker room. Squandering an early 5-on-3 power play, the Caps spotted the Nashville Predators a 3-0 lead before clawing back to pull within a goal twice. A late flurry of shots with an extra attacker wasn’t enough, and Washington ultimately fell 4-3 to the Predators at Verizon Center.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 44 Recap: Niskanen turnover spoils Trotz’ return to Nashville

James Neal converted a bad turnover by former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Matt Niskanen with 100 seconds left in the game for his second goal of the night, and the Nashville Predators skated away with a 4-3 decision over the Washington Capitals in Caps’ coach Barry Trotz’ return to Music City.

Trotz was coach of Nashville for the first 15 years of the team’s existence. The Predators showed a moving tribute to the only coach the franchise had until this past offseason during the first TV timeout and their fans responded with a long standing ovation — extending into the start of play after the next faceoff.

It’s the first loss in regulation for the Caps since Dec. 23.

On the ice, the game looked like a possible playoff preview.

Nashville took a 2-0 lead on goals by Seth Jones and Neal, but Alex Ovechkin tied the game with a pair of goals less than two minutes apart in the second period against Carter Hutton, starting for injured All-World goalie Pekke Rinne, who’s out 4-to-6 weeks with a lower body injury.

The Caps (24-12-8) went up 3-2 early in the third period on Marcus Johansson’s 13th goal of the season. The Predators responded with a power play goal from Mattias Ekholm with 4:29 left, as John Carlson sat in the box on a questionable tripping call in a very physical game.

Braden Holtby made 26 saves. The Caps announced before the game that Holtby will break his consecutive start streak of 21 games Saturday night against Dallas, just one short of the team record.

Notes and observations:
  • The turnover by Niskanen leading to the game-winner was brutal. BRU-TAL. He was face-up to Neal, who was pressuring him on the forecheck near the right wing faceoff circle and essentially handed him the puck, allowing Neal to take one stride and whip it past the defenseless Holtby. You expect better decision-making from your top blueliner, and Niskanen assumed all responsibility for it afterwards. That’s nice, but it’s a play that cost his team a point and feeling bad after playing a good game against a very tough team.
  • Both of Ovechkin’s goals were from the “Ovi Spot” in the left wing circle. The first came at full-strength on a feed from Karl Alzner, the second on a power play from Mike Green. Ovechkin now has 24 goals on the season.
  • The first period was pretty ragged on both sides, but once the Caps woke up in the second period they fairly dominated possession. All well and good, as it signals they still played a strong game on the road. But it also illustrates the glaring mistakes at the end of the game which cost them a point.
  • It might not have come down to those mistakes had it not been for Braden Holtby playing out of his mind on a couple of occasions. He’s completely locked in and really showing why the Caps organization had so much faith in him for so long.
  • How about Marcus Johansson?
  • Eric Fehr was a late scratch due to a lower body injury. He took warmups but wasn’t able to go. Michael Latta took his place at third line center.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals 3, Nashville Predators 4

First Star: Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s two goals wiped out a two-goal deficit and nearly saved the game for the Capitals. He was sniffing for a hat trick, but it was not meant to be. Tonight showed he can still carry the team on his back when called upon. He finished with nine shots on goal and one hit.

Second Star: Braden Holtby. Seriously, this guy. He allowed four goals on 30 shots, but made some four-alarm saves along the way. He’s a large part of the Caps’ successful run over the last month and a half. He’s probably tired, and he’ll get a rest against Dallas.

Third Star: Nicklas Backstrom. Two assists, bringing his total to 31 on the year, is impressive, to say the least. He assisted one of Ovechkin’s goals, and Marcus Johansson’s short-lived  third period go-ahead goal.

 

Washington Capitals Game 75 Recap: Playoff hopes dwindling, another shootout loss

If the Washington Capitals are desperate to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs, they aren’t showing it.

They finished the month of March 6-5-4 as they fell to the Nashville Predators, playing out the string, 4-3 in a shootout.

The Caps didn’t have the opportunity to spoil another two-goal lead in this one, though they did hold the lead first as Troy Brouwer converted a nice tic-tac-toe play just 4:17 into the match. Pretty passes were provided by Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom.

But Nashville needed just 1:38 to tie it back up. The Preds won an offensive zone faceoff and Shea Weber fired on Jaroslav Halak. The big rebound came right to Patric Hornqvist. who elude the check of Patrick Wey and scored easily.

Hornqvist made it 2-1 with 1:30 left in the frame. A bad John Carlson pass at his own blue line skipped off Backstrom’s skate and right to Hornqvist, who walked in alone and deked Halak cleanly and efficiently.

Brouwer evened things up at 14:22 of the second with a power play goal, his overall 23rd of the year, setting a new personal high. The backhander from the slot came after collecting a pass meant for Alex Ovechkin on the far side from Marcus Johansson, but bounced off a Predators d-man and right to Brouwer.

Weber scored his 21st of the season off a rush at 8:23 of the third. He took a perfectly placed drop pass from Mike Fisher and, with no Capitals forward back-checking, slammed a rocket past Halak from the top of the right wing circle.

Backstrom forced overtime with a wicked wrist shot with Calle Jarnkrok in the box for slashing Jay Beagle — Beagle’s only offensive contribution of the night.

Dmitry Orlov rang a shot off the post in overtime, but could not convert. That led to penalty shots and Craig Smith scored for Nashville while Evgeny Kuznetsov, Mikhail Grabovski (in his first game back after missing 19 games) and Backstrom were all unsuccessful.

Washington now sits one point out of the playoffs behind Columbus in the Eastern Conference, though the Jackets still have a game in hand. The Caps are back on the ice Tuesday when they host the Dallas Stars.

Washington Capitals Game 29 Recap: Capitals smash Predators 5-2, Schmidt gets first NHL goal

Nate Schmidt with the puck commemorating his first career NHL goal. (Photo courtesy Katie Brown/District Sports Page)

Nate Schmidt with the puck commemorating his first career NHL goal. (Photo courtesy of Katie Brown/District Sports Page)

Saturday night, the 18th all-time meeting between the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators, proved to contain a few milestones for the home team, who won by a score of 5-2.

Troy Brouwer, scoreless in his last 11 games, with only 5 points in the entire month of November, broke through and scored early in the first period to give the Caps a 1-0 lead. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals trade Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat

The Washington Capitals have traded Swedish minor leaguer Filip Forsberg to the Nashville Predators for winger Martin Erat (4 g, 17 a in 2013) and AHL center Michael Latta, the Capitals announced this afternoon after the 3:00 pm NHL Trade Deadline.

Erat, 31, is a left-handed shooting right winger, had a career-high 19 goals and 39 assists last season and has broken the 50 point mark in five of the last six seasons. Latta, 21, will report to AHL Hershey. He ranked second on AHL Milwaukee in points and ranked first in assists among active players.

Capitals GM George McPhee will address the media soon and we’ll have a full report later.

CAPS: Knuble’s 1000th NHL Game Festivities

Caps will wear special Knuble 22 jerseys for warmups. (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Knuble Set to Play in NHL Milestone 1,000th Game

ARLINGTON, Va. – Washington Capitals assistant captain Mike Knuble is scheduled to play his NHL milestone 1,000th NHL game tomorrow against the Nashville Predators at Verizon Center. The Capitals will honor Knuble with a special pre-game ceremony to congratulate the forward on his achievement. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Capitals general manager George McPhee will join NHL Senior Vice President Jim Gregory, Knuble’s wife Megan and their daughter Anna and sons Cam and Cole on the ice to honor Knuble. Both the NHL and Capitals organization will present Knuble with special gifts to commemorate his achievement and Capitals players will also make a surprise gift presentation.

All Capitals players will wear commemorative “Knuble” jerseys during the pregame warm-up, featuring number “22” on the back. These MeiGray authenticated jerseys will be auctioned off during the game at the MeiGray auction table on the concourse outside of section 109. In addition, all fans in attendance will receive Mike Knuble commemorative buttons when they enter Verizon Center.

Knuble is set to become the 269th player in NHL history to play in 1,000 career games and the fifth player to do so this season (Joe Thornton, Hal Gill, Dainius Zubrus, Vinny Prospal). Only 29 active players have played in 1,000 or more NHL games. Knuble has appeared in 999 career games with Detroit (62 games), the New York Rangers (141 games), Boston (307 games), Philadelphia (310 games) and Washington (179 games). He is one of just eight active players to have collected eight consecutive 20-goal seasons and his 24 goals scored last season were the third-most by a player 35 or older.

Knuble, a veteran of back-to-back Stanley Cup winners with Detroit in his first two years in the league, is one of two current Capitals to have won the Stanley Cup (Troy Brouwer). He has represented the United States in five international events, including the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. The 6’3”, 229-pound Knuble has scored more goals after turning 30 (221) than Wayne Gretzky scored in his 30’s (217). His 531 career points rank 49th among active players while his 271 goals rank 27th among active NHLers.

Congratulations to Mike Knuble on 1000th NHL Game! (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Caps in Advance: Week 11

The Washington Capitals are simply not a good team.

Up in the air, at the moment, is the time frame encompassed by that statement. Certainly the Caps were not good on Saturday night against Colorado, or over the last week. With a 4-5-0 record since Dale Hunter took over as coach on November 28, Washington hasn’t been particularly good in his tenure. And, an 11th place spot in the Eastern Conference attests to how far the Capitals have slipped relative to their conference rivals.

There has been some good for the Caps as of late. Under Hunter the team is holding opponents to 2.33 goals/game, a number that, if extrapolated across the entire season so far, would be 6th best in the NHL.

Stout defense doesn’t mask the fact that Washington isn’t cutting the mustard on offense. Over the past month or so, the Caps have only scored only one goal in nine of 16 games. Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin both scored last week, which is good, but that gives them 10 and 6 goals on the season, respectively, which is terrible.

Hunter’s squad only has two games this week, a brief respite before a four-game week to close 2011. As the team continues to overhaul its offensive and defensive systems under a new head coach, a bit of personnel change is accompanying them. Rookie Cody Eakin, who had 3 goals and 3 assists in 19 games, was sent back down to Hershey, most likely in expectation of the return of Jay Beagle, who has been out since October 13 with a concussion.

Games this week:

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 20th v. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
7:00pm, Verizon Center
TV: CSN-MA

Records:
Washington Capitals: 16-14-1, 31 points, 3rd in Southeast Division, 11th in Eastern Conference
Nashville Predators: 17-11-4, 38 points,  4th in Central Division, 7th in Western Conference
Season Series: 0-1-0

Last month’s loss to Nashville essentially started the decline that led to erstwhile coach Bruce Boudreau’s firing. In a game eerily similar to Thursday’s 1-0 shutout win over Winnipeg, the Caps and Preds played almost the entire game without a goal before Troy Brouwer scored with under five minutes left in the third to give Washington a one-goal lead. However, Nashville responded with the tying score less than 30 seconds later, and then Colin Wilson scored a highlight-reel goal with 24.3 seconds remaining to give the Preds the win (Boudreau sent out six skaters for the ensuing faceoff, which led to Shea Weber’s long-range score 5 seconds later).

The last time these two teams met Nashville relied on goaltender Pekka Rinne, as they always have. Rinne is tops in the league in shots against and saves made. He’s in the middle of the pack amongst NHL goalies in most other stats, but its never a surprise when Rinne puts together a stellar performance. Over his past five games, all wins, Rinne has posted a 1.97 GAA.

Boding well for Washington is the fact that, just like the Caps, Nashville has been unable to pull away from opponents in games. In all five games in Nashville’s current winning streak, the Predators won by just one goal, including one win in overtime and one in the shootout. Amazingly, Nashville hasn’t won a game by a margin of more than one goal since a 4-1 win over Toronto on November 17…two days after the Preds’ 3-1 defeat of the Caps.

One area the Capitals will need to focus on against the Predators will be special teams. Nashville is fifth in the league in power play efficiency, scoring at a 21.3% clip, which in turn is a big reason that two of their top four scorers are d-men Shea Weber (8 goals, 16 assists) and Ryan Suter (5 goals, 16 assists). The Caps successfully held the #3 power play in the NHL, the Colorado Avalanche, scoreless on Saturday night, in part thanks to quality penalty-killing and in part thanks to limiting penalties, committing only two minor penalties the entire evening. That poise will be crucial if Washington wants to have even a fighting chance at home against Nashville.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23rd @ NEW JERSEY DEVILS
7:00 pm, Prudential Center
TV: CSN-MA

Records:
Washington Capitals: 16-14-1, 31 points, 3rd in Southeast Division, 11th in Eastern Conference
New Jersey Devils: 18-13-1, 37 points, 4th in Atlantic Division, 6th in Eastern Conference
Season Series: 1-0-1

New Jersey, which has won six of seven over the past two weeks, has welcomed the return of center Travis Zajac. The former 25-goal scorer had missed the first 30 games of the season with an Achilles injury. Last season Zajac centered a line with Zach Parise, but now that the American winger is excelling on a line with rookie Adam Henrique and Ilya Kovalchuck, the task for head coach Pete Deboer is to figure out how best to utilize Zajac. Saturday night against Montreal, Zajac played on the second line between Mattias Tedenby and David Clarkson.

Parise has been a key to the Devils’ recent success, after a slow start to the season. In his past 11 games Parise has five goals and 11 assists, while averaging over 22 minutes per game, ice time more suitable for defensive stalwarts than even first line centers. Deboer isn’t hesitant about keeping his top players on the ice as much as possible. Three of the Devils’ top five players in terms of ice time are forwards; compare that to the Caps, whose top four ice-time earners are defensemen (three players – defenseman Roman Hamrlik and forwards Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin – are tied for fifth).

When the Caps and Devils met for back-to-back games in early November, each team won on the others’ home ice. Washington took the first game 3-1 and then jumped out to a 2-0 lead back in D.C., before losing 3-2 in a shootout. Goalie Johan Hedberg earned the shootout win, and the man known as “Moose” has supplanted stalwart netminder Martin Brodeur as the Devils’ starter in terms of wins and stats, if not in name. Hedberg is 10-5-1 on the season, with a 2.41 GAA and .913 Save %. Those numbers suggest that Hedberg will earn the start against the Caps, as does the fact that 12 of Hedberg’s 17 appearances this season have taken place on the road.

GAME 16 RE-CAP: Rinne, Defensive Breakdowns Doom Caps Against Nashville

Tomas Vokoun got little help from his teammates in the third period of Tuesday night's 3-1 loss to Nashville. (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Despite an outstanding goaltending performance by Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators Tuesday night, the Washington Capitals appeared to have secured themselves a place on the winning track when Troy Brouwer scored the game’s first goal with 4:46 remaining. But Nashville equalized just 28 seconds later through Martin Erat, and won the game with 24.3 seconds left when Erat used his quick hands to make a fool of Dennis Wideman before finding a streaking Colin Wilson to slam the puck into a wide-open net. Shea Weber added an empty-net goal five seconds later to complete a 3-1 Nashville victory in a game where the quality of play was not reflected by the very ordinary final score.

After a sluggish opening few minutes (the Caps found themselves being outshot 10-3 with just under eight minutes remaining in the first period), Washington made their way back into the game. They closed the period with five straight shots on goal, the last coming from Brooks Laich, whom Rinne denied with a pad save from point-blank range in the closing seconds of the period. Washington then outshot Nashville 15-8 in the second period and were only denied having the lead after 40 minutes due to the undeniable brilliance of Rinne, who finished the game with 39 saves, and the inside of the goalpost, which was all that kept out Roman Hamrlik’s attempt with just under five minutes to go in the second. So intense and disorienting was Washington’s pressure in the middle frame that at one point, Rinne was turned completely around and was facing into his own net as he and his defenders fought to clear his crease.

Rinne’s solid play continued in the third period as he denied several chances from in close. It was always going to take something special to beat the Finn and Brouwer finally provided it, skating onto a cross-ice pass from Marcus Johansson (who put in a solid shift with 17:35 ice time, the most of any Washington forward, and who had been cruelly denied a backhanded goal on an end-to-end rush moments earlier by Rinne) and wristing a shot over Rinne’s right shoulder.

Given the time  remaining and the solid performance to Tomas Vokoun at the other end of the ice, one goal should have been enough. But instead, the Capitals first line of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Brouwer and the defensive pairing of Jeff Schultz and  John Carlson suffered a catastrophic breakdown on the very next shift. Apparently believing the Predators to be offside, the Capitals stopped skating momentarily  and allowed Weber to cruise down the right-wing side and send a cross to Erat for a simple game-tying tap-in.

Conversely, the game-winning goal could be chalked up to a moment of pure effort and anticipation from Wilson and shear genius from Erat. After Wilson chased down a loose puck in the far corner and shrugged off a check  from Erskine, the forward found Erat at the side of the net. Faced with Wideman and Vokoun, the Czech faked a quick pass to his right before dragging his stick to his left and slipping a pass to the stick of a charging Erat, who bundled the puck into the net.

That, for all intents and purposes, was that, though Weber eliminated all doubts with a slap shot from the neutral zone. The Capitals, who continue their road trip against Winnipeg on Thursday night, were left to rue the third-period breakdowns as well as the absence of Mike Green, the particularly poor performance of the Carlson/Schultz defensive combination, and the ongoing offensive struggles of  Ovechkin, which prompted some intense Twitter reflections from one member of the Russian media.

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