March 24, 2017

Washington Capitals Game 79 Recap: Holtby’s record chance has to wait as Isles top Caps in OT

OVECHKIN SCORES TWICE BUT THIRD PERIOD BREAKDOWNS LEAD TO LOSS

Braden Holtby entered play against the New York Islanders needing one win to tie Martin Brodeur’s all-time record for wins in a season for a goaltender with 48. He was spectacular at times, and was victimized by sloppy defense and a little casualness on his own part, and the Isles came from two goal down to beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime Tuesday at a disbelieving Verizon Center.

The Caps dominated early on, with several very good chances. Then, on an offensive-zone faceoff, Alex Ovechkin took matters into his own hands. He gathered the won faceoff, looped around a defensemen and let a wicked wrister go through a screen into about eight inches of open net past Christopher Gibson — making his second NHL start — for his 46th goal of the season.

It was Ovechkin’s third goal in his last four games and marks the eighth time the Great 8 has reached the 46-goal mark in his illustrious career. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 7 Review: Kuznetsov’s late tally wins Game 7 over Islanders

The puck at his stick along the boards next to the right circle in the New York zone, Evgeny Kuznetsov smoothly drove to the right of Jaroslav Halak, waiting for just the right second when the old Washington nemesis committed a bit too much.

What resulted was a cacophony of sound that physically shook the upper deck of Verizon Center and a highlight-reel moment which lifted demons that had plagued the Capitals franchise for nearly three decades.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 6 Recap: Isles force Game 7 with 3-1 win

The Washington Capitals traveled to Long Island with the hopes of avoiding a Game 7 in this series. With an all-time record of 2-7, and 1-4 in the Ovechkin Era in the seventh game of a series, you couldn’t blame them. But the New York Islanders had different plans.

The Islanders fairly owned play much of the contest, and a late third-period flurry by the Caps couldn’t erase the previous 50 minutes of offensive futility as John Tavares and the Islanders force Game 7 with a 3-1 win before an insane crowd at the soon-to-be abandoned Nassau Coliseum. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 5 Review: Washington moves to brink of second round with 5-1 drubbing of Islanders

With an iron will and tenacity that no opponent could counter, the Washington Capitals strode onto the ice Thursday night with a grand opportunity. A good performance with a result to match would put them on the verge of their first Eastern Conference Semifinal appearance in three seasons.

Down a goal early, they weren’t fazed. Rising to the occasion, five unanswered goals, two from Evgeny Kuznetsov, lit a fire under the Verizon Center faithful and made for a 5-1 win over the New York Islanders in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 4 Recap: Backstrom scores in overtime, Caps tie series with Islanders

In a hair-raising, heart-attack-inducing third period and overtime, the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders stayed nip-and-tuck, with a roaring Nassau Coliseum crowd not even using the seats they paid good money for, and with good reason.

Those rows of fans, however, were quick to exit stage right when Nicklas Backstrom spoke up and delivered what will likely go down as one of the more memorable overtime goals in recent Washington Capitals history, leading the Caps to a 2-1 win to even the series at two games apiece, with Game 5 coming up in Washington on Thursday.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Practice Update: Fehr out, Johansson iffy

Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz addressed the media Monday about the Caps’ newest injuries. Trotz announced forward Eric Fehr will be out at lest two games [ed. There are currently just two games scheduled] with an upper-body injury sustained in Sunday’s Game 3 when Islanders forward Kyle Okposo checked Fehr hard into the boards.

Trotz also said this injury is not related to the injury that forced Fehr out of three games at the end of the regular season.

Forward Marcus Johansson was limited in practice due to a lower-body injury, reportedly a cut o n his lower leg sustained after colliding with Cal Clutterbuck in Game 3. Johansson played through the injury Sunday but is iffy for Game 4.

The Caps have forwards Michael Latta and Andre Burakovsky in reserve. Latta seems to be the more logical fill-in for Fehr and the rookie Burakovsky could get the call should Johansson’s leg be deemed not fit for Game 4.

The Caps trail the Islanders 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Washington Capitals Game 3 Recap: Isles shock with quick OT winner

Outplayed most of the game, the Washington Capitals forced overtime in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup with the New York Islanders on a goal by Nick Backstrom in the latter stages of the third period. But Islanders captain John Tavares banged home a rebound just 15 seconds into overtime, lifting New York to a 2-1 win and 2-1 series lead before a raucous crowd at Nassau Coliseum.

The Isles won the draw in overtime and dumped the puck in on Braden Holtby. Holtby decided not to hold the puck, instead pushing it out to his right for John Carlson. Carlson flung the puck up along the wall, where Nick Leddy corralled it and sent it back into the slot. Nikolai Kulemin’s initial shot was stopped by Holtby, who flicked it toward the corner with his paddle.

But he didn’t get enough of it, and the puck went straight to Tavares. The Islanders’ captain calmly flipped it past Holtby’s short side on a sharp angle to give the Isles a one-game advantage in the series.

It ended a game that the home team dominated for the most part. As has been the case in every game of the series thus far, the Islanders got on the board first, the Capitals responded with some good play, but as with Game 1 ended up on the short end of the scoreboard.

New York broke through at 12:37 of the second period, when Kyle Okposo tipped in a shot from the point by Lubomir Visnosky. It stayed that way until about six minutes had run off the clock in the third.

Mike Green carried the puck along the left wing boards and behind the Islanders’ net. He eventually came back out the other side and left the puck for Backstrom at the half wall. Backstrom drifted to the high slot and whipped a shot through a maze of bodies, including Alex Ovechkin standing right in front of Jaroslav Halak (25 saves) to even the game and seemingly grab the momentum.

But the Caps responded by falling into a defensive lull, apparently happy to take the game to the extra session, where a decidedly unhappy result awaited.

Holtby, coming off an illness that kept him out of Game 2, was stellar in goal and had to be, as the Caps were widely outshot once again, with the Islanders generating 66 shot attempts (42 on goal) to the Caps’ 57 (just 25 on goal), including 11 shots on goal in the third period when the Caps played their best hockey.

So far in this series, the Capitals have shown their game only when facing a deficit. It’s a pattern that has achieved mixed results so far. Knowing the building would be rocking against them on Sunday, they came out flat once again and had the action taken to them, not responding until the third period when the odds seemed against them.

It’s a pattern that coach Barry Trotz should do whatever is possible in his coaching repertoire to avoid in Game 4, Tuesday at 7:30 again at the Nassau Coliseum. If the Caps come out of the gates playing like they did in the third period of Game 3 or the second and third of Game 2, the Islanders will have a hard time keeping up with them.

Thus far in this series, we’ve seen not nearly enough of it and the Caps find themselves behind the 8-ball.

CAPS NOTES:

  • Eric Fehr left the game in the second period after taking a hard, legal check from Cal Clutterbuck. With Fehr’s history of shoulder problems and his recent undisclosed upper body injury, it’s hard not to watch the replay and diagnose another shoulder injury. If the cant’ go in Game 4, it’ll be interested to see if Trotz goes with Michael Latta or tried to infuse some offense with Andre Burakovsky.
  • The Caps got just three shots on goal in the first period, indicative of their struggles to get going early in games in this series.
  • Washington was awarded three power plays and generated just three shots on goal.
  • Speaking to the closeness of the final score, both teams blocked 24 shots, the faceoffs were 30-29 in favor of the Caps, and the hits were 44-43 Isles.
  • Ovechkin, shadowed by Johnny Boychuk relentlessly in this series, had three shots on goal, another nine blocked and two misses. He was awarded three hits.

Washington Capitals Game 2 Recap: Caps score twice in third, shock Islanders

Down 3-1, and having given up a critical goal shortly after tallying their much-needed first, the Washington Capitals were in very dire straits and at risk of falling behind the New York Islanders two games to none in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Spurred on by their fans as well as improved puck control, they ensured that talk of a potential sweep would be just that – talk.

A spirited final 30 minutes of hockey, in which Washington scored three unanswered goals in a space of 11 minutes and 28 seconds (spanning two periods), lifted Washington to a 4-3 win in Game 2 of their best-of-seven series against the Islanders in front of a raucous crowd Friday night at Verizon Center.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 1 Recap: Islanders completely overwhelm Caps

The Washington Capitals had not faced the New York Islanders in a Stanley Cup playoff game since the end of the 1992-93 season, a 4-2 Islanders series win, which included Dale Hunter running the Islanders Pierre Turgeon into the boards, resulting in a 21-game suspension the next season.

And no recollection of playoff series with the Isles could be complete without the still-stinging memory of Pat Lafontaine’s Game 7, four-overtime game winner, the “Easter Epic” of April 18-19, 1987 in the longest Game 7 in NHL history.

With those thoughts in mind, then, this version of the Capitals took to the ice in Game 1 against the current Islanders, and it’s as if nothing changed. The Caps were thoroughly outskated, outplayed and outclassed, falling to the Isles 4-1, losing whatever home-ice advantage they might have had.

The Islanders struck first, just 6:06 into the contest, when Brock Nelson stunned Braden Holtby with a wrist shot from the top of the right wing circle after a neutral zone turnover by Troy Brouwer. Nelson made a nice shot, but Holtby never moved his feet and was beaten badly.

 The Caps were overwhelmingly outplayed the entirety of the first period, but sometimes it only takes one shot. As P.A. announcer Wes Johnson announced “one minute remaining in the period,” the Islanders turned it over in their own zone and Brooks Laich tapped it to Marcus Johansson alone in the slot, who whipped it past Jaroslav Halak to tie it up after one.

All things considered, the Caps were fortunate to get out of the frame tied.

It didn’t last long. At the start of the second period, after a lengthy delay for a broken pane of glass behind Holtby, Michael Latta lost a defensive zone draw and Ryan Strome collected the puck and, using the faceoff men as a screen, beat Holtby high shortside for a 2-1 Isles lead.

It became 3-1 at 9:24 of the period. A horrendous defensive shift ended up with Kyle Okposo drawing a pair of defenders, and the puck and landed at the feet of Josh Bailey on the far post, undefended. Holtby made the first save, but Bailey got two more whacks at it and it eventually trickled under Holtby and just over the goal line. After review, the goal stood.

 The Caps started to generate some good scoring chances in the latter part of the second period, but Jason Chimera was assessed a roughing penalty as time ran out of the frame, putting the Caps behind the eight-ball to start the third.

They killed that penalty after a nervous two minutes, and played with a  bit more energy in the final 18 minutes, but to the same effect. The play on the ice also affected the Verizon Center faithful, and in the last four minutes of the game, loud “Let’s Go Islanders” chants could be heard raining down to the playing surface from the upper deck.

Brock Nelson added an empty net goal with just over a minute to play as the Caps couldn’t get back to touch up an icing.

The Caps have little time to stew on this one, as they face the Islanders again Friday night at 7:00 in Game 2. A different Caps team than the one that played Wednesday night will have to show for that one, or this could turn out to be a very short series.

Washington Capitals Round 1 Preview: Caps look for redemption in series against Isles

Caps Head Coach Barry Trotz addressing media after Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Caps Head Coach Barry Trotz addressing media after morning skate at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

The Washington Capitals face the New York Islanders in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, starting tonight at the Verizon Center. That last part is key, as the Caps won home-ice advantage for this round on the last day of the regular season. It’s a far cry from last year, as the Caps at this time were cleaning out their lockers after missing the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

Obviously, a LOT has changed since then. The coach of last year’s team, Adam Oates, was summarily dismissed. Long-time general manager George McPhee was relieved of his duties as well. In came Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz, entrusted to get the organization back into the postseason, and they were largely successful in their first seasons in their positions.

They brought with them a new coaching staff, several new defensemen, and made a series of moves at the trade deadline to bolster the team’s chances down the stretch.

The organizational goal of reaching the postseason was realized with several games left in the regular season, with a very tight Metro Division and Eastern Conference unsettled until the very last. It’s a redemptive measure for the organization, but especially for the players that returned from last year’s team that failed to attain the goal.

After today’s morning skate before Game 1 of the series against the Islanders, several members of the organization spoke about the significance of getting back into the playoffs, and the redemptive nature of earning home-ice advantage for the first round against the Isles.

“When you don’t make [the playoffs], you feel pretty hollow,” Trotz said. He was speaking about a couple of players newer to the organization playing in their first playoffs in a few seasons, but it’s a sentiment that has echoed around Verzion Center and Kettler since last April.

“I think getting back into the [playoff] fray was the number one priority for the group,” said Trotz. “But we hung around in that wildcard position for, it seemed like, 200 days. And then we just said ‘Hey, we gotta ramp it up’ at the end so we were playing well and we did. By doing that we got home-ice advantage. We’ll see if that is a factor in series at all.”

Despite the strong veteran contingent, the Caps rely on some younger players that haven’t participated in this type of atmosphere.

“We’re excited,” veteran winger Joel Ward said. “It’s a good chance for new guys to step in and play at home first and just get their feet wet a little bit and get excited and understand the crowd. We’re stoked for the opportunity to start at home and going to embrace it and hopefully come out with a win tonight.”

For the older players, making the playoffs and earning home-ice for the first round reaffirms what they believe about themselves, the team and the organization.

“We were unhappy with where we were last year.” Troy Brouwer said. “We were packing our bags right now [this time last year] and going home. We wanted to get ourselves back into a playoff situation. We did a good job coming back in the middle of the season and putting ourselves in a good spot to get home-ice in the first round.

“We worked hard since this time last year to get where we are right now. We don’t want to see our efforts diminished. We want to play hard and win.”

This franchise has had its share of demons in the playoffs. Just once in 40 years has it escaped the second round. The history of first round exits and series defeats after holding 3-1 series lead is staggering. It’s hard to write about the excitement of a new playoff series without dredging up old wounds.

Perhaps, missing out on the second season last year will allow the Caps to have a rebirth in the playoffs. You won’t find a single pundit or prognosticator calling for the Caps to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup after a long and grueling playoffs. These Caps come in as something of an underdog.

As Eric Fehr pointed out, they didn’t clinch home-ice until after the Islanders lost a shootout on the last day of the season, so it’s not like they should be seen as prohibitive favorites despite the advantage.

But maybe these Caps, molded in the style of Trotz, will be a better fit for the grinding style of the playoffs.

Trotz was asked what could be the difference in a playoff series, especially one played between two team so close in the standings during the regular season.

“The team that’s willing to stay with it longer. If you’re very even, the team that can execute when they get those moments, those defining moments — a save, a good look, a power play, whatever — there’s gonna be a lot of defining moments. The ones that can grasp those moments, they’re the teams that generally win.”

Starting tonight, the Capitals try once again to be the team that capitalize on those defining moments. History hasn’t been very kind to them in these opportunities. But with the new structure, coaching staff, and style of play, maybe — just maybe — these Caps are better built to take advantage of those moments.

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For a photo gallery of today’s morning skate, click here.

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