December 1, 2015

Washington Capitals Game 11 Recap: Beaten up on Broadway


(Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals went to Madison Square Garden looking to start 5-0-0 on the road for the first time in their 41 year history. That mark will have to wait another yet to be broken.

The Caps were victimized by some shoddy defense and opportunistic scoring chances by the New York Rangers, five different blueshirts scored and the home team beat up its visitors 5-2 on Tuesday night.

The Rangers scored on both shots on goal they registered in the second period. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 7 Recap: Heartbreak, thy name is Caps

The Washington Capitals will not advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

A rebound goal by Derek Stepan 11:24 into overtime lifted the New York Rangers over the Caps 2-1 and into the ECF against the Tampa Bay Lightning while the Caps will head back to Kettler Capitals Iceplex to clean out their lockers and dwell on the missed opportunities of Games 5 and 6.

They should not dwell on “what could have been” in Game 7 because Game 7 was a classic, in every sense of the word.

The Caps and Rangers played even for 60 minutes, with a first period goal by — who else — Alex Ovechkin — and a second period equalizer by Kevin Hayes the only transgressions against the ledgers of Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist, who were both superb yet again.

So of course, more time was needed to settle it. As if anyone concerned could have imagined any other scenario.

Much has been written, and much more will be added, to the storied and sordid history of the Caps not being able to close out playoff series. The loss to the Rangers makes the 10th time in franchise history this franchise has been unable to win a series they led by two games. They are 0-5 now in Game 7 after leading a series three games to one.

When history looks back on this series, it will be painted as just another blown series for the Caps, the perennial “choking dogs.” Lazy sportwriters will dwell on it, in fact, thinking it will make them look cool, smart or funny. They are none of those things.

The Capitals played Game 7 with total effort from start to finish. It was simply one of the best games in these playoffs, let alone the series. They lost in overtime to the team with the best record in the league and the best goalie (for my money) on the planet. They played these Rangers toe-to-toe the entire series and lost to the better team.

No choke. No curse. No conspiracy.

The Rangers were simply the better team. But it wasn’t by much. In fact, the narrowest of margins.

There will be plenty of folks that will mock these words, using bravado and arrogance to deflect their disappointment that the Caps — these Caps, not the Caps from 1987, 1992, 1995 or 2010 — lost in the most agonizing of fashions. It’s always hard to accept defeat.

But this version of the Washington Capitals proved that when they play with complete effort for 60 minutes they can play with the best team in the league, losing only on the bounce of a puck.

For the long haul, there are lessons to be learned, and holes to fill. Young players got a tremendous amount of particular experience. The veterans found out how Barry Trotz manages his team in the playoffs.

But for now, there is heartbreak.

Hockey is hard.  If it were easy, everyone would win a Cup. Twenty-nine teams lose every year. Be disappointed, but keep the faith. Next season will come sooner than you think.


The Washington Capitals will not advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

A goal off a rebound by Derek Stepan at 11:24 of overtime lifted the New York Rangers over the Caps 2-1, sending the Caps home from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

We’ll have more coverage very soon at District Sports Page.

OPINION: Caps face date with sad destiny in Game 7

Even before those in this area had heard of the men that go by the names Ovechkin, Backstrom and Trotz, the stigma was firmly in place.

A lost 2-0 series lead to Pittsburgh in 1996 led Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser to label the Washington Capitals as “choking dogs,” a notion that has become all-too-familiar for one of hockey’s most loyal fanbases. It seemed for a bit as if those fans would be rewarded with a monumental win this past Mother’s Day, only to leave Verizon Center shaking their heads and collectively asking themselves  — and each other — one thing.

How can this be happening again? [Read more…]

OPINION: Caps must find better effort in Game 7 or risk history repeating itself

If you’re one of those fans that always looks on the bright side of things, that wants to see the positive, that hopes for the best… you might want to stop reading now. I’m not going to go on about how the Washington Capitals franchise is cursed (it’s not) or that the league wants the team from the bigger television market to win (it might, but that doesn’t influence games). But I am going to lay down some pretty harsh thoughts about the boys in red.

They simply don’t play hard enough for long enough stretches to win.

That’s a harsh thing to say, I know. But until the Caps finally do win and change the script, that’s going to stick with them as long as they play the game.

Throughout this season, the Caps have adopted coach Barry Trotz’ idea of “heavy hockey.” It took until the last week of the season to qualify for the playoffs, and the last day of the season to clinch anything but a last-seed in. Only through an utter collapse by the New York Islanders and the fluke of losing a shootout on the last day of the season did the Caps “earn” first round home ice.

The Caps obviously have some talent on the roster. But there’s not enough to outplay similarly skilled teams, they have to outwork them as well.

The Caps played that heavy hockey successfully in the first round, wearing down the smaller Islanders until they were finally able to deliver the knockout punch, but any honest Caps fan knows that their favorite team was outplayed much of that series and if the Islanders were a little more composed or had a little more experience, it easily could have gone the other way.

Then onto the current series with the Rangers, where again despite being outplayed for long periods of time the Caps were finally on the right side of a couple of lucky bounces and found themselves up three games to one. For once, folks were starting to believe maybe, just maybe, it was going to be the Caps that came from a lower seed to upset a heavily favored President’s Trophy winner.

So what happened to change the mood so much in three days? It’s not curse, conspiracy or choke.

When Curtis Glencross scored midway through the third period of Game 5, the Caps were nine minutes, six seconds away from advancing to their first Eastern Conference Finals since 1998.

Instead of playing the final minutes of Game 5 like their hair was on fire, taking their game to the Rangers and dictating play the way they got the 3-1 series advantage, they took their foot off the gas. With no margin of error, the Caps played back — “turtled” — hoping to survive the Rangers heroic onslaught.

They were not successful.

It came as a shock to no one that once Chris Kreider tied it with 1:51 left, the air was let out of their sails. The Rangers didn’t need overtime to beat the Caps, they’d already done it to themselves.

It’s cliché to say you play “to win the game.” But every cliché is written with history as a guide. Greatness isn’t forged by trying to not lose. You have to take it for yourself. When have you seen a champion — in any sport or athletic feat — win by playing conservatively or cautiously?

Simply put, after Glencross’ goal in Game 5, the Caps didn’t start playing aggressively again until midway through the third period of Game 6 when they were already down 4-1. They were trying not to lose instead of trying to win.

What we saw from that point forward was absolute domination from the Caps, in effort, intensity and skill. Were the Rangers a bit relaxed with their gift-wrapped three-goal lead? Sure. Did they weather the just over 15-minute storm. Just barely.

But the rules still apply. The Rangers took their foot off the gas and only because they had a three-goal cushion and happen to roster the best goalie in the world (for my money) were they able to withstand the barrage the Caps unleashed at them.

The point is this: the Caps must finally find a killer instinct in Game 7. They’re capable of it — we witnessed it Sunday night. But they have to sustain it for the entire 60 minutes, and whatever overtime may come too. Despite where the Caps sit, with the ability still to advance to a conference final, it’s shocking we still haven’t seen that complete effort — even in the games they’ve won, as long as we’re being honest about it.

It’s remarkable at this point and time in this franchise’s history — and the tenure of their best players — that we’re still having this conversation. Yet, here we are. The Capitals must have better, consistent and thorough effort in Game 7 or we’ll simply be watching history repeat itself. Again.

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 6 Recap: Late rally not enough as Rangers force Game 7 with 4-3 win

Down 4-1 in the third period, the Washington Capitals nearly dug themselves out of a deep hole. With nine minutes and change left, they pulled back within one goal of the New York Rangers but a late power play was squandered and the Caps could not find the equalizer. In falling to the Rangers 4-3, the Caps are forced into playing their second Game 7 in as many series this postseason Wednesday night back at Madison Square Garden.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 6 Recap: Capitals melt down in first period, Rangers force Game 7


Down 4-1 in the third period, the Washington Capitals furiously tried to dig themselves out of the hole they had dug themselves into, trimming the deficit to just one with still over nine minutes to play. But despite being awarded a misgiven late power play, the Caps could not find the equalizer and fell to the New York Rangers 4-3, forcing Game 7 Wednesday night back at Madison Square Garden.

Faced with elimination for the second game in a row, the Rangers proved to be the more desperate team Sunday night — at least for the first 20 minutes of the game and first five minutes of the third period. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 5 Recap: Overtime dagger sends series back to DC

You knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

New York Rangers’ captain Ryan McDonough scored 9:37 into overtime to beat the Washington Capitals 2-1, staving off elimination and forcing Game 6 back at Verizon Center on Sunday.

McDonough took a pass from Derek Stepan and beat Capitals goalie Braden Holtby with a wrist shot from between the circles. It was McDonough’s second goal in 10 games in the playoffs.

The Rangers are 9-0 when facing elimination at home since Game 4 of the second round in 2008, which is an NHL record.

Overtime was required because Chris Kreider tied the game at one with his third goal of the playoff season, a one-timer from the top of the left wing faceoff circle, on a pass from Stepan.

Curtis Glencross gave the Caps a 1-0 lead midway through the final frame on a breakaway goal. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made the initial save, but Glencross stuck with it and banged home the rebound over the sprawled Lundqvist. It was Glencross’ first goal of the second season.

Glencross’ goal came courtesy of a terrific defensive play by Tom Wilson in the Caps zone, and a beautiful clearing pass from defenseman Matt Niskanen.

Both goalies were again remarkable. Holtby made 41 saves; Lundqvist 28. Holtby made several “how’d he do that?” saves, including robbing Martin St. Louis in the first period from point blank with a toe save. St. Louis fanned on the rebound and Niskanen guided the puck to safety.

The Caps were fortunate at times as well. Early in the second, the Rangers’ Tanner Glass had a wide-open net, but Mike Green was able to get just enough of the puck milliseconds after the shot to deflect it to the corner.

The Caps were also victims of bad luck. Late in the second period, it appeared as if the Caps took a 1-0 lead when a Niskanen slap shot from the point bounced off Lundqvist and into the goal. But the refs immediately waived the goal off, ruling that Joel Ward interfered with Lundqvist.

On replay, Ward very clearly was not in the crease and it appeared not only was he pushed, but the Lundqvist himself initiated contact.

Regardless, the Caps now face the daunting challenge of Game 6, still with one-game lead in the series, at Verizon Center Sunday at 7:00 pm EST.


  • Neither team made good on two power play opportunities.
  • Washington win the faceoff battle, with 52% won.
  • Alex Ovechkin had nine shot attempts, but just two on goal. Ward paced the Caps with five SOG.

Washington Capitals fall in overtime to Rangers, series comes back to DC

Ryan McDonough scored 9:37 into overtime and the New York Rangers staved off elimination, beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 at Madison Square Garden, moving the series back to Washington with the Caps holding a three games to two lead.

The Rangers’ Chris Kreider forced overtime with a goal with just 1:41 remaining in the third period.

Curtis Glencross gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead midway through the third on a breakaway goal, but despite Braden Holtby’s best efforts (41 saves), the Caps couldn’t make it stand up.

We’ll have full coverage of the Caps Game 5 loss later on District Sports Page.


New World Order: Capitals frustrating opponents with “playoff hockey”

The quotes that came out of the New York Rangers room after their Game 4 loss to the Washington Capitals had an eerie and familiar quality to them for fans of the Caps.

“Offensively, we’re fighting it,” center Derek Stepan said. “We haven’t done it all year and, right now, we’re fighting it. [The Caps] are doing a lot of good things defensively and they’re blocking shots and when we’re getting our looks, [Braden] Holtby’s making saves. It’s certainly frustrating.”

“It feels like they have an answer for everything,” said Derick Brassard, the Rangers’ lone goal scorer.

“It’s not like we’re playing bad,” Brassard said in the postgame. “We’re playing some good hockey. It’s just we didn’t have that problem all year scoring goals, and now they’re making it really challenging for us. They block everything. They’re in front of the lanes.”

If Caps fans hear those words and think they sound familiar, it’s because that’s what the Caps used to say routinely as they were frustrated by defensive-minded teams and ousted from playoff series after playoff series in year’s past.

It was five years ago this month that forever changed this franchise. After winning a President’s Trophy, the Caps entered their first-round series with the Montreal Canadiens as prohibitive favorites. Not just in the series, but to win the whole dang thing.

But the Canadiens dumbed down the hockey, packed their defensive end, and rope-a-doped the Caps into outshooting themselves and eventually won the series in seven games. It’s a very similar stance the current iteration of Capitals are carrying out against the Rangers, this season’s President’s Trophy winners.

It might not be entirely intentional. This Caps team would like to play with more pace and score a few more goals. But so far the recipe has them on the brink of advancing. We’ve seen this movie enough times to know that nothing is over until it’s over, but the Capitals can’t be in a better position to succeed after four games.

The frustration coming out of New York is palpable. The Rangers want to use their speed and skill to play an up-tempo game. They don’t believe the Caps can keep up with them in a track meet. That was the case here for many seasons, as well. But that seems like many, many moons ago.

Since that April disaster against Montreal, players have come and gone. Three different head coaches have lost their jobs. The general manager was fired. That was five years ago, if you can believe it.

Now, Barry Trotz has the Caps playing the defensive stance. The Caps are being lauded for their hard work, their intensity, their brand of “heavy” hockey. The Caps are dominating in the faceoff circles. The Caps are winning battles along the boards and in the slot — on both ends.

The Caps are playing “playoff hockey”, and Trotz has them one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. Nothing is over until its over, but the Caps have to like where they are sitting and the effort they’ve exerted to get there.

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