January 29, 2015

Washington Capitals Game 50 Recap: Capitals shut out by Senators; lose sixth straight game

The Washington Capitals lost their sixth straight game Tuesday night, a 2-0 shutout by the Ottawa Senators, despite outshooting them 34-26.

Since January 1, the Capitals have won two games, both regulation wins. They have lost eight games in that span, three of those games went to overtime or the shootout, and five were regulation losses.  A record of 2-5-3 at this point in the season doesn’t bode well for any playoff hopes the Capitals may still have, and Metro Division opponents are gaining ground­- and fast.

This team seems one-dimensional at times. While they are capable of finding secondary scoring, much of the time it relies on Alex Ovechkin and the power play. Now that the power play prowess has worn off a bit, the Capitals find themselves incapable of scoring multiple goals on any given night.

Adam Oates said the Capitals missed Ovechkin versus the Senators more than he anticipated Tuesday night. The Capitals went 0 for 4 on the power play.

“You have to try and get [goals]. We played pretty hard…we had twenty one chances five-on-five. Their goalie played well, but we had a lot of guys with some really good looks, good chances.,” said Oates. “We have to score some goals. I would say the chances were good chances tonight, and we had a lot of them. It is a matter of finishing.”

Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer were critical of the team’s play, as they are on most nights following a loss.

Laich : “I don’t think we’re playing heavy enough hockey. I think we are too much on the outside. I don’t think we are consistently enough going from the outside and fighting through a check or leaning on a guy and trying to get to an area around the net where we can get chances. Some guys are trying, but when you are not scoring, we need to be better at doing that. Maybe they hook you, maybe they trip you, maybe they panic for a second and grab you.”

“We’re not scoring goals. We’re working hard. Our effort was there tonight and we are doing the right things, getting pucks deep, getting shots to the net,” said Brouwer. “Anderson made some good saves when he needed to, but we’ve got to score goals.”

Washington Capitals Game 40 Recap: Caps fall to Senators 3-1 in wasted opportunity

OTTAWA, ON - DECEMBER 30: Colin Greening #14 of the Ottawa Senators collides with goalie Philipp Grubauer #31 of the Washington Capitals during an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on December 30, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images)

OTTAWA, ON – DECEMBER 30: Colin Greening #14 of the Ottawa Senators collides with goalie Philipp Grubauer #31 of the Washington Capitals during an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on December 30, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images)

If the Washington Capitals struggle to seed where they want — or make the playoffs at all — they are going to look back at a pair of games in late December and wonder “what if?”

Sunday afternoon, the Capitals fell to the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Buffalo Sabres, in a shootout. Monday, they did one worse, falling in regulation to the Ottawa Senators, 3-1, a team that had a losing record at home this season, evening their record with the win over the Caps. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 25 Recap: Caps blow 3-1 lead in 6-4 loss to Ottawa

Entering Wednesday’s contest, the Washington Capitals hadn’t lost to the Ottawa Senators in D.C. since March 12, 2006, going 11-0-2 in their last 13 games at home against Ottawa. Make that 11-1-2 now, as the Caps frittered away a 3-1 second period lead, falling to the Sens 6-4 before a bewildered capacity crowd at Verizon Center.

Head coach Adam Oates was visibly frustrated in his post-game remarks, saying, “If guys don’t know that we let one get away, shame on them.”

The Caps got on the board first at 12:10 of the first period. Michael Latta carried the puck to the left wing dot, where he was upended by an Ottawa defender. Eric Fehr swooped in on the loose biscuit and lifted it cleanly past Craig Anderson for his second goal of the season.

Mike Green took a hooking penalty right after the goal, though, and the Senators made him pay, as Bobby Ryan tipped in a shot from the center point by Patrick Wiercioch to even it at one apiece.

The Caps got it right back. Moments after Zack Smith went off for hooking Nick Backstrom on a offensive zone faceoff, Alex Ovechkin passed to the crease. The puck caromed off Troy Brouwer and a defender and went right to Marcus Johansson, standing alone at the right post. All Johansson had to do was push the puck in for a 2-1 lead.

Washington extended the lead to 3-1 just a minute later. Brooks Laich won the puck in the left wing corner and knocked it to Jason Chimera. Chimera’s pass bounced off Joel Ward and with Laich moving to the net, he corralled the loose puck and slipped it five-hole on Anderson.

That’s when things got silly for a bit, and actually changed the momentum of the game. Senators’ forward — and noted pugilist — Chris Neil took a run at Nate Schmidt, delivering a big blow to the Caps defenseman. Neil was whistled for interference on the hit, but Tyson Strachan decided he needed to stick up for his fallen defensive partner and he fought Neil. Strachan was hit with an instigator penalty and 10 minute misconduct to go along with five for fighting, negating what should have been a Caps power play for Neil’s original infraction.

Strachan said he didn’t see the ref signal the original call against Neil and said he felt like he was “doing his job.” Both Oates and Brooks Laich defended Strachan stepping up for his teammate. But it’s undeniable that Ottawa got the better of the momentum from the exchange and that Neil, a veteran, took advantage of the situation to pump some life into his until then moribund team.

The fights carried over to the second period. Aaron Volpatti delivered a heavy body check on veteran Colin Greening, and Greening, who is struggling mightily this season with no goals and just three assists so far, retaliated with a slash to Volpatti’s thigh pads, then both players dropped the gloves.

The Senators then cut the lead to one at 6:36 of the second. With Eric Fehr in the box on a tripping call, defenseman Chris Phillips walked in on the left wing, wound up, and fired a slap shot past the glove hand of Braden Holtby to make it 3-2. It was Phillips’ first goal of the season.

Greening got that first goal a little later in the period. Immediately after springing from the box following his fighting penalty, Greening bore down the right wing and fired a laser past Holtby’s glove side to tie the proceedings at three — and leave the Verizon Center faithful with slacked jaws.

The Senators outshot the Caps in the period 19-3.

The Capitals’ penalty parade continued in the third, as Fehr went off for his second tripping call of the game. Ottawa made good on it right away, with Mika Zibanejad tipping in Jason Spezza’s shot from long distance as he skated through the crease unmolested.

Things continued to go poorly for the Caps for much of the third period, but they got a gift with 3:30 remaining, as John Carlson was hauled down by Zack Smith as Carlson was trying to keep a puck in the offensive zone. On the ensuing faceoff, Joel Ward won the draw and the puck came right back to Carlson at the point, and his wrist shot got through a maze of bodies and went over Anderson’s left shoulder to tie the game at four.

But the Caps couldn’t stand their own good fortune. Just over a minute later, Zack Smith split Mike Green and Schmidt and sent a wrist shot toward net that Holtby simply misplayed, and the Senators retook the lead at 5-4.

An empty net goal by Bobby Ryan with 12.6 second left provided the final margin of defeat.

Washington Capitals Game 44 Recap: Rough night in Ottawa ends streak at eight


It had to end sometime.

The Washington Capitals, one of the hottest teams in hockey the last three weeks, rode into Ottawa to face a tough Senators team on the back on an eight-game winning streak, fueled by the league’s most dangerous power play and solid goaltending. Unfortunately, the team looked sluggish and was outplayed and beaten in just about every aspect of the game by a team that could very well be their first-round playoff draw — if the Caps can hold off the competition for first place in the Southeast.

Indicative of how badly the Caps were outplayed, they were outshot by the Senators 38-19 — including 11-4 in the first period.

To add injury to insult, center Nick Backstrom missed the last 7:16 of the game with an undisclosed upper body injury, thought to have been sustained when hit in the arm with an errant Mike Green shot midway through the final frame.

The teams played an ugly, uneven first period, with neither team generating any semblance of offense. In the second, the Sens started the scoring just 1:15 in, when Kyle Turris beat Braden Holtby from along the boards with an innocent-enough looking shot to his blocker side. Holtby appeared to look to the heavens in exasperation as the puck sailed past him.

The Caps knotted things up at 11;14, as Mike Ribeiro continued his career year by knocking in a bouncing puck past Sens goalie Craig Anderson. But the tie didn’t last long.

Two minutes after Ribeiro evened things up, Holtby tried to play a puck behind his net and back out the other side to Karl Alzner. Unfortunately, Holtby’s pass was off the mark and ended up right on the tape of Sens forward Cory Conacher, who snapped it into the unattended goal before Holtby could get back to his post.

That score stood until little more than one minute remaining, when Ottawa added an empty-net goal after the Caps lost the offensive-zone draw with six skaters. For the night, the Caps were beat in the faceoff circle, winning just 38 percent of the draws.

Though Holtby could be assigned direct blame on both goals, no one should hang the loss on the Caps goalie. This was a team-wide lackluster effort.

It’s bound to happen at some point after such a lengthy winning streak, but the Caps can ill afford to let up with the Winnipeg Jets breathing down their necks. The Jets cut the Caps lead in the division to two points with a 4-3 overtime win over Carolina. There is no rest for the weary, at the Caps travel to Montreal for a 7:00 pm Saturday showdown with Les Habitent before next Tuesday’s all-important head-to-head matchup with Winnipeg.

All hands on deck from here on out, but if Backstrom’s injury is anything more than a bruise…

Washington Capitals Game 6 Recap: Caps Take Early Lead, Fade Late in 3-2 Loss to Ottawa

Tuesday night on the road the Washington Capitals played perhaps their two best periods of the season, but it was a poor third period that proved their undoing in a 3-2 loss on against the Ottawa Senators.

The Caps took a 2-0 lead late in the first period on goals by Troy Brouwer and Matt Hendricks, the second marker of the season for each. Michal Neuvirth earned his fourth start in a row for Washington after Braden Holtby started the seasons’ first two games. Although Neuvirth stopped 24 shots during the game, it was three Senators shots in the final 21:23 of regulation to send the Caps out of Scotiabank Place a disappointed group of players. [Read more…]

GAME 60 Re-Cap: 20-Minute Effort Leads to 5-2 Loss in Ottawa

The Washington Capitals are beginning to enter desperation mode in their hunt for a fifth consecutive playoff berth, but it would be hard to tell from their performance Wednesday night on the road against the Ottawa Senators.  Instead, for the second game in a row the Caps delivered a positively tepid performance in an embarrassing 5-2 loss to the surging Sens.

John Carlson provided Washington’s first goal, an impressive one-timer from the right faceoff dot on the power play.  Mathieu Perreault’s goal was far less impressive, a shot that deflected off his face into the open net. [Read more…]

Caps in Advance: Week 20

There may be no more stressful time for an NHL player during the regular season than the lead in to the trade deadline, particularly when your team’s owner has already gone on the record to say that moves will be made.

Washington’s four games this week are its last before Monday afternoon’s deadline, and the next quarter of games will go a long way toward determining general manager George McPhee’s stance and activity.  Two of the Caps’ upcoming opponents, the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs, occupy the final two spots in the Eastern Conference’s playoff field.

Luckily for the Caps, Dale Hunter’s squad has performed exceedingly well against its upcoming slate of foes. Washington is a combined 9-2-0 against Ottawa, Toronto, the Carolina Hurricanes, and Montreal Canadiens, outscoring the four foes by a margin of almost 3 to 2.

In personnel news, extremely encouraging is the return of defenseman Mike Green, who skated 18 shifts for almost 15 minutes in Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, his first game action in over a month and only the second full game he completed since late October.  Green’s fellow Young Gun Nicklas Backstrom remains out indefinitely with a concussion, but the return of the high-scoring blueliner adds even more punch to a defensive corps that already boasts two of the top 20 goal scorers in the NHL: Dennis Wideman (T-4th, 10 goals) and John Carlson (T-17th, 7 goals). [Read more…]

Washington Capitals’ next six games may determine playoff fate

The two weeks leading up to the NHL trade deadline may be the most closely-watched stretch of regular season games in the NHL season, as teams jockey for position in the playoff race, front office staffs assess the health of their rosters and consider trade options, and general managers ask their coaches to showcase potential trade bait for any and all suitors.

In the nation’s capital, the disappointing Washington Capitals currently sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 61 points and have six games remaining before the 3 p.m. deadline on Monday, February 27.

Of those six games, three are against the three teams immediately above the Caps in the standings: the Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, and Toronto Maple Leafs.  All three of those games are on the road, two are in Canada, and one – a visit to Toronto in both teams’ last game before the trading deadline – on national television on Hockey Night in Canada. [Read more…]

Game 27 Re-CAP: Capitals 5, Senators 3: A Whole New Vintage

Remember him? He's still got it. (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)


After a dismal loss on Monday, the Washington Capitals delivered the perfect response on Wednesday evening on the outskirts of Ottawa, rallying from a 2-1 third-period deficit to defeat the Senators 5-3 in a fascinating game that was full of incident.

The biggest talking point was (who else?) Alexander Ovechkin, who played one of his better games of the season in recording seven shots on goal and recorded his 9th tally of the season to put the Capitals ahead to stay at the 13:50 mark of the third period. The goal was downright Orr-like (as a native New Englander, that’s the highest compliment I can give any hockey player), as Ovechkin carried the puck into the offensive zone at the left point, circled behind the net to the far boards, put the brakes on at the half-boards, spun around to shake the Erik Karlsson and skated to the top of the circle before loosing a wrist shot past Craig Anderson to give Washington a 3-2 lead.

As occasionally happens, of course, Ovechkin made himself a talking point in a negative context as well. He should have received a penalty for spearing Chris Neil in the midsection in the second period. Not only was no penalty called, but Neil’s pain was compounded by being called for a dive. The official’s error wasn’t compounded on the scoreboard, as the Caps didn’t score on the resulting power play. However, there’s no doubt that the incident will be looked at again by the NHL and the possibility that Ovechkin will face supplemental discipline is a very real one.

But that was the worst thing to come out of a night where it appeared for a long time that the Capitals would have even more scrutiny heaped on them as the result of a tough loss. After outshooting Ottawa 15-6 in the first period and taking the lead through a Jeff Halpern tap-in early in the second, the Capitals allowed two very poor goals to surrender their lead.

The first, at 12:43 of the second, was a simple rebound goal by Erik Condra, who was in the right place at the right time to redirect the rebound of Karlsson’s point shot past Tomas Vokoun. Then, at 17:54, Nick Foligno scored a beautiful goal that highlighted many of the Capitals’ usual defensive frailties. After Foligno eluded a hip-check attempt by Dennis Wideman, he circled around a lame poke-check attempt by John Carlson, went wide of an over-committed Vokoun and gently slipped the puck of the goal line.

That made it 2-1, Ottawa after 40 minutes. Not for the first time under Dale Hunter, the Caps were required to rally from a deficit. But this time, they actually pulled the trick off. First, Nicklas Backstrom finished off a beautiful passing move with a power-play wrist shot to tie the game at 2-2 with 10:15 left to go in regulation. Then Ovechkin did his best Orr impression. Fifteen seconds after that, Marcus Johansson (remember him?) made a beautiful centering pass to Troy Brouwer, who made the score 4-2 with 5:55 left.

That should have ended the competitive portion of the game, but Alexander Semin took another step toward a return to Russia by committing a lazy, foolish hooking penalty. Ottawa scored five seconds into the resulting power play and only Carlson’s empty-net goal with 46 seconds left put the result beyond doubt.

Whether or not the four-goal third-period outburst will be an anomaly in the Hunter regime remains to be seen. Given the way the Caps have struggled against higher-caliber defenses so far this season, it seems likely that the road to the Stanley Cup Finals will be paved with 1-0 and 2-1 games. But even if that happens to be the case, Wednesday night’s game was a nice reminder of the team’s pure offensive talent, the main reason why so many fans fell in love (or back in love, in some cases) with the Washington Capitals.  It was a vintage performance, with a tough new style.

Caps in Advance: Week 9

There was one big story for the Washington Capitals last week, and it was a doozy.

Long-time Capitals captain and fan favorite Dale Hunter was named the organization’s 15th head coach, replacing Bruce Boudreau, who was fired on Monday after it became evident to general manager George McPhee that “the players were no longer responding” to the four-year coach, who had become the fastest coach in NHL history to reach 200 wins the week prior. A few days later the team also fired assistant coach Bob Wood, who was previously Boudreau’s assistant in Hershey, and hired Jim Johnson, Hunter’s former teammate and the head coach of the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL.

At the time of the loss Washington was mired in a fifteen-game slump, looking completely lost after a great measure of early-season success. one reason attributed to the funk was confusion over the team’s system, as Boudreau has switched between run-and-gun and defensive-minded playstyles since the start of the 2010-11 season.

There will be no confusion under Hunter, who asks his team to play a distinctly “lunchpail” style of dump-and-chase hockey, not to mention the willingness to be a strong disciplinarian.

The first two games of the Hunter era were nothing to crow about, as the Caps dropped 2-1 results to the St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins, mustering only 35 shots between the two games. Saturday night’s tilt with the Ottawa Senators was a great improvement, Hunter earning his first win in overtime on a goal by former Sens draft pick Brooks Laich. There was plenty of improvement, with the Caps recording 35 shots and committing only one penalty, but also plenty of room for improvement, as Washington was 0-for-4 on the power play and blew a 2-1 lead with less than five minutes left in the third period.

Washington has a short break, taking the ice again on Monday this week rather than their usual Tuesday night game, and Hunter will hope his system continues to become second nature for players who will be getting fairly worn down by the end of the upcoming stretch.

Games this week:

7:30pm, BankAtlantic Center

Washington Capitals: 13-11-1, 27 points, 2nd in Southeast Division, 8th in Eastern Conference
Florida Panthers: 14-8-4, 32 points, 1st in Southeast Division, 3rd in Eastern Conference
Season Series: 1-0-0

Washington’s November woes have them looking up at a new leader in the Southeast Division, the surprising Florida Panthers. A team basically reinvented with a drastic offseason of trades and free agent signings, the Panthers have quickly jelled in sunny Southern Florida.

The Panthers boast one of the top five highest-scoring lines in the NHL, and by far the least heralded. Stephen Weiss (9 goals, 17 assists) centers Kris Versteeg (12 goals, 16 assists) and ex-Cap Tomas Fleischmann (12 goals, 15 assists) to pace Florida’s attack.

Also contributing on offense is defenseman Jason Garrison, whose 8 goals this season, all slapshots, lead all defenders in the league. Prior to thisyear, Garrison had 7 goals in 113 career games over three seasons. One factor contributing to Garrison’s success is undoubtedly the significant ice time he earns as part of Florida’s top defensive pairings alongside reclamation project Brian Campbell.

Another major contribution to the Cats’ success is first-year head coach Kevin Dineen. It seems appropriate that a new coach from outside the organization (Dineen previously coached the Anaheim Ducks’ AHL affiliate) is the one who successfully transformed a collection of new players into a defensively-sound, winning team. Beyond Fleischmann, erstwhile Capital Jose Theodore (10-5-3, 2.28 GAA, .924 Save %) is also a major contributor to Florida’s success. Former Cap Matt Bradley is currently on IR with an upper body injury, and will slot in on the fourth line when he returns, possibly for the Washington game.

7:00 pm, Scotiabank place

Washington Capitals: 13-11-1, 27 points,  2nd in Southeast Division, 8th in Eastern Conference
Ottawa Senators: 12-11-3, 27 points, 4th in Northeast Division, 9th in Eastern Conference
Season Series: 2-0-0

The NHL scheduling office clearly wants to get the Capitol Cup out of the way early this season, as Washington and Ottawa meet on Wednesday for the third time (out of four) within the first 1/3 of the season, and for the second time in three games. It’s a quality matchup as both teams are tied in points at 27, with Washington holding the tiebreaker with 13 wins to Ottawa’s 12.

Saturday night in D.C., Washington staked out a pair of one-goal leads, allowing Ottawa to tie the game up both times before Laich took a pass from Jason Chimera and waited for Sens goalie Craig Anderson to make the first move before flipping it under the crossbar for the overtime winner. The result was par for the course for Ottawa- Erik Karlsson played well (other than falling down right before Laich’s goal) in over 26 minutes, Milan Michalek scored a goal, and Anderson generally controlled play in his own end, turning away 32 Caps shots.

Not much will change for Ottawa on Wednesday night, other than the quality of their locker room. Gifted grinder Chris Neil returned from injury on Saturday against the Caps, recording 2 shots, 2 hits, and one penalty in 9:11 of ice time. By the time Washington comes to town Neil will likely be up to his usual 13:38 TOI, which means an extra four minutes of heavy hitting in the corners and crosschecks to the back after the play for Washington’s defensemen.

7:00pm, Verizon Center

Washington Capitals: 13-11-1, 27 points, 2nd in Southeast Division, 8th in Eastern Conference
Toronto Maple Leafs: 14-10-2, 30 points, 2nd in Northeast Division, 6th in Eastern Conference
Season Series: 0-1-0

The Toronto Maple Leafs started the season on fire, thanks in large part to the staggering numbers on offense posted by Phil Kessel (16 goals, 16assists) and Joffrey Lupul (12 goals, 18assists, 30PIM), as well as the resurgence of defenders Dion Phaneuf and John-Michael Liles.

Expect the Caps to come out flying against Toronto. In the previous meeting between the teams, the Leafs demolished Washington 7-1 in Toronto on a national broadcast, a terrible showing that McPhee hinted was the genesis of the recent bench boss regime change. Even if the players weren’t responding to Boudreau, most of them certainly liked him, and a Friday night home date will give them the chance to exact some measure of revenge.

Over the past few weeks, since shellacking Washington, the Leafs have fallen back down to earth a bit, dropping from 1st to 6th in the Eastern Conference. #1 netminder James Reimer, who started six of Toronto’s first seven games, had been out of the lineup since suffering a concussion in late October.  Reimer finally returned on Saturday in a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins, his appearance relieving his team from having to rely on backup Jonas Gustavsson and minor-leaguer Ben Scrivens in net. As a team, the Leafs rank in the bottom third in the league in shots against (31.3/game) and goals against (3.23/game), numbers that should improve with an NHL-caliber goaltender in net.

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