May 23, 2017

Washington Capitals Game 81 Recap: Goal number 50 for Ovechkin; Win Record for Holtby in win over Blues

Alex Ovechkin gets a hattrick and goal number 50 in a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Blues as Braden Holtby ties NHL wins record for a season.

Number 48 came on a beautiful one timer pass from John Carlson that set up the Ovechkin just below the circle. Ovechkin seemed primed for more after he snapped his first goal into the net and he did not disappoint.

Ovechkin goal number 49 came off of Nicklas Backstrom assist number 49. With a classic Backstrom set up pass to a beautiful snap shot that found its way in. a whole twelve minutes for Ovechkin to get both his goals in. Ovechkin now has 108 career multi goal games.

And number 50 came in the third period. A three on two breakaway saw Ovechkin streaking down the left side gobbled up the puck and took another snap shot to put it in. His second hat trick of the year, and seventh 50 goal season matching only Gretzky and Bossy for that many 50 goal seasons. Backstrom was once again the gifter giving him his own 50 point mark.

https://twitter.com/washcaps/status/718986999819055104

Braden Holtby would finally reach win number 48 in front of the only other NHL goalie to do the same, Martin Brodeur. Although Holtby has one more potential game to go, the record is now at least partially, his. With 19 stops on 20 shots, Holtby deserved a slightly easier win.

Caps goal number three came from Carlson who wanted to ensure his own multi point night. Tom Wilson made a beautiful thread of a pass to give Carlson the back hand chance.

Lastly, goal number four was all for Jason Chimera. In the 36 year olds best season he netted goal number 20 for the year by tipping in a Evgeny Kuznetsov back door feed (fantastic in its own right) that slipped right in. Another great play for the Caps in a night full of them. There are now six Capitals with at least 20 goals this season,

The Blues did put a little pressure on the Caps when Vladimir Tarasenko placed one past Braden Holtby at the 1:15 mark in the first, clearly the Capitals were less than phased by it. By the end of the game the Caps would lead 36-20 on shots.

The Caps will officially face the Philadelphia Flyers for the first round of the playoffs with the FLyers win earlier today.

NEXT GAME: Tomorrow at 7pm vs the Anaheim Ducks.

Washington Capitals Game 75 Recap: Caps clinch Presidents trophy; home ice for playoffs

CAPS CLINCH BEST OVERALL BEFORE ANYONE ELSE IN EAST CLINCH PLAYOFFS

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Led by a three-goal third period, The Washington Capitals beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 and officially clinching the 2015-16 President’s trophy and assured home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.

With a couple of rebound goals,  a late power play strike, and solid goal-tending, the Caps (54-16-5, 113) wrapped up the final regular-season prize of the Presidents trophy for most points in the regular season — and still have seven games to play.

The fourth line came to play and Tom Wilson benefited the most from it. Picking up a rebound off a Mike Richards shot, Wilson made a nifty little backhand move from his knees to put the puck in the goal and the Caps on top for the rest of the night. An expert exploitation of a broken Blue Jackets’ stick. [Read more…]

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 28 Recap: Capitals hold off Tampa Bay 2-1

HOLTBY SPECTACULAR, KUZNETSOV MAGICAL TO EXTEND BEST START IN FRANCHISE HISTORY

(Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

After an ugly loss Thursday night to the Florida Panthers, the Capitals (20-6-2) traveled to Tampa Bay (14-13-3) on Saturday night and looked to prevent losing the title of the only Eastern Conference team not to lose back-to-back games. The Caps built a lead, then nervously held on to go 8-0-0 following a loss this season, beating Tampa Bay 2-1.

Holtby was his spectacular self again, earning his league-leading 18th win of the year. With a glorious breakaway one-on-one stop and numerous clutch saves on the penalty kill, he finished with 35 stops on the night.

Although Tampa Bay spent the better part of the first five minutes in the Caps’ zone, Holtby showed no rust and the Caps struck first. Jay Beagle carried the puck down ice and dropped it in the circle where Stanislav Galiev picked it up then sent it right back to Beagle behind the goal. From there it was a simple stuff behind Lightning goalie Ben Bishop to give the Caps a 1-0 lead.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 25 Recap: Caps and Holtby win streaks end as Caps fall to Jets in OT

GAMES ENDS ON CONTROVERSIAL OVERTIME GOAL AFTER LENGTHY REVIEW

(Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mark Scheifele scored with 19.9 seconds left in overtime — but not before an almost interminable review of a potential offsides play — and the Winnipeg Jets ended the Washington Capitals six-game winning streak 2-1 at the MTS Center in Winnipeg.

Caps head coach Barry Trotz asked for the review, hoping that Jacob Trouba would be ruled offsides before receiving an entry pass from Blake Wheeler as time was winding down. But after several minutes of the referees huddled around a tablet computer at the scorer’s desk, the play was ruled inconclusive and allowed to stand.

Long before that, it was Braden Holtby, once again, saving the Caps’ (Canadian) bacon. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 13 Recap: Call it anything but easy, Caps beat Maple Leafs in shootout

BACKSTROM SCORES LAST-SECOND GOAL TO FORCE OVERTIME

ALEX OVECHKIN TIES SERGEI FEDOROV FOR MOST GOALS BY RUSSIAN-BORN PLAYER

Alex Ovechkin scored in regulation, tying Sergei Fedorov at the top Russian-born NHL scorer of all-time, and netted the eventual winner in the shootout and the Washington Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 at Verizon Center.

With a 2-8-3 record this season and an overtime loss to Detroit the previous night, the Toronto Maple Leafs came to Verizon Center hungry for a win. With a snapped stick, bad bounces, and a less than stellar defense, the Capitals were handing them all the opportunities they could.

The Maple Leafs struck first. Daniel Winnick was able to corral a bouncing puck in the neutral zone to go one-on-one against Dmitry Orlov and catch Holtby cheating by going top shelf to his glove side. The breakout followed a nifty passing sequence between Ovechkin and Kuznetsov that resulted in Ovechkin snapping his stick and retreating to the bench. With the Caps unable to move the puck through the neutral zone, Toronto took a 1-0 advantage into the first intermission for only the second time this year.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 1 Recap: Ovechkin’s beauty gives Caps win on opening night

Beaten badly by a New Jersey forward just moments earlier, Alex Ovechkin retrieved the puck deep in the Washington zone, and quickly entered New Jersey territory. On the first night of his second decade in the National Hockey League, Ovechkin added to his already-legendary highlight reel with a marker that sent the sellout crowd at Verizon Center into delirium.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals 2015-16 Season Preview: Right Wing

Whereas there was very little turnover on the left wing, not the same can be said for the right wingers. Last season, the team seriously upgraded its defense; now it’s the right wings that get the facelift. Out are two of the longer-tenured players on the team; in are an Olympic hero and Mr. Game 7. And this season sets up a key one in the development of one of the team’s biggest hitters and tough guys. Can Tom Wilson transition into a complete player, or is this his role going forward? Also: Jay Beagle. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Preseason Game 6 Recap: Caps take shootout win to best Bruins 2-1

OVECHKIN SCORES, OSHIE AND WILSON MIX IT UP IN PRESEASON TILT WITH BOSTON

Alex Ovechkin scored in regulation, Braden Holtby was perfect in the shootout and the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 2-1 in an overtime shootout at the Verizon Center Friday night.

The Bruins opened the scoring with a goal by Loui Erikkson at the 4:06 mark in the first period and Ovechkin tied it up at 17:26 in the third. The new overtime rules were tested but there was no score during the 3-on-3 overtime and the game ended in a shootout. T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for the Caps while Holtby kept his sheet clean. [Read more…]

Key offseason questions for the Washington Capitals

Braden Holtby Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Braden Holtby Washington Capitals Practice, 10/07/2014 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

With the Washington Capitals out of the playoffs, the focus now must turn from the 2015 postseason to the 2015-16 season. There truly is no rest for the weary as the Caps now must face several key offseason questions.

Despite how the season may have ended, Barry Trotz’s first season behind the bench in Washington was a successful one — he led the Caps back into the postseason and came within one win of knocking off the President’s Trophy winners, but that only matters if the team is able to capitalize on the strides they made.

Here are the biggest questions the team now faces as they head into the offseason:

How much will Braden Holtby cost?

Braden Holtby was absolutely phenomenal for the Caps with a .944 save percentage in the playoffs. In fact, Holtby currently owns the all-time highest career playoff percentage. Holtby also proved his worth in the regular season, playing 73 games and earning 41 wins.

This is pretty good timing for the Saskatchewan native as he is now a restricted free agent. Before you start thinking about a blank check with a lot of zeros, however, the fact that Holtby is a restricted free agent does  give the team the option of a “bridge” contract — a short-term deal to take him out of restricted status.

Essentially a bridge deal allows for the player to make more money without the team having to commit to a long-term deal yet. At this point, however, what is there left for Holtby to prove?

Bridge contracts can sometimes seem business savvy, but to give Holtby a “prove it” type deal after the season he just had seems silly considering that he also had a strong postseason showing in 2012.

Other teams could also force the Caps’ hand. Restricted free agents can receive offer sheets from other teams which does not happen a lot, but for a budding star/elite goalie Holtby is sure to generate some interest from around the league. Chances are this won’t happen and even if it does, it seems unfathomable to think the Caps won’t match regardless of what the offer might be.

So what is Holtby ultimately worth?

Henrik Lundqvist currently has the highest cap hit among NHL goalies at $8.5 million, but that seems a tad unreasonable. Holtby falls much closer to the $6-7 million range, probably closer to the lower end of that spectrum given that Holtby has only been a starter for one full season.

Will Mike Green be back?

Mike Green is coming off a contract that paid him about $6 million per year and was a third-pair defenseman this season. Regardless of what anyone thinks he is worth, one thing is guaranteed: another NHL team will offer Green more money than the Caps will. That is a 100 percent, take it to the bank guarantee. How much more money he’s offered will ultimately determine whether he returns.

While Green is on the third-pair with the Caps, there are other teams who will be willing to give him a bigger role on their team and therefore will offer him significantly more money.

Green has made it clear he wants to stay in Washington and would perhaps be willing to take a paycut, but we are probably talking about several million dollars. That makes Green’s return unlikely.

Who will be the top-line RW?

Besides re-signing Holtby, finding a top line right wing will be a top priority this offseason.  Given that Trotz tried just about everyone he could on that top line, this suggests the next right wing is either not on the roster or is still developing.

If you think Marcus Johansson should be on the top line, that’s great. Trotz tried it and moved on. If you think Joel Ward should be on the top line, that’s great. Trotz tried it and moved on. The same goes for Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle and Eric Fehr. Trotz tried all of these players on the top line and moved on from it.

Coaches on every team shuffle their lines during games and over the course of a season, but not nearly as frequently as we saw from Trotz. Clearly, he was not satisfied with what he saw on the top line.

Depending on how Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson develop this offseason, perhaps one of them can step into this role. Both players saw time on the top line over the season with some success. What makes them different from the others on the right wing merry-go-round is how young they are.

We know who Chimera is as a player. We know what you get from a player like Ward and Beagle. Burakovsky and Wilson are still developing and are capable of growing into a top-line role if they progress enough over the summer.

If the team decides neither of them are ready yet, they need to find someone to complete that line.

The free agent class is rather thin, but Justin Williams seems like a potential target. He will turn 34 just as the season starts and could bring veteran leadership and Stanley Cup experience to the roster.

If general manager Brian MacLellan doesn’t like what he sees among the free agents, then he will have to put some kind of trade package together to find one. Trading for a top-line player is expensive, however, and MacLellan will try to avoid this option if he can.

Who will backup Holtby?

The fact that Holtby played in 73 games this season says just as much about how Trotz feels about backup Justin Peters as it does about Holtby.

Peters finished the season with a 3-6-1 record and a .881 save percentage. That’s not good. At times, Peters did not play as bad as his numbers and often did not get a lot of help in front of him but when you play so little it becomes impossible to develop a report with the defense thus compounding the problem.

When Holtby was sick for Game 2 in the playoffs against the New York Islanders, Philipp Grubauer was recalled from the AHL and started over Peters. That should tell you all you need to know.

Considering that Trotz did not anticipate leaning on Holtby this much coming into this season, just think of what will happen next season now that he knows what he has in both Holtby and Peters. Clearly, something needs to change. Having Holtby play so much is not a recipe for success, this team needs a backup they can rely on.

Perhaps the answer is Grubauer.

Grubauer was very good in Hershey this year and has not looked out of place in his appearances at the NHL level. He is still young and no doubt would benefit more from getting consistent playing time rather than serving as a backup, but the team needs to evaluate what his role with the team will ultimately be if Holtby is going to be the long-term starter.

With one year left on Peters’ deal,  it seems doubtful that the team will sign another backup. If Grubauer does backup Holtby next year, Peters could go to Hershey where he posted a .948 save percentage and one shutout in three games this season.

If Trotz has no faith in Peters — which seems to be the case — it makes no sense to go into next season with Peters as the backup.

Who will the Caps re-sign?

Let’s go over the easy ones first. On defense, Green, Tim Gleason and John Erskine will almost certainly be gone. Nate Schmidt is a restricted free agent and the team will want him back.

We’ve already gone over Holtby. On offense, both Evgeny Kuznetsov and Johansson are restricted free agents and there is no reason to think either will not be back, especially Kuznetsov.

Aaron Volpatti will be gone. Curtis Glencross was a deadline acquisition and was a healthy scratch for four games in the playoffs including Game 7 against the New York Rangers. Chances are the team will move on.

That leaves Ward, Beagle and Fehr. With nine points in the playoffs, Ward is someone the team would probably like back, but he was already overpaid on his last contract at $3 million per year. He would have to take a significant pay cut to stay, but at 34, this will likely be the last ‘major’ contract Ward gets. This is a deal MacLellan will get done if he can, but the ceiling for how much Ward can ask will be pretty low before he gets out of MacLellan’s price range.

There is mutual interest in Beagle returning, but the problem with someone like Beagle is that he is ultimately a third- or fourth-line player. If he tests free agency there will be a team willing to overpay for him.  It won’t take much to out-bid the Caps. If he’s not locked up before July 1, he’s as good as gone.

Fehr is a great fit at the third line center and if Burakovsky goes to the right, the team will seek to bring Fehr back. Considering Washington is the only place where things have really clicked for him in the NHL, he will want to stay if at all possible.

What can we expect from the younger players next season?

The long search for a second-line center mercifully appears to be over. Kuznetsov had a breakout postseason scoring five goals and two assists. Caps fans should be drooling over what he can turn into when he reaches his potential.

Wilson was a first-round draft pick which means the Caps saw potential in him as a top-six forward. MacLellan told the media as much on Monday. He is the young player who needs to take the biggest step forward this summer to become a top-six wing. Depending on whether Ward returns, Wilson will likely start on the second or third line with a chance to prove himself. If he finishes the season on the fourth line again, then it may be time to consider whether the damage done to his development from Adam Oates’ tenure may be permanent.

Burakovsky started the season with the Caps, finished it in Hershey but was called back up to the NHL for the playoffs. He managed three points in 11 games, but looked impressive at times. It seems likely that his time in Hershey is over.

Burakovsky’s impact next season will be determined by what position Trotz uses him in. At the start of the season, Burakovsky was playing center, but developing two rookies at center in the same season is a difficult task and he was moved to wing. If he develops enough to challenge for the top-line wing, that’s where he will be. If not, don’t be surprised to see him back in the faceoff circle next fall centering the third line.

Given that Schmidt was recalled in the playoffs when Tim Gleason’s health was in question and  that Schmidt was Hershey’s leading scorer in the playoffs despite being a defenseman and playing in only eight of the team’s 10 playoff games. It would be a surprise if he was not with the Caps next season with Dmitry Orlov as the team’s third-pair.

That would give the team six defensemen leaving Connor Carrick as the odd-man out. He should spend the summer trying to pack on as much muscle as possible onto his small frame.

As for some of the other notable prospects — Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, Jakub Vrana — it would be unreasonable to expect anything from them at the NHL level next season. Neither Barber nor Bowey have spent any time in the AHL and Vrana has played only 13 games with Hershey.

All three are expected to start next season with the Bears. If they end up making any impact with the Caps next season, consider that a bonus.

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