January 29, 2015

Washington Capitals Game 47 Recap: Caps can’t hang with Blue Jackets, lose fourth straight

It felt like one step forward, two steps back for the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night as they played from behind all night long and fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road, 4-3. Ill-timed penalties and a handful of defensive breakdowns spelled defeat for the Caps, as they dropped their fourth straight contest.

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Winter Classic: Caps top Blackhawks on Brouwer’s late goal

For everyone associated with the Washington Capitals — the organization, the team and the fans — the 2015 Winter Classic could not have gone any better. Perfect weather conditions, perfect ice conditions, just the right amount of pageantry and celebration, an overflow capacity crowd of 98.5 percent Caps fans, a well-played game by both teams, and a game-winning goal by the home team with less than 13 second remaining.

Troy Brouwer’s power play goal with 12.9 seconds left in regulation lifted the Washington Capitals over the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in the NHL’s regular season showcase, the 2015 Winter Classic.

Brouwer’s goal was set up by a very light hooking call against Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews with 1:13 remaining. It just another in a long line of strange penalties and no-calls in what was an uneven and disjointed officiated game against both teams — perhaps the only blemish on the day.

Karl Alzner was carrying the puck in the left corner when Toews’ stick glazed Alzner’s midsection, not even enough to slow the Caps defenseman or knock him off the puck. Regardless, referee Francois St. Laurent’s arm raised, sending Toews to the box.

During the power play, the Caps won a faceoff at center ice and Alex Ovechkin carried the puck into the offensive zone. He tried to get a shot away, but was slashed by Brandon Saad. Two Blackhawks reached for the puck, but Brouwer was there first. He spun an whipped a shot that beat Chicago goalie Corey Crawford to the glove side.

Brouwer seemed to not see the puck go in at first, then dropped his stick, clenched both fists and raised his arms in the air as his teammates clobbered him in celebration.

Saad was whistled for a penalty on the play, but the damage was already done.

The game was played at a 2-2 tie much of the second and third periods. What started with offensive fireworks in the first 23 minutes ended as a tense, defensive struggle decided on a pair of power plays.

The Caps scored on theirs late, and the Blackhawks failed on theirs in the second period, a 5-on-3 for 1:31.

At 9:18 of the second, Tom Wilson was whistled for goalkeeper interference as he and Crawford linked skates above the top of the crease after Wilson had been knocked off-stride by a Blackhawk defender.  Just 29 seconds later, John Carlson clubbed Chicago forward Andrew Shaw with a two-handed shiver to the upper chest and was sent off for high-sticking.

But the Caps killed the ensuing 5-on-3 and the remainder of the second penalty to keep the tie intact.

Braden Holtby was again superb. He made 33 saves, including four on Chicago’s five power plays.

Eric Fehr started the scoring 7:01 into the game. He tracked down a loose puck, outraced Brent Seabrook into the zone and skated in on Crawford. After a quick deke, Fehr beat the goalie glove-side for his 11th goal of the season and third outdoor goal of his career, becoming the NHL’s all-time leading goal-scorer in outdoor games.

Alex Ovechkin, who had a monster game, collected his 18th of the season at 11:58 of the first, beating Crawford on a rebound of a shot by Mike Green from the point.

Patrick Sharp made it 2-1 less than two minutes later on a power play goal with Nick Backstrom in the box for holding, and Saad tied it at 3:15 of the second period after a bad turnover by John Carlson turned into a tic-tac-toe between Toews, Marian Hossa and finished by Saad.

At the end of the day, the win was worth two points in the standings. But the spectacle of the Winter Classic at Nationals Park will long linger in the minds of Caps fans, the organization, the players and the league for years to come. The festivities were everything the league could hope for in these games, and the game D.C. went off spectacularly.

Washington Capitals Game 31 Recap: Fehr’s overtime goal gives Caps win in wild one

Now 31 games into the 2014-15 Washington Capitals season, few observers know what to make of the team. On some nights they look reminiscent of the Capitals that were on display from 2008-11, and other nights they look like they’ve barely improved from the relative disaster that was the Adam Oates era.

If Thursday’s game was any indication, though, some improvement has been made.

Eric Fehr scored less than a minute into overtime to give Washington a 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, a win that moves the team back into third place in the Metropolitan Division, if only for one night. The Caps’ playoff chances increased 5.2 percent to 66.5 with the victory, a win that they very nearly gave away. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 30 Recap: Caps come up short in epic shootout with Florida

By Brian Barnard

Following their Saturday night victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Washington Capitals faced another former Southeast division rival on Tuesday. The Caps were greeted in Sunrise by a surging Florida Panthers team that has gone 5-3-2 over its last ten games. When the two squared off in mid-October, the Caps won a 2-1 shootout victory.

This time around, the Panthers returned the favor, winning the game 2-1 after a shootout that went 20 rounds and involved rally helmets on the bench. It was officially five rounds longer than the previous record-holder, the Capitals vs. the Rangers at MSG in 2005 (see, Marek Malik). [Read more…]

OPINION: For the Caps, it’s not the end of the world

“It’s not the end of the world,” Troy Brouwer, on Jason Chimera’s overtime penalty on Thursday.

For years, the Washington Capitals have been battling the perception that they aren’t intense enough, that they collectively lack an ethic tough enough to compete as a team at the highest levels in the NHL.

George McPhee thought so, or he wouldn’t have fired the most successful head coach in the franchise’s history to hire a coach out of the Juniors with no NHL coaching experience at all whose reputation was nothing but hard work, diligence, and yes, toughness.

Brian MacLellan must think so too, as he was part of the braintrust to bring in Barry Trotz — a coach whose reputation for discipline and hard work goes without question — to replace another offensive-minded, but failed, head coach.

Certainly it’s been part of the Canadian media’s mantra about “what’s wrong with the Capitals” the entirety of Alex Ovechkin’s tenure rockin’ the red.

Taken with that background, then, Troy Brouwer’s comments on Friday about Jason Chimera’s boneheaded penalty in overtime Thursday night can be read several ways, depending on your impression of the team and your feelings about the players themselves.

First, Brouwer’s actual comments, unfiltered:

“We’ve all been in that situation where you’re helpless. You’re in the box after you do something unintentional that might cost your team a couple points.

“[Chimera] felt bad about it and he apologized after the game. It could happen to anybody and it does happen to a lot of guys.

“I’m sure he felt isolated, but that’s when we as teammates have to pick him up and let him know that it’s not the end of the world, we’re still here for him, he’s a big part of our team, and we’re going to need him to rebound.” [emphasis added]

On Friday, Trotz indicated he had not spoken with Chimera directly about the incident, and Chimera — surprisingly — did not speak with media after practice, something he rarely avoids, at least in my experience covering the team. So that left Brouwer to speak for him.

First of all, Brouwer’s opinion that Chimera did “something unintentional” is not supported by the facts. Chimera’s interference penalty — knocking down defenseman Jack Johnson far away from the puck — was certainly intentional. Poor judgment? Yes. Unintentional? Absolutely not. So that part of Brouwer’s comments seem excuse-making.

Anyway…

If you want, you can interpret Brouwer’s comments as “standing up” for his teammate. He specifically says that as teammates they “have to pick him up.” All that said, if he had stopped there, it would have been easy to take Brouwer’s comments at face value.

But he goes on to say that “it’s not the end of the world.” Maybe not. But with the Caps still mired in the middle-to-low side of the pack in the Eastern Conference, every point is going to matter at the end of the season. Every single point.

If you want to read into Brouwer’s comments and believe that they perpetuate the narrative that the Caps are too complacent — that they lack the urgency, intenseness or toughness requisite to be one of the top teams in the league and truly compete for a championship in a sport that’s as much about desire as skill — it’s right there for you.

If you see this team underperform again and again (winning three straight on the road only to lose to an inferior team at home) and want to look for reasons deeper than possession metrics, Brouwer’s comments certainly opens those doors for you.

If you buy into the perception of a lax atmosphere that surrounds and permeates the Caps — the team, organization, media, and yes, fans — then it probably doesn’t surprise you that Brouwer thinks “it’s not the end of the world.”

If you want to look at the Washington Capitals and wonder why they never seem to play up to their collection of talent, you’re within your right to read Brouwer’s comments and interpret them outside of face value.

I guess if the Caps miss out on the playoffs by one point in April, it won’t be the end of the world.

Washington Capitals Game 26 Recap: Ovechkin scores two as Caps hold Lightning at bay

Three critical road games against two division opponents and team among the league’s elite, and three games where an early goal gave the Washington Capitals a win. Alex Ovechkin scored just 40 seconds into the game, and the team got consistent scoring throughout as they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Tuesday.

The Caps held the league’s most prolific offense to just two goals, and never trailed their former Southeast Division rivals.

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Washington Capitals Game 10 Recap: Caps unable to stave off Bolts’ forecheck, lose 4-3

After a start to the season that put many hockey observers on notice, the Washington Capitals have now lost three straight games after falling 4-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning on the road on Saturday night.

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Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning 11/1/14

The weather was pretty in Tampa tonight, but the ensuing contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning wasn’t so lovely for the Washington Capitals.

Ryan Callahan struck first for the Lightning in the first period, and Marcus Johansson answered with an even strength goal for the Caps. In the second period, Eric Fehr’s hard work paid off for a 2-1 Capitals lead, but Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov struck for the Lightning. Troy Brouwer tied things up late in the period. In the final frame, Jason Garrison scored the Lightning’s game winning goal. Capitals lose 4-3, their third loss in 4 games.

First Star: Marcus Johansson

The Swede scored his fourth goal of the season – an even strength goal, nonetheless – skating on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. He is well on his way to eclipsing his goal total (8) from last season. Johansson added 4 hits, and an assist on Troy Brouwer’s second period goal. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him break his career-high goals for a regular season (14) this year.

Second Star: Eric Fehr

He went from being a healthy scratch on Thursday to the scoresheet on Saturday. He scored his first goal of the season in Tampa. He only has 3 points in 10 games played so far, but you have to commend Fehr on bouncing back with a strong performance. Hopefully the coaching staff agrees.

Third Star: Troy Brouwer

Brouwer scored a power play goal from the slot, which briefly tied the game at 3-3. He finished the night with 4 shots on goal and 3 hits. The second period goal was Brouwer’s third on the season. Brouwer has 6 points (3g, 3a) through 10 games.

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings 10/29/14

Unfortunately for the Capitals, the Red Wings took home two points tonight. The Caps got a break due to a phantom goalie interference call in the first period, and outshot the Wings for a lot of the game, but they weren’t able to do a whole lot with their power play, and coughed up the puck quite a bit.

Caps lose 4-2.

 

First Star:

Andre Burakovsky.

He’s had three assists in his last four games. Who knew back in training camp when he assumed the position of center that he’d adapt so naturally to it? Barry Trotz, probably. He skated the first part of the game on the first line with Ovechkin and Ward, but Trotz shook up the lines throughout the game. No telling where he’ll be next game. He does seem to have good chemistry with Johansson and Brouwer, so it would make sense to deploy that line as such.

 

Second Star.

Troy Brouwer.

Brouwer snapped his scoreless streak with a snipe from the Ovi spot on the power play. The P1 and P2 as designed by Trotz is working out rather nicely,

 

Third Star.

Braden Holtby.

The Wings had 4 power plays, and Holtby assisted capably in killing all but one, where Pavel Datsyuk let off a shot that you wouldn’t blame any goaltender for not being able to stop. Holtby didn’t have answer for the cause of the team’s turnovers, obviously, but did comment to reporters that it’s his job to cover for the mistakes made by his teammates, and that he’d wished he’d done a better job of that.

Honorable mention:

Jason Chimera’s nose. Seriously. It was gross. http://t.co/N42aYir10x

Washington Capitals Game 9 Recap: Capitals lose 4-2 to Red Wings, turnovers galore

It was an eventful night at Verizon Center, where the Washington Capitals returned from a not-so-fun roadie to take on the Detroit Red Wings, who were missing Johan Franzen, but still had Pavel Datsyuk up their sleeve. Detroit handed the Caps a 4-2 loss,their second straight, and third in four games.

The first period featured a phantom goalie interference call on Luke Glendening, which waved off a goal and gave the Caps a power play. The Caps outshot the Wings for the first half of the game, but turned the puck over unnecessarily, which led to goals-against that could have been avoided. They had a winnable game in front of them, but couldn’t seal the deal. Instead, Pavel Datsyuk’s wicked shot put the game away for the Wings in the third period.

There were a few bright spots, however. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his first goal of the season, and Troy Brouwer snapped his four-game goalless streak. Andre Burakovsky continued his reign of terror with an assist, his second in as many games and his third in four games.

Brouwer had a lot to say about how the Caps played, and what they need to do to avoid the type of game they had Wednesday:  “We’ve got to go back to our base, which is a five-man forecheck, five-man d-zone. Come up the ice together, play together. When we start getting individual, that’s when we get ourselves into trouble because we aren’t predictable anymore. We don’t know what guys are doing on the ice. And when you do have a turnover, guys are out of position because they don’t know exactly what’s going on. We’ve got to continue, right to the end of the game, whether we are winning or losing, to be predictable. Play the way we are supposed to play. Those are the games we won.”

Notes:

 

  • The Red Wings’ first goal was waved off for “goalie interference.” Huge break. It was a bad call, and should have been an actual goal, as Holtby was clearly not interfered with. He skated out to play the puck, and tripped of his own accord as he re-entered the crease.
  • Jason Chimera’s nose did this, it was grotesque, choose your poison: https://twitter.com/RegressedPDO/status/527608573753561089 http://t.co/N42aYir10x
  • Evgeny Kuznetzov scored his first goal of the season, and Braden Holtby earned a secondary assist. Goalie assists are the best assists.
  • Bad: lots of turnovers, and not the yummy kind.
  • Andre Burakovsky played on the first line, and got another assist. He’s good.
  • Troy Brouwer, who was held without a point for four games, finally broke that streak with an Ovi-like snipe from the circle on the power play.
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