April 21, 2015

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 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.

PHOTOS: Washington Capitals Morning Practice, April 15

Dave and I are back in DC for a visit so we went over to Kettler Iceplex this morning, Wednesday, April 15 to watch the Washington Capitals practice. We’re looking forward to the Caps hosting the Islanders for game one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs round one at Verizon Center tonight!

Here are a handful of photos from practice. It was great to take hockey photos again! Enjoy the photos. Hope to see many of you at the game tonight!

Nicklas Backstrom - Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Nicklas Backstrom – Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Mike Green - Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Mike Green – Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Braden Holtby making a glove save during Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Braden Holtby making a glove save during Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Tom Wilson skated at practice, however, will not be playing tonight - Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Tom Wilson skated at practice, however, will not be playing tonight – Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Captain Alex Ovechkin waiting on a pass - Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Captain Alex Ovechkin waiting on a pass – Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Brooks Laich - Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Brooks Laich – Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Backstrom takes a shot on Peters - Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Backstrom takes a shot on Peters – Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Karl Alzner - Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Karl Alzner – Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Brooks Orpik - Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Brooks Orpik – Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Gleason cracked a smile during practice and Trotz mentioned it during presser - Caps Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

Gleason cracked a smile during practice and Trotz mentioned it during presser – Caps 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 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 Game Day Practice at Kettler Iceplex before Playoff Round One, Game One,, 4/15/2015 (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Distict Sports Page)

 

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.

______

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

Caps-Islanders Round 1 Preview: Once more against Halak

The Washington Capitals sit 16 wins away from claiming their first Stanley Cup, four of which must come against the New York Islanders. Here’s a breakdown of their first round matchup.

Islanders offense vs. Caps defense

Islanders: 2.99 goals per game (4th), 175 5-on-5 goals (4th), 33.8 shots per game (2nd), .592 win percentage when scoring first (25th), .545 win percentage when trailing first (1st)

Caps: 2.43 goals against per game (7th), 140 5-on-5 goals against (12th), 28.9 shots allowed per game (11th)

The main weapon on the Islanders is John Tavares, the 24-year-old superstar who finished second in the NHL in points this season. The offense hinges on him, but not in the same way the Caps’ offense hinges on Alex Ovechkin. The dynamic center is just as adept at setting up goals as he is at scoring them and leads the team both in goals (38) and assists (48). For much of his career, the Islanders have relied far too much on Tavares to carry their offense but that is no longer the case. Kyle Okposo is second on the team in points despite missing 22 games with a detached retina and provides a major threat on the Islanders’ second line. They also have had young talent step up with Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Anders Lee all enjoying breakout seasons. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals 82 Game Recap: Washington outshined by the Rangers in 4-2 loss

There will be more hockey played this spring at Verizon Center. For the Washington Capitals and their faithful, that will come as welcome news. Had Saturday afternoon been the final time the boys in red skated on frozen pond until October, no doubt would a sour taste been left in their mouths at the hands of the New York Rangers.

[Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 81 Recap: Holtby stellar in Caps’ win over Bruins

Three times this season, the Boston Bruins went up against Braden Holtby. Three times they exited the ice without a single goal.

Holtby made 27 saves and Washington scored two goals early in the first period en route to a 3-0 win over the Bruins on Wednesday night at Verizon Center.

The win certifies that the Caps will play in the 2-3 matchup in the Metro Division. If the Islanders lost Thursday night, the Capitals will finish as the No. 2 seed. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 80 Recap: Strong Goaltending and Deflections Give Caps Edge in Detroit

The Washington Capitals had a busy 24 hours, heading to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena after a tough overtime loss to the playoff hopeful Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. The Detroit Red Wings, another playoff contender, are beset by injuries, and fielded a team without physical players such as Justin Abdelkader, Erik Cole, and Johan Franzen.

The Red Wings came into the game 5-9-2 in their past 16 games, but had the return of forward Drew Miller from injury and were able to beat the Minnesota Wild last night in a shootout. The last time the two faced off in January, the Capitals came away with a 3-1 victory.

The Caps were able to exploit Detroit’s injury woes, coming away with a critical two points. With the New York Islanders idle and the Pittsburgh Penguins losing to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Caps’ win helped to launch them back into second in the Metropolitan division standings, one point ahead of the Islanders and four ahead of the Penguins. Pending the result of the other games tonight (Ottawa vs. Toronto), the Capitals’ victory helped to solidify their standings and another chance to lock up a playoff slot.

First period

After a few possession changes early, the Capitals earned a power play at when Daniel Cleary got called for high-sticking on Brooks Laich 1:51 into the game. The Caps had trouble finding lanes to the net for the first minute of their power play, but took advantage of their opportunity. A lucky bounce for Evgeny Kuznetsov found the stick of Detroit’s Drew Miller, a deflection that launched past goalie Petr Mrazek and gave the Caps an early lead. Matt Niskanen and Mike Green were credited with the assists.

Alex Ovechkin drew a holding call at 10:18 on Henrik Zetterberg. Detroit pushed hard, but faced good defensive play from the Caps and were unable to convert to tie the game.

Second period

The second period started with heavy pressure from the Red Wings, keeping the Caps on their heels as they tried to fend off plays from the point and slot. Braden Holtby did a great job of turning away pucks, limiting rebounds that would have led to opportunities.

The sustained pressure led to a penalty call as Brooks Orpik drew a tripping penalty on Luke Glendening at 1:56 while trying to clear the front of the net. Fortunately, the Caps defense forced most of the chances for Detroit to the outside and prevented scoring opportunities.

Mike Green proved his slapshot is back at 4:42 of the second. Blasting a rocket from the top of the faceoff circle, Green’s shot glanced off defenseman Drew Miller and found a way past Mrazek’s glove, careening into the top of the net to give the Caps a 2-0 lead. Both Tim Gleason and Alex Ovechkin had assists on the goal.

At 5:38 of the period, the Capitals had an opportunity to put the game out of reach and take a big lead when the Red Wings were called for too many men on the ice. Despite the free chance, the Caps could hardly put any oomph into their power play and had issues with turnovers.

Another opportunity presented itself when Marek Zidlicky was called for clipping at 10:28, upending Tom Wilson on the blue line. This time, the Caps kept the puck in the Red Wings zone but were unable to find a lane to the net. With the penalty winding down, the Caps put pressure in front of the net, but it led to a goalie interference call against Joel Ward when he lunged for the puck behind Mrazek at 12:14 of the period. The Red Wings quickly capitalized on their power play and forward Darren Helm scored his 14th goal of the season, a chip-in shot at 12:59 of the period. Pavel Datsyuk was responsible for setting up Helm, with another assist credited to Teemu Pulkkinen.

The Red Wings had a great chance to tie it up with the second period winding down when Mike Green was called for a delay of game penalty. After a couple of close calls and rebounds, the Caps were able to move the puck out of the zone — but Troy Brouwer used his glove to clear it, drawing another penalty and giving the Red Wings a two-man advantage for a minute and a half.

Fortunately for the Caps, the Wings were unable to synchronize their power play and set up a goal-scoring play. A couple of timely clears helped out, preventing Detroit from finding the tying goal. Braden Holtby had an incredible split that left Caps fans mesmerized, but also concerned about the immediate impact of a groin injury. Thankfully, bad news was averted as the Caps trainer quickly cleared Holtby of any serious injury and he played on.

Third period

The third period started slowly, with the Caps playing conservatively to maintain the lead. They were active when needed to turn away the Wings rushes, but also relied heavily on Holtby who turned away several shots from the points and the ensuing rebounds. Given the close game, the Caps wisely shied away from drawing penalties to ensure that Datsyuk and the Wings wouldn’t have another power play opportunity.

Final takeaways

Holtby had another impact game, with key saves to keep the Caps in the game. The second and third periods shots on goal were dominated by Detroit, but Holtby stayed strong and kept the Caps in the lead.

Mike Green has had some big goals of late. His blue hockey stick has been magic, making significant and timely contributions to the Caps goal-scoring efforts.

Unnecessary and unfortunate penalties. The dazzling goaltending of Holtby has bailed the Caps out for much of the regular season, but this trend has to stop as we look towards the playoffs.

Red Wings’ left wing Drew Miller had a tough night, with both of the Caps goals coming via deflections off him.  He might want to watch his stick and glove for the next few games.

Washington Capitals Game 79 Recap: Caps erase disastrous start but lose in OT

The Washington Capitals entered Saturday night’s game with a chance to clinch a playoff spot, but they will have to wait at least one more day after losing to the desperate Ottawa Senators in overtime.

In the first ten minutes of the game, the Caps took three penalties and allowed three goals to put themselves in a 3-0 deficit that looked insurmountable. After regrouping in the locker room, a different Capitals team came out to dominate the remainder of regulation tying the game at three, but another mistake cost them in the extra frame. [Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: