May 26, 2016

Washington Capitals Breakdown Day 2016: Picking up the pieces

As another round of mid-May exit interviews proceeded on Thursday morning and early afternoon at Kettler, the Washington Capitals were in strong agreement on two things.

First, this is the worst recent playoff exit to date for the club.

Second, the season was a failure.

After Tuesday’s furious comeback attempt fell short in a season-ending overtime loss in Pittsburgh, the players tended to wear their emotions on their sleeves on Thursday. For many, it was a struggle to explain how this once-promising campaign, which featured likely the best regular season in franchise history, ended a full month before its previously projected conclusion.

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Opinion: Answers not easily found, but must be discovered quickly for Washington Capitals

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

Will Ovi ever hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup? (Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Alex Ovechkin’s latest spring postmortem might well have been his toughest yet. The 30-year-old has been the face of the Washington Capitals for over a decade, and the quickly-graying Russian welled up in Pittsburgh late Tuesday night after his team again fell short of the championship and accompanying long playoff run that this city will continue to wait for.

“Every year, lots of expectations, lots of great players, something missing. This group of guys can do better and bigger than just the second round,” Ovechkin said. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 6 Recap: Disappointment again

CAPS RALLY FROM THREE-GOAL DEFICIT BUT BOUNCED IN OVERTIME

 (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Yup. We all feel that way. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals rallied from a three-goal deficit to force overtime, but once there they were overwhelmed and Nick Bonino scored 6:32 into the extra session to promote the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, sending the President’s Trophy winning Caps packing, once again.

It was, perhaps, the most Caps-like way of being eliminated from a playoff series.

Logically, it shouldn’t have gotten to overtime. The Penguins came out focused and flying, dominating the Caps in all facets of the game though the first 38 minutes. Phil Kessel put the Pens up 1-0 in the first, then Brooks Orpik was assessed a double-minor high-sticking penalty, and Kessel and Carl Hagelin made it 3-0, cashing in on both penalties, midway though the second period.

But T.J. Oshie got the Caps on the board with a power play goal with 1:30 left in the second, giving the Caps some hope going into the third. Then Justin Williams added one 7:23 into the third period and suddenly a comeback looked do-able. Then things got weird, as the Penguins were assessed three consecutive delay-of-game penalties, giving the Caps a pair of five-on-three power plays.

They made good on just one, however, with John Carlson’s rocket tying the game at three with 13:01 left in regulation.

Both teams had good opportunities down the stretch, but as they had all series, Braden Holtby and Matt Murray stood tall and kept things deadlocked to force an extra session.

Unfortunately for the road team, the Penguins came out on fire once again in overtime. A sequence early should have ended it there, but Holtby made several “how did he do that” saves, and Jay Beagle dove to deflect a puck off the goal line, only to prolong the agony.

Bonino’s game winner came off another excellent save by Holtby, a low kick save, but Matt Niskanen was unable to tie up the Pens’ forward and Bonino got just enough of the rebound on the backhand to sneak it past the prone Holtby and into the gaping net.

There are no clever words to describe the disappointment for this Caps team being eliminated in the second round, prolonging the District’s bizarre tenure of being the only city with at least three of the four major sports not advancing a team into a conference finals since the last time the Caps did it in 1998.

This team seemed to be “built the right way.” It rolled four lines all season long, and had legitimate NHL forwards in the press box most nights. Could they use another defenseman? Sure, but who can’t? As they’re constructed, the Caps have a nice blend of youth and experience and should challenge the top of the conference again next season.

That doesn’t help now, though. For now, it’s disappointment, yet again.

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 3 Recap: Everything but the win

CAPS CONTROL PLAY BUT NOT SCOREBOARD; LETANG HIT ON JOHANSSON TO BE REVIEWED

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals got two third-period goals but couldn’t find the equalizer and dropped Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-2, before a capacity crowd decked out in yellow t-shirts at Consol Energy Center.

Typically, when a team outshoots the other 49-23 — including 21-9 in the third — the outcome is predictable. Unfortunately, these things seem to happen to the Caps more often than not in the playoffs. [Read more…]

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Määttä

The NHL announced Sunday evening that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games as a result of his hit on Olli Määttä in Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday in D.C.

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Washington Capitals Second Round Game 2 Recap: Fehr’s late tip tops Caps

OUTPLAYED MUCH OF GAME, CAPS CAN’T FIND THE GO-AHEAD IN THIRD

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

For much of the second half of the regular season, the Washington Capitals got into a habit of playing 20-25 minutes with enough energy to pull out a favorable result. On Saturday night at a raucous Verizon Center, it wasn’t nearly enough.

Old friend Eric Fehr tipped an entry pass from Evgeni Malkin past Braden Holtby late in the third period and the Pittsburgh Penguins evened their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with the Caps at a game apiece with a 2-1 regulation win. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Second Round Game 1: Oshie’s hat trick, overtime winner propel Caps in Game 1 win

With dozens of hats sailing to the Verizon Center playing surface and Chuck Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” playing over the public address system, the ultimate outcome of the opening game in the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins lay still in doubt.

Fans begged for T.J. Oshie’s hat-trick goal, the game-winning wraparound 9:33 into the overtime session, to stand as called on the ice. The building’s pressure-cooker status reached its peak as referee Dan O’Rourke took off his headset after a review that seemingly lasted as long as this all-time playoff contest itself.

His affirmation of the goal resulted in a raucous scene of euphoria. What more often than not felt like the first round of a heavyweight title bout brought a 4-3 decision in favor of the hosts, the latest step in the to-be-determined journey of this team that, at least for now, wears the hopes of its city on its back.

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Washington Capitals First Round Game 4: Caps flat in Philadelphia; Flyers force Game 5

GAME FIVE SET FOR FRIDAY AT 7 P.M. IN WASHINGTON

(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

With a 3-0 series lead in hand for the first time in franchise history, and riding high after a dominant win in Game 3, the Washington Capitals came out flat again in the opening stages of a game in this best-of-seven series.

Giving up the game’s first goal for the second game in a row, Washington looked very out of sorts throughout the first two frames; a T.J. Oshie tally with 17:22 left was not enough as the Capitals fell to the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 on Wednesday night.

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Washington Capitals First Round Game 2 Recap: Holtby stellar as Caps build series lead

HOLTBY MAKES 41 SAVES TO LIFT CAPS TO 2-0 SERIES LEAD

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

After a physical Game 1, the Washington Capitals came in to Game 2 expecting nothing less from the Philadelphia Flyers, except maybe that they would ratchet the hitting, antagonizing and overall agitating up even another notch. That was certainly the case — and then some — as the Flyers controlled play in just about every facet…except the scoreboard.

Braden Holtby was again exceptional, especially in a first period where the Flyers got 18 shots, and the Caps were the beneficiaries of one of the strangest goals you’ll ever see, and the Caps beat the Flyers 4-1 before a raucous Saturday night crowd at Verizon Center to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Flyers came out, well, flying, at the start of Game 2, outshooting the Caps 7-1 in the first few minutes.

It was Washington that got the first power-play opportunity, and they made good on it. The Flyers tried to clear with a lob, but John Carlson caught it open-gloved to keep it in the zone. Stung, he passed it off twice before trying a shot, and his wrister from center point got through a double-high screen and past Steve Mason to put the Caps up 1-0, despite being outplayed.

The Caps managed to avoid the early penalty calls they suffered in Game 1, but it caught up to them late in the first, with Jason Chimera and Carlson both whistled for cross-checks within 50 seconds of each other late.

But as he’s been all season long, Holtby (41 saves) was the Caps’ best player, turning aside the Flyers on every opportunity and the first ended with the Caps up by one.

Early in the second, Washington made it 2-0 on one of the all-time strangest plays. After a tie-up at center ice, both teams went for a change and Chimera sent a soft backhanded deflection toward the Flyers cage. Mason went down to block it, but it somehow eluded him and went right between his legs and behind him into the net. It needs to be seen to be believed.

It stayed that way for about seven minutes before the Flyers got back in it. On an odd-man rush, Brooks Orpik got caught playing a man instead of the puck and it slipped right between his legs to the awaiting stick of Jakob Voracek, who flipped it past Holtby to trim their deficit to one.

But just before the second intermission, Mark Streit was whistled for holding, giving the Caps’ vaunted power play another opportunity. Backstrom held at the half-boards, then slipped a pass through T.J. Oshie’s legs – a play they work on in practice — to Alex Ovechkin in his normal spot in the left wing circle. The Great 8 made no mistake, ramming it home to make it 3-1 before the break.

The Caps were content to play dump and chase most of the third period, but with just over two minutes left, Nick Backstrom carried in on the right wing and when Mason went down thinking about the pass Backstrom called his own number for the insurance goal and a 4-1 lead.

The series moves to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday.

Washington Capitals Game 82 Recap: Caps fall in listless finale

JUSTIN WILLIAMS HONORED FOR PLAYING 1,000TH NHL GAME

With absolutely nothing left to play for except finishing the 82-game schedule, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz scratched Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, John Carlson, Brooks Orpik and Jay Beagle, the last of whom nursing a sore knee after blocking a shot in Saturday night’s win over St. Louis.

That left the team with some odd line combinations, with Stan Galiev, Michael Latta and emergency call-up Zach Sill manning the third line and Philipp Grubauer between the pipes. [Read more…]

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