October 23, 2014

Washington Capitals Game 46 Recap: Caps Clinch Southeast Division Title with 5-3 over Winnipeg

In a crucial late-season game for the Washington Capitals, facing the potential of clinching the Southeast Division or slipping behind the Winnipeg Jets and almost out of playoff position, the Caps put together a playoff-caliber effort in Tuesday night’s 5-3 home victory over the desperate Jets.

Spearheading Washington’s efforts were Matt Hendricks, Jason Chimera, Nicklas Backstrom, Mathieu Perreault, and Alexander Ovechkin, who each scored a goal in the victorious effort to sew up the franchise’s fifth division title in six seasons. Braden Holtby made 24 saves in the process of earning his 22nd win of the season. [Read more...]

Washington Capitals Morning Skate Update & Audio for April 23: Battle for the Division

Audio courtesy Sky Kerstein

It doesn’t get much bigger than this.

With two games remaining, the Washington Capitals lead the Southeast Division, and hold the No. 3 seed in the East because of it, by a mere point over their opponent tonight, the Winnipeg Jets. Washington can clinch the Southeast on Tuesday with a win in regulation or overtime. Winnipeg is 1-3-0 against the Capitals this season. Washington outscored the Jets 10-1 in the past two games, which were played on back-to-back nights in Winnipeg.

The Caps and Jets are two of the NHL’s hottest teams right now. The Caps are 9-1-0 in their last ten games, the Jets are on a 6-0-1 run.

Overall, the Jets sits in ninth place with 51 points, one back of the seventh-place New York Rangers and the eighth-place Ottawa Senators. The Jets are also two-points behind the sixth-place New York Islanders. None of those teams have clinched a playoff berth yet.

Adam Oates discussed the preparation for the big Southeast Division matchup against the Winnipeg Jets tonight at Verizon Center, a game where the Caps can clinch a playoff spot. “We talked about them. Showed them some highlights from last night. We talked about Winnipeg and how we’re gonna play against them.”

Oates was asked about the significance of Winnipeg playing the second of back-to-back nights (they beat Buffalo 2-1 to move just one point being the Caps in the division). “It just shows itself. A team is maybe a little sloppy because they’re a little tired, even though the importance of the game — I’m sure they’ll get some energy from that,” Oates said. “For us, for 60 minutes, we’ve had the benefit of a little bit of a rest that they haven’t, hopefully it will show itself.”

04-23-13 Adam Oates Practice RAW

04-23-13 Alex Ovechkin Practice RAW

04-23-13 Nicklas Backstrom Practice RAW

04-23-13 Mike Green Practice RAW

04-23-13 Troy Brouwer Practice RAW

Washington Capitals Game 31 Recap: Caps Dominate from Start to Finish, Wallop Jets 6-1

One night after seemingly having everything go their way, the Washington Capitals had another one of those experiences as Brooks Laich scored his first goal of the season to jumpstart a wild night on offense as the Capitals trounced the Southeast Division-leading Winnipeg Jets 6-1 Friday night in Winnipeg.

Alexander Ovechkin added two goals, and Troy Brouwer, Jay Beagle, and Mike Green also scored for the Caps in their second straight victory over the Jets in two nights. Braden Holtby turned away 30 of 31 shots in a stellar performance. [Read more...]

Washington Capitals Game 20 Recap: Caps “Dr. Jekyll” breaks out in win over Jets

In the “Jekyll and Hyde” story of the Washington Capitals 2013 season, Dr. Jekyll (the good one) showed up at MTS Centre in Winnipeg, as the Caps put together their most complete road game to date, beating their Southeast Division rival Jets 3-0.

Braden Holtby, pulled in the second period in Thursday night’s debacle in Philadelphia, registered his third shut out of the season making 35 saves along the way.

The first period was not kind to the Caps everywhere but the scoreboard. They were fairly dominated by the Jets, being outshot 15-5 overall and 14-4 at even strength. The Caps were downright lucky to still be tied at that point.

But with 2:10 left in the frame, newcomer Aaron Volpatti mixed it up with Jets bruiser Anthony Peluso, a man three inches taller and 30 pounds heavier. While Peluso got the (much) better of the fight, the fracas seemed to give the Caps a lift.

The Capitals maintained that momentum into the second period. They came out on fire, peppering Jets goalie Ondrj Pavelec with shot after shot. Pavelec was up to the task for a while, including stoning Jason Chimera at point-blank, extending the winger’s season long scoring slump.

They finally got to Pavelec at 10:56 of the second, as Matt Hendricks, playing on the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro, deflected Ribeiro’s pass behind a defenseless Pavelec to break the ice. It was the only goal of the stanza, but the Caps asserted themselves, maybe the best they have all season on the road. The Caps outshot Winnipeg 13-4 in the second period — without a power play — indicative of their stellar play.

Washington poured it on in the third period. Goals by Troy Brouwer (9) and Mike Ribeiro (7) in the first 4:16 of the frame pretty much sealed Winnipeg’s fate. All that was left was for Holtby to keep turning away shots, which he did all period as the Jets threw 16 shots his way in the final frame. Holtby, though, was up to the task.

After the embarrassing loss in Philly earlier in the week, the Caps really needed a performance like the one they put up Saturday. It’s only the Caps’ third road win of the season, but it was a critical game in the crowded Southeast Division, with all five teams now separated by just four points top-to-bottom.

The Caps are now off until Tuesday, when they host the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins, which will be another strong litmus test the Caps will have to face if they want to get back into the playoff discussion in this lockout-shortened season.

Washington Capitals Game 2 Recap: Caps’ tank runs low in loss to Jets

While the Capitals had gone 259 days between home games at Verizon Center, Washington’s first chance to play in front of the home fans didn’t exactly go the way they wanted in a 4-2 loss to Winnipeg.

After taking an early lead, Washington allowed two power-play goals in the first period, giving the visitors – who played the day before in Boston – all the momentum as the Capitals lost their second game on the young season.

The defeat left the Caps frustrated and concerned with an apparent lack of energy despite the brand new campaign.

“I didn’t think we had the energy we needed tonight,” Matt Hendricks, who had one of the Capitals’ two goals as well as a pair of fights, said. “One of our keys to success was put them on their heels, put pucks in their end, get them to turn [it over], get them to work. They played last night and we didn’t make it look like that.” [Read more...]

Washington Capitals Game 2 Postgame Audio: Oates, Ovi & More!

WASHINGTON–The Washington Capitals lost 4-2 to the Winnipeg Jets in their first home opener loss in over a decade.

“Early, obviously, we had a good start,”  Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates said.  “Got a goal. Things were going our way. We got a couple penalties, gave them life. The penalty-killing — they scored two goals on it. The first one, a little flukey. We kind of lost our momentum a little bit. It is a new system, and that’s going to be hard, and we’ve got to fight through that. But still, I thought we could have had better execution. We didn’t give ourselves the opportunity to play the team game. We turned it over at the blue line too many times. Just little, subtle things I thought we could have done better to help ourselves.”

Even though the Winnipeg Jets played the previous day, it seemed like the Caps were the ones playing back-to-back games.

“I just didn’t think we had the energy that we needed tonight,”  Caps forward Matt Hendricks said.  “One of our keys to success was to put them on their heels, put pucks in their end and forecheck them, get them to turn, get them to work. They played last night. And we didn’t make them look like that.”

With 48 games in 99 days, the Caps can’t afford a few more losses and the players aren’t really sure what’s happening.

“I think part of it’s mentally,”  Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said.  “I think we’re out-thinking ourselves a lot of times, we’re messing with our own brains. Some of that’s got to stop; we’ve got to just go out and play hockey, everybody knows how to play hockey here. We can blame learning a system, like Troy said, as long as we want, but it’s us now. It’s not learning a system, it’s us that’s got to fix it.”

Mike Ribeiro received a ten-minute game misconduct and an unsportsmanlike conduct late in the third period after he said he got high-sticked for the second time in the game with no call.

“I just feel like you’re not allowed to talk to them anymore about situations that happens in a game,”  Ribeiro said.

Listen here to what Adam Oates, Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby, Mike Ribeiro & Troy Brouwer had to say after the loss.

Adam Oates Postgame Audio

01-22-13 Adam Oates Postgame RAW

Alex Ovechkin Postgame Audio

01-22-13 Alex Ovechkin Postgame RAW

Braden Holtby Postgame Audio

01-22-13 Braden Holtby Postgame RAW

Mike Ribeiro Postgame Audio

01-22-13 Mike Ribeiro Postgame RAW

Troy Brouwer Postgame Audio

01-22-13 Troy Brouwer Postgame RAW

 

CAPS: 2012-13 Southeast Division Preview

With the lockout-shortened season upon us, there have been a few additions and subtractions to a Washington Capitals roster that finished second place in the Southeast Division a season ago. Similarly, there are a few new faces elsewhere in the division, and new expectations for each team. District Sports Page provides a primer for the remainder of the Southeast Division and offers its predictions for how things will pan out.

Carolina Hurricanes
Last season: 33-33-16, 82 pts, 5th Southeast Division, 12th Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Kirk Muller
Key Additions: Alexander Semin, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Joe Corvo
Key Losses: Brandon Sutter, Bryan Allen

Last year, a slow start doomed the employment of then-Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice and were never able to recover, finishing last place in the Southeast Division, 12 points out of the division lead.

Nonetheless, under new head coach Kirk Muller the ‘Canes played inspired hockey. Captain Eric Staal (24 goals, 46 assists, 70 points) overcame a horrendous +/- to lead the team in goals, assists, and points. The veteran Staal had as many assists as the next highest scorer, Jussi Jokinen, had total points.

For many years, Staal has been a one-man show in Raleigh. The development of young phenom Jeff Skinner has improved things, and this season GM Jeff Rutherford has added a pair of offensive studs: Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin. Washington Capitals fans are well acquainted with Semin, who plied his trade in D.C. for seven seasons before signing a one-year, $7 million deal in Carolina. In recent years Semin has disappointed, but Rutherford is hoping to get the 40-goal scorer of 2009-10, not the 21-goal scorer of 2011-12.

Jordan Staal, formerly of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is also a familiar face in Washington. Due a huge contract, Staal was dealt over the offseason to the Hurricanes, who inked him to an extension for 10 seasons and $60 million. Both Staal and Semin are top six forwards, adding legitimate scoring options to a roster that finished in the bottom half of the NHL in goals and power play percentage last season.

In general, Carolina looks to be a much stronger offensive team in 2012-13, swapping out steady defensive-minded players in Brandon Sutter and Bryan Allen in favor of Semin, Jordan Staal, and defensemen Joe Corvo and Marc-Andre Gragnani. If goaltender Cam Ward plays well the Hurricanes will certainly qualify for a playoff berth, and a return to potential by both Ward and Semin will see the ‘Canes in the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.

Florida Panthers
Last season: 38-26-18, 94 pts, 1st Southeast Division, 3rd Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Kevin Dineen
Key Additions: Filip Kuba, Peter Mueller
Key Losses: Jason Garrison, Wojtek Wolski, Mikael Samuelsson

Chances are few people even in the Panthers organization expected this squad to win a division title in 2011-12. After years of mediocrity GM Dale Tallon completely overhauled the squad, and his ragtag bunch captured the Southeast Division on the strength of the shootout. Florida only won seven games in overtime or the shootout, but the 18 games they lost after the end of regulation provided just enough of a margin to keep them ahead of the Caps when the season closed.

Florida’s biggest revelation on the ice was Tomas Fleischmann, the erstwhile Capital whose four-year, $18 million dollar contract was mocked until he responded with a 27 goal, 34 assist campaign was a career best. More importantly, after missing significant time for blood clots in his legs, Flash played in all 82 games for the first time in his career.

Also surprising on the ice for the Cats was the emergence of perhaps the best offensive defense pairing in Brian Campbell (4 goals, 49 assists) and Jason Garrison (16 goals, 17 assists). Garrison has since departed for a hefty free agent contract in Vancouver, and shootout specialist Wojtek Wolski is now on Washington’s roster.

In free agent signing Peter Mueller, Tallon hopes to strike gold again with a new addition to the roster. After missing all of 2010-11 and 50 games of 2011-12 with a concussion, Mueller likely benefited from the extra recovery time due to the lockout. He scored 22 goals in his rookie season with Phoenix but has only potted 33 goals in 173 games since.

On paper, this squad looks like a marginal playoff team, not a division winner. Then again, the same was true last season. There’s no way they get quite so lucky when it comes to the loser point from extra play in 2012-13, so look for them to be a bubble playoff team come April.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Last season: 38-38-8, 84 pts, 3rd Southeast Division, 10th Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Guy Boucher
Key Additions: Anders Lindback, Sami Salo, Matt Carle
Key Losses: Dwayne Roloson

Shrewd offseason moves position the Lightning to be a Southeast Division contender in 2012-13. Adding two defensemen and a goalie aren’t particularly flashy pickups, but combined with no losses of note, this is a dangerous roster. Tampa Bay returns its top 12 point scorers from last year, including the best goal scorer in the league, 22-year-old Steven Stamkos (60 goals, 37 assists).

Tampa Bay finished ninth in the NHL and tops in the Southeast in goals, averaging 2.83 goals a game. That was more than offset, however, by allowing a league-worst 3.39 goals/game. In 2010-11, 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson was a revelation in net, backstopping the Lightning to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals. In 2011-12, 42-year-old Roloson (3.66 GAA, .886 Sv%) was a trainwreck, finishing in 45th place, dead last, in Goals Against Average and Save Percentage for goalies who played at least 25 games. By the end of the season he ceded the job to Mathieu Garon, whose 2.85 GAA and .901 Sv% were both outside the top 37 for goalies.

This season Roloson is still an unrestricted free agent and reinforcements have arrived in the form of 24-year-old goalie Anders Lindback, whose massive 6’6” frame was stuck behind workhorse netminder Pekka Rinne in Nashville the past two seasons, as well as defensemen Sami Salo and Matt Carle. At this point in his career Lindback is mostly potential with very little proven, but at the least he represents a new direction for Tampa’s netminding.

Salo, formerly of Vancouver, brings necessary pop to Tampa Bay’s stagnant power play, which was 25th in the league at 15.2% rate. He slots into the Lightning’s second defensive pairing, while Carle, a 28-year-old who was part of Philadelphia’s dominating defense the past four seasons, should form a stifling shutdown pairing that will rival Washington’s Karl Alzner and John Carlson for effectiveness.

Of the three teams stuck in the bottom of the Southeast last year, Tampa Bay is most likely to make the leap to the top of the division. If Lindback or Garon can prove to be serviceable NHL starters, the Lightning will be sitting pretty in the division. If not, it’ll be another wasted season for Stamkos down in Florida.

Winnipeg Jets
Last season: 37-35-10, 84 pts, 4th Southeast Division, 11th Eastern Conference
Head Coach: Claude Noel
Key Additions: Olli Jokinen, Alexei Ponikarovsky
Key Losses: Chris Mason

At one point in the CBA talks, rumor was that the league would swap Winnipeg out of the Southeast Division in favor of Columbus, just for 2013 season, to alleviate travel concerns. Sadly for Ted Leonsis’s pocketbook that never came to pass, so the Caps will be making at least a handful of cross-country flights to play the Jets.

For almost the entire 2011-12 season Winnipeg battled Washington for one of the last spots in the Eastern Conference playoff field, the Jets falling just short while the Caps snuck into the seventh spot. Forward Evander Kane built a reputation as a new Cap-killer, with three goals and one assist, including a game-winning goal, in six games.

The Jets, like the Lightning, made a significant addition without much in the way of subtraction. Olli Jokinen was the top center available from an admittedly weak class at that position, and the Caps are well-acquainted with him from his time with the Panthers. Backup goaltender Chris Mason is gone, putting more pressure on the shoulders of Ondrej Pavelec, who inked a five-year contract extension over the summer prior to becoming a restricted free agent. Last season Pavelec played a career high 68 games, recording a 29-28-0-9 record.

Former Cap Eric Fehr, who had a disappointing two-goal, one-assist season cut short by continued shoulder injuries. Fehr, a Manitoba native, was the type of good-vibes story the Jets were looking for last season in the NHL’s return to Winnipeg. With a year under their belt the team is now just an organization with a five-year playoff drought. The Jets got a little bit stronger this offseason, but so did the rest of the division. Most importantly, the shortened season and therefore the division-only schedule will crush Winnipeg, who will have to fly across the continent for every road game this season. That will be too much to overcome and will see the Jets finish at the bottom of the Southeast, though not in the dregs of the Eastern Conference.

Abram Fox is the Washington Capitals Page Editor for District Sports Page.  He has been covering the Capitals from the press box since the 2007-08 season.

Washington Capitals Game 75 Re-Cap: Collapse of monumental proportion

Inexcusable.

With every point available so crucial to their playoff hopes, the Washington Capitals blew a three-goal lead at home to a team lower than them in the standings that should have been left for dead, eventually losing in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets 4-3.

For the first 26 minutes or so of this game, it was all Capitals as they raced out to that 3-0 lead behind a breakaway goal by Jason Chimera (his 18th, setting a personal season-high) and two by the surging Alex Ovechkin, his 34th and 35th of the season, to pull the Great Eight into a five-way tie for fourth in the NHL in goals.

“They looked like they were ready to — they smelled blood,” Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said of the Caps’ start. “They really looked like they were coming on. They had a couple of back-to-back shifts that were [full of] momentum, really tilted [the ice].” [Read more...]

Caps in Advance: Week 24

Little in the way of killer instinct has been evidenced by the Washington Capitals of late. In the first three games of a five-game road trip, Washington needed a late comeback to force overtime and eventually win in the shootout against the New York Islanders, and never held a lead in losses to division rival Winnipeg Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Now the Caps have will wrap up their road swing with two games against dominating foes before taking on those same Jets in a rematch. Just 10 games and three weeks remain in the regular season, every point is precious. This team has a history of playing with significant leads in the division race, and seems ill-equipped to take over the race this late in the campaign.

Hampering things may be another injury to goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who has been struggling with a lower-body injury over the past month. Braden Holtby was recalled from the Hershey Bears late last week to serve as a backup for Michal Neuvirth, who will be expected to shoulder the load for the playoff push. [Read more...]

Caps in Advance: Week 23

Things were looking bad for the Washington Capitals a few weeks ago, when the team was shut out in consecutive home games and saw several teams, including the Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres, vaulting them in the race for 8th in the Eastern Conference.

Since then, the Caps have taken seven of eight possible points in their past four games to establish themselves in the 8th spot, with a four-point lead over ninth-place Winnipeg. For a few glorious minutes after Sunday’s 2-0 shutout of the Toronto Maple Leafs and before the Florida Panthers’ 2-0 win over Carolina, the Caps were even in first place in the Southeast Division. As it stands now they’re just one point back of the Panthers, who have a game in hand on Washington.

Tuesday’s game against the Islanders is the first of a five-game, coast-to-coast road trip for Washington. Less than a month remains between now and the end of the regular season, and this road trip is the last significant stretch of road games the Caps will face. It’s incumbent on them to continue their winning ways with points against several middle-of-the-pack teams, particularly the rival Jets and a strong Chicago Blackhawks squad. [Read more...]

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