On January 27, 2013, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
Although hockey has been back for over a week now, the lockout seemed longer to the Washington Capitals and their fans. Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres put a definitive end to that. The Caps were poised, aggressive, and — most importantly– victorious for the first time this season.
And oh yeah, Ovi scored.
John Carlson allowed a bad breakaway that became a goal for Tyler Ennis, but Joel Ward occupied the slot a few minutes later to restore the tie. John Erskine scored a sneaky goal from outside to give the Caps their first lead since the season home opener vs. Winnipeg. Then, Alex Ovechkin scored a glorious powerplay goal with a one-timer that went top shelf on Ryan Miller. Marcus Foligno got one back for Buffalo, feeding at Neuvirth’s trough to make it 3-2.
Adam Oates talks to Ovi during practice on Saturday. (Photos by Chris Gordon)
Alex Ovechkin has become a one-dimensional player. Once the league’s most creative and premier scorer, Ovi has been stymied by his apparent unwillingness to change — at least so far. His struggles at right wing in the first three games this season demonstrated that much. After just eight periods, the exercise ended. Ovi was back at left wing.
Ovi’s switch has been the story of the season so far for the Caps. But not everybody thinks it should be.
“Are we talking about Ovi again? That’s bulls—t,” forward Troy Brouwer told me when asked about Ovechkin’s play this season.
“It shouldn’t be difficult,” Brouwer said. “He’s a right handed shot, he should be able to play right wing. It should be hard to play your off wing.”
Hockey hugs for everybody! (Photo credit: Gary Wiepert)
On Friday night, the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 at First Niagara Center and one former Washington Capital had a first. Alex Semin, after starting the season with two bad penalties, scored his first goal with the Canes, one of those classic Sasha no-look wrist shots that found the top corner of the net.
When the Capitals came out for warm-ups against New Jersey Friday, head coach Adam Oates had a surprise for us. Alex Ovechkin was skating on a line with Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb.
The Great Eight has struggled in the first three games this season, with no goals, 11 shots, and two checks on his own teammates. So Friday night he was back on left wing with Beagle (seven career NHL goals) as the pivot and Crabb (19 career NHL goals) on the right wing. I didn’t expect this trio to remain intact for very long, but despite taking some shifts with different teammates throughout the night, the line stayed together until the end.
On January 25, 2013, In Game Recap, By Doug Johnson
Neuvy run over during the second period. (Photo credit: Mel Evans)
[Editor's Note: Peter Hassett wisely took the opportunity to leave DC this week. Ian Oland is in protective custody. Chris Gordon has joined the circus on the trapeze. The PuckBuddys are entirely responsible for this week's tragic events.]
“Nothing ever really goes away – it just changes into something else.” – Sarah Ockler.
There’s a last bit to that quote that we’ll share at the end. (Spoiler!) Still, we can’t help but watch the Capitals 2013 and wonder: what are they changing into? And where is this metamorphosis leading? Answers – now.
First period: Some early testing by the Caps heartens us. We like what we’re seeing on defense from Ward; once again, the Caps look dominant in the first. Can’t hear the name “Travis Zajac” without thinking about buying a vowel. Yes, that’s what we’re down to. Sadly, Jacob Josefson to Stephen Gionta (brother of Habs’ Brian) with a snapper past Neuvy puts them 1-up.
We feel you, Meryl.
Second begins with a dash to the Caps net, gobbled up by Neuvy. Mike Ribeiro and Jason Chimera denied what shoudda coudda been. Troy Brouwer passes to no one, which is somehow emblematic of the team this year. Phew! on a Neuvy save during a Devs attempt at a shortie, leading to both teams feeling a little better about themselves, while Martin Brodeur notches another lump on his coconut. Phew! again as Neuvy (again) saves the Caps on a Devils PP. Tonight is a good night for Neuvirth, so heck, let’s give him a 5-on-3 because why not? Of course, Patrik Elias scores (nothing you can do, Neuvy) bringing Devs up 2-o. Please let this end.
Last period starts with us wondering if the mullets (*ahem Carlson*) are slowing the Caps down. Adam Oates looks sour like the Dad in “That’ 70’s Show,” which we’re coming to understand. Caps PP yields zip, and we get another shot. MoJo sends it off to nowhere, and Phew! (3x) Neuvy saves the day. Finally, Ward knocks to Ribeiro and the Caps are on the board, 2-1. And then HURRAH! Greenie sends a sizzler into the net, Caps tied 2-2 with less than three minutes remaining. An almost heart-stopper brings us to:
OT: Pushups everyone! Hero becomes the goat as Greenie gets sent to the penalty box and Caps go on PK. Neuvy is on his best game tonight: how many times can we “Phew!”? Caps kill effectively kill the penalty, while Ovechkin is sleep-skating. Twenty seconds to go and Ilya Kovalchuk takes advantage of Ovi’s slop, firing it past Neuvy and ending the game.
Every Caps fan looks like this right now. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)
With the Washington Capitals down two goals heading into the third period, head coach Adam Oates had a special moment on the Caps bench. It looks like losing and bad penalties have finally gotten to him. We call it #OatesFace.
Their defensive depth was supposed to be a strength. The plan for the Washington Capitals was to have nine blueliners with serious NHL experience at their deposal, ready to jump into to a game at any minute. It didn’t work out that way. The pair of Karl Alzner and John Carlson has struggled, giving up a majority of the team’s goals against. The other D-men haven’t been much better. Tom Poti has played three games in two years. Mike Green is scoreless. And then there are the injuries. Jack Hillen went down after playing less than four minutes. Dmitry Orlov has been out indefinitely. The Caps have been forced to call up Tomas Kundratek.
So what happened to Orlov, one of the team’s rising stars? While skating for the Hershey Bears in the AHL Showcase at Verizon Center in November, the young Russian absorbed a hit up high from Emerson Etem. He didn’t appear to be favoring anything when he attempted to play one more shift that night, leading many to believe he suffered a concussion. In an interview with RMNB’s Ian Oland, Bears coach Mark French did not confirm or deny that Orlov may have received a concussion on the hit.
“The only thing we’ve said so far — as far as my understanding — is that it’s an upper body injury,” French told Ian. “It’s above my pay grade and above my qualifications to say any more. It’s certainly an upper body injury.”
“Our hope is that once we regroup as a team following the All-Star break he would be able to skate,” said the coach.
Coming into the season, Washington Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates had a bold idea. After studying countless hours of film during the lockout, the Hall of Fame player saw that Alex Ovechkin had become too predictable off the left wing and that opposing team’s defensemen had figured him out. So Oates asked the Russian Machine to try playing on the right wing, hoping that it would spur creativity and give Ovechkin more open ice.
Nothing is going right for the Washington Capitals right now. But one of the biggest problems is clear: the misfortunes of Karl Alzner and John Carlson. Of the 14 goals the Caps have allowed this season, Carlson has been on the ice for nine of them and Alzner for eight. Until they were broken up at the start of third period, this was the team’s number one defensive pairing. That’s not how you win hockey games, something Washington has demonstrated.
“I have no idea,” Alzner said when asked what was going wrong for the two.
“We’re not getting the bounces, plays that I normally would do, an easy poke check — it’s happening for the both of us,” he added. “We weren’t contributing anything good to the team.”