Playing for Pride: Caps beat Isles 4-3 (SO)

Mike Stobe

Photo: Mike Stobe

With a 1.2 percent chance of a postseason, the Washington Capitals were basically playing for pride against the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon. I’m supposed to be analyzing these games in addition to just recapping them, but I’m having a hard time sussing out exactly what we just watched.

Are they thick and proud? Are they a mess? Is all coming together? Is there any urgency? Are they surging late? Have they given up?

I’m gonna go with contradictory yes across the board. The Caps went into a two-goal hole, and then climbed out, and I don’t know what to make of that.

Cal Clutterbuck struck first for the Isles, taking advantage of the Brouillette-Strachan defensive pairing. Evgeny Kuznetsov tied it up in the second period after a pass from Marcus Johansson that was either brilliant or dumb luck. The Isles struck back 90 seconds later, as a Caps opponent is wont to do.  Frans Nielsen made it 3-1 for the Isles on an iffy goal, but Nicky Backstrom returned fire a little after the halfway mark by cleaning up a broken play. The third line (Mojo edition) continued to be insane-o with Joel Ward’s game-tying goal, his 23rd of the season.

The third period was quiet. Too quiet. Overtime too. So, here we go again…

Shootout bullets!

  • Nielsen got denied.
  • Kuznetsov roofed it.
  • Strome got padded.
  • Grabo also got padded.
  • Nelson, who is not Nielson, got stopped.

Caps beat Isles 4-3 in the shootout. Yey.

  • I think that was the last game the Caps will ever play in Nassau. Good.
  • Dustin Penner has an upper-body injury, so Aaron Volpatti took his role on the first line. Wait, I’m being handed a note. It turns out Dustin Penner has been playing on the fourth line in Washington. RMNB regrets the error.
  • Tom Wilson hit a dude hard (but clean imho). Per the idiocy of the modern-day NHL, he was immediately challenged to a fight to defend his actions. Whatever dude. Here’s the video, if you’re into that kind of thing.

  • Who could have possibly imagined that the Brouillette-Strachan defensive pairing would get scored on?
  • Per your girl Katie Carrera, that makes 29 quick strike goals against the Capitals this season. Per your boy Neil Greenberg, that’s tied for the worst total in the salary-cap era.
  • I now direct your attention to our GIF post regarding the failed Caps breakout. Jason Chimera and Mike Green collided in front of the Caps net, which is the sort of the thing you wanna see never, least of all when a team is playing for naught but pride. Green did not return to the game, which makes me wanna use swear words.
  • I think this bullet is mostly filler.
  • No fifty goals for Ovi tonight. We did get a boneheaded roughing penalty from him, so there’s that.
  • The third line is still the third line no matter who is in the center slot. Grabo, Erat, Fehr, and now Marcus Johansson. It’s just a magical hockey friendship between Jason Chimera and Joel Ward, the latter of whom is the team’s second best scorer. I choose to interpret that positively. The third line had something around 60% possession.
  • The Caps PP is still bleeding shorthanded chances. Oates’ biggest accomplishment is looking nastier by the day.
  • How many players have scored their first career goal against the Caps this season? Feels like a lot. That seems like the kind of stat we’d report, but here we are.
Joe B suit of the night: blue!

Joe B suit of the night: blue!

I got nothing. What’s the right way to talk about the remainders of a lost season? It seems wasteful to pick on the team, and I don’t even feel like I’ve got a grasp on whether or not they were any good tonight. We’ve been over all the problems on the team. The only thing we can add to that list is a possible injury to Mike Green.

Have a great weekend. Catch you on Tuesday for more motions to go through.

  • Jack Conness

    I was able to go out and play my first round of golf today. It was awesome. Definitely the highlight of my day.

    Is Oates fired yet?

  • Eddie

    “I think this bullet is mostly filler.”
    What’s it going to take to strike a spark?

  • Zach Evans

    Victory fajitas all around!

  • Dave

    Biggest blow out of the season!

  • Josh Carey
  • Latta goals

    People are saying caps can’t make the playoffs, but last time I checked any team to win 16-3 has a pretty damn good chance of makin it

  • Jay DeLancey

    so you saw that also

  • Latta Goals

    Here

  • Jay DeLancey

    thank god i’m not the only one who noticed that

  • Jonah

    chimera colliding with green is exactly what happened with this team since 2010. green represents the skill player who the caps were, and chimera represents the grinders this team is trying to become. the two collide from a miscue, (some might say mismanagement?) and both are hurt.

  • Margaret McGuire

    I noticed that too

  • RESmith

    Bronx cheer!

  • Kate

    Who the F is Brouillette?

  • Matt Lauer

    Is it really so *TOTALLY* out of the realm of possibility that we could actually give Tom Wilson some top six minutes and top six linemates at this point in the season?

  • Dave

    I noticed Wilson looked good out there in the third period today. Volpatti looked the opposite of good. Is he just now learning how to skate or something?

  • Matt Lauer

    I’ve been saying this for weeks now. Wilson has been their most active and determined skater for a while. How he is still on the fourth line is beyond me.

  • https://twitter.com/Haddaweezy Holy_Cal
  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    mmm fajita

  • GregV

    Yes. Tickle-Me-Halmo action and the collision pretty much sum up this game. I feel like Caps players colliding on the ice is a new kind of crazy Oates strategery.

    Since we were playing the Islanders for pride, did we get it?

  • Lawrence

    Regardless of our slim hopes to make the playoffs, I hope this team still plays their hearts out for the rest of the season. Glad to see them get the win today, especially for holtby, who going forward will be very important for the capitals. That defense pairing of strachan and Brouillette seriously looks like we went back in time 20 years and transported them into today’s time.

  • Jonah

    oates

  • VeggieTart

    Gotta love how Wilson took out the linesman with his hit.

  • JenniferH

    I know we’re not a good team right now, but I still can’t help but be excited when we score and when we win. *sigh* I can’t help it. But I still want Oates gone. NOW!

    And I know we’re pretty much dead team walking so I understand the lack of push in recapping/analyzing, but I do think that Braden Holtby deserved a mention in this one. He’s been pretty shat upon by Oates and co. and a lot of the Caps community of late overall. But he played pretty outstanding today, kept them in it until they rebounded, made some spectacular saves and stopped all 3 shootout attempts. I know, I know, I’m all about Holtby, but he plays so rarely now, I crave every crumb.

  • Patrick Neimeyer

    Beep….Beep…Beep…Well the CPR is working. playoff heart still beating and the 1.2% chance of making still in the headlights….anyways speaking of CPR and Life Support…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7L9THry9QM

  • Matt Lauer

    In general, I agree. He’s had some bad games, but all goalies do. As I’m sure we agree, goaltending was never the problem.

  • Matt Lauer

    How about we start a pool about how long it’ll take after the season ends?

  • Jonah

    it was really nice for the caps to be on the other side of the ol’ lose-a-2-goal-lead thing.

  • Whitney O’Meara
  • Daniel Walker

    At least Hershey sucks to now and our prospects can get used to failure before they are exposed to it with the big club. Not a bad development strategy for a McPhee run organization methinks.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    I honestly hope GMGM isn’t extended and Oates is fired. Then the new GMGM trades Brouwer and/or Wardo for a defender. That opens up space for Wilson to move up the lines.

    I like Troy and Joel, but we have a log jam at Right Wing and we can replace one of them with Wilsy. Also, move Ovi back to LW and Kuzya back to RW.

  • Guest

    I posted a video above!

  • MuzzMuzzington

    I got a little angry when we won today. I wanted that losing streak to continue growing and our massive flaws continue to get magnified to the point where Ted and GMGM could not miss them. Then GMGM fires Oates and Ted doesn’t re-sign GMGM.

  • yv

    corr: Caps will play Isles in Nassau for one more season and then in Brooklyn in Barclays.

  • Jonah

    i don’t think they need to trade wardo. wilson should be a 2nd line RW next season (taking brouwer’s spot). i don’t see a reason to break up the only working 5v5 line. maybe package fehr (i hate to say it) and mojo to get a reliable 3c and some real D.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    Problem with Brouwer is that he has a modified NTC.

    I’d also try to package Green in there. Orlov fills his role and has stayed rather healthy when not battling pink eye. Also doesn’t get himself railed into the boards multiple times a shift.

  • Jonah

    and brouwer’s here for like 5 more years right?
    i think there should be a clause that when a new GM is brought in they can renegotiate all contracts.

  • Dave

    “…the new GMGM…”

    Oh no! First we only hire ex-Caps to coach the team, and now we only hire general managers with the initials G.M??? This madness must stop!

  • Veloj

    “How many players have scored their first career goal against the Caps this season? Feels like a lot. That seems like the kind of stat we’d report, but here we are.”

    8 by my count. Don’t judge, I was bored/curious because I seem to notice this too (even before this year). Brandon Bollig (CHI) 10/1, Elias Lindholm (CAR) 10/10, Nathan MacKinnon (COL) 10/12, Will Acton (EDM) 10/14, Nick Holden (COL) 11/10, Phil Varone (BUF) 1/28, Nicklas Jensen (VAN) 3/14, John Persson (NYI) 4/5

  • Matt Lauer

    I tend to agree that both Brouwer and Ward should be traded while the getting is still good. Especially Ward — I’ve come to like him as a player quite a bit more this season, but this is the time to trade him, without question.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Ruining our draft pick status makes me mad

  • gustafsson16

    20 years eh? Capitals 93-94 team featured Al Iafrate, Calle Johansson, Kevin Hatcher, and Sylvain Cote. All of them are ten time better than any D we have now. We need to get working on that time machine ASAP.

  • Smiley456

    It’s amazing Wilson isn’t dejected and playing that that. Must figure next year the [new] coach will play him.

  • Veloj

    well, if GMGM is still around by the draft, will the position really matter anyway?

  • Chris Cerullo

    You cant get on the guy about his drafting. That’s his best contribution to this team.

  • Josh Carey

    #TANKFORMCDAVID2015

  • John M

    I think at this point the Caps are just going through the motions.

  • Matt Lauer

    Agreed. But in all likelihood they’ll take whatever quality Swedish player is left, anyhow.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    “Excuse me, could I have more tortillas? And this time bring more than two?”

  • MuzzMuzzington

    I think its a French broiler.

  • Eric Schulz

    Brouwer is a better player than Ward, and Ward is having a better season. That means A) we can keep the better player (Brouwer) and B) sell high on Ward. That’s a no-brainer to me.

  • Eric Schulz

    Did you ever watch a 7 year-old Brouillette or a 9 year-old Strachan? I mean… let’s just say they weren’t yet NHL-caliber.

  • Eric Schulz

    If going through the motions still gets us two points, then why weren’t we going through the motions all season?

  • Matt Lauer

    I think Laich should be bought out.

  • Bugs Fire

    Joe B kept saying that it’s important for Caps to get 2 points. He even said that since Isles are out of playoffs, it does not matter if it’s not a regulation win. It’s a joke, right? I mean, they know what standings look like and what day it is?

    NHL.com was equally hilarious today. Their preview title was “Capitals must rebound against red-hot Islanders”. Really? They must? Must rebound to do what?

  • Myan

    Um, how does Kuznetsov not get one of the stars of the game? He scored a goal and got the SO game winner! #fail

  • Bugs Fire

    Does WIlson need to alter his physical game a bit? I mean, he seems to hit rather cleanly most of the time, but there are way too many injuries left in his wake. I always feel like Dustin Brown is a bit dirty, although he rarely gets suspended. I don’t think Brown really intends to injure, it’s just that he plays a bit too close to the edge. Wilson seems to do the same.

    On the related note, hit on Elias was clean despite of its unfortunate consequences. I watched Devils game on the feed that had off-mike comments audible, and both NJ announcers were all over WIlson and how he should be sent down to minor league to clean up his act (although there is much more fighting in AHL and we all know Tom cannot go to AHL, but can’t blame NJ folk for not knowing).

  • Bugs Fire

    He also got an assist… Wait, can you get a secondary assist to yourself? Crap…

  • Eric Schulz

    I think that Laich brings an element that we are sorely lacking, and if he rebounds he can be an extremely valuable 3rd liner for us. He showed a lot of his old self in a stretch right before he had surgery, and having surgery before the season ends means that he’ll have a longer than expected recovery time. We should’ve shelved him a while ago; we all seem to be judging him based on how good he was playing hurt. Well, yeah, not very good.
    Also, our salary cap will be just fine next year. If he isn’t his old self, whether that stretch was just a mirage, or maybe he just won’t get healthy, we can buy him out the following offseason. We’ll need the money then, with Kuznetsov’s and Holtby’s and Johansson’s contracts expiring; this offseason we don’t need it, so I think we hold off on that for one more year.

  • Bugs Fire

    Now we know why Ovie’s +/- is so bad. Johansson is a very likable Swedish gentleman, but boy he has hard time hitting empty net. Who told him he is not supposed to score? Marcus, Ovie is not looking, just do it! :)

  • Bugs Fire

    To the persistent chorus of “Fire Oates” crowd, here is a curious stat. I am not defending Oates (we are past that window of opportunity) and one number does not tell the whole story. And yet.

    Adam has coached Caps for 126 games and the team got 150 points in that period of time. That is 59.5% of possible points.

    Below is the list of all current NHL coaches and their point percentage in first two years of NHL coaching career. Some of these are tricky – I did not count Tortorella’s four games with NYR in 2000 and Berube/Eakins/Roy/Horachek do not yet have two seasons.

    I know this is just one number and there is a lot of variation due to what kind of team a coach gets first. I mean, Roy is pretty impressive in his first season and can one really blame Capuano?

    But what matters to us is Adam Oates. And so far, he holds #8 record (coincidence?) of 30 current NHL coaches in his first two seasons. One cannot say that he was handed a perfect roster. I am not saying that he has gotten 100% out of it either. All I am saying is that his record in first two years is better than what Sutter, Quenneville, Ruff, Hitchcock, Julien, Babcock and Vigneault got in their first two years. Maybe he deserves another chance? Come on, it’s only game, why you heff to be mad?

    Sharks/McLellan 70.1%

    Avalanche/Roy 68.4%
    Ducks/Boudreau 66.1%
    Penguins/Bylsma 65.9%
    Coyotes/Tippett 63.4%
    Maple Leafs/Carlyle 63.4%
    Flyers/Berube 59.6%
    Capitals/Oates 59.5%
    Flames/Hartley 59.1%
    Kings/Sutter 58.8%
    Black Hawks/Quenneville 57.8%
    Lightning/Cooper 57.0%
    Senators/MacLean 56.9%
    Blues/Hitchcock 55.6%
    Stars/Ruff 54.9%
    Bruins/Julien 53.0%
    Wild/Yeo 52.3%
    Red Wings/Babcock 52.1%
    Blue Jackets/Richards 51.8%
    Devils/DeBoer 51.8%
    Canadiens/Therrien 50.3%
    Sabres/Nolan 50.3%
    Hurricanes/Muller 49.5%
    Rangers/Vigneault 49.4%
    Islanders/Capuano 48.0%
    Jets/Maurice 46.4%
    Panthers/Horachek 41.9%
    Predators/Trotz 40.5%
    Oilers/Eakins 40.4%
    Canucks/Tortorella 38.8%

  • Eddie

    Losing all their drive…

  • Chris Cerullo

    I don’t think we go into next season without adding anything new up front (especially if we have a new GM) + that 1st line has been proven to be very ineffective in the past. Love the 2nd line though but hate Mojo at 3C as IMO he should be moved this summer.

  • Chris Cerullo

    No. Most of those points were because of Ovechkin single handedly getting this team into the playoffs last year. My guess is you’re trying to show how coaches can improve, but Oates only got worse after his first season. The guy just isn’t made out for a head coaching job.

  • Chris Cerullo

    I think that’s one of Willy Baby’s nicest assets though. If he isn’t fighting then he needs to be able to physically make a statement in another way. If he isn’t getting suspended then I’m completely fine with it.

  • Chris Cerullo

    I think it’s more or less because Joe B has to say those things as part of his job. He cant be negative nancy like us in the comments.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    I can’t wait to see how HBO scripts this team next winter.

  • Eric Schulz

    Johansson is only 23 years old; he’s got a lot of talent, and he should improve. Also, as I’ve said before, I think it may help him to center his own line. For whatever reason, he can’t seem to tailor his game to complement Backstrom and Ovechkin on the top line; my theory is that even though he has the skill to do so, he isn’t comfortable doing that and so he’s thinking too much. I think surrounding him with guys to complement him, rather than the other way around, may do him some good. Laich, at least in his prime, was a great two-way player with no holes in his game, and Fehr is a talented player who drives possession; I think they are very good 3rd line wingers in general, and could possibly help Johansson fulfill his potential. I think Johansson is underappreciated; Erat couldn’t score for shit and yet everybody seemed to defend him, while Johansson is just as talented, but he’s also young (while Erat was past his prime) and cheap (while Erat was way too expensive, both contract AND what we gave up to get him); I get the difference (Johansson was miscast on 1st line, Erat on 4th), but he’s a young, cheap, talented player. I could see him being a big part of the team’s future.
    That being said, I wouldn’t mind moving him; I’ve said a few times before that, due to his age and contract (and skill), he should be a very attractive player to rebuilding teams. Again, I would love trying to pry Frans Nielsen from the Islanders with a package of Johansson and Carrick (the Isles are not ready to contend, and Nielsen, as good as he is, is already 29, while Johansson is 23 and Carrick is 19; seems like that would be a nice move by them because they’d get a young, established – relatively – forward and a young defender who has quite a few NHL games under his belt). To me, Nielsen – or a player like that – is exactly what we need up front. I’d be okay with just improving Green’s partner on the 2nd pair, Orlov’s on the 3rd, and making no moves beyond that (and just seeing how things develop; we could always make a move near the deadline), but if we did make a move up front, I think that’s the player we should target. To me, he provides us with a 3rd line that better complements our team; we aren’t great on defense and don’t have very many defensively-conscious forwards. While upgrading the defense is a bigger problem, it would be nice to have more of a traditional shut-down 3rd.
    I can’t foresee what changes we make in the offseason though, of course, so just looking at who we have now (and trading Ward to address the defense, as that was kind of the hypothetical), that’s the lineup I’d go with. Brouwer seems to have found his game; last season he was on a pace that would’ve seen him get something like 33 goals and 55 points, and this season he’s finished strong. He said, right before his hot streak, that he had gotten away from his game; I think that he wanted to be a goal-scorer, and his success last season made him think that he was, instead of realizing that if he plays his game, the goals will come. I think he’s ready to threaten 30 goals next year; I wouldn’t be surprised if that line was much more effective than it had been in the past. Also, perhaps more importantly, having a better defense means we breakout more effectively, and have the puck more, which helps every line be more effective.
    I’d rather see a first line of Penner – Backstrom – Ovechkin, but that ship has sailed, it would seem (guessing there’s no chance Penner resigns, and even if he was willing, I don’t think we’d keep him). But I just don’t see what other lines you go with:
    Ovechkin – Backstrom – Fehr
    as the top line, maybe? Which means Brouwer is on the 2nd, and Wilson is bumped to the 3rd. I really want Wilson on the 2nd, especially since that keeps Kuznetsov and Wilson together, but I could see that too. Wilson on the top line is probably asking too much this early, but:
    Ovechkin – Backstrom – Wilson
    Kuznetsov – Grabovski – Brouwer
    could maybe work too.

  • Veloj

    agreed. would love to see a graph that plots the improvement/regression of the teams under the coaches above. then we’ll talk

  • Matt Lauer

    Perhaps you are right that Laich could be an effective 3rd liner, but paying 4.5mil for a third liner is just flat-out bad business at this point. That is dinero that could be spent on a more effective first liner, while allowing a non-injured, more offensively gifted prospect to come into the mix.

  • Eric Schulz

    Well, if our cap situation is what I think it will be next year, his contract won’t hurt us, so I don’t really care that he’s overpaid; if it doesn’t hamstring us, then good for him.
    And given that our top line starts with Ovechkin and Backstrom, it’s not like we need to pay a superskilled winger to complete the line; we need a guy who can win board battles, forecheck, play a little defense, and tailor his game to those two. You know, a guy like Penner. He costs just $2 million.

  • Matt Lauer

    The first line isn’t necessarily the one that worries me.

  • Eric Schulz

    Yeah, but I’m saying if we get a guy like Penner on the 1st line, that’s a bargain, contract-wise; 1st liners generally cost more than $2 million. So, Laich at $4.5 isn’t that big of a problem; we have a 1st liner and 3rd liner, between them making $6.5 million. We can handle that. That’s my point; I don’t think Laich’s contract is the albatross people think it is. Depending on how next season goes for him, we may need to cut bait then; with Kuznetsov’s and Holtby’s contracts expiring, we can’t afford to overpay a 3rd liner. But with some of our younger guys on such affordable contracts (those two, Wilson, Johansson, Alzner) we should have enough room under the cap to fit a few pieces this coming offseason. Since we won’t need to cut Laich to fit the final pieces to complete the roster (2nd pair D, 3rd pair D, perhaps 3rd C; resigning guys… perhaps a backup G), then I don’t see the harm in keeping him another year to see if he rebounds. I don’t think the harm will be until the following offseason.

  • Bugs Fire

    To be fair, Oates was until recently credited with Ovechkin’s “renaissance”. Maybe he still should be despite “Beagle fiasco”.

    Dale Hunter had 67 point in 60 games, for 55.8%.

    What I was trying to show was that he has done relatively well in his first two years as far as primitive stats are concerned. And doing better in the second season is not necessarily a hallmark of a great coach. For example, Mike Babcock took Ducks to Cup finals in his first year only to miss playoffs outright in the second.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    “he has done relatively well in his first two years as far as primitive stats are concerned”

    Last year, the Caps barely made it into the playoffs thanks to Ovi shooting 20% in March and the Canes and Jets slumping.

    This year, they’re a lottery team.

  • Bugs Fire

    Fair enough, but 30 coaches is large enough sample so that one expects to see examples going both ways (i.e. new coach’s record being better or worse than what the team was before him).

    I expect that in general teams have rather poor record on average prior to coaching change. In case of Oates, record is better than Hunter’s, and regression started way before that. BB’s final and truncated season record was 56.8%.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Not quite.

    Hunter: 30-23-7 — 50% win percentage, 92 pt pace
    Oates: 35-30-13 — 45% win percentage, 87 pt pace.

  • Bugs Fire

    To be clear, I do agree that Oates have not gotten 100% out of the roster he had (I’d say maybe 80% pointwise). What I disagree with (and I am sure we are on the same page) is assigning all the blame to one guy. I know it makes for simple and therefore persuasive argument. But you cannot blame Oates for everything that goes wrong and only credit Ovie for what goes well. Keep in mind that I know you do personally see a bigger picture.

    If Caps are at the mercy of #8’s shooting percentage (and it appears they are), then they are Buffalo Sabres + Ovechkin. I don’t think it matters who is the coach when the team is so poorly constructed. I care to some extent about how Caps perform in next five years, and I prefer adequate roster improvement combined with a vision of team identity to just firing the head coach.

  • Bugs Fire

    Not quite what? I am using point percentage, now win percentage – clearly stated in the original post. I expect win % to be a better predictor of playoff success, but it is abundantly clear right now that when it comes to Capitals talking about playoff success is wishful thinking.

  • Bugs Fire

    I am conflicted on this. On one hand, it’s nice to have someone other than this team’s scoring leader to be able to respond physically when needed. On the other hand, Caps could have been a better team this year if certain players from other teams tried harder to prevent injuries and Grabo, Green and Hillen had a season free of concussions and broken legs.