NHL Postpones Sunday’s Penguins-Capitals Game

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Photo: Chris Gordon

Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins has been postponed due to a small weather event. This should come as no surprise.

When you woke up this morning, you may have noticed up to 18 inches of snow outside your door. When I stepped outside, there was a near whiteout with the trees swinging heavily in the wind. And there’s more coming. According to The Washington Post’s Capitol Weather Gang the snow won’t stop until early Sunday morning. By then 18 to 30 inches may be on the ground. Wind gusts are expected to reach 50 miles per hour. Roads are impassable, but that doesn’t matter because your car is buried in white fluff. The entire Metro Transit system has been shut down. All of the area’s airports — Dulles, National, and BWI — are closed, making it impossible for the Penguins to get here anyway. There was absolutely no way this game could have been played.

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Photo: Rob Carr

When the Capitals signed Mike Richards to a $1 million, one-year contract on January 6, Washington head coach Barry Trotz forecasted that the former Flyers and Kings forward would make his debut against the Anaheim Ducks on January 22 at Verizon Center. Richards hadn’t played since last April after having his contract voided by the Los Angeles Kings over the summer.

“There’s no assurances in anything, in life,” Trotz said at the time.

But after seeing Richards quickly get his legs under him and adapt to the Capitals’ system, Trotz had Richards debut almost a week earlier than planned when he skated on Washington’s fourth line on Saturday night in Buffalo.

“I probably went into this weekend thinking maybe in the seven-, eight-minute range,” Trotz said Sunday night, referring to Richards’s ice time. “Seven to eight minutes in the first game and seven to eight minutes in the second. Probably 10 at the high end.”

Despite a 4-1 Capitals loss, Richards was fantastic on Saturday, skating over 13 minutes, including a stellar three minutes spent penalty killing. One day later, Richards skated nearly 12 minutes against the New York Rangers. He spent another three minutes on Washington’s shorthanded unit, which was perfect in four opportunities.

“What you see is how competitive he is,” said Trotz. “You can skate all you want in practice, but when the game is happening there’s a fire inside that young man.”

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Happiness Depends on Ourselves: Caps Beat Rangers 5-2

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Photo: Rob Carr

Speaking about Saturday night’s 4-1 loss to the Sabres, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said the team “didn’t invest enough in the game.” That seems like a stupider way of talking about “compete level.” Nevertheless, the Capitals diversified their assets tonight! Or whatever. I’m a liberal arts major.

The Rangers got the jump early, outshooting the Caps 5-1 in the opening 10 minutes. Just past the halfway mark of the first period, Chris Kreider converted on that zone time, tipping a Ryan McDonagh shot from the point past a helpless Braden Holtby. Late in the period, however, the Caps vaunted power play got them back-in when Alex Ovechkin stepped out of his office to fire a wrist shot past Antti Raanta, making his first start in 11 games.

In the second, it was the power play again. This time Nicklas Backstrom fired a brilliant pass from the half wall to Marcus “Soft Serve” Johansson, who tapped-in the puck for the go-ahead tally. Washington added to their lead with a Taylor (!) Scorney, but the goal was later awarded to Justin Williams, who got a stick on the shot. Kreider put the Rangers back within one off a broken play in the slot, another one Holtby had little chance of stopping.

The final frame sealed DC’s win as J-Will added another tip-in tally before hitting the empty net (well, the Rangers helped) for his second career hat trick. Caps beat Rangers 5-2!

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Buffaloed: Sabres Beat Caps 4-1

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Sometimes you have one of those days. Sometimes you leave your backpack at Lindsey Graham’s office and then get the flu and have to have your mom pick it up three days later. Sometimes you get killed by the Buffalo Sabres. It happens.

Let’s go through the torture, because you know you want to.

Some lazy work in the offensive zone by the second line and the Schmidt-Orlov pair led to a wide open shot shot from the point and a rebound tally from fringe player Phil Varone. Exactly five and a half minutes later, Tim Schiller extended Buffalo’s lead after Orlov bumbled the puck like every conversation you try to have on Tinder.

In the second, Evander Kane added to Buffalo’s lead with a puck that trickled past Braden Holtby, leading to the mountain man’s premature exit. Cody Franson added a soft PPG later in the frame, but really who cares?

Marcus Johansson kept comeback hopes alive with a third period tally, but the Sabres squashed that pretty quickly. Sabres beat Caps 4-1.

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Alex Ovechkin Named NHL’s First Star of the Week

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Graphic via NHL

It’s Monday, which means it’s time for the NHL’s Stars of the Week. Braden Holtby, the best goalie in the league, is normally honored with these things. Not this week. Instead, the honor goes to Alex Ovechkin, who on was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week after scoring his 498th, 499th, 500th, and 501st goals in just over 24 hours. Ovechkin has done all of this in a league where scoring continues to go down. He now leads the league with 26 goals. It’s amazing.

“To get 500 in this league with how everybody playing, the goalies, it’s pretty cool,” Ovechkin said after the game Sunday.

Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek and Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie were the runners-up.

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Photo: Jacquelyn Martin

Alex Ovechkin had a milestone night on Sunday in front of a home crowd and his friends and family. Ovechkin struck twice in Washington’s 7-1 trouncing of the Ottawa Senators, recording career goals 500 and 501 in thrilling fashion. The drama was not lost on Ovechkin, his teammates, or his head coach. Here’s some of what they said after the game.

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Photo: Jacquelyn Martin

On the 27th Capitals shot of the game, Alex Ovechkin fired a puck from the far circle on the power play. At 30, Ovechkin became the fifth-fastest player to reach 500 goals in National Hockey League history. His teammates poured over the bench in recognition of the greatest player in Washington’s 41 year history. The game, and the league, stopped to take notice. The Senators filed off the ice to one of the loudest ovations in Verizon Center history as Ovechkin raised his arms in triumph. In the third, Ovechkin became the league leader in goals with his 26th score of the season and the 501st of his career.

Some other stuff happened in the game that I will now talk about.

The Caps dominated the game at the drop, striking first eight minutes into the game after Andre Burakovsky, who is good again, set up Justin Williams for his second goal is as many games. Less than three minutes later TJ Oshie extended the lead to two with a PPG. The Caps coasted after that, twice going on the penalty kill, but survived unscathed.

In the second, Ottawa got on the board after a colossal offensive zone screw up by the second line led to Mike Hoffman’s 20th goal of the season on a two-on-one.

Zach Sill, Washington’s actual third line center, was able to put the Sens back on their heels after Ottawa’s netminder Andrew Hammond whiffed on a pop-up in front. Dmitry Orlov made it 4-1 114 seconds later with a rocket from the far circle.

Tom Wilson added another, bookended by Ovechkin two historic tallies. Caps beat Sens 7-1!

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Forever Keep Rising: Caps Beat Bruins 3-2

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Photo: Maddie Meyer

The Caps headed up to Boston to face the Bruins Tuesday. With the Capitals having lost two games in a row and the Bruins coming off a 5-1 defeat in the Winter Classic for their fourth loss in five games, both teams were looking for a win. As if they don’t normally try to win. Tonight, they really tried to win. Super hard.

The Capitals opened the scoring when Evengy Kuznetsov, who is not playing in Russia anymore, skated circles around the Boston defense before Andre Burakovsky, recently promoted to the second line, unleashed a glorious shot for the goal.

After some tomfoolery, Kuznetsov added to the Capitals’ lead as he zig-zagged through the Bruins zone before beating Tuukka Rask.

Boston got one back when Brett Connolly threaded the needle with a fantastic cross-ice pass to Loui Eriksson for the marker.

Marcus Johansson regained the two goal lead with some net crashing action in the third, but Patrice Bergeron struck on the power play less than a minute later when his shot deflected off Justin Williams’s stick and past Holtby. The Caps held the Bruins there though. A new streak! Caps beat Bruins 3-2.

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Braden Holtby Named NHL’s Second Star for December

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Graphic via the Caps

Despite going undefeated in regulation last month, Braden Holtby was named merely the NHL’s second star for December. He finished runner up to Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau. Holtby posted a 9-0-1 record with one shutout, a 1.69 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage in 11 scintillating appearances.

Holtby is currently the hottest goaltender in the NHL. He has 24 wins, best in the league. His 1.92 goals against average is the lowest among goalies to play more than 15 games.

“He’s been our MVP from day one on,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said earlier this month.

December only added to Holtby’s sparkling numbers. The Holtbeast led the Capitals to a nine game winning streak. He has not lost a contest in regulation in 18 games, the longest such streak in the NHL in the last five years.

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Photo: Jamie Sabau

The Capitals made it nearly halfway through the 2015-16 NHL season without suffering back-to-back loses, winning nine straight games in December. But with Brooks Orpik, John Carlson, and Jay Beagle missing from the lineup, the Caps dropped two games in a row against two of the league’s worst teams. The games were close, with Brandon Saad scoring with just over a minute left to send Saturday’s game against Columbus to a shootout after the Capitals almost came back against Carolina on Thursday. Still, the loses are disappointing for a team that desperately wants to raise the Stanley Cup this year.

“It’s going to have to be better, it’s that simple,” goalie Braden Holtby, who took just his sixth loss of the season against Columbus, said.

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