Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Starting out in the league, Marcus Johansson‘s reputation was for finesse and playmaking. Last season, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz asked him to shoot more. In turn, Johansson more than doubled his goal total from the previous year, cracking 20 goals for the first time in his career. Now it seems the 25-year-old Swede might have added another element to his game: his butt. In Washington’s 4-1 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday, Johansson’s presence in front of Carolina goalie Cam Ward led to two goals, including Nicklas Backstrom’s game winner.

“It’s part of scoring goals and getting goals for the team,” Johansson said Sunday. “Someone has to screen the goalie because they’re so good nowadays. You can’t just shoot and expect it to go in. If that’s what it takes to get goals, I’m happy to go there.”

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Backstrom’s Back Alright: Caps Top Canes 4-1


Photo credit: Nick Wass

Just past 7 pm, with multiple spotlights shining on him, a beautiful blonde Swede with terrible facial hair stepped on the ice at Verizon Center. Nicklas Backstrom, the 48th best player in the league according to The Hockey News, was back. He would waste no time making his presence felt. With the Capitals on the power play 15 minutes into the first period, which Washington dominated, Nicky set up TJ Oshie to open the scoring.

The Capitals continued control play through 40, but an inability to put the biscuit in the basket kept the Hurricanes in it.

But guess who added some insurance: none other than Nicklas Backstrom with a textbook half-wall, pinball, five-hole wrister. The Canes would get one back when Jeff Skinner beat Holtby on a three-on-two, but John Carlson sealed the deal on the power play. Alex Ovechkin added another, his third goal in three games. Caps top Canes 4-1!

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Photo credit: Rob Carr

After three long games, Nicklas Backstrom will return to the lineup after his hip surgery in late may. Last year’s NHL leader in assists will play on the second line alongside Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams. He was cleared for contact by his doctor on Monday.

“We actually decided this a couple of days ago,” Backstrom said Saturday. “I’ve been feeling good and no setbacks. I feel like I’ve been trying my best to get back as fast as possible with no rush. It’s been working out well. Hopefully, it’s gonna be a good one tonight.” Continue Reading


Photo: Geoff Burke

Early in the summer, the Caps revealed that Nicklas Backstrom had hip surgery. Despite leading the league in assists, it was an issue that plagued Backstrom all season long. Without the Swede, we assumed the Caps first line would struggle. Over the first two games, especially after Alex Ovechkin was scratched on Tuesday, the line couldn’t find its voice. However, against the Blackhawks, the trio of Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and TJ Oshie was an offensive force. Members of the line contributed two goals and five points on Thursday, leading the Caps to a 4-1 victory. Now head coach Barry Trotz may keep them together even after Backstrom returns.

“They’ve got some chemistry,” Trotz said after the game. “I think what happens with a line is it needs some time to talk things out. I think that there’s a mutual respect. I think that they’re just learning each other.”

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Back on Track: Caps Beat Hawks 4-1

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

The Capitals have had a tepid start to the season, with a lackluster home opener win against a terrible Devils team and a 5-0 massacre loss to the Sharks. To wake up the Capitals, head coach Barry Trotz shuffled the lineup by putting in two guys who shouldn’t be in the lineup. And it worked!

The Capitals dominated possession in the fast first period until Viktor Tikhonov took an interference penalty. That brought out the Capitals power play. There, TJ Oshie, the honorary Harlem Globetrotter and player with a fan club with a tragically oversized dinosaur head, scored his first goal with the Caps!

Early in the second, the Caps added some more when John Carlson, after collecting a pass from Stan Galiev whilst spinning like a dreidel, fired a prayer towards the net. The puck found its way past traffic before being caressed sweetly by the net.

In the third, Matt Niskanen added some insurance with little flip of the wrist from the point that beat Scott Darling. The Blackhawks got one back from Viktor Svedberg, who beat a screened Braden Holtby for his first career NHL goal. Meh. Late in the third, Alex Ovechkin made up for his oopsie on Monday with tip-in goal off pretty tac-toe from Evgeny Kuznetsov. A win! Caps beat Hawks 4-1!

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After rejoining his teammates on the ice at the end of last month, Nicklas Backstrom continues to progress in his recovery from offseason hip surgery. On Wednesday, he took part in a full practice for the first time this season after being cleared for contact by his doctor on Monday afternoon. His return appears to be on the horizon.

“It’s probably gonna be day-to-day,” head coach Barry Trotz said when asked what Backstrom’s status was. “Obviously when a guy gets cleared it falls into a shorter time period. It also depends on how he feels once we bump him around a little bit and check him up.”

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Photo: Patrick Smith

On Tuesday, Alex Ovechkin missed the morning skate and the game against the Sharks later that day. The team said it was for “personal reasons.” Now we know what those reasons were: he overslept practice and was benched by head coach Barry Trotz.

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Ovi-less Caps Get Demolished by Sharks 5-0


Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

With both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom out of the lineup for the first time in years and a mighty Sharks team crashing Verizon Center, it looked like the Caps might have a tough Tuesday. They did.

Just like Saturday, the first period did not go well for the Capitals, with the Sharks peppering Braden Holtby with shot after shot. The Caps got a few odd-man rushes, but nothing else. Joe Thornton converted on San Jose’s zone time with a tip in front of Holtby, putting the Sharks up 1-0 after one. The Caps were lucky it wasn’t worse.

But soon it was. Just two minutes and 36 seconds into the second, Mike Brown (no relation to Katie) popped in a rebound after Chris Tierney skated past a collection of Caps and crashed Braden’s crease. Less than five minutes later, Tomas Hertl made it 3-0 on another rebound put-back, set up by some nice forechecking.

Later in the period, we finally got some good news. Dmitry Orlov scored his first goal since March of last year. Alas, they’ve got this new-fangled coach’s challenge thing in the NHL now and Sharks coach Peter DeBoer used it. And then referee Tim Peel misused it. No goal. Nothing in the third, save for two empty netters. Pretty dumb game. Sharks blank Caps 5-0.

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Barry Trotz loves slogans and inspirational phrases. The locker room at Verizon Center is filled with them, including some that take up five lines. Last year’s team motto of “Feed the Right Wolf” didn’t quite get the Capitals pumped up enough to win a Stanley Cup. Refreshingly, though, Trotz didn’t seek massive changes after that loss. He knows the Capitals are a good team that could win a championship. That’s why this year’s slogan is “Stick to the Script,” a brainchild of Caps video coach Brett Leonhardt.

“For us to come in this year and say, ‘Okay, it didn’t work last year, we didn’t win the Stanley Cup, so let’s go in a different path,’ that’s absolutely the wrong thing,” Trotz told The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg. “I can see the horizon. I know where I’m going. And because I see the horizon and I didn’t get there last year, I’m going to turn left?”

To drill the idea into the players, Trotz had them watch a short video written by Leonhardt and narrated by former Capital Mike Knuble. On Saturday night before the season opener at Verizon Center, that video was revealed to roaring fans.

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They’re Back: Capitals Beat Devils 5-3


Photo credit: Patrick Smith

Greetings, fans! After five and a half months away, fishing, muddin’, and engagin’, the Washington Capitals returned to Verizon Center to start a new season with nervous anticipation.

The team laid out the red carpet carpet before the game, showcasing the team’s finest knit ties and undercuts. Afterwards, however, there was hockey to play. On ice. For real.

The Capitals got off to a slow start, going almost five minutes without a shot attempt early in the first period. Then Evgeny Kuznetsov hooked somebody. Uh oh. Naturally, Jason Chimera and Justin Williams immediately blew right past the Devils defense for a short-handed tick-tack-toe. Then, just two minutes and 28 seconds later, the unthinkable. Brooks Orpik, who missed all of the preseason with a wrist injury, scored. It was his first as a Capital and it came on a one-timer.

The Caps, though, like to disappear after they score. Maybe they go play with their ferrets. I don’t know. Something dumb probably. Anyway, because the Capitals played with their ferrets the Devils scored twice in under three minutes, first Adam Henrique and then Eric Gelinas. Then nothing happened for 25 minutes.

That was, until, Alex Ovechkin happened. The captain went end to end, blowing past John Moore before flipping a delicious, crisp and refreshing wrist shot top shelf on New Jersey netminder Keith Kinkaid. Marcus Johansson added another. Oh, and then Matt Niskanen got himself an empty netter. But wait, the Devils came back with one of their own. Shower of goals! Caps beat Devils 5-3!

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