Jared Silber122015

Photo: Jared Silber

The Capitals don’t lose very much — they’ve fallen in regulation just six times this season. One of those losses, a 5-2 defeat, came November 3 at Madison Square Garden to the New York Rangers, a division rival. Though the Capitals outshot New York 34-22, some players weren’t happy with the way they played, as Washington was doomed by odd-man breaks against.

“I thought that was one of our worst games of the year,” Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who took the loss in the game, said Saturday. “We let their strengths overpower ours in that game. They got a lot of off the rush chances, which is what they thrive on.”

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Hockey is becoming increasingly less violent. Head shots are punished, fighting is going extinct, and speed and skill are becoming paramount. Nevertheless, there’s still a place for a good open-ice hit, like the one Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen delivered on JT Brown in the third period of Friday’s grand comeback. The Lightning took exception to the hit, which knocked Brown’s helmet off. The testy nature led to a Capitals power power that tied the game, completing the rally.

“That happens a lot now nowadays unfortunately,” Niskanen said of Tampa’s reaction. “Everyone everywhere says they want good clean checks, but then they want you to answer for it. It’s understandable. We do it too. We get riled up if someone gets hit pretty hard. But it’s a hockey game.”

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Jacquelyn Martin121915

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin

With the Capitals down 3-0 midway through Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz made a goalie change. He pulled star netminder Braden Holtby, the league’s leader in wins and goals against average, replacing him with backup Philipp Grubauer. Holtby slammed his stick on the bench before ripping off his mask off and kicking it down the tunnel to the locker room. No longer in control, Holtby was too agitated to sit down, watching play unfold with his hands on his hips for several minutes. It was the first time Holtby has been pulled all year.

“We’ve got so used to Braden being so strong for us that we tend to be a little loose sometimes,” Trotz told me Saturday morning. “He’s been erasing our mistakes. I was making a statement: enough’s enough. He’s been our MVP from game one on. Why are we doing this to him?”

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Call it a Comeback: Caps Beat Bolts 5-3


Photo: Patrick McDermott

The Tampa Bay Lightning dropped by Verizon Center for the final game of the season between these former division foes. In honor of this year’s omnibus, the stuff happening process was stalled until the very end of first session, with just two shots in the game’s first 10 minutes. Tampa got on the board first on a weird goal by Alex Killorn after Braden Holtby ended up somewhere in Delaware. The Caps pressed near the end of the frame, with Alex Ovechkin launching shot after shot to no avail.

In the second, Andrej Sustr, which is not a drunk text, got on the board for the first time in 106 games with a laser of a shot from the far circle. Steven Stamkos added another bullet from the slot just over two minutes later, sending Braden Holtby to Sasstown.

The Capitals rallied after Philipp Grubauer entered the game in relief with TJ Oshie putting the Caps within one with an unassisted tally just with just over 12 minutes left. Alex Ovechkin then scored again, which made lots of people happy. Marcus Johansson then made lots of people extremely happy. Oshie added an ENG. Five unanswered goals. Perhaps the wildest win of the year. Sublime. Caps beat Bolts 5-3!

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Photo: Patrick Smith

Tom Wilson has a reputation for hitting hard, and not always cleanly. Late in Wednesday’s game against the Senators, Wilson checked Ottawa forward Curtis Lazar. The hit looked vicious, with Lazar’s head whipping sideways as he fell to the ice. Wilson was given a 10 minute misconduct and a match penalty for intent to injure. The latter would have resulted in an automatic one-game suspension. Wilson insisted after the game that he made a legal hip check to remove a player from the puck, which is clear when looking at the slow motion replay of the hit.

“I understand that I’m kind of under the microscope,” Wilson said yesterday according to Katie Brown of NHL.com. “The game as a whole is under the microscope right now.”

In this case, the microscope worked in Wilson’s favor. According to the CSN’s Chuck Gormley, Wilson’s 1o minute misconduct and match penalty will be scrubbed by the NHL, allowing the 21-year-old bruiser to play Friday night at Verizon Center. The Capitals were expecting the league to make this move.

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Bank Shots, Blood, and Onions: Caps Beat Bolts 2-1


Photo: Scott Audette

Tampa is an unrated city. It’s full of strip clubs and personal injury lawyers. The beaches are only 45 minutes away. There’s a nice apartment complex across the channel from Amalie Arena. On Saturday, the Washington Capitals took to those glorious environs looking to bounce back from their terrible game against the Panthers to the southeast.

The game got off to an auspicious start when Jay Beagle took a puck off the face and then flipped it off Ben Bishop’s back to put Washington up 1-0. The Caps then sucked for 10 minutes and had some terrible power plays, but they survived with the lead.

In the second, Evgeny Kuznetsov dropped a Chanukah miracle, once again exploiting Big Ben’s lack of 360 degree vision.

The final frame was blahhhh. I originally had the blah in there as a placeholder for whatever actually happened, but it aptly describes Washington’s third period. Blahhhhhhh. Braden Holtby is good, though, so the Caps won. Caps beat Bolts 2-1.

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Meh: Cats Beat Caps 4-1


Photo: Wilfredo Lee

The Caps headed down to Sunrise on Thursday with their dads in attendance. Washington showed they learned well from their mentors by doing what old people normally do in Florida: nothing.

The game got off to a weird not-start, with puck drop being delayed nearly 20 minutes due to a lack of EMS folks in the area. When it finally got going, ya boy Jaromir Jagr put the Panthers on the board in the opening minute with a glorious deflection past Philipp Grubauer.

While the Caps offense lay dormant, Washington kept gifting Florida power play. On their fourth man advantage in under 30 minutes, the Panthers converted as Brandon Pirri unleashed a ballistic slap shot from the near circle.

Aaron Ekblad, Alex Ovechkin, and Logan Shaw added tallies in the third, but everyone had stopped caring at that point. Cats beat Caps 4-1.

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On Monday morning, Nate Schmidt sat down with a sigh in his stall in the locker room at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. After having an off day on Sunday, Washington had just concluded a hard, training camp-style practice. Schmidt, though, claimed he had other reasons for being zapped.

“I usually get my energy from being outside and it’s been raining,” he told Katie Brown of NHL.com.

Schmidt is a fun guy and a great hockey player. He’s also American, which means unlike most Capitals players he celebrates our annual feast. Last Thursday, he visited some extended family in Virginia. There, Schmidt had a “double dinner” at two and seven, taking “an absolutely comatose nap” in between.

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Photo: @WashCaps

Braden Holtby is having perhaps the best season of his career. He leads the league in wins (15) and goals against average (1.95). With Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Toronto, Holtby continued to rock out, earning a career-best seventh consecutive win. Today, he was honored by the NHL as their second star of the week. Stud.

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Photo: Graig Abel

At the end of this season, Jason Chimera will be 37. Nevertheless, the bottom-sixer known for his hands of stone is undergoing a revival. On November 11 against Philadelphia, Chimera scored two power play goals, his first game on the man advantage this season. In his nine games on the power play, Chimera has six points.

“Just a fine wine,” Chimera said, comparing himself to another high quality aged product. “Like French Oak or the new stuff, the steel cask maybe.”

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