Alex Ovechkin is stocky and swift. With one quick move, he can leave you bloody and terrified. Ovechkin is aggressive, never backing down from a fight, leaving people who come near him begging their don’t feel the brunt of his attack. But I’m taking about two different animals. One of them plays hockey for the Washington Capitals. The other is a dog.
Friday night on National Geographic Wild’s Cesar 911, hosted famed “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan, one of them was featured. It didn’t involve terrible Russian EDM, so I’m sorry to say it was Ovechkin the German Shepard, who sported an Ovi Winter Classic jersey in one of the pictures shown on the show.
Sometime next week, after 82 games and a Presidents’ Trophy, the Washington Capitals will host Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round. This year, Capitals have put together one of the best regular seasons in National Hockey League history. Players have set records and some are still chasing them.
But the only thing that really matters to this team and to this fanbase is winning a Stanley Cup, something the Capitals are trying to accomplish for the first time in their 41-year history. Despite all their regular season success, the Capitals will face a tough first round opponent in either the Boston Bruins or Philadelphia Flyers. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, four losses is all it takes to implode a season that began in September. And as they close out their schedule, the Caps have now lost three games in a row for the first time this season and four of their last five matchups.
“We’ve lost a couple games here. It starts to sink in more,” head coach Barry Trotz told reporters Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “I think it’s go time.”
It’s game 80 for the Washington Capitals this season. I cannot think of a more perfect time to go all Adam Oates and force new things down Caps fans’ throats. On our end, RMNB tried out a new in-game live blog, where you got to interact with Chris. But not me. I’m the actual Chris. His name is Chris From The Comments, because he doesn’t have the credentials to blow up the site at will. From the Caps, got some new lines and D-pairs from Barry Trotz, which might be the way the Capitals lineup looks when we start the playoffs. Braden Holtby was in net because you sure as hell know why Braden Holtby was in net. Pens had won 13 of 14. So let’s do this.
Well, on second thought, let’s not. Forty-four seconds into the game, the Capitals’ defense crumbled like a nomination before the Senate — except the Capitals were trying even less.
Early in the second, Matt Cullen scored yet another goal in the first minute of the period, His shorthanded goal seemingly crush the Caps’ hopes. Then the Caps killed a five-minute penalty (Tom Wilson, natch) only to surrender a five-hole goal to Connor Sheary on an odd-man rush soon after. Thank goodness for Marcus Johansson, who finally got the Caps on board late in the period.
In the third, Joe Hanson was money yet again, turning the rest of the third period into a grudge match against the league’s hottest team. Just over three minutes later, another perfect Swedish and adorable and awesome player named Andre Burakovsky CRASHED THE FREAKIN’ NET and tied the game. This is why you watch sports.
What happened later is why you never want to watch sports again. Sidney Crosby in the extra frame. Pens beat Caps 4-3 (OT).
Major League Baseball is in the throes of opening week and Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson was at a hockey game Thursday night. As a guest of CSN Mid-Atlantic and the Laughlin family, Robinson came to Verizon Center to see the latest iteration of the Capitals Penguins rivalry.
Nicknamed “The Human Vacuum Cleaner,” Robinson won 16 Gold Gloves and two world championships with the Baltimore Orioles. Robinson is considered one of the greatest third basemen in major league history. Former Capitals player Brooks Laich is named after the beloved Orioles infielder.
During the first intermission, I spoke with Robinson. Brooks explained his hockey fandom, what position he would play if he were a hockey player, and his thoughts on his historic Major League career.
Braden Holtby sat at the far end of the Capitals locker room for a few minutes, staring straight ahead. As reporters began to file in, Holtby walked out of the room to gather himself, returning about 10 minutes later. Earlier in the night, he held a 3-1 lead against the New York Islanders, just 13 minutes away from tying Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur for the most wins in a single season. With the Capitals possessing the best third period goal differential in the league and a significant shot advantage, Verizon Center roared as every save put him closer to the NHL record of 48 wins.
But in the final minutes, Holtby buckled, making an elementary miscue that ended up in the back of his net, putting the Islanders within one.
“I just, I made a mistake and it changed the momentum,” a dejected Holtby said of the play after the game. “It was just one of those plays I got caught between covering it and putting it in the corner, and when you’re in between decisions, it never ends up well.”
With the Colorado Avalanche fighting for the final spot in the West and the Washington Capitals trying to get Braden Holtby his 47th win of the season, Friday’s late season game took on a furious pace, full of end-to-end action. The energetic play took a scary turn about five minutes into the second period when Tom Wilson unleashed an explosive hit on Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
Friday night, the Capitals headed up to Newark. Absolutely nothing happened. Someone finally dented the twine when John Carlson, fresh off the injured list, unleashed a deadly slapped for the game-winner. Or so I’m told. I conked out in a clonidine-induced stupor with like four minutes left in the third. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to tangerine popsicles — thankfully wrapped — strewn around me as the Caps headed home with a 1-0 victory.
On Saturday night, however, the Capitals played an interesting hockey game. Unlike the Devils game, there were such pastimes as shots on goal — the Caps were the better team than the St. Louis Blues in the first too.
In the second, the Blues, in a fight with the Dallas Stars for the best record in the West, started to apply the heat on a team with little to play for. And guess what, the Caps allowed the first goal. Dmitry Orlov bumped the puck behind the puck after being pressured on the forecheck before Kyle Brodziak tapped a rebound into an empty net.
The second period carnage continued just from there when Colton Parayko beat Philipp Grubauer with a shot akin to a light breeze. One hundred seconds later Vladimir Tarasenko, now the NHL’s fourth leading goal scorer, made it a three goal game after Matt Niskanen left him unattended in the far circle.
YAWN. Somebody scored late in the third but I wasn’t paying attention. Blues blank Caps 4-0.
When Daniel Winnik got traded to the Washington Capitals late last month, we figured the grinding forward would get an offensive boost playing with DC’s high end talent. We just didn’t realize how easy they would make it for him.
With the Capitals trailing 1-0, Winnik jumped on the ice in the waning seconds of a Capitals power play. Braden Holtby and Evgeny Kuznetsov, however, weren’t quite done with their work on the man-advantage. Despite the seconds ticking down, Holtby fed Kuznetsov puck the puck in the Capitals’ zone off off a brilliant, high-flying breakout pass that easily found the Russian forward.
“That’s something we try to do in the past, usually at the end of the power play when you’re not worried about changing or anything like that,” Holtby said of the play. “You’re trying to get it into their zone at the end of the power play. You know Kuzy’s gonna make those reads. He read it well.”
Friday night, the Capitals were outscored in regulation for just the 13th time this season. I believe they call it a “loss.” Following the game, the Caps got in their blacked out AMG Mercedes and tore down Constitution Avenue on the way to Dulles with a date with the Boston Bruins on the horizon. Everything was in order as Washington began its longest road trip of the season, with the Capitals allowing the first goal for the 10th time in 12 games. The Caps would have been down 2-nil after 20, but Barry Trotz successfully challenged a goal by Torey Krug after the Bruins were offside.
In the second, the Capitals spent an inordinate amount of time on the PK, with eight of the 12 Bruins shots in the period coming on the man-advantage. Nevertheless, it was the Capitals who got on the board, when Karl Alzner crashed the net off an excellent feed from Nicklas Backstrom.
Washington dominated the third, outshooting the Bruins 10-4 in the frame, but the game headed to overtime.
Matt Niskanen unleashed the cannon. Caps beat Bruins 2-1 (OT)!