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.
On October 13, 2015, In Game Recap, By Chris Gordon
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.
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.
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!
During the penultimate game of the Capitals preseason, the team unveiled an elaborate new skycam suspended from the rafters. The fan reaction was swift and mostly negative, largely from fans in the upper deck whose views were impacted by the moving camera and its cables. On Sunday night, Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsisacknowledged the criticism in a blog post.
Not visible: the player with the puck. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)
On Friday night, Verizon Center debuted its new “skycam,” the first such camera permanently installed at an NHL and NBA building. Now it appears the expensive device may not be so permanent. A CSN Washington spokesman told RMNB the camera will not be in place for the next Capitals home game. It received a deluge of criticism from fans.
“The product was being tested last night and is not scheduled to be used Sunday,” Brian Potter, the director of communications for the channel, said in an email. “It hasn’t yet been determined if it will be used further. Many factors will be considered, including feedback from fans.”
Save for Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom is the best player on the Washington Capitals – and it’s been that way for some time. Seeing him on crutches, then, after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery in late May was an unwelcome sight for Caps fans. On Wednesday, after four months of recovery, Backstrom practiced with his teammates for the first time since the operation — albeit in a non-contact jersey. Still, the star center who didn’t miss a game last season is likely to miss this year’s opener, though the a quicker return that some feared.
“There’s no timetable,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said when asked when Backstrom might get back into game action or lose the non-contact jersey. “Whenever he’s ready, he’s ready. I consider Nick a franchise player and you never put a franchise player at risk. When he’s ready, he’ll be ready. That will be determined by our medical staff, his doctor and more importantly, Nick himself.”
The Washington Capitals played in the final game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on April 27. The Caps lost that contest to the New York Islanders, but their Game 7 victory in Washington put an end to hockey at the Coliseum. It was a glorious moment. Six months later, the Islanders have left the brutalist circular abode behind, moving to the opulent Barclays Center in Brooklyn. After closing out the Coliseum, the Capitals got the chance to play one of the first games in the new place, beating the Isles 3-1 Monday night.
The differences between the two buildings are striking. While the old concrete blob featured notable amenities such as rat poop and a TV angle that seemed to be coming from St. Louis, the new barn has a bus elevator, which is a freaking elevator for buses.
“I’ve never been on a bus elevator,” Jay Beagle told RMNB. “At first we were kind of like, what’s going on here? And then we realized it was an elevator for a bus, so that was kind of cool.”
In July 2013, Andre Burakovsky, an 18-year-old Swede drafted earlier that year, joined the Capitals for the first time during the team’s annual development camp. Burakovsky, with his tenuous command of English and an unfamiliarity with peanut butter, was placed in the care of Tom Wilson to adjust to North America.
When Burakovsky made the Capitals roster full time at the end of last year, he went right back to Wilson, staying with the bruising Canadian forward and his roommate, center Michael Latta. While Wilson and Latta are inseparable, even during the offseason, they took time to take Burakovsky under their wing. The trio’s exploits provided continuous amusement to Caps fans with Twitter or Instagram accounts. That time, however, has come to an end.