Last Tuesday, Canada played the Czech Republic in National Junior Team Development Camp in Montreal. Because the Washington Capitals had two top picks from the 2014 draft, forward Jakub Vrana and goaltender Vitek Vanecek, playing, I recorded the game to take a closer look.
Vanecek allowed six goals on 37 shots in Canada’s 6-2 victory. With so much rubber going his way, the 18-year-old Czech had more than enough chances to display his strengths and weaknesses.
The Washington Capitals had one of the best power plays in the league last season. They scored 68 goals on 278 opportunities for a 23.4 percent conversion rate, just behind Pittsburgh. They fired 85.8 unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes on the PP, just behind San Jose. The Caps power play was deadly, but it was not perfect.
The Caps allowed ten shorthanded goals, the fourth highest total in the league. Alex Ovechkin, who played 93.2 percent of the Caps power play, fittingly, was on ice for 9 of those 10– sending his plus-minus, which is dumb and so is your face, down even further.
When we talk about things we want for the 2014-15 Capitals, ‘continued success on the power play’ is always part of it. But the Capitals should also look into what went wrong while playing a man up. Because it’s summer, and because I was worried that story about optimism might have made you unacceptably chipper, here’s a dour collection of 2013-14’s shorthanded goals and an assessment of who was to blame for each. Let’s party.
Social media is a wild and wacky world; one that we as a society don’t fully understand. I deal with this a lot in my day job. Stuff is just not clear. Twitter’s “favorites” feature in particular is kinda poorly designed. It means different things to different people, and the feature is not nearly as private as the name suggests.
But the point I really want to make is this: Alex Ovechkin has favorited just one tweet, and it was his own.
After spending most of 2013-14 with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, Capitals’ center prospect Michael Latta is now poised to gain a full-time roster spot in Washington next season. Acquired at the 2013 trade deadline in the infamous Forsberg-Erat trade, Latta had one goal and four points in 17 NHL games last season but left a good impression, winning 52.2% of his face-offs and playing an effective, physical game on the fourth line. Latta was one of the team’s best players at drawing penalties, leading the team in penalty differential.
The Washington Capitals were aggressive on the first day of free agency, adding three players to their roster: Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, and Justin Peters. Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog that the Caps “added offense, versatility, and experience in Niskanen and signed a shutdown D-man in Orpik.”
He also added, “priority No. 1 was to upgrade our defense, and we made significant strides today.”
I agree. The Capitals will dress better defenders next season. The team’s defense in 2013-14 lacked a true top pairing and the third pairing hemorrhaged shots on net all year, no matter who was put on the ice. The Caps were either going to have to be aggressive via trades or free agency, or they’d have to wait a few seasons for prospects to mature (Nate Schmidt, Patrick Wey, and Connor Carrick).
Caps GM Brian MacLellan decided to go the UFA route. Despite spending a ton of cash (nearly $70 million) and landing perhaps the best defenseman on the market, the mainstream hockey media filleted MacLellan for his moves.
Christian Ehrhoff’s buyout makes him the best defenseman available. (Photo: Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
The Caps didn’t acquire any NHL players at the draft, so they now look to fill empty roster spots in free agency, which begins at noon.
The team’s primary need is a top-four defenseman who can play with Karl Alzner, Mike Green, and John Carlson. Dmitry Orlov did an okay job at that role last season, but the Caps may want to see a more seasoned player there, especially if playing away from Mike Green might mean Orlov could better utilize his offensive tools.
Here’s my take on four options for defense on the open market.
Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana slid during their draft years but got selected in the first round by the Caps (Photos: Getty Images)
Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana have a lot in common. Both are high-octane offensive wingers who made names for themselves by putting the puck in the net. And both were drafted out of Sweden after impressive showings at the U18 World Championships.
But they have one more thing in common: both saw their stock drop significantly during their draft years after struggling to adapt to the professional game in Sweden.
I’ve never played golf before, but I’m pretty sure I know a terrible golf swing when I see one. On Friday night, Washington Capitals defenseman Connor Carrick went to a Chicago golf course with some friends and– this is just an educated guess— played golf for the very first time.
Happy Gilmore was a natural in his transition from hockey to golf (putting aside). Carrick, not so much.
Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby is going to win the Hart trophy at the end of the season. Not only was Sid the only guy to score 100 points this year, he is also a good defensive player too. That’s why on Friday night against the New York Rangers, I was surprised to see Crosby completely give up on a play in the defensive zone.