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When the Caps traded Filip Forsberg to Nashville Predators, a divided fanbase described the return as “Martin Erat and some other guy”. That other guy, Michael Latta, is more than just an add-in for the deal.

At 21 years of age, Latta, who played for Nashville’s AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, is nearing his NHL debut. Despite his relatively small stature (6-foot, 215 pounds), he hits hard and can drop the gloves. Latta is an agitator, which was one reason why the Caps drafted Tom Wilson last year while talented players like Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Collberg, and Mark Jankowski were still available.
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Photo credit: Greg Fiume

The Washington Capitals’ most valuable player is probably Braden Holtby. After a rough start, Holtby has improved to a solid 91.5% save percentage and recorded four shutouts. That success has been a big part of the Caps’ turnaround in the standings, but it has also given short shrift to Michal Neuvirth, whose future with the Capitals has become murky.

Neuvirth has started just 9 games this season. Coach Adam Oates has consistently turned to Holtby’s hot hand (despite how nebulous that myth is) whenever he had the option. Neuvirth has missed his recent opportunities to start due to illness and then general wooziness following a shot to his mask at practice last week. With Neuvirth playing his worst in a contract year at the same time Holtby is locking down the #1 goalie slot, no wonder there’s chatter about Neuvirth getting courted by the KHL.

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‘Absoutley Pathetic’: My Night on SportsYapper

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As Tuesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes got started, I opened up the SportsYapper app on my iPhone. That was my first mistake.

Bombarded by all the commercials and promotions on Comcast SportsNet, I had already downloaded the app but had never been inclined to use it. It seemed like Twitter, just stupider. Maligned by the media and by us, SportsYapper is like the Columbus Blue Jackets of social media. And after a few hours on the service, I can report that I learned nothing. It is exactly what we thought: Twitter, just stupider.

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George McPhee is Wrong About a Lot of Things

Photo credit: Bridget Samuels

In speaking to the press last Friday, George McPhee talked about about pretty much everything there is to talk about: his plans for the trade deadline, the Capitals’ outlook for future success, and what in particular has been the team’s problem this year.

And he was wrong about pretty much everything. McPhee either doesn’t recognize how bad his team is or he refuses to acknowledge it publicly.

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Wojtek Wolski is Kind of Getting Screwed

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Photo credit: Clyde Caplan

With Eric Fehr sidelined due to an upper-body-but-definitely-not-shoulder injury, Wojtek Wolski made his return to active duty in Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Islanders. For Wolski, who had been scratched since March 12th, it should have been an opportunity to re-establish himself as a contributing member of the Capitals squad.

That didn’t happen. Wolski made no impression of any kind– probably because he got under 7 minutes of ice. That’s not a lot for Washington’s second best possession forward. So what gives?

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Photo credit: Justin K. Aller

Players get older; they slow down. Elite goal scorers drop off as they enter their late twenties. It’s time to realize this has happened to Alex Ovechkin. He may have the same name as the guy who scored 65 goals five years ago, but he is far from the same player. And it’s not his fault.

Nine of Ovechkin’s 15 goals have come off the same shot from the same spot: a one-timer from the circles. Seven of those have been on the power play. More remarkably, Ovechkin has not held the puck for more than a second on any of his goals this season save for one. He no longer scores on the rush.

The Washington Capitals invested $123 million dollars in Alex Ovechkin. They cannot have him not score. If he isn’t scoring the way he used to, they will adjust the game plan for him. That’s exactly what first year head coach Adam Oates has done. The new power play he instituted is designed to get Ovechkin the puck at any costs — and it works brilliantly. Ten of his 15 tallies this year (2/3) have come on the power play, the highest ratio of power play to even-strength goals of any player with more than 10 markers. He leads the NHL in man advantage goals.

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2012 2013 Division Standings Standings   NHL.com   Standings

Here we stand. The Washington Capitals have 29 points in the standings, good for 10th place in the East. They are three points out of 8th place, although the teams tied at 32 have played one less game. Winnipeg still leads the Southeast Division, although they’ve played two more games than Carolina, who are just two points behind.

The Caps have 17 games left this season — just 5 games until the April 3rd trade deadline. Before then, they’ve got to figure out if they are a playoff team or not. The stakes are high.

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Kevin Dineen needed more than a timeout tonight. (GIF by welshhockeyfan)

The Florida Panthers opened tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals with four straight shots on Braden Holtby in the first 1:44 of game action. They looked sharp. They looked ready to get out of the Southeast division cellar. The wheels fell off 24 seconds later.

As John Erskine wound up from the Panthers’ blue line — in what he would later admit was just a dump-and-change — Florida’s starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom mis-judged Erskine’s blast and allowed the puck to squeak through his seven-hole. 1-0 Caps.

2:36 later, the Capitals would score on their very next shot, as Markstrom was caught off guard by Wojtek Wolski‘s strong net crash. Enter Scott Clemmensen.

Clemmensen gave up two more goals — one to John Carlson and another to Mike Ribeiro — in the next six shots. The Capitals received a standing ovation and headed into intermission with a 4-0 lead, their biggest goal explosion this season.

“I don’t know what to say,” Markstrom told reporters after the game. “It was terrible. I feel like I let the team down. I am there to stop pucks, and I didn’t do that tonight.”

The Capitals beat the Panthers 7-1.

Now enjoy fun facts from the first period –plus video of all  four goals.

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Capitals vs Devils in Nine Beagles

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Capitals vs Devils on Thursday did not go well. Chris Gordon did his best to delight you while holding the RMNB reins, but nothing could salvage a very bad night for the home team.

Except maybe this.

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Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

A few weeks ago I published a piece explaining why I wasn’t freaking out the Capitals. My point was that bad luck had been quashing good possession numbers, a trend that I predicted would soon reverse. That did not happen.

The Caps have just two wins through eleven games, making them the worst team in the league. During media time on Friday, General Manager George McPhee primarily blamed that record on bad goaltending and undisciplined, “selfish” penalties. CSN’s Alan May agrees.

I admitted on Thursday night that I was baffled by why the Caps were losing, so I thought we could use this time to figure out what exactly isn’t working. Because I’m pretty sure it’s not the penalties.

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