On December 6, 2008, Karl Alzner, a 20-year-old old defenseman one year removed from the WHL, scored his first NHL goal in a game in Toronto. Alzner had been picked fifth overall a year earlier by the Washington Capitals, ahead of current offensive stars like Logan Couture and PK Subban. Goals, though, have never been part of Alzner’s game. He is a pure shutdown defenseman. If Alzner hits the back of the net, it’s usually an accident. In the five years and one day since that goal, Alzner has added just four more tallies to his stat sheet.
On Saturday night against the Nashville Predators, Alzner scored his sixth career goal, a booming slap shot from the point that got through traffic and past goalie Marek Mazanec. It was his first goal ever at Verizon Center too, after six years and 148 games.
“Thank you, Hockey Gods.” (Photo credit: Alex Brandon)
Through 24 games this year, Mike Green had yet to find the back of the net. Though playing on the Capitals’ high-flying power play, Greenie was in one of the longest goal scoring droughts of his career. In fact, his 62 shots on goal were the most from any player without a marker. Late in Washington’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, however, the former 30 goal scorer finally lit the red light.
“I wish it was on a different night, but yeah,” Green said when asked if he was relieved. “Hopefully the flood gates open up.”
Fehr scores on Friday. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
Eric Fehr has rarely had an easy season in the NHL. Under Bruce Boudreau, the former 18th overall pick was often under-utilized, banished to the bottom-six or the press box. Late in his first stint with the Washington Capitals in 2011, Fehr suffered a serious shoulder injury, a problem that plagued him for nearly two years. Because of that, he struggled in his only season with his hometown Winnipeg Jets after being traded from Washington. Looking for a job after the NHL lockout, Caps general manager George McPhee decided to take another chance on Fehsie. The 28-year-old, for the most part, succeeded, notching 17 points in the shortened season.
Rather than settle in with a nice role on second or third line, however, Fehr was asked to try something he’s never done before: play center. He spent much of October at pivot, registering just one goal. The shift, Fehr admitted, was difficult. Playing in the middle requires you to be much more aware, along with increased defensive responsibilities and not having a set position on the ice. Fehr’s struggles were understandable. Playing center for the first time in not something you can adjust to in a few preseason games. After the experiment Fehr then spent two games on the first line in early November after Alex Ovechkin went down with an upper-body injury. He did well in that spot, picking up a few points that week.
“It’s a very unique season for me,” Fehr told me Friday night. “I knew coming there was a good chance I was going to play center, but it’s been a little bit different.”
Inexplicably, head coach Adam Oates then scratched him for the next nine games. He was allowed back in the lineup only when another player in the coach’s doghouse, Martin Erat, got sent to the press box after he requested a trade.
“He was ready to get back in and he’s provided a spark for us,” the coach said of Fehr. “He’s played good.”
On November 29, 2013, In Interview, By Chris Gordon
Al Koken shows off Fehr’s sticks during the Wednesday’s CSN broadcast.
Eric Fehr has bounced around the lineup a lot this season, all the way from the first line to the press box. Another thing undergoing constant shuffling: his stick.
“I’m still looking around, still looking for the one that’s gonna work for me,” he told me Wednesday. “I’ve been working on a few things.”
What’s curious, though, is the specific stick Fehr settled on: when he scored his first goal since October 10 on Wednesday, the 28-year-old was using Steve Oleksy‘s stick. A power forward and a stay-at-home defenseman don’t have much in common, of course, but Fehr liked Oleksy’ stick after a cursory test of his teammates’ weapons.
Wednesday night, the Washington Capitals were awful. Though they started the game well, the contest took a biblical turn for the worst as the Ottawa Senators outshot the Caps 19-3. Yeah, 19-3. Meanwhile the team also took six penalties — most of them bad — and allowed three man-advantage goals. After Saturday’s game in Toronto, Adam Oates was encouraged with his team’s performance. After tonight’s, he was livid.
“We played a solid game in Toronto,” he told reporters after the game. ”We played lousy tonight. Lousy. Not good decisions. We get a lead and we still don’t do the right things.”
Oates didn’t like any aspects of the team’s performance. Though they got out to an early lead, Oates said he didn’t think his team played well at any point against the Sens. There was poor goaltending, stupid penalties, and bad passes. Nothing went right for the Caps after the first 20 minutes.
“We’re not gonna win games playing this way — we’re not,” said Oates. “We just proved it.”
Oates’s mood was not helped by a nonsensical question about puck possession towards the end. Well, at least that’s what I think it was about. He told the reporter not to try to ask that again. Oh my!
“If guys don’t know we let one get away, shame on them,” he concluded. “Shame on them. I’m gonna tell ‘em.”
Below, take a look at video of the evening tongue lashing.
Coming into training camp, Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov was looking forward to his third full season of hockey in North America. A couple of months into the season though, his hopes and expectations remain unfulfilled, as Orlov started the season in Hershey, then lost some time battling an eye infection, and then spent the rest of the time alternating between a healthy scratch with the Caps and an occasional game or two with the Bears. While there had been speculation regarding the reasons behind Dima’s numerous short-term assignments to Hershey followed by gameless call-ups to the Capitals, last night, The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera’s finally shone light on this mystery – a special clause in Orlov’s contract allows him to sign a deal in the KHL if he is not on NHL roster for at least 30 days this season by January 1st.
Just a couple of hours before the Capitals announced that Orlov was returned to Hershey for the fifth time this season, we caught up with Dima after the Caps’ morning practice and talked about the situation and how he is handling it.
The Washington Capitals have a glaring hole: they are terrible in the first period. The team is being outscored 24-15 in opening frames, one of the worst differentials in the league. Friday night, it happened again: the Montreal Canadiens took a 3-0 lead less than 14 minutes into the game.
The Caps know this is a problem too. It’s existed all year and you’d have to be stupid to miss it. Most troubling, though, is the lack of answers the players seem to have for the issue. They know it’s there, they just can’t stop it.
“Maybe we need some better music or something,” Troy Brouwer quipped. “I don’t know. We gotta find a way. We gotta find it fast.”
Troy Brouwer has struggled this year. Despite his five tallies he has posted team-worst possession numbers along with linemate Brooks Laich. The 28-year-old has scored just one goal at even-strength. Friday night, Brouwer tried to contribute in other ways. Namely, punching people in the face.
It started when Brouwer ran Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov in the near corner. Though the hit was clean, T-Brow skated a long way to make the check. Flashy defenseman P.K. Stubban, apparently, didn’t like that. The goal-scoring d-man shoved Brouwer before asking him to drop the gloves. Troy obliged.
“I just came in and finished my check,” Brouwer told me. “He wasn’t happy with it.”
Braden Holtby and Alzner celebrate a shootout victory. (Photo credit: Jonathan Kozub)
When Mathieu Perreault was traded to the Anaheim Ducks, the Caps lost more than a talented forward. Perreault was the terrier puppy of the Washington Capitals: small, frantic, usually bouncing with joy. His post-game celebrations became A Thing. But Perreault wasn’t the one who came up with the idea. It was his buddy Karl Alzner, who was inspired by YouTube videos of Seton Hall basketball player Peter Dill. Though they both made up elaborate rituals, it was Perreault who got all the attention. So, after a while, Karl stopped trying.
“I was like ‘Man, that’d be awesome if we did that!’” the mustachioed defenseman told me Wednesday. “I said, ‘Perry, you gotta watch this! It’d be awesome if we did this after a win’” Next game, it went to a shootout. He did it, I did it, and his got a ton of attention.”
This year, though, Perreault is gone and the Capitals have won a spade of games in the shootout. Therefore, it’s been up Alzner to carry the torch. His repertoire is more advanced than Perreault’s, with Alzner featuring distinct celebrations this year: Bow and Arrow, Thor’s Hammer, and the Hulk Hogan.
Joel Ward has had a couple of hot streaks in his career. In fact, he’s making $3 million a year partially because of one (13 points in 12 games) during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Nashville Predators. Despite his playoff success, Ward’s recent regular season results have been unimpressive. In his first year with the Caps, we scored just six goals in 73 games. Last year, in a lockout shortened season, he had eight. Eighteen games into the 2013-14 campaign, he’s matched that total.
“When he came here obviously he had a great playoff for Nashville,” head coach Adam Oates said after the game. “When we’ve talked, him and I, I expect him to play now like he does in the playoffs, every night. Now, that’s a playoff game. We need these points.”