The Washington Capitals have been searching for goals this season. Instead of being powered by a high-flying offense, the Caps’ defense, which allows the fourth-fewest goals against per game, has led them to a 13-6-2 record. On Thursday, Washington will deploy its latest effort to energize their attack when Jakub Vrana, their 20-year-old 2014 first-round pick, takes to the ice against the New York Islanders in his NHL debut.
“I was napping after practice so I got a wake up call,” Vrana told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Thursday morning, explaining how he learned the news. “I’m very pumped.”
“I missed the call a few times,” Vrana finally admitted with a smirk.
The Washington Capitals were dominated in every facet of the game Saturday night, losing to the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2. The Caps have played three games over the last four nights, but starting goaltender Braden Holtby was not interested in any excuses after the game.
“We were completely embarrassed by a young team,” Holtby said to the media. “I think we need to get to work in practice. Get in better shape. Get working harder. Realize it’s not easy just because we had success last year.”
2016 first-overall pick Auston Matthews turned some heads during his first NHL game this season. The 19-year-old Leafs forward scored four goals – the most ever in a NHL debut.
Ten years earlier, Matthews was present himself for another head-turning hockey moment – this time involving Alex Ovechkin when he was a rookie.
One of the reasons for the Capitals’ success over the last decade is the deep organizational depth they have. Under Ross Mahoney’s lead, the team has consistently drafted well, especially late in drafts. 2014 fifth-round-pick Shane Gersich appears to be another one of those late-round gems.
Last week, the sophomore forward went viral on social media and landed on SportsCenter after scoring a ridiculous spin-o-rama goal against Denver University. Gersich won a National Championship during his freshman season with the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks last year.
The 20-year-old forward currently leads UND in both points (17) and goals (9) in 12 games. Last week, I spoke to Gersich and asked about his sensational goal and how he thought up of the idea. I also asked Gersich about his family’s famous hockey lineage and what former North Dakota players and current Capitals Taylor Chorney and TJ Oshie said in their visit three weeks ago.
There’s no goaltending controversy in Washington, but Tuesday night in Columbus, backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer will receive a second-straight start. Reigning Vezina trophy-winner Braden Holtby will sit again.
Barry Trotz explained why while speaking to the press after the team’s morning skate Tuesday. Trotz came to the decision, in part, out of genuine concern for his young goaltender, whom he felt was hung out to dry by his Capitals teammates against the Carolina Hurricanes.
I know you don’t want me to mention it, but after coming off a horrendous loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Caps practiced with a bit of a line shakeup. The shakeup includes the return of top line Jay Beagle.
Beagle took time after practice this morning to speak with the media and voice what he thinks this shake up means and also talk about what he has been working on over the summer to improve his game.
Beagle mentioned that he focused on trying to keep his hands light to create more scoring opportunities. Beagle told the media, “probably four or five years ago, I started doing some stuff that I had never done before in the summer. Just working on individual things. In the summer, when you start skating it’s usually with a group, so I just started doing my own individual stuff as well as the group skating in Calgary.”
Beagle has also noticed that the opportunities that he has created for scoring have been because of bounces. “A lot of it is bounces, I’ve had a lot of good bounces this year. You just have to keep working and I’ve had starts like this where I felt like I should have had a start points-wise like this but they just didn’t go in or they just didn’t happen.”
The full transcription of Beagle’s interview is below.
After a solid start to the season, the Washington Capitals lost their second straight game in regulation on Wednesday night. It was the first time that had happened in 19 months. On Saturday night, they hope to get back on track as the opening month of the NHL season winds down when they face the Vancouver Canucks in the second part of Washington’s four game western Canadian road trip.
The Capitals and Canucks face similar problems: they started the year off well, but now they can’t score.
“We probably have to get a few more pucks on net and probably get a dirty goal rather than a pretty goal,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said Friday night. “We have to find a way.
Washington and Vancouver are tied for the second fewest goals in the NHL with 14.
On Wednesday night, the Washington Capitals lost their second straight game in regulation for the first time in 19 months. Hours earlier head coach Barry Trotz had dismissed Washington’s struggles as “small samples” that just gave the media “something to write about.” At the Capitals’ first practice since Washington’s 4-1 defeat to the Edmonton Oilers, Trotz gave the media plenty to write about all by himself, dramatically tweaking the forward lines.
“The coaching staff feels something fresh is going to happen,” new first line right wing Justin Williams said Tuesday in Vancouver, where the Capitals will play the Canucks Saturday night. “Obviously we need it. We’re not scoring enough goals, and that’s pretty evident, it’s clear.”
The last time the Washington Capitals lost two straight games in regulation was March 13, 2015. Curtis Glencross led the way for the Capitals with a first period goal in the team’s 4-2 defeat to the Dallas Stars.
Nineteen months later, the Capitals crashed back to earth after a season of tremendous success. On Wednesday night, the Caps fell 4-1 in Edmonton to Oilers after losing their previous matchup against New York 4-2. The team has now won three of its six games.
Last year, the Capitals had one of the best regular-season performances of all time, capturing the Presidents’ Trophy. Despite bringing back a nearly identical roster, the 2016-17 campaign has gotten off to a choppy start.
“We got to perform better,” defensemen Matt Niskanen said after Wednesday’s loss. “Guys need to do their jobs. It’s a little uncomfortable here tonight after the game.”
For years, the Edmonton Oilers were in the cellar of the standings, raking in high draft picks like fall leaves. Last offseason, the Oilers rebuilt their rebuild, trading away number one selections Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov while signing Milan Lucic to a seven-year contract. Connor McDavid, a generational talent with just 45 games of NHL experience, was given the C.
With the new captain, the youngest in NHL history, and a half billion dollar new arena, the Oilers have now won five of their first six games in the 2016-17 season, holding the top spot in the Western Conference and placing second in the NHL.
“It’ll interesting to see how they do this year because I think they have all the talent to be a much better team than they have been recently, with McDavid leading the way especially,” Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said Tuesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “It’ll be for sure a different Oilers team than it’s been the last couple years.”
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