On Tuesday, Washington Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer led the Capitals to a nail-biting 6-5 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs after replacing a shaky Braden Holtby in the first period. On Thursday, however, Grubauer never came to mind, as Holtby managed a brilliant shutout against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were going for an NHL record 17-straight wins in a single season. In fact, Grubauer wasn’t even on the bench most of the game.
“He was fine this morning, and then on his way here, he wasn’t feeling so good,” Caps head coach Barry Trotz said after the game. “We kept him in the back room. He was getting pumped full of fluids and stuff.”
On Tuesday night against the Washington Capitals, the Maple Leafs brought along around 30 dads, brothers, and father-in-laws for a highly-anticipated trip. This season, the Leafs, under second-year head coach Mike Babcock, have a “mandate” to create a more welcoming and supportive environment for their players.
“To have these dads along, I think this is how you treat people right,” Babcock said in an article by Chris Johnston of Sportsnet. “It gives you an opportunity to thank your dad for what he’s done.”
Tuesday night at Verizon Center, former Capitals defenseman Connor Carrick will be playing the second game in his former barn since being traded. While Carrick struggled at times during his stint in Washingon, he’s turning into a very dependable player for Toronto.
In 32 games this season, Carrick has scored only one goal and registered four points. But his possession tells a different story. The five-foot, eleven-inch defenseman has pushed play, ranking second on the team with a 53.99% score and venue adjusted Corsi. The only player he trails is Jake Gardiner.
After the team’s morning skate, Carrick spoke about his familiarity in Washington, as well as his longtime friendship with “big boy” Tom Wilson.
Early in the first period, Tom Wilson knocked John Moore out of the game while trying to forecheck in the offensive zone. As Moore fetched the puck and sent a backhanded pass to a teammate, Wilson hit the Devils defender in the shoulder and middle of the back, sending Moore’s head careening into the boards. Moore would be stretchered off the ice and taken to a local hospital. Wilson was not whistled for a penalty on the play.
After the game, Wilson spoke about the hit and seemed shaken by it.
Friday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, John Carlson was fantastic. The 2016-17 season has been a bit of a struggle at times for the American defenseman. Carlson scored one goal in his first 31 games. He often foiled the Washington Capitals’ power play early in the year with misplaced passes to Alex Ovechkin or point shots that badly missed the net.
Things seem to be improving, however. Carlson has nine points in his last 10 games. Against Tampa Friday night, Carlson was more aggressive than usual, firing a game-high six shots on net. The two goals he scored in the first period gave the Caps stalwart his second career two-goal game.
Saturday night’s game between the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals was billed as a sparkling goaltending matchup, featuring Vezina Trophy winner Carey Price for the Habs and Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby for the Caps. Unfortunately for Washington, Price sat idle in his net for large stretches of the game. The Capitals managed just 21 shots on goal in 60 minutes of play, losing 2-1 in regulation.
“We were close enough to get a point, but not good enough to win a hockey game,” head coach Barry Trotz told reporters after the game. The loss ended Washington’s six-game winning streak. The Capitals had scored at least three goals in each of those wins.
On Saturday morning, as the roads piled up with cars driven by Washingtonians befuddled by winter, the Capitals jumbled their roster, calling up Zach Sanford from the AHL.
Sanford started the season with the Caps, playing 19 games. After only registering one point in NHL, he was sent down to the minors at the end of November. In just six games with the Bears, Sanford scored four goals (including his first professional marker) and had three assists, earning his call up back to the Caps.
“It was good for me,” Sanford said of his time in Hershey, which was his first experience in the AHL after signing with Washington out of college. “I thought I went in with a good mindset. I was going to work as hard as I could and not be pissed off about anything. It turned out well for me.”
Friday night, Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal after a beautiful setup by Evgeny Kuznetsov. In years past, Alex Ovechkin has pied the rookies during their postgame interviews to both celebrate and keep them humble.
With Ovechkin busy, fellow one-goal-scorer-on-the-season Tom Wilson decided to keep the tradition going, pummeling Vrana in the side of the face with a towel full of Gillette shaving cream.
On Friday night, Matt Niskanen missed his first game since signing with the Capitals in 2014, staying in Washington as his teammates beat the Sabres 4-1 in Buffalo. Two days earlier, he suffered an upper-body injury after being hit by the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron, with Niskanen’s head face-planting into the boards. Bergeron received a two-minute minor penalty.
Niskanen was back on the ice Saturday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, practicing with his teammates for the first time since his injury. He is undergoing the NHL’s concussion protocol to determine if he has a head injury. While cleared for contact in practice, Niskanen is not yet allowed to play.
At the start of Saturday’s session, Niskanen was taking it easy and not participating in rushes, though he later partook in drills with his teammates.
The Washington Capitals have lost three straight games. Their offense has been anemic lately. But one aspect of their game has become infamous this season: the once vaunted power play. After being one of the league’s top units since the Bruce Boudreau days, the squad is ranked 22nd in the NHL this season, converting less than 15 percent of the time. In response, Caps fans have incessantly mocked and or panicked about the man-advantage.
But head coach Barry Trotz has a solution: Jay Beagle. The center, 31, has never scored a regular-season power play goal in his nine year NHL career.
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