NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis during an event last week in Southeast DC. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)
It’s been 40 years since the Capitals first took the ice in the 1974-75 season. The team has been celebrating the occasion incessantly, honoring the franchise’s best players with video tributes that air every night at Verizon Center and when CSN+ doesn’t have anyone in studio for the late game.
Despite the trumpeting of their former players, the Capitals will not be hosting an alumni game prior to the 2015 Winter Classic, which heretofore had been a tradition. According to the NHL, this was a decision made by the Caps. Speaking to Capitals season ticket holders last week, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly suggested one possible reason for the move: the League didn’t agree to a deal with Nationals Park until September.
While race has come up as an issue for more broadly in America recently, it is becoming increasingly irrelevant in sports. Today, the Capitals and the NHL dedicated a refurbished street hockey rink in predominately black Southeast D.C.
Recently, though, questions have been raised how inclusive the NHL really is in other areas. Since August, three national hockey writers have been fired for making predatory advances towards female hockey fans online and via text message.
Two years ago, Igor and I visited Caps 2012 seventh round pick Sergey Kostenko in Reading, PA for an interview. Kostenko, who sadly is no longer with the Caps, previously played in Metallurg Novokuznetsk’s system in Russia and had a lot of great stories.
When we heard a superhero foundation was holding a fundraiser in D.C. featuring Caps players Karl Alzner, Troy Brouwer, and John Carlson, we put our best subject-matter expert on the case. Here’s a report from RMNB Senior Spandexed Superhero Correspondent Brouwer Ranger Nathan on “Heroes Rock the Red.”
Spirits seem to be rebounding among Caps fans following back-to-back victories against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Carolina Hurricanes this weekend. A handful of them came out to celebrate the nascent winning streak with Caps players and a bunch of superheroes while raising money for Foundation 4 Heroes (F4H).
Brouwer and Carlzner signed autographs, took photos with fans, and tended bar at City Tap House DC to raise money for the F4H, which takes a unique approach to supporting kids with life-threatening diseases. The non-profit sends superheroes like Captain America and Wonder Woman to visit kids and encourage them to find the superhero inside themselves.
Last year, Eric Fehr bounced around the lineup as Adam Oates struggled to find a spot for him. Some nights, Fehr would play center, not his natural position, on the third line. Other nights he would find himself in the press box, despite being one of the team’s top possession players. What he never got a chance to do was be a scoring-line winger, which the Capitals drafted him to be and a spot in which he’s shown promise in the past. Under Bruce Boudreau, Fehr also struggled to fit in, eventually forcing the Caps to ship him to Winnipeg for a fourth rounder and an irrelevant minor leaguer. With Barry Trotz, it looked like things might change, with Fehr starting the season on the top line.
“I just want to have a spot and consistently play, just not be moving around every night,” Fehr said in September.
For the last few games, Washington’s offense has been lacking. Alex Ovechkin has struggled to score — going five games without a goal — while the rest of the lines have struggled to click as Barry Trotz’s looks for line combinations that will gel. On Wednesday, they got the offense. Washington clearly outclassed the Red Wings but made a few inexplicable mistakes. They hurt.
“They’re not playing overly poor,” Trotz said after the game. “You’ve just got to put your nose to the grindstone and plow through it.”
“Every turnover we did have ended up in the back of the net a little bit,” he added.
This screengrab looks like it could be an action shot on a hockey card.
Washington Capitals rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov has had an uneven season thus far. He’s spent most of his time on the team’s fourth line, learning the center position as he goes. He’s also seen a bunch of time on the team’s second power play unit.
On Wednesday, after tallying three points in his first eight games, Kuznetsov finally broke through for his first goal of the season.
It was a beauty. And it was all because of Braden Holtby.
After the Caps lost 3-2 to Edmonton on Wednesday, Caps coach Barry Trotz changed the lines. He broke up the Joel Ward/Jason Chimera “gang green” line (which is seriously the worst nickname for a lot of reasons).”Last couple games I can’t say they’re a great line for us,” Trotz told the Washington Post.
“Yeah, green line got blown up,” Ward said. “We got scored on last game. It was a tough loss for sure. I guess a little shake-up can’t hurt. We’ll see what happens.”
Crazy things happened. The Caps fourth line, which had been dormant all season, went nuts with Wardo on the right wing on Saturday night. Ward scored two goals (one on the power play), the latter of which was credited as the game-winning goal. And Ward would have had a hat trick, but he put himself into the net instead of the puck.
Last season, Adam Oates tried to reinvent Eric Fehr. Instead of being an auxiliary winger, Oates turned Fehr into a checking line center. Actual hockey isn’t NHL 15, so the role was uneasy for Fehr. Center is a greater responsibility than being a scoring winger, offensively and defensively. Pivots are, perhaps, a little smarter than the rest of us. Fehr never quite settled into the position and bounced around the lineup and the press box under Oates. He did, however, find success with Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, inspiring a cult following for the line.
This season, it looked like Barry Trotz put an end to the Eric Fehr 3C experiment, placing the Manitoban on the top trio with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. After Tuesday’s histrionic 6-5 loss to San Jose, Trotz’s shifted his lineup. Fehr was back with Ward and Chimera. On Thursday, the line was Washington’s best. While they only registered one of Washington’s five goals — and it was barely even a goal — the trio shut down the opposition and earned praise from Trotz. Against the Panthers, the third line was again inspired. Chimera had a myriad of chances while scoring Washington’s lone goal of the night. It was set up by a brilliant pass from the corner from Fehr.
“With that line, I think that Fehrsie’s got really good hockey IQ,” Trotz said. “He can read off those two guys.”
“That whole line’s been really good the last couple games,” he added.