Washington Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt is kindness on skates. So, needless to say, it was a little weird to see him viciously throwing hands with a fellow NHL player. Schmidt’s second period fight with J.T. Brown was his first in the NHL and the third of his professional career.
On Monday morning, Nate Schmidt sat down with a sigh in his stall in the locker room at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. After having an off day on Sunday, Washington had just concluded a hard, training camp-style practice. Schmidt, though, claimed he had other reasons for being zapped.
Schmidt is a fun guy and a great hockey player. He’s also American, which means unlike most Capitals players he celebrates our annual feast. Last Thursday, he visited some extended family in Virginia. There, Schmidt had a “double dinner” at two and seven, taking “an absolutely comatose nap” in between.
Braden Holtby is having perhaps the best season of his career. He leads the league in wins (15) and goals against average (1.95). With Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Toronto, Holtby continued to rock out, earning a career-best seventh consecutive win. Today, he was honored by the NHL as their second star of the week. Stud.
At the end of this season, Jason Chimera will be 37. Nevertheless, the bottom-sixer known for his hands of stone is undergoing a revival. On November 11 against Philadelphia, Chimera scored two power play goals, his first game on the man advantage this season. In his nine games on the power play, Chimera has six points.
“Just a fine wine,” Chimera said, comparing himself to another high quality aged product. “Like French Oak or the new stuff, the steel cask maybe.”
The Capitals were up 4-0 against the Tampa Bay Lightning with just over nine minutes to play. The game looked well in hand. Then Dmitry Orlov attempted to flip a puck out of the defensive zone. Instead, it was battled down by Anton Stralman past the blueline. Stralman then reentered the zone. The play looked, at game speed, to be clearly offside. The Capitals benched roared at the linesmen. Nevertheless, play went on. A few seconds later, Tampa had a goal, the start of an impressive third period that could have cost the Capitals the game.
“I thought it was, but I mean I can’t see that,” Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said. “You usually have plays like that just blown down.”
The Caps clearly expected it would be. Jason Chimera, Andre Burakovsky, Jay Beagle, Trevis (?) Chorney, and Orlov all stopped for a second. In the meantime, the Bolts set up in the offensive zone and Brian Boyle one-timed a puck past Holtby.
For the last few years, when you think of Alex Ovechkin, or even the Capitals, you are drawn to their savage power play. Since Adam Oates took over, it has been at the top of the league, ranked first in last season, second in 2013-14, and first in the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season. Ovechkin is the heavy artillery. Last season, Alex Ovechkin accounted for 42 percent of the Washington Capitals’ power play goals. From 2012-14 seasons, Ovi was responsible for nearly four tenths of the man advantage tallies. Year after year, he fired shot after shot from the same spot. There was little change in the result: a whole bunch of goals.
This year, however, something has been different. Through 20 games this season, Ovechkin had just one power play marker. The numbers tell a pretty clear story: Ovechkin just isn’t getting as many shots attempts on the man advantage.
But Friday night, Ovechkin was peppering Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilvskiy on Washington’s first power play. His first five shots went wide or were saved. His sixth attempt in under two minutes hit the back of the net, set up by a brilliant pass from Jason Chimera. It marked Ovechkin’s third power play goal of the season.
Midway through the third period of Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, Dmitry Orlov turned the puck over at center ice and started a wild chain of events. The Capitals, in the middle of a shift change, watched helplessly as Oilers’ stars Nail Yakupov and Taylor Hall raced in alone on Braden Holtby.
But the Oilers didn’t score! Or even get a shot off. Hall fumbled Yakupov’s pass and as the Oilers regained possession of the puck, Karl Alzner— playing man-to-man defense against Teddy Purcell — blocked a shot from the point with his shin pads.
The puck squirted to center ice and sprung Alzner, he of 14 career NHL goals, on a semi-breakaway.