During an OHL game last weekend, Washington Capitals prospect Andre Burakovsky absorbed a dangerous, illegal hit from Cristiano DiGiacinto of the Windsor Spitfires.
Photo credit: Brace Hemmelgarn
The Caps need points. They didn’t get them tonight. After a moral victory against the Penguins, Washington dropped Friday’s game against Columbus in pathetic fashion. Despite picking up two points in the process, the Caps have lost four straight games. With six of the next seven games on the road, the upcoming stretch won’t get easier.
“It’s very frustrating,” head coach Adam Oates told reporters after the loss. “You just can’t let a game get away and be that easy. You just can’t. It’s not right.”
Photo: Patrick McDermott
The Buffalo Sabres are a disastrously bad hockey team. Twice in two weeks, though, they’ve shut down the Washington Capitals, holding them to just two goals total. Each time, the Caps generated plenty of offensive opportunities. Ryan Miller, however, stood in the way. In those games, Miller has stopped 77 of 79 shots against.
“I try to stay pretty calm in the the net,” Miller said when I asked him about containing Washington’s talented forwards. “Sometimes the mindset is to challenge those guys and they just pass around you.”
The Sabres pitiful play is well documented. Sunday’s win was their first one the road since November 5, an 11 game losing streak. A lot has changed since then. They fired their GM, Darcy Regier, and coach, Ron Rolston. Under new bench boss Ted Nolan, they are — at least — no longer historically bad. Buffalo’s record now stands at a sterling 13-26-5.
“It’s already gotten too far, but it’s something the guys can feel good about,” Miller said of the streak. “I think tonight was a good opportunity to reset.”
Neuvirth salutes the crowd after being named the first star of the night. (Photo: Rob Carr)
Michal Neuvirth had been left behind in the Capitals goalie controversy. While Braden Holtby has struggled to find playing time, Neuvy hadn’t suited up for a game since November 29, when he got hurt stepping on the ice for warmups. Eventually, Neuvirth’s agent requested a trade. The status quo, though, continued. Philipp Grubauer got the starts, Holtby sat on the bench, and Neuvy watched from the press box. With little notice, Capitals head coach Adam Oates finally gave the Czech netminder a chance Friday.
“I was nervous as hell,” Neuvirth said of his thoughts before the game. “I was probably as nervous as my first NHL game. My girlfriend told me ‘Just do what you do and try to be good.’”
“First time I step on the ice for warmup, I was feeling pretty good and confident,” he added.
In a move that surprises absolutely no one, Alex Ovechkin, the world’s best scorer, has been named to the Russian Olympic team. The Capitals Captain is also a goodwill ambassador for the Sochi games, though he’s not sure what that means either.
Not on the Russian roster are Alex Semin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. The latter is a Caps prospect who delayed his NHL career for two seasons in hopes of making the Olympic team for Sochi.
Photo: Bruce Bennett
Sweden has released its roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and a familiar face is right in the middle. Caps center Nick Backstrom shares the roster with the Sedin twins, Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Zetterberg, and Daniel Alfredsson. Marcus Johansson did not make the roster.
Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
This season, Alex Ovechkin’s shot has been an unstoppable force of destruction. Ovi has registered 31 goals. His line’s scoring, however, has often been one-sided. Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin’s linemates for much of the season, have scored just six even-strength goals. When Ovi’s hitting the net, it’s not a problem. But if last year’s MVP hits some bad luck, as he did over the four games before last night, the line struggles. Ovechkin has just a single assist during five-on-five play.
“It’s not enough,” Oates said when I asked him about that stat. “It shows how much all three guys are important.”
For Thursday’s game against the Hurricanes, Oates switched up his lines, putting Ovechkin with Eric Fehr and Mikhail Grabovski while placing Johansson and Backstrom with Brouwer.
Photo credit: Scott Levy
Earlier this week, former NHLer Marty McSorley took the hatchet out on Alex Ovechkin. Broadcasting for Sportsnet during Monday’s game in Ottawa, he criticized last year’s MVP for not playing defense and being bad during five-on-five, using Ovechkin’s poor plus-minus as an example. Ovi’s defenders were outraged, pointing out the unreliability of plus-minus as a statistic. However, one person seems to buy that criticism: Alex Ovechkin.
“I think we have great offense, but on the defensive side, if you look at my stats, I’m a minus-13 or minus-14,” Ovechkin told reporters after Thursday’s morning skate. “It’s kind of a situation where you want to be better.”
“Defensive side can win the game,” he added. “More responsibility in your zone is going to help your offense as well.”
Photo credit: Bruce Bennett
Over the summer, Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson was invited to Team USA’s orientation camp held at the Caps’ practice facility in Ballston, Virginia. At that point in time, Carlson was a bit of an afterthought for the team: he was arguably there more to excite the hometown fans than actually challenge for a roster spot.
Four months later, Carlson, after taking advantage of more opportunity due to injuries on the Caps blue line, was named to Team USA’s roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The announcement was made on NBC after the Winter Classic.
Photo: Marc DesRosiers
The Capitals absorbed two tough losses in the past two days. Alex Ovechkin, in the middle of his longest goal drought of season, seems frustrated. He took it out on the referees after Monday’s contest in Ottawa, which Washington lost 3-1.
“To be honest with you, tonight I think both teams play well, but four guys out there didn’t do their job,” he told reporters, indicating the officiating staff of Brad Meier, Jean Hebert, Mark Wheler, and Pierre Racicot. “I think the guys celebrate New Year’s too early right before the game.”
“It was embarrassing to see,” Ovechkin added.