Braden Holtby lay on his back, looking straight up at the ironic Madison Square Garden ceiling. In 73 regular season games, Holtby anchored the Washington Capitals. He did the same for 13 postseason games, offering up one of the best playoff performances by a goaltender ever. In Wednesday’s game seven, he made 37 saves. But goalies — even great ones like Holtby — can’t stop everything. There was nothing he could do to prevent Derek Stepan‘s overtime winner, the goal that ended the Capitals season. After the game, Holtby, still clearly shaken, spoke to the media.
Lubomir Visnovsky leaves the game after being checked by Tom Wilson in the second period. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)
Last season, searching to make an impact as a rookie with limited ice time, Tom Wilson got himself into a lot of trouble, often making questionable hits and dropping the gloves whenever he got the chance. He finished the season with the seventh highest number of penalty minutes in the NHL. Now in his second season, and sometimes skating top line minutes under new head coach Barry Trotz, Wilson has moderated his game, becoming less of a wrecking ball and more of an agitator. In game four, however, the wrecking ball was back.
With Lubomir Visnovsky attempting to corral a loose puck behind his own net, Wilson came flying in, delivering a massive shoulder to chest blow. While Visnovsky was ravaged by the hit, the check appeared clean. The puck was there, Wilson never left his feet, and he hit Visnovsky square in the chest. Nevertheless, the refs took umbrage with the hit, calling Wilson for a change. The Islanders were outraged.
“He’s an idiot,” Islanders forward Kyle Okposo said of Wilson, according to the New York Post. “That guy runs around, he hits reckless. He jumps, leaves his feet. There’s no place for that.”
On Wednesday night Dmitry Orlov concluded his conditioning assignment in Hershey. The Russian defender has been out all season while rehabilitating the wrist injury he suffered in the World Championship last May.
In three games with Hershey, Orlov had three assists and six shots. He seems to have his heavy, booming slap shot back. Over the weekend, Orlov tallied two primary assists on the power play, just by rifling the puck on net.
When asked about the growth of hockey in the DC Area over the last decade, Bettman marveled at the job both Alex Ovechkin and Ted Leonsis have done. Seconded.
“It’s the Ovechkin era and there’s an era that’s a little bit longer than that one and I would call that the [Ted] Leonsis era,” Bettman said beaming. “I think Ted’s ownership of this franchise has been nothing short of phenomenal in terms of how the community has been engaged and in terms of how fans have connected with and interacted with this franchise; the stability of ownership and management has been very important.”
Then it got weird. Bettman credited (I think) definitely-not-Washington Capital Evgeni Malkin.
Ahead of the Capitals rivalry night game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, NBC’s Jeremy Roenick sat awkwardly on a couch with three-time MVP Alex Ovechkin. Necklessly, Roenick asked Ovechkin about his passion for the game and how he felt about the constant criticism he receives from the media.
Ovechkin answered in Runglish. He made a boat metaphor.
“I think there were some things that probably happened before I was here that led to certain things,” Trotz said, speaking in broad terms. “There was some bad advice given to Ovi at times in how they wanted him to play.”
“Ovi’s a guy that will do what you ask,” he continued. “He’s bluntly honest. It’s actually a strength, not a weakness.”
This year, Trotz has moved Ovechkin back to left wing and demanded more of him defensively. Ovechkin leads the league in goals, and the Capitals are challenging for the division lead.
“I made it pretty simple,” Trotz said. “When you have the puck do what you do. When you don’t have the puck, I want you to do what I want you to do. If you do that, you’ll have the puck more.”
If there’s one person who truly is an insider of the NHL, it’s TSN’s Bob McKenzie. While speaking on Montreal’s TSN 690 Monday, McKenzie spoke about the future of Capitals defenseman Mike Green. He believes the UFA will dealt by GM Brian MacLellan before the NHL’s trade deadline March 2nd.
Punk, in real life named Phil Brooks, is a huge hockey fan. While doing an interview with CSN’s Brian Mitchell to promote his UFC signing, Punk made a prediction for the Winter Classic and I don’t think you’re gonna like it.
He predicted the Blackhawks would totally stomp the Caps.
In episode one of The Road To The Winter Classic, EPIX brought us into the luxury apartment of Caps forwards Tom Wilson and Michael Latta. It was the best segment of the night– probably because their apartment wasn’t so luxurious as we might have thought.
Not-Liev Schreiber described the design of Wilson and Latta’s bachelor pad as somewhere between “minimalist and utilitarian.” If your ping pong table is also your dinner table, that’s pretty accurate.
Last night, TSN Insider’s Trading panel discussed a number of topics, including the Oilers’ shortcomings, Jay Feaster’s Twitter jab, and a potential re-tool in Arizona. They also talked about Caps general manager Brian MacLellan, whose patience with the team is allegedly running thin.