Photo: Geoff Burke
After one of the most successful West Coast road trips in franchise history, the Washington Capitals lost four straight games — three of which at home. They’ve been outscored 16-9 during the losing streak. On April fools day, the Capitals, still in the thick of the Eastern Conference wildcard chase, played one of their most pathetic games of the year, a 5-0 blowout loss to the Dallas Stars.
It wasn’t so much that the Capitals lost, it was how listless they played considering the stakes.
When looking back at that game, it’s obvious this team is not focused. When the players hit the ice, they wilted under the adversity.
Consider warm-ups. Normally the starting goaltender leads the Caps out onto the ice. On that night, Russian rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov came out first with Ovi right behind him. A few seconds later, the rest of the team followed. According to 106.7 The Fan’s Sky Kerstein, “it looked like Ovi pranked Kuzya.”
I’ve got no idea if something silly like that has any effect on a team, but it doesn’t look good in hindsight. Even worse because it comes from the captain of the team.
During the actual game, the Capitals were a mess. They gave up two consecutive breakaways on a power play. They let the Stars score twice within 34 seconds, including a 2-on-0 breakaway by a 41-year-old. On Dallas’s fourth salvo of the night, Ovechkin quit on the play.
Head coach Adam Oates has faced difficult questions about his coaching style recently. Is that style still working? How does he motivates his players behind closed doors?
While the mainstream media has focused its attention on Oates’ honest comments about Ovechkin, there was much, much more to those interviews. Below is a summary of what I found most interesting.
Every night that Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin do the play-by-play of Caps games is a joy. Thursday night against the Florida Panthers was no different.
While Joe B. and Locker talked about the Caps trivia answer of the night, the former 30-goal scorer with the Caps revealed a funny story about how he found he was drafted. You see, kids, before cable and ESPN, the draft was covered a whole lot different.
I’ll let Locker explain.
When Team Sweden came out to play for gold this morning, they did so without Nicklas Backstrom. We were told then he had a migraine, which has kept him out of games in the past before. Later we learned Backstrom was prohibited from playing because he tested positive for a higher-than-allowed level of pseudoephedrine, something that was in his allergy medication.
This morning at Kettler Capitals IcePlex, head coach Adam Oates — several days after defending Alex Ovechkin — went to the podium and did it again.
This time he took the IOC to task. There was some head shaking.
We’ve sometimes lobbed criticism at Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates, but one thing we can agree on is that his handling of Alex Ovechkin since being hired has been excellent.
Oates has reinvigorated the Caps captain, helping him to win the MVP the last season. Under Oates’ tutelage, Ovechkin has grown as a player and a scorer.
On Wednesday when asked about the mountains of criticism for Ovechkin after Russia failed to medal in their own Olympics, Oates — in my opinion — had one of his finest moments as a Capital.
Photo: Kevin Hoffman
When the Washington Capitals traded Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat and Michael Latta last year, an upset and cranky me commented on my own website,”Horrible trade. I’m embarrassed to be a Caps fan today.” To the two people who downvoted me, I will accept your apologies via email, tweet, and/or public groveling.
I didn’t hate the trade because the Caps were trading Forsberg (though I have the utmost confidence he will be a productive player in the NHL). I hated the trade because of the timing and philosophy behind it. The Capitals, worried about losing Mike Ribeiro to free agency, acquired another aging and expensive player. They loaded up for a playoff push despite being pretty dang far away from Stanley Cup contention– and in the process they gave away seven years of a talented young player who just a month ago was named MVP of the World Junior Championships.
A year later, we’re back at the crossroads. General Manager George McPhee — as well as Ted Leonsis and the rest of the organization — have some tough decisions to make about the team’s philosophy moving forward. The Caps are the sixth worst team in the league in the standings, three of their players have publicly requested trades, their defense is holey, and their offense lacks chemistry. But they also have a bevy of talented, young players knocking on the door for roster spots or waiting for bigger roles: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Michael Latta, Riley Barber, and Philipp Grubauer.
So are the Caps rebuilding, retooling, or loading up?
Whatever they decide, these next few weeks will be pivotal for the Capitals. They must make trades ahead of the March 5th deadline. But here’s one deal they better not make: trading for Buffalo’s Ryan Miller.
Around the same time I posted my article about Karl Alzner wigging out on the Caps bench after John Erskine‘s knockout punch of Colton Orr, Hockey Night in Canada aired another episode of Coach’s Corner. Don Cherry also took note of Karl’s enthusiasm.
In the segment, Grapes saluted good ol’ Canadian boy Tom Wilson before giving a special shout-out to Alzner.
You’ll notice this during the video: Don really likes fights. Like really, really. And he’s on a warpath to keep fighting in hockey.
A few weeks ago, every hockey analyst in the world minus Ron MacLean was reveling in Alex Ovechkin‘s epic gr8ness. Would Ovi score 50 in 50? Could the Russian machine become the ninth player in NHL history to score 70 goals? A fourth Hart trophy looked like a sure thing. Things could not have been better.
Four goal-less games later and on just a meager 65-goal pace, Ovechkin is enemy number one again in hockey.
Today’s hater, Marty McSorley, hails from the great province of Ontario, Canada, where he is a TV analyst for Sportsnet. Wayne Gretzky’s former protector had a simple message for the kids: this Ovechkin is all hype (whatever that means). Just look at that plus-minus!
Over the summer, general manager George McPhee and head coach Adam Oates worked together to land arguably the most talented player on the free-agent market, Mikhail Grabovski.
Grabo, who was bought out by the Toronto Maple Leafs because they don’t understand teh corsis, signed a short, cap-friendly deal with Washington: one year for three million dollars. He did so, presumably, to maximize his value as a free agent heading into the 2014-15 season.
We knew all that coming in. Let me repeat: we knew this already. But, like finding a lost puppy in the woods and feeding him, it’s now hard to think of parting company from him. We want to keep Grabo forever and ever and dress him up in cute outfits.
Washington Capitals’ senior writer Mike Vogel broached the whole re-signing thing to Grabovski on Sunday. The Belarusian’s answer was telling.
Just like Washington’s last visit to Philly, Tuesday’s Caps-Flyers game was ugly. While the matchup on November 1st took a turn for the worst after some Flyers shenanigans, this time it was all on the Caps — specifically Tom Wilson and his charge on Brayden Schenn in the second period. Wilson got a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his troubles. While I think the hit was unnecessary, Wilson never left his feet. If the hit occurred at open ice, it likely would have gone uncalled. Nevertheless, it didn’t. Wilson will be receiving a call from Brendan Shanahan and will probably be sent to the press box for a few games.
There’s a lot of condemnation for Wilson going around, but Adam Oates is having none of it. He’s sticking up for his player.
Every Saturday night, Hockey Night In Canada’s Ron MacLean does his best to steer crazy old man Don Cherry though Coach’s Corner without incident. While MacLean doesn’t have much time to share his opinions during those segments, he had a whole bunch of time on Thursday when speaking to Rob Pizzo and Cassie Campbell on HNIC Radio.
MacLean spent most of his fourteen minutes talking about the firing of Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster, but with Alex Ovechkin‘s magical four-goal game in the recent past, MacLean had to share his feelings about the reigning MVP. Maybe you’d think with Ovechkin scoring 26 goals in 29 games, changing positions, and completely reinvigorating his game, MacLean would appreciate Ovechkin’s progress as a player.
You would be wrong.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.