Every Caps fan looks like this right now. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)
With the Washington Capitals down two goals heading into the third period, head coach Adam Oates had a special moment on the Caps bench. It looks like losing and bad penalties have finally gotten to him. We call it #OatesFace.
Coming into the season, Washington Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates had a bold idea. After studying countless hours of film during the lockout, the Hall of Fame player saw that Alex Ovechkin had become too predictable off the left wing and that opposing team’s defensemen had figured him out. So Oates asked the Russian Machine to try playing on the right wing, hoping that it would spur creativity and give Ovechkin more open ice.
During last night’s home opener the Washington Capitals struggled in their second straight game, falling meekly to the Winnipeg Jets by a score of 4-2. After somewhat high expectations entering the season, the Caps have now been outscored 10-5 by the opposition and faltered in many aspects of the game.
New Capitals head coach Adam Oates has responded by benching several players, most notably first line winger Marcus Johansson. The former first round pick saw only 50 seconds of ice time in the third period. Also in Oates’ dog house is 25-year-old center Mathieu Perreault.
Through the first two games of the season, Perreault, coming off a career-best year during which he tallied 16 goals and 30 points, has seen 3:52 of ice time against the Lightning and 4:58 against the Jets. After last night’s game the diminutive fourth-line forward, frustrated about his limited role, opened up to Marc Antoine Godin of the French-language website La Presse.
Olie Kolzig is remembered as the greatest goalie in Capitals history. A staple in Washington’s net for over a decade, Kolzig led the team to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance and became one of the franchise’s most beloved players. These days Kolzig has a different role. In his second year as associate goaltending coach, Kolzig spends his time mentoring the club’s young netminders in both minor leagues. The influence of a veteran has apparently rubbed off on the players– Caps goalie Michal Neuvirthrecently added the German goalie’s likeness to his mask, a gesture Kolzig deeply appreciated.
On Sunday, I spoke on the phone with Olie The Goalie, who was in Hershey scouting the Bears game. As the NHL season approached, Kolzig gave me his thoughts on the Caps goalie duo, the distractions Braden Holtby faced last season, and what he sees next for Alex Ovechkin. He even told me what he thought of Tom Poti‘s return to hockey and what that could mean for the organization.
Miss the media? “Not really,” says Ovechkin. (Photo credit: @SWhyno)
This morning, a bunch of Washington Capitals players jumped back on the ice for an informal practice. Those who skated include Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby, Mike Green, Mike Ribeiro, John Carlson, Michal Neuvirth, Matt Hendricks, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle, Jack Hillen, and John Erskine.
At 11am, Caps general manager George McPhee then spoke to the press for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the earth. GMGM revealed that injured defenseman Dmitry Orlov is “improving” but questionable for opening night (but you already knew that), and side-stepped questions on Nicklas Backstrom’s health, acknowledging that the team can’t examine him until a new CBA is ratified. Hershey Bears defense prospect Cameron Schilling will also be given a shot to make the team out of training camp. McPhee’s full comments are below.
Over the offseason the Hershey Bears saw several key veterans sign elsewhere, such as future AHL Hall of Famer Keith Aucoin, 2011-12 AHL leading scorer Chris Bourque, and fan-favorite enforcer Joel Rechlicz. The team also had to deal with a peculiar problem due to the lockout: two head coaches, Mark French and new Caps bench boss Adam Oates. Capitals general manager George McPhee mandated that Hershey learn Oates’ new system, so that the organization’s minor league players could be used to it by the time NHL games started being played. All this change has seen the team scuffle to a .500 record through 34 games this season (16-16-1-1).
But now things are starting to look up. Before it was announced that the lockout had been lifted, Hershey had been getting its best goaltending of the year from Braden Holtby, who was recently named AHL player of the month for December. Stan Galiev, who had been struggling with his transition from junior hockey, is starting to look more comfortable on the ice and more worthy of his #29 prospect ranking from Hockey Prospectus. The organization also has a surplus of quality goaltenders in the ECHL knocking at the door of the AHL: Philipp Grubauer and 2012 seventh-round pick Sergey Kostenko.
On Saturday, after the Bears’ 3-1 loss to the Binghamton Senators, I asked French if this is the best he’s seen Braden Holtby play, if the sky is the limit for Riley Barber, and if Caps fans should be worried about Galiev’s early season struggles.
Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov has been in North America for parts of just three seasons, but he’s already had four head coaches, two broken noses (okay, the same nose broken twice), and has suffered through a benching that spanned the Caps’ entire 2011-12 playoff run.
Now, during a season Orlov should have started in Washington, he’s back with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, experiencing his first ever lockout.
On the first day of the lockout, Leonid Vaisfeld, general manager of Metallurg Novokuznetsk, expressed his interest in bringing Orlov home. “[Orlov] has a two-way deal,” Vaisfeld told Sports.ru. “So it’s up to Washington if they want to send him to the farm to learn English or let him come here, where I think it would be better for Dima’s development. As far as I understand he just wants to play at home.”
Way back in February of 2011, Orlov negotiated out of his contract with his KHL team to start his professional career early in Hershey. Now, while some of his friends are making big-time money playing in the KHL, Orlov– whose family is still in Russia– is staying the course in Hershey, doing everything the coaching staff has asked of him.
RMNB caught up with Orlov on Saturday before Hershey hosted the St. John’s Ice Caps (for whom Orlov’s best friend Alex Burmistrov plays). RMNB’s Igor Kleyner asked him about the possibility of going home, how his English is progressing, and what it’s like playing under a Hall of Fame coach. We also talked about what it’ll be like to play against his former teammate and good friend Alex Semin.
Early on Wednesday, the Hershey Bears assigned Stanislav Galiev — third round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft — to ECHL affiliate Reading Royals. The rookie’s demotion may come as a surprise to many – as just a couple of months ago the young Russian was rated at #29 on Hockey Prospectus Top 100 Prospects list. But to those who follow the Bears hockey regularly, the move makes sense. Since the AHL season started, Stan’s struggled to adjust his game to the pro level.
As the Bears were preparing to face the visiting St. John’s Ice Caps on Saturday, RMNB found the usually gregarious and easygoing Stan in a subdued mood. After recording just one assist in the first eight games of the season, Galiev found himself in Adam Oates’ doghouse as a healthy scratch for three of the next four games — despite scoring the game-winning shootout goal for the Bears on November 2nd. Stan talked to us about his bumpy transition away from the QJMHL, being coached by a Hall of Famer, and his search for confidence on the ice.