This photo of Beagle and Ovi celebrating a goal is from 2012. (Photo: Molly Riley)
As reported by Adam Vingan, Alex Ovechkin failed to get a single even-strength point in March. He finished the month in grand style by getting outshot* 15 to 5 against the Nashville Predators. Ovechkin is still the favorite to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals scored during the regular season, but when that happens it won’t be because of what’s happening during even-strength play. Ovi’s struggles with puck possession mirror those of the Capitals overall, but what’s happened in the last two weeks is particularly noteworthy.
Since March 16th, Ovechkin has shared the top line with Jay Beagle. Usually a fourth liner, Beagle’s promotion up the ranks has been surprising, though not totally unexpected. Injuries to Mikhail Grabovski and Brooks Laich depleted Adam Oates’ options at the center position. The big road trip in California gave Oates another reason to boost Beagle: splitting up Backstrom and Ovechkin should have created two scoring lines that would have made match-ups harder for home teams.
It didn’t turn out that way. Possession and production among the top six has been scant, and the Ovechkin-Beagle pairing has been the worst of all.
Photo: John Walton
Per The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera, the Washington Capitals’ brand new toy, Evgeny Kuznetsov, will make his NHL debut tonight on the Capitals’ fourth line tonight. As we discussed on the podcast, that’s probably the smart thing to do.
Photo: Evan Vucci
Thursday night, defense partners Mike Green and Dmitry Orlov were on the ice for two goals against. On Florida’s first goal, Jesse Winchester torched Orlov, blowing past him on the far wall. For the Panthers second goal, the duo left men wide open in front of Braden Holtby before Brad Boyes flipped the puck in.
Sunday afternoon, however, the pair was brilliant — at least for the first 50 minutes. Orlov had the first multi-goal game of his career while Green racked up three assists. It’s usually a zero-sum game with Greenlov: they either win big or lose badly.
Today, though, it was both. With 10 minutes left in game, Orlov went after Brayden Schenn, who had just hit him behind the net. Dima unleashed a brutal board in the corner, receiving a well-deserved five minute major. The Flyers got scored on the ensuing power play. They added two more to stun the Caps in their first game back at home since the Olympic break. Orlov and Green, naturally, were on the ice for the game-tying goal.
“He didn’t change,” head coach Adam Oates said of Orlov’s hit. “He was on the same shift and he went right back after him.”
“You’ve got to suck it up when it’s your turn,” the coach continued. “They hit hard too. They’re big boys too. They’ve got to push, they’re losing. They’ve got to push. We’ve got to be able to handle that.”
Ovi celebrates his 800th career point. (Photo: Alex Trautwig)
Alex Ovechkin is hitting a lot of milestones lately. So far this season he’s tallied his 1000th professional points, become the franchise leader in power play goals, and scored his 400th career goal. With two goals against the Bruins on Saturday, Ovi hit 800 points. He should hit 50 goals by the end of year too.
“It’s history,” Ovi told reporters after the game. “You always wants to be in the history. You always want to be on top of everybody. I try to do my best, but without my linemates and teammates I didn’t get those kind of points.”
Once again, this underscores the remarkable year Ovi has had. Ovechkin has a stunning 73 regular season goals since February of 2013. Under Adam Oates, Ovi has gone from an oft-criticized washed up star to the best sniper in the game — though, of course, he’s still criticized.
“I feel good about myself,” Ovi said. “I have a good feeling about my shot. Every time when I have opportunity to shoot the puck I’m going shoot.”
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: Greg Bartram
After winning two straight games against weak teams, the Capitals returned to their losing ways on Thursday with a 5-2 defeat to Columbus. That means we’re in for another edition of Depressing Postgame Quotes.
Alex Ovechkin, in particular, took a hit against the Blue Jackets. The league’s leading scorer was on the ice for all five Columbus goals, with Ovi’s critics salivating at his minus-five.
“I was today bad out there,” Ovechkin told reporters after the game. “Blame on me. It’s not about Jojo, Carly, or Holts. I can’t play like that.”
“I feel bad for my team because I have to lead by example, but today I was worst guy,” the captain added.
Photo: Mike Carlson
For nearly two months, the Capitals have had a logjam in net. Called up in place of the injured Michal Neuvirth at the end of November, Philipp Grubauer became Washington’s number one netminder. A veteran of just two NHL games before this season, Grubauer posted the seventh highest save percentage in the league (.926), along with a record of 6-4-5 and a goals against average of 2.38.
Desperate for points, Caps head coach Adam Oates stuck with him, with Grubauer starting 14 of 20 games. Grubauer, though, came back to earth. The morning after being pulled for the second straight game — Washington’s fifth loss in a row — Grubauer was not on the ice for the day’s practice. The Caps quickly announced that he had been sent down to Hershey.
“We lost that spark in a sense,” Oates said of Grubauer’s recent losses. He didn’t blame the young German for them though.
“Three goalies is not a good situation,” Oates continued. “It’s a little dysfunctional for everybody, but it’s a situation that, unfortunately, just happened.”
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