On December 6, 2008, Karl Alzner, a 20-year-old old defenseman one year removed from the WHL, scored his first NHL goal in a game in Toronto. Alzner had been picked fifth overall a year earlier by the Washington Capitals, ahead of current offensive stars like Logan Couture and PK Subban. Goals, though, have never been part of Alzner’s game. He is a pure shutdown defenseman. If Alzner hits the back of the net, it’s usually an accident. In the five years and one day since that goal, Alzner has added just four more tallies to his stat sheet.
On Saturday night against the Nashville Predators, Alzner scored his sixth career goal, a booming slap shot from the point that got through traffic and past goalie Marek Mazanec. It was his first goal ever at Verizon Center too, after six years and 148 games.
Fehr scores on Friday. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
Eric Fehr has rarely had an easy season in the NHL. Under Bruce Boudreau, the former 18th overall pick was often under-utilized, banished to the bottom-six or the press box. Late in his first stint with the Washington Capitals in 2011, Fehr suffered a serious shoulder injury, a problem that plagued him for nearly two years. Because of that, he struggled in his only season with his hometown Winnipeg Jets after being traded from Washington. Looking for a job after the NHL lockout, Caps general manager George McPhee decided to take another chance on Fehsie. The 28-year-old, for the most part, succeeded, notching 17 points in the shortened season.
Rather than settle in with a nice role on second or third line, however, Fehr was asked to try something he’s never done before: play center. He spent much of October at pivot, registering just one goal. The shift, Fehr admitted, was difficult. Playing in the middle requires you to be much more aware, along with increased defensive responsibilities and not having a set position on the ice. Fehr’s struggles were understandable. Playing center for the first time in not something you can adjust to in a few preseason games. After the experiment Fehr then spent two games on the first line in early November after Alex Ovechkin went down with an upper-body injury. He did well in that spot, picking up a few points that week.
“It’s a very unique season for me,” Fehr told me Friday night. “I knew coming there was a good chance I was going to play center, but it’s been a little bit different.”
Inexplicably, head coach Adam Oates then scratched him for the next nine games. He was allowed back in the lineup only when another player in the coach’s doghouse, Martin Erat, got sent to the press box after he requested a trade.
“He was ready to get back in and he’s provided a spark for us,” the coach said of Fehr. “He’s played good.”
Wednesday night, the Washington Capitals were awful. Though they started the game well, the contest took a biblical turn for the worst as the Ottawa Senators outshot the Caps 19-3. Yeah, 19-3. Meanwhile the team also took six penalties — most of them bad — and allowed three man-advantage goals. After Saturday’s game in Toronto, Adam Oates was encouraged with his team’s performance. After tonight’s, he was livid.
“We played a solid game in Toronto,” he told reporters after the game. “We played lousy tonight. Lousy. Not good decisions. We get a lead and we still don’t do the right things.”
Oates didn’t like any aspects of the team’s performance. Though they got out to an early lead, Oates said he didn’t think his team played well at any point against the Sens. There was poor goaltending, stupid penalties, and bad passes. Nothing went right for the Caps after the first 20 minutes.
“We’re not gonna win games playing this way — we’re not,” said Oates. “We just proved it.”
Oates’s mood was not helped by a nonsensical question about puck possession towards the end. Well, at least that’s what I think it was about. He told the reporter not to try to ask that again. Oh my!
“If guys don’t know we let one get away, shame on them,” he concluded. “Shame on them. I’m gonna tell ‘em.”
Below, take a look at video of the evening tongue lashing.
On November 25, 2013, In News, Video, By Chris Gordon
Since coming to the Washington Capitals in April, Martin Erat has twice requested a trade: once early this season and again last week. During the same timeframe, Erat scored just one goal. You might expect Caps general manager George McPhee to be disappointed. He gave up an elite prospect in the hopes Erat would fill a vital top-six role. Instead, he ended with a fourth liner-cum-healthy scratch who wants the hell out of Arlington.
McPhee, however, has a different view.
“Things change,” he told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Tuesday. “No regrets. We did what we had to do then, and we’ll do what we have to do now.”
The GM explained that then when he made the move for Erat in the spring, the injury status of Brooks Laich was uncertain. He didn’t even know whether the forward would be back for the 2013-14 season. The Erat trade, then, wasn’t meant to shore up a long-term hole, but to make a push for the 2013 Stanley Cup.
“You want to give your team the best opportunity possible and we will always do that,” McPhee said of winning the Cup. “You can’t have the guys work their guts out all year and then not help them out at the deadline if there’s something to help them with. So we made that deal.”
It’s been written to death already, but Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is having an unbelievable start to the season. Friday night against the Montreal Canadiens (and with Wayne Gretzky in attendance), it continued, as The Great Eight scored two goals, both of the dirtty variety.
Coach Adam Oates tweaked his lines late in the game on Friday to much success, and it looks like those changes will stick. Per The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera, here’s how lines look on Saturday morning:
Marcus Johansson – Nick Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Martin Erat – Brooks Laich – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Mikhail Grabovski – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Michael Latta – Tom Wilson
Joel Ward has had a couple of hot streaks in his career. In fact, he’s making $3 million a year partially because of one (13 points in 12 games) during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Nashville Predators. Despite his playoff success, Ward’s recent regular season results have been unimpressive. In his first year with the Caps, we scored just six goals in 73 games. Last year, in a lockout shortened season, he had eight. Eighteen games into the 2013-14 campaign, he’s matched that total.
“When he came here obviously he had a great playoff for Nashville,” head coach Adam Oates said after the game. “When we’ve talked, him and I, I expect him to play now like he does in the playoffs, every night. Now, that’s a playoff game. We need these points.”
Ovi and his teammates celebrate a power play goal on Saturday. (Photo credit: Norm Hall)
The Washington Capitals have the league’s most dominant power play. Of the team’s 52 goals, 20 have come from the man advantage, a remarkable 38 percent. Alex Ovechkin, too, relies heavily on the PP. He has 13 goals this year, seven have been a man up. More than anything else, Adam Oates’s power play has rekindled Ovi’s greatness.
All this success means one thing: if you stop the Washington’s power play, you stop the Capitals.