For the first three games of the season, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin have been split up. Though this separation may not last long, and though they have spent some time apart during their years in DC, splitting them up is definitely a deviation from the norm. One impact of this change is forcing opponents to make a tough decision in how to match lines against the Caps.
But another major impact is the way the Caps are matching up against the opposition’s top line. Barry Trotz had generally preferred a power vs power matchup, often pitting the Backstrom-Ovechkin line against the other team’s top offensive line. With the duo broken up, the tough task of playing against the opponent’s top line each night has been assigned to the Caps second line of Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky, and Backstrom.
So far, through an admittedly tiny sample of three games, the results have been outstanding. Not only has the Caps’ second line stifled the offense of the opponent’s top line, but by controlling the puck and going on the attack, they’ve been forcing the top offensive weapons of the Caps’ opponent to spend more time on defense than offense.
The Washington Capitals hosted their 2016-17 regular season home opener in style Saturday with a special red carpet event. As cars provided by Lexus dropped players off on F Street, diehard Caps fans lined the entrance, hoping for a picture or an autograph with their favorite athlete.
The event started at 3:30 and was hosted by PA Announcer Wes Johnson, who served as the master of ceremonies. Johnson introduced players as they arrived while preselected fans walked the players down the red carpet. Many Caps, including Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Nate Schmidt, and Andre Burakovsky, posed for selfies with fans before going inside Verizon Center.
That afternoon, RMNB had two photographers at the event, myself and the talented Katie Snyder (who you can follow on Instagram and Facebook). Snyder is one of the Redskins’ home-game photographers and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Snyder also does a lot of freelance work, including family-based portraits.
Over the past four seasons, the power play has been the lifeblood of the Washington Capitals.
Since 2013, nearly one-fourth of the team’s goals have been scored on the man-advantage. Impressive regular season numbers and Alex Ovechkin’s resurgence, led by his one-timers from the Ovi Spot, have all benefited greatly from Washington’s power play firepower. This year, however, one of league’s perennial top units is off to a slow start. Through two games and eight opportunities, the normally deadly Washington PP has come up with nothing.
“We’re leaving a lot on the ice,” John Carlson, who anchors the point on the first power play unit said after Saturday’s win over the Islanders. “For our skill level, our talent, we should have more goals than we do.”
For a decade, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have been dominant offensive forces for the Washington Capitals, spending most of their time in DC together on one line. Over this time Ovechkin has scored 50 goals six times, becoming the greatest goal scorer in the NHL, while Backstrom has hit 70 points during five campaigns.
The Capitals spent years trying to find a quality, second line center to make the team more than just one line of firepower. They finally found one in Evgeny Kuznetsov, who flourished in his second NHL season last year, leading the team with 77 points. Some of his 57 assists, fourth most in the league, were spellbinding. So now, at least to start, Backstrom is the one backing him up — at least on the depth chart.
During Thursday’s 3-2 shootout loss, Backstrom assisted on both of his team’s goals, making enlightened and deft passes that led to two goals for Andre Burakovsky. Backstrom also had five shots on goal and won 16 of his 23 faceoff attempts. The trio was rounded out by Marcus Johansson, a Swede like Backstrom and Burakovsky.
“The Backstrom line was really good,” head coach Barry Trotz told reporters after the game. “All the other lines had spurts where there were okay, but they also weren’t as as consistent as that line. That line was our most effective by a large margin today.”
Only a few hours remain until the puck drops for the Capitals’ first game of the regular season. After their most recent second-round playoff exit, a summer of speculation ensued. The most nebulous question: How does this team
finally make a deep playoff run?
While there’s no definite answer, RMNB’s own Pat Holden, Elyse Bailey, Spenser Smallwood, and Chris Cerullo sought to answer a few questions I posed about the Caps’ chances at a Cup. See what they have to say, and, as always, feel free to argue with them in the comments.
Two years ago, Tom Wilson, Michael Latta, and Andre Burakovsky all lived with each other in an apartment in Arlington. The trio labeled themselves “brobeans” and, according to Michael Latta, couldn’t stop wrestling with each other.
Last September, Burakovsky moved out, citing a need for privacy. It put in motion a Jenga-like collapse for the Caps roomies, as Michael Latta was later non-tendered by the team in June and signed with Los Angeles in July.
However, on Monday night things finally seemed to get back to normal for our favorite boys when Burakovsky tweeted a photo with Tom Wilson.
For those of you who buy the Caps’ Dog Calendar year after year, we have some great news. The Caps just announced the date when they will be available.
On Friday, November 18 during the Caps/Red Wings game, the organization will put up a limited number of calendars up for sale at the MSE Foundation table located at Section 104 on the main concourse of the Verizon Center.
The Capitals also released a few photos already taken for the calendar.
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