Last night the Capitals kept on rolling by beating the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 for their second win in a row (and sixth in their last ten.) Goaltender Philipp Grubauer played a standout game and ticked off the “W” in front of his parents and girlfriend. And the depth chipped in some welcome scoring, with Daniel Winnik and Brett Connolly both finding the back of the net.
Not long ago we discussed some worrying trends after a loss to the Blue Jackets, and while this wasn’t a dominant game, the Caps have continued to climb out of their mini-rut. They have been above 50 percent possession in seven of their last nine games, and have had the better of scoring chances in five of those.
Oh thank goodness, there’s Caps hockey. Let’s all take a break from that conversation with our extended families about how the real world has become Purge: Anarchy and instead talk about how the Caps whipped the Sabres on Black Friday.
Daniel Winnik and his horseshoe mustache kicked us off by sticking with a scoring play started by Lars Eller. Marcus Johansson doubled Washington’s lead by rescuing Justin Williams’ interrupted pass and burying the puck behind Anders Nilsson.
Sam Reinhart ended Grubauer’s shutout bid in the third after some sustained pressure by Kyle Okposo. Hardworking Brett Connolly occupied the slot and slammed a goal with 4 minutes to go.
Caps beat Sabres 3-1!
Photo: Rob Carr
When the Capitals signed Mike Richards to a $1 million, one-year contract on January 6, Washington head coach Barry Trotz forecasted that the former Flyers and Kings forward would make his debut against the Anaheim Ducks on January 22 at Verizon Center. Richards hadn’t played since last April after having his contract voided by the Los Angeles Kings over the summer.
“There’s no assurances in anything, in life,” Trotz said at the time.
But after seeing Richards quickly get his legs under him and adapt to the Capitals’ system, Trotz had Richards debut almost a week earlier than planned when he skated on Washington’s fourth line on Saturday night in Buffalo.
“I probably went into this weekend thinking maybe in the seven-, eight-minute range,” Trotz said Sunday night, referring to Richards’s ice time. “Seven to eight minutes in the first game and seven to eight minutes in the second. Probably 10 at the high end.”
Despite a 4-1 Capitals loss, Richards was fantastic on Saturday, skating over 13 minutes, including a stellar three minutes spent penalty killing. One day later, Richards skated nearly 12 minutes against the New York Rangers. He spent another three minutes on Washington’s shorthanded unit, which was perfect in four opportunities.
“What you see is how competitive he is,” said Trotz. “You can skate all you want in practice, but when the game is happening there’s a fire inside that young man.”
Sometimes you have one of those days. Sometimes you leave your backpack at Lindsey Graham’s office and then get the flu and have to have your mom pick it up three days later. Sometimes you get killed by the Buffalo Sabres. It happens.
Let’s go through the torture, because you know you want to.
Some lazy work in the offensive zone by the second line and the Schmidt-Orlov pair led to a wide open shot shot from the point and a rebound tally from fringe player Phil Varone. Exactly five and a half minutes later, Tim Schiller extended Buffalo’s lead after Orlov bumbled the puck like every conversation you try to have on Tinder.
In the second, Evander Kane added to Buffalo’s lead with a puck that trickled past Braden Holtby, leading to the mountain man’s premature exit. Cody Franson added a soft PPG later in the frame, but really who cares?
Marcus Johansson kept comeback hopes alive with a third period tally, but the Sabres squashed that pretty quickly. Sabres beat Caps 4-1.
Photo: Amanda Bowen
I used to like the Sabres. I thought, hey, they’re on the upswing, they’re young and resurgent, they’ve got a good coach and a good fanbase, which includes our own Amanda Bowen.
But then those last two games happened. The Caps beat the Sabres twice in back-to-back games at the end of 2015, but those were testy games with bad hits and facepunches. I did not like those games, even though the Caps won both with a combined score of 7-2.
Let’s see if Buffalo still remembers those twin embarrassments. Caps at Sabres tonight at 7 PM on CSN-Plus. Mike Richards is in the lineup. Chris Gordon has your recap.
|Team||Record||Possession||PDO||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
Photo: Patrick Smith
The Capitals won their ninth game in a row beating the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 at Verizon Center on Wednesday night. Alex Ovechkin scored two goals to take his career total to 495 NHL goals, as Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky completed the scoring.
One last thing. One thing you guys might not know about me is that I am a Caps fan living in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. There’s a different language some speak here, which is Welsh. So I just wanted to say:
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i chi gyd. Gan ddumuno iechyd a hapusrwydd i chi yn 2016!
Photo: Patrick Smith
“I, for one, hope the Caps expend effort only on being the better hockey team. I don’t care about “the code” and I don’t care about sending any message other than we’re the better hockey team and we’re going to beat you.”
That was Pat’s message in the pregame, as Wednesday’s game looked poised to devolve into a fiasco after Monday’s theatrics.
But in the opening minutes, it was the Buffalo Sabres who decided that playing better hockey was the best way to win hockey game, with six unanswered shot attempts to start the game. The pressure led to the game’s opening tally, as Jack Eichel wiggled the stick on his XBOX controller before setting up Brian Gionta to beat Braden Holtby.
Soon after the Buffalo tally, the Caps put things back where they belonged, outshooting the Sabres 13-3 in the closing minutes of the frame.
In the second, the Capitals had extended zone time, a juicy power play, and plenty of great looks at the net, but Chad Johnson somehow kept them at bay. Then the Sabres netminder did something really dumb, reversing a pass to Justin Williams, who flipped the puck into the empty net. Towards the end of the frame, Braden Holtby couldn’t track the pop fly and Zemgus Girgensons whacked in the go-ahead tally.
After Nicklas Backstrom went down with an injury, Evgeny Kuznetsov returned to his old place on the TKO line. Just like that, Kuzy made magic happen from behind the net. Alex Ovechkin’s sealed the deal from in front. Tie game.
A few minutes later, Kuznetsov skated the puck in from the half way to hashmarks, allowing Marcus Johansson to deflect the game-winner. Andre Burakovsky added insurance before Ovi popped in an empty netter. This team is good. Really, really good. Caps beat Sabres 5-2!
The Sabres come to down on Wednesday night and the Caps only focus should be on getting two points. The Caps beat the Sabres 2-0 on Monday night. In that game, some stuff happened and some people were upset about it and some people are expecting more stuff to happen tonight. Noted face masher and sub-replacement level NHL player Zach Sill has been recalled to suit up for the guys in red.
I, for one, hope the Caps expend effort only on being the better hockey team. I don’t care about “the code” and I don’t care about sending any message other than we’re the better hockey team and we’re going to beat you.
Is this a good time to talk about how dumb fighting is? Regardless of what argument can be made for the purpose fighting serves, it doesn’t outweigh the health consequences, both short-term and long-term. You can call me anti-fighting, but I prefer to think of it as anti-brain injury or anti-CTE. My argument is that fighting in a hockey game isn’t worth dying over. I have a hard time believing there is a “yeah, but…” that can change my mind here.
Too many ex-enforcers have died prematurely or had serious health consequences as a result of fighting. The guys out on the ice, even the ones wearing the wrong colors, are fathers, brothers, husbands, sons and so on. Their families shouldn’t lose even a single day of experiences with their hockey playing loved one just because the dude bumped a goalie or whatever it is that people think we should risk brain injury to stand up against.
Play the game. Win the game. Don’t participate in activities that are likely to give you a brain injury. Puck drop’s at 7 PM. Coverage on CSN.
Photo: Bill Wippert
The Capitals shutout the Sabres 2-0 on Monday night at First Niagara Center to record their eighth straight win. Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring with his 18th goal of the season and 493rd of his career as Jay Beagle added his 6th to complete the scoring. Braden Holtby made 31 saves including an impressive late glove save to hold on to the shutout.
I wanted to like Monday’s opponent, the Buffalo Sabres. They’re a young team with a superstar rookie and a good coach. Amanda’s a fan and she’s got decent taste. But then a dude hurt Justin Williams and then that same dude hurt Michael Latta and then he stomped around the ice as if he needed the Hulkamaniacs to re-energize him. At that moment I decided the Capitals must crush the Sabres, which is exactly what they did.
Alex Ovechkin scored on the first shift of the second period, one-timing a pass from Nick Backstrom from below the goal-line. Jay Beagle made it 2-0 with a gift of a goal.
Caps beat Sabres 2-0! Braden Holtby is perfection!
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