Vokes and the boys celebrate the shutout. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
The Washington Capitals lost two straight games in California before coming back home to lick their wounds and face the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pittsburgh Penguins, however, were not available for hockey. The team that showed up was some shell-shocked, injury-riddled assemblage of yinzers in PGH uniforms. Not that the Capitals were much better.
Jason Chimera stepped up for the national broadcast, scoring on a breakaway set up by Jeff Halpern’s lovely set pass and some poor decisions by Paul Martin and Evgeny Malkin. And then… nothing. That’s all she wrote. Caps beat Penguins 1-0.
Photo credit: Greg Fiume
The best part of the win was that Green made it completely through the game without re-injuring himself. In his last two comeback attempts from injury, Green has found himself back on the shelf his first game back (concussion on February 25, groin injury on November 11).
Well, two games into his latest return, Green took a rough run from San Jose Sharks’ center Andrew Desjardins behind the Capitals’ goal. Take a look for yourself:
Mike Green looks on during Caps practice Tuesday at Kettler. (Photo credit: Margaret McGuire)
As the Washington Capitals continue to struggle under new coach Dale Hunter, Mike Green has become a beacon of hope for a Caps turnaround. For good reason. As you probably already know, the Capitals are 8-0 — un-frickin’-defeated — when Green has suited up this season.
On February 6, Green took a puck to the face in a game against the Penguins. 19 days later, in his first game back, the Rangers’ Derek Stepan elbowed Green in the head. This season, after notching four points against Detroit (tying his career high), Green missed the next six games due to a twisted ankle. In his first game back (detecting a pattern?), Green suffered his latest injury, a strained groin after taking a rough run from the Devils’ Ryan Carter. Since then, Green has missed 20 games and has not practiced with the team. Until now.
Tuesday, Green made his first steps towards a(nother) comeback, taking the ice for a full Caps-practice for the first time since November 11th.
We issued a challenge, oh faithful users of the Russian Machine, to create Caps-themed Christmas cards. The only rule: use an inferior graphics program or blingee.com to make it.
What we avoided telling you — just like my parents who took 14 years to come clean to me about the whole Santa thing (he IS real) — was that we didn’t have to follow the same rules. Above, is our holiday card by RMNB’s house illustrator, Rachel Cohen.
Meanwhile, you guys rocked this assignment harder than a Dmitry Orlov hip check. Though, to be honest, some of these submissions might land you on Santa’s naughty list once I post this. I apologize beforehand. Cruise on past the jump to check out the gallery and see what I mean.
I score? I really score? (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
Coming into Tuesday’s game against the Predators, the Caps had been inefficient offensively, managing to score only one goal in each of their last three games. Would being confronted with two of the best defensemen in the league — Shea Weber and Ryan Suter — and a team that has played in 10-straight one goal games (7-3-0) somehow help their cause? Also, would an emotional pre-game ceremony honoring one of their team leaders, give the Caps a lift?
You bet your ass it did.
After the Capitals started the game off with four dominant shifts in the Predators zone, Alex Ovechkin — beautifully set-up by Karl Alzner — scored on a breakaway at 7:47 of the first. Later in the period, Nicklas Backstrom wrapped home goal number two of the night, his twelfth of the year. After a scoreless second period, Sergei Kostitsyn ruined Neuvy’s shutout bid with a twisted wrister from just outside the slot. Then Alex Semin decided he felt like scoring. Troy Brouwer, too! Caps beat Preds 4-1.
Photo credit: Michael Martin
For those of you who stayed up late Saturday with the hopes of getting an up-close-and-personal look at #AvsFailWatch, sorry. The Capitals are scuffling. The team has mustered only one goal in each of the past three games (1-2-0), they have failed to win more than two straight games since starting the season 7-0, and they have an unimpressive 4-5-0 record since Dale Hunter was hired as coach. 31 games into the season, the Caps are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and would not qualify for the playoffs if they started today. Bummer city.
While it’s easy to fret about all the unmet expectations this season, there are also some positive changes going on– though you might have to get out a magnifying glass to see them.
First, the Capitals are giving up nearly one less goal per game under Hunter (3.27 GAA with Bruce, 2.55 with Dale). Five-on-five, the Capitals are finally subscribing to more of a chip-and-chase system and are trying to be a tougher team to compete against. “Unfortunately, it’s a really hard way to play,” Tomas Vokoun recently explained to CSN’s Chuck Gormley. “But it’s the only way you can win a Stanley Cup. And the sooner we learn it as a team the better off we’re going to be.”
After registering seven points in three games for the Capitals, John Carlson was named the the NHL’s third star of the week. On Monday afternoon, Captain America celebrated by suffering through six minutes of questions from EJ Hradek and Deb Placey.
Amongst the most interesting topics they discussed, Carlson revealed his initial disappointment about not being drafted by New Jersey, his excitement to have Dale Hunter as his coach again, and his feelings — two years removed — on his gold-medal winning OTGWG in the 2010 World Junior Championships.
But really, we’re just posting this because our DALE sign is at 4:24.
Early Monday morning , DC101’s Elliot in the Morning interviewed Brooks Laich. Before practice, Laich talked extensively about Dale Hunter, the system he’s bringing to Washington, the firing of Bruce Boudreau, and the awkwardness surrounding Dennis Wideman’s almost-hat trick.
Below the jump, I’ve transcribed a good chunk of the two’s talk.
Photo credit: Rob Carr
Warning: You’re about to read statistics from someone who can’t keep score at Scrabble.
The Washington Capitals started their season with a 7-game winning streak. They were the talk of the league, a team made of smiles and wins.
They would go on to lose 12 of their next 18 games, their head coach, and their confidence. As of game 25, the Capitals are in a three-way tie for 8th in the Eastern Conference. For perspective, the players on the 9th place team usually get started on their suntans a little earlier than everyone else.
This article takes a look at the numbers behind the Caps season to date to try and give its schizophrenia some context. I’ll look at shots on goal, save percentage, puck possession, power play, and penalty kill.
Because with all of the opinions about why the Caps have fell so far (many I’ve posited myself), I owe you guys some objective assessment without the usual bluster or pageantry.
(Photo credit: Nick Wass)
The Dale Hunter era hasn’t exactly started with a bang. With Hunter looking for his first NHL win behind the bench and the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby playing Washington for the first time since his Winter Classic concussion heard ’round the world, everybody from TSN to The New York Times descended on the Verizon Center Thursday night. And for the second game in a row the Caps were easily outplayed and doubled up in shots on goal (65 to 36 over the two games) — even if they lost by just one tally.
Still, the Caps aren’t exactly playing like Bruce Boudreau remains behind the bench. The team has instituted Hunter’s new defensive system (they had the second worst goal-against average in the league under the old regime) which will take some getting used to. The players, of course, know this as they made an even more dramatic shift in their play in the midst of their eight-game losing streak less than one year ago. So far, though, it’s yet to yield a victory.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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