It’s been a couple weeks since Nick Bonino of the Pittsburgh Penguins scored in overtime to eliminate the Washington Capitals from the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The second round series was an epic battle between the hottest team in the league, the Penguins, and the team with the best record in the NHL, the Capitals.
Over the six-game series, the Penguins netted just one more goal than the Caps, outscoring them 16-15. Three of the games went to overtime. If a few more bounces went the Capitals’ way, they could be getting ready to host Game One of the Stanley Cup Final right now.
Photo: Gregory Shamus
Former Capitals Eric Fehr and Steve Oleksy have just punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals. They will play Joel Ward’s San Jose Sharks.
Their new team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, became Eastern Conference Champions Thursday after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 at CONSOL Energy Center. Bryan Rust scored both goals, including the game winner.
Photo: Drew Hallowell
Eric Fehr spent nine years with the Washington Capitals. He was twice a hero in the Winter Classic, scoring two goals in 2011’s rain-soaked epic in Pittsburgh and once in Washington’s late third period thriller in 2015. He wanted to stay with the Capitals, knowing they had a chance at the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. But the Capitals spent their money elsewhere and Fehr joined the rival Penguins on a three year contract. Now, on a Saturday night in May, he put a dent in the same Washington champion hopes he once held, tipping a puck past Caps goalie Braden Holtby in the third period to break a 1-1 tie in Game Two and send the series back to Pittsburgh on an even footing.
“That one’s right up there,” Fehr said after the game. “To score in the second round like that and get our team a split in this rink I think is pretty special.”
Photo: Rob Carr
The Washington Capitals’ power play has operated in the same way for years under a myriad of coaches. It features a 1-3-1 setup. The main weapon is Alex Ovechkin, who scored 19 of his 50 goals on the man-advantage in the regular season. Since 2011, it’s been one of the league’s top five units. Everyone knows what’s coming; they just can’t stop it.
In their first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Capitals power play was key as the team jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, converting on eight of 17 man-advantage opportunities, despite the Capitals often getting outplayed at even strength.
“Our power play is successful because everybody is on the same page, everybody knows what they have to do,” Ovechkin said after Saturday’s morning skate. “If they take me away, Carly’s open or Osh or Willy or Kuzy or Backy. It’s hard to stop. If I have a chance to shoot the puck I will, but I’ll take a guy with me to go to the goal line or something.”
Once again, Tom Wilson is being talked about for all the wrong reasons. On Friday afternoon, the NHL fined Wilson $2,403.67, the maximum allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for kneeing Pittsburgh’s Conor Sheary.
Sheary missed a few shifts after the hit but stayed in the game.
Speaking before the fine was levied by the Department of Player Safety, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz admitted Wilson should have avoided the hit, though he described it as “shin-on-shin.”
“We’ll leave it up to the league,” Trotz said. “Whatever they decide, I think we’re fine with it. That’s what their job is. You gotta respect. Player Safety with the NHL has done, I think, a good job.”
Photo: Derek Leung
Eric Fehr and Mike Green both wanted to stay in Washington and win a Stanley Cup — it just didn’t work out that way. They had played their entire 10-year careers with the Caps, save for one year Fehr spent with the Jets. But with restricted free agents like Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Marcus Johansson to lock up, plus the offseason acquisitions of Justin Williams and TJ Oshie, Fehr knew it would be tough to stay.
Saturday night, former Capital and Winter Classic Hero Troy Brouwer will return to Verizon Center for the first time since being traded to the Blues for TJ Oshie. Which is why several hours earlier it was completely appropriate that two other former Caps, Eric Fehr and Mike Green, played against each other.
Green and Fehr both scored. Both players were on the ice for both goals, and both goals were ugly.
The Capitals-Ducks game was originally scheduled for 7 PM, then rescheduled to 5 PM, then postponed altogether on Friday afternoon. But how about the nationally broadcast Caps-Pens game, which is scheduled for 12:30 PM Sunday?
The NHL will announce their decision on if that game will be cancelled on Saturday morning. Considering the Penguins have a game that day and would have to travel into DC later that night, it seems unlikely to happen.
Meanwhile, the Post-Gazette’s Seth Rorabaugh asked former Capital/now-turned-heel Pittsburgh Penguin Eric Fehr what he thought the chances were they’d play the game.
This is so weird. (Photo: Charles LeClaire)
On October 29, the all-time leader in outdoor goals, Eric Fehr, returned to Verizon Center for the first time since signing with the Capitals’ hated rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fehr, injured and unable to play in the game, was saluted by the team with a tribute video.
Last night, Fehr got to suit up for the first time against his former team. The Penguins rubbed salt in the wound by reminding us about it at every turn.
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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