Evgeny Kuznetsov takes off his pads after Sunday’s game. (Photos by Chris Gordon)
By tomorrow morning, big changes may have already struck the Washington Capitals. After the Caps’ final game, a 1-0 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the players were somber, but not angry. They’ve been dealing with postmortem questions since Thursday. Four days later, those questions haven’t got any easier to answer, even if the team’s flaws are clear.
I brought my camera into the locker room as the players took off their skates for the final time this year and faced probing reporters Sunday evening. They’ll have to face the latter again tomorrow morning.
For the first time in their respective careers, Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin, Dmitry Orlov, and Evgeny Kuznetsov will all play together on Russia’s national team. As first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Dmitry Chesnokov, Ovechkin announced the news after the conclusion of the Caps’ season-ending shootout loss to the Lightning.
The World Championships, which will be held this year in Minsk, Belarus, begin on May 9th and end May 25th.
Jay Beagle may not own a smartphone, but he’s a nice dude. After Sunday’s 1-0 shootout loss to Tampa, the Caps held the ritual Jerseys Off Our Backs ceremony. When a man was presented with Beagle’s game-worn sweater, team photographers were swarming all around. However, the guy had more important business: Taking a selfie with Jay Beagle.
Later in the ceremony, someone else got the same idea. After pulling number 92, a gentleman tried to take a selfie with Evgeny Kuznetsov. His arm, however, was too short. Not to fear. Kuznetsov, an active user of social media, took control, asking for the phone and taking the series of photos himself. It wasn’t Kuznetsov’s first time doing that either.
With 42 seconds left in the Capitals’ 4-0 win over Chicago, Jay Beagle skated to the bench looking for a change. He had been on the ice for three shifts in the last four minutes. His teammates, however, were adamant that he stay on the ice. But finally, after Beagle crawled over the bench wall, Eric Fehr stepped on for the final shift.
“I felt bad for him because I knew how tired he was,” Fehr told me. “I could see it in his eyes. He doesn’t get that look very often. He was begging to come off. I took a second and evaluated it and figured I better go.”
Said Beagle of his reaction: “I said “’I’m not! I’m not staying on. I can’t even move my legs anymore!”
Sometimes Washington Capitals forward Marcus Johansson struggles to finish in front of the net. Example: last night in the third period against the New Jersey Devils where Mojo , wide open in the crease, hit Cory Schneider right in the pads instead of lifting the puck up and over. The Capitals would lose 2-1.
The next day, Mojo flubbed another easy goal, but this time against the New York Islanders. No worries. Evgeny Kuznetsov cleaned up his mess.
This could not come at a better time. Once and future Caps forward Brooks Laich starred in a segment with Cabbie Richards of TSN called “Five Things Every Man Should Know.” Guest-starring Dustin Penner and Evgeny Kuznetsov– as girls, the video teaches you (not me) everything you (not me) need to know about how to be a manly man.
Brooks guides us (you mostly) through the vagaries of manly tasks we (you) so often get wrong. It’s indispensable viewing: instructive, entertaining, has nothing to do with the Caps’ season, and features D.P. and Kuzya as girls.
Tuesday’s Caps game was ugly. The days that followed didn’t get much better. Adam Oates kinda sorta maybe called out Alex Ovechkin on Wednesday for being Alex Ovechkin. The national hockey media devoured it like it was some delicious Chipotle guac. Ovi wasn’t made available to reporters on Thursday to respond.
With six games left, everyone started to realize it would take divine intervention for the Capitals to make the playoffs. If they did make it, they didn’t deserve to be there — and the Capitals knew that.
The scoring got started tonight with an even-strength Alex Ovechkin tally, the first since we still cared about the Winter Olympics. Playing on a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom, Ovi took a feed from Grabo in the near circle before flipping the puck past Cory Schneider.
During a second period in which the Devs dominated play, New Jersey tied the game up. Twelve minutes into the frame, Tuomo Ruutu tipped home a shot from D-man Eric Gelinas to make it one-one.
The Caps headed into the third with a man-advantage, needing their power play to once again save them from disaster. It didn’t happen.
Ryan Carter scored a late goal for New Jersey. Devils beat Caps 2-1.
In Narrative Land, the biggest story in the hockey world today was Adam Oates calling out Alex Ovechkin for quitting on the play that resulted in a third period goal for the Dallas Stars. But c’mon, it was already 3-0 at that point. How much would one more goal hurt? Other than, ya know, emotionally.
Thehockeymediawentalloutcovering the living ish out of this quote. How would Ovechkin react to being literally thrown under a literal bus by his head coach? By driving his six-figure price-tag car to Georgetown and shopping at the Nike Store with his two Russian bros.
So I guess Ovi’s not exactly devastated by his coach’s heel turn.
Seemingly defeated by Carl Soderberg’s insurance goal with seven minutes left, the Caps struggled to put together any kind of offensive push in the closing minutes of rego. Troy Brouwer made one such push, but the Bruins D tied him up. That play looked like it would fizzle like so many others against Boston.