Joel Ward Hides in Weeds, Scores 20th Goal of Year

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Photo: Paul Frederiksen

Only one line on the Capitals is made up entirely of double-digit scorers: the third line of Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, and Joel Ward. As we’ve mentioned before, they have been Washington’s top scoring threat outside of Alex Ovechkin this season. Sunday, Ward tallied 20 goals for the first time in career, while also assisting on Chimera’s foot-goal earlier in the first period.

“My karma paid off,” Ward told me after the game. “For me, I just hide in the weeds and try to look for some loose pucks.”

Ward had already topped his previous career high of 17 goals on the first of the month in Boston. Always a solid checking line forward, the 33-year-old has taken off as an offensive force this season. He already has six more goals this year than he did in his first two seasons with the Caps combined (six in ’11-’12, eight in ’13). Caps head coach Adam Oates has also given Ward a prime spot down low on the power play this year, which accounted for his goal against the Leafs. Per your boy Mike Vogel, members of the third line have been on the ice for 10 of Washington’s last 13 goals.

“I’ve counted on Wardo and Chimmer all year long,” Oates. “They penalty kill, power play. Big bodies that we count on for a lot of minutes to get territory for us. It’s good to see them rewarded because you don’t get a lot of accolades based on that, doing grunt work.”

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Eric Fehr celebrates his goal on Monday. (Photo: Rob Carr)

The Capitals have scored 185 goals this season. Alex Ovechkin has 44 of them. For most of the season, the team has struggled with secondary scoring. Lately, however, some of their complementary players are coming alive.

Troy Brouwer has eight goals in 11 games. Brooks Laich had goals in two straight games coming into Monday. Though Laich has being missing practices and morning skates due to a lingering groin injury, he played great against the Penguins, scoring a goal that was later credited to Nick Backstrom. Laich did register an assist, marking his third straight game with a point.

Monday, the third line of Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, and Joel Ward provided half of the Capitals’ offense in a 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh. They greatly titled the ice in their favor, scoring the Caps’ first goal early in the game.

“I thought Fehrsie’s line might’ve had the best game they’ve had all year,” head coach Adam Oates said. “You feel it on the bench. You hear the guys talking on the bench. Your job is to try to have the next line follow and keep it going.”

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Photo: Rob Carr

In the first period, Dmitry Orlov scored his first goal since December 15th. In the second period, Dima got another. O RLY?

The SCOARLOV only happened though because of a heads up play (or maybe a life-saving decision) by Jason Chimera. The Ice Cheetah, laying helpless in the slot after being mauled (see what I did there?) by a Flyers player, lifted his legs up ice so Orly’s shot could hit the net.

It certainly did.

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Caps Players Share Their Olympic Vacation Plans (Video)

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Moar jokes from these two!

Before the Washington Capitals left for Olympic break, I asked the non-Olympian players what their predictions were for Sochi. That was great, but I also asked them where they were going on vacation.

Some players were heading home, some were heading back to Hershey, and then others — whom I will not name — might have fibbed a bit about where they were actually going.

Check it out.

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Before Saturday’s game, I visited Kettler Capitals Iceplex and asked players for their Olympic picks. With the Caps sending five players to Sochi (Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Martin Erat, and John Carlson), I wondered where Washington’s non-Olympians would place their allegiances.

I figured that since the RMNB staff was able to put its own biases aside when we made our predictions, maybe the players would do the same and maybe even offer some hardcore, dispassionate hockey analysis.

Nope. Not even a little.

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The third line celebrates Chimera's goal.

The third line celebrates Chimera’s goal. (Photo: Greg Fiume)

Photo: Patrick McDermott

After Alex Ovechkin the Capitals goal scoring list takes a dip. Coming into Sunday’s game, Ovi had 38 goals. Joel Ward, the second-leading scorer, had 15. Ward continues to do his part. The 33-year-old added three more points to a remarkable season, scoring twice and assisting once in Washington’s 5-4 6-5 victory over Detroit.

“Since last year we’ve asked him to play more involved,” Caps coach Adam Oates said after the game. “He’s a good hockey player. He can’t just come to the rink and be complacent that ‘Oh, I’m gonna play third-line minutes and do the job.’ No. We need production. We need you to help the other guys out. … We need you to be a goal scoring threat.”

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Photo credit: Justin K. Aller

Editor’s note: The Washington Capitals have lost seven straight games. Things are dire right now. But this story is why we love hockey and have the best readers in the world. Michael R., a regular commenter on the site, left this comment in our game recap. We felt compelled to share it with all of you. Take it away, Michael.

Normally, when I go to games, for financial reasons, I get seats in the upper level. But for Alex Semin’s first game back in a non-Capitals uniform (a few years ago), I wanted to sit close, so I sprung for lower level tickets, row C, by the faceoff circle of the Caps-shoot-twice end, on the penalty-box side. With 30 seconds left in the game, the Caps held a 3-0 lead. Most of the fans were packing up their belongings, not paying close attention to the game. Suddenly (and I’m still not sure how this happened), the puck came over the glass fast, and hit an approximately 12-year-old boy sitting in front if me. He was woozy, his mother was (understandably) freaking out, and myself and others nearby were trying to get the attention of ushers/Verizon Center medical staff.

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Standings Free Fall: Devils Top Caps 2-1

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Ugh. (Photo: Andy Marlin)

Just like Alex Ovechkin, ya boy Peter was out with an injury tonight. Undisclosed for those asking. I’m nursing the flu. We’re sort of like the Caps of Caps blogs right now.

Embarking on five game road trip with their dads in tow, the Caps headed to newly Cory Booker-less Newark for date with the Devils. Allowing the fewest shots per game in the NHL and featuring the blue-hot Cory Schneider, New Jersey didn’t look like great opponent to get Washington’s hapless offense going. They weren’t. Yep, it’s gonna be one of those again.

As usual these days, the game got off to a horrid start. Five minutes in, Dmitry Orlov made another silly mistake, fumbling the puck in the Caps offensive zone. Steven Gionta and Ryan Carter went the other way on the odd-man break. Shockingly, Mike Green did not misplay the 2-on-1. It wasn’t enough. The puck snuck past Michal Neuvirth off the blade of Gionta.

Early in the second, Adam Henrique put the Devs up by two with Orlov in the box for holding. Jaromir Jagr made the play, fabulously skating through the Capitals defense before feeding the puck in front for his second assist of the game. Facing this Capitals offense, it looked like that was all New Jersey needed.

Jason Chimera, however, had other ideas. Midway through the third, he deflected a John Erskine shot from the point for his third goal in seven games. It wasn’t enough though.

Seven in a row. Devils top Caps 2-1.

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Caps Host Annual Dads Trip (Photos)

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Braden Holtby poses with his dad Greg. (Photo credit: @CapitalsPR)

In the middle of a six game losing streak, the Caps are in a tough stretch, playing their next five games on the road. Being away from home, though, has it upsides. This weekend, Washington is hosting their annual mentors trip, with players allowed to bring one guest to New Jersey and Montreal. The group is made up mostly of dads, who will get to see what it’s like to be an NHL player for a few days.  Continue Reading

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Not Again: Rangers Slam Caps 4-1

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Photo: Scott Levy

Coming into Friday night, the Caps had been playing well. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they nearly beat two of the league’s best teams. But then they played Columbus. It was a disaster, and a moment of reckoning.

After the game, the fan base — and the team — seemed to hit the panic button. People on Twitter smashed their keyboards, pointing out Washington’s glaring defensive holes and overreliance on the power play. None of that, however, is anything new. It’s not likely to change before playoff time either.

On Saturday, Adam Oates came up with wacky line combinations in hopes of righting Washington’s four game skid. It didn’t work.

The game got off to an awful start when Rick Nash picked off a silly defensive zone pass from Dmitry Orlov to put New York up just 70 seconds in. Fifteen minutes later, Nash was at it again. A lack of spatial awareness led to two hooking penalties on the Caps. On the ensuing 5-on-3, the former Blue Jacket floated a weak wrister through Phillip Grubauer’s legs. About a minute and a half later, Derek Stepan put the nail in Washington’s coffin with a shot though traffic. Braden Holtby came in, but the game was already over.

Ovechkin tried to give the Caps life with a 5-on-3 bullet early in the second, but Ryan Callahan put Washington back in their place just 86 seconds later. This was never a game anyway. Rangers slam Caps 4-1.

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