If you’re like me, October can only mean two things: Halloween is coming, and HOCKEY IS BACK!!!
To celebrate the return of the Caps, I did what I do best: Illustrate! Here we have Jason Chimera as the Ice Cheetah, John Carlson as Captain America, Nicklas Backstrom as Thor, Braden Holtby as the Holtbeast, and of course, Alex Ovechkin as the namesake, the Russian Machine. Our hockey superheroes in Red are ready to soar into DC again, prepared to thwart whatever stands in their way.
(The quote comes from an anime I watched summer, Kill La Kill. I thought it was pretty fitting, since y’know…. eagles/weagles.)
Hockey is here, so you know I’ll be in the stands, unleashing a little fury to do my part for the thwarting.
With the final preseason game in the books for the Capitals, the team’s opening night line-up is shaping up: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Eric Fehr will be on the top line. Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky, and Troy Brouwer will man the second. Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich, and Joel Ward will be on the third. The fourth line looks set, though scrappy free-agree invitee Liam O’Brien looks to have earned his way into a contract with Hershey or a two-way deal. Michael Latta, though, appears ready to play alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Chris Brown on the fourth line. That might change when Jay Beagle comes back from injury.
“That would be a question for Mac[Lellan],” Trotz said of O’Brien. “He’s been as good as anybody especially in that role.”
“He’s a player that demanded to be noticed,” the coach added.
But what of the Caps’ Swedes? After winning a silver medal in Sochi, Marcus Johansson will likely not represent his home country due to a broken arm. On Thursday, Pär Mårts, Sweden’s national team coach, told Svenska Dagbladet that Nicklas Backstrom has turned down an invitation to play in the tournament this year.
When asked why, Mårts said Backstrom won’t be playing “for family reasons.”
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!”
All season long, the Washington Capitals have had recurring momentary lapses in judgement in which they forget how to hockey. That’s why the Caps won’t be making the playoffs for the first time in six years, and now I’ve got a drinking problem.
On Saturday at Nassau Coliseum, Mike Green and Jason Chimera illustrated how to do the worst breakout ever. Instead of establishing possession and exiting the defensive zone, they crashed into each other full speed right in front of their own goal.
In a skull cap and wig, the third-line wingers hosted the pre-game Two-Man Advantage video. Ward repeated Walton’s catch phrase three or seven times, and Chimera rattled off stats in a meaningless number salad– all in an uncanny impersonation of Vogel.
This is great. Please watch it. I promise it will cheer you up.
On Comcast Sportsnet’s pre-game show Capitals Central (alliteration!), Smokin’ Al Koken interviewed forward Chris Brown to ask the prospect what it was like to score his first NHL goal against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
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.”