John Carlson’s adorable son Lucca unwittingly committed a hockey no-no by crawling on the Washington Capitals’ logo in their weight room at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex Tuesday. “Trying to be a goalie????” wrote Papa Carlson in an Instagram post.
John Carlson had a very bumpy 2015-16 season as he struggled with injury for the first time in his career as an NHL defenseman. Almost anyone at the start of last October would have told you that Carlson was the Capitals number one defenseman, but is that still the case now?
How exactly did this great American hockey preacher of all things good and free do this year?
On Thursday, the Capitals gathered at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to discuss another season that ended prematurely. The players were more visibly emotional than in years past at the annual end-of-season confab with reporters, promising Stanley Cups to the fans and articulating their frustrations with plenty of “failures” and “sucks.”
The news, however, came in the form of injuries revealed publicly for the first time. Karl Alzner’s ailment was at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Referred to by Braden Holtby as the team’s most important player, Alzner missed most of the final game with a torn groin. He played just two shifts early in the second period before being pulled from the game.
“I know that the first four games of the series, I was just out there filling a spot, Alzner said. “I was out there and I was not hurting the team I don’t think, but I also wasn’t helping in winning in the game. That’s when you know you can still do things, but once I’m getting beat up the ice trying to chase a guy and not able to at least stay in battles, that’s when you know it’s time.”
Late in the third period, John Carlson caught Sidney Crosby with his head down, trying to control a bobbling puck in the neutral zone. Carly stepped up and put his shoulder into Crosby, sending the 2007 MVP careening hard into the ice and boards.
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.”
Capitals defensemen Dmitry Orlov went for the big hit, hoping to take Penguins center Nick Bonino out at the blue line. Instead, Orlov missed, colliding with Nate Schmidt. Bonino was left with an unfettered path to the net. He shot the puck on Braden Holtby before Ben Lovejoy cleaned up the rebound at the midway point of Game One on Thursday, tying the score at one.
Orlov, who, like Schmidt, is playing in his first postseason in the NHL, didn’t see the ice for the rest of the game, save for a brief 25-second shift early in the third period. He finished with less than six minutes of time on ice.
On Sunday after the Caps closed out the Flyers, Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirthhad a moment in the handshake line. Shaking his head in admiration, Holtby gave a big high-five and a pat on the shoulder to his former long-time teammate and rival. Neuvirth finished the series with a .981 save percentage, giving up only two goals in three games.
Caps defenseman John Carlson also had a moment with Neuvirth in the handshake line, though he had to do a lot of jersey tugging to get his attention. Carlson and Neuvirth grew up together in the AHL before both landing in the NHL.
During the third period of Game One, Flyers forward Brayden Schenn dispensed several questionable hits. Schenn launched himself into Mike Richards along the boards, knocked Evgeny Kuznetsov head-first into the crossbar, and hit Karl Alzner after the game ended.