On the morning of Wednesday, May 13, my Twitter feed was full of skittish anticipation. The Capitals were about faceoff against the New York Rangers at Madison Garden. The winner would face the Tampa Bay Lightning with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line. The loser’s season would end under that famous flat roof.
Last week, Eric Fehr met the media to update them on the injury that has keep him out of the lineup for most of the playoffs. After two minutes of optimism and indirect answers, the scrum was finished. The day’s routine necessity had been completed. As the rest of the media shuffled away from Fehr’s locker, I made an offhand comment that the F-16 was getting ready for flight.
“There are some bad nicknames out there,” he told me. “Of all the nicknames to have, that’s a pretty cool one.”
I asked what he thought of his other nickname, Fehrsie.
“See, that’s the thing: I hate those nicknames,” he said. “Anybody with a last name with a –y on the end would probably be the worst one. Spelling it –ie doesn’t change anything. You need to be creative. As a group we’ve tried to be more creative with guys. We tried to change it up a little bit.”
Inadvertently, I had just stumbled on a massive scoop. Over the next 10 minutes, Fehr revealed the other hidden nicknames of the Capitals locker room. Some you might know– others you don’t.
The Washington Capitals dominated play in game seven against the New York Islanders through two periods. They were constantly parked in the Isles zone, putting pucks on goaltender Jaroslav Halak with ease. The Islanders could barely muster a whimper, with just six shots on goal as the middle frame wound down. Somehow, though, Washington hadn’t found a way to convert: missed deflections, timely saves, and bad bounces led to a scoreboard that reflected little about what happening on the ice.
Then, with 1:25 left in the second period, Joel Ward broke through, poking Brooks Orpik‘s shot through the legs of Halak. Verizon Center erupted into a shining display of pure human joy. But it was still full of Washington Capitals fans, ready to have their hearts ripped out with final game, final period collapse. And just three minutes and 13 seconds into the closing frame, Frans Nielsen did just that with an innocent-looking wrist shot from the slot that trickled through Braden Holtby’s pads. With that, the game was tied. Though the Caps had dominated play, the game looked like it would end with another bitter, bruising fight, with one bad bounce deciding each team’s fate.
But instead, the game-winner would buck the thuggery the series had shown. With around seven minutes left in the zero-sum game, Evgeny Kuznetsov picked up Jason Chimera‘s pass at the far wall, before cutting right through the heart of the New York zone. The play was magisterial, with Kuznetsov floated past Islanders defenders. Instead of firing the puck off at his first look at the net, Kuznetsov held on to it until he got to the near circle. That’s when Halak went down. Kuznetsov saw an opening.
“I just put puck in the net,” he told reporters after the game.
One of the biggest differences between the Caps under Barry Trotz and the Caps under Adam Oates is the role of defensemen in offense. In February, Alex Prewitt described that role like this:
Blue-liners in Coach Barry Trotz’s system hold the freedom to pinch inside the offensive zone, collapsing onto pucks along the boards to keep possessions alive, but they also are asked to do their fair share of long-range flinging.
Last week, I looked at how badly the Caps’ forwards other than Alex Ovechkinstruggle to generate shot attempts. But with Prewitt’s insight on the role of defenseman in Trotz’s system in mind, here’s a look at shot generation from the Caps defensemen, from a bit of a different angle.
There’s a glossary at the bottom, so be sure to check that out if the chart doesn’t make sense. We’re going to look at what percent of the overall shot attempts by Caps defenders each regular blue liner takes, as well as how effective each defensemen is at getting his individual shot attempts through and getting them on net.
While we use shot attempts as a proxy for meaningful puck possession, this doesn’t mean that all shot attempts are of equal value during game play. Generally, an unblocked shot attempt is preferred to one that is blocked, and a shot on goal is preferred to a shot attempt that goes wide. With that in mind, here’s a look at the six Caps defenders who have a sample size worth looking at.
Washington Capitals defensemen/bros-in-real-life Karl Alzner and John Carlson signed autographs for Caps fans in Silver Spring Thursday night. The event was held by Sport Chevrolet, that car dealership they did commercials for this season.
In these types of settings, athletes can be asked to sign some silly items. Example: reader Eric presented Alzner with a printed-out Words With Friends screenshot. Eric had pwned Alzner on the mobile game earlier in the year and wanted to immortalize the victory.
Instead of open-hand slapping the fan, which is what I would have done, Alzner obliged. He’s so nice. He’s really, really nice. Nicer than I.
On February 20, 2015, In News, Photos, By Ian Oland
Photos: Washington Capitals
Friday morning, the Capitals released the design of their new Courage Caps hats and t-shirts. 100% of the proceeds benefit TAPS, a national organization that provides care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. The Caps say they’ve donated $486,261 to charity through the sale of more than 15,000 hats and nearly 7,000 T-shirts to fans. That’s awesome. Way to go, you.
What’s even cooler is that the team had a few players model some of the new gear this year, including Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, and Brooks Orpik. But I’m guessing – and this is just a hunch – that our readers are going to want to visually consume the Tom Wilson pixels.
Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson has been really good this year, so this is the last thing you want to see. As Carly tried to block Bryan Little’s shot, the puck ramped up off Carlson’s stick and struck him in the side of the head.