Johansson (red) laughs during the preseason Capitals Alumni Game. (Photo: Chris Gordon)

The Washington Capitals’ defense allows the second most shots per game in the NHL. They’ve put perhaps their best defensive prospect, Dmitry Orlov, through recall-scratch-repeat hell. Now that Orlov is finally playing, he’s paired with a guy who has a similar skill set, Mike Green.

Then there’s the frequent shuffling of the Caps blue line deck. Due to injuries, on-ice struggles, waiver pickups, and call-ups from the minors, Washington has used twelve different defenseman this season. Just about every blue liner in the organization has gotten a shot as part of the 2013-14 Caps D corps.

As we head towards the stretch run, the Caps seemed to have settled on a lineup for now: John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Mike Green, Dmitry OrlovJohn Erskine, and Connor Carrick. Though Washington’s defense has been its biggest flaw, its recent improvement may also their best chance at making — and succeeding — in the playoffs.

A few weeks ago, I spoke with assistant coach Calle Johansson, the man who runs the Caps’ blue line, and asked him about some of his decisions, including some of the positives from this season.

The full transcript is below.

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Photo credit: Rob Carr

After John Erskine took a couple swings at Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf during a fracas early in the second period, Leafs’ fifth-line enforcer Colton Orr challenged Big John to a little do-si-do to stick up for his teammate.


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John Erskine Accidentally Punches Ref in Face (Video)


Midway through the second period, Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine had a dust-up with Dion Phaneuf after a stoppage in play. Erskine, who clearly wanted to fight, was held back by linesman Mark Shewchyk. Unfortunately for Shewchyk, a wayward Erskine fist didn’t quite reach Phaneuf’s face, landing instead on the linesman’s chin.

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Caps Auction Off Ugly Christmas Sweaters (Photos)

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The sweaters on sale. (All photos by Chris Gordon)

A couple weeks ago, the Washington Capitals released a magisterial Christmas video in which their players wore ridiculous outfits while pretending to provide musical accompaniment to Jingle Bells. Tonight, the team auctioned off the signed ugly sweaters worn Nicklas Backstrom, John Erskine, Mike Green, Brooks Laich, Alex Ovechkin, Aaron Volpatti, Joel Ward, and Tom Wilson in the video, with the profits benefiting Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic. Troy Brouwer owns the onesie he wore in the video, and according to Caps Community Relations, he refused to part with it. Instead, a signed stocking was offered instead. I imagine he’ll be wearing the onesie on Christmas day.

In the third period, it was announced by Caps PR that bidding raised $5,225 for charity. Way to go, guys.

Here are some photos of the #fashion on sale:

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Love ugly Christmas sweaters and cheesy music videos? This video will make you happy. The Washington Capitals have recorded a music video for Jingle Bells to wish you guys happy holidays. It features Caps captain Alex Ovechkin on the bells, Brooks Laich on the drums, Joel Ward on an inflatable pink saxophone, Troy Brouwer on bass, Aaron Volpatti on the guitar, Nicklas Backstrom on the tambourine, John Erskine on a pre-k piano, Tom Wilson on the ukulele, and– of course– Mike Green rocking the cowbell.

You have to see this.

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Moar Caps Dog Calendar Photos


The Washington Capitals released a behind-the-scenes video on Tuesday that gives us a peak behind the curtain of the upcoming Caps Dog calendar, which benefits the Homeward Trails Animal Rescue. Every dollar from the sale of these keepsakes will go to making a pet’s life better, which is why on December 3rd, you will buy one when they go on sale. They’ve be available through the Capitals’ team stores at Verizon Center and Kettler, as well as online.

Because I love you guys, I have collected some of my favorite stills from the new video. If you ask me, the best pic is the one where Grabovski stares deep into that dog’s soul. Or Hula Holtby.

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John Erskine: Even-Strength Albatross (Video)


Photo credit: Elsa

Ostensibly, John Erskine is a top-4 defenseman, but his performance so far this season leaves much to be desired. He has been on the ice for the last five even-strength goals scored against the Caps.

The team’s goal differential during 5v5 play, by the way, is minus-5. Coincidence?

Let’s take a look at how those goals went down.

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Patrick McDermott

MVP. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)

And so we said goodnight to the Southeast Division. With one last dance between the Washington Capitals and the Winnipeg Jets (née Atlanta Thrashers), the stakes were a division title and a guaranteed ticket to the postseason dance for the home team. It was a barn-burning good time, which doesn’t sound like a good time if you own a barn but you don’t so it was. The Capitals came out of the gates shooting and hardly stopped to catch their breath. All four lines were clicking, and that’s exactly the kind of hockey we want to see one week before the playoffs start.

Alex Ovechkin is the best.

Caps beat Jets 5-3. The Capitals make the playoffs. The Capitals are Southeast Division champions.

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Hot-heads and High Sticks: Isles beat Caps 5-2

Bruce Bennett

Totally not a picture of Grubauer btw. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

The Washington Capitals had a great chance to jump up the Southeast Division in Saturday’s game at the New York Islanders. For awhile it looked like the Caps could do it, but then two rotten, late-game penalties by Mike Ribeiro and Jeff Schultz put it out of reach. A great opportunity, squandered.

Isles beat Caps 5-2.

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Kevin Dineen needed more than a timeout tonight. (GIF by welshhockeyfan)

The Florida Panthers opened tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals with four straight shots on Braden Holtby in the first 1:44 of game action. They looked sharp. They looked ready to get out of the Southeast division cellar. The wheels fell off 24 seconds later.

As John Erskine wound up from the Panthers’ blue line — in what he would later admit was just a dump-and-change — Florida’s starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom mis-judged Erskine’s blast and allowed the puck to squeak through his seven-hole. 1-0 Caps.

2:36 later, the Capitals would score on their very next shot, as Markstrom was caught off guard by Wojtek Wolski‘s strong net crash. Enter Scott Clemmensen.

Clemmensen gave up two more goals — one to John Carlson and another to Mike Ribeiro — in the next six shots. The Capitals received a standing ovation and headed into intermission with a 4-0 lead, their biggest goal explosion this season.

“I don’t know what to say,” Markstrom told reporters after the game. “It was terrible. I feel like I let the team down. I am there to stop pucks, and I didn’t do that tonight.”

The Capitals beat the Panthers 7-1.

Now enjoy fun facts from the first period –plus video of all  four goals.

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