Photo: Dave Reginek
The Washington Capitals beat one of the best possession teams in the league on Sunday, but not before weathering a last-minute onslaught by the Detroit Red Wings. That onslaught included six shot attempts – five of which were blocked by Washington defenders.
Karl Alzner literally saved the game himself, diving in front of a Riley Sheahan shot with 15.8 seconds remaining. Teemu Pulkkinen’s point shot ricocheted off Matt Niskanen’s skate to a wide-open Sheahan at the left circle. With Holtby facing the other direction, Alzner sacrificed his body – much like Tom Wilson did a few minutes earlier – and blocked the attempt with an awkward double-leg slide.
Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
On Thursday night, Adam Oates was back behind the bench at Verizon Center for the first time since being fired at the end of last season. Much has changed since then. On this night, the Capitals were playing with sticks that were familiar to them and their coach was not giving his players the cold shoulder. But the most important change, at least on this night, came on defense. Oates instituted a defense system that required blueliners to give up the puck almost immediately after gaining it. This led to forced passes and a myriad of odd-man breaks against. It turned former Norris Trophy nominees like Mike Green into subject of ridicule. The Capitals defense, on the whole, was very bad.
This year, however, things are different. In offseason, new general manager Brian MacLellan added some much needed balance to the Capitals by signing Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to big money deals. New coach Barry Trotz has also freed up its defensemen, allowing them to carry the puck when necessary. This has led to a resurgence for Green, who has 39 points this season. Other blueliners have also chipped in. Through 73 games, Karl Alzner had more than doubled his career high in goals and surpassed his career high in assists.
Against the Devils, Alzner added his fifth goal of the year in a decidedly un-Oatesian way.
Karl Alzner just scored his fifth goal of the season and the 12th goal of his career.
The goal came in the first period against the New Jersey Devils (Roy Rogers alert). Alzner joined the attack, which I hope Devils coach Adam Oates hated, and hit the back of the net from below the circles.
So great. (Photo: @annasleong)
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.
There it is. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
At the start of the 2008 NHL season, Mike Green came to camp with just 15 sticks. They were Easton Stealth CNTs. At the time, Green said his sticks had been discontinued for “a while.” He would be getting no more. Over the course of that season, Green posted unbelievable numbers for a defensemen, scoring 31 goals. Looking at the goal leaderboard for that season, Green is just below some of the most high flying scorers in the league: Malkin, Toews, and Crosby to name a few.
At one point Green scored a stunning 10 times in eight straight games. The goals during the streak all came off the same Easton, which Green said was the best stick he’s ever played with. Reluctantly, he agreed to donate it to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“You can only be superstitious for so long,” Green said.
Green’s moment of reckoning came on May 2, 2009. Playing in game one of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Green broke his last surviving Stealth CNT.
Sunday’s game between the St Louis Blues and Washington Capitals has been surprisingly physical. Big hits punctuated the first period, including one that caused an injury to Shattenkirk, but this dirty boarding by David Backes on Karl Alzner was the worst yet.
It’s pretty simple in its dirtiness. Alzner skated to the puck at the boards. Backes lined up and hit him right in the numbers, smearing Alzner’s face into the glass.
Glorious human being. (Photo credit: Alex Brandon)
On January 1, 2011, Eric Fehr blasted into the offensive zone, along with the puck. He unleashed bullet of a wrist shot off the slushy Heinz Field ice. It was his second goal of the game, the 2011 Winter Classic, cementing him in Capitals history.
On Saturday, Fehr scored twice against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a redux of sorts of his 2011 outdoor game performance. Well, according to everyone but him.
“Not really,” Fehr said when asked by Alex Prewitt if that game brought back any memories. “Different kind of goals and obviously different building.”
Today, however, his goal was close as you could get to 2011: breakaway, unassisted, outdoors, and happy times at the end. Nevertheless, Fehr stuck to his talking points, giving nearly the same answer he provided the media Saturday.
“Not really,” Fehr said when asked, once again, if it brought back any memories. “It was a little bit different.”
Still, he was happy.
“It always feels good to score goals, I won’t lie to you,” Fehr, who attributed his play to “some good fresh air,” told me. “The ones in the Winter Classic feel extra special.”
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis saw it coming.
“I walked in today and saw Eric and said ‘You’re our x-factor,” Leonsis told me.
Photo: Bruce Bennett
Nate Schmidt recently found himself watching from the press box for two games while Jack Hillen took his spot beside Mike Green. Hillen is an adequate player, but should be seventh on the Caps defensive depth chart among those healthy.
That isn’t to say that Hillen should never get a sweater. Over the course of a season, it’s fine and good to work in a guy like Hillen here and there so rust doesn’t build up, but Barry Trotz has made it clear that the reason Hillen was given a sweater recently is because, in his opinion, Schmidt had played his way out of the lineup. Schmidt’s recent benching is another questionable lineup decision by Barry Trotz, wherein he seems to focus on the “big mistake” as opposed to the underlying processes and actual patterns of play.
Hockey is a funny. Sometimes the offensively inept Brooks Orpik scores the prettiest goal of the season in a 20-round shootout. Sometimes shy-shooting Karl Alzner scores a skill goal on Vezina trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, which is what happened on Thursday night.
I don’t get it either, but look at this.
Artsy. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
“Tom Wilson needs to play like Tom Wilson,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said early this month. “If Tom Wilson starts to play like someone else, then he won’t be on the first line.”
It’s been over a month since the bellicose winger got promoted to top line duty. He was in full bloom on Thursday, agitating the Blue Jackets all night. His premiere moment of belligerence came midway through the second period when Wilson goaded James Wisniewski into taking four minutes of penalty time for attempting to disfigure Wilson’s face.
Wisniewski’s assault failed, his stick snapping upon contact with Wilson’s chin.
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