For two seasons, Evgeny Kuznetsov has terrorized NHL teams with his twister pass. As the Caps center would skate around the net, he would blindly pass the puck behind his body to a crease-crashing teammate. The goalie, assuming Kuznetsov would complete his revolution around the net, would guard against a wraparound shot or forehand pass. That assumption would result in Kuznetsov’s teammate having a wide open net to shoot at on the short side.
Tuesday night in Winnipeg, Kuznetsov played some hockey chess and flipped the script on his opponent. Kuzy did not attempt the twister pass to setup Marcus Johansson’s fifth goal in three games, but the Jets assumed one was coming. And that’s why Johansson scored easily.
For the first three games of the season, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin have been split up. Though this separation may not last long, and though they have spent some time apart during their years in DC, splitting them up is definitely a deviation from the norm. One impact of this change is forcing opponents to make a tough decision in how to match lines against the Caps.
But another major impact is the way the Caps are matching up against the opposition’s top line. Barry Trotz had generally preferred a power vs power matchup, often pitting the Backstrom-Ovechkin line against the other team’s top offensive line. With the duo broken up, the tough task of playing against the opponent’s top line each night has been assigned to the Caps second line of Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky, and Backstrom.
So far, through an admittedly tiny sample of three games, the results have been outstanding. Not only has the Caps’ second line stifled the offense of the opponent’s top line, but by controlling the puck and going on the attack, they’ve been forcing the top offensive weapons of the Caps’ opponent to spend more time on defense than offense.
Photo: Gerry Thomas
Two weeks after returning from a lower-body injury, the Capitals may be without Marcus Johansson yet again. The 25-year-old Swede missed Monday’s morning skate ahead of the Capitals’ matchup with the Coyotes. According to Caps head coach Barry Trotz, Johansson is sick. He did not come to Kettler Capitals Iceplex for off-ice meetings or video work.
“I don’t know. He’s at home,” Trotz deadpanned when asked how Johansson was doing.
Over the weekend, Elliotte Friedman reported that a few teams around the NHL have inquired about Marcus Johansson‘s availability. Johansson, a top-six winger, earns $3.75 million and will be a restricted free agent after the season.
As reported by Chris Nichols of Today’s Slapshot, Friedman expanded on these rumors on Monday morning on Calgary’s Sportnet 980.
Photo credit: Greg Fiume
You could liken Tomas Vokoun’s debut for the Washignton Capitals to being fed to wolves. A team that relies heavily on their netminders, the Capitals chose their date with the fluke-friendly Tampa Bay Lightning to introduce the goalie. This is the same team that knocked the Caps just a few months ago and whose coach has mastered the art of saying passive-aggressive dick-y things. No pressure. GAME ON.
Teddy Purcell deflected off Mike Green’s legs for an early goal that probably pissed Vokoun off righteously. Marcus Johansson converted a wraparound after Dwayne Roloson left the net (more on this below). Bruno “Ricky” Gervais wristed it from beneath the goal line, catching Vokoun off the post to put the Bolts back up. Dennis Wideman unleashed a monster from the blue line that hit iron and webbing (Neil put this shot percentage at around 2%). Dominic Moore had all the time in the world to put his puck in short-side from the slot. Then Schultz ripped one off of Troy Brouwer, whose shot was screened by Joel Ward.
Lemme catch my breath… There’s more.
Jason Chimera crashed the net to clean up Brooks Laich’s rebound and put the Caps up 4-3 in the third. Nick Thompson exploited a completely screened Tomas Vokoun to even it back up. Vokoun had no excuse on the next one, a deep-from-behind ricochet by Brett Clark. Jason Chimera tied it up with a rocket from the circles, earning all in attendance free wings from Glory Days. Into overtime and onto the shootout. New paragraph needed.
Hendricks dekes a deke that hath not yet been deked to give the Caps one. Vokoun sends back soup. Ovechkin rebuffed. Vokoun sends back soup. Sasha scoars! Caps beat Bolts 6-5 (SO)!
Milan Lucic and the Bruins are too much for the Caps to handle for a second straight night. (Photo credit: Mary Schwalm)
Every great song is about loss of some kind: loss of life, loss of a beautiful woman, or loss of that loving feeling. The Capitals should probably download some Righteous Brothers on their iPiddles about now. Maybe some Chuck Brown to commemorate the miserable funk they’re in. Maybe some Hank Williams to soundtrack the drowning of sorrows. Or maybe some Dark Tranquility— you know, death metal: really brutal stuff to remind them of how brutal this game was.
What can we say? Besides the last ten minutes, this was some of worst Caps hockey we’ve seen in more than a year. But we can’t deny that Bruins were truly dialed in, most of all due to senior goalie Tim Thomas, who stopped 38 of 39 Caps shots (a season high). But it must be said that the lion’s share of the shots he faced seemed predestined for his pads. Not that he wasn’t terrific, but that Caps awfulness might have inflated that perception.
It seems unfair to pick any players out for bad performances; it was almost uniformly bad. Like last game, the Caps are still wracked by injury, direly missing Boyd Gordon and Mike Green in particular. Like last game, they struggled to clear the defensive zone and coordinate forward thrusts, often feeding avaricious Bruins perching on the forecheck. Like last game, they didn’t put pucks in the air against a virtuoso butterfly goalie who owned the low area. And just like last game, they were hoisted with their own petard. Bruins beat Caps 4-1.
For the elitist few of you who have the NHL Network (the Russian Machine hates you and your fancy Cable options), you’ve had the opportunity to watch the WJC, or the World Junior Hockey Championships. It’s basically an annual event organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) which showcases some of the best under-20 players from around the world.
Our beloved Washington Capitals are lucky enough to have 4 players representing them in the tournament this year. The prestigious list includes awesome 2008 First Round Draft Pick John Carlson (USA), 2008 7th Round Draft Pick and Japers Rink favorite Stefan Della Rovere (Canada), 2009 First Round Pick Marcus Johannson (Sweeden), and this post’s namesake 2009 Second Round Draft Pick Dmitri Orlov.
Despite the fact our dear Ruskies were upset in OT by Switzerland 3-2 in the Quarter-Finals Saturday afternoon and were eliminated, we figured it was as good a time as any to ask our resident Translator & Moscow native Fedor Fedin to dig up some information on the relatively unknown 18 year old Orlov. Here’s what he found out:
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