Adam Oates Looks for Scoring Balance With New Top-Six

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Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

This season, Alex Ovechkin’s shot has been an unstoppable force of destruction. Ovi has registered 31 goals. His line’s scoring, however, has often been one-sided. Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin’s linemates for much of the season, have scored just six even-strength goals. When Ovi’s hitting the net, it’s not a problem. But if last year’s MVP hits some bad luck, as he did over the four games before last night, the line struggles. Ovechkin has just a single assist during five-on-five play.

“It’s not enough,” Oates said when I asked him about that stat. “It shows how much all three guys are important.”

For Thursday’s game against the Hurricanes, Oates switched up his lines, putting Ovechkin with Eric Fehr and Mikhail Grabovski while placing Johansson and Backstrom with Brouwer.

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Holtby Overtime: Caps Top Isles 3-2 (OT)

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Ballgame. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

Like the Bond marathon on SyFy over the last few days, the Washington Capitals are a fickle thing. Lately, the Caps have mixed the sublime elegance of the Sean Connery era with the confusing stupor of the Timothy Dalton movies. More often than not, it’s been the latter.

Plainly, they didn’t deserve to win yesterday’s game. Only the godlike brilliance of Eric Fehr kept the Caps from a fifth straight loss. They did win, however, and got their tired asses on a plane to hell Long Island this morning. With Braden Holtby making his second start in as many days, the setup for this one didn’t look good.

Washington’s start, however, was better than we’ve come to expect. Though New York handily outshot them early, the Caps controlled possession. The teams traded chances, with no one converting. Hey, that’s better than being 3-0 after 20!

As usual, the Caps got it going in the second. The period was filling with odd-man breaks and open looks for Washington, with the fourth line converting midway through the frame. Martin Erat – yes, that one — made a nice play behind the net before setting up the puck for Tom Wilson, who fired it on net. Aaron Volpatti did the net crashing thing to put the Caps on the board.

In the third, though, the Isles got the goal back — and they did on a Caps power play. Four minutes into the period, local pariah Mike Green missed a pinch and Cal Clutterbuck took the puck the other way on a breakaway. Yeah, it was awful. Then, Thomas Vanek gave the Isles the lead with some whacking in front, to Braden’s dismay. With less than two minutes left, this one looked over. HOWEVER… Nicklas Backstrom was stone cold clutch, converting in front with the Caps down a man. In overtime, the big Russian — that would be Alex Ovechkin — did his thing. Boom. Crazy times. Caps top Isles 3-2 (OT).

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Festival of (Red) Lights: Sens Edge Caps 6-4

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Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Blame Rachel Cohen for this.

Blame Rachel Cohen for this.

[Note: This recap is Chanukah-themed tonight. Why? Because there's literally no one on the Internet right now.]

Last week, there was only one way to describe the play of the Washington Capitals: shameful. After winning three straight, the Capitals allowed seven unanswered goals at Verizon Center, before showing some life late against Montreal. Saturday’s game, though, was markedly different. The Capitals still lost, but they put 50 shots on goal, Washington’s highest total since 2010. On the first night of Chanukah, the Caps looked to continue that output against the lowly Ottawa Senators. They did — at first.

It started with a sublime play by yelling person-cum-Jewish pun Michael Latta, who skated into the offensive zone, got tripped, and then pole vaulted over a Sens defender. The loose puck went to Eric Fehr, who unleashed a lovely wrist shot to put the Caps on the board. Ottawa tied it up less than a minute and a half  later, however, when Bobby Ryan tipped one past Braden Holtby on the man-advantage. However, Marcus Johansson whacked in a loose puck in front on the power play just 38 seconds after the Sens tally, giving the Caps a 2-1 lead. BUT WAIT! A mere 47 seconds later, Brooks Laich backhanded home a loose puck in front. Four goals in under five minutes. Whew!

The second period was all Sens. Chris Philips put them within one with a blast on the power play, before Colin Greening tied the game at three.

In the final frame Mika Zibanejad added another PP tally. Ugh. The game looked hopeless until John Carlson tied it late. Prepare to cry, though, because just over a minute later Zach Smith beat Mike Green and Nate Schmidt to win the ballgame. Ryan added an empty netter. Sad face. Vodka. Sens edge Caps 6-4

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Photo credit: Alex Brandon

It was Russian Heritage Night at Verizon Center on Tuesday, so how else could the Washington Capitals game end but with an Alex Ovechkin goal in overtime. It was Ovi’s 13th career OTGWG — the most in Caps franchise history — and his 14th goal of the 2013-14 season.

While Ovi was the one who crashed the net, the reason why you’re getting 50% off your online order from Papa John’s tomorrow is Marcus Johansson.

Johansson has been a lightning rod of criticism from Caps fans, showing tons of skill, but playing soft in the corners and not finishing. It can be infuriating, but on Tuesday he did everything right.

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Marcus Johansson’s Lucky Goal Leads Caps Past Wild

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Photo credit: Rob Carr

The Washington Capitals were outplayed by the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. Despite Troy Brouwer’s protestations otherwise, the Caps were steadily outshot — attempted or on goal — throughout the game. Nevertheless, winning hockey games always requires some luck, and the Caps had it late against the Wild.

“Sometimes you gotta get goals like that,” head coach Adam Oates told reporters. “It took a lot of work and we fought through a lot of frustration.”

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The Marcus Johansson Stick Fail (GIF)

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GIF by welshhockeyfan

Late in the second period of the Caps/Panthers game, Marcus Johansson shanked a one-timer set up by Mike Green, breaking his stick in the process. With just a shard in his hand, Johansson flipped it into the air, sassily. Swedish hair, don’t care. And thus concludes the coolest thing Marcus Johansson has ever done in a Caps jersey.

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Missing Defense, Missing Teeth: Flames Drop Caps 5-2

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Look at these idiots. (Photo credit: Derek Leung)

Hey!

Hey!

Utterly stunning as it may be, the Washington Capitals came into Saturday’s late night bout against Calgary on a three game winning streak after a pair of 4-1 victories and shootout nail biter in Winnipeg. With a newly even record, the Caps looked to put themselves above .500 for the first time this year with a win against the lowly Flames. They didn’t.

Kris Russell scored just over a minute into the game after a horrid opening shift for the Caps. It didn’t get better. Jiri Hudler put the Flames up by two with some net crashing. Jason Chimera got one back for the Caps on a nice backhand shot in front. Mike Cammalleri, though, just continued the bloodletting. Holtby pulled, Holtby mad. In the second, the Caps were better. Aaron Volpatti‘s muffled wrister found the back of the net to put them within one heading into the final frame. That period was stupid. Cammalleri potted another. Curtis Glencross added one more. Flames drop Caps 5-2.

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Winning Feels Nice: Caps Top Blue Jackets 4-1

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Happy times! (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)

Finishing up their longest home stand of the season, the Washington Capitals took on new look (!) Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday. Facing a bunch of weak teams, the Caps didn’t do well in their last four games of their five game set at Verizon Center, posting a record of 1-3 and falling to 2-5 overall. Yesterday, Adam Oates had enough and went all “Screw everything! YOLO!” on the lines. Erat to the second! Fehr on the fourth! Grabo on the third! Other things! Par-ty!

No offense in the first frame. In the second, though, power play powerhouse Joel Ward rifled one top shelf on Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Caps the lead. Washington added to it about six minutes later when Brooks Laich popped in the rebound after Steve Oleksy’s inexplicably fancy stick work. The Caps took it home in the third with tallies from Troy Brouwer and Alex Ovechkin. Garbage goal for Artem Anisimov late. Wee! Caps top Jackets 4-1.

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Scary moment early in Saturday’s game between the Capitals and Avalanche. As Alex Ovechkin prepped a hit on Gabriel Landeskog, he accidentally caught Marcus Johansson under the visor with his elbow. Johansson left the ice looking dazed, but returned to the ice for his next shift.

Johansson missed 14 games last season due to a concussion.

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The Washington Capitals apparently hosted the Nashville Predators to an exhibition game on Wednesday night. The Capitals won, reportedly, 4-1 and most of the talk after the game regarded Matt Hendricks and his return to DC, the fights, and something about Graboners (No, this will never be a t-shirt).

When I checked out highlights of the game this morning, my jaw figuratively hit the floor. Nicklas Backstrom’s goal– wow. It wasn’t so much what Backstrom did; it was what Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson did to set it up.

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