Coming into the 2014 NHL trade deadline, some fans feared Caps general manager George McPhee would make a drastic move in the hopes of securing a playoff spot. Instead, he made three reasonable ones. The Caps got better this year without harming themselves in the future.
The biggest deal was the final one, with the Caps sending Michal Neuvirth and the newly acquired Rostislav Klesla to the Buffalo Sabres for Caps killer Jaroslav Halak and a third-round pick.
“I think we start with Neuvirth, and he wasn’t happy being a number two,” McPhee told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “We tried to accommodate him. We brought in an experienced guy. I think it’s an upgrade on the tandem which is what we wanted to accomplish.”
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin just shared the last photo you’ll ever see of Michal Neuvirth and Martin Erat as Capitals.
“Last dinner with boys, and they gone!!” Ovi wrote on Instagram. “Good luck to them, and welcome new players to the team!” Neuvy is now off to Buffalo, where more playing time and opportunity await, and Erat to Phoenix, where at least it’s warmer.
Capitals forward Martin Erat has been traded to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Rostislav Klelsa, Chris Brown and a fourth-round draft pick. Capitals prospect Garrett John Mitchell was also included in the deal.
Before today, Martin Erat‘s goals this year went like this: nothing for four months, accidentally scored on own team’s net, empty-netter. He literally hadn’t scored on an opponent’s net that had an actual goalie in it since April of last year. So, naturally every cynical Caps fan on the planet knew how his Erat’s Olympic tournament would go.
It was just inevitable that he’d break through on international ice, and that’s exactly what happened in the early morning hours of Friday. While you were sleeping, Erat scored the Czech Republic’s first goal in a 4-2 win over the Latvians.
Team Sweden took on the Czech Republic in the first men’s hockey game of the Olympics. It was a total beatdown. Erik Karlsson, playing in his first Olympiad, scored two goals. Henrik Lundqvist had 27 saves in the win.
But what about the Caps, Ian? What about the Caps?
Nicklas Backstrom had a point in 15:15 of ice time. The marker came in the second period when Nicky assisted on Karlsson’s second goal of the night.
Martin Erat has played on every line for the Washington Capitals. He’s seen power play time and PK minutes. And, of course, he’s sat in the press box. Playing on the first line Saturday, in his 51st game this season, Erat finally scored a goal. Fittingly, it came without a goalie in the net.
“Finally, the one is in the net,” Erat told the gathering of Caps reporters, who had reentered the Capitals locker room after Adam Oates ended his press conference just to talk to him.
Erat’s time in DC, as we all know, has been ill-fated. Traded for a top prospect in Filip Forsberg last season, he asked to leave eight months later after being placed on the fourth line by Oates. With Brooks Laich back in the lineup after missing almost all of last year, Oates didn’t see much of a need for Erat, who, for the first time in the veteran’s career, was made healthy scratch.
United States Secretary of State John Kerryis in the house tonight and boy is he a busy dude. After meeting with Washington Capitals Olympians Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom, and Martin Erat, Kerry talked shopped with Caps coach and hockey hall of famer Adam Oates, who used to play for Kerry’s beloved Boston Bruins. Kerry also did an interview for CRL with Elliot In The Morning, accepted a Caps jersey from Majority Owner Ted Leonsis, and then dropped the ceremonial first puck before the game.
With Vladimir Sobotka sidelined due to a leg injury, the Czechs have called upon Martin Erat to fill their ranks in Sochi. Erat has yet to score a goal this season, but he has put up some strong underlying numbers and is tied for fourth in assists on the Capitals.
But despite inferior boxcar stats, Erat compares pretty favorably with Hudler. He drives more shots towards the opponent’s net despite inferior teammates and fewer shifts started in the offensive zone, and he hasn’t enjoyed hardly as much power play time as Hudler. It’s a close call for sure, but I think the Czech team made the right call here.
On January 24, 2014, In Game Recap, By Chris Gordon
Ugh. (Photo: Andy Marlin)
Just like Alex Ovechkin, ya boy Peter was out with an injury tonight. Undisclosed for those asking. I’m nursing the flu. We’re sort of like the Caps of Caps blogs right now.
Embarking on five game road trip with their dads in tow, the Caps headed to newly Cory Booker-less Newark for date with the Devils. Allowing the fewest shots per game in the NHL and featuring the blue-hot Cory Schneider, New Jersey didn’t look like great opponent to get Washington’s hapless offense going. They weren’t. Yep, it’s gonna be one of those again.
As usual these days, the game got off to a horrid start. Five minutes in, Dmitry Orlov made another silly mistake, fumbling the puck in the Caps offensive zone. Steven Gionta and Ryan Carter went the other way on the odd-man break. Shockingly, Mike Green did not misplay the 2-on-1. It wasn’t enough. The puck snuck past Michal Neuvirth off the blade of Gionta.
Early in the second, Adam Henrique put the Devs up by two with Orlov in the box for holding. Jaromir Jagr made the play, fabulously skating through the Capitals defense before feeding the puck in front for his second assist of the game. Facing this Capitals offense, it looked like that was all New Jersey needed.
Jason Chimera, however, had other ideas. Midway through the third, he deflected a John Erskine shot from the point for his third goal in seven games. It wasn’t enough though.
After the game, the fan base — and the team — seemed to hit the panic button. People on Twitter smashed their keyboards, pointing out Washington’s glaring defensive holes and overreliance on the power play. None of that, however, is anything new. It’s not likely to change before playoff time either.
On Saturday, Adam Oates came up with wacky line combinations in hopes of righting Washington’s four game skid. It didn’t work.
The game got off to an awful start when Rick Nash picked off a silly defensive zone pass from Dmitry Orlovto put New York up just 70 seconds in. Fifteen minutes later, Nash was at it again. A lack of spatial awareness led to two hooking penalties on the Caps. On the ensuing 5-on-3, the former Blue Jacket floated a weak wrister through Phillip Grubauer’s legs. About a minute and a half later, Derek Stepan put the nail in Washington’s coffin with a shot though traffic. Braden Holtby came in, but the game was already over.
Ovechkin tried to give the Caps life with a 5-on-3 bullet early in the second, but Ryan Callahan put Washington back in their place just 86 seconds later. This was never a game anyway. Rangers slam Caps 4-1.