Not Again: Rangers Slam Caps 4-1

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Photo: Scott Levy

Coming into Friday night, the Caps had been playing well. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they nearly beat two of the league’s best teams. But then they played Columbus. It was a disaster, and a moment of reckoning.

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 Orlov to 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.

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Martin Erat had a hat trick of penalties tonight against the New York Rangers. They were all costly.

Erat’s first period hook of John Moore led to a Rick Nash power play goal. His interference minor in front of the net negated what would have been potentially a game-changing Mike Green tally. Finally, late in the second period he speared Brian Boyle in the nards so hard that he may never be able to have kids. I guess that’s what the Rangers center gets for sitting on the puck in the defensive zone and refusing to move it.

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Photo credit: Jared S.

Veteran forward and close-friend-of-the-corsis Martin Erat was a healthy scratch on Friday for the second straight game. Erat, who was relegated to the fourth line at the beginning of the season, has requested a trade twice this season. With oft-injured Brooks Laich returned from injury, Adam Oates has removed Erat from his spot on a checking line and banished him to the press box.

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A Short Timeline of Capitals Players Requesting Trades

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Photo: Greg Fiume

Two thousand thirteen has been a year of reinvigoration for the Capitals. After a dreary start to the lockout-shortened season, the team began a Cinderella-story rally in March that carried the team into the playoffs and their captain into another MVP trophy. But the last few months have revealed a Capitals team that is not uniformly happy with their spots on the team. While new coach Adam Oates has made his stars happy, a number of lower-tiered players have grown discontent. Three players have requested trades in the last six weeks.

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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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Since coming to the Washington Capitals in April, Martin Erat has twice requested a trade: once early this season and again last week. During the same timeframe, Erat scored just one goal. You might expect Caps general manager George McPhee to be disappointed. He gave up an elite prospect in the hopes Erat would fill a vital top-six role. Instead, he ended with a fourth liner-cum-healthy scratch who wants the hell out of Arlington.

McPhee, however, has a different view.

“Things change,” he told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Tuesday. “No regrets. We did what we had to do then, and we’ll do what we have to do now.”

The GM explained that then when he made the move for Erat in the spring, the injury status of Brooks Laich was uncertain. He didn’t even know whether the forward would be back for the 2013-14 season. The Erat trade, then, wasn’t meant to shore up a long-term hole, but to make a push for the 2013 Stanley Cup.

“You want to give your team the best opportunity possible and we will always do that,” McPhee said of winning the Cup. “You can’t have the guys work their guts out all year and then not help them out at the deadline if there’s something to help them with. So we made that deal.”

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Report: Martin Erat Wants Out Of Washington

Photo credit: Derek Leung/Getty Images

That didn’t take long: forward Martin Erat, acquired from Nashville at the 2013 trade deadline along with Michael Latta in exchange for top Capitals prospect Filip Forsberg, now says he wants to leave Washington.

Speaking with Czech news agency iDNES.cz and translated by our friend Lindsey Novak, Erat expresses dissatisfaction with the ice time he’s getting in Washington and seems eager to move on.

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After losing two in a row in kind of stunning fashion, Adam Oates has changed up his lines for Saturday’s big game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Martin Erat is expected to be a healthy scratch, and Eric Fehr will make his first appearance since November 2nd.

Those lines, based on reports from Mike Vogel and the assumption that the 4th line will be unchanged:

Johansson – Backstrom – Ovechkin
Fehr – Grabovski – Brouwer
Chimera – Laich – Ward
Volpatti – Latta – Wilson

Martin Erat is the third-strongest forward when measured by both possession and on-ice goal percentage. This will be his first healthy scratch of the season. For the record, Troy Brouwer is the team’s weakest forward in possession– kind of stunning for a second-line player– but his goal percentage is even (7 goals for, 7 goals against) thanks to the team-high save percentage his goalies offer when he’s on the ice: .956.

The incredibly productive third line of Chimera-Grabo-Ward has been broken up, promoting Grabo to 2C in time for a game against the team that bought him out over the summer. Brooks Laich takes his place at 3c.

Returning Eric Fehr to the lineup is a welcome change, but at the cost of Martin Erat is …odd.

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Photo credit: Washington Capitals Instagram

Washington Capitals forward Martin Erat is a supremely talented hockey player. Apparently, he also breeds well. On Thursday, his wife brought 20-month old Sebastian to practice to see Daddy before flying to Detroit. I am figuratively MELTING IN OMG’s looking at this media. He is the most adorable child you will ever see.

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