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.
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.
For nearly two full periods, Tuesday’s night’s game was mind-numbingly dull. But then, Troy Brouwer fumbled the puck in spectacular fashion on the power play, putting the Columbus Blue Jackets up 1-0. The next Caps power play went a little a better.
Skating into the offensive zone, Martin Erat fought for the puck near far circle with Columbus defenseman Dalton Prout — yes, that’s a real name — as John Carlson and Tom Wilson drove towards the front of the net. As Erat approached, he was tripped by Prout. Falling over, Marty made a brilliant pass to the front of the net, connecting with Carlson. JCar scored for his fourth goal in six games. Carlson also fell over as he contacted the puck, crashing into CSN’s goal cam. Wilson, eager to celebrate, then tripped over Carlson’s legs, himself tumbling into the net.
Fehrsie looking resplendent at right wing. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
Martin Erat and Eric Fehr have both spent significant time this season stuck on the fourth line, a misuse of their considerable talent. But with Alex Ovechkin missing his second game due to an upper-body injury, both wingers now find themselves on Washington’s top trio, skating 20 minutes a night. In 120 minutes of play, the new first line of Erat, Nicklas Backstrom, and Fehr has been fantastic, registering three goals and nine points. For Nick, three of his five goals this year have come in the last two days.
So what’s the key to Nick’s newfound goal scoring ability, and the line’s success as a whole? Well, Ovechkin has generated the vast majority of the first line’s shots this season. Though they are improving, Johansson and Backstrom had the maddening tendency to pass, pass, pass early in the year. Without Ovi, has Backstrom been forced shoot the puck more, always an important factor in scoring goals? In short, no. When I asked him about it, Backstrom insisted that he wasn’t directing any more pucks toward the net than usual. A little late-night research backs him up. Nick has attempted three shots in each of the two games without Ovechkin, roughly in line with his normal pace. So, some nice shots and a bit of luck.
“Yeah, that’s just a coincidence,” Backstrom said with some sass.
Nevertheless, the temporary first line has been impressive. Erat and Fehr deserve credit for holding their own in a new and challenging position, each playing on their third different line this year. Fehr, especially, made a large jump, playing two total polar opposite roles in one week. Monday in Vancouver, he played 12 minutes as the gritty fourth line center. Saturday, he played almost twenty minutes as the first line right wing.
Look at these idiots. (Photo credit: Derek Leung)
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.
Pure skill. (Photo credit: Nick Wass)
On Saturday night, the Washington Capitals got back on track with 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The skillful play of the new second line was the story, especially Martin Erat and his three assists. Erat, though, wasn’t the only flowing haired playmaker on the ice. That title also belongs to Steve Oleksy, who made a sublime curl-and-drag on Brooks Laich’s second period tally.
Picking up the puck from Martin Erat, Oleksy charged towards the faceoff dot. Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson attempted the poke check, but Steve O went all sick nasty, blowing past him. Oleksy then dished the puck to the front of the net and Laich finished the play. Beautiful.
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.
Now this is how you celebrate a promotion to the second line.
Photo credit: Amanda H.
[Editor’s note: When Washington Capitals fan Amanda H. went to the Caps Season Ticket Holder party at Six Flags last year, she had Martin Erat sign a photo of Filip Forsberg. This year, she one-upped herself. We’ll let her explain.]
I had debated for a few days what I should get signed at the season ticket holder party. I have a ton of Caps stuff, but nothing really stood out to me, until about twenty minutes before I had to leave. Long forgotten due to the poor toast it makes (No, seriously it’s very bad toast, I have yet to find a setting that toasts most of the bread without burning the other half), my Capitals toaster sat on a shelf, not having been used in months.
Images of walking around an amusement park carrying a toaster danced in my head. It was too amusing to turn down. I have a suspicion those events might be slightly tedious so I felt like this might spice things up. At the very least it’d give me something to say to the players instead of just awkwardly standing in silence. I cleaned it up a little and tested to make sure the sharpie would actually stick. It did!
When my friend Alyssa and I arrived in the parking lot, I had a moment of doubt. Am I really going to go get a toaster signed? Why didn’t I clean it thoroughly beforehand? I figured that either way, this would be a great story and probably worth the effort. I went through security and the bag check. The guy checking my bag thought my toaster was pretty cool.
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