Photoshop via @puckwx

Nicklas Backstrom has been insanely good this year. Today has been no different. For the Caps’ first goal, he took the puck in the Caps defensive zone, skated around four different Islander players in the offensive zone, and put a perfect pass into Matt Niskanen‘s wheel house. Niskanen unleashed the Niscannon, going top shelf.

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Photos: Washington Capitals

Friday morning, the Capitals released the design of their new Courage Caps hats and t-shirts. 100% of the proceeds benefit TAPS, a national organization that provides care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. The Caps say they’ve donated $486,261 to charity through the sale of more than 15,000 hats and nearly 7,000 T-shirts to fans. That’s awesome. Way to go, you.

What’s even cooler is that the team had a few players model some of the new gear this year, including Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, and Brooks Orpik. But I’m guessing – and this is just a hunch – that our readers are going to want to visually consume the Tom Wilson pixels.

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Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen had seven career NHL fights and had yet to drop the gloves at all this season before Sunday’s game. He’s a tough player but not a fighter. On Sunday, Niskanen agreed to exchange punches with Flyers forward Scott Laughton.

Niskanen dropped the hammer, just like he did a few weeks ago.

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Matt Niskanen, the Caps $40.25-million man, just unleashed one of the biggest hits of his career against the Flyers. As Scott Laughton attempted to curl and leave a drop pass for Wayne Simmonds, Niskanen read the play and laid him out.

Look at this. Shoulder to chest. 100-percent legal. Scott Stevens-esque.

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Trotz Family

Following their sun-splashed practice at Nationals Park on Wednesday, the Washington Capitals stayed on the ice for an informal skate around the outdoor rink, joined by their friends and family — and there were plenty of them. Michael Latta got around 50 tickets for his guests, though he’s not the Capitals leader. According to Latta, John Carlson asked for even more. While the media was ushered away from the rink during the skate, NHL Network cameras and the Caps Twitter account captured some of the heartwarming moments.

These guys are adorable.

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Photo by Amanda Bowen

About a quarter of the way into his first season of a 7-year, $40-million deal, it’s time to take a look at the other defenseman the Caps signed over the summer, Matt Niskanen.

In 2013-14 Niskanen set career high in goals (10), assists (36), and points (46). At the time of the signing, I said “don’t evaluate this deal solely based off of the offensive numbers Niskanen puts up next season. For reasons not within his control, they are almost certain to drop, even if he is playing well.” This is because Niskanen wasn’t likely to see as much power-play time this season (be was on the ice for 55.4 percent of Pens PP time last season. He’s been on the ice for 22.78 percent of all Caps’ PP time so far this year) and his PDO of 103.1 wasn’t likely to be duplicated (it’s currently at 97.55 for the season).

With that in mind, but while also not ignoring or outright excusing a drop in offensive production, Niskanen has been a solid player for the first 1/28th of his contract. But the Caps should expect more from him and give him more of a chance to do so. Here’s a closer look at his first 20 games in a Caps uniform.

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Banged Up Alex Ovechkin Scores Two Power Play Goals (GIF)


Photo credit: Mike Stobe

Coming into Wednesday, we didn’t know if Alex Ovechkin was going to be able to play, as he was dealing with an upper-body ailment after leaving practice on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Ovi was ready after the morning skate. “Feel good,” Ovi said. “Just one part of my body didn’t feel great.”

Against the Isles, Ovi feel good indeed. While the team continued falling off the even-strength scoring cliff, Ovechkin kept the Caps in a game that looked like it was heading towards disaster early on.

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Photo: @a0gr8

The Washington Capitals are out in Phoenix ahead of their game with the Coyotes on Tuesday. And our mustachioed heroes have made the most of their off day. Alex Ovechkin put on his favorite Vladimir Putin t-shirt and took a selfie with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov. I’m pretty sure that shirt is honoring Putin and making him look like a action movie star, which, uh, yeah.

Other Caps players actually made it out of the hotel rooms.

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Photo: Amanda Bowen

Last week we looked at the Caps forward deployment thus far under Barry Trotz. This week, I’m going to take a look at the defense. In doing so, we’ll find the Caps have a shutdown pair fairing questionably, a steadying pair that may be better suited to shutdown than our current shutdown pair, and then a pair of possession monsters who are owning the minutes they are being given.

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I’m always looking for reasons to fall in love with this team. One email in particular gave me fuzzy feelings this week.

Marissa R. took her son and his friend to Kettler Capitals Iceplex to watch a morning skate. Afterwards, they ran into new Caps Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen.

It was a notable experience for a few reasons, but look at what Orpik is wearing. Someone’s been shopping.

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