AlznerGoal

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

On Thursday night, Adam Oates was back behind the bench at Verizon Center for the first time since being fired at the end of last season. Much has changed since then. On this night, the Capitals were playing with sticks that were familiar to them and their coach was not giving his players the cold shoulder. But the most important change, at least on this night, came on defense. Oates instituted a defense system that required blueliners to give up the puck almost immediately after gaining it. This led to forced passes and a myriad of odd-man breaks against. It turned former Norris Trophy nominees like Mike Green into subject of ridicule. The Capitals defense, on the whole, was very bad.

This year, however, things are different. In offseason, new general manager Brian MacLellan added some much needed balance to the Capitals by signing Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to big money deals. New coach Barry Trotz has also freed up its defensemen, allowing them to carry the puck when necessary. This has led to a resurgence for Green, who has 39 points this season. Other blueliners have also chipped in. Through 73 games, Karl Alzner had more than doubled his career high in goals and surpassed his career high in assists.

Against the Devils, Alzner added his fifth goal of the year in a decidedly un-Oatesian way.

Continue Reading

evgeny-kuznetsov-otgwg

Photo: Alex Brandon

10:45 AM Update: 12 hours later, the NHL has finally credited Kuznetsov with the goal.

Original Post: (Before you read this, know that the NHL is still crediting Matt Niskanen with the OTGWG, which is incorrect.)

If you ever wanted to understand how far Evgeny Kuznetsov has come as a hockey player, his game-winning goal against the Devils– and the seconds before that– are all you need to see.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

Looking at Shots From the Blue Line

Greg Fiume

Photo: Greg Fiume

One of the biggest differences between the Caps under Barry Trotz and the Caps under Adam Oates is the role of defensemen in offense. In February, Alex Prewitt described that role like this:

Blue-liners in Coach Barry Trotz’s system hold the freedom to pinch inside the offensive zone, collapsing onto pucks along the boards to keep possessions alive, but they also are asked to do their fair share of long-range flinging.

Last week, I looked at how badly the Caps’ forwards other than Alex Ovechkin struggle to generate shot attempts. But with Prewitt’s insight on the role of defenseman in Trotz’s system in mind, here’s a look at shot generation from the Caps defensemen, from a bit of a different angle.

There’s a glossary at the bottom, so be sure to check that out if the chart doesn’t make sense. We’re going to look at what percent of the overall shot attempts by Caps defenders each regular blue liner takes, as well as how effective each defensemen is at getting his individual shot attempts through and getting them on net.

While we use shot attempts as a proxy for meaningful puck possession, this doesn’t mean that all shot attempts are of equal value during game play. Generally, an unblocked shot attempt is preferred to one that is blocked, and a shot on goal is preferred to a shot attempt that goes wide. With that in mind, here’s a look at the six Caps defenders who have a sample size worth looking at.

Continue Reading

What Will it Cost to Re-Sign Mike Green?

mike-green-caps

Photo: Greg Fiume

Last night, Ian wrote about pending UFA Mike Green’s desire to stay with the Caps until death or retirement do them part. Already this season, I’ve looked at what it could cost to re-sign Marcus Johansson and how much Braden Holtby is worth, both of whom will be RFA after the season. Green’s case is a bit different, as he is set to hit unrestricted free agency come July 1st.

Some have pointed to Johnny Boychuck‘s 7-year, $42-million extension with the Islanders as a floor of where Green’s negotiations should begin. It’s a decent comp, but I’m going to dig a little deeper to look for salary comps for Green.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

curtis-glencross-caps-goal

Curtis Glencross just nabbed his first point as a Washington Capital, a power-play goal against the Minnesota Wild. Glencross reeled in a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov and beat Devan Dubnyk top-shelf, which is  where mama hides the cookies.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

niscannon

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.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

tom-wilson-hey-girl

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.

Continue Reading

nisky-fight

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.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

matt-niskanen-big-hit

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.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

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.

Continue Reading