On Friday night, Matt Niskanen missed his first game since signing with the Capitals in 2014, staying in Washington as his teammates beat the Sabres 4-1 in Buffalo. Two days earlier, he suffered an upper-body injury after being hit by the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron, with Niskanen’s head face-planting into the boards. Bergeron received a two-minute minor penalty.
Niskanen was back on the ice Saturday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, practicing with his teammates for the first time since his injury. He is undergoing the NHL’s concussion protocol to determine if he has a head injury. While cleared for contact in practice, Niskanen is not yet allowed to play.
At the start of Saturday’s session, Niskanen was taking it easy and not participating in rushes, though he later partook in drills with his teammates.
During Wednesday night’s victory over the Boston Bruins, Matt Niskanen was hurt on a terrible, no good, very bad hit by Patrice Bergeron. Niskaken did not return to the game and the Caps announced today that he won’t travel with the team to Buffalo.
According to John Walton, it will be the first game Niskanen will miss as a member of the Washington Capitals.
Through the first nine games of the season, defensemen for the Capitals have accrued 15 assists. That comes to 38 percent of the total number of assists for the entire team. All six d-men who have suited up for the Caps have gotten at least two assists; only six forwards can say that. Even Karl Alzner has gotten on the scoreboard, recording the only two goals scored by Capitals defensemen this season.
This has all been by design (minus Alzner scoring). Washington’s defensemen have been more active in the Capitals offensive game on the rush and in the zone. Barry Trotz has been stressing the need to work the puck from high-to-low in the offensive zone for his entire tenure in Washington, and he — along with assistant coach Todd Rierden — doubled down on that point in training camp.
Here are the three things I’ve noticed that have made the Caps defensemen more productive this season.
The last time the Washington Capitals lost two straight games in regulation was March 13, 2015. Curtis Glencross led the way for the Capitals with a first period goal in the team’s 4-2 defeat to the Dallas Stars.
Nineteen months later, the Capitals crashed back to earth after a season of tremendous success. On Wednesday night, the Caps fell 4-1 in Edmonton to Oilers after losing their previous matchup against New York 4-2. The team has now won three of its six games.
Last year, the Capitals had one of the best regular-season performances of all time, capturing the Presidents’ Trophy. Despite bringing back a nearly identical roster, the 2016-17 campaign has gotten off to a choppy start.
“We got to perform better,” defensemen Matt Niskanen said after Wednesday’s loss. “Guys need to do their jobs. It’s a little uncomfortable here tonight after the game.”
For years, the Edmonton Oilers were in the cellar of the standings, raking in high draft picks like fall leaves. Last offseason, the Oilers rebuilt their rebuild, trading away number one selections Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov while signing Milan Lucic to a seven-year contract. Connor McDavid, a generational talent with just 45 games of NHL experience, was given the C.
With the new captain, the youngest in NHL history, and a half billion dollar new arena, the Oilers have now won five of their first six games in the 2016-17 season, holding the top spot in the Western Conference and placing second in the NHL.
“It’ll interesting to see how they do this year because I think they have all the talent to be a much better team than they have been recently, with McDavid leading the way especially,” Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said Tuesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “It’ll be for sure a different Oilers team than it’s been the last couple years.”
The Washington Capitals are hosting their Halloween Party tonight — see all the costumes here — and Alex Ovechkin just posted something ridiculous on his Instagram page. It’s a video of Salem, Massachusetts native Zach Sanford singing, or maybe I should say butchering, the Neil Diamond classic Sweet Caroline.
I must note that Sanford is dressed up as Dog The Bounty Hunter. He also got support with the backing vocals from the other Capitals players.
Sunday night, Capitals players held their annual Halloween Party at the Mari Vanna restaurant in Washington DC. The costumes were fantastic.
Superstar Alex Ovechkin slicked back his hair and put on a prisoner costume. His wife Nastya, who I’m guessing was his captor, dressed up as a police officer, potentially giving us an inside look into who truly wears the pants in that relationship. Meanwhile #CapsNeighbors Tom Wilson and Andre Burakovsky dressed up as stepbrothers and TJ Oshie and his wife Lauren were Mr. and Mrs Smith… with a twist.
Check out all the costumes below.
Opening night is fast approaching and the Washington Capitals’ roster is taking shape, especially on the defensive end where there were no personnel changes during the offseason. However, it appears that a fairly significant change is coming to the back-end pairings. Dmitry Orlov will begin the season paired with John Carlson on the second unit while Nate Schmidt will start the season with Brooks Orpik. Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzer will remain together as the team’s shtudown pair.
Moving Orlov up in the pecking order to play with Carlson suggests that the the Caps are comfortable placing a greater deal of trust in him. Trust in a defenseman means putting him on the ice for big minutes and game-breaking situations, and believing that the good will outweigh the bad in both zones.
Let’s take a look at which of last year’s defensive pairs were the most utilized and trusted in terms of deployments, and how much that might have to change with Orlov no longer on the third pair.
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