Wednesday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Washington Capitals. The four games between the two long-time foes have been brutal. The series has featured big hits, head shots, and taunting between rival fans. But during the morning skate, Braden Holtby cut through all of that nonsense and showed why he’s a great human.
The Caps goaltender, who is likely to win this season’s Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie, gave his stick to Brian Azinheira, a 11-yr old Penguins fan battling cancer.
When the Capitals drafted Ilya Samsonov 22nd overall at last month’s NHL Draft, many people were surprised that the team, already stocked with goaltending talent, would select another netminder. In spite of conventional wisdom, the Capitals insisted that they always draft the best player available. In this case, Samsonov was the best player available.
“Our scouting staff as a whole, individually and as a whole, were more than happy to be able to call his name,” Capitals assistance general manager Ross Mahoney told reporters at the draft. “We’ve always talked in the past about trying to draft the best player that’s available to us and for sure we thought he was our best player that we could take with that pick, so we went ahead and took him.”
Despite a contract with Metallurg Magnitogorsk that runs for three more years, the Capitals planned on Samsonov’s attending their development camp in July to work with goalie coach Mitch Korn.
“He has a contract, but we’ve had players in the past, some Russian players that we’ve drafted and they were able to come over,” Mahoney said. “We have tremendous confidence in our goalie coaches, being able to help this young man develop his game and bring it to a level that’ll get him to succeed in the NHL.”
That, however, never happened. While the Capitals first claimed Samsonov was missing camp due to a visa issue, he was actually attending Metallurg’s training camp as first reported by our own Ian Oland. Despite the mix-up, the Capitals didn’t purport to be concerned when they addressed the issue last week.
It’s safe to say that Caps goaltending coach Mitch Korn is a genius. In 24 seasons in the NHL, he’s helped Dominik Hasek win four Vezina and two Hart trophies. He’s also led many of the goalies he’s coached, including Braden Holtby, to career years.
Every summer after the NHL season ends, the afflable 57-year-old holds Korn Camp, a specialized goaltending program for young netminders. This year, he’s holding eight camps, including one at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
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.
One hundred sixty days after the Washington Capitals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007, 66 players took to the ice in Arlington, Virginia looking to atone for a lost season. New head coach Barry Trotz put his players through a 45-minute practice and then a rigorous skate test, which left many exhausted, including Alex Ovechkin. This year’s training camp is supposed to be a hard one, part of Trotz’s plan to transform this team from an also-ran into a real success. The Caps have just two days of training camp to get their legs under them before the preseason opens on Sunday.
Below the jump are photos from the day via RMNB’s newest contributor, Amanda Bowen.
The best moment of Caps Rookie Camp didn’t happen on the ice. It happened on Monday in front of a podium. That’s where one Czech, Jakub Vrana, who knows some English, helped another Czech, Vitek Vanecek, who knows virtually none, speak to the media.
Earlier this morning, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tweeted links to his Instagram, where he published video of himself training. Ovi shows off sprinting at the track and — if I’m measuring right here — his approximately 75-foot vertical leap.
It’s official. Tuesday afternoon, the Washington Capitals announced the hiring of Mitch Korn as the team’s new goaltending coach. Korn, who has been Nashville’s goaltending coach since 1998, has coached Pekka Rinne to consecutive Vezina Trophy nominations in 2011 and 2012. Before joining the Predators, Korn spent seven seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, where Dominik Hasek won four Vezina Trophies and two Hart Trophies. That’s a pretty good resume.
Caps great Olie Kolzig will remain in the organization in a unspecified role. The Capitals announced that Kolzig was not fired, but “expressed his desire to not continue as a full-time goaltending coach due to family reasons.”