With Brooks Orpik not expected to play in Game Four on Wednesday night, the Caps will be without one of the main cogs of their penalty killing unit. This is a PK unit that has played a large role in the Caps’ ability to build a 3-0 series lead over the Flyers.
Luckily for the Caps, Nate Schmidt stands at the ready, able to provide a meaningful contribution to the penalty killing unit. One positive to come from the injuries to the Caps blue line this season was players like Schmidt being given a chance to prove their worth in expanded roles. While Schmidt’s season at 5-on-5 wasn’t as strong as we expected from him, his efforts on the penalty kill leave plenty of reason to believe he’ll be up to the task to stand in for Orpik.
Photo: Patrick Smith
Wednesday morning, Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner was asked about the defensive pairing of Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov. They were both set to make their NHL playoff debuts in Game One of the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers. He paused halfway through his answer.
“You know, I’m just thinking, laughing in my head about Schmitty,” Alzner said. “He’s always so excited for a regular season game, I can’t imagine what he’s gonna be like for a playoff game. It’ll be fun.”
Photo: Patrick Smith
Braden Holtby lay on his back with his eyes glazed over looking at the rafters of Madison Square Garden. Derek Stepan celebrated in the corner as the New York Rangers headed to the Eastern Conference Final. Holtby had posted one of the best postseasons performances in National Hockey League history with a save percentage of .944 and a goals against average of 1.71 over 13 games. He had kept the Capitals afloat all playoffs, but he finally cracked.
A year later, Holtby comes into the postseason on a team with one of the best assemblages of talent we’ve seen in recent memory. Holtby is still the Washington Capitals’ rock, but he no longer has to do everything himself. Last year, Holtby played in 73 games, the most of any goalie in the league. As usual, Holtby handled the pressure well, but there was a lot of it. This season, the Caps were able to play Braden less. With a strong backup in Philipp Grubauer, Washington didn’t need Holtby to win every single night. In return, he delivered a Vezina-caliber performance, matching Martin Brodeur for the most victories in a single season. But come Thursday night, Playoff Braden will return.
“There’s something about Holts,” Nate Schmidt said. “Even just watching the last two days of practice. He’s incredibly dialed in. He kicked it into another gear.”
Photo: Bruce Bennett
As some of you know, I have a rare autoimmune condition. Earlier this month, I went up to the Mayo Clinic to Rochester, Minnesota to get some of that crazy stuff sorted out. As someone who’s never been west of Chicago, I was uniquely well-positioned positioned to ask vaguely informed, stereotypical questions about the State of Hockey. I directed them at former Minnesota Golden Gopher Nate Schmidt, who hails from St. Cloud. Here’s our conversation from last week.
Earlier this year, the Caps shared their favorite Valentine’s Day gifts to On Tap Magazine. In the article, we learned that Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt still sleeps on a pillow he once got from an ex-girlfriend.
“An old high school girlfriend gave me this awesome Tempur-pedic bed pillow,” Schmidt said. “I still have it from my junior year of high school. Super comfy!”
Somehow this got back to Tempur-pedic, and the brand reached out to Schmidt on Twitter. Really.
Braden Holtby sat at the far end of the Capitals locker room for a few minutes, staring straight ahead. As reporters began to file in, Holtby walked out of the room to gather himself, returning about 10 minutes later. Earlier in the night, he held a 3-1 lead against the New York Islanders, just 13 minutes away from tying Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur for the most wins in a single season. With the Capitals possessing the best third period goal differential in the league and a significant shot advantage, Verizon Center roared as every save put him closer to the NHL record of 48 wins.
But in the final minutes, Holtby buckled, making an elementary miscue that ended up in the back of his net, putting the Islanders within one.
“I just, I made a mistake and it changed the momentum,” a dejected Holtby said of the play after the game. “It was just one of those plays I got caught between covering it and putting it in the corner, and when you’re in between decisions, it never ends up well.”
The always-smiling, always-happy Nate Schmidt dropped his gloves again for the second time this season (here was his first). This time Schmidt threw hands with 21-year-old Max Domi. Domi tried to take Schmidt’s head off behind the net and…
Uh oh. We’ve got a Schmidtuation change! NATE CRUSH MODE INITIALIZE.
Peter already shared RMNB’s Easter wishes for the Washington Capitals. Well Caps players and their adorable, precious, little babies have a wish for you too: Have a Happy Easter!
Let’s review what they’ve shared on Instagram.
Sunday was Valentine’s Day, the most romantic day of the calendar year. Ahead of the holiday, On Tap Magazine asked Capitals players the best gifts they ever received, advice on the best gifts to give, and their favorite Valentine’s Day memories in general.
Dmitry Orlov and Mike Richards recommended fans give flowers to their loved ones. Nate Schmidt talked about the favorite Valentine’s Day gift he ever received and I need to tell you about it.
Capitals head coach Barry Trotz gave his players the day off on Friday after they defeated Minnesota Wild 4-3 the previous night. Through 53 games, the Capitals have the most wins (40) in NHL history. I guess they earned it.
Tom Wilson, Michael Latta, Andre Burakovsky, and Nate Schmidt decided to spend their free day in Dallas doing the most hockey player thing imaginable: playing golf. The four amigos traveled to the fancy Top Golf facility, which features a driving range (that has TVs in every stall), batting cages, and a 64-hole miniature golf course.
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