The Washington Capitals think they have a shot at the Stanley Cup. This season began with a pitiful start under new head coach Adam Oates, but the team is better now. They’re used to his system, they’re healthier, and they’re picking up pieces to help them in the short-term.
“We weren’t going to be sellers,” said George McPhee yesterday. “You never know once you get in. Let’s see what happens.”
“We have a good thing going here,” said Mike Ribeiro. “We know how good we can be.”
“I have complete confidence in the guys in this room,” said Troy Brouwer. “We have the ability in here to make a splash in the playoffs.”
“I want to play for the Stanley Cup,” said Martin Erat. “Washington is one of the places where you have a chance.”
On Thursday, the Caps moved into playoff spot for the first time this season.
Early Morning Skate: So, the last time we were here, we were there. Filthy Philadelphia, needing a solid road win, and feeling optimistic to start. In fact, we were all, like, yay here we gowhattheflipwasthat?! and c’mon Holtbeast get it together and then yay Groooouuubsie and boooo Max Talbot grrr grrrr and ow that traffic-cone orange makes my soul weep and that was pretty much the best summary of that ugly mess of a game I can imagine.
Mmmm…tastes like Cheez Whiz
What exactly was it that happened that terrible, cold February night at the F-U Center? Where, exactly, were manimal Troy Brouwer and Captain 8 (despite being probably the best in Red on the ice that night) and John “Towelie” Carlson and the Millionaire and his wife and the nameless rest? Certainly not there to play hard, or at least battle back through a tough start. And why was it, exactly, the Lord Supreme in His wisdom didst create that dung-heap of a burg to begin with?
Now this is our idea of a hot Fly team. Really.
You see, I’d like to chalk up that bumbling bungle of a game simply to our visiting the giant spirit suck that is Philly and its moronic fans. Like to, but cannot. Yeah, there were a couple fluky puck bounces and what-not, but those things give as much as they take. No, what we saw was a failure to launch by the Capitals after a dis-spiriting start. It was not, in any possible permutation of the concept, ‘good.’
The Puck Drop: But it’s Spring, and Easter (for some) or Maru (for others) or Passover or Nowruz or we’re just going to stop this now. Traditionally, it’s a time for rebirth and renewal and rejuvenation and reloading and all that. For the Capitals’ flock, it’s once more the race to the playoffs.
For several years now, the Capitals have demonstrated fine mettle in April, much like the pale gossamer jonquils besotting the landscape, if those jonquils were angry, snarling, forechecking, glass-smashing monsters made of steel and laser beams.
In short, there’s two ways this ends. One: we leave Filthydelphia redolent of Whiz, covered in soot and chagrin; or two, you can eat me Peter Laviolette. No wait, that’s a given. Oh yes; or two, we bounce outta Barftown and kick it into grinder gear for the coming match-ups against the Canes and ugly Islanders (revenge want now) and be the team that showed up to rub Winnipeg’s nose in its own dark, dark shame. I know which one I’m hoping for.
On March 30, 2013, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Photo credit: Bill Wippert
The Washington Capitals came out ice-cold against the Buffalo Sabres in a game they should’ve been highly motivated to win. With the playoffs still possible, the Caps let the Sabres run away with a two-goal lead before mounting their comeback. The Caps ran the cycle — with goals by Ovechkin on the power play, a shorthanded goal by Brouwer, and 6-on-5 goal by Mike Green.
Overtime couldn’t decide the game, so to the shootout we went. Ovechkin won it. Because he’s a big damn hero, sir.
Players get older; they slow down. Elite goal scorers drop off as they enter their late twenties. It’s time to realize this has happened to Alex Ovechkin. He may have the same name as the guy who scored 65 goals five years ago, but he is far from the same player. And it’s not his fault.
Nine of Ovechkin’s 15 goals have come off the same shot from the same spot: a one-timer from the circles. Seven of those have been on the power play. More remarkably, Ovechkin has not held the puck for more than a second on any of his goals this season save for one. He no longer scores on the rush.
The Washington Capitals invested $123 million dollars in Alex Ovechkin. They cannot have him not score. If he isn’t scoring the way he used to, they will adjust the game plan for him. That’s exactly what first year head coach Adam Oates has done. The new power play he instituted is designed to get Ovechkin the puck at any costs — and it works brilliantly. Ten of his 15 tallies this year (2/3) have come on the power play, the highest ratio of power play to even-strength goals of any player with more than 10 markers. He leads the NHL in man advantage goals.
On March 21, 2013, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Photo credit: Marianne Helm
The Southeast Division Farewell Tour kicked off with a battle between the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets. The Capitals managed to continue their strong five-on-five play from Tuesday and convert it into two early goals. Big Buff and the Jets tried to mount a comeback, but the Caps stuck two more daggers in ‘em instead. And oh yeah: Braden Holtby had his fourth perfect game this year.
“Thank you, hockey gods!” (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
Fifty-seven days and 28 games into the 2013 regular season, Washington Capitals forward Jason Chimera finally scored his first goal on the year. And not a moment too soon.
A year ago, Chimera had a career best season tallying 20 goals and 39 points. This season, Chimera has bounced around the Caps line,up, seeing time with fourth-line grinders like Jay Beagle as well as second-line duty with playmakers like Mike Ribeiro. Regardless of who he played with, the goals didn’t come — until Sunday.
As Troy Brouwer skillfully forechecked behind the Sabres net midway through the second period, he sent a no-look backhand pass to the slot that found Chimera for a wide-open one-timer.
Nineteen seconds, one goal. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres are neck-and-neck in a battle for playoff position. The Caps are just one point behind the Sabres as the lockout shortened regular season begins to come to a close. One problem, though: the spot they’re fighting for is 13th place in the Eastern Conference.
This season has been pretty abhorrent for fans in Buffalo and Washington. The Caps, however, still have time to salvage this year. Playing in hockey’s weakest division, the Caps came into Sunday’s game nine points out the the Southeast-leading Winnipeg Jets with 21 games left to play. But if Washington want to be playing hockey in May, that drive has to start now. Maybe it did. Thirty hours after the start of their deflating but fight filled 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins, Washington showed no St. Patrick’s Day hangover (I’m sorry).
[Doug Johnson of the PuckBuddys is back! And he has this preview. Yet another preview. Which, for the record, he doesn't need to do, he just chooses to do. He could stop at any time. Really. Just this one more. Go be co-dependent with him here.]
Morning Skate: Well fiddle-dee-dee. No sooner do we air out the Rangers’ stank from Verizon than the hillbillies from Hooterville return, bringing with them an undiscovered country of smell. Yes y’all, the Carolina Hurricanes are blowing back in, bringing with them their corn-pone, possum caps, crystal meth and Alex Semin, in something like that order.
Just what is happening in hockeyville? What is at the root of this existential struggle? I was contemplating this conundrum when a colleague at work asked me about the loud whooshing in the vent above my desk. “Is it blowing or sucking?” he asked.
This is what happens when you’re in the box too much. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
Backstrom (boarding), Hendricks (holding), Kundratek (delay of game), Ovechkin (tripping), Erskine (hooking), Poti (interference), Brouwer (misconduct) — seven penalties, one period.
“I can’t really explain it without getting into trouble,” Karl Alzner told me when asked about the Caps’ stunning collapse and the calls that caused it in the third frame of Thursday’s game against the Devils. “It just happened.”
Alzner’s mood was echoed by many in the locker room. The Washington Capitals didn’t want to talk about happened during those 20 minutes. And it didn’t really matter whether they wanted to or not — there were no clear answers. Yes, some of the calls were iffy. Yes, they played a good game otherwise (if you also ignore the first 10 minutes of the contest). But this was unacceptable. It was a baffling display. Six penalties in 11 minutes and two goals: that’s what it took to turn a solid win into a crushing loss.Troy Brouwer added a 10 minute misconduct for arguing with the referees at the end of the game just for good measure.