Evgeny Kuznetsov takes off his pads after Sunday’s game. (Photos by Chris Gordon)
By tomorrow morning, big changes may have already struck the Washington Capitals. After the Caps’ final game, a 1-0 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the players were somber, but not angry. They’ve been dealing with postmortem questions since Thursday. Four days later, those questions haven’t got any easier to answer, even if the team’s flaws are clear.
I brought my camera into the locker room as the players took off their skates for the final time this year and faced probing reporters Sunday evening. They’ll have to face the latter again tomorrow morning.
On April 13, 2014, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Photo: Patrick McDermott
Whimper. The Washington Capitals put in a perfunctory effort in their final game of the 2013-14 season. Hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning at home for Fan Appreciation Day, the Caps showed very little intensity in a goalless defeat.
After forty minutes, the Caps had hardly mustered just seven shots– a season low. Jay Beagle was back at Alex Ovechkin‘s flank. Braden Holtby was overworked but perfect. The third line was better than everybody else. The team couldn’t reach a result in #rego or overtime, so we went to the shootout for the 21st time– a new league record.
That last paragraph could’ve applied to dozens of Caps games this season. Fitting it all happened today; just another reminder what you don’t want out of your hockey team.
Ian and I were doing some blog biznass this morning when I learned something stunning. Ian actually believes Adam Oates will be back as head coach of the Capitals next season. This is astonishing, so we made a bet.
The Bet: Ian bets Peter that Adam Oates will be head coach of the Washington Capitals in 2014-15.
The Stakes: 77 cents, in pennies, and a $10 gift card to the burrito restaurant of the winner’s choice.
On April 11, 2014, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Photo: Patrick McDermott
The vibe was weird in Friday’s game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals. The Caps were playing for nothing but honor, but the Hawks were jockeying for playoff position. You couldn’t tell by the tilt of the ice. The Caps played a sloppy– but productive– game led by the team’s 1C, Jay Bodenheimer Beagle.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 51st goal of the year on the power play from the remotest bastion of the Ovi Spot. Jay Beagle took two swipes to make it 2-0. Nick Backstrom eliminated the two-goal lead with a no-angle bank shot off Antti Raanta’s buttocks. Beagle struck again before the second period was done because nothing makes sense in an absurd universe upon which all meaning is a deliberate projection.
On April 10, 2014, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Photo: Gregg Forwerck
One year ago, an April game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals would be a huge deal. The main reason the Caps made the 2013 playoffs was Carolina’s swoon. Now, the picture couldn’t be more different. This game didn’t matter to either team– and it showed.
And I get to recap it! Lucky me. I’m sure you guys are just lining up to read this.
Joel Ward scored from Fehr and Chimera early on. Then Chimera scored from Fehr and Ward. Jiri Tlusty notched a shorthanded goal against the suckasoft Caps PP defense, but Troy Brouwer restored the two-goal lead with a one-timer off Marcus’ great cross-slot pass. Eric Fehr scored from Chimera and Ward. Brouwer notched another goal in the third. Radek Dvorak rearranged your keyboard with a late goal for the Canes, but it was already over– on multiple levels.
Then there’s the whole issue of the Caps sometimes looking like a beer-league team on the ice. Over the last few weeks, Caps players have violently collided into each other three times. Three. Times. And in two straight games.
Because this seems to be more like a pattern than a series of freak events, I collected GIFs and video of all the times it’s happened during Oates’ tenure. It’s happened… a lot.
Brouillette rides Oshie through the defensive zone. (Photo: Tom Gannam)
Put your knives away for one more night. The Washington Capitals played a tough road game against the St Louis Blues and came out victorious. Thanks to the novel concept of top-six forwards playing in the top six, the Caps survived an elimination game against a great opponent.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 50th goal of the season in the first period, a signature Ovi shot from the Ovi spot. The Blues, who dominated even-strength play, got one of their own off Maxim LaPierre’s stick early in the second period, but Mikhail Grabovski fired a slapshot from the faceoff dot to restore the Caps lead a bit later. Ovechkin served up Nick Backstrom for a rare even-strength goal late in the second period, creating a two-goal lead going into the third period. Uh oh.
Okay, relax. Backstrom unleashed a wrister from the circles early in the third.
With a 1.2 percent chance of a postseason, the Washington Capitals were basically playing for pride against the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon. I’m supposed to be analyzing these games in addition to just recapping them, but I’m having a hard time sussing out exactly what we just watched.
Are they thick and proud? Are they a mess? Is all coming together? Is there any urgency? Are they surging late? Have they given up?
I’m gonna go with contradictory yes across the board. The Caps went into a two-goal hole, and then climbed out, and I don’t know what to make of that.
Cal Clutterbuck struck first for the Isles, taking advantage of the Brouillette-Strachan defensive pairing. Evgeny Kuznetsov tied it up in the second period after a pass from Marcus Johansson that was either brilliant or dumb luck. The Isles struck back 90 seconds later, as a Caps opponent is wont to do. Frans Nielsen made it 3-1 for the Isles on an iffy goal, but Nicky Backstrom returned fire a little after the halfway mark by cleaning up a broken play. The third line (Mojo edition) continued to be insane-o with Joel Ward’s game-tying goal, his 23rd of the season.
The third period was quiet. Too quiet. Overtime too. So, here we go again…
It seems the Washington Capitals didn’t have anything left in the tank after that trip through California. Since then, it’s been a spirally flush down a soiled toilet. This time, someone remembered to flush. The Dallas Stars didn’t even have to be good because the Caps were freaking awful.
Tyler Seguin scored after a turnover. Ray Whitney scored after a turnover. Dustin Jeffrey scored after a defensive clustereff and then again in the third. Garbutt got a shorty.
On March 30, 2014, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Photo: John Russell
The weekend hasn’t been kind to the Washington Capitals. Aside from the Leafs, the Caps’ competition in the wild card race all gained ground while the Caps floundered against the Bruins. Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators was a crucial opportunity to stay on pace. And while Nashville had a headlock on Washington during even strength, the Caps managed to summon up some special teams magic to keep the game interesting. Or excruciating, depending on your attitude.
The Capitals got on the board first with a beautiful five-on-five unicorn: Nick Backstrom stole the puck, served it to Mike Green, who found Troy Brouwer alone at the back door. Nashville stuck back 100 seconds later with Patric Hornqvist’s goal following a big rebound off Halak’s chest. Hornqvist wasn’t done, scoring a semi-breakaway late in the first as the Caps momentarily forgot what they’re supposed to do at their own blue line (hint: defense).
The second period was all Nashville, but Halak was halaking like there was no tomorrow. The Caps earned back-to-back power plays and converted the second of them, a frantic backhand by Brouwer in the slot. Shea Weber restored Nashville’s lead nine minutes into the third period with a monster slapshot. Nick Backstrom tied it a few minutes later, converting a power play with a slapshot as the bowels of Caps nation collectively liquefied.
Overtime gave us no decision, so here we go with the…
Jarnkrok was a sidewinder, but Halak smashed him with a shovel.
Kuznetsov missed wide again. He’s not gonna like that.
Craig Smith scored on an early release.
Grabo got blocked.
Josi denied low.
Nick Backstrom, who is not Calle Johansson, blocked.