On Tuesday night, the Washington Capitals welcomed back Nate Schmidt to NHL service for the first time since December 13th. For the last six weeks we’ve been missing Schmidt’s mile-wide smile and capable defensive play. We’ve certainly seen Schmidty defense in this Senators game, but the grin has been missing– even once his intermission interview with CSN’s Al Koken began.
Photo: Scott Levy
Coming into Friday night, the Caps had been playing well. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they nearly beat two of the league’s best teams. But then they played Columbus. It was a disaster, and a moment of reckoning.
After the game, the fan base — and the team — seemed to hit the panic button. People on Twitter smashed their keyboards, pointing out Washington’s glaring defensive holes and overreliance on the power play. None of that, however, is anything new. It’s not likely to change before playoff time either.
On Saturday, Adam Oates came up with wacky line combinations in hopes of righting Washington’s four game skid. It didn’t work.
The game got off to an awful start when Rick Nash picked off a silly defensive zone pass from Dmitry Orlov to put New York up just 70 seconds in. Fifteen minutes later, Nash was at it again. A lack of spatial awareness led to two hooking penalties on the Caps. On the ensuing 5-on-3, the former Blue Jacket floated a weak wrister through Phillip Grubauer’s legs. About a minute and a half later, Derek Stepan put the nail in Washington’s coffin with a shot though traffic. Braden Holtby came in, but the game was already over.
Ovechkin tried to give the Caps life with a 5-on-3 bullet early in the second, but Ryan Callahan put Washington back in their place just 86 seconds later. This was never a game anyway. Rangers slam Caps 4-1.
The Washington Capitals needed a win on Friday to avoid their third four-game losing streak of the season. You’d think they could get it against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but you’d be wrong.
To make matters worse, I’m drinking Coors Light, which is a beer in the same way John Erskine is a pro hockey player. Barely.
Tom Wilson nullified a Caps’ powerplay to make it four-on-four, and soon after that, John Carlson’s trip made it four-on-three for the Jackets. James Wisniewski made the Caps pay for that, and then Cam Atkinson made it 2-0 before the first intermission after Dmitry Orlov was unable to clear the crease.
Ryan Johansen scored for Lumbus early in the second, chasing Grubauer from net and bringing in fresh-faced Braden Holtby. With the help of Martin Erat and some traffic up front, John Carlson got a long puck past Bobrovsky at the halfway point. The Caps had a flicker of life.
Mark Letestu extinguished that flicker with a snazzy near-side goal early in the third. Then Cam Atkinson peed on the embers.
Blue Jackets beat Caps 5-1. The Caps have lost four games in a row. This beer tastes awful.
Photo: Gregory Shamus
I pity people who can’t get up for a Penguins-Capitals game. I know intellectually that these games last just as long as a normal game and they have all the same rules and stuff, but it always feels to me like more happens when the Pens and the Caps face off. Maybe I’m just saying that because I didn’t have to watch the last one live or recap it. And maybe that’s why I was so optimistic heading into Thursday’s faceoff in Pittsburgh. The Capitals seemed to have mended their game during five-on-five, and it’s not like Oates gives his fourth line and bottom D-pair enough ice time to ruin games.
Brooks Laich puts some hard work in to a hang a shorty on the Penguins in the first period. Kris Letang tied it up at the halfway point with a four-on-two rush that deflected off Carlson’s and Backstrom’s sticks. Jason Chimera took the lead back by finishing off a great tic-tac-toe from Orlov and Johansson. Taylor Pyatt snapped us back to a tie a minute and a half later.
Alex Ovechkin exploited some chaos during four-on-four to rip home his 34th, but this game was incapable of being easy so Jussi Jokinen got a tap-in from the back door. The Penguins confounded the Caps in their own zone to get the lead with under two minutes left courtesy of Olli Maata. Ovi broke all of the sticks and it was over.
Pens beat Caps 4-3.
Photo: Rob Carr
Gone are the days of the Sabres and Leafs. The Washington Capitals hosted the actually good San Jose Sharks on Tuesday to a fast-moving, low-scoring affair. The Caps came out of the gates strong, but the Sharks pushed back. We were treated to a tightly played, evenly matched game played mostly at five-on-five. Lucky us. It went to the shootout again. Less lucky us.
The Capitals owned the game’s first ten minutes, but the Sharks stole control back after that and Tyler Kennedy scored. Alex Ovechkin tied it up in the second with a zero-angle one-timer. The Sharks thought they got the lead back before the second intermission, but the buzzer went off a fraction of a second earlier. The third period was a back-and-forth affair but neither team was able to deposit the disc in the drapery. OT couldn’t make up its mind either, so…
- Eric Fehr put it in the pads.
- Joe Pavelski lost control.
- Alex Ovechkin also lost control. He’s ice cold on the shootout.
- Patrick Marleau scored on the forehand.
- Nick Backstrom roofed it high. Bloop.
Sharks beat Caps 2-1 (Shootout)
Grabo’s face (Photo: Patrick McDermott)
Those of you nursing a hangover on Sunday afternoon found yourself in good company as the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres played a sleepy game in which not much happened. The Caps should have been able to dominate the worst team in the league, but that only kind of happened. Three Caps lines and four defenders seemed to be in control of this one, but the Sabres pwned the Caps depth enough to force overtime and win it in the gimmick. Take a whiff of some coffee grounds and follow me to the scoring summary.
Jason Chimera got on the board first as his centering pass went off a Sabres defenseman who was trying to stop Marcus Johansson’s net-crash. Tyler Ennis struck back for the Sabres with a rebound goal on the power play. The second period was uneventful aside from some penalties. Late in the third, Ryan Miller robbed Mikhail Grabovski and Karl Alzner’s go-ahead goal got undone by a tripping call. Buffalo owned overtime but couldn’t put the biscuit in the basket, so here comes the shootout recap. Yey.
Shootout recap bullets!
- Eric Fehr didn’t put the biscuit in the basket.
- Matt Moulson didn’t put the biscuit in the basket.
- Alex Ovechkin didn’t put the biscuit in the basket.
- Linus Omark didn’t put the biscuit in the basket.
- Nick Backstrom didn’t put the biscuit in the basket.
- Cody Hodgson put the biscuit in the basket.
Sabres beat Caps 2-1 (SO).
Photo: Rob Carr
We’re not particularly happy with the Capitals this season, but compared to Maple Leafs fans we’re the freaking Huxtables. The richest team in the league spends its bullion on goons (plural) and grinders, they proclaim that they alone have cracked the secret of scoring without shooting, and their coach chased Mikhail Grabovski out of town for no discernible reason. If the Caps are ugly, the Leafs are Eric Stoltz in Mask.
And that means almost nothing on a per-game basis. The Leafs had the puck more than the Caps for most of Friday night, which is just silly. Anyway, here’s how scoring went.
Alex Ovechkin streaked onto the ice to score his 32nd of the year, nicely set up by Grabo almost halfway into the game. JVR returned fire by deflecting Phil Kessel’s shot on a power play around the halfway point.
Early in the third, Phil Kessel beat Neuvirth thanks to Karl Alzner’s deflection, but Nicklas Backstrom tied it right back up with trick shot off Jay McClement’s skate. Totally deliberate. Joel Ward occupied the slot to beat Bernier and win the game.
Caps beat Leafs 3-2!
Aw. Someone give Crombeen a hug. (Photo: Mike Carlson)
Brr. It’s cold in here. I said there must be some unwise line combinations in the atmosphere. Since the Caps’ last game, the entire continent froze. If you’re reading this in the tri-state, there’s a 37.3% chance (also Aaron Volpatti’s Corsi %) that the pipes in your house are about to burst. But the thaw has finally begun, and the Caps shook off this painfully extended metaphor with their first victory in thirteen days, a tightly wound win over the Bolts sans Stamkos.
Youngling Tyler Johnson scored on a breakaway early in the first, but the Caps struck back thricewise. First, Alex Ovechkin set up Eric Fehr for a sneaky one to beat Anders Lindback on the Caps’ second shot of the game. Then, Mikhail Grabovski tipped in Mike Green’s slot shot during the PP. And, before the period was out, Marcus Johansson stuffed a second powerplay goal.
In the second period B.J. Crombeen scored his first of the season to make it a one-goal game around the halfway mark.
The Bolts took control of the ice in the third, tying it up with a tricky deflection off the stick of Ondrej Palat. Eric Fehr did the hero thing with some English up front in the final minute of regulation.
Caps beat Bolts 4-3!
Photo: Nick Wass
The Caps are 42 games into their 82-game season. I could’ve offered my halfway analysis after the customary 41, but I figured the four days off between now and Thursday’s game in Tampa will offer us more time for careful reflection.
The Capitals used to be an easy team to describe. From 2007 through 2010, they were an offensive juggernaut that scored at will on the strength of puck-possession dominance and the world’s best scorer in Alex Ovechkin. Defensive worries (or perceptions thereof) tainted the team’s success, and a couple bad breaks– a hot goalie in the Montreal playoff series of 2010, a spot of bad goaltending to begin the 10-11 season, and the exit of several strong depth players– turned the team’s fortunes towards the mediocre.
Now, halfway through Adam Oates’ first full season as the Capitals’ coach, we have a better idea of who this team is. It is not nearly as strong as the Boudreau model, but it’s also not as wearying as Hunter Hockey. There’s a lot of gray in this painting, but there’s also a lot to learn from it.
Plus: Adventure Time GIFs!
Ovechkin and Cookie get stupid. (Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn)
You could say the Caps have been struggling. Their puck possession has disintegrated over the last couple weeks and they haven’t been able to make up the difference with special teams, shot quality, or lucky goaltending. Heading into Minnesota, where no one wants the puck, you’d think the Caps would start the turnaround. But shot quality is a fickle fairy, and tonight she spread her lucky dust on the sticks of the Wild.
Marcus Johansson cleaned up a rebound to convert a first-period power play. Thirteen seconds later, Mike Green put some messed-up moves on Matt Cooke to make it 2-0 on the very next shot, just 13 seconds later. It was fun.
Nino Niederreiter scored on the Wild’s second shot of the game, early in the second period as no one in particular played defense. With Steve Oleksy and Karl Alzner serving time in the box, the Wild’s Ryan Suter struck twice– both times with Dany Heatley screening Braden Holtby. I’m not even gonna try to explain the tying goal, which Mike Green got credit for, so just read our story on that one. The Wild got the lead back with a bouncing puck finished off by Jason Zucker.
And then Ryan Suter got the hat trick after serving a tripping minor in the third period.
Wild beat Caps 5-3.