ryan-miller

Photo: Kevin Hoffman

When the Washington Capitals traded Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat and Michael Latta last year, an upset and cranky me commented on my own website,”Horrible trade. I’m embarrassed to be a Caps fan today.” To the two people who downvoted me, I will accept your apologies via email, tweet, and/or public groveling.

I didn’t hate the trade because the Caps were trading Forsberg (though I have the utmost confidence he will be a productive player in the NHL). I hated the trade because of the timing and philosophy behind it. The Capitals, worried about losing Mike Ribeiro to free agency, acquired another aging and expensive player. They loaded up for a playoff push despite being pretty dang far away from Stanley Cup contention– and in the process they gave away seven years of a talented young player who just a month ago was named MVP of the World Junior Championships.

A year later, we’re back at the crossroads. General Manager George McPhee — as well as Ted Leonsis and the rest of the organization — have some tough decisions to make about the team’s philosophy moving forward. The Caps are the sixth worst team in the league in the standings, three of their players have publicly requested trades, their defense is holey, and their offense lacks chemistry. But they also have a bevy of talented, young players knocking on the door for roster spots or waiting for bigger roles: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Michael Latta, Riley Barber, and Philipp Grubauer.

So are the Caps rebuilding, retooling, or loading up?

Whatever they decide, these next few weeks will be pivotal for the Capitals. They must make trades ahead of the March 5th deadline. But here’s one deal they better not make: trading for Buffalo’s Ryan Miller.

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Francois Lacasse

How Russians ice fish. (Photo: Francois Lacasse)

The Washington Capitals hadn’t won a game since January 10th, and that was against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are barely a hockey team. I don’t know why, but the Capitals thought, “hey, maybe we can end this seven-game losing streak against the Montreal Canadiens.” The Habs are the rogues of the PDO world, the Bael the Bard of hockey, most famous for felling the dominant 2010 Capitals and ruining our precious franchise for years. This shouldn’t have been the game where the Caps come back around again, but nothing makes sense in this stupid sport. The Capitals exploded for four goals in the second period and Braden Holtby earned a shutout to end an infinite long streak, recapture the team’s confidence, and make a whole bunch of attendant fathers happy.

Alex Ovechkin opened up scoring right after a second-period power play expired with one of the most lacrostic, greasy-yet-skillalicious goals Hogwarts has seen these many years. Then a puck that John Erskine didn’t even mean to shoot somehow found the twine to make it 2-0 Caps early in the middle frame. Jay Beagle got his first goal of the year, hitting a wide-open net thanks to Tom Wilson’s pass. On the delayed penalty, John Carlson lofted a lazy puck towards the net, improbably beating Carey Price thanks to a deflection.

Carey Price got pulled. Peter Budaj took the spot. Alex Ovechkin set up AHL stud Casey Wellman for his first goal of the year midway through the third.

Caps beat Habs 5-0! Braden Holtby gets the shutout! Losing streak over!

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caps-warm-ups

Before every game, the Washington Capitals usually play soccer. That’s what you get when half your team is European.

The players usually form a circle and kick a soccer ball around in the air. In addition to waking up their muscles and tuning hand-eye coordination, the kickaround is a common team-building activity.

Except tonight, either because the players wanted to change things up due to their seven-game losing streak or because they forgot to pack the right equipment– the players used a giant yoga ball instead of soccer ball. CSN opened their telecast with a clip. It was silly.

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Scoared Alex Brandon

Photo: Alex Brandon

It has been eleven long days since the Capitals won a game.  We’ve had like three or four completely different seasons of weather since the last time they added a point to the standings and after a sparsely attended sixty minutes in snowy Washington, D.C., that streak is gonna get even longer. You’ll be planting succulents and buying beach towels before these guys win again.

Skip this paragraph. After a scoreless first, Kyle Turris got past Karl Alzner and beat Holtby to put the Senators up 1-0. Jason Spezza scored a powerplay marker in the third while Erat was in the box.

That’s it. The Ottawa Senators beat the Caps 2-0. A shutout. That’s six straight losses for the Capitals.

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nate-schmidt-interview0

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.

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Not Again: Rangers Slam Caps 4-1

NashGoal

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.

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Lumbus beats Caps 5-1

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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.

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Playing Well and Losing Again? Ugh: Pens beat Caps 4-3

Ovi Gregory Shamus

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.

Oh wait.

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. 

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Tight Game, Tough Loss: Shark beat Caps 2-1 (SO)

bl21 - Rob Carr

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…

Shootout recap!

  • 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)

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Grabo face Patrick McDermott

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).

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