Caps Fans Care

Every now and then, when an opposing team scores – in just about any arena – there are a number of fans who think it’s cool to yell “Who Cares!?!?” as the announcer names the person responsible. It sounds something like this:

Announcer: “Washington Capitals Score! Alex Ovechkin scored the goal at 12:55 in the period, with assists from Kuznetzov and T.J. Oshie, making it 1-0 in the first!”

(Opposing) Fans: “Who Cares?!?”

And to be fair, this is yelled in the Capital One Arena just as often as other rinks, so we are just as bad as the other guys. (Well… not as bad as Penguins fans. They’re awful. They can’t help it though; they live in Pittsburgh. That would make us cranky, too.)

My point? This cheer sucks.

It doesn’t make any sense. I mean, right, you’re trying to advertise your nonchalance about finding yourself down by one during a game, because you’ll obviously tie it up. Sure. That’s, umm, important? But as a fan, you should care. You should care a lot.

Because now you’re playing one goal down, and that doesn’t always light the fire under our team’s butts like we’d like it to. Sometimes, it means we’re gonna lose. And shouting that you don’t care about that is like commenting on an online movie review for a movie you never plan on seeing. Why bother showing up, if you don’t care? Why waste the oxygen it takes to yell this nonsense?

So here’s my proposal: The next time you find yourself wanting to yell “Who Cares?!” in response to another team’s goal, don’t. Just don’t. Maybe we’ll earn a reputation for being the fans who care.

:::mic drop:::

Inside The Caps Opponent: John Klingberg

With the Capitals in “Big D” tonight they’ll be facing a squad that has one of the more underrated players in the NHL. John Klingberg, of the Dallas Stars, who tied for the defenceman league lead with Tyson Barrie, has 27 points and continues to log heavy minutes (over 23 mns/gm) for the Stars who find themselves in the last wildcard spot in the West. Continue reading “Inside The Caps Opponent: John Klingberg”

Caps Past : Walker back in for Oilers

Nathan Walker looks like he’ll be back in the Oilers line-up tonight when Edmonton continues it’s battle to get back in the playoff picture vs rival San Jose Sharks whom the Oilers disposed of in last years playoffs.

With Adam Larsson coming of the IR, the Oilers sent down Anton Slepyshev to AHL Bakersfield and that gives Walker a chance to get back in. Look for him to bring some of his energy on the 4th line.

#CapsPast

Ovechkin: Goal scorer with a Capital G.

Alexander Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer of his generation, and some could argue he is the best ever at beating goalies with a piece of frozen rubber. Only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, and Brett Hull ever scored 500 goals quicker then Ovi. All played when goals were scored at a higher clip then today. Even 99 has been in awe of Ovi’s dynamic scoring ability. We all recall “The Goal” vs the Coyotes! How about “that time” when he scored six seconds into an OT vs the Thrashers in ’06 …. after tying it up late in the third to boot. Or that time he went off the boards in a 180 to himself before burying one against the Canadiens, or that time when he…You get the point.

When many factors are considered like goalie style and equipment, systems play, pre-scouting and coaching which have astronomically evolved over the years, it’s made it even more difficult to do the hardest thing in hockey today…score goals. The NHL today has the best goaltending the league has ever seen without debate at least from a depth point of view. To me that’s the biggest part in the decline of goals over the years. The ’05-’06 NHL Rookie of the Year has rewritten the book on the hockey saying: “if you don’t shoot you can’t score,” as he seemingly is able to get his shot off with much regularity; much to the dismay of opposing targets and sometimes the unfortunate player tasked with blocking his shot. No thanks! In that rookie campaign he fired 425 shots on goal which led rookies, the league and is the fourth highest total ever. He beat that with 528 in 2008-’09 which is a record for left wingers.

Jason Gregor, who watched a lot of Gretzky with local Edmonton media, articulates this well in this article from last year.

When the Great Eight scored his 500th goal back in January of 2016, with a wicked wrister over the left shoulder of Sens goalie Andrew Hammond, the excitement Ovi had on his face was, well, much like his reaction to many of the other goals he scored. About the only thing missing from the goal was an assist from partner in crime Nicklas Backstrom. Sorry Chimera, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it. The man loves to score and you generally can’t tell if its his first or 50th of the year. Minus one celebration in Tampa Bay that we all remember, as does Don Cherry, but I digress.

The OT winner vs the Anaheim Ducks Saturday night at Capital One Arena put the Caps back on top of the heated Metro division. And it continued to add to the now 581 Goals (All-time Russian NHL leader) since the now legendary night when he potted two G’s in his first game against Columbus. It also added to his career NHL record in OT goals with 23 OTGW ‘s. Scoring eight goals in the first four games this year, Ovi is off to his best start ever. Only four other players since 1967-68 have ever accomplished that feat.  And as the season has gone on we’ve seen two things from the Captain.

The first is something we are all familiar with. He is scoring goals from all over the ice. As DC fans know, Ovi scores much more than just with the patented one-timer from the OviSpot on the power play (as fun as that is) as he has even went backhand shelf on a breakaway and a couple of tipped goals so far this year. He is driving the net and adding some lunch-pail goals to his totals.  Maybe Tom Wilson is rubbing off on him…I kid..but it does seem like Ovechkin is going to the higher traffic areas more often and scoring in a variety of ways.   Important to note, this is not a PP driven statistical anomoly as Ovechkin is amongst the NHL leaders in 5 on 5 play with only six G’s and six A’s of the points coming when the Caps have the man advantage. It’s a great bet, barring injury of course, we see an eighth 50 goal season with the possibility of 60+ season still there.

The second and maybe a little more of a surprise: Ovechkin seems quicker and lighter on his feet and while he always had a quick start gear, he’s seemingly able to keep the jets on longer and we’re seeing some vintage Ovechkin this season.  (Not to mention many assists this season have been quite nice). It’s clear the “extra” work he put in during the off-season is paying off for him, the team, and of course us!

Another good sign for more goals this season is that Ovechkin is taking shots again closer to his normal clip after his lowest SPG last year of 3.81 since 2011-’12. This year he is averaging 4.59 SPG (career avg 4.92) after the 34th game and as stated earlier he seems to be getting shots off from everywhere. Ask the Montreal Canadiens.

An interesting stat to note as Ovechkin is now 32 years old is that since 1975-’76 only one player (Jaromir Jagr had 54 G’s at age 33 in ’05-’06 with the Rangers) has scored more than 50 goals in a season when 32 or older. Ovechkin looks to be well on his way to being the second this year and I bet he’ll do it again next year making him the only one to do it twice. Why not?

He’s recorded a shot on goal an astonishing 99% of the games he’s played in…..ever.

Keep shooting Ovi .. Keep Shooting..

Go Caps Go

Caps Prepare for Holiday Road Trip

The Washington Capitals have just finished a spectacular home stand, winning six out of their six home games. With last night’s win over the Anaheim Ducks, they have climbed to the tippy top of the Metropolitan Division. However, the Caps get to look forward to an interesting road trip out west before Christmas and then a long time rivalry after the unwrapping of Christmas gifts.

First stop is in Dallas, home of Jamie Benn and the Stars. Dallas has always been a threat to the Caps, especially in their barn. There a lot of weapons the Stars have to use: their captain Benn, Tyler SeguinAlex RadulovJohn Klingberg, hot-headed scrapper Antoine Roussel, and tall goaltender Ben Bishop. All of these gentlemen are established and have made a name for themselves in some form of fashion. Caps will see a lot of talent from this team in Dallas and should play their game to the best of their ability. Match their speed, win those battles in the corner, get big bodies in front of Bishop (Alex Chiasson and Tom Wilson), throw the biscuit on net and the Caps may squeeze by with a victory at the American Airlines Center.

Next, Caps will head to the desert where Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the Arizona Coyotes reside. The Yotes may not be one of the most ‘threatening’ teams, but they do have some punch to their lineup. I would expect Philipp Grubauer to start this game. Max Domi, son of famed enforcer Tie Domi, is just like his father. He’s not afraid to get in your face and drop the gloves, at the same time, he can put up points. Clayton Keller is a contender for the Conn Smyth Trophy this year with 25 points (12 goals and 13 assists) in 35 games. The kid can score and Caps need to make sure they contain him the entire game. Derek Stepan is also a scoring force to be reckoned with, who was acquired from the New York Rangers in the offseason. Caps should just continue to play their own game, not buy into theirs and they should be fine.

The day after, they will travel to Sin City to face the Vegas Golden Knights. The Knights have made an incredible impression on the NHL with a record of 20-9-2, placing themselves 2nd in the Pacific Division. This’ll be a very strange reuniting with ex-Caps defenseman Nate “Smiley” Schmidt, who was claimed in the expansion draft. Leading the charge is James Neal, who has been outstanding for their club. He scored the very first goal for the expansion and has established a captain’s mentality for the team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him with the ‘C’ on his jersey next season. Another threat on their offense is ex-Blue Jacket William Karlsson, who has climbed his way to center the Golden Knight’s top line. He is basically their Nicklas Backstrom, making plays and producing points. Finally, their ‘main attraction’ is ex-Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who has just come back after being on IR. This was a bitter-sweet parting for Pittsurgh’s hockey club because he lead them to back-to-back Stanley Cups and has been there for so many years, but with younger goalie Matt Murray stepping in as replacement, it was the best move for the club’s future. Caps must work their tail off this game. This Vegas team is extremely talented and will surely come out swinging against the Capitals. This’ll be a true test for Washington and I sure hope the boys have some juice left in the tank for this one.

After the Christmas break, the Capitals will faceoff at Madison Square Garden against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. This team hasn’t been as elite as they once were, but still hold talent amongst their lines. In the offseason, ex-Caps blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk found a home in New York, earning a spot on their top defense pair with Ranger’s captain Ryan McDonaghMika Zibanijad is their top line’s center, who established a fine reputation in Ottawa and was traded to New York a couple of seasons ago. He has continued to sculpt his positive reputation with the Rangers as a playmaker. Chris Kreider has had a Tom Wilson style of play to him and is known as a Caps-killer. He caused the most problems for the Capitals his rookie year in the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, where he scored twice to help eliminate the Caps. Since then he has been a hard-hitting force for New York.

This’ll be a tough road trip for Washington, but Alex Ovechkin and the Caps know what’s to be expected. They know what needs to be done in order to beat these teams. Follow @Jurky88 and @InColdPlacesDC on Twitter for fan coverage of all games on the road, go Caps go!

p.s. Brittney will be live tweeting warmup and photos from Las Vegas….and Nate Schmidt!

Ovechkin – The Goal Scorer

Alex Ovechkin once again came up with a big goal for the Capitals as he blasted a slapshot by the stingy John Gibson at 1:58 of OT, or OviTime as we Red Rockers call it, to beat the Anaheim Ducks and put the Caps back on top of the close Metro division.

It was his 23rd of the year to pace the NHL and has now scored in five of his last eight and eight of his last 12.

Is he the best goal scorer ever? Of a generation? I will explore this more in an upcoming article. Stay Tuned….

Go Caps Go

Inside The Caps Opponent : Josh Manson

When the Caps face the billed birds from Anaheim tonight they’ll have to deal with one of the best young physical defencemen in the league. At 6’3″ and weighing 213, Josh Manson plays a big game. And while he may not be as quick to drop ’em like his father (former NHL’er Dave Manson), he picks his battles and is not afraid to take on anyone. You could call him more disciplined than Dad was, maybe with more ability with the puck and skates better.

The Ducks locked up the versatile Dman for four seasons after signing him to a $16.4M last year and along with Vatenen, Lindholm and Fowler he will provide a pillar on the back end. While remaining physical, Manson was also able to suit up in every game last season proving some durability in a league where that is priceless.

The Caps forwards will have to keep their head up and expect a rough ride in front of the net with #42 on the ice. At the same time, the Caps forwards will use their creativity and speed to play keep away from the big man.

Go Caps Go

Capitals Set to Visit Beantown to play Patrice Bergeron and the Bruins

The Washington Capitals travel to Boston, Massachusetts to play the Boston Bruins after a towering 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Hopefuls, like Madison Bowey and Jakub Vrana are playing at level everyone has imagined and are producing points. Momentum and confidence are in the boys’ favor, but the Bruins will aim to shut them down.

David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand are all imminent threats to the Caps’ defense. Pastrnak knows how to shoot the puck and can put up dirty goals, as well as make plays happen. Last season, he accumulated 70 points in 75 games (34 goals, 36 assists). That earned him a new contract with Boston and has taken the role as a top six forward. Bergeron has always been a presence for the Bruins. He has established an elite, two-way forward reputation throughout the league for years. He has won the Selke Trophy four times (2012, 2014, 2015, 2017) and helped Boston bring home the Stanley Cup in 2011.

There is no doubt in my mind that once Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara leaves the team or retires, Bergeron will become the new captain and wear the ‘C’. Personally, he’s always been one of my idols growing up as a young center. Marchand is infamous for stirring up trouble against his team’s opponents. Though he has a pestering style of play about him, he can sure put up points in the meanwhile. He has 23 point in 19 games so far this season, so the Caps defense needs to make sure they play strong and shut his game down.

For tomorrow, the Caps need to focus on getting good scoring chances, playing solid defensively, and getting traffic in front of Boston’s netminder Tukka Rask. Rask is known to get a hot head when scored on during games, so a few early goals will surely affect his game. Whether Boston starts him or their backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, the Capitals just need to keep shooting and winning those battles.

The Caps play the Bruins tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. eastern time and I will be covering the game via Twitter. Follow me @Jurky88 and @incoldplacesdc for important updates and play-by-plays, go Caps go!

Inside the Caps Opponent : JT Compher

As the Caps look to bounce back from a loss in Brooklyn last night, they’ll again see a team with a good young rookie. JT Compher may not be as dazzling as we saw in Barzal with the Islanders, but he is proving to be a very solid every day player. With 10 pts so far this season, and maybe more importantly considering he hasn’t played 60 games in the NHL yet, is his ability to defend and play at both ends hard. He competes, so the Caps will have to deal with his forecheck. Think Nathan Walker type energy. Is that too early?? lol

Compher represented Team USA at the 2015 World Junior tournament during his time skating in the NCAA.  He also made an appearance at the World Championships with the U.S. in both ’16 and ’17. The former University of Michigan captain, originally drafted by the Sabres in ’13, is giving the Avalanche some needed depth up front. Colorado acquired his rights in the O’Reilly deal and have found a player responsible in both ends and can keep up with the faster skaters in the league.

Go Caps Go

Photo from The Denver Post

Inside The Caps Opponent : Matthew Barzal

When the Capitals face a very familiar foe tonight in Brooklyn they will obviously see a not so familiar young super rookie in Matthew Barzal.

If you have not see any of his goals before then you just haven’t watched the highlights from Islander games. This kid is the real deal and is going to be a pain in the Caps side for many a divisional game moving forward. While I certainly hope he doesn’t make any highlights vs the Caps I suspect a play or two tonight will leave us a puzzled as a Caps defender.

Armed with a wicked wrist shot, he shows Backstrom like poise while looking to set-up teammates and at times has be the driving force for his team( he averaged more than an assist a game during his Junior career in the WHL… Seriously) which includes all-World John Tavares as we painfully are aware. The #16 pick in 2015 has already gained confidence from his coach as he plays a strong two way game when he’s not buzz-sawing around the ice.

The Caps will have their hands full, but as they have in the past with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, the Caps can should try and contain his speed and force him outside off the rush. He wants you to attack him so he can set up teammates. Can’t force him. He’s that good.

Go Caps Go

Photo by NHL