Unlocking the Secrets of Capital One Arena (Part I)

Psssst…..

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. Just you and me. Don’t tell anybody…

Ever miss the first five minutes of a period because you’re trapped in line for the bathroom or a beer?? Ever swore in frustration as the roar of the crowd echoes throughout the halls and you realize you’ve missed something important?

Well, I’ve discovered the secret to avoiding long lines for both of those things. And no, it’s not illegal, or even shady.

You see, if you are willing to traverse a few sets of stairs, the bathroom and booze lines on the second floor are almost always nearly empty. Or at least they’re way more manageable than the ones up on the fourth – or heaven forbid – the chaos of the first floor.

This is because the second floor is where the rich people gather in their luxurious suites which have private bathrooms and booze provided. Yes, that’s right. They’re like heaven on earth: a fantastic view of hockey with comfortable seats and refreshments right at hand. The one game I was lucky enough to watch from a suite was during the 2016 playoffs, and I almost wet my pants with glee…. That is, I would have if there weren’t a fancy, clean bathroom ten feet away from where I was sitting.

Where was I? Oh yeah. So. Upon discovering this phenomenon, my husband and I made a pact to never tell anyone about our sneaky little secret. If everyone knew that the second floor was the secret to all your intermission dreams, then the whole gig would be up. So don’t tell anyone else, ok?

More of Caps Win over Sharks: Photo Gallery

Winning

We like that concept.

Monday night’s win over the San Jose Sharks was pretty gratifying.

Mel took some fun pictures, some Grubi love, some Wilson fighting, and some celebrating. Mostly she just took a ton of lovely Caps players.

Feel free to share our photos, just leave the FiCP tag in place!

Pregame prep:

Sharks and Caps:

Fighting and winning!

Grubi!!

Love us some Caps!

Ovi and Backstrom – By the Numbers

If you watch the Caps regularly, it’s easy to see that long-time linemates Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are both playing better since they were reunited last month.  They fell immediately back into their old rhythm and new partner Tom Wilson has been a great complement.  But what exactly is going right for these two now that wasn’t before the line shake up?  Below is a look at the numbers.

Let’s start with Ovechkin.  After a white hot start with two hat tricks in the first two games of the year, Ovi scored just three goals the entire rest of October.  He then scored just three more in the first three weeks of November but has seven goals in the past two weeks after being re-paired with Backstrom.

Taking a look beyond just the goals scored reveals an even greater degree of improvement.  If you remove the first two games from the calculations, Ovi had a shooting percentage of just 6.9% from 10/9 to 11/20 and averaged 4.35 shots per game.  Since being reunited with Backstrom on 11/22, his shooting percentage has skyrocketed to 28.6% and his shots on goal have increased to 4.66 per game.  Aside from the statistical improvement, it’s obvious that Ovechkin has some spring in his step and is skating with a bit more pep now than in the preceding weeks.  Obviously, getting the band back together has agreed with the Great 8.

The statistical differences are even more stark for Backstrom.  He is in the midst of an exceedingly long goal drought, now at twenty-one games, tying the longest such stretch of his career.  He scored just three goals and had assists in just 36% of the games between 10/9 and 11/20, an offensive production much lower than expected from a player of Backstrom’s pedigree.  Since 11/22 when Ovi came back to the top line with him, he has assists in four of the six games played, or 66%.  He and Ovechkin work together flawlessly and it’s easy to see that the familiarity they have with each other is greatly benefiting them both.

It’s clearly evident that these two players are better together than they are apart.  It was a curious decision to separate them and hopefully an experiment that won’t be repeated anytime soon.  The top two lines have been excellent of late, so it may be that Burakovsky joins the third line upon his imminent return to the ice.  The bottom lines have been quite productive in the last two games and can only be improved by the return of #65.  With Ovi and Backstrom together again and the top line clicking on all cylinders, this team may finally be establishing its 2017 identity.

Capitals Practice: Stephenson and Burakovsky Skate

caps at net

It was a good day at Kettler today. Chandler Stephenson and Andre Burakovsky were back to skating with the team after each suffered varying degrees of injury. Not on the ice was TJ Oshie who was butt-kicked into the boards Monday night. Stephenson has been out for one game with an “upper body injury” and has been cleared to play on Wednesday, if needed. And, Madison Bowey was looking fine despite a nasty slash to the hand on Monday.

chander stephenson

Continue reading “Capitals Practice: Stephenson and Burakovsky Skate”

Capitals Over Sharks: Best Photos

The Washington Capitals brought everything they had to Capital One Arena Monday night for a strong win against the San Jose Sharks. In the process, they beat goalie Martin Jones on whom they had never scored on home ice. And they made it look easy.

Devante Smith-Pelly got the Caps on the board first, followed by an unassisted Alex Ovechkin goal. Brett Connolly, who keeps surprising fans, was up next. And Jakub Vrana sealed it all up with his eighth goal of the season.

Beyond the 4-1 win, it was an eventful night.

Travis Boyd was called up from Hershey for his first NHL game. He only got one shot off, but he looked pretty good in the 9:10 minutes he played.

As the Capitals reported: “Ovechkin recorded his 578th goal in his 949th career game, 700 fewer games than Mark Recchi (1,649).Ovechkin recorded his 578th goal in his 949th career game, 700 fewer games than Mark Recchi (1,649).”

TJ Oshie was butt-checked by Joe Thornton and had to leave the game in the second period.

Tom Wilson evened the score with a delish takedown of Thornton in the third period.

Even Brooks Orpik got in on the fun!

Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly continue to step it up with effortless goals. Vrana really could have a great future with the Caps is they nurture his talent.

Grubauer made some great saves and ended the night with a total of 24, only letting one get past him.

And finally- Evgeny Kuznetsov captured the hockey world again when Connolly missed seeing Kuzy’s fist bump after he assisted in the goal. Kuzy, who has a way of doing things, just went ahead and bumped himself. We really do love this Russian!

Caps fans left the arena feeling pretty good about things. Next up is getting Andre Burakovsky back to meet the Blackhawks on Wednesday.

Photos by Mel Abernethy

How to Know You’ve Got it Bad

I come from a long line of sports fans. Growing up in Connecticut, my entire neighborhood would battle it out when the Yanks played the Sox. (And when I say “battled,” I mean it. We’d wildly honk car horns when runs were scored, and phones would get unplugged out of frustration during extra innings.) I ran 5Ks in the hopes of meeting some of the venerated UCONN Huskies that had been on a winning streak no one could believe. Our high school basketball games were filled with chants of “Lets Go Whalers”… even though they’d left the area years ago. Continue reading “How to Know You’ve Got it Bad”

FiCP Adds Two More Writers

We are very excited to welcome two more women to the FiCP writing team. One is an Army vet and one is married to an Air Force officer. These ladies will be covering all things Capitals, bringing their unique and fun perspective.

Amanda White was born and raised in Northern Virginia and is a lifelong DC sports fan.  She spends her time watching, talking about, and thinking about sports, mixed in with raising her three kids and working a regular job.  She is an Army veteran, a working wife and mom, and an obsessed fan!

Follow Amanda on Twitter!  @awhite7877

Meet Caitlin Manner. Caitlin is a Mom, a gym rat, a oenophile (get your mind out of the gutter, it just means she loves wine), but above all: a Capitals fan. And the wife of an Air Force Lt. Col. Never one to shy away from humiliation in the name of fandom, Caitlin is known for keeping Weagle tattoos in her purse (“just in case”), wearing a onesie to games, and pasting photos of Tom Wilson on her bathroom mirror. (Holtby’s photos go somewhere else.) Go Caps!

Follow Caitlin on twitter @CaitlinManner

Andre Burakovsky Nearing Return to the Caps Lineup

Andre Burakovsky seems to finally be getting close to a return to the ice.  Before his October 21st injury he was just beginning to round into shape, having scored his first goal of the season one game before being hurt.  The Caps had high expectations for #65 in the first year of his new contract and his absence on the first line has been a serious detriment to the team.  He skated hard on Saturday with trainers and took some light contact as well.  He may be able to rejoin the team as early as next week.

Given Burakovsky’s imminent return, the question is where Trotz will decide to put him.  The newly revamped top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Wilson looks to have captured some magic, so Trotz may be loathe to break up that group.  If he does, Wilson is the obvious choice to find himself demoted.  The third and fourth lines have struggled of late (aside from a good showing on Saturday night) and could use a shot of energy, so #43 may find himself right back where he started despite playing well enough to earn a higher spot.

Burakovsky rejoining the team is certainly cause for celebration, but unfortunately the Caps forwards haven’t been able to all stay healthy at the same time.  Chandler Stephenson, called up when Burakovsky got hurt, is now hurt himself.  He left Saturday’s game with an as yet unspecified upper body injury and Travis Boyd was called up to give the team some depth at forward.

After being very healthy last year, these Capitals have been bitten hard by the injury bug.  With Niskanen finally back and Burakovsky coming soon, some of the most impactful of those losses are at an end.   The Metro division is whisper tight, so they’re going to need all their assets on the ice if they hope to stay competitive.

‘Red Jackets’ hold off Blue Jackets in a close Metro Division battle

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals hosted Nick Foligno and the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Capital One Arena last night. Columbus, who currently holds the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, was on the back side of back-to-back games previously hosting with the Anaheim Ducks. This was the first time Washington has faced a team in their own division in quite some time, so this game was important to the club to take. The Capitals went on to win this game 4-3 in high-paced matchup.

Off to a roaring start in the 1st period, Lars Eller found Brett Connolly creeping in the high slot where he sniped Sergei Bobrovsky for his third goal of the season only 1:03 into the game. Moments later, Alex Chiasson found the back of the net capitalizing on a rebound shot from Matt Niskanen on a bad angle. This sent all of Capital One Arena into a frenzy. First fast start at home this season for the boys in red. The biggest surprise was that the bottom six forwards stepped up and put the team on the board that early. It’s great to know of the depth Washington has now. However, the Blue Jackets would tie the game in the 2nd period with goals from Artemi Panarin and Matt Calvert. Before the closeout of the 2nd period, Ovechkin scored on the power play to give Washington the lead. From his office, a snipe short side on Bobrovsky. Textbook.

At the start of the 3rd period, Evgeny Kuznetsov extended his goal streak with a quick ‘give and go’ play with John Carlson. Later into the period, Zach Werenski tucked one in behind Braden Holtby to draw the game back to a one goal lead for Washington. From here, it was all a Holtbeast show. Columbus was peppering the goaltender left and right, trying desperately to the tie the game. Holtby would hang on for the team after many desperation, flashing and sassy glove saves and went on to win making 32 saves on the night.

The Washington Capitals got away with one here. Turnovers lead to each and every one of the Blue Jackets goals. You can’t do that, especially when facing a division opponent. On a positive note though, the Caps took NO PENALTIES. I know, I’m just as surprised as you are. All four lines produced, Holtby was on fire and defense did their job towards the end to defeat the Blue Jackets 4-3.

Caps Lose Nate Walker in Waivers

Yesterday, Coach Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals decided to send fan-favorite Nathan Walker back down to the Hershey Bears. Since he was waiver eligible, he had a 24-hour period to be claimed by another team before being loaned to the American Hockey League. This morning, every Caps fan’s worst nightmare became a reality. Walker was claimed by the Edmonton Oilers.

Edmonton is already a team to be reckoned with. They are fast, young, heavy, and full of talent. When Washington decided to take this risk by putting Walker on waivers, Edmonton was literally looking a gift horse in the mouth. Walker is young, fast, and full of spark.

Personally, I am happy that he’ll have a shot at playing in Edmonton. He deserves better than the way the Caps organization has treated him. Why Tyler Graovac or Alex Chiasson are playing over Walker is beyond me. Kid works his tail off every night he plays. Graovac is recently returning from injury and has a decent two-way game as a forward. He has yet to prove himself as an NHL full-timer. Chiasson has been a day-and-night player for the Caps. One day he’ll make a good play or score a goal/assist here and there and other days he will be nonexistent. Not what you’d expect from a veteran of his reputation.

This is a huge loss for the Washington Capitals community. When I saw what had happened this morning on Twitter, I was in complete shock that transformed into slight anger and disappointment. I have a feeling this will bite Washington in the rear end later down the road.

From the FiCP family, we want to wish ‘the Aussie’ Nathan Walker the best of luck with the Edmonton Oilers. We hope their organization greets you with open arms and that you get the ice time you deserve.