Capitals Do Nothing at Trade Deadline to Change it Up…

NHL Trade deadline has ended any Washington Capitals sit tight while other teams make some big changes.

…Meanwhile, other teams grabbed up some opportunities to improve their chances in the playoffs.

Trade time is never fun to go through. Players get pulled from practice and sent off to another team overnight. Some are placed on waivers only to find themselves in the AHL. A few lucky ones are picked up by teams who see their potential as a player and as a turning point for the team. Continue reading “Capitals Do Nothing at Trade Deadline to Change it Up…”

Capitals Practice: Sunday Photos

The Capitals were on the ice at Kettler late Sunday morning following a big win over the Sabres on Saturday night (5-1). Everyone was there, at least at the start of practice.

Tom Wilson came out. Skated around a bit. Hit a few pucks at our photographer Brittney. Skated off. Came back and talked to the trainer and left again after about three minutes. Coach said later it was a ‘maintenance thing ‘ for him and he was fine. We aren’t as convinced as he sure looked like something was bothering him. Let hope he is in for practice at Nationwide Arena on Monday.

We had a chance to watch Michal Kempny with John Carlson- a likely pairing for future games.

Moving toward Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Trotz said Jakub Jerabek is still on hold pending resolution of a visa issue.

Taylor Chorney is likely to make his debut Monday in a CBJ sweater.

Lines during practice today do not necessarily mean same lines on Monday…

Forwards

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Wilson/Vrana

Connolly-Kuznetsov-Oshie

Stephenson-Eller-Burakovsky

DSP-Beagle-Chiasson

Defense

Orlov-Niskanen

Kempny-Carlson

Orpik-Djoos

Jerabek-Bowey

 

The guys were in visibly good moods today, it was great to see them all smiling.

There are just too many good ones not to share..

Kempny To the Caps and I Flat Out Love It!

Capitals acquire Michal Kempny from the Blackhawks.

Opinion by Chris Cleveland

Michael Kempny, the 27 year old defenseman, was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Washington Capitals Monday and I flat out love the move for both sides. As a Hawks and Caps fan, I might have more of an interesting perspective on this then most people. Continue reading “Kempny To the Caps and I Flat Out Love It!”

Road Trip Round Up for the Caps

The Washington Capitals conclude their long road trip in Buffalo, New York with a 3-2 win over the Sabres. This was by far the better game than the one prior in the Windy City. Overall, the Caps came up winning two of the four games.

 

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First game against the Winnipeg Jets was a wakeup call. Caps went on to lose 4-3 where Mark Scheifele went on to open up the scoring with a backhander pass Braden HoltbyNicklas Backstrom responded shortly after in the 1st period to tie things up. With goals later in the game from Andre Burakovsky and John Carlson, Caps thought they had this game in the bag. Sadly, complacency killed the Caps. The Jets tied the game with two late goals from Bryan Little and again from Scheifele. Stunned, Caps couldn’t pick their game back up and paid the price with an overtime goal from Winnipeg’s defensive tower Tyler Myers. Caps deserved that one for failing to close out the game they were winning in the first place.

 

Second game was against the Minnesota Wild, where the Caps played very well in their 5-2 win. Philipp Grubauer was named the starter and played great, making 32 saves on the night. The boys in red started the push early, scoring the first three goals in the first half of the game. Shots on net was a priority and shots on net they did with an end game total of 27, despite being out shot by the Wild with 34. Caps played a well bump-and-grind style of hockey, resulting in the win. Female-favorite Tom Wilson tallied his first multi-goal night with the early snipe and the empty netter.

 

Third game was by far the worst game this season and probably ever in history between the two teams. The Chicago Blackhawks absolutely wiped the floor and embarrassed the Caps with a whopping 7-1 end score. No one was on their game (or playing it), to include Holtby. Obviously, Holtby was replaced in the final period by Grubauer. Wilson did however hit his career high in season goals (10) and coach Barry Trotz hit his 1,500th milestone game behind an NHL bench as head coach. This game may forever haunt the Caps as it did the fans. On a side note, a group of Chicago fans felt it was necessary to racially taunt Devante Smith-Pelly when he was sent to the box for a minor penalty. Reporters stated that the fans called him the ‘N’ word and told him that he was playing the wrong sport, chanting “basketball” afterwards. Arena security quickly removed the pestering fans from the venue. The Blackhawks organization announced this morning that the four fans involved in the altercation have been banned from the hometown arena and are no longer allowed to attend a Chicago Blackhawks home game while expressing their intolerance for racism. A great move and response by the organization. There is no tolerance for racism in the United States nor in the sport of hockey.

 

Finally, the Caps wrapped up the roadie in Buffalo. The boys responded well, but barely got away with this one. Again, the Caps lacked the final twenty-minute effort. They allowed a goal with :03.3 seconds remaining from Evander Kane, who was uncontested and waiting on the backdoor of Grubauer. With an excellent performance from the ‘Berlin Wall’ and the Caps for getting shots on net, the boys squeaked by with a tight victory to closeout the trip. Alex Ovechkin scored his 34th goal, retaining his place among the NHL in goals on the season in first and putting him closer to his 600-goal milestone seven goals shy.

 

Caps return to Washington tonight and will host Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Capital One Arena. Puck drop will at 7:30 p.m. EST. Be sure to tune in and look out for us on Twitter @InColdPlacesDC and @Jurky88. Go Caps!

 

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Jekyll or Hyde: The Caps Season To Date and Why it May be a Good Thing – The Defense

Part 1 of 3

As the 62nd game of the season is fast approaching lets look at the Washington Capitals season so far and what we should expect over the last 20 games heading into the playoffs. For the record, as long as the team is playing well heading into the playoffs, I could care less about seeding. It’s NEVER helped this team before. That being said, I do believe the Caps can finish with home ice at least in the first round.

When the Capitals entered the 2017/18 NHL season they did so with much different expectations than the previous two seasons from most fans and hockey minds outside DC. Many had the Caps relegating to a “changing of the guard” position, but within the dressing room they felt they could still compete for division title, and in turn take another run at a painfully long awaited Stanley Cup. So far this season the Caps have been a little Jekyll and Hyde. If they get somewhere in middle come playoffs, who knows what will happen. They looked great at times and at then we see a team that “Caps-izes” (thanks RMNB – great term) like they are waiting for April. On some nights Evgeny Kuznetsov has looked like a Hart trophy nominee earning the big contract but also has went 26 games without a shot…. well I’m exaggerating a tad but you all know what I mean.

With the losses of Justin Williams, Marcus Johannson, Nate Schmidt, and Karl Alzner the Caps knew they would have to make changes not only in player personnel but also adapt to a much quicker NHL. One of the best examples of that starts with captain Alex Ovechkin, who came into camp having been through an altered fitness regime during the off season and has looked lighter on his skates and sits atop the NHL goal scoring column after 57 games with 34 goals and inches closer to career goal 600.

The Defense

Let’s look at the defense from whom we will need to Unleash The Fury come the 2018 NHL post-season:

Alzner was not a surprise loss as his UFA status forced the Caps to let him walk. The loss of Schmidt to the expansion draft however has likely cost the Caps most as his speed and puck maneuverability are clearly missed on the Caps back end and has forced the team to employ two rookie defensemen in Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos for the first time in over 20 years. Djoos has been the more impressive of the two so far as he’s shown great mobility and is not afraid to join the rush. He has three goals and 13 points so far and has also shown a propensity for dancing around opposing forwards in the Ozone. I’m expecting big things from this kid down the road.  Bowey is still finding his way in his own end more so but has chipped in 12 assists while still looking for his elusive first goal in the NHL.

The Caps need to keep letting the kids learn. I am not opposed to a visit to the press box once in awhile, but so long as they are learning from mistakes, the club will be better of down the road. If it comes at the cost of a game now then so be it. I suspect them minutes would be drastically reduced come playoff time anyhow. I will say this much, Djoos needs to be in the lineup every night.

Brooks Orpik could use some “rest” once in a few games I believe and if his veteran coaching is so coveted, maybe some scouting by him from up top wouldn’t hurt a few games between now and April. While he is still not afraid to make a big hit and is a physical presence, Orpik is not able to keep up to the play at times. It’s not a matter of fitness (he may be the best on the team in that regard) it’s just his foot speed is, well, slow to be nice. And in the new age NHL, as Milan Lucic et al is finding out, the game is in the passing lane and Orpik is in the travel lane. Now to say Orpik is a liability may be a stretch. He still averages close to three hits a game and remains a blocking machine where he’ll likely finish with the most blocks he’s had since 2013/14. That is a thankless job.

John Carlson has been in the top 3 in defense scoring most of the season and was carrying the Caps during the Niskanen injury. His numbers are up across the board. This is making it a very tricky situation this summer as his impending UFA status likely is going to make him a very rich free agent. He leads the team in takeaways and has a chance at having the most takeaways by a Capital since 2011/12 (62-Oshie 2015-16) with 40 after 57 games. While he tends to have many giveaways on the stat sheet, this can be expected from a defenseman playing more than 25 minutes a game. Sitting third in team scoring he also has been producing on the power play currently only behind Ovechkin in points. A lot of that is attributed to being the setup passer for the howitzer we know as Ovi, but his right handedness is an effective weapon as he can lay the puck out for Ovi.

An injury to Matt Niskanen seemingly has altered his play somewhat since his return. His minutes have not decreased much but with only 13 assists in 43 games it seems unlikely he will get close to last years 34 in 78 games. He had 67 giveaways all of last year and already has accumulated 50 this season. That’s not the Niskanen we have seen in last few seasons. The Caps need Nisky of 2016/17 in the playoffs if they want to go deep.

Dimitry Orlov was signed last summer to a six year, $36.6M deal by the club and he’s responded by already matching his career high in goals (8 in 2015-16) after 57 games played. He’s taking on more tough minutes averaging almost three more per game and has shown more confidence in carrying the puck with his wheels. His slap shot remains his biggest weapon and I think he needs to use it more and his play in his own end has improved with already more takeaways this season (35) then last seasons 34. Still susceptible to the bad penalty and is risky at the offensive blue line but the risks are getting less and the rewards are more. Let’s hope that continues.

Taylor Chorney is admirably filling in as the veteran is a consummate teammate and has been ready when called on. Really, there is not much to add here. I don’t expect Chorney back with the squad next year.

This is the first time in three seasons that the Capitals will enter the playoffs not as a favorite and most in Rock The Red country likely feel how I do. Who cares? This team has been picked to win before and well, let’s not go down that foxhole. The Capitals likely have a better chance of going on a deep run and making all our dreams come true when we least expect it. With the last two seasons “going for it” ending in heartbreak to the Pens (again) in game 7, this season may as well be good as any. Are we getting the Jekyll or Hyde or something in the middle this spring??

I will look at the forwards and goalies next week.

Go Caps Go

Inside the Caps Opponent : the Wild’s Matt Dumba

The Capitals have been getting some offence from the back end this season with John Carlson registering 45 points which sits him in 3rd overall for DMan scoring in the league. However there is a significant drop off past Carlson when you consider Orlov’s 20 points put him 2nd on the Caps defensman but 56th overall for blue line scoring.

Between Carlson and Orlov, the Caps top two Dmen in scoring, they’ve received 65 points with 18 goals between the two of them. When they visit Minnesota tonight they will have to worry about a formidable pair on the Wild’s offensive attack also from the blue line in Ryan Suter and underrated and maybe undersized Matt Dumba. The two have combined for similar numbers as the Caps top two with 16 goals and 66 points respectively and both sit in the top 20 NHL Defense scoring.

He was drafted 7th overall in the ’12 NHL entry draft out of the WHL’s Red Deer Rebel earning rookie of the year status in ’10-’11 for the league. He’s also represented Canada at the ’13-’14 World Jr. and the ’16 World Championships.

Boasting a cannon from the point is’s a little surprising to note that Dumba has not scored on the PP this year as his 7 points with the man advantage have been helpers. Dumba currently sits 5th in team goals and 5th in team scoring for the Wild. The Caps know better as Dumba has rocketed a few in his day vs Holtby already. He has excellent speed, offensive awareness and surprisingly can play quite physical when you consider he is about league average 6′ 185 pounds. Caps will have to keep their heads up as he is not afraid to lay a big hit at any point.

He is susceptible to the odd mental lapse, but pairing with veteran Suter has helped him progress nicely and he’s currently on the plus side of the ledger as a plus 6 player this year. Registering only 1 goal in his last 10 games he has managed to still chip in with 6 assists in that time. Look for him to try and get himself on the score sheet tonight.

Go Caps Go

Inside the Caps Opponent : Winnipeg Jets Josh Morrissey

Tonight the Capitals are in Manitoba where they will find a team much different then last years squad. Washington and the Winnipeg Jets both are battling for top spot in their respective divisions and this is a great match up to see where Caps fit versus a strong Western Conference team. The Jets are one of the best teams in the West and the Capitals know that they boast a great defensive nucleus. One of the less heralded blue-liners is 22 year old Calgary, Alberta native Josh Morrissey.

With the skill set to be an elite player, Morrissey has progressed maybe even ahead of the Jets schedule as he’s only in his second full season and is counted on in many areas of the Jets game. He appeared in all 82 games as a rookie last season, no easy feat for a young defenceman at the National Hockey League level. Blessed with an offensive mind as well he is a great skater with passing ability to break out of the Jets zone with ease. Not a big player at 6′ 195 lbs, but his physical game is underrated.

While Morrissey was in the WHL he was traded mid-season in 2014-15 from Prince Albert to the powerhouse Kelowna Rockets where he paired up with current Capitals rookie defenceman Madison Bowey. The two led the Rockets to a WHL Championship and fell just short of a National Championship. Was a member of two Canadian National Jr teams (played with Bowey there as well) and also represented Canada at the 2017 World Championships.

Go Caps Go

Bundle up, Caps cold roadie ahead

After the incomplete comeback loss yesterday at Capital One Arena to the Detroit Red Wings, the Washington Capitals prepare for a cold road trip out west. Here is a quick preview of the teams and who to watch out for.

 

Jets
Photo Credit: Jason Halstead/Getty Images North America

 

First stop on Tuesday is in Manitoba, where the Caps will play “the Western Ovechkin” Patrick Laine and the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets are currently 2nd in the Central Division with 73 points so far on the season, two points behind the Nashville Predators. Other than Laine, the Jets have a lot of other weapons that could prove difficult for the Caps. Mark Scheifele (15 goals – 24 assists) and Nikolaj Ehlers (21 goals – 19 assists) have proven to be offensive threats. However, the one who leads from the front is their captain Blake Wheeler with 60 points on the season (14 goals – 46 assists). Look for this team to take a strong home stand with their speed and scoring abilities. Caps will have to watch out for the big-hitters on the squad too, like Dustin Byfuglien and ex-Caps tough guy Matt Hendricks. This’ll be a good, tone-setting game for the road trip.

 

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild
Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

 

Next, the Caps travel Minnesota to face 2018 All-Star select Eric Staal and the Wild. Staal has found a home in Minnesota as a veteran playmaker, leading the team in points with 50 (24 goals – 26 assists). Another hot player to look out for is Jason Zucker, who has 40 points (22 goals – 18 assists) on the season so far. Both continue to be the face of the Wild’s offense, but the Caps must also look to beat their star goaltender Devan Dubnyk. At 6’6″, Dubnyk’s big rig can cover the net from all angles. He was a contender for the Vezina and Hart trophies a couple of seasons ago, so he can hold his own. The Caps will need to dig deep for this one following the Winnipeg game.

 

Hawks
Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

The Caps then travel to the Windy City of Chicago to play Patrick “Showtime” Kane and the Blackhawks. This is a prestigious club who has hit sort of a decline this season, currently short of a playoff spot. Regardless, they still have some very capable weapons on the team other than Kane. Alex DeBrincat is one of their young top 6 forwards, who has earned his place this season with 34 points (19 goals – 15 assists). He is quick and can put the puck in the net. Nick Schmaltz is another producer for the club with 39 points (15 goals – 24 assists), second among the team in points behind Kane. Following two presumably tough game on the road, the Caps could cool down with this matchup. However, no games are certain and they should make sure to contain the Blackhawks early if they seek to win.

 

Sabres
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Olean Times Herald

 

Finally, to close out the road trip, the team travels to Buffalo to play Ryan O’Reilly and the Sabres. Recently, the Sabres suffered a huge blow to their offense with a season-ending injury of their star forward Jack Eichel (Sprained ankle). He is currently the point leader on the team with 53 points (22 goals – 31 assists), but he isn’t the only threat. Evander Kane is third among points on the team with 38 (18 goals – 20 assists). Kane can move the puck and use the body to power his way to the net. With the Sabres second to the Arizona Coyotes as the worst team in the NHL with 42 points, this could be an easy game for the Caps. This could be a good an opportunity to start Philipp Grubauer to get him another win on his record and maybe rotate in Taylor Chorney to get him some play time to keep him fresh, but anything can happen in hockey so they should not underestimate Buffalo. Caps will probably be ready to return home at this point, so hopefully they have some extra juice in the tank to squeeze out a win here.

 

As always we will be tweeting the games, providing updates and insight. Give us a follow @InColdPlacesDC and give me one too @Jurky88. Go Caps!

Caps ink Lars Eller to five-year extension

Yesterday morning, the Washington Capitals announced that they have reached an agreement with 3rd line center Lars Eller to a lengthy five-year contract. He will earn $3.5 million per season and complete the contract by 2022-2023 with $17.5 million, which is the full payout.

 

Eller has been a critical contributor to the Caps’ success since he signed with the club. Washington struggled for a while searching for solid centers, rotating guys to find something special. Once Evgeny Kuznetsov inked, Caps established their top two centers along with assistant captain Nicklas Backstrom. With Jay Beagle taking the 4th line center job, the 3rd line center job was left vacant and crucial for team success

 

Lars was picked up from the Montreal Canadiens in a trade in exchange for a couple of 2nd round draft picks and was given the shot the Caps needed. The following seasons were a complete turn around for the ‘Great Dane’, establishing a top 9 forward mentality rather than a bottom 6. Since being traded from Montreal to the Washington, Eller has maintained a positive +/- rating above 5 and contributed no less than 25 points per season. Through 53 games thus far, he has 28 points and is on pace to pass his career high (30).

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Eller’s contract will go until he is 34 and I personally look forward seeing him contribute to the Capitals’ organization for the upcoming years. Congratulations to the Great Dane on being paid and go Caps!

Inside the Caps Opponent : Seth Jones

The Capitals return home to face the Columbus Blue Jackets and will once again look to put more points between them and the Blue Jackets who are fighting to stay in a playoff position. The Jackets have always been a thorn in the side of the Caps and one player who can help control a game is Seth Jones. At 6’4″ and 210 pounds, Jones has the size to deal with the Caps heavy play and in turn has the wheels and hockey IQ to force the Caps on their heels. Along with youngster Zach Werenski, the 23 year old American has formed a nucleus Columbus can rely on for many seasons moving forward.  The team locked him up to a 6 yr/ $32.4M in June ’16.

Born in Arlington, TX, Seth began playing and learning hockey in Denver where his father (Popeye) was playing NBA basketball with the local Nuggets. Having a pro athlete as a father has it’s perks at times and Popeye was able to get advice from some guy named Joe Sakic in helping his sons (other son Caleb plays in Oilers system) get their start. Not a bad guy to listen to I’d say!

Originally drafted 4th overall by Nashville in the ’13 entry draft, he was dealt in a blockbuster deal to Columbus in January ’16 with the Jackets parting ways with forward Ryan Johansen. The Caps will have their hands full with Jones ability to skate and pass the puck out of danger areas. Great on the PP, he has a cannon of a shot and rarely makes a bad play. Again, he is only 23 years old. It’s very impressive what he and Werenski are doing.

Jones is having a great season so far on the board with 8G, 25A for 33pts and barring injury has a chance to set career bests in all three categories. With 12 of those points coming with the man advantage he is making life difficult on special teams for opposition as well. Jones has not recorded a point in the last three games but did have 6 shots in the last game against Washington.

Go Caps Go