Capitals Game Day Watch for Caps-Wild On Friday (Update)

Even before the puck drops there is a chance for Caps fans to win some Alex Ovechkin memorabilia:

“The Capitals have partnered with NBC Sports Washington for Authentic Fan Friday! The first 500 fans to visit the NBC Sports Washington table at Section 423 will receive a limited amount of Ovi cheer cards.” (Caps Game info) Click here for a chance to win an original painting by Taylor Kampa Olson as a Caps Authentic Fan. Runs from 6 to 10 pm.

Check us out on Twitter and follow us to find out how you can skate at Capital One Arena on Sunday. Continue reading “Capitals Game Day Watch for Caps-Wild On Friday (Update)”

The Pregame: Tom Wilson is Back!

michael banner 2After some big news hit this morning all eyes were on today’s morning skate in Minnesota to see whether Tom Wilson was a part of the line rushes and if so, which line he’ll be on. We got your answer and a whole lot more to get you ready for tonight’s tilt against the Minnesota Wild which kicks off a four-game road trip.  Continue reading “The Pregame: Tom Wilson is Back!”

The Capitals, Hershey Bears, and Developing Players

There has been some spicy talk on social media recently about the role of the American Hockey League (AHL) in relation to that of the National Hockey League (NHL). The AHL is made up of 31 teams- all with affiliations to NHL teams. A new team was brought forward this summer from the ECHL because the creation of the expansion team Las Vegas Golden Knights . (More on the ECHL later.) The AHL’s primary function as a farm team is to develop rookie players into skilled NHL players.

Stephen Whyno reported that Caps coach Barry Trotz sent a text to then Hershey Bears coach Troy Mann congratulating him for his role in developing players for the wining team. “Thanks Manner for having all those rookie Caps ready, They all played well — you own a piece of this win last night.” There is little doubt about the importance an AHL coach had in the formation of an NHL player. (Unfortunately, the Caps/Bears did not renew their contract with Mann and have since hired Spencer Carbery from their ECHL affiliate.)

The other side of the story is that many AHL teams are just as much a part of their local communities as are NHL teams. And those communities get behind their players as they fight to win games that will lead them to the playoffs and the ultimate prize–the Calder Cup. The Bears have their own fan club, the Hershey Bears Booster Club, that arranges opportunities for fans to travel to away games, even Caps games, as well as other trips for the community. Like the Capitals Fan Club, they also raise funds for local charities.

But let’s get back to how the AHL and the NHL work together. We start with the affiliation. To keep it easy, we will use the Hershey Bears and the Washington Capitals as our example. The Bears renewed their affiliation agreement in October 2016. It expires after the 2019/20 season. Prior to that, they had been affiliated for 11 seasons, among the longest in the AHL.

The problem many AHL teams face is the structure of contracts in the NHL and the control the parent team has over up to 50 contracts for both NHL and AHL players. The NHL can only carry 23 active players on their roster. The AHL, on the other hand, can sign additional players and have as many as they can afford on their roster. There are more rules about numbers that can dress for a game and types of players eligible to play at any given time.

Contracts

There are any number of contracts available for AHL players. These three are signed:

Standard players’ contract (SPC) or the full AHL contract, is signed only with the AHL affiliate. The player must sign a new contract to play for the NHL. These players will most likely not ever play in the NHL.

Professional try-out contract (PTO) used to allow the NHL team to look at a player. At times, that player could be a veteran NHL player who is hoping to land a new NHL contract. For the AHL, that player may be on the team for no more then 25 games without a new standard contract. Think Alex Chiasion who signed a one-year bridge contract after training camp in 2026.

Amateur try-out contracts (ATO) are for amateurs to get a taste of playing with the AHL but they maintain their amateur status for the following season.

Then there are the contacts players actually signed with the parent organization (the Capitals); however, they are playing with the AHL (Bears) and not on the NHL roster.

Two-way contracts give the parent team (Caps) the option to send a player down to the AHL (Bears) and recall him to play in the NHL again. The salary rate changes depending on which league they play. As players run up and down between Hershey and Washington DC, their salary fluctuates and the salary cap changes as well. So moving players around for the good of the Caps is no easy job. This past season we saw that with several Bears roster players.

Players under 25 on September 15 sign entry-level contracts. These are two-way contracts and only used for a player’s first NHL contract. These guys can go back and forth between the Caps and the Bears without waivers. Jakub Vrana is one of those players on a ELC who played 73 regular season games with the Capitals. Read more about him and his contract and performance here.

A Standard NHL one-way contract means the player receives an NHL salary regardless which league he happens to play a game. For the Caps to send one-way player to the Bears, they have to put the player on waivers. That’s a whole different set of rules which we discuss here.

Developing Players

When it comes to developing players for the national league, the Bears do one heck of a good job. Among the players who have moved into the NHL after even a brief time in the AHL are: Karl Alzner, Jay Beagle, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Eric Fehr, Stanislav Galiev, Mike Green, Philipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby, Michael Neuvirth, Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, Michael Latta, Liam O’Brien, Steven Oleksy, Justin Peters, Nate Schmidt, and Tom Wilson.

And current Bears who contributed to the Capitals during the playoffs and wining the Stanley Cup are: Travis Boyd, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, Madison Bowey, and Christian Djoos.

The AHL has also been the developing ground for future NHL head coaches. Bruce Boudreau was once a Bears coach when the Capitals brought him up to coach in the NHL. Current Cap’s head coach Todd Reirden also coached in the AHL. And the AHL brings forward coaches from the ECHL, as the Bears have done with coach Carbery.

Although it can be destabilizing for AHL teams like the Hershey Bears to loose players around whom they have built a playing strategy. The Bears have a record of winning and their fans want more of the same. Since 2000, the Bears have won three Calder Cups. They have turned out some amazing players like goalie Michal Neuvirth who was in the net for the 2009 and 2010 Calder Cup wins–he went on to play for the Capitals and ultimately the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Caps Future

The truth is, they all want to play in the NHL. In all fairness, one can’t begrudge an AHL player from taking the opportunity the live out their dream. And as you can see from the list above, many of the Capitals’ top players were developed in the AHL. And more are likely to be on their way soon. Starting with Ilya Samanov, the Capitals goalie for the future. It is possible that one of the current Bear’s goalies, either Phoenix Copley or Vitek Vanecek could be the Caps next backup goalie.

So, go  to a Hershey Bears game. Get to know the players who you may see on the Caps or other NHL rosters in the future. Support the team – meet the players after a game, join the booster club, and cheer on their success. Check out the Caps Fan Club or the Caps Road Crew and go to a game with the Caps community. We are all one big family and we should get to know each other more.

Oh and read our daily Hershey Bear reports to meet the players. Read our other stories.

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The LONG Wait for the Washington Capitals is OVER

We like winning!

WE LOVE THIS KIND OF WINNING!!!

cap-centre-landover WTOPMany of you have followed the Washington Capitals since they first set up home in the DMV as an expansion team in 1974 — way out in Landover, Maryland.

THIS IS YOUR DAY!!!

George McPhee came to manage in 1997 and seemed to have a strategy for the boys.

You followed the Caps to Chinatown and the MCI Center in 1998.

You suffered the heartbreaking loss of its first NHL Stanley Cup playoff series in 1998.

There was Craig Laughlin, Mike Gartner, Rod Langway, and Dino Ciccarelli, just to name a few

Stanley Cup Practice762You were there when Ted Leonsis bought the team in 1999.

You watched as other teams went all the way and you waited…

We had Jaomir Jagr and Peter Bondra but still no CUP.

And then came the Alexander Ovechkin Era and the lights came up again. There was a sense that something big changed with the addition of  Young Guns of Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and Alex Semin. That was the 2004 draft, and still you waited.

We relished players like Olaf Kolzig, Matt Cooke, and Sergei Fedorov.

April 2014 the Caps and McPhee parted ways, starting a chain of events that would later challenge the Capitals. Enter Brian MacLellan.

watermarked62(2018-06-04-1347)There were a sea of coaches, some talented and well loved like Bruce Broudreau and the newest coach of the era- Barry Trotz. Players came and went – including Green and Semin. John Carlson and Karl Alzner had a special magic. Swedish player Marcus Johansson heated up the ice.

Then came the Summer of Trades, 2017. Alzner, Johansson, Nate Schmidt, and Justin Williams. And a new name for the Caps to play in: Capital One Arena.

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Investment was made in a new look for the team with new contracts for TJ Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Philipp Grubauer, Brett Connolly, and Andre Burakovsky. New players joined the lines in the 2017/18 season: Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Travis Boyd, Madison Bowey, and Christian Djoss. The team had some major growing pains to endure and the expectations were low that they would even make it to the NHL Playoffs, let alone to the Stanley Cup Finals.

And then something happened. It all clicked. All the years of investment. All the tears fans had shed. All the dollars invested as season ticket holders. All the shirts and jerseys and red cowbells. It all just clicked!!

In the first round the Caps defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. Still we waited in anticipation because the next round was where we were used to seeing them fail.

And then the magic really kicked into high gear as the Caps defeated their primary rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2!! Still we heard, don’t get your hopes up.

The thunder struck on our side in late May 2018 at the Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in a seven game series, 4-3.

The clouds parted and the DMV became awash in a sea of RED.

They REALLY were in the FINAL ROUND for the STANLEY CUP against the new team that old friend George McPhee built. We like the Vegas Golden Knights up until this point.

The Knights took game one 6-4

and the Caps returned with a determination we have never seen led by the man on whose shoulders this era rests – Alex Ovechkin.

Game Two they won 3-2, in the desert.

watermarked15(2018-06-05-0950)They returned home to win Game Three and Four.

And they returned to the desert to slay the Knight. And slay they did in one of the best finals ever. The Knights gave it their all but victory was not to be theirs.

Caps WIN the STANLEY CUP in a 4-3 Win over the Knights.

Hats off to all of you have been there all these long years. You have gone on the road with the Caps. You have given many hours watching practice and cheering them onto the ice. You have UNLEASHED THE FURY and today is YOUR DAY!

CELEBRATE BIG FANS!!! ROCK THE RED! RAISE THE CUP!

Let’s Talk Washington Capitals Coaches 

Every time the Caps fail to make it past Round Two of the NHL playoffs, the call for the coach’s head can’t be far away. This season is no different as we have begun to see the tweets in favor of replacing Barry Trotz are building as frustration is replacing tears and anger.

So let’s look back a few years on the Ovechkin Era and see what’s been going on. Ovi signed with the Caps in 2004 right before the 2004/05 season lockout. It was a pivotal time for the Washington Capitals. At that time George McPhee was general manager (GMGM) and Glen Hanlon was coach. Hanlon had been coaching the team since 2003 when he was promoted as assistant coach and replaced Bruce Cassidy. Hanlon had played in the league himself from 1977 to 1991; however, he was never on a Cup winning team. His stint as coach was memorable only for his losses and the sense of defeat the fans felt as the result of his coaching.

That takes us to Bruce Boudreau. He too had played in the league. He; however, had no NHL coaching experience. What he did have was a winning record with the AHL affiliate team, the Hershey Bears. After seven years he took the team all the way to win the Calder Cup in 2006. The hope was that he would bring the winning skill he demonstrated in Hershey to Washington. Fans were pretty excited with this change and hope seemed to be all around the team. With Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, and Mike Green—The Young Guns—the Caps were primed for lifting the Cup.

Or so we thought.

BB would quickly become part of the “Building America’s Hockey Capital” strategy of owner Ted Leonsis.  It was a pretty remarkable time for the Caps. He helped them win the Presidents’ Trophy in 2009. He gained notoriety as the “F-bomb coach” when HBO followed him around during the Caps first Winter Classic against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a game that would excite Caps fans and dismay Pens fans as the Sidney Crosby hit and subsequent concussion would haunt the team ever after. He was a staple in the hockey world and fans adored him almost to the end. By the time he left Bruce posted a 201-88-40 in 329 regular season games. He was also the fastest coach to record 200 regular season wins. Unfortunately, he could never get the Caps past the second round of the playoffs either. He gradually lost the confidence of the team and the fan base resulting in his rather abrupt firing.

It was all over by November 2011 when the Caps fired Broudeau and made one of the worst hiring decisions bringing in former Capitals’ superstar Dale Hunter, owner of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights. Hunter played for the Capitals from 1987 to 1999. Hunter made it clear when he arrived that he was no fan of Ovechkin, probably believing the press that Ovi had become disrespectful toward his coach and needed rewiring. The excitement for Hunter was brief. He had almost tasted the thrill of victory as a player with the Colorado Avalanche but still did not know how to lead a team past the final. After a dismal season (six months of coaching) with the Caps once again not making it past the semi-finals, Hunter decided he was better suited with the Knights and folded tent to head home.

Hunter’s departure led to the Caps second disaster in this time frame; the hiring of another former player, Adam Oates. Oates was a former assistant coach for Tampa Bay Lightning and part of the NJ Devils team (assistant coach) that made it to the Stanley Cup final in 2012,  which the LA Kings won.  Although he had not yet served as a head coach, he at least had the experience of working with a team that made it to the finals. And he was a Hall of Famer. What could go wrong???  Well things started bumpy with the 2012/13 NHL lockout, which led to a shortened first season. It looked hopeful for the team until they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. His second full season fell apart as he lost the locker room early and he lost the confidence of his star players, most notably Ovechkin. (Que the Ovi fires coaches rumors). He quickly lost the support of the fan base that loved him as a player. This discontent ultimately led to the Caps failure to make it to the playoffs. In the end, the Caps declined to continue their relationship with Oates and released him from his contract.

And as a side note,  they also released GM George McPhee. He was after all, the guy who brought in all the losing coaches. Although he was also responsible for bringing on some of the strongest players in the league, he was unable to create the right mix for a Stanley Cup winning team. He came close though in his first year, 1998, when the Caps went all the way to the finals—for the last time. It was time for a major shakeup and many long-time followers of the Capitals had mixed feelings about letting go of GMGM. Like Bruce, he was well liked in the community.

Which brings us to the Capitals current coach, Barry Trotz. He never played hockey in the NHL, often saying he wasn’t good enough. He began his NHL coaching career with the Nashville Predators in 1997 as part of the new expansion team. He earned a positive reputation as a coach, a winning coach who also never took his team past the second round of the playoffs. He failed to bring them to the playoffs in his last two seasons in Nashville. As a result, the Preds released him in April 2014 which opened the door for the Caps to bring him into the fold a month later. There were mixed reviews about the Caps hiring him, but there was also a sense that he could be the guy to have some success in the latest round of “rebuild.” He has worked well with the team, never afraid to do the unexpected as he adjusted lines, sat under-performing players, and was not phased by the Ovi hype but looks at the team as a whole. Clearly he was disappointed after the Caps were knocked out of the playoffs for the third time under his leadership. He built real cohesion and friendships on the team, the likes of which we have never seen. There were mentors and a real dependence on each other, on and off the ice.  However, all the changes and growth were not enough to give the team the confidence and steam to push past round two. Clearly he knows how to get the team to the playoffs but he hasn’t proven an ability to make it all the way. All that said, there is no sense from the players that they have lost confidence in him. He has created a new culture, but that culture will change with all the moving pieces and trades likely to occur over the summer.watermarked332017-02-17-1120

In the weeks ahead the Capitals management will be taking a good look at what worked and what didn’t. Bloggers and sports writers will assess players and argue about the weakest links. If Trotz stays, he will keep working with GM Brian MacLellan to develop a new strategy and together they will work to create a new team that can go all the way. They have already made some positive changes overall on behalf of the team—creating a healthy environment and a place where young players can develop their craft. The team is closer than ever and it is a waiting game to see who stays and who goes and what that means for the next season.

In the end, the biggest downfall with GMGM’s hiring practice was the mistake in not hiring a coach with NHL Stanley Cup experience. The ongoing problem is that the Caps have never hired someone who coached a team and won the Stanley Cup. Close enough is not necessarily good enough. As much as we believe in what Barry Trotz has tried to accomplish with this team, his record speaks for itself. If the Caps stay with Trotz one more season, he needs to not just coach the team to the finals but win the Cup. If management is unsure of his ability to do that, we strongly urge them to consider hiring a coach with the actual experience of  “rebuilding” a team that has won the Cup. We know who we would suggest at this point were the Caps to make a change today…

Bottom line: fans don’t just want another season of making it to the playoffs, or even making it to the final round. WE WANT TO BRING THE CUP HOME!! And we want them to do whatever it takes to make that a reality next season. We are past the ‘rebuilding’ promises and are ready for a positive outcome.

History Repeating: Caps Knocked Out of 2nd Round…Again

Was it a dream? Unfortunately it was not as the Washington Capitals, the NHL’s best team in the regular season, got ousted once again by the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 in a overtime 4-3. This makes them 1-8 all-time in series vs. Pittsburgh.

The Caps have not been very successful in the playoffs since 1998, the first and only time they made the Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup Finals. Let’s take a look at the playoff history since then.

1997-1998 : Washington mows through the playoffs past the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators to get to the Eastern Conference Finals against Dominik Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres. The Caps win the series 4-2 and get into the Stanley Cup Finals, where they are swept by the juggernaut Detroit Red Wings.

1999-2000; 2000-2001 : The Capitals made the playoffs by winning the Southeast Division two years in a row after missing out in 1998-1999. In the quarterfinals, they played the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won both series 4-1 and 4-2 respectively.

In the Summer of 2001, the Capitals went all in and traded three prospects to the Pittsburgh Penguins for five-time Art Ross trophy winner Jaromir Jagr. We all know how that went.

2002-2003 : After missing the playoffs the previous year, the Caps were in as a wildcard. Playing in the quarterfinals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, they lost the series 4-2 and then proceeded to not make the playoffs for the next four seasons (including the lockout).

In 2004, Jagr was sent to the New York Rangers. The Capitals ended this season 23–46–10–3, good for second to last in the NHL. With the NHL Draft Lottery, the Capitals won the overall number one spot over the worst team in the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and chose a legend: Alexander Ovechkin.

2004-2005 : NHL LOCKOUT – NO PLAYOFFS

2007-2008 : After four seasons of no playoff hockey, the Caps hired Bruce Boudreau as their head coach. They proceeded to win the Southeast division and take on the Philadelphia Flyers in the Quarterfinals. A hard fought series, the Caps went in with a new goaltender Cristobal Huet. After being down 3-1 in the series, the Caps made a valiant effort but lost the series 4-3.

2008-2009 : With Huet gone and Kolzig signing with Tampa Bay, the Caps signed free agent Jose Theodore as their goaltender. Trading off between Theodore and Semyon Varlamov, the Caps won the Southeast Division and were scheduled to play Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. For the first time since 1998, the Caps won the opening round series 4-3 before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in the semi-finals.

2009-2010 : The Caps had their best season yet, winning the President’s Trophy with 121 points as the leagues best team. Behind Theodore and Michal Neuvirth, the Caps drew a pesky Montral Canadiens team with Jaroslav Halak in net. Halak stonewalled the Caps and sent the best team home in round one 4-3.

2010-2011 : With Varly and Neuvy trading off, the Caps locked up best team in the Eastern Conference with 107 points. They proceeded to take out the New York Rangers 4-1 but came up against a buzz saw in round two as the Tampa Bay Lightning swept the Caps 4-0.

2011-2012 : Still unsure of the goaltender situation, the Caps signed Tomas Vokoun to a one year deal. After firing Bruce Boudreau part way into the season, the Caps hired former enforcer Dale Hunter to the job. They finished second in the Southeast and played the Boston Bruins, 2011’s Stanley Cup Champ. With Neuvirth and Vokoun both injured, Braden Holtby got his shot as starting goaltender for round one. The Caps had a hard fought series against goaltender Tim Thomas but Holtby and the Caps outlasted with 4-3. In round two, the Caps ran into the New York Rangers hot Henrik Lundqvist and lost the series 4-3. Hunter announced he was “stepping down” as coach.

2012-2013 : Another former Cap Adam Oates was named head coach before yet another NHL lockout occurred.

2014-2015 : After a dismal 2013-2014 season, the Caps fired Adam Oates and General Manager George McPhee. They introduced new head coach Barry Trotz, formerly of the Nashville Predators. Getting the team to buy in to his philosophy, Trotz and the Caps gave Braden Holtby the reigns to the starting job and finished second in the newly crowned Metropolitan Division. They played the New York Islanders in round one and won that series 4-3. In the second round, the Caps played familiar foe the New York Rangers. Behind Lundqvist, the Caps lost the series 4-3.

2015-2016 : The Caps have a record-breaking season, finishing with 120 points, the most wins by a Caps team in history (56) and the President’s Trophy. They come up against a pesky Philadelphia Flyers team that came back in the series after the Caps jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the series. But the Caps put them away 4-2 and went to the next round. Playing their nemesis from Pittsburgh, the Caps faltered and went down 3-1 in the series before forcing a Game 6 and losing the series to the Pens.

It has now been 18 years since the Capitals have gotten past round two.

So what next for the Capitals? First you have to decide what you want to do to the team: a total rebuild or address your needs in certain areas, like a scoring forward and better defensemen on the backend. Whatever the decision, the team has nearly four months to think about it and get ready for pre-season in September.

(Stats Courtesy of NHL.com)
Written by Christopher Johnson, Photos by Brittney Marcum

BB on the Move Again

Bruce Boudreau has once again been released from his duties as an NHL head coach. We’re actually pretty surprised that Anaheim hung in there as long as they did this season.

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General Manager Murray said about BB’s firing: “In no way, shape or form is this pointing a gun at Bruce’s head. Let’s make that perfectly clear. But you’ve got to start somewhere.” Sounds familiar.

When teams fail to thrive quite often there is a disconnect between the coach and the team. For whatever reason, the team may no longer hear or respect the coach and the coach can no longer find the way to reach or encourage the team. It is what happened in Washington and it looks like its what happened in Anaheim. Change has to happen when a team falls short of full success. You can’t exactly fire the full team so the first to go is usually the coach.

Bruce is a talented coach. He is a great guy. He is likable, which is why he still owns a warm spot in Caps’ fans hearts. The rumor mill has already spinning in full gear as the media guesses where he will end up next. Ottawa, Minnesota, and maybe the Islanders. Where ever he lands, we wish him well–unless the Caps are playing against him!

Washington Capitals: The Maturing of a Team

When the Washington Capitals played the Anaheim Ducks in March, former Caps and current Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau spoke about the maturing of the team and their increased experience. If you remember, many of the players on today’s team started with the Hershey Bears and Boudreau had the privilege of laying their foundation as NHL players. During his time as the Caps coach, he set the foundation for  Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Karl Alzner, Jay Beagle, John Carlson, and Jason Chimera. Braden Holtby was just starting his NHL career when Bruce was dismissed by the Caps management.

So what has happened with these young guns since 2007 when Boudreau first coached them?

For starters, all of the original young guns except Ovechkin are family men now and even Alex is engaged and has spoken about his desire to have a family. They have new priorities in their personal lives and with that comes a personal maturity. All of them are close to 30, except Ovi and Beagle who are 30.There are some new “Young Guns” in the house but you get the sense that between the coaches and these older mentors, those  players are more interested in making a name for the team than a name for themselves. For whatever reason, there seems to be a heightened sense of committment to the community, the fan base, and to a winning mentality that we haven’t seen here since the BB years.

Ovechkin has had an incredible year. First, the 30 year old became engaged and he has been all smiles ever since. He played his seventh year of scoring 50 or more goals; he is the fifth fastest player to reach 500 goals, he topped the Russian-born goals scored, and he has shown the world what a personally generous man he is. As captain, he inspires others to succeed.

Backstrom at 28 is a dad now and one proud pappa. The Swedish center sustained an injury that kept him out of play at the start of the season and again in the final days of regulation play but he demonstrated real tenacity to get back as soon as he could. In his ninth season with the Caps, Nicky continues to provide the setup for Ovi to score while notching a few goals (20) of his own; his highest in nearly six seasons.

Alzner married in 2013 and currently has one child. The 27 year old Iron Man has demonstrated remarkable staying power as he continues to show up night after night. His former line-mate, John Carlson at 26 is one of the youngest of the “young guns” and he too has settled in a family-man life with wife Gina and their baby boy. Karl, John, and their wives are all active in their local communities.

Jay Beagle showed us all what it is like to miss a good bit of the season with an injury and fight back to regain his spot. Unfortunately Beags is injured again and we are hoping the 30 year-old dad of one makes a swift recovery. His good spirits always seems to lighten the load for the other players. He and Cheerful Chimera, the papa of the team are reminders to the players that hockey is meant to be fun–winning fun!!

Perhaps the biggest change though has been seen in the maturing of Braden Holtby. There is no doubt that Mitch Korn has helped Braden bring the maturity of a father of two to the goaltender’s on-ice performance. Braden has always had tenacity and a desire to win but this season the 26 year old has turned the corner and shown the hockey world what we Caps fans have always known–he is one of the best goaltenders in the league. Whatever the reason for his steadfast pose between the pipes, Braden clearly is bringing something new this season.

All season we have heard words like “resilience,” “tenacity,” “battle,” “team,” and “accountability” from the coach and the players and these positive words make for a positive attitude on and off the ice. Add the talent and winning mentality of Justin Williams and Mike Richards and you have the ingredients for a solid team that through the 2015/16 season refused to lose two back-to-back games and powered forward to conquer any adversity that might hold them back–be that poor gamemanship or injured players–the Caps battled forward to the President’s Trophy and a season of incredible milestones. This is a seasoned Caps team, from the players who have won the Cup to those that have taken the ride without winning. They all understand that something had to change and have embraced Trotz’s philosophy to do this together. This is what makes Caps fans believe more this time than ever before.

Go Caps!!!

 

 

 

 

Caps-Ducks: Meeting the Pacific Best

The Anaheim Ducks knocked the LA Kings out of first place in the Pacific Division on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals, after narrowly defeating the Boston Bruins, have a firm lock on first place in their division, not to mention the league. Of course, there is always something about the Caps playing their former coach that raises the level of competition between these two teams.

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Bruce Boudreau, with 663 games played, is the fastest coach to reach 400 wins in NHL history. 201 of those wins occurred during his five seasons with the Caps.

The Capitals will face some new challenges while in California; however, Coach Trotz said Saturday night that this team has a lot of battle in them and that they are committed to winning.

  • Matt Niskanen: Coach says he ‘flies under the radar’ and is one of the best defenseman going. He has had three points in the last five games, two which were goals.
  • The defensemen will need to be at their best against Anaheim, including the goalie.
  • Given the faith Coach has in his fourth line  grinders, (Beagle Richards Winnik), don’t expect to see Latta or Galiev in on this road trip.
  • The Caps power-play lines will have stiff completion from the Ducks PK lines.

The Ducks have fought their way up from the bottom. There were days when all we heard was news that Bruce Boudreau might be out because of their poor scoring. And then everything turned around and they are now on an 11 game winning streak entering the game tomorrow.

  • Expect Frederick Anderson in the net against Braden Holtby. He hasn’t lost a regulation game since December 21st.
  • Cam Fowler is great on the power play, including the one Saturday to give the Ducks the lead against the LA Kings.
  • Ryan Getzlaf leads the team in overall points and assists. On the other side, Kevin Bieksa leads in penalty minutes and is likely to try and stir stuff up.
  • The Ducks rank second in power play percent (23.7 %) and third in power play kill percent (86.2).