The Engine That Could

As many of you know, we here at FICP are partial to having fourth liner Michael Latta in the lineup for the Caps. He is not only an excellent forward for the team, he gets chippy when he needs to and stands up for his teammates. The past two games Latts has had the opportunity to play in he’s gotten in scuffles with opposition. And we’re ok with that!

First was Scott  Mayfield:

Next challenger was Clayton Stoner:

According to HockeyFights Michael Latta has had eight fights this season and has won five of those (62.5%)

Down to the Numbers: 

Michael Latta played 43 games during the regular season and recorded an NHL career high three goals and four assists. Third behind his roomie Tom Wilson (163) and Captain Alex Ovechkin (53), Latts ended the season with 50 PIM, 18 minutes less than his previous season with the Caps. Before his NHL career, Latta played 52 games for the Caps AHL affiliate Hershey Bears where he earned 14 goals and 20 assists accompanied by 134 PIM in the 13′-14′ season. All this to say Michael Latta knows how to play some hockey and given the chance we think he could be a great asset going forward for the Caps in the playoffs.

The Fourth Line Mash-Up:

This season has been a battle for fourth liners on the Caps. Between the additions of Daniel Winnik, Mike Richards, and a few extra players “just in case,”the fourth line has been a constantly changing force. The usual suspects include:


 Daniel Winnik (26), Michael Latta (46), Mike Richards (10), Jay Beagle (83), Stan Galiev (49), and the occasional call-up from Hershey. With ice time being split between this many players it’s crucial for players to step up their game and show the coaches just what they bring to the team.

Photos and Article by: Brittney Marcum

Washington Capitals Road Trip Battles

The Washington Capitals started their longest road trip (four games in nine days) of the season in Boston. We had our concerns about the teams they would meet–especially the top three in the Pacific Division. Boston was not a bad game. Coach Trotz said he was pleased with the team’s ability to battle through adversity and take the win. The Caps recorded 100 points on the trip and according to the Washington Capitals “This season marks the fastest the Capitals have reached 100 points in franchise history (65 GP) and Washington became the 10th team in NHL history to reach the 100-point plateau in 65 games or less” They headed for the west coast on a high.

And then the real battle began. The Ducks proved to be tough opponents. The Caps barely walked away with the win. The LA Kings highlighted the chinks in the Capitals defensive armor and their “comeback” team reputation was tarnished. It was even worse when they played the San Jose Sharks resulting in a 5-2 loss. It is apparent that the coaching staff needs to consider some adjustments it they hope to lead the team back to a final run, which might include one of these teams.

Is it time to panic? It seems that many have been waiting for the signal to start the wringing of hands. We think not. This has been a learning week. It comes at a good time when the Capitals are in a good position to secure their spot in the playoff berth. This gives them some latitude to improve The Caps are now 49-14-5 with 103 points. They end their road trip 2-2.  In addition, the Capitals’ 103 points already mark the fifth-most points in franchise history. We aren’t worried yet, but we think there is room for improvement. Some things to consider:

  • How can they improve the first period and gain more control over the game.
  • Do they need to bring back some of the fourth-line players to  stir things up?  Michael Latta and Stanislav Galiev were scratches the whole series,
  • They are still giving their opponents to many opportunities to score with all the penalties.
  • Alex Ovechkin isn’t scoring right now. He has had three assists in the last five games. We can’t help but ask what distracted him during this road trip?
  • TJ Oshie is back to scoring and doing what he does best in the shootout. He has three goals in the last five–all power-play goals.
  • Andre Burakovsky showed real promise. He had a goal and two assists. Evgeny Kuznetsov and he are creating openings to score. Kuzy had three assists in four games.

 

Bottom line: NO it is NOT time to panic. It is time to learn, correct, and succeed.

Caps Hit 100 points with a  2-1 over Boston

Even though the Caps gave up the first goal in the first period, this was an improved first period. During the second period  the Capitals penalty kill would be successful, thanks to goaltender Philipp Grubauer and his iron friend, defenseman Karl Alzner, who tied the game. The score was tied when the final buzzer sounded, forcing the game into overtime with the Caps and Bruins tied 3-on-3. The OT was active and eventful. Matt Niskanen, set up by Andre Burakovsky, blasted one past Tuukka Rask and the Capitals finally collect both points in Beantown. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer had a great night in net for the Capitals. at this point in the season, the Caps still have not lost two consecutive games in regulation.

Caps over Ducks

Monday night in Anaheim, the first of three California games this week, the Caps discovered just how difficult this road trip could be.  Braden Holtby squared off against John Gibson between the pipes. The Caps would again trail in the first period with a  1-0 at the end of 20 minutes. The Capitals started the second significantly better than the firstbut not by much. After 40 minutes, Capitals Captain Alex Ovechkin did not have a shot on goal yet and the second ended with no goals. Thankfully in the third, Andre Burakovksy tied the game with a beautiful pass by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Mike Richards almost scored the game-winner with less than a minute left in regulation; however, it was OT time. 

The Russian connection almost ended the game. Matt Niskanen almost scored another game winner. There were too many Ducks with 1:40 left in the extra session but 15 seconds later T.J. Oshie was called for closing his hand on the puck. Braden Holtby made some great saves on the Ducks. No goals were scored in the extra session so the game needed the shootout to decide a winner. T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom secured the win for the Capitals in the shootout.

LA Kings Crowned Pacific Leaders

There was some emotion before the game as Justin  Williams and Mike Richards entered the Staples Center to old friends and fans, who honored both Stanley Cup winners with standing ovations.  Holtby got the start again for the Caps and Jonathan Quick got the start for the Kings. Yet again, the Caps were in the hole early by allowing the opposing team to score first. They also seem now to enjoy their trips to the penalty box. The Caps picked up the pace early in the second period; however, LA had some very impressive and extensive offensive zone time which zapped the energy out of the Caps. They managed to add a goal to tie the game late in the third and force an overtime.

After knocking Drew Doughty down with his power shot, Ovi almost ends it about 40 seconds into OT but is stopped by Quick who was deep in his crease. LA tried the same but was denied by Holtby. There was a lot of very fast back and forth, up and down the ice before Jeff Carter went top shelf on a sprawling Holtby to give the Kings the victory. The Caps erased a three goal deficit to force overtime, and then gain a point. With this win, the Kings reclaimed the Pacific Division lead.

Losing Their Way in San Jose 

Washington Capital sand San Jose Sharks met for the Caps last game of their west coast trip. . Philip Grubauer got the start in net for the good guys while Martin Jones was in for the Sharks. Even though the Sharks got on the board first, the Caps had nine shots on goal to the 11 by San Jose. Jay Beagle orchestrated an almost goal that led to some scrapping after the whistle.Twenty seconds into the second, the Sharks were called for another penalty, giving the Caps a 5 on 3 power play, which the Caps took advantage of. However, the Sharks had a 2 on 0 breakaway and scored a shorthanded goal, giving them back the lead.  Caps and Sharks tied, 2-2  The third period looked like a bad version of the  “comeback Caps” we are unfortunately used to seeing lately. Bad passing, turnovers and sloppy play gave way to two San Jose goals before the period was three minutes old. The Caps spent way too much time in their own zone. But alas, our boys could not pull off the victory. Hard to do with only 4 shots on goal all period.

 

 

A Tale of Two Coaches: Bruce or Barry?

Bruce Boudreau and Barry Trotz rank up there in popularity with the likes of former Washington Capitals coach Bryan Murray who holds the Caps franchise record of 672 games coached and 343 regular season wins. Both men instill a sense of pride and a desire to succeed in their teams. They are devoted family men. They are mentors to players and looked up to by fans. There is something relatable and likeable about these two men.

We had great hopes that Bruce would lead the team all the way to the cup and today we are hoping that Barry is the man who will do what Bruce couldn’t.

The comparison pretty much ends there, especially when simply looking at their career statistics. And this season one has coached his team to the top and one has fought to stay out of the bottom.

Bruce Boudreau Barry Trotz
Years Coaching 9     (5)      15        (2)
Games 644 (329) 1,196   (128)
Wins 383 (201) 557      (80)
Points 842 (442) 1,274   (174)
Playoff Games 73   (37)    50       (14)
Playoff Wins 38       (17)    19       (7)
Times No. 1 in division 7      1

(Caps Stats)

The Washington Capitals have 25 playoff appearances in the team’s 40 year history. Of the 17  coaches since 1974, its first year in the NHL, only nine coaches took the Caps to the playoffs. Barry Trotz coached Nashville for 13 years and was only able to get to the playoffs seven out of those 13 years—never going all the way. Though Boudreau coached Washington for a shorter period of time, the team made it to the playoffs every year he was at the helm. Still without lifting the cup, despite some great commercials about bringing it home.

But do these stats really matter? When you look at the coaches and the way their current teams (WAS and ANA) are playing now, we don’t think so. The coaches effect players in different ways and their styles definitely influence the way the game is played. But player’s talents vary from team to team and the Caps have had to embrace a new philosophy with Barry Trotz.

barry and kuzy
Coach Trotz: Inspiring his boys to greatness.

 

For whatever reason, the philosophy that Coach Trotz brought to Washington is one that this team, for this season, seems to be accepting and implementing. Everyone seems to agree that this team is playing differently. There is something behind the curtain to which the fans and media are not privy, but it sure seems to be working. We wish Bruce success, but when the coaches face off on Friday, it is in Barry Trotz that we put our hope.

barry and girls
Barry and FiCP writers.

 

References:

www.Hockeyreference.com

NHL.com