The Washington Capitals were expected by many experts to have a Stanley Cup hangover of some sorts after winning the Cup and enduring the shortest, quickest offseason for the entire roster. Things were kind of 50/50 at the start of the season, then the team got hot to close out the 2018 calendar year. When that calendar flipped to 2019, that hangover talk resurfaced. The team is having a hard time moving on from the past. Continue reading “Caps Winless Drought Extends to Seven Games Entering Break”
The Washington Capitals now have nine wins in a row, a bunch of guys hurt, and a winning attitude. Justin Williams said it best: “We’re just going about our business, and our business right now is winning.” (CSN) They played against a physical team and a goalie who must have been channeling Holtby because it was darn near impossible to get past him.
Warmups started with the disappointing realization that defenseman John Carlson would not skate tonight despite our hopes. Michael Latta also scratched and remains day-to-day. Zach Sill made his first NHL appearance this season—in for Latta.
The big twitter buzz was all about Alex Ovechkin who got an end-of-the year trim. The team was sporting their fashionable third jersey tonight.
First Period: The Johnson Period
Braden Holtby was in the net for the Caps and Chad Johnson for the Sabres. Ovechkin was called for roughing at 19.33 (.27) and the Sabres were on a powerplay. On a rush to the net, Jack Eichel passes one over to Brian Gionta to score first. 0-1 Sabres. Caps on the powerplay (PP) after a hardhit and trip by Tyler Ennis against Marcus Johansson. Goalie Chad Johnson had three good saves which prevented the Caps from scoring on the opportunity. And then the scuffle broke out: Tom Wilson taking on Sabres Captain Gionta. Tom Wilson gets a double minor and Zach Bogosian two-minutes for roughing. Caps on the penalty kill (PK) again. No score. Period ends 0-1 Sabres
Second Period: The Injury Period
The period started with an Ovi chance that failed to connect with the net. Eichel remained hot in the second period, keeping the defense on guard. The Caps went on the PP when Johan Larsson hooks Evgeny Kuznetsov. The crowd brought some energy to the play but the players couldn’t break through Johnson’s wall.
And then at 5:52 Justin Williams caught Johnson off guard and bam—we’re all tied up’ Tyler Ennis went down the tunnel after a hit by Ovi and then Beagle would leave after a “whack” from the Sabres. Sabres would take the lead before the end of the third with a wrist shot by by Zemgus Girgensons. 1-2 Sabres at the end of the period.
Third Period: The Penalty Period
After a brief delay the third period began without Jay Beagle who “sustained and upper body injury” (Caps PR). Ovechkin tied it up at 18:36 with one heck of a backhand shot off Kuzy and Oshie. Six more goals to 500! 2-2 now. Nicky Backstrom went off the ice as well with Sill stepping up to the first line. Marcus Johansson to the box for boarding despite the complaints of the fans. In the midst of the PK, Wilson was tripped by Kane and the Caps get a bit of a PP. And then Ovi gets called for two minutes on a high stick. And one more penalty—again on Kane for hooking Ovi just as he comes out of the box. As Mike Vogel said it was a regular whistle fest.
Finally at 1128 Mojo would break past all the nonsense and score one off a sneaky pass from Kuzy and Matt Niskanen. Kane looking none too happy as he exits the box!
Things got even better at the 10.04 mark as Andre Burakovsky finishes off sweet pass from Marcus. 4-2 Caps. Buffalo pulls their goalie and Ovi takes advantage of the empty net at 1:13 for one more goal. Now it’s 5 to 500 for the GR8! Game ends 5-2 CAPS CAPS CAPS
The team has begun to join the ranks of teams with injured players. Michael Latta hopes to be back on the ice playing against the Carolina Hurricanes. No word on Carlson, Backstorm, or Beags. Despite losing all these players at once, the team came together and played like the winners they are. We hardly noticed the missing players which is something we haven’t seen with the Caps in a very long time.
And a salute to our military. Thank you for your service.
Now on to Raleigh…and we’ re
all smiling with Nate!
Caps-Sabres Round Two
Photos by Brittney Marcum
The Capitals extended their winning streak to eight when we last met the Buffalo Sabres. One of the keys to the Capitals’ success in Buffalo was their penalty kill. Much of that credit goes to Braden Holtby but the defense really stepped up in light of missing John Carlson for the night.
Michael Latta left the ice after a fight on Monday and was seen with his arm in a sling. No sling Tuesday night when he, Nate Schmidt, and Tom Wilson took in a movie; however, he did take morning skate. He is listed day-to-day.
Zach Sill was recalled from the Hershey Bears on Tuesday. Zach has two goals and five assists in 28 games played in Chocolate Town along with 28 penalty minutes. He will fit in nicely with the Caps fourth line as he steps in for the ailing Latta.
John Carlson did not skate this morning and looks to be a scratch for tonight.
Alex Ovechkin leads the team with 18 goals. He is now just seven goals away from 500 NHL career goals.
Nicklas Backstrom leads the team with 32 points and 22 assists. He made an awesome pass to Ovi resulting in the first goal of the game on Monday.
Braden Holtby leads the league in wins (23) and goals against average (1.86) He remains the only goalie in the NHL with 20 wins or more. He is inching closer to overtaking former Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth lead in save percentage with a rate of 0.935 to Neuvy’s 0.937
Backup goaltender Philip Grubauer in the seven games he has been in the net has four wins, two losses, and an OT loss. He should be strong in the net against the Sabres should Trotz give him the opportunity. A goalie has not been announced for tonight’s game at time of posting.
Brooks Laich and Andre Burakovsky still haven’t been producing as of late, but the fourth line looked strong Monday, although none of them actually had any shots. Maybe Sill will help turn that tide.
The Sabres ended their practice Tuesday with a shootout drill. Are they anticipating a close game on Wednesday? They had two near misses on Monday and the potential for a tie game is fairly high if they can get the puck in the net without a collision with the goalie!
Coach Bylsma in his presser Tuesday said that the team keeps work on improving their passing and they “threw a different drill at them today to sharpen the decision-making and execution.” They also drilled on playing the walls which was missing in the game against the Caps.
Rookie center Jack Eichel, the darling of the Sabres, had some great moves in his game against the Caps. Even so, his four shots failed to light the lamp.
Nicolas Deslauriers is likely to have the attention of Caps players given his run in with Williams and fight with Latta.
Center Ryan O’Reilly (90) could pose a threat to the Caps even though he was sluggish on Monday. He ranks first in goals and points (32) for the team as a whole. He has also had two GWG’s (Game winning goals) so far this year.
Evander Kane (9) was stymied by Braden Holtby and while he had four shots Monday, he still has been unable to break his goal scoring drought. He will certainly want to make good on his attempts tonight.
Goalie Watch: All three goalies practice on Tuesday. No word yet who will be in the net.
Linus Ullmark only let in two shot out of 26 on Monday against the Caps. He has lost more games than he has won so far this season.
Chad Johnson had 30 saves on 33 shots against the Bruins the last time he played. He has a .918 save percentage. In his last 5 games he’s had three regulation wins, one regulation loss and one loss in OT.
Goaltender Robin Lehner has been out since he was injured in the first game of the season. He participated in practice Tuesday but still has no timetable for his return.
Fight Potential: Given the atmosphere on Monday, we rate the fight potential HIGH. When it comes to major penalties for fighting Washington has 10 while Buffalo has 7 Additionally, the Caps average .29 fights per game compared to the Sabres’ .19. Josh Gorges leads the Sabres in penalty minutes at 44. Eyes on Evander Kane and Nicolas Deslauriers to instigate.
Practice Shots: Caps held morning skate at Kettler Ice plex this morning. Our parting gift to you is the darling of the Caps: Evgeny Kutznesov.
Caps-Hurricanes in Raleigh. Game time 7pm on CSN-DC
Some Blood, Some Fighting, & a Shutout Get the Caps Eight Straight
This game was the start of a home-and-home for the Capitals and Sabres this week. Before the game would start news hit that John Carlson’s “iron-man” streak ends at 412 games as he sat out this game with a lower-body injury. Connor Carrick would get his first NHL start this season as his replacement.
The first period was hard fought by both sides with the shots pretty much even (WSH- 9, BUF-10). The fourth line, Andre Burakovsky, Michael Latta, and Brooks Laich had some nice shifts. Caps went on the powerplay when Mike Weber was sent to the box with an interference call at 5:17 but the Caps failed to score on the opportunity. The period would end scoreless.
The second period began with a bang when Ovi scored just 19 seconds in assisted by line mates Backstrom and Oshie.
Justin Williams took a hit from Nicholas Deslauriers, one with a stick to the face that would draw blood but no penalties. In an attempt to even the score, Michael Latta and Deslauriers drop the gloves at the 10:49 mark of the second period. Latta left the ice injured and would not return to the game, he was seen in a sling after the game and Barry Trotz specified it was an injury to his arm. Deslauriers, as he was heading to the penalty box, jubilantly waves his arms and screams to the crowd.
At the 12:55 mark in the second period, Jay Beagle doubles the Caps lead, 2-0. Per Isabelle Khurshudyan, the Caps are 21-0-5 lifetime when Beagle scores.
The Sabres would pull goaltender Linus Ullmark for the extra attacker with 1:30 left in the game. Holtby shows the Sabres why he is the best goalie in the league right now with an unbelievable save on Evander Kane. Caps win 2-0, their eighth straight victory and a shutout for the Holtbeast, just his second this season.
The Caps penalty kill was spotless during the game, including once during the third when Tom Wilson went to the box for an interference call. Sabres would have two disallowed, the second one would be due to contact by Tyler Ennis when he pushed goaltender Braden Holtby into his own net. A slightly winded Holtby had to catch his breath while Caps fans collectively held their breath while the play was challenged by Dan Bylsma.
Well wishes to both Carly and Latts for a speedy recovery!
Caps-Sabres Pre-game, Practice photos, and Evander Kane (Updates in Red)
Photos by Brittney Marcum
The Capitals extended their winning streak to seven on Saturday night in Washington. After a tough practice at Kettler on Sunday they flew up to Buffalo to settle in before meeting the Sabres tonight. The Caps have won three of their last four games against the Sabres.
Things in Buffalo exploded late Sunday with news that left wing Evander Kane is under investigation for an alleged sexual assault. The team confirmed the allegations although no formal charges have been filed yet. As the investigation is in the early stages, it is likely that the team will be somewhat unsettled in the locker room. No word as we go to press, if Kane, who has eight goals and five assists in 25 games, will play tonight. It was reported this morning by multiple sources that Kane DID in fact participate in morning skate. (11 am) Kane issued a statement from the Sabres locker room saying he “has done nothing wrong.” As of now (12:30) he remains on the roster for tonight.
Line up appears to be the same. If Carlson is out (see below) Connor Carrick will step in.
The Caps are averaging 3.1 goals a game, second in the league.
Alex Ovechkin leads the team with 17 goals. He hasn’t lit the lamp in his last two games. He did take a puck to the forearm from Matt Niskanen but looked good skating on Sunday.
Nicklas Backstrom leads the team with 31 points and 21 assists.
John Carlson per Isabelle Khurshudyan (WashPost), did not skate at practice this morning. It is unclear if he will be in tonight. This would be his first game missed in over 400 games. He continues to rack up the assists and goals with 27 points this season. He is on track to reach or top his 2014 season high of 55 points. John took a maintenance day on Sunday and did not skate. Carlson is tied for fifth in the NHL in road assists (12) and Karl Alzner ranks tied for fifth in plus/minus (+11) on the road. (CapsToday)
Braden Holtby leads the league in wins (22) and goals against average (1.92) He is the only goalie in the league with 20 wins or more. Sabres’ goaltender Chad Johnson sits well below in 23rd place with 10 wins in 23 games.
Philip Grubauer in the seven games he has been in the net has four wins, two losses, and an OT loss. He should be strong in the net against the Sabres should Trotz give him the opportunity. A goalie has not been announced for tonight’s game at time of posting.
Brooks Laich and Andre Burkovsky haven’t scored a goal on the fourth line in a while, but along with Michael Latta they are shooting at every opportunity. Maybe they will break their goal drought tonight.
Alex Ovechkin is eight goals away from 500 NHL career goals.
Fight Potential: When it comes to major penalties for fighting, the Caps have 9 penalties compared to the Sabres’ six.
Practice Shots: Caps took practice at Kettler Iceplex on Saturday. Here are some great shots of the Trotz’ Smiling Boys.
Caps Practice at Kettler Ice Plex Tuesday 1230
Caps-Sabres at home. Game time 7pm on CSN-DC
Caps Morning Skate at Kettler Ice Plex Wednesday 1015
Caps-Hurricanes in Raleigh. Game time 7pm on CSN-DC
The Washington Capitals take to the “City of Good Neighbors” but don’t expect them to be too neighborly to the Buffalo Sabres when they meet them on the ice Monday. The Sabres are sitting in seventh place in the Atlantic Division and at this point are five spots out of even wild card contention.
The darling of the Sabres is rookie center Jack Eichel who played a physical game in the Sabres-Bruins game Saturday. His teammates called him “crazy good” he was credited with two goals in the game that gave the Sabres a winning edge (6-3). The 19 year old also earned the First Star of the Night.
Center Ryan O’Reilly (90) ranks first in goals and points (32) for the team as a whole. He has also had two GWG’s (Game winning goals) so far this year.
Evander Kane (9) missed practice for personal reasons on Sunday (CBS Sports). Recent reports by ESPN say that he is currently being investigated for a sexual offense that occurred in Buffalo. It’s unclear at time of publishing whether we will see Kane in the lineup or not. Kane was moved to Eichel’s line and had a goal and an assist in the win against the Bruins.
Goalie Chad Johnson had 30 saves on 33 shots against the Bruins and .918 save percentage. In his last 5 games he’s had three regulation wins, one regulation loss and one loss in OT.
Goaltender Robin Lehner has been out since he was injured in the first game of the season.
The Sabres are likely to be on a bit of a high after their 6-3 win over the Boston Bruins. They had a great comeback, scoring three goals in a 4:03 minute span in the third period. With a current record of 15-16-4, they are an unpredictable team who may present a challenge to the Caps—one they should be able to control.
The Buffalo News reports that attendance has been down this year and even many season ticket holders are not using their seats. It’s possible the fans might show up to see the top performing Capitals and bring some energy to First Niagara Center. Could the infusion of fans bring new energy to the struggling Sabres? Tune in Monday night at 7:00 PM on CSN-DC+ to see it all unfold!
Header photo credited to NHL.com