The 2019 Armed Forces Hockey Classic

Don’t have much going on over Memorial Weekend? Feel like watching hockey being played for a good cause for FREE?

“The Armed Forces Hockey Classic (AFHC) is a tournament where military veterans the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy come together to compete against one another while raising money for the United Heroes League (UHL). The UHL wants to ensure that all 5 million military kids are able to develop critical life skills through sports. This intense focus on youth development and serving the families of our military service members motivates the UHL to keep programs focused. This focus has inspired 115 professional athletes and over 30 professional sports franchises to lend their name and support to the UHL.”

The Washington Capitals have supported the UHL since their start in 2009 along with many other franchises, like the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Kings. Players/coaches who have contributed to this cause have been Nicklas Backstrom, Karl Alzner, Bruce Boudreau, Taylor Chorney, Matt Hendricks, Nate Schmidt, and many others!

This event is being held just outside of Dallas, Texas in North Richland Hills. Veterans, local and country-wide, are gathering there to play the greatest sport for an excellent cause. Coordinators have stated that they have received donations and incoming participants from places like Alaska, Colorado and even the DMV! The winning team of the tournament will get to hoist the James “Maggie” Megellas Championship Trophy. Who knows, you may see someone you’ll recognize!

2010 AFHC Champions – Team Navy/Marine Corp.

The tournament will begin May 25 @ 10:00 am EDT, first puck drop @ 10:15 am. All games will be live-streamed via Facebook here. For more information on the AFHC and the UHL, click here. Have a wonderful weekend!

Beware, Blue Jackets pick up Matt Duchene

This morning, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that they have traded Vitali AbramovJonathan Davidsson, and two conditional 1st-round draft picks (2019/2020) in exchange for the Ottawa Senators’ top center Matt Duchene and Julius Bergman. While this isn’t necessarily Caps news, it is something to be aware of. Columbus is going all-in. We could potentially have a round-two with them and their newly acquired fire power.

Formerly drafted by the Colorado Avalanche, Duchene blew up in his early years as an incredible playmaker. With other stars like their captain Gabriel Landeskog and the “fastest-skater-with-the-puck” Nathan MacKinnon taking over as the face of the Avs, they were pretty stacked at the time and pushed Duchene to the backseat. He eventually went through a rough patch with the club and decided to request a trade. He got what he wished for and was traded to Ottawa. The Senators have been a struggling team for quite a while now, especially this year, placing dead last in the Eastern Conference. In hopes of getting a hold of some young stars, they put Duchene up for grabs and the Blue Jackets were happy to scoop him up.

img_6357Photo Credit: Isiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

Columbus has been a thorn in the Capitals’ side for the past few years and solidified the rivalry after mocking Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s bird celebration after their first 2018-2019 regular season win over the team. If these two clubs meet in the post-season, the Caps must be aware of Duchene’s talent he adds to Columbus’ scoring abilities. Fast skater, quick hands, and some incredible hand-eye coordination; definitely a player to watch out for.

img_6356

Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire

Columbus now has a pretty stacked center core. They have Pierre-Luc Dubois, Alexander Wennberg, Riley Nash, Boone Jenner (flex), Brandon Dubinsky, Lukas Sedlak, and now Matt Duchene. My guess is  that Sedlak is scratched to fit Duchene in their lineup. Down the middle would be Dubois-Duchene-Wennberg-Dubinsky, Jenner is currently on the wing so he’ll probably stay put. They’re going to be a huge threat in the playoffs.

Caps Costume Contest: Which Players Did Halloween Right?

Happy Halloween Caps fans! How many of you are dressing as a Caps player for Halloween? Hockey players seem to go all out for Halloween with their costumes and as we’ve seen in years past, many Capitals players are exceptionally good at it! Here’s a look at what the team wore this year. Who do you think had the best costume?  Continue reading “Caps Costume Contest: Which Players Did Halloween Right?”

From Europe to Russia with Stanley Cup Love

The Keeper traveled with the Stanley Cup through Sweden and Germany before a few days with fans in Russia this past week. Click the highlighted links for the full story and pictures of the Stanley Cup Journey! Continue reading “From Europe to Russia with Stanley Cup Love”

Thanks DC for a GR8 Party and for Keeping Caps Fans Safe

Photos by Brittney Marcum &
Caitlin Manner & Velvet Jackson

While we were all celebrating the Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals a large contingent of men and women made sure we were safe. We want to thank the DC Metropolitan Police, the DC Fire Department, Park Police, and all the first responders that were one hand Tuesday. (Swipe left to see all pictures)

And they kept us happy and entertained too! We had the best officers where we stood. Even got us into a sidewalk chant challenge!!

And somehow they were also on towel and poster duty. They were great- making sure that the kids got theirs and tossing waaay back to the folks that were all the way in the rear of the crowd.

These fine men and women put their lives on the line for us every time they suit up. They are always at Capital One Arena (and Arlington Police at Kettler) making sure we get home safely. Tuesday we were all one big Hockey Loving Community and we can’t thank you enough for the gift of your time and service.

Capitals Summer Gets Busy; More Than Just the Cup

Now that the excitement has died down a bit over the Capitals winning the Stanley Cup– we joke- it’s time to look ahead to some key dates for the NHL:

Continue reading “Capitals Summer Gets Busy; More Than Just the Cup”

Stanley Cup Champions Washington Capitals Salute the Fans

Remember this day children:

June 12, 2018 The Washington Capitals celebrated with their fans in one big giant humongous party down Constitution Avenue.

Continue reading “Stanley Cup Champions Washington Capitals Salute the Fans”

Remember Guys: They’re Only Human

Although as of late we’ve been riding the gravy train of awesomeness (Ovi’s 600th goal! The good games we played against Winnipeg and the Islanders!) there’s been so much talk about Holtby’s troubles with his headspace, and Oshie’s drought that makes the Sahara look like the Everglades, and why in God’s name does Djoos keep getting scratched…. I could go on.

As fans, this is what makes sports interesting. I mean, yeah, we like hockey because it’s a fast-paced game that engages people from all walks of life, but we also love to just talk about it. We love to analyze what makes our team work (and what doesn’t…), who’s hot, who’s not, which trade was awful, and why ad infinitum. Continue reading “Remember Guys: They’re Only Human”

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..

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