Pondering the Caps New Season: Third and Fourth Lines

Last week we took a look at the Capitals top six players and what the top two lines might look like in the upcoming season.  The third and fourth lines will definitely look different in the 2019/20 season with the loss of Brett Connolly and Andre Burakovsky. Who will play with Lars Eller? Will Carl Hagelin be on the bottom six or the top six? How will the coach slot in those new players donning a red sweater for the first time? It feels as if we have more questions then we have answers. Continue reading “Pondering the Caps New Season: Third and Fourth Lines”

Centers locked in, Caps re-sign Dowd

The Washington Capitals have re-signed center Nic Dowd to a 3-year contract worth $750,000 AAV. He has had a career year with the Caps, posting 22 points (8g, 14a) in 64 games this regular season. With the length of the contact implied, it would seem General Manager Brian MacLellan has solidified his centers for each offensive line.

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In front of Dowd are Lars Eller, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov down the middle. Current capable candidates at the position are Chandler Stephenson and Travis Boyd, who both played at the center position with the AHL Hershey Bears. If he has a game “fall-through”, I would look at these two in the playoffs and if their services are retained come next season.

Dowd has certainly lived up to the hype after the Caps let Jay Beagle walk after the 2017-2018 Stanley Cup win. He has been stellar with the wingers he has been accompanied by this season; Boyd, Stephenson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Andre Burakovsky, and Dmitrij Jaskin. Brian MacLellan has done a fantastic job from the office and has found a new 4th line center replacement. Centers are locked in for the next couple of years, so you can check that off the block of the “Caps-to-do-list.”

Caps Fans Salute Jay Beagle Tuesday Night (Tribute Video)

On Tuesday night, Jay Beagle returned to Washington but this time in a Vancouver Canucks uniform. The longtime fan favorite who spent 10 seasons with the Capitals ended up signing with Vancouver during the summer and many fans were sad when learning of Beagle’s departure. Whether you marveled at his hard work ethic on the ice or were touched by Beagle’s kindness toward the Caps fanbase, Tuesday would certainly be an emotional night for both Beagle himself and the Caps organization as a whole.  Continue reading “Caps Fans Salute Jay Beagle Tuesday Night (Tribute Video)”

Capitals Defeat Canucks 3-2 with Alex Ovechkin Achieving Another Milestone

The Washington Capitals defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena. Coming off the break, the Caps have won two of their last three games to pull closer in the Metropolitan Division race. Their record improves to 28-18-6 and thanks to losses by the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, they are now in second place just two points behind the first place Islanders.  Continue reading “Capitals Defeat Canucks 3-2 with Alex Ovechkin Achieving Another Milestone”

The Pregame: Jay Beagle Returns to the District

Tonight will be an emotional night for Caps fans as they welcome back a center who brought a blue collared work ethic on the ice and a good heart off the ice. Jay Beagle was an integral part in the Capitals success. In 10 seasons, he played 471 games finishing with 116 points (51 goals and 65 assists). It ended in the best way possible, hoisting the Stanley Cup. Continue reading “The Pregame: Jay Beagle Returns to the District”

Jay Beagle Gets His Ring and We Couldn’t Be Happier

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Photo credit: NBC Sports Washington

On Monday night, the Washington Capitals took on the Vancouver Canucks to begin a four-game road trip. Prior to the game, one of our favorite Capitals players finally got to receive his Stanley Cup ring. Jay Beagle had been a longtime fixture with the Capitals almost as long as Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom had. A key component on the fourth line and face-offs on the ice and a personable guy among the fans off the ice, it was great to see Beagle finally get his ring.  Continue reading “Jay Beagle Gets His Ring and We Couldn’t Be Happier”

Top 10 Capitals Moments of the Playoffs #9: Caps Dominate Bolts to Force Game 7

This moment would be the Washington Capitals biggest test. For the first time this past spring, the Capitals were on the ropes. A win would keep their season alive while a loss would’ve sent them packing. So far in the Eastern Conference Finals at that point, the Caps took the first two games in Tampa Bay but dropped their next three games to the Lightning, including two at home. Refusing to end the season on their home ice, the team and the fans brought the noise, the hits and the thunder as the Caps won 3-0 to force Game 7.  Continue reading “Top 10 Capitals Moments of the Playoffs #9: Caps Dominate Bolts to Force Game 7”

Capitals Top 10 Moments of the Regular Season: #4 Alex Ovechkin Hat Trick for Cancer Survivor Alex Luey

After a great start in goal by Philipp Grubauer on Black Friday as the Washington Capitals defeated the Lightning, the team boarded to Toronto for a 2017 first round rematch with Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The playoff rematch wasn’t the big storyline of the day, however, this night was about two Alex’s: the captain Alex Ovechkin and 13-year old Alex Luey. Luey is one of Ovechkin’s biggest fans and a youth hockey player for the Niagara Falls Flyers. Continue reading “Capitals Top 10 Moments of the Regular Season: #4 Alex Ovechkin Hat Trick for Cancer Survivor Alex Luey”

Capitals Top 10 Moments of the Regular Season #5: Jay Beagle Buzzer Beater

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In January, the Washington Capitals had a back-to-back, home-and-home stretch against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Caps dropped the first game on their home ice and headed on the road down south to Raleigh, North Carolina. The Capitals got a 4-3 win in epic fashion as Jay Beagle beat the buzzer with a game-winning goal with a second left.  Continue reading “Capitals Top 10 Moments of the Regular Season #5: Jay Beagle Buzzer Beater”

Battle for the Dot – Capitals Faceoff

The battle for the dot, the fight within the circle. The faceoff is only the beginning of the fight that goes on the ice once the puck drops. So many characteristics go within the art of the faceoff, and I will break them down for you here.

What Happens in the Circle?

When two players line up for the faceoff, the objective is not necessarily to win the puck back to your team. Various situations depend on what needs to happen within the circle. The goal of the faceoff circle is gain possession, but also gain ground. Gaining ground sometimes requires the centerman to purposely lose the faceoff in order to gain ground on the opponent to force them to make mistakes and result in a scoring chance. All strategies depend on coaching styles of course, but what I will share with you is the coaching I received as a young centerman playing Junior hockey.

First, let’s begin with the basics. There are multiple ways to win a faceoff. The standard is to win the puck on the forehand or the backhand back to the defenseman. This opens up your team for a potential hasty breakout or better vision of the ice for an offensive play into the zone. This type of win is used in all three zone of the ice (defensive, neutral, and offensive).

  • It is used in the defensive zone to start a breakout to move the puck up the ice and/or used to lure an opposing forechecker down low to gain a man-advantage moving up the ice.
  • It is used in the neutral zone to simply get a better vision of the ice and the opposing team to find weak points in order to strike and produce quick scoring opportunities.
  • It is also used in the offensive zone to produce scoring chances from the blue line, such as shots from the point and d-to-d passes to move the goalie around.

The best faceoff man on the Caps was hands down Jay Beagle, however, he will no longer be in Washington following his four-year signing with the Vancouver Canucks.

The tie up.

The tie up is used best in the offensive zone in order to catch the goaltender off guard using a screen setup by both centermen. Once they are tied up, either wingmen are supposed to gain possession of the loose puck at the dot and either shoot for a screened scoring opportunity or pass the puck back to the defense to open up the play. Nicklas Backstrom is the best at this type of faceoff for the Caps and was especially effective earlier in his career when he was paired up with Alex Ovechkin. In the video below, notice Backstrom taps the puck slightly past the opposing centerman giving ex-Caps winger Marcus Johansson the opportunity to jump and pass it back to Ovechkin who was locked and loaded. Great example of the tie up.

Forced loss and forecheck

This mostly effective in the offensive and neutral zone, depending on opponent weaknesses. This is sometimes executed by pushing the puck forward behind the opposing centerman and applying a strong forecheck, forcing them to potentially make a mistake. This is a very risky play that does not work all the time, especially at the NHL level. In the video below, jump to video time 2:24 and notice the forced turnover in the corner, quick pass play and goal from Chandler Stephenson. While this is not directly following a forced faceoff loss, this is the result you look for from it.

As stated before, one of the biggest losses this offseason was the Caps veteran centerman Jay Beagle and the Caps look to find a replacement to fill the void. Let’s take a look at the Caps center depth and candidates to replace the 4th line role.

Filling the Beags Gap

Travis Boyd is the frontrunner as of now to take the role. He has played numerous season with the Hershey Bears and has flourished as a capable centerman. He was given looks last season in a few games when the injury bug took jabs at the Caps roster and was eventually paired alongside Ovechkin at one point. This link directs you to the video clip of Boyd’s beautiful assist on Ovechkin’s goal versus the Philadelphia Flyers.

Nic Dowd was recently acquired off the free agent market and previously played for the Vancouver Canucks at center. The Caps signed him to a one-year contract in hopes of trying out for that 4th line spot. His NHL career kicked off in 2015, where he was called up for a few games with the LA Kings. He earned a permanent spot with the club the following season recording 22 points in 70 games played. Traded in the 2017-2018 season to a struggling Vancouver team, he recorded only 4 points of 56 games played between both teams given a depth center role. We may see him a lot this preseason and possibly this regular season.

Jayson Megna was also acquired this offseason off the free agent market and previously played for the Canucks as well. He has made his way around the league since 2013, playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers along with their affiliates prior. Some are saying that he is a signing for Hershey’s center situation, but anything could happen based on performance.

Michael Sgarbossa was also acquired from the free agent market and believed to be on the same boat Megna is, Hershey bound. He has made his way around the NHL as well, playing for the Colorado Avalanche (2013-2015), the Anaheim Ducks (2015-2017), and the Florida Panthers (2016-2017) at the NHL level. This is not to include his experience in the AHL. Not too many public highlights for him, so I would expect him to play in Hershey.

Image from NHL.com

Liam O’Brien is also a minor consideration for the 4th line spot. He played a few games with the Caps at wing as a hard-hitting grinder and made a slight mark in the Caps organization as an instigator. He’s played in Hershey the past few seasons, but if needed we could see him called up for a few more games to play rough-tough teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins.