Category Archives: Capitals
If I were a G.M., I would attempt to model my team very simliar to how the New York Rangers have constructed theirs.
I would start by trying to find a tough, no-nonsense, defense-oriented coach like John Totorella.
I would stock up on capable offensive players like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards.
I’d make sure to have a solid defensive corps, like the McDonagh/Girardi/Del Zotto trio, and institute a team-wide philosophy of defense over offense.
And of course, I’d try to get an ideal goaltender such as Henrik Lundqvist to back my team up on those rare occasions when things break down horribly.
Yes, the New York Rangers of 2012 harken back to the tougher, grittier days of the NHL and the Blueshirts are deserving and capable of being a No. 1 seed. They are as well-rounded as any team in the NHL.
But in battling the Washington Capitals to a 1-1 series tie in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Rangers have found that nothing ever comes easy in hockey.
Make no mistake: the Rangers are supremely talented and have a leg up on Washington at nearly every position. The Caps simply refuse to see it that way.
In two games, the Capitals have played as well as – if not better than – the Rangers. Game 1 started as a Ranger clinic, but morphed into a slugfest which was ultimately decided by some poor officiating and at least four pucks off the iron behind Lundqvist.
Game 2 was a seesaw battle in which the Caps tried and failed to score multiple times, but locked down on defense and beat the Rangers at their own game. Caps coach Dale Hunter has convinced his players that operating with a defensive mentality creates a marvelous scenario – it evens the playing field. The Rangers may have the talent on paper, but the Caps see them as another team that they can grind down to a pulp.
It happened in Round 1, as well. The Caps went up against a superior Boston team and beat them with hard work and defense. In hockey, more than almost any other sport, the bounces go your way if you outwork the other team. Hustle stats like blocked shots and hits go a long way in determining the outcome of a game. No matter how talented the opposition is, masterful play at the defensive end will always make a game close.
Ultimately, it’s allowed the Caps to go deeper in 2012 than they did in 2011. The formerly high-flying, goal-a-minute gunners have transformed into a group of hard-working, passionate grinders. Most importantly, Washington has become a team that is very hard to play against. More than anything, it is this quality that makes them so dangerous. Their style is such that no matter who they play, they will always be in the game.
The Rangers and Bruins and clearly better than the Washington Capitals.
The boys from D.C. don’t think that it matters one bit.
Article by James O’Hara
If you were watching the NHL transactions going down on the first day of free agency you might have been wondering if someone had replaced the Washington Capitals with the Washington Redskins with all the deals they were making. However unlike the Redskins these deals weren’t for flashy high-priced guys, it was for the gritty grinders that this team has sorely lacked in the playoffs the last couple of years. Now let’s take a more in-depth look into the players the Capitals have brought in, hoping that they can bring them a championship.
Jeff Halpern, C: While Halpern’s age, 35, is a bit of a sore spot in this deal, the amount of money that the Caps are paying him is actually not too bad. Halpern instantly brings in a great veteran presence to a team that is incredibly young. On the ice he is a more than serviceable fourth line center who will give you great production when short-handed, win draws, and won’t make too many mistakes. As a one-year deal this is a good pickup, if it was for any longer than questions might have arisen.
Joel Ward, F: Ward is one of those guys that may not contribute as much during the regular season, but when you get to the playoffs he gets noticed in a hurry. Last season with Nashville, while he only had 10 goals and 19 assists in the regular season, Ward had seven goals and six assists in only 12 playoff games. Ward is the grinding forward who can muck it up in front of the net that the Capitals have been missing in their last playoff runs. While the contract is a little bigger than desired, GM George McPhee admitted that he overpaid by about 16%, he should be a great contributor once the more important second season comes around.
Roman Hamrlik, D: This move is similar to one’s seen all the time in the NBA, a great player who is just a couple of years away from retirement and still without a title latches on to the hot team for one last shot at the Cup. While Hamrlik is at a more advanced age, telling reporters “I’m not getting any younger” at his introductory conference call, his game has not diminished by much as he has been a shutdown defender for the Canadiens for the past four years. He has collected no fewer than 26 points in his last 13 seasons; he finished with 34 points last season while still averaging 22 minutes of ice time, more than any other Caps defender. In addition Hamrlik brings a wealth of experience to a youthful blue line, and could be a great partner for Mike Green who has gone through his struggles as of late. As long as his age doesn’t catch up with him the Capitals will have a savvy veteran who is a consistent contributor.
Tomas Vokoun, G: Like Halpern and Hamrlik, Vokoun brings in experience to a young unit, in addition to being one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders, possessing the best save percentage in the league since 2005-06 at .922. Despite being considered the top free agent netminder the Capitals were able to get him for a relatively bargain price of one year, $1.5 million. Perhaps the best thing for Caps fans is that Vokoun was the one who initiated the discussions, as McPhee explained “We were told early yesterday that Tomas Vokoun wanted to play on a top team and that he would forgo a big deal to do it.”
With a busy first two days of free agency the Capitals brought in the veteran leaders that they usually wait until the mid-way point to trade for, signaling that this team is playing for nothing less than a championship this year.
After struggling to find five moments worthy of being called “the best of the last five years,” it was understandably less difficult to find five that could be called the worst. As many of my friends back in Chicago so eloquently put it: “It must suck to be a Washington sports fan.” Well, i can honestly say that it doesn’t suck – it just tugs at your heartstrings and often makes you wonder why we are forced to go through this, year after year after year after year.
5. Redskins lose to the Eagles 59-28. The score says it all. The numbers speak for themselves. All you need to do is listen to Chad Dukes’ rant on 106.7 The Fan. Ladies and gentlemen, below is the greatest (and most deserved) sports rant in the history of Washington radio. GET ‘EM.
4. Gilbert Arenas brings guns into the Wizards’ locker room. This wasn’t a soul-shattering event by any means, but it was probably one of the most embarrassing. One can only imagine would could have possibly been going through Gil’s head when he brought six unloaded guns into the team locker room, put them next to Javaris Crittenton’s (who?) locker with a note emblazoned with the insane words, “pick one.” And then to go out in the next game and do a gun-shooting pre-game ritual? There’s a reason why Agent Zero wore out his welcome in D.C. Based on his performances with the Orlando Magic this season, it looks like the Hibachi needs a new tank of gas.
3. The Capitals lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7. I was proud of the Caps. They survived the Rangers in the first round. They got a 2-0 lead on the Penguins. There was the game of dueling hat tricks between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby (which I consider one of the best sporting events I have ever witnessed). Then, it came down to Game 7. At the Phone Booth. Where the Caps never lost, where they always seemed to get the crowd to piggyback them and crush the opposition with talent and sheer atmosphere. But Ovie was stopped by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on a breakaway early in the game and the rest is history. The Penguins grabbed a 4-0 lead before the second period was over and the Verizon Center, sitting in stunned silence, watched as their beloved Caps bowed out in the most shocking manner in a 6-2 shellacking.
2. The Redskins end the Detroit Lions’ 19-game losing streak. I don’t care what anyone says about that Eagles game, this was the most embarrassing moment as a Redskins fan I have ever experienced. The Lions had finished the previous season 0-16. They had lost 19 games in a row. And they were facing the Washington Redskins. Needless to say, I was already worried about this game. The previous weekend, the Skins struggled to beat the flailing St. Louis Rams relying on three Sean Suisham field goals in a 9-7 win that felt like a loss. And in the Lions game, while Jason Campbell threw for 340 yards and Santana Moss caught 10 passes for 178 yards, it was still the ultimate embarrassment to be known as The Team That Lost To The Lions.
1. The Capitals are stunned in 7 games by the Montreal Canadiens. There are three things that I have never watched the highlights of: Carlos Rodgers dropping that interception against the Seahawks in 2005, the aforementioned Game 7 loss by the Caps to Pittsburgh, and all seven games of the series against Montreal. To put it in perspective, here are the numbers:
- The Caps finished the season with 54 wins, 121 points, and the No. 1 seed in the NHL. Montreal finished with 39 wins, 88 points, and the No. 8 seed in the East.
- The Caps scored a total of 101 (yes, 101) more goals than Montreal during the regular season.
- Infamous Canadian television personality Don Cherry didn’t even think Montreal could win.
And what happened? Well, we all know. It hit me harder than most, though. See, my dad is a die-hard Canadiens fan. And while I was facedown on the ground, tearing up and praying it wasn’t possible, he was taunting me. I will never forget that day. It was one of the worst days of my life.
Welcome to ****ing Washington.
The Nationals’ 8-game winning streak got me thinking: Where does it stack up with the top moments in D.C. sports over the last couple of years? While this streak didn’t make the cut, I still think that you’ll enjoy reliving these five moments from the last five years that made us cheer in Washington. If you think I’ve left anything out, comment on the post and let me know! Tomorrow, I’ll post the 5 worst moments in DC in the last 5 years.
5. Gilbert Arenas drops 60 points on the Los Angeles Lakers. My biggest regret as a Wizards fan was deciding to go to sleep before this game was over. Since it was on the West coast, it ended quite late – and being in 2006, this was when I still had a bedtime. The game started innocently enough before Gil went into overdrive. He unloaded shot after shot (most of which would have gotten a normal player cut for poor shot selection) and hit ridiculous pull-ups, three-pointers, and layups. He scored 16 points in overtime setting a new NBA record and helping the Wizards overcome Kobe Bryant’s 45 points in a 147-141 victory.
4. The Capitals overcome a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the New York Rangers. One year after their coming out party, the Capitals were out to erase memories of the previous season’s 7-game loss to the pesky Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately for the Caps, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was locked in and held them to 5 goals in 3 Rangers wins. But the Caps discovered Lundqvist’s weakness on his glove side and exposed it for the rest of the series. In Game 7, former MVP Sergei Federov scored the winning goal with just under five minutes left in the game to send the Verizon Center into a frenzy.
3. The Capitals win 14 games in a row. It began with a 5-4 shootout win over the Florida Panthers on January 13, 2010 and ended with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens (who would do other things to the Caps in the playoffs. Stay tuned for the “Worst Moments” post tomorrow) on February 10th. During the streak, the Caps averaged a stunning 4.86 goals per game and allowed just 2.07 goals against. They were four games shy of breaking the 1992-1993 Pittsburgh Penguins’ record of 17 wins in a row. The Caps finished the season with 121 points, finishing first in the league and winning the Southeast Division by a staggering 38 points.
2. Stephen Strasburg strikes out 14 batters in his major league debut. The Nationals had only one defining moment since moving to D.C. from Montreal: a 10-game winning streak in their debut season of 2005. The team struggled going forward, but those struggles resulted in the drafting of once-in-a-generation pitcher Stephen Strasburg. After blowing through the minor leagues, Strasburg took the mound on June 8, 2010 in front of a sellout crowd at Nationals Park. Seven innings and a team-record 14 strikeouts later, Strasburg emerged from the dugout for one of the most memorable curtain calls in D.C. sports history. The dominant performance will undoubtedly live on in Washington lore not only for its sheer brilliance, but also because the 21-year old kid with the rocket arm was able to exceed the enormous expectations placed on him.
1. The Redskins close out 2007 with an emotional 27-6 win over the Cowboys. If you think that a one, single Redskins win could not possibly make No. 1 on this list, I’m sure you have a good reason why. But there were several reasons why I think this moment deserves to be called the best moment in D.C. in the past five years. First of all, it capped an unbelievable 4-game winning streak led by veteran QB Todd Collins and guaranteed the Redskins a trip to Seattle for a wild card playoff game. Second, it was arguably one of the most dominant performances in the storied Redskins-Cowboys rivalry. The Redskins held Dallas to 147 total yards including a franchise record one rushing yard. Marion Barber III, who needed just 25 yards to reach 1,000 for the season, was held to -6 yards on six carries.
But this victory is No. 1 on my list for reasons greater than anything could happen on the field. Namely, it was a game that was dedicated by the Redskins to their fallen teammate, Sean Taylor, killed in his Miami condo in an attempted burglary earlier in the season. When Redskins RB Clinton Portis scored a touchdown in the first quarter, he lifted his jersey to reveal a t-shirt commemorating #21, his best friend and fellow teammates at the University of Miami.
But then-Redskins LT Chris Samuels made a declaration that touched the hearts and minds of Redskins fans all over the country: “I was on the sideline and the guys were talking about the score and then it hit me – we won by 21. I came into the locker room…and broke down in tears.”