Quick Links

With Burakovsky and Stephenson out, Travis Boyd will make his long-awaited NHL debut


With Burakovsky and Stephenson out, Travis Boyd will make his long-awaited NHL debut

Travis Boyd will finally make his NHL debut Monday night vs. the Sharks after awaiting his turn for two-plus seasons.

For the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Boyd, who was recalled Sunday, it’ll mark the realization of a childhood dream when he lines up against San Jose.

For the Caps, it’ll be their first chance to see how close the 2011 sixth-round pick is to being a full-time NHL player.


“We want to see what his resume looks like at the National Hockey League level before you can say, ‘Hey, we can put him or there,’” Coach Barry Trotz said of Boyd. “We’ve got to see what the resume looks like on a first-see basis, and see if he can build a little bit of a resume so that we can do certain things.”

Based on morning skate rushes, Boyd will play on the third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly. Boyd is replacing Chandler Stephenson, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury that he suffered Saturday. (Boyd getting a shot also means that Tyler Graovac will miss a second straight game as a healthy scratch.) 

Boyd’s challenge on this recall will be twofold: he’s a right-shot who is shifting from first line center (with the Bears) to third line left wing against the Sharks and he’s probably not going to get much time to show what he’s got. Stephenson figures to be back “fairly soon” according to Trotz, and Andre Burakosky, who has missed 18 games, is also nearing his return.

So, yeah, no pressure kid.

“Travis is going to play a little bit out of position today but…he’s been their best player for two-plus years down there,” Trotz said. “I think he deserves a shot to come up and play. I also think it also gives us a better feel for what we have down in Hershey.”


As for switching from center to wing, Trotz said he suspects 24-year-old Minnesotan will figure it out.

“He’s a good hockey player; he’ll adjust,” Trotz said. “Obviously some of the wall plays and stuff that he doesn’t get he doesn’t get at the center position will be a little bit foreign to him. …His skill level will have to dictate how well he can do there.”

Boyd said his parents, brother, girlfriend, daughter and other family members will be in attendance at Capital One Arena, where he’ll become the fourth player to make his NHL debut for Washington this season, joining Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and Nathan Walker.

Quick Links

Oshie skates but will not travel to Brooklyn with the Caps

Oshie skates but will not travel to Brooklyn with the Caps

T.J. Oshie hit the ice Sunday in Arlington, where he skated on his own for about 30 minutes prior to Caps’ practice.

Oshie has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury that he sustained against San Jose.


Sunday’s twirl marked Oshie’s first time on the ice since getting his head crunched against the boards by Joe Thornton on Monday.

A team spokesman said Oshie remains day-to-day and will not travel to Brooklyn with the team. The Caps play at the Islanders on Monday and host the Avalanche on Tuesday.

That means the cap-strapped Caps, who have won four straight games and seven of the past eight, do not currently have an extra forward. According to, the team is $368,000 under the $75 million salary cap ceiling.

Injured players do not speak to the media until they’ve practiced fully with the team. 


Quick Links

What the heck was Matt Niskanen doing so far up on his game-winning goal?

What the heck was Matt Niskanen doing so far up on his game-winning goal?

With the score tied at 2 and the seconds ticking away in the third period on Friday, the Capitals needed someone to step up and sneak one past Henrik Lundqvist. With less than four minutes left to go, someone finally delivered.

A long-range shot from Alex Ovechkin was stopped by Lundqvist, but Tom Wilson was able to tip the puck to a teammate sitting on the goal line for the tip-in and the go-ahead goal. That player was…a defenseman?

Yes, the player who was in position to tip the puck past Lundqvist was defenseman Matt Niskanen.

“It’s pretty unusual for me to be there,” Niskanen told reporters after the game.


While Niskanen is certainly capable of putting up offensive numbers, he is not a Mike Green type of player who frequently jumps into the offense. So that begs the question, just what the heck was he doing so far up?

The play began with a drive to the net by Wilson.

You can see in the picture that Wilson is behind the net, Backstrom is in the faceoff circle and Alex Ovechkin is near the goal post. Three forwards, all in deep.

The Rangers try to clear the puck, but can’t and it trickles to Christian Djoos who is at the top of the faceoff circle.

Again, you see three forwards low, the defensemen high. Niskanen, who is not on the screen at this point, is on the right side near the blue line.

Rather than kicking the puck back to the offense for the normal cycle we see below the net so frequently from the Caps, Djoos instead glides to his right and passes to Backstrom who is coming up high in the zone as well.

This is what ultimately triggers the scoring play. With Djoos coming to his position and Backstrom covering where Djoos was, Niskanen decides to push forward into the attack.

Backstrom goes the same route Djoos just went moving to the right and Ovechkin continues the cycle as he goes high to the blue line and takes the pass from Backstrom. This is where Ovechkin decides to shoot and Lundqvist, who is dealing with both Wilson and Niskanen in his face, can’t hold onto the shot.

“Backstrom and Ovechkin were coming high so I was running out of space to stand,” Niskanen said. “It's a little rotation play that a lot of teams run now and we've been doing for a couple years now. First time it's worked out for me.”


Why don’t we see this more often? Because there is an inherent risk to having your forwards rotate with your defensemen at the blue line over the course of a game. If the Rangers had forced a turnover in that instance and forced a rush up ice, Backstrom and Ovechkin would have found themselves in a position in which they would have to serve as defensemen until Djoos and Niskanen were able to recover.

Notice here, however, the Rangers are not being too aggressive in attacking the puck or pressuring the puck carrier. With uncontested possession, it’s less likely the Caps will give up a turnover that could catch them out of position. Once they do contest the puck, Ovechkin fires the shot on net where Wilson and Niskanen are waiting.

The Caps ran the cycle to perfection and Niskanen was able to sneak into the play and get the goal.

“Obviously, it was a big shift and he was sniffing back door and the puck came to him,” Barry Trotz said. “That was fantastic."