Capitals

Quick Links

Nathan Walker is a Washington Capital once again

nathan_walker_usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Nathan Walker is a Washington Capital once again

Washington claimed Walker off waivers from Edmonton on Wednesday and, in a bit of an unexpected twist, he will report to the Caps, not the minor league Hershey Bears.

The NHL’s annual holiday roster freeze prevented the team from sending Walker directly to the American Hockey League. The freeze began Tuesday and expires Dec. 28. Once the freeze is lifted, the Caps will reevaluate Walker’s situation.

RELATED: WALKER'S NHL DEBUT WAS ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS

Whatever ultimately happens, a whole lot of Caps supporters will happily welcome the left wing back to the organization.

Although Walker only appeared in seven games for the Caps this season, he quickly established himself as a fan favorite for a couple of reasons: the 5-foot-9, 186-pounder plays with a ton of energy and enthusiasm and, of course, the novelty of the whole thing. On Oct. 7 at Capital One Arena, Walker, to much fanfare, became the first Australian to suit up for an NHL game.

Despite his popularity with folks in the stands, the coaching staff was not as enamored with Walker. The 23-year-old scored in his debut but never was able to gain a foothold in Coach Barry Trotz’s lineup and, on Nov. 30, the team placed Walker on waivers with the intention of sending him to Hershey to get some much needed playing time.

Just one problem: he didn’t clear.

Walker was claimed by Edmonton. He thanked the Caps on social media for the opportunity that he was given here and was hopeful of getting his NHL career back on track with the Oilers.

But that didn’t happen, either.

Walker saw only limited action in two games with the Oilers, and on Tuesday he was placed back on waivers—opening the door for Washington to reclaim their 2014 third round pick, which they did.

It’s not immediately clear where—or even if—Walker fits into the Capitals’ immediate plans. The team already has 13 healthy forwards and on Tuesday had to scratch veteran Devante Smith-Pelly to accommodate the return of T.J. Oshie from injury. It should also be noted that the team is pressed up against the salary cap ceiling and Trotz prefers to keep only one extra forward, not two.

But we do know this much: Capitals GM Brian MacLellan thought highly enough of Walker to bring the prospect back for another shot. What Walker does with it, though, is up to him.

READ ALSO: SO MANY PROSPECTS ARE ALREADY PLAYING, WHAT IS THE CAPS FUTURE LIKE?

Quick Links

3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

The Caps battled through the rust on Thursday to earn a point in New Jersey. On Friday, rust cost them yet again as they fell 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Here's why they lost.

4 shots on goal in the first period

Canadiens goalie Antti Niemi has had his struggles this season. Yes, he has played better since getting claimed off waivers by Montreal, but getting to play against Niemi instead of Carey Price wass a golden opportunity for the Caps to generate some offense. Washington, however, had very little offense to speak at the end of the night. How did they respond with Niemi in net? By getting only four shots in the first period. Four. They finished with 26 shots on goal for the game, but had they come out swinging in the first and put pressure up early on Niemi, they could have gotten a much different result.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-HABS

Bad passing

After the game, Lars Eller said "It was one of the sloppiest games we've played if not the sloppiest. I don't think we've given up so any odd-man rushes or chances in one game." In no aspect were the Caps more sloppy than with their passing. Here are just a few examples.

A cross-ice backhand pass in the defensive zone? Really? You are not going to be successful trying to make those type of plays and it cost the Caps. They could not maintain possession of the puck or breakout of their zone and it led to several odd-man rushes for Montreal.

Rust

It's not an excuse. The Caps should have played better on Friday regardless, but there's no arguing the fact that rust was a factor. It was abundantly clear that the Caps were out of sync. That will happen when you are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back with no practice time.

Saturday's practice will be absolutely critical since Washington faces a matinee game on Sunday, their third contest in four days.

Quick Links

3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

The first time the Caps hosted the Montreal Canadiens this season, Alex Ovechkin tallied four goals as the Caps dominated in a 6-1 thrashing.

Friday's game featured considerably less offense as Montreal just managed to squeak by Washington 3-2.

Philipp Grubuaer got the start and did everything he could to keep Washington in it, but the Caps struggled to find much offense.

Alex Ovechkin did manage to register assist No. 499 as he set up John Carlson on the power play and Lars Eller scored late, but it would not be enough for the Caps to come back.

Here are the three stars of the game.

RELATED: TRACKING THE NHL AWARD LEADERS

1. Max Pacioretty: The Canadiens struggled to get anything past Grubauer in this one, but Pacioretty finally did in the second period on the power play. It was simple enough, he found the puck at his feet, turned and shot.

When goalies start to frustrate teams, we see a lot of players respond by looking for the perfect play and give up good opportunities for more difficult passes. Pacioretty was smart, he just shot. He also added an assist on Paul Byron's goal as the puck bounced off the board and off Pacioretty's skate right to Byron.

He ultimately put the exclamation point on the win with an empty-net goal as well to complete a three-point night.

2. Philipp Grubauer: Grubauer certainly didn't look like a backup goalie in this one. He was strong in net all night long, but his best save came in the first period. Pacioretty hit the side of the net to Grubauer's left on a pretty passing play, but the puck bounced out to the slot and Charles Hudon passed it over to Paul Byron on Grubauer's right. Grubauer dove with his arm outstretched and managed to corral the puck into his body to keep it out of the net.

He would finish the game with several more fantastic saves, 23 in all despite the loss.

3. Andre Burakovsky: It would be hard to draw up a better return to the lineup for Burakovsky.

He started on the fourth line, but he wasn't there for long. He had four shot attempts in a first period in which the Caps struggled to get anything going offensively at all. He also had a breakaway opportunity in the third period as he came out of the penalty box. He had Antti Niemi beat, but hit the post.

It was the second time Burakovsky struck iron in the game. Hedid just about everything right, but just couldn't light the lamp.