Capitals

Quick Links

Why the Caps' road trip may have been successful despite losing two of three

capture.png
USA TODAY Sports

Why the Caps' road trip may have been successful despite losing two of three

Earning two points in three games on their Western Canada road trip can hardly be labeled a success.

Yet, there was a positive mood around the team on Tuesday as they returned to practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

While the Caps had not earned the points they were hoping to get in the standings, the overall feeling was that the team took a big step towards finding more consistent success this season. How? Because the players finally recognized this team needs a new identity in order to win.

Let’s face it, this is not the same team as last year.

The roster is different and because of that, the team has to play differently in order to succeed. The team has struggled with that realization in the early season, but the message seems to have finally sunk in.

"The identity I think we're definitely figuring out,” Madison Bowey said. “I think this weekend was huge. I know we have to win those hard games, those close 3-2, 4-2 battles or 2-1 battles and I think once we really bear down and get those games in and get those wins I think that's the mindset we're going to have to have and then move on from there.”

RELATED: NO END IN SIGHT FOR CAPITAL INJURY WOES

 “I think we've seen what works and what doesn't work so try to do what's working for us as far as managing the puck,” T.J. Oshie said.

The turning point was the win against the Edmonton Oilers. The takeaway was more about the way they played than the win itself.

“We try to prod them in each game to do certain things, but they have to have success at it,” Barry Trotz said. “The Edmonton game was a good example. We were diligent of playing a, you know, we're not a small team and so let's be hard to check, let's defend hard and you got a good result and it felt right.”

The Caps have focused more in recent years on a faster, highly skilled style of play. Having that much skill on the roster, however, allowed for the team to cover up its mistakes. There was enough talent throughout the lineup that they could play their way out of a big mistake or a poor turnover and they could rely on their high-scoring offense to produce at a high rate.

This year is different. This year, mistakes are ending up in the back of Washington’s net and the goals have been hard to come by. They don’t have the skill to play the same way. Change was needed.

RELATED: UPDATED NHL POWER RANKINGS

What does that change in identity look like on the ice?

“Not giving the other teams free offense,” Trotz said. “Making sure and making good decisions at the blue lines and not just throwing the puck loosely to the middle of the ice when maybe a play's not there. Maybe hanging on to it, maybe wearing people down then being able to create some offense.”

“It will be easier for the [Lars Eller], [Tom Wilson] line, for instance,” Trotz added. “That will be more of their game than maybe the [Evgeny Kuznetsov] line or the [Nicklas Backstrom] line, but they've got to find a balance that their game has to fit into what we do. So find your game within our game and have our philosophies in place and our protocols in place and execute them consistently.”

This new identity, however, remains very much a work in progress.

“It's hard to grasp an identity sometimes,” Trotz said. “But it's coming, it's coming. I thought this trip it started to come. We'll see if we can go forward. First 12 games hasn't been that easy.”

MORE CAPITALS: TROTZ NOT HAPPY ABOUT'SOCCER MENTALITY' CREEPING BACK INTO NHL

Quick Links

Best 2017 Black Friday gift ideas for the Capitals fan in your life

capsgifts2.jpg

Best 2017 Black Friday gift ideas for the Capitals fan in your life

Are you looking for the hot holiday gift for the Capitals fan in your life? Well, look no further because we have the best ideas right here. 

Nothing looks better under the tree than red, white and blue gifts. And the best part about hockey season being in progress, your friends and family (don't forget to treat yourself, too) can use these gifts right now.

We've complied the top-ten must have Caps items for you to put in your shopping cart Friday.

1. Caps' Greatest Plays Coasters

Price: $50

Where to buy: Amazon

Why they'll love it: This set of four slate coasters showcase some of the greatest plays in Caps history. Each coaster includes player movements, date, score, and relevant play details, in addition to being super stylish.

2. Caps Ugly Christmas Sweater

Price: $69.99

Where to buy: Shop.NHL.com

Why they'll love it: They'll be the talk of the ugly sweater party with this one. The knit sweater is not only midweight, so they can wear it in comfort, but it also has the Caps logo woven into it. They'll be sure to stand out at the holiday party in addition to being warm and toasty.

3. Hockey Puck Phone Charger

Price: $29.99

Where to buy: Shop.NHL.com

Why they'll love it: Well first of all, it's cool. Second of all, everyone needs a phone charger so why not have a Capitals one and be the envy of all your hockey friends?

4. Pet Leash

Price: $14.99

Where to buy: Shop.NHL.com

Why they'll love it: This gift is great for both a friend or family member AND man's best friend. The bright red chain with embroidered Caps logo with certainly be a hit at the local dog park.

5. Caps Flask

Price: $54.98

Where to buy: Amazon

Why they'll love it: The holiday's and being around family can cause people to drink, so why not do it in style. This stainless steal flask has a hand-stitched needlepoint design and holds 6 fluid ounces of your favorite beverage.

6. Tie

Price: $18.74

Where to buy: Shop.NHL.com

Why they'll love it: Rock The Red everyday at work with this Capitals woven poly check tie. It will go great with a black or blue suit, not to mention they'll be the envy of everyone in the office.

7. Personalized Caps Wine Glass

Price: $22.49

Where to buy: Shop.NHL.com

Why they'll love it: Your friends and family will love to sit down and watch the Caps while drinking a glass of their favorite wine in this personalized Caps wine glass. Not only does it incorporate sophistication and hockey, but they'll no longer have to worry about someone stealing there drink.

8. Fidget Spinner

Price: $3.99

Where to buy: Shop.NHL.com

Why they'll love it: Get in on the trend with this Caps Fidget Spinner. Not only does it relieve stress, but it will keep the children (or adults) in your family occupied.

9. Camo Beanie

Price: $17.99

Where to buy: Shop.NHL.com

Why they'll love it: Keep your loved ones warm with a camo beanie. Camo is so hot right now and it will keep your loved ones heads warm while watching Ovi and company at Capital One Arena. 

10. Custom Built Cornhole Set 

Price: $195

Where to buy: Etsy

Why they'll love it: These handmade cornhole set is made to order and will be the envy of everyone at the beach or their next tailgate. With purchase, they'll receive a free set of corn bags and a free carrying case for the boards.

11. fuboTV Subscription

Price: $19.99/month for 2 months

Where to buy: fubotv.com

Why they'll love it: What better gift than the games themselves? Perfect for the cord-cutting Capitals fan on your list, fuboTV offers 80 streaming channels from sports to news to movies and more. Watch on all of your favorite devices including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon FireTV and AndroidTV or take it anywhere with the fuboTV app, available for both Android and iOS. If you're on the go, take advantage of fuboTV's cloud-based DVR service to record your favorite programs and watch them wherever you'd like. Even better? There are no hidden fees or long-term contracts and you can cancel anytime.

Quick Links

Is it time to reunite the Ovechkin, Backstrom, Oshie line?

usatsi_10344174.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Is it time to reunite the Ovechkin, Backstrom, Oshie line?

The Caps are struggling of late and the top six is a big reason why. Washington has lost three of its last four games and has been outscored in those four games 17-9, but the top six’s problems have been lingering for longer than just these past four games.

Nicklas Backstrom has only two even strength points in his last 13 games and no goals since Oct. 14. T.J. Oshie is producing well on the power play, but he is also struggling five-on-five with one goal and four assists in his past 17 games.

Likewise, the second line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Devante Smith-Pelly is also struggling. They have not scored an even-strength point in six games.

A team cannot be successful if its top players are not producing offensively. Do these recent struggles show that it is time for Washington to go back to the Ovechkin, Backstrom, Oshie line?

RELATED: HOW DID JOHNNY GAUDREAU GET SO WIDE OPEN?

Despite their past success, the trio has not started together at any point this season. Head coach Barry Trotz denied on Tuesday that he has any hesitancy towards putting those three back together and pointed out that he did actually use that line in the team’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

“In Colorado I tried to do that,” Trotz said, “Put Ovi, Osh and Backstrom against their second line and they allowed that and they didn't get any production so I'm trying it. Their top line outplayed our top line.”

When asked why he had not used the line from the start of a game, Trotz essentially dismissed the question saying, “Just don’t feel like it.”

Despite Trotz’s denial, there does seem to be some hesitancy from him to go back to a line that has been incredibly successful in the past. Backstrom and Ovechkin have been on the ice five-on-five for a grand total of 16:46 this season. In addition to Oshie who has been his consistent linemate, Backstrom has spent more even-strength ice time with Andre Burakovsky, Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson and Tom Wilson than he has with Ovechkin.

Why?

One reason is Trotz remains unconcerned with Backstrom’s slump. While he may not be generating points, the chances are still there.

“Against Minnesota [Backstrom] could have had a hat trick and they're not going in easy for him,” Trotz said. “I think you have more concern when you're not getting any chances than when you are getting chances. When you're getting chances, you're obviously getting the good spots, you're doing lots of good things, they're just not going in for you. When you're not getting any chances and any looks, then it gets frustrating for you.”

Another reason is Backstrom’s defensive responsibilities. He is one of the team’s top shutdown forwards and defense is not a strong part of Ovechkin’s game. It is hard to put Backstrom in shut down situations if his line is not suited for those responsibilities.

Let’s say the Caps do unite Ovechkin-Backstrom-Oshie. What would the rest of the forward lines look like?

Here’s a possible projection:

Stephenson – Kuznetsov – Vrana
Connolly – Eller – Wilson
Smith-Pelly – Beagle – Chiasson

MORE CAPITALS: JAY BEAGLE GIVES THE DIRT ON WHAT BARRY TROTZ IS LIKE AS A COACH FOR THE PLAYERS

You can make your own lineup, but you can see there’s not a whole lot of depth behind that top line. This team is not nearly as deep as it has been in years past and the forward lines look even thinner when you put Ovechkin-Backstrom-Oshie all together on the top. This would be an incredibly top-heavy lineup and it is hard to find success that way.

Then again, they top-six is not having much success now.

Oshie admitted after practice Thursday he would like to see that line reunited, but he remains confident in Trotz’s lineup choices.

“Whatever [Trotz] thinks,” Oshie said. “My game doesn't change much from playing with one player to the next. We've played together at times this year, we've had a couple shifts together so I think he's just still trying to see what works and what he can use. I think we know that we can have success playing us three together. Whatever the lines are is just fine with me.”