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Former Cap Steckel praises Oates, Crabb


Former Cap Steckel praises Oates, Crabb

By Ben Raby

STE. CATHERINES, ONTARIO When David Steckel someday looks back on his NHL career, his time with the New Jersey Devils will likely be nothing more than a footnote.

The former Capitals center was traded to New Jersey at the 2011 Trade Deadline and lasted just 18 games with his new team while picking up a goal and a minor penalty. Steckel was eventually traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs before the 2011-12 season.

But despite such a brief stint with the Devils in 2011, Steckel told that he spent enough time in New Jersey to appreciate the work that new Caps head coach Adam Oates did as an assistant under Jacques Lemaire.

For as much time as I was there, he was a great assistant coach and a great guy in general first and foremost, Steckel said Friday from Bruce Boudreaus Golden Horseshoe Hockey School. Steckel was one of a half dozen NHL players who served as special instructors at Boudreaus annual hockey camp last week in Southern Ontario.

Obviously Oates was a pretty decent player himself in the NHL for a long time, so he knows what hes doing and I definitely think that coaching the Capitals is a great opportunity for him and Im sure that hes going to take advantage of it.

Oates was an assistant coach in New Jersey for two years before his being named Capitals head coach in June. Steckel thinks that Oates hiring in Washington can have an immediate impact on a Capitals power play that finished 18th in the NHL last season (16.7 percent).

Hes very talented and hes also very creative in his schemes for the power play, Steckel said.

He knows where the openings are and more importantly, he recognizes where the openings are going to be, and when youre as a good of a passer as he was, you can maybe see the ice a little bit differently than perhaps some other coaches can.

The 30-year-old Steckel was also complimentary of Oates hockey smarts and his ability to communicate with his players.

As far as being an assistant coach, he was always there to lend a recommendation whether its a little thing like the curve of your stick to taking one less step here to make you faster up the ice, hes got that perspective when hes coaching that not everyone does For him to kind of bring that to the table, I think thats going to make any player that he coaches better.

Among those players that Oates will be coaching in D.C., is Joey Crabb, one of Steckels teammates last year in Toronto. The Capitals signed the 29-year-old Crabb to a one-year, one-way deal in early July.

Its great for Joey, Steckel said. He had a great year last year and I think he really proved himself as an NHL player day in and day out and if he wasnt going to come back to Toronto, Im just glad to see him catch on with another team.

Crabb finished with career-highs across the board with 11 goals and 26 points in 67 games and teamed with Steckel and Tim Connolly to form Torontos shutdown line in the seasons final weeks.

Hes a crash-bang, go-to-the-net type of smart player. He knows what hes there to do and hes a very good role player.

As for Steckel, hes entering the final year of a three-year contract he originally signed with Washington in 2010 and after an up-and-down first season in Toronto, the Wisconsin native is hopeful of a turnaround in 2012-13.

I had a fantastic time in Toronto, but unfortunately the season didnt turn out the way I wanted it to, he said of the Maple Leafs missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a seventh straight year.

The people here are great though, the city is fantastic, the Maple Leafs pride is always there when youre going through the streets so obviously this year we want a different outcome and hopefully we can deliver something for the fans to look forward to.

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How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."