Capitals

Quick Links

Oates sees potential in Sjogren

ap11121719049.jpg

Oates sees potential in Sjogren

The Capitals had big expectations for Mattias Sjogren when they signed him to a two-year, $1.8 million free-agent contract in the summer of 2011.
 
The 6-foot-2, 214-pound center was coming off a strong showing with Sweden in the World Championships and Capitals general manager George McPhee believed Sjogren could compete for the role of third- or fourth-line center.
 
But when Mathieu Perreault outplayed Sjogren in last year’s training camp, Sjogren began the season in Hershey and abruptly walked out on the team on Nov. 30, returning to Sweden.
 
McPhee didn’t take kindly to Sjogren’s decision, saying, “If you’re going to quit on us you might as well go.”
 
Today, Sjogren is back in Hershey, trying to prove to interim head coach Adam Oates that he belongs in the NHL. Through four games Sjogren has one goal on four shots and is a minus-2.
 
“I can see what people like about him and I can see he wants it,” Oates said of the 24-year-old Swede. “He wants to improve. He’s a big body. He needs to learn a couple things about the game and hopefully we have time to pass it along, but there’s a lot of potential there.”
 
Oates said that for someone his size, Sjogren could be better in the faceoff circle and that he hopes to spend some time working with him in that area.
 
Oates also said he’d like to see a little more from top forward prospect Stan Galiev, who has one assist, no goals on six shots and is a minus-2 in his first four games as a pro. Galiev, 20, was taken by the Caps in the third round of the 2010 draft [86th overall] and led the Quebec League with 34 points in 17 playoff games last spring.
 
“There are moments I’d like to see more, but he’s still a very a young kid in a new environment,” Oates said. “The pace of play is a little more physical than he’s used to.
 
“People don’t understand that quite enough. When you get traded or when you go to a new city, there are a lot of other factors that contribute before a guy plays good hockey. I didn’t play good hockey until my fifth year pro, until I got to St. Louis.”
 
For the record, Oates managed “just” 245 points in his first 280 games as a pro. And after arriving in St. Louis and being introduced to Brett Hull he notched 286 points in 195 games with the Blues. He finished his NHL career with 1,420 points, 16th on the NHL’s all-time list and enough to get him inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 12 in Toronto.
 
 

Quick Links

Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

usatsi_10635504.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS LOST TO THE LIGHTNING

Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

See for yourself:

"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-LIGHTNING

Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."

Quick Links

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

usa-chez-usat.png
USA Today Sports

2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.

RELATED: OVECHKIN HAS LITTLE DESIRE TO WATCH 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS