Capitals

Quick Links

Ovechkin looked good on Day 1 of camp, and Trotz is pleased about that

Ovechkin looked good on Day 1 of camp, and Trotz is pleased about that

Alex Ovechkin’s commitment to boosting his conditioning this summer did not go unnoticed by Capitals Coach Barry Trotz on Day 1 of training camp.

“To me,” Trotz said Friday afternoon, “he looked like it was easier for him. It was easier for him. When guys are going through that skate test, I can tell which guys are going to struggle with it and which guys aren't.”

Although Ovechkin told reporters that his weight is about the same as it was following the Caps' playoff ouster in May, Trotz acknowledged that the burly Russian’s fitness did indeed appear to be improved.

“Body composition, that’s probably the best way to say it than weight,” Trotz said of Ovechkin, who is still listed at 6-3, 239 pounds on the roster. “He’s gotten some of that gigantic strength and exceptional strength that he’s known for, he’s got some of that back. And that changes his body composition.”

Trotz added: “The weight is not necessarily [about] that, it’s more, are you fit? Are you a good athlete? Are you ready to go? I think he’s made a lot stronger commitment there, so that’s great.”

Over the summer, Trotz went to Russia to visit his son. While he was there, he met up with Ovechkin so that the two could talk about last season and what he wanted to see from Ovechkin going forward.

“I wanted to meet with him because he is the captain,” Trotz said. “I wanted to talk about last year because we really didn’t talk about it that much at the end of the year. We talked about a few things. One of the things was becoming an athlete again because that’s important in this business, especially with the way the game is going. It’s fast. You’ve got to be fit in this game to be productive. Some guys can get away with it [thanks to] a high skill set and a level. But at the end of the day, your foundation has to be fitness.”

Since arriving in Washington last month, Ovechkin has often been spotted around Kettler Capitals Iceplex with his personal trainer in tow. While Ovi didn’t divulge many specifics about his offseason training, the three-time league MVP said he did less weight lifting and added more running to his daily routine.

“This offseason my goal was just to feel very good on the ice, my breathing, so I can play longer, stay on the ice a little bit longer,” Ovechkin told CSN. “Be more faster, move a little bit faster.”

One of the challenges Ovechkin faces as he ages—he turns 32 on Sunday—is keeping up in a game that seemingly gets younger and faster every year.

“Right now,” he said, “I feel very good.”

Trotz, too, feels very good about what he’s seen so far from the Capitals’ captain, who’s looking to bounce back from his lowest goal output (33) in a non-lockout year since 2010-11.

“You always ask players to evolve [and] what can you add to your game that you haven’t added?” Trotz said. “In his case, the game is getting quick and he wants to stay relevant in the quickness aspect.”

RELATED: WHY BRADEN HOLTBY IS THE CAPS' MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER

Quick Links

JJ vs. the fans bold predictions: A big night for Tom Wilson?

usatsi_8916006.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

JJ vs. the fans bold predictions: A big night for Tom Wilson?

In the very first edition of JJ vs. the fans bold predictions, no one got a single prediction right. Well, there’s nowhere to go but up!

The Caps hit the road on Friday to take on the Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Washington Plus). Let’s check out our predictions.

RELATED: MADISON BOWEY IS ALREADY LOOKING MUCH IMPROVED

Fan predictions:

For those who don't know, a Gordie Howe hat trick is a goal, an assist and a fight all in one game. Tom Wilson gets the promotion to the top line tonight and Wade is expecting big things. I am not so bullish on it. I think adjusting to a new line and a new side, Wilson has moved from right wing to left, will take Wilson some time.

The Caps face former defenseman Mike Green and Garrett thinks he is going to get one past Braden Holtby. This is pretty bold considering Green has yet to record a single point in five games against his former squad.

The Capitals’ defense has had its problems of late and it has certainly dragged down the penalty kill. Remember how hot the penalty kill was to start the season? Now the Caps rank 19th in the league at 78.6-percent. Still, two power play goals is a lot considering Detroit ranks 24th in the NHL with a success rate of only 14.8-percent.

MORE CAPITALS: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-RED WINGS

JJ’s predictions:

The Caps will allow more than two goals

Washington’s defense is not as bad as they looked against Philadelphia, but it isn't as good as they looked against Toronto either. One thing that helped against the Maple Leafs was that the game was at home. Barry Trotz could get the favorable matchups for his rookie defensemen as his team had the second change. That won’t be true on Friday in Detroit. The defense will struggle as a result.

John Carlson will play more than he did against Toronto

See above. Carlson logged a hefty 27:33 on Tuesday and that was with the Caps getting the second change. The Caps will rely even more on him on the road.

Washington will get at least two goals form players not named Ovechkin, Oshie and Backstrom

Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom have 17 of the Caps’ 22 goals this season. Perhaps the big three will have another big night, but eventually the team will need someone else to step up and score. Whether because the team emphasizes it or through just dumb luck, the Caps are going to record a few points from a few of their other players on Friday.

Want to see your tweet among the fan predictions for the next game? Tweet your prediction to @JJReganNBCS every game day! Remember, we don’t just want to know who will win or the score, we want to see specifics. Be bold!

Quick Links

In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

usatsi_10325478_141983962_lowres.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

Madison Bowey’s second game went a lot better than his first and it’s not just because the Caps allowed only two goals as opposed to eight.

Despite being thrust into a significant role in his first taste of NHL experience, Bowey seemed to settle in a bit in his second contest even as it came against the NHL’s best offense in the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Just everything in the first game felt like it happened so quick, I think,” Bowey said Thursday after the team’s practice. “It was obviously nice to come back in Washington and play in the home in front of the home crowd, get a practice in on Monday before the game Tuesday with the team. Just all the little factors that went into it definitely helped and I think it definitely felt a lot smoother out there on the ice.”

RELATED: BURAKOVSKY DEMOTED TO THIRD LINE

Playing at home definitely has its benefits for the coaching staff as they try to protect the rookie defensemen. Home teams get the chance to change after the visiting team allowing the coaches to pick the matchups they want for Bowey.

More favorable matchups certainly helped him, but Bowey also seemed to play with more confidence and a level of calm that was not there against Philadelphia. For Bowey, the difference was having time to settle in and practice with the team.

“Obviously this team is one of the veteran teams in the league so to be able to practice against top players in the league, it goes a long way,” Bowey said.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS SHOULD NOT TRADE PROSPECT IIYA SAMSONOV

Bowey was called up for a Saturday game in Philadelphia after Matt Niskanen suffered a hand injury Friday in New Jersey. That means he quickly had to join the team and jump into the lineup for his first ever NHL game without any practice with the Caps at all.

Bowey now has two practices and two games under his belt and even a team-building day at FBI training. The effect that has had on his game was noticeable on Tuesday. It should be even more clear on Friday as the team travels to face the Detroit Red Wings.

“I feel myself improving every day,” Bowey said. “It forces you to really work hard and be on your top every day you come to the rink so for me, just having those two practices already have been huge. I feel the development's getting a lot better early.”