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Captain, the Capitals’ official service-dog-in-training, hosted a puppy training class

Captain, the Capitals’ official service-dog-in-training, hosted a puppy training class

The class sat quietly and calmly in the lobby of MedStar Capitals Iceplex while the teacher gave her lesson. Not one of them barked. 

The Capitals teamed with the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs on Wednesday with Captain, the organization’s service-dog-in-training, leading the way around their Arlington headquarters.

Six Labrador puppies, all under six months old, joined Captain for a training class. All are destined for roles as service dogs for either veterans or first responders with disabilities or people who are blind or physically impaired. 

“These dogs save people’s lives,” said Deana Stone said, puppy program coordinator in the Washington, D.C. area for the Guide Dog Foundation, Captain’s puppy raiser and the class teacher Wednesday.  

The dogs arrive at the foundation at eight-to-10 weeks old and stay until they’re 16-to-17 months and ready for service. Captain made his debut on the red carpet at the Capitals’ Rock the Red opening night ceremonies on Oct. 5. He has quickly amassed 49,000 followers on Instagram (capspup) and another 31,000 on Twitter (@CapsPup). 

Captain and his friends walked up and down unfamiliar clear glass stairs with their handlers encouraging them and giving them treats to create a relaxed atmosphere. They had a group picture taken on the Capitals’ bench at their main practice rink. 

The young dogs all walked up metallic bleachers into the upstairs lobby and then down again to the second practice rink, descending stairs with see-through grates. They all even clambered into an elevator for a one-flight ride with no drama. Outside in the MedStar parking lot, they got to walk about 50 yards leash-free.

Stone gave tips to the puppy raisers. The group included puppies Bob (with Destiny Goldsmith), Lily (Amy Briller), Plaza (Jasmine Richman), Brook (Olivia Hwang) and Evelyn (Emily Dann). Jane Gryder was there as a future puppy raiser who will get her own dog in November. 

Richman, a Georgia native, is a senior at the University of Maryland, where she is a volunteer puppy raiser with Terps Raising Pups, a student group that is a chapter of the Guide Dog Foundation. 

Plaza is Richman’s second puppy in training. The first, Zora, can’t be a guide dog now because she has allergies, which wouldn’t be a good fit for someone with disabilities who’d have to give extra care for her. But Zora will soon become therapy certified so she can work as a service dog in local hospitals. They all help in their own way after training ends. 

“My grandfather passed away this past summer and I found out with only Zora in the room and she was the best thing for me in that situation,” Richman said. “Even just to have her there in that moment was something that I will never forget. And they all do something for their person in some type of way – whether they go with someone who is blind or whether they’re just with us when it happens. They make a difference.”  

Captain will continue with his training with Stone and the Capitals. Later he will be able to hang out at the Capitals’ offices during the day or be entrusted to team staffers. His next gameday appearance will be this Sunday, Nov. 3.   

As the puppy class concluded with a brief photo shoot in front of the Capitals’ offices, left-wing Brendan Leipsic pulled up. Gone for 11 days on the longest road trip of the season and just back late last night, it was a nice welcome home. 

Leipsic asked if he could hold Captain and got a few licks to the face as he cradled him. Defenseman Michal Kempny smiled as he walked past the scene and gave the dogs a pet.   

“Our guide dogs, they go to people and they give them a sense of independence,” Stone said. “Maybe they struggled to travel places by themselves. They always had to wait for someone who’s sighted to go with them maybe. Now they can go independently with their dogs. Our service dogs for veterans and first responders, again a sense of independence and freedom. And truly I’ve heard this before - they’re lifesavers for some of these people. They’re going to potentially go to people with PTSD and physical disabilities. There’s so many amazing things that they do.”


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Do the Caps have the offense to win the Stanley Cup?

Do the Caps have the offense to win the Stanley Cup?

The bye week and the all-star break are upon us meaning we will have to wait until Jan. 27 for the Capitals to take the ice again for a game. With the season over halfway done and the Feb. 24 trade deadline rapidly approaching, the focus of the season now shifts towards the playoffs.

Washington has certainly done enough at this point to show they are a playoff team, but just how good are they? Are they a true contender or are they destined for an early exit?

Over the next few days, I will examine the team to answer if it is good enough on offense, defense and in net to win a Cup and, if not, what they must do to improve by April.

Today’s question: Do the Caps have the offense to win the Stanley Cup?

Team stats
3.55 goals per game (1st in the NHL)
20.3-percent power play (13th in the NHL)

Goal leaders
1. Alex Ovechkin 34
2. Jakub Vrana 22
3. T.J. Oshie 18

Assist leaders
1. John Carlson 47
2. Nicklas Backstrom 29
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov 26

Point leaders
1. John Carlson 60
2. Alex Ovechkin 50
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov 42

Just in case you forgot about Ovechkin, he just let everyone know that yes, he is still outrunning Father Time with eight goals in the past three games. He remains one of the top scorers in the league, that is beyond dispute and so is this team's the top-six.

Backstrom, Wilson, Vrana, Kuznetsov and Oshie round out one of the best top two lines in the NHL. There are only a few minor concerns with this group.

Vrana and Kuznetsov have proven to be streaky performers. When they are hot, they are among the top offensive players in the NHL. Vrana is actually tied with David Pastrnak for third in the NHL in even-strength goals with 21. He is as dangerous a goal-scorer as just about anyone in the league. And everyone knows how good Kuznetsov can be at his peak. Just look at the 2018 Cup run.

You just have to cross your fingers and hope Vrana and Kuznetsov don’t get cold in the postseason because when their production tapers off, it craters.

Moving on to the bottom-six, let’s start with the fourth line because it is easier. Brendan Leipsic, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway is one of, if not the outright best fourth line in hockey. They are able to hem opponents into the offensive zone and allow very little in the way of scoring opportunities. If you put any credence into things like Corsi, Nic Dowd is the best on the team with a Corsi-For percentage of 57.22 while Leipsic is 54.04 and Hathaway is 54.43. In a nutshell, what that means is this line is generating a heck of a lot more offensive opportunities than it is allowing which is a huge asset to have for a fourth line.

What’s more, these guys are the kind of players you hate to play against. Hathaway and Leipsic both play with an edge and Leipsic has a fair amount of speed as well. They have to make sure they limit the penalties they take, but otherwise this line is a huge asset.

That brings us to the third line.

While the offense is starting to pick up slightly, overall the numbers have just not been there. Lars Eller is doing fine with 11 goals and 16 assists, but Richard Panik is having a tough first year with five goals and five assists while Carl Hagelin has only three goals and eight assists and that’s including the two goals he scored in the past week.

Even as the line continues to improve, I do not think at its peak it is going to prove to be as good offensively as once hoped.

The third line has definitely found a role as a shutdown line, however, which is how Reirden has been utilizing them of late, using them to shut-down one of the opposition’s top lines both to limit their offense and also to free up Ovechkin’s line by getting it away from that matchup.

That’s easier to do at home, now Reirden has to figure out just how to best utilize the third line one the road where it is tougher to get the matchups you want.

Overall, however, this line is trending in the right direction. The power play, however, is not.

Though it ranks 13th in the NHL, that percentage is being propped up by a good start. Since Dec. 1, the power play ranks 30th in the NHL at 14.1-percent. The offense has just been non-existent. The struggles have clearly gone to the head of the players because it becomes a comedy of errors on the ice every time the team gets the man advantage. Reirden has tried Vrana on the top unit in Kuznetsov’s spot, but that spot is not well suited for Vrana as he is a sniper and Kuznetsov plays primarily around the goal line where shots are hard to come by. Kuznetsov on the second unit is largely wasted as there is not enough scoring talent on that unit for him to set up.

The result is two power play units playing without confidence and not producing while also allowing far too many shorthanded goals.

The verdict: Yes, the Caps have the offense to win the Cup.

In terms of the personnel, it is hard to get better than what the Caps have. The top two lines are loaded with talent and the fourth line is the best at what it does. The offense is lacking on the third line, but Reirden has found a role for it in which it can still have a positive impact on the game and its offensive production seems to be improving.

The only real concern is the power play, not only because it is completely ineffective but because the team is pressing so hard it has allowed five shorthanded goals, tied for the most in the league. As bad as it is, however, I think this is a case of frustration making things worse. With the personnel this team has, there is no reason for it to be producing at only 14.1-percent. Once they string a few goals together, things will turn around. I don’t think it will be among the most potent in the NHL, but I do think this is a low point and a natural progression will occur.

After the power play, however, it is hard to find a more potent offense than the one assembled in Washington.


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Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

The Capitals may not be participating in Stadium Series this year, but the team is embracing outdoor hockey around Washington for spirited game day fun.

The Caps are hosting Rock The Rink skates at The Wharf, Penatgon Row, Rockville Town Square and The Avenue at White Marsh on select game days from January to March 2020. Fans attending these events can wear Capitals jerseys or gear to get either $5 off admission or free skate rentals.

The Wharf

Jan. 18 at 1 p.m., Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., and Feb 17. at 1 p.m.

Transit Pier will boast a Capitals-paneled ice rink with an ice resurfacer, trivia contests, giveaways, along with a DJ. The Capitals Campire will also boast Adirondack chairs around a fire to roast marshmallows for smores in front of a 14-foot jumbotron screen to watch the Capitals games. 

Pentagon Row

Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 6 p.m.

These skates will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants. The Caps games will also be on at surrounding bars. 

The Avenue at White March

Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

This event will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants.

Rockville Town Square

Jan. 31 at 5:30 p.m. and March 5 at 6 p.m.

In addition to the above fun, Rockville native and Capitals hockey ambassador Haley Skarupa will be there on Jan. 31. You can watch the Capitals game at local bars as well. 

Fans attending these events or using local outdoor rinks this season are encouraged to post about it on social media by tagging @capitals and using the hashtag #RockTheRink to enter themselves for a chance to win prizes.

Caps slept through the first 40 minutes, they did not give Holtby much help though he was bad in his own right and Vrana sure did show something with the game-winning goal.

As for no penalties...not so much.