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Caps prospects wrap up eye-opening development camp

Caps prospects wrap up eye-opening development camp

Despite the temperature outside, it felt like hockey was back on Saturday morning as the Capitals wrapped up their development camp with a prospect scrimmage. Most of the team's young, top prospects gathered for one last display for the hockey faithful who packed Kettler Capitals Iceplex after a very positive week of working with the team's coaching staff.

While the goalies stole the show in what was a low scoring scrimmage, the week-long camp seemed to have left a positive influence on each player.

"They break your game down and they fine tune little things that make a big difference," said Lucas Johansen, the team's first-round draft pick in 2016. "There's probably five or six things that I know i need to work on to make it to the next level."

For the younger players that's the ultimate goal, to identify the things they need to work on to continue their development. With only a week to work with, the coaches can't develop raw prospects into NHL-ready players. The point is more to identify what a player needs to work on.

"It was a little fast at times," said Garrett Pilon who was also drafted in 2016. "We were playing against these bigger guys, pretty strong, getting pinned a little easier than maybe usual so it was a little eye opener in that way."

RELATED: CAPS SIGN POTENTIAL THIRD-STRING GOALIE TO ONE-YEAR DEAL

While the younger players come in to learn, the older players come in hoping to make an impression. For them, while they hope to show that their skill has graduated past this level, they also must show that they can be leaders off the ice.

"That's what the coaching staff and development staff wanted us to do," Madison Bowey said. "Just kind of come in here and show the guys the ropes a little bit and then make sure they're comfortable here."

Bowey is one of those players hoping to make it to the NHL this season.

One of the downsides of being part of an organization with championship aspirations is that it may be hard to find a spot on the roster. The Capitals defense is expected to look the same next season minus trade deadline acquisition Mike Weber, which could make it difficult for Bowey to break through. Chances are he will be back in the AHL next season playing with the Hershey Bears.

But that doesn't mean this is not an important offseason for the 6-foot-2 defenseman.

"It's a very big summer for me to make sure I can come to training camp and give myself, make sure I'm in shape to give myself the best chance of making the team," Bowey said.

Saturday's scrimmage was a good start. Bowey was one of the players who stood out with his size, speed and skill. But, as he said afterwards, "This camp isn't the main camp with the big guys."

The scrimamge also marked the end of the team's "new look" camp. The camp was restructured this year to give the players more of an opportunity to experience the city and develop comradery among the prospects. It was a change both the new players and the more experienced ones seemed to appreciate.

Zach Sanford, a 2013 draft pick who has been through development camp before, said, "Compared to years past, I think, like everyone's been saying, it's been the best year so far."

While Johansen seemed satisfied with his performance over the week, he did mention that he had one regret.

"It was definitely cool to see the scenery," Johansen said. "I didn't get to check out the White House which is unfortunate, but that's ok."

If he turns into the player the Caps think he can become, he will have plenty of time to finally see the White House in the future.

MORE CAPITALS: CHIMERA SAYS GOODBYE TO WASHINGTON

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Wild Capitals-Ducks brawl could have repercussions after spitting incident

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Wild Capitals-Ducks brawl could have repercussions after spitting incident

WASHINGTON —The final minute of the second period between the Capitals and Ducks on Monday looked like scenes cut from the cutting room floor of “Slapshot.” 
 
With Washington ahead 2-0, all hell broke loose behind the Anaheim net just as Chandler Stephenson stepped into a pass from teammate Garnet Hathaway and ripped a shot past goalie John Gibson. 
 
But for almost five minutes no one inside Capital One Arena knew if the goal counted at all as players from both sides traded blows and Hathaway spit on defenseman Erik Gudbranson. 
 
That momentary loss of control could have severe consequences if the NHL decides to impose supplemental discipline. In all, the two teams combined for 50 minutes of penalties and two ejections. The goal did count and the Capitals won the game 5-2, but all talk afterward was about the wild scene at the end of the second.   
 
“It has no place. It was an emotional play by me,” Hathaway said. “You don’t plan any of that stuff in your head and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me after a sucker punch.”
 
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Brendan Leipsic hit everything that moved during that ferocious shift, including Ducks center Derek Grant directly next to the goal. The puck jarred loose. While Gudbranson and fellow Anaheim defenseman Brendan Guhle jumped Leipsic, Hathaway slipped a pass into the high slot for Stephenson, who scored.  
 
“Growing up, playing against him since I was 15, and you know he's been the exact same,” Stephenson said. “He catches guys by surprise. I've seen him knock guys that are twice his size on their ass. He's a pretty stocky little fire hydrant out there."
 
Leipsic needed to be as the 6-5 Gudbranson and the 6-2 Guhle pummeled him. But the puck was in the net as the crowd roared and the players raged. It was glorious chaos. 
 
Leipsic first checked Gudbranson hard behind the net with 51 seconds to go in the second period. Guhle then cross-checked him three times in the back in retaliation. 
 
With 35 seconds to go, Leipsic struck again as Grant turned for a loose puck next to the Anaheim net. He never saw it coming. Leipsic drove hard and knocked Grant – who has four inches and 26 pounds on him at 6-3, 206 – to the ice.
 
While the Ducks wasted their time dealing retribution, the puck was headed out front and into their net. Gibson didn’t have a chance. Then things turned ugly. Hathaway took three rapid punches at Grant and then he got entangled with Ducks forward Nick Ritchie.    
 
Gudbranson nudged his way into that scrap, but referee Peter MacDougall appeared to have them separated and in control grabbing their jersey collars. But as MacDougall turned his head, Gudbranson unexpectedly punched Hathaway in the face. Enraged, Hathaway clearly spits in his face. 
 
"That's about as low as you dig a peg, really,” Gudbranson said. “It's a bad thing to do. It's something you just don't do in a game, and he did it."
 
Added Grant:“At the end of the day, it’s probably the least respectful thing you can ever do to somebody. It’s just not a good part of the game and you don’t want to see that. I thought the refs handled it. It’s something that will be handled after it as well.”
 
Hathaway has put the Capitals in a difficult spot. With Carl Hagelin and Nic Dowd injured and salary-cap space tight, there really is no way to call up another player from AHL Hershey if Hathaway gets suspended. Contrite after the game, Hathaway asked to speak to reporters.  
 
“First there was a fight and then how I saw it was they had a third man in. I think they had a fourth man in, too,” Hathaway said. “The refs were trying to break it up and it felt like there was a couple sucker punches thrown and I got there one quick and then reacted a little emotionally and unfortunately spit came out of my mouth after I got sucker punched and it went on to him.”
 
Now, Hathaway hopes the NHL shows some leniency. 
 
“I have a lot of time for Garnet Hathaway. He’s a stand up guy, a first-class guy,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said. “He was getting punched by a couple different guys at once and lost control of his emotion and did something that there’s no place for in the league. That’s disappointing. He feels terrible about it. But he didn’t have to talk to anybody today. He’s the first one to say ‘I want to own up for what I did.’ He’s not happy about it. That’s who he is. He made a mistake and we’ll see where it goes [Tuesday].”
 
It was a dark moment in an otherwise excellent game for the Capitals who are 13-1-2 in their past 16 and continue to roll with the NHL’s best record. They just weren’t expecting such a wild and crazy night against a Western Conference team on a Monday night in November. You never know what you’re going to get with this sport. And it all started with a big hit from a smaller man.   
 
“I don't know, I was kind of a big blackout after that when everyone starts getting whipped around and stuff,” Leipsic said. “I didn't even know Chandler scored until the dust was all settled. It was nice to get a goal out of it too, I guess."

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Hathaway spits, Panik scores and Boyd produces

Hathaway spits, Panik scores and Boyd produces

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals won 5-2 on Monday against the Anaheim Ducks in a game that very much took a backseat to the fight that erupted in the second period.

You can read a recap of the game here.

Observations from the win

Take off your fan hat for a minute when watching Hathaway

I love fans. I have a job because of fans. You guys love hockey so much you want people like me to write about hockey so that you can read about hockey when you're not watching hockey. But when you watch the Hathaway fracas, you guys have to take a step back and take off the fan hats.

Hathaway spit on a dude. You can't have that.

Yes, Erik Gudbranson socked him while he was being held back by the refs. That's bad. Yes, I can understand why he would be pissed. Honestly, he should have just tried to punch him back. But...

Hathaway spit on a dude. You can't have that.

I got a lot of reaction from fans saying "It was his mouth guard," "Some spit came out of his mouth when he was punched, but it wasn't a spit," "What about Brad Marchand licking people?" "The rules say game misconduct, not an automatic match penalty, so clearly the suspension should be rescinded!

Let's try to look at this objectively.

Hathaway after the game admitted to spitting on Gudbranson, albeit in the most awkward way possible.

"The refs were trying to break it up," he said, "And it felt like there was a couple sucker punches thrown and I got there one quick and then reacted a little emotionally and unfortunately spit came out of my mouth after I got sucker punched and it went on to him.”

One player spit on another, it was caught on camera and he admitted to it afterward.

The gaggle of penalties the referees called was a mess and half of them were wrong. Having said that, they got Hathaway right by tossing him and supplementary discipline is likely coming.

"It has no place," Hathaway said. "It was an emotional play by me. You don’t plan any of that stuff in your head and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me to a sucker punch.”

Journalist note

Hathaway did not have to talk after the game. A lot of players don't talk after a bad game or a bad situation like this. Hathaway did. That does not absolve him from spitting, but I thought it was worth noting that he did not hide away from the media. He came out and answered our questions. I'm sure it wasn't fun, but he did it. Good on him.

Oh yeah, there was a hockey game....

It was easy to forget that an actual game was being played with everything going on in the second period. I have to admit that I did not even notice that Stephenson scored. When Brendan Leipsic came in and decked Derek Grant, my eyes were glued to everything going on below the goal line. I literally did not know there was a goal until I watched the replay and realized, oh...Stephenson scored?

By the way, the Ducks and Caps play again on Dec. 6.

Don't Panik

Panik has played well since returning from injury and finally, finally he was rewarded with a goal. He spoke after the game about how his game improved after the injury and that has been clear to me ever since he returned.

Travis Boyd is an NHL player

Boyd added another assist in this game as he set up Panik 50 seconds in.  He now has six points in eight games played. Most importantly, he has a cap hit of only $800,000. He needs to stick around in Washington.

Turning point

Stephenson's goal simultaneously marked the moment the game was out of reach, and the moment neither team cared what the score was anymore.

Play of the game

This was a real pretty move by Evgeny Kuznetsov. I thought he was shooting, John Gibson thought he was shooting, the Ducks thought he was shooting, but he wasn't.

Stat of the game

There were 50 total penalty minutes handed out for the second-period brawl:

Hathaway received a five-minute major for fighting and a 10-minute match penalty
Brendan Leipsic received a double-minor for roughing
Gudbranson received a minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct
Brendan Guhle received a double-minor for roughing
Nick Ritchie received a game (10-minute) misconduct

Quote of the game

The entire scrum erupted when Leipsic knocked Grant over with an incredible hit. From there all hell broke loose. Stephenson was asked about Leipsic after the game:

"Since growing up, playing against him since I was 15, and you know he's been the exact same. He catches guys by surprise. I've seen him knock guys that are twice his size on their ass. So he's pretty stocky and a little fire hydrant out there."

Fan predictions

This is impressive. Hathaway fought...the entire Ducks team. Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana both scored while Boyd assisted on the first goal.

Nailed it. This makes me feel sorry for the one fan who predicts a Radko Gudas goal every single game....

Yikes. This is awkward.

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