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Ovi inches closer to 500 as Caps beat Islanders 4-1


Ovi inches closer to 500 as Caps beat Islanders 4-1

NEW YORK -- Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 4-1 win over the New York Islanders in their first visit to Barclays Center on Thursday night:

How it happened: Jason Chimera and Alex Ovechkin scored goals on two of the Capitals’ first 10 shots on Jaro Halak and that was enough for Braden Holtby, whose only blemish was a second-period goal by Brock Nelson. Nate Schmidt gave the Caps some breathing room with his second goal of the season late in the second period and Nicklas Backstrom finished it off with an empty netter to give the Caps their second straight win.

What it means: The Caps are now 2-0 following their 0-1-1 slide and moved 14 points ahead of the second-place Islanders in the Metropolitan Division. They now have a league-best goal differential of plsu-41.

Hat trick from 500: Alex Ovechkin can thank a new stick and some quick work by the Capitals bench for his 497th career goal. Moments before his goal, Ovechkin broke his stick near the Caps bench and was immediately handed a new one, allowing him to join Karl Alzner on a rush up the right side. Alzner dropped a pass for Ovechkin and he snapped it from the right circle through the pads of Jaro Halak for a 2-0 lead. Ovechkin was on the ice when Jack Capuano pulled Halak in the third period and his check on Travis Hamonic helped set up Backstrom’s goal.

Ho-hum Holtby: Braden Holtby stopped 34 of 35 shots to earn his league-best 25th win (25-4-2) and improve to 18-0-2 in his last 20 decisions.

Lockdown: The Caps improved to an NHL-best 21-0-1 when leading after two periods.  

Chimmer time: Jason Chimera’s first-period goal was his 12th of the season and puts him on pace for a career-high 24 this season.    

Mojo hearing?: Caps center Marcus Johansson was called for an illegal check to the head 8:42 into the first period when he drove his shoulder into the face of Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey a split second after Hickey released the puck.  

According the NHL Rule 48.1, an illegal check to the head is “a hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable.”

It will be interesting to see if Johansson, who has never been suspended, will face an NHL hearing for the hit. The Caps are already shorthanded at the forward position with Zach Sill suspended through Saturday’s game against the Rangers in New York.

Wilson 2 for yapping: Tom Wilson was sent to the sin bin 13:48 into the second period when he complained to referee Tim Peel for not making a call on Isles defenseman Nick Leddy for sticking him in the back while he was on the ice. Wilson got two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Caps killed off the penalty and seconds later Nate Schmidt hammered a drop pass from Nicklas Backstrom past Halak for a 3-1 lead.

Injury updates: Before the game Caps coach Barry Trotz said defenseman John Carlson, who missed his sixth straight game, will be back on the ice soon and is a “possibility” to play this weekend when the Caps visit the Rangers on Saturday afternoon and face the Senators at home on Sunday night. Trotz said Brooks Orpik (lower body) is also making progress and could resume skating soon after receiving favorable news by a Boston doctor earlier this week.  

Look ahead: Mike Richards is scheduled to take part in his first practice with the Caps on Friday at Madison Square Garden. He is not likely to see game action for at least a few more days, unless the Caps deem otherwise.

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.


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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?


Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will the Caps look different under new head coach Todd Reirden?

Tarik: It’s an important topic, but let’s not overthink this one. Since winning the Stanley Cup on June 7, the organization has pretty much telegraphed EXACTLY what it hopes will occur in 2018-19. Consider:

  • Todd Reirden was promoted after spending four years as Barry Trotz’s assistant, including the last two years as an associate coach with an expanded role. Reirden already knows everyone, from the players to the trainers and other support staff. He knows what buttons to push and when to push them. There’s a built-in comfort level and trust that should allow everyone to hit the ground running in September.
  • Four of Reirden’s assistants are holdovers, too. The one newcomer, Reid Cashman, is joining the group from Hershey and is a Reirden disciple. So, no adjustment period there, either.
  • Assuming restricted free agent Tom Wilson re-ups (and that would seem to be a very safe assumption), the Caps are bringing back 11 of the 12 forwards that were on the ice for Game 5 in Las Vegas. They’re also bringing back five of six defensemen. And the starting goaltender. Chemistry is a hard thing to explain and/or quantify. But you know when a team has it. And the Caps had it at the end of last year.

So if you look at what GM Brian MacLellan has been doing in recent weeks—and have been listening to what Reirden has been saying publicly—you can only come to one conclusion. The decision-makers feel they discovered the right mix of personnel and systems play at the end of the playoffs, from the defensive structure to special teams. In fact, they were first in goals per game, second-best on the power play and the fourth stingiest team in the postseason.

“Many of my [philosophies] were involved in how we were going to play, how our team was going to look, the identity that we had,” Reirden said on The Junkies recently, referring to last year’s game plan. “So, from a systems standpoint, I would say not much is going to change, at least initially, just because it seemed to work. …You’ll see much of the same.”

That doesn’t mean Reirden won’t make adjustments. He will because he’ll have to over the course of an 82-game regular season and, hopefully, another long postseason run. But it does underscore the fact that the foundation upon on which last year’s championship team was built is going to look awfully familiar. And that's clearly by design.

JJ:  The message from the Caps ever since Reirden was promoted to head coach has been one of consistency as they try to make a seamless transition to the new head coach. In that sense, we probably won't see many changes at all to start the season.

The Capitals just won the Stanley Cup and general manager Brian MacLellan worked to bring almost the exact same roster back for next season. Coming into the locker room saying there's a new sheriff in town and making drastic changes is not the way to go here

But that doesn't mean Reirden will do things the same way.

Reirden has coached at the college, AHL and NHL level. He has seen firsthand how Dan Bylsma won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how Trotz did it in Washington. He also saw what didn't work.

Reirden got to this point by developing relationships with the players. He is much more of a players' coach than Trotz and that will be evident in training camp. I also expect there will be a much greater emphasis on development. Trotz famously said to the media that the NHL was not a development league, but a performance league. I expect Reirden to take a different approach.

After failing to win with veteran-laden teams, the Caps finally hoisted the Cup last season after getting significant contributions from young prospects such as Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. Like it or not, the Caps' core will not last forever. Every year those players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson get another year older. I do not believe a coach who is as good at reaching players and developing them as Reirden is will be quite as reluctant to reach down onto the farm and sprinkle youth throughout his lineup whenever the team needs a spark.

It should not be lost on anyone that one of Reirden's new assistant coaches this year will be Reid Cashman, promoted from being an assistant with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. This is all good news for players like Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler and Connor Hobbs, the team's three best defensive prospects who are hoping to have an impact at the NHL level sooner rather than later. The Caps roster is pretty loaded, but at the very least you can expect Reirden to have a hand in helping those players along at training camp.

Ultimately, the product on the ice is going to look almost exactly the same at the start of the season with the biggest changes coming off the ice. We won't see who Reirden is as an NHL coach, however, until we let the full 82-game season play out.