Nicklas Backstrom

Are the Capitals still just a ‘one-line team?’

18 Comments

The Washington Capitals seem to face an all-too-familiar situation.

The good news is that Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are on a tear with Ovechkin leading the league in scoring (73 points) and Backstrom tied for second with 72. Capitals blog Japers Rink’ trots out some interesting new ways to express thoughts like “Yes, Ovechkin’s by far the best player in the NHL when it comes to scoring goals.”

There are great things to be said about Backstrom, too, but Japers’ Rink also provides a familiar “Yeah, but ..” in the fact that, after all these changes, the Capitals may rely on their dynamic duo too much.

Indeed, looking at the Capitals’ top forward scorers, the picture looks remarkably similar to 2013-14, aside from the fact that Ovechkin and Backstrom are producing at a better clip.

2014-15 scoring leaders:

Ovechkin – 73 points
Backstrom – 72 points
John Carlson, a defenseman – 47 points
Marcus Johansson and Mike Green – tied at 39 points

2013-14 scoring leaders:

Ovechkin and Backstrom – tied at 79 points
Joel Ward – 49 points
Johansson – 44 points

Look, in a salary cap league, it’s tough to put a team together that won’t see a drop-off from players at the level of Ovechkin and Backstrom. And yes, it at least helps that they’re enjoying contributions from an improved defense.

Still, when you look at some of the league’s most successful teams, they often enjoy strong depth and obvious one-two punches. When Jonathan Toews’ line was ailing, the Chicago Blackhawks could count on Patrick Kane to make magic happen (before he got injured, of course). The Los Angeles Kings saw Jeff Carter light up scoreboards alongside Anze Kopitar’s line.

The way Ovechkin and Backstrom’s playing, it seems like their line can create a goal or two per night. That said, if they make it to the playoffs and a team finds a way to slow them down, will Washington get the offense it needs from other forwards?

Video: Things get heated between Ovechkin, Sabres early

7 Comments

On paper, even on a back-to-back, the Buffalo Sabres seem like a cakewalk for the Washington Capitals.

The Sabres don’t look like they’re just going to roll over for the Capitals on Monday night, however. As you can see, things got heated between Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and the Sabres early in the game.

Ovechkin ended up getting four minutes of penalty time versus just two for Mike Weber. Buffalo cashed in on the power play chance that ensued.

As of this writing, Buffalo leads the game 2-1. You can watch on NBCSN or via NBC Sports Live Extra.

WATCH LIVE: Capitals at Sabres

2 Comments

On Sunday, the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins in a battle to take control of the East’s top wild card spot. Now they hope to take care of business against the Buffalo Sabres, a team that would be better off losing.

Can Anders Lindback & Co. hold off Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and the rest of the Caps? Find out by watching on NBCSN and/or streaming the game via NBC Sports Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Read more about the game in this preview.

NHL on NBCSN: Caps look to add to wild card lead

4 Comments

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Buffalo Sabres host the Waahington Capitals at First Niagara Center at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The Washington Capitals regained the top wild card seed in the Eastern Conference with a 2-0 win over the Boston Bruins on Sunday night and will look to open a three-game road trip on a winning note tonight in Buffalo.

The Caps lead the Bruins by two points in the race for the first wild card spot, but Boston has a game in hand entering Monday’s action.

The Sabres have lost six straight (0-5-1) including a 6-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on March 7. The Sabres won the other meeting between the two clubs 2-1 in Washington on Nov. 22.

Buffalo has only eight non-shootout wins since beating the Capitals in November.

Tonight marks the third and final meeting between the two clubs this season.

Washington went 3-6-0 from Feb. 22-March 13, but following a players-only meeting after Friday night’s 4-2 loss to Dallas, saw an immediate result last night.

Nicklas Backstrom picked up a pair of assists in Sunday’s win and now leads the league with 53.

Alex Ovechkin, who has four goals in his last four trips to Buffalo, has failed to score in two straight games matching his longest drought since late December.

Braden Holtby has made 13 consecutive starts for the Capitals.

Washington recalled goaltender Philipp Grubauer from the AHL’s Hershey Bears on Sunday. Grubauer has made one appearance for the Caps this season making 23 saves in a 3-2 shootout victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 6.

Buffalo’s Matt Hackett has a 5.19 G.A.A. in two starts this season and allowed four goals against Washington on March 7.

Anders Lindback has a career-worst 3.36 G.A.A. this season, but has a .925 save percentage in five games since joining the Sabres.

Holtby blanks Bruins, Capitals grab East’s top wild card spot

14 Comments

Goaltending was a big reason why the Boston Bruins came into Sunday on a hot streak, but Braden Holtby showed that the Washington Capitals boast an outstanding netminder, too.

Holtby stopped all 32 Bruins shots as Washington won 2-0 tonight, securing the top wild card spot for the Capitals. They now have a two-point lead over Boston for that position and enjoy a healthy margin against the East’s bubble teams.

Holtby is impressing if you look at things from a short-term perspective:

… Yet he’s had a great season overall, too, as he now has eight shutouts and 33 wins in 2014-15.

Now, let’s not forget that Tuukka Rask was strong in his own right, as you can see most obviously from this sprawling stop:

Holtby obviously stole the show, though, as Washington’s two goals were clearly enough for the win. (Nicklas Backstrom collected two assists, setting a new Capitals franchise record for that stat.)

It wasn’t a perfect game in every way for the Capitals, as Alex Ovechkin experienced this, um, uncomfortable moment:

Still, he seems OK, and winning a big game probably helps to soothe that pain a bit.