Washington Capitals

Quick Links

Alex Ovechkin has a vintage performance on a night when the Caps needed one

Alex Ovechkin has a vintage performance on a night when the Caps needed one

Alex Ovechkin called his one-timer a “muffin” because he whiffed a bit on the shot.

But a goal is a goal is a goal. Especially when you’re the NHL’s four-time defending goal scoring champ and you’re mired in the longest drought of your career.

“It was kind of [a] not perfect shot,” Ovechkin cracked of his second period strike in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Wild, “but sometimes I have pretty good opportunities before and it didn’t go in.”

The goal was Ovechkin’s first of any kind in 11 games. It also came as a Minnesota penalty expired, so it marked his first 5-on-5 goal since Jan. 26, a span of 21 contests.

RELATED: Schmidt's play may force a shakeup in the Caps' defensive pairs

Ovechkin acknowledged that he was relieved to see the puck settle into the net behind Devan Dubnyk. But he also reiterated that he’s been focused on the team’s recent performance, not his goal totals.  

“Yeah,” he said, asked if it felt like a weight had been lifted. “But obviously right now we in a position where we was losing four in a row. I kind of feel like you don’t have to worry about your personal stats. …[Tonight] was pretty good challenge and we did right things and we win the game. Everybody was connected. Everybody was on the same page.”

Everybody was indeed dialed in. But Ovechkin’s focus, energy and execution were especially noticeable.

In addition to scoring, No. 8 earned a primary assist on Nate Schmidt’s goal, drew the penalty that led to Evgeny Kuznetsov’s power play tally, drew a another penalty and logged a game-high four hits.

It was vintage Ovi. And it couldn’t have come at a better time for the previously scuffling Caps.

“A lot is made of him not scoring the last little while, but I’ll tell you what: he’s playing pretty good hockey,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s become a force again. And when he’s becoming a force, then you know those goals are going to come.”

Trotz also went out of his way to praise how Ovechkin has handled the slump. In years past, he may have brooded a bit. Or worse, he may have shirked his defensive responsibilities. None of that, however, has happened.

“He’s doing a lot of good things right now; I don’t think he needs to change anything,” Trotz said. “He’s got to get a couple to find the back of the net and then you’ll see, he might get 20 in the next 10 games.” 

“He’s playing good hockey,” Trotz continued. “Unfortunately, we’re taking a lot of penalties and it does cut into the rhythm. But I like that he’s staying positive and playing really well. Because a lot of time when you’re not scoring—especially a goal scorer—you start to cheat. He’s not and I have a lot of respect for that. He’s maintaining a real even keel and working his butt off.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps go wild on Minnesota to end losing skid

Quick Links

Braden Holtby — the skater — is a sight to behold

braden-holtby-skating.jpg
CSNMA

Braden Holtby — the skater — is a sight to behold

Braden Holtby is an elusive guy.

The 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner might be large in stature, but keeps to himself. When you do see him, he's typically covered in layers of goalie pads or briefly chatting with the media following a game.

So imagine the surprise to see Holtby take the ice at Kettler IcePlex well before training camp begins with zero goalie pads on.

That's what took place on Monday morning. As several players hit the ice for some unofficial workout sessions, there was the 6-2 Saskatchewan native strolling onto the ice, with a regular stick, regular skates, regular gloves and Andre Burakovsky's helmet.

RELATED: 2017-18 CAPITALS SEASON PREVIEW SERIES

Frankly, it was a bit odd to see Holtby skate up and down the ice.

Maybe it's because we're used to seeing him in the crouch position. or maybe it's because we actually see his entire figure, not just a pile of leather pads.

But even goalies need to work on non-goalie skills. The more familiar you are with position players, the better you will be to stop them from scoring.

But man, seeing Holtby skate like a forward sure does take some time to get used to. 

RELATED: RANKING THE CAPITALS' MOST IMPORTANT PLAYERS

Quick Links

The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 20 Taylor Chorney

taylorchorneydepth.png
USA TODAY Sports Images

The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 20 Taylor Chorney

Every player on an NHL team plays a role.

Some play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles. 

Today’s player: No. 20 Taylor Chorney.

RELATED: 2017-18 CAPITALS SEASON PREVIEW SERIES

One of the more interesting storylines during training camp is going to be the battle along the blue line and where everyone, particularly a veteran like Chorney, fits into the plan as the Caps skew a bit younger.

The top pair is easy to figure out; it’ll be Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen.

After that, it gets a little more interesting.

John Carlson will be on the second pair, perhaps with Aaron Ness.

If that's how things shake out, it would make sense to have Brooks Orpik anchor the third pair, especially if the No. 6 spot goes to a rookie since they'd surely benefit from the steady hand of a soon-to-be 37-year-old.

But will that spot go to a youngster like Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey or someone else? 

Or will it go to Chorney, a 30-year-old who's appeared in 141 NHL games spread over eight seasons for four clubs?

The Caps anticipate that Djoos and Bowey are closer to being NHL-ready than their other defenseman prospects.

Djoos lit up the AHL last season to the tune of 58 points in 66 games and the team needs to replace some offense. Bowey, meanwhile, has the look of a promising two-way defenseman.

But here’s the drawback—and where Chorney, in my opinion, fits into the equation.

Neither Djoos nor Bowey have done it yet. And until they do, no one can be 100-percent sure they’re completely ready to handle the everyday duties that the NHL demands. 

Chorney, to that end, has a significant advantage in experience, at a position where it matters a lot. He appeared in 18 games last season and a career-high 55 games the year before, also with the Caps. 

The bottom line: I suspect Chorney, who is entering the final year of his contract, will open camp penciled in as the team’s No. 6/7.

I also expect that he'll play a decent amount this season, maybe more than last year but perhaps less than 2015-16. I could even see him in the opening night lineup. Eventually, though, the Caps will want to see Djoos, Bowey or another youngster squeeze their way past Chorney and into the lineup full-time.        

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley
No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly