Back to…..the Drawing Board

It was fun at the top while it lasted.

But the Caps didn’t do themselves any favors with their play in the playoffs. There were a lot of things that they could have done better. There’s things that they didn’t do last year that they did this year. There’s things they didn’t adjust to when the Hurricanes looked so much hungrier than the Caps did.

First, the biggest thing is the lack of pressuring when they were ahead. They were up in Game Five and let it slip away. They were up by two twice in Game Seven and it ended in a double-OT loss. Maybe it was just too many games for a lot of these guys and they kind of ran out of gas. Maybe it was not being able to adjust to injuries in their line-up. Maybe it was a lot of things…the Caps just couldn’t put the Canes away.

Second, defensively there were a tire fire. An honest to god tire fire. So many turnovers in their own zone leading to quality chances for the Canes was amazingly frustrating. Whether it be dangerous passes up the middle, whether it dangerous passes in front of Braden Holtby, whether it the forwards lack of breakout support for the the defensive which– hey– caused more turnovers. There so many times the Caps went for a home-run pass the length of the ice that the Canes played perfectly in the neutral zone that I lost count and just had a heavy sigh about it. Yet– there was no adjustment.

Rod Brind’Amour adjusted better than Todd Reirden did and it showed in the result. While they shuffled some lines in Game Seven, the grand scheme of things came down to Brind’Amour getting his team much more into it that Reirden could. To a man, Canes players were behind their coach and always commented about his fiery nature to get the team going. I didn’t hear one Caps say the same about Reirden, at least on the record.

And I won’t blame losing TJ Oshie to injury. That’s a part of the game and you have to adjust– which the Caps didn’t. One of the things it did take away was low-end options on the power play. Oshie’s play in the slot was some of the nice decoys for Ovechkin to get some more space. Without that option and a fill-in to act like that (sorry Tom Wilson), the Canes were able to give the Caps minimal chances to convert.

They did what they could though. The top line was solid with Nicklas Backstrom leading the way in the goal-scoring and Alex Ovechkin being the set-up man, which was an amazing change of pace. Tom Wilson was able to get into some dirty areas at times, but maybe could have done more.

Holtby was not himself, though. Lot of soft goals, lot of saves he could have made last year that snuck by this year. Like I said, his defense didn’t help him out at all. If anything, that’s a key point to look at for next year and how they can build around John Carlson and Nick Jensen. There needs to be some help out there because Dmitri Orlov and Matt Niskanen are hit-and-miss, Brooks Orpik is out of fuel, Jonas Siegenthaler needs more time, Christian Djoos somehow isn’t cutting it. They just need to hope Michal Kempny is ready to tear up the league next year.

Lest we forget the Luis Mendoza Line (all speed, questionable hands) of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jakub Vrana, and Carl Hagelin. When you need a secondary scoring line and it’s more of the third and fourth lines getting it done– there’s an issue. Kuznetsov, aside from the goal, seemed to be more than snakebit this series, Vrana was near invisible for the duration, and Hagelin was good on some penalty kills, but overall not worth retaining– unless they can get a good deal on him.

The Caps had a good season. It’s hard to top what they put forward last year and unless they would have swept everyone or beat everyone in Game Sevens, the dramatics were not there. Personally, this is probably the calmest I’ve been when it comes to losing a series, especially when you see them outworked as they were when you look at the greater picture.

Thank you Capitals for the ride over the past 10 months, it was fun while it lasted. Now, it’s time to reflect, figure out who’s going to be here next year, and find that hunger again.

Caps By The Numbers: Overtime Orpik

Of all the people to score an overtime winner, Brooks Orpik was probably the last guess. The long-shot did just that, however, as the veteran defenseman took a lovely pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov and launched it over the shoulder of Petr Mrazek to win the game 4-3 and put the Caps up 2-0 in the series. The Caps and Canes traded goals– first two, then one– with Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie having goals, then two for the Canes, then Tom Wilson putting on through Mrazek before Jordan Staal tied it on the power play to send it to overtime. Orpik came off the bench on a change to find a pass and then the back of the net.

The game was not without controversy, as Nick Dowd took a hit from Micheal Ferland, to which Ferland got a match penalty. From looking at it, it’s shocking how the referees gave him a match, as the principle point of contact was to Dowd’s right arm. Nevertheless, the Caps couldn’t score on the major penalty.

With that…we go to win #18 for the Caps in the past two seasons. This time, we’ll look at someone who– when you think Capitals hockey, you think your good buddy Locker.


Craig Laughlin was one of the guys who came over to the Capitals in the Rod Langway trade. A trade that helped the Caps not only with Langway’s defensive game, but also gave the Caps a crop of color commentators in Laughlin and Brian Engblom to choose from when their careers were over.

However, as much as we know Laughlin now as the long-time color guy, many forget what a stand-out he was with the Caps in the mid-80s. Not much of the flash-and-dash, but a serviceable player for that team and was able to pot a lot of goals. Three 20-plus-goal seasons, including 30 in 1985-86; four 50-plus-point seasons, and a bit of a power play specialist with 41 of his 110 goals as a Capitals coming with the man-advantage (37.3%).

The Capitals traded Laughlin in 1988 to Los Angeles and after that season, he went to Toronto for a season, then Germany for another before hanging up his skates and returning to Washington in 1990 to start his career in broadcasting. He’s been a mainstay of the Caps broadcasts since, but it’s not just because of his skills behind the mic do people in Washington enjoy Locker.

Laughlin has always came out in the hockey community to help youth players grow their game. I remember skating at Piney Orchard, the old Capitals practice rink, and see Locker around, skating with rec league teams and giving kids pointers about their game. Laughlin created Network Hockey that focuses on player development for players in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area and helps them get to the next level.

While he was born in Toronto, Craig Laughlin found his home with the Capitals and bridges the generational gap for Capitals fans 29 years after starting his broadcasting career.

Caps By The Numbers: Five Unanswered Give Caps 2-0 Series Lead

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After a quick start thanks to a Tom Wilson tipped-goal 28 seconds in, the Caps fought through some adversity after the Lightning netted two power play goals from Brayden Point and Steve Stamkos. However, this Caps team didn’t give up and scored the last five goals of the game to notch a 6-2 victory and leave Tampa with a 2-0 series lead. The win was the seventh win on the road for the Caps this playoffs, tying a team record set in 1998. Along with Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, and Brett Connolly had goals. Eller, Kuznetsov, Ovechkin, Wilson, and John Carlson had multi-point games.

The Caps are in double-digits for wins this players, so it’s time to look at a former #10 in Caps history.

This entrant was a two-time member with the Capitals, but made his name more known when wearing #10. Bobby Carpenter garnered a lot of attention with his selection in the 1981 NHL Draft, being the first player to go into the NHL right out of high school when he took the ice for the Capitals. While he did have some clashes with his head coach Bryan Murray, the short time in his first stint was something the Caps needed from a young player in their line-up.

Right off the bat, Carpenter was able to get the offense going for the Capitals with two straight 30-goal seasons in 1981-82 and 1982-83. While he had a drop-off in his stats in his third season, the 1984-85 season was the real big break-out for Carpenter, as he led the team in goals with 53 and was only behind Mike Gartner in points (95). It was Carpenter’s highest output in goals and points. Carpenter was the first US-born player to put up 50 goals in a season.

However, the clash between him and coach Murray reached a boiling point during the 1986-87 season. Murray and the Capitals had communication issues, chief among them was Carpenter– who said that Murray panicked too much behind the bench and held him back from being a bigger part of Washington’s offense. Carpenter sat out waiting to be traded as the Caps struggled without him before getting dealt to the Rangers for Mike Ridley and Kelly Miller.

Carpenter re-sign with the Caps ahead of the 1992-93 season, but donned #11 after Miller took over the #10 role. On his second stint, Carpenter was only able to register 11 goals and 28 points over 68 games.