The Top 5 Highlights in Washington Capitals' 2013-14 Season so Far
There was a memorable debut for a new member of the team, and an impressive goal-scoring streak for a returning member. Plus, the team came back from the dead in a wild shootout and then participated in a line brawl.
That's a veritable cornucopia of clips.
Here now are the top five highlights in the Washington Capitals' 2013-14 season so far, complete with video from NHL.com.
Note: All statistics updated through Nov. 2 courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise.
5. Grabo's Opening Night Trick
Mikhail Grabovski is beginning to define his first season with the Washington Capitals. He has taken the negative of being demoted on the forward lines and turned it into a positive by transforming his new line into an offensive juggernaut.
On Nov. 2, Adam Vingan of NHL.com wrote that "the Capitals' third line has been their most productive over the past two weeks. Since joining forces Oct. 19 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chimera, Grabovski and Ward have combined for 10 goals and 22 points at even-strength."
But before all that happened, Grabovski authored his greatest Capitals highlight to date. It came on opening night, on national television, against the defending Stanley Cup champs.
The first goal was the prettiest. Grabo carried the puck into Chicago's zone on a two-on-one break, then beat Corey Crawford on the glove side as he called his own number.
The second and third goals were impressive in their own right. Both came on deflections, and both came on the power play.
Unfortunately for Grabovski, the Capitals wasted his first-career hat trick as they lost 6-4. But Grabovski helped the NHL ring in the regular season in grand style.
4. Chimmer's Hot Streak
On Oct. 24, the Washington Capitals continued their road trip into western Canada with a stop in Edmonton, the hometown of Jason Chimera. The home cooking must have done Chimera good as he was all over the ice that night.
In the second period, he was involved in a deflection goal that was originally awarded to him before being officially credited to Joel Ward.
Late in the game, Chimera scored a goal for which he received sole credit, and it was a much prettier goal anyway.
Line mate Mikhail Grabovski stole the puck in the neutral zone and skated into the Oilers' defensive zone with Chimera alongside. Grabovski then fed the puck through the defender's skates to a streaking Chimera who beat Devan Dubnyk high to the glove side as he rang the pipe and lit the lamp.
That sweet goal was the start of something good, as Chimera began a four-game goal-scoring streak that night. In doing so, he set a career high for consecutive games with a goal.
3. Holtby Finally Lays a Goose Egg
After a slow start to the season, Braden Holtby has begun to hit his stride. The following table bears that out:
|FIRST 5 GAMES||1-3||15||132||117||.886|
|NEXT 5 GAMES||3-2||11||166||155||.934|
The second set of five games included two masterful performances in which he flirted with perfection. On Oct. 19, Holtby made 37 saves but allowed a single marker at 15:05 of the third period. On Oct. 24, Holtby stopped 30 shots but let one in at 17:56 of the third.
The shutout was eluding Holtby in painful fashion. Holtby's first shutout arrived in painful fashion as well, in his 11th game of the season.
In a game in which he would unwillingly participate in his first career fight, Holtby also notched his eighth career shutout. Holtby stopped all 30 shots he faced against the Philadelphia Flyers in a 7-0 Capitals victory.
Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer put Holtby's goaltending performance in perspective, via Twitter:
Tonight was just the 9th time in franchise history that the #Flyers had been shut out while allowing seven or more goals— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) November 2, 2013
Not your garden-variety shutout by any stretch of the imagination.
2. Shocker in the Shootout
The Caps and Jets played a wild game on Oct. 22 in Winnipeg. This contest was actually scoreless after one period. But after two periods, the score was tied at three goals apiece. And after three periods and one overtime, the score was tied at four. And the fun hadn't even started yet.
As the home team in a shootout, the Jets chose when they would shoot, and they opted to go first. Through the first two rounds, however, both teams had failed to score.
Winnipeg's Andrew Ladd scored first in the top of the third round, meaning Nicklas Backstrom would have to score to extend the game for the Caps. He did just that.
So did Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer as the Caps scored three consecutive goals just to stay alive. And they did so without the help of two of their best shootout specialists, as Grabovski and Ovechkin had already shot at this point.
Thus the shootout entered the sixth round. Winnipeg still had not used Evander Kane, who has torched the Capitals for 10 goals on 66 shots in 21 career games, according to Hockey-Reference.com. But the puck rolled on Kane after a deke to his forehand, and he shot it wide on the short side. Finally, the Caps would have a chance to win the shootout.
The task fell to Martin Erat. The Czech winger lulled fellow countryman Ondrej Pavelec to sleep before beating him through the pads. The shocking shootout comeback was complete.
1. Turn-Back-the-Clock Night on Broad Street
In the second period, Aaron Volpatti upended Matt Read and sent him to the ice without targeting the head or using a high stick. Nevertheless, the recently acquired Steve Downie objected to the play and squared off with Volpatti.
This was the fifth fight in Downie's career against a member of the Capitals, according to HockeyFights.com. Unfortunately for Downie, he was not fighting Karl Alzner. Downie paid dearly for his choice in sparring partner as Volpatti hammered him with a clean shot to the left eye, bloodying him in the process.
The fight ended as both players stood up, talked to each other and ceased hostilities in what turned out to be Downie asking Volpatti for mercy. Downie had been concussed by that blow to the head, and was taken to the hospital after leaving the game, according to Chris Peters of Eye On Hockey at CBSSports.com.
Then things got a little crazy.
After the Caps took a 7-0 lead early in the third period, Wayne Simmonds became a one-man wrecking crew on the ensuing faceoff, first running over Steve Oleksy and then hitting Tom Wilson cleanly along the boards. Wilson presumably took exception to the hit on Oleksy and the two dropped gloves. The fight was short but intense, and Wilson held his own against the most accomplished fighter he has faced in his short NHL career, according to HockeyFights.com.
Up to that point, the two fights in the game had begun under acceptable circumstances. A player took exception to a legal hit on a teammate and decided to fight the offending player, who was a willing participant. But while Wilson was fighting Simmonds, Flyers goalie Ray Emery decided that another fight should begin under less than acceptable circumstances.
Emery raced down the ice and picked a fight with Caps goalie Braden Holtby, who declined the invitation. Emery insisted, and referee Francois St. Laurent did little to stop him despite Holtby clearly not being interested. St. Laurent did, however, find enough energy to keep Michael Latta from coming to Holtby's defense. Someone needed to do just that, as Emery worked Holtby over pretty good. On the bench during all this, John Carlson was incensed with St. Laurent's backward logic, and rightfully so.
Oh, what a dirty play by Ray Emery! Taking Braden Holtby down! Thug hockey back in town! You’re losing by a touchdown, and you just grab a sweater! If you think that’s gonna get you standings points, think again! The Buffalo Sabres are the only thing saving this team from being the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and now they’ve taken it to the alley in the dirtiest way possible!
The brawl was only half finished at that point. Brayden Schenn squared off with Capitals blue liner Alexander Urbom, just a few feet from Emery and Holtby. Schenn bloodied the big Swede, who did not go down easy. It was a good scrap, as neither Schenn nor Urbom are strangers to a fight, according to HockeyFights.com.
There was one more fight to go in this donnybrook. Caps defender Steve Oleksy squared off with Flyers veteran Vincent Lecavalier as the six remaining players on the ice gathered around the goalies. Lecavalier can handle himself, but Oleksy got the best of him and gave Lecavalier a reason to visit the dentist.
The day after the fight, Eye On Hockey at CBSSports.com provided an update on the status of both Lecavalier and Downie:
More Philly Fight Night fallout: Vincent Lecavalier listed as day-to-day, Steve Downie remains hospitalized http://t.co/EvjWWG069J— Eye on Hockey (@EyeOnHockey) November 2, 2013
As far as the post mortem for the entire game, here is the final tally from a long night of fighting, as tweeted by Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com:
#CapitalsTalk Caps (65) and Flyers (99) combined for 10 fighting majors, 164 penalty minutes.— Chuck Gormley (@ChuckGormleyCSN) November 2, 2013
The rematch is Dec. 15 at Capital Centre. I mean, Verizon Center.