capitals hunting for a win after dismal night
BY BRIAN MCNALLY | FEB. 27, 2018
CAPITALS (35-21-7, 77 points) VS. SENATORS (21-30-10, 52 points)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Capital One Arena
TV: NBCSW, NHL.TV
RADIO: 106.7 The Fan
THE SCENARIO: The Capitals need a win. Red flags are flying everywhere after a 5-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday. They are in second place in the Metropolitan Division behind the Philadelphia Flyers, of all teams. Those “Fire Hackstol!” chants sure seem like a distant memory.
The record since Jan. 11 is a mediocre 8-8-4. The blueline is shaky. Braden Holtby isn’t himself. Philipp Grubauer appears set to start tonight. He has won three starts in a row and since Oct. 29, in 19 appearances, is 7-5-2 with a .936 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average.
Keep in mind you could see history Tuesday. Alex Ovechkin scored again on Monday and now sits at 597 career goals. A hat trick and he becomes the 20th player in NHL history to reach 600. Remarkable. Even a goal — or two – tonight would set up an awesome subplot to the Stadium Series game in Annapolis on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Defenseman Jakub Jerabek will make his Caps debut tonight after spending a week in limbo thanks to his immigration status following the trade with Montreal. Don’t expect an instant impact. He hasn’t played in a game since Feb. 1. It’s expected Jerabek will play on the right side of a pairing with Brooks Orpik.
General manager Brian MacLellan and coach Barry Trotz have said the next few weeks will be an experiment of sorts as the team tries to work out is most optimal blueline combinations. That doesn’t seem to jibe with quickly restoring order and winning the division, but maybe they don’t care about that at this point. Just stabilize things, make the playoffs and see what happens.
Meanwhile, MacLellan praised rookie Christian Djoos on Monday. But someone has to sit if they’re going to see what Jerabek has got, so Djoos looks like the odd-man out. He was out on the ice late with Alex Chiasson, fellow rookie defenseman Madison Bowey and AHL Hershey recall Travis Boyd. Only 11 Caps took part in the optional skate this morning, including Holtby and Grubauer.
Boyd is an interesting case. The Caps are allowed to carry as many players as they can after the NHL trade deadline – as long as they fit under the NHL salary cap. They appear to have brought him in as a permanent depth forward. Boyd has 44 points (15 goals, 29 assists) in 56 games with Hershey. He ranks second on the Bears in points and goals. He even had a four-goal game on Feb. 17 against the Laval Rocket. It’s been a steady rise for a player taken in the sixth round, No. 177 overall, by the Caps in the 2011 NHL draft.
Boyd played four seasons of college hockey at Minnesota and in three years with Hershey, 208 games, he has 52 goals and 108 assists (160 points).
The Caps could still send Boyd back to Hershey to get some game action, but he’s expected to remain in the NHL for the most part. That frankly made it hard to pack, but Boyd joked that he’s close enough to drive back to Hershey on an off day to pick up some things.
“I was just kind of going about my business down in Hershey, starting to play really well down there,” Boyd said. “We’ve been winning some games. But, yeah, got the call late last night and they told me and I’ll take the switch of plans to come up here.”
Boyd is No. 72 for you number nerds. Jerabek is No. 28 so don’t freak when you see him on the ice tonight. Alex Semin hasn’t returned from Siberia.
Taking a bit of a guess at the lines here because of the optional skate and because Barry Trotz won’t speak with reporters until 5 p.m.
Capitals projected lineup
Alex Ovechkin — Nicklas Backstrom — Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana — Evgeny Kuznetsov — T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly — Lars Eller — Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson — Jay Beagle –Devante Smith-Pelly
Dmitry Orlov — Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny — John Carlson
Brooks Orpik — Jakub Jerabek
Scratched: Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Alex Chiasson, Travis Boyd