Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Washington Capitals: The Peerless Prognosticator Brings You the Mockiest of the 2014 Mock Drafts

It’s time for The Peerless’ peerless prognostication for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.  The draft, which will be held this Friday and Saturday in the cheesesteaky, soft pretzelly goodness that is south Philadelphia at CoreStates/First Union/Wachovia/Wells Fargo Center, is a celebration of hope, an orgy of optimism, a carnival of cheerfulness.

Actually, we eagerly anticipate the reception the Phans of Philly will bestow upon Commissioner Gary Bettman as he confidently strides to the podium to announce the first overall selection.  If those folks would boo Santa Claus, well, it should be entertaining.

The object of the exercise, though, is for 30 young men to model the latest in NHL on-ice fashion as those chosen in the first round of the draft.  And so we offer you our scientific take* on who will go where when the teams take their turns on the clock on Friday night.  When the booing of the Commish fades, here is how the first round will unfold.

1.  Florida Panthers -- Aaron Ekblad, D (Barrie/OHL)

2.  Buffalo Sabres – Sam Reinhart, C (Kootenay/WHL)

3.  Edmonton Oilers – Sam Bennett, C (Kingston/OHL)

4.  Calgary Flames – Leon Draisaitl, C (Prince Albert/WHL)

5.  New York Islanders – Michael Dal Colle, LW (Oshawa/OHL)

6.  Vancouver Canucks – Nicholas Ritchie, LW (Peterborough/OHL)

7.  Carolina Hurricanes – William Nylander, RW (Sodertalje/SWE-2)

8.  Toronto Maple Leafs – Jake Virtanen, LW (Calgary/WHL)

9.  Winnipeg Jets – Nikolaj Ehlers, LW (Halifax/QMJHL)

10.  Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa) – Haydn Fleury, D (Red Deer/WHL)

11.  Nashville Predators – Brendan Perlini, LW (Niagara/OHL)

12.  Arizona Coyotes – Kasperi Kapanen, RW (Kalpa/FIN)

13.  Washington Capitals – Kevin Fiala, LW (HV-71 Jr./SWE-JR)

14.  Dallas Stars – Alex Tuch, RW (USA-U18/USHL)

15.  Detroit Red Wings – Jared McCann, C (Sault Ste. Marie/OHL)

16.  Columbus Blue Jackets – Julius Honka, D (Swift Current/WHL)

17.  Philadelphia Flyers – Sonny Milano, LW (USA-U18/USHL)

18.  Minnesota Wild – Dylan Larkin, C (USA-U18/USHL)

19.  Tampa Bay Lightning – Robert Fabbri, C (Guelph/OHL)

20.  San Jose Sharks --  Anthony DeAngelo, D (Sarnia/OHL)

21.  St. Louis Blues – Thatcher Demko, G (Boston College/Hockey East)

22.  Pittsburgh Penguins – David Pastrnak, RW (Sodertalje (SWE-2)

23.  Colorado Avalanche – Adrian Kempe, LW (Modo Jr./SWE-JR)

24.  Anaheim Ducks – Jack Dougherty, D (NTDP-18/USA)

25.  Boston Bruins – Ivan Barbashev, LW (Moncton/QMJHL)

26.  Montreal Canadiens – Jakub Vrana, C (Linkoping/SWE-2)

27.  Chicago Blackhawks – Nikita Scherbak, LW (Saskatoon/WHL)

28.  Tampa Bay Lightning (from NY Rangers) – Roland McKeown, D (Kingston/OHL)

29.  Los Angeles Kings – Brendan Lemieux, LW (Barrie/OHL)

30.  New Jersey Devils – Joshua Ho-Sang (C/RW (Windsor/OHL)

This looks like a draft that has no “generational” player, but rather a consistently well thought of top-five in Ekblad, Reinhart, Draisaitl, Bennett and Dal Colle.  Ekblad was the consensus first overall pick in the mock drafts we looked at, and Dal Colle showed up almost without exception at number five.  In between the other three players jockeyed for position, but almost without exception were in the 2-4 slots.

As for the Capitals, they will likely be in a no-man’s land part of the draft.  The 11-15 neighborhood since the 2004-2005 lockout has produced such players as Anze Kopitar (11th overall in 2005), Ryan McDonagh (12th overall in 2007), and Erik Karlsson (15th overall in 2008), stars all.  It has also offered up Marek Zagrapan (13th overall in 2005), Kyle Beach (11th overall in 2008), and Derek Forbort  (15th overall in 2010), none of whom have dressed for an NHL game to date.

Over that same period the Caps have had only one draft pick in this neighborhood, that being Sasha Pokulok (selected 15th overall) in 2005.  Even though the lack of changes in the front office make the Caps’ recent draft history more relevant than it might be if there had been wholesale changes, there just is not a lot to go on here.

Kevin Fiala fell out of the chute to the Caps on the basis of the way we compiled the assorted mock drafts, not as the product of keen analysis (hey, did that ever stop us?).  But this pick does make some sense.  The under-25 group at left wing at the moment look to be Marcus Johansson (a converted center), Evgeny Kuznetsov (who might be called upon to play center, given the Caps lack of organizational depth at the position), and Andre Burakovsky.  And after the top three centers in this draft (Reinhart, Bennett, and Draisaitl) the talent seems to drop off quite a bit.

As for defense, another position on the Caps’ “to-fill” list, it would appear that Julius Honka would be available if the team chooses to go in that direction.  His would be a logical pick here for similar reasons to those of Fiala.  While both are a bit undersized for their position, they share a quality that seems to be gaining importance in the way the game is being played in the NHL – speed.  For example, Goran srubb, NHL Director of European Scouting said of Fiala
"He impressed with his explosive skating, great puck-handling skills and overall quickness and speed. He has great offensive instincts and is full of surprises in the offensive zone…”

NHL Central Scouting’s Peter Sullivan had this to say about Honka…
“Let’s just say that when you go to a game and you see his name in the lineup, you’re excited to watch the game because he’s got about four or five different gears. You think he’s just skating normally and he puts it in another gear, then another gear…”

There are a host of other concrete reasons to look hard at Honka as well.  Whether Fiala or Honka, both have size issues, but the Capitals had one of the bigger teams in the NHL in recent seasons.  It has not been a harbinger of success.

*  If by “scientific” you mean “look at a bunch of other mock drafts and mash them all up.”

Washington Capitals: A Look Back at a Silly Little Draft Post

We were rummaging through some odd posts we made on some other Web sites before we became respectable and established this site that is read by several each day.  One of them was our take on the 2006 draft, the one that netted the Caps Nicklas Backstrom in the first round.  We prognostified something, well...different.  Which is to say...ok, "stupid" in a number of cases...

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR! Yes, he’s back, he’s rested, he’s as incomprehensible as ever. And for your edification, enjoyment, and excitement, he brings you the only mock draft you’ll ever need. The Peerless prefaces all of this by remarking that he has seen exactly NONE of these players in person, but it’s not like he’s going to get fired for any especially boneheaded picks (but being Peerless, we don’t have to worry about that, do we?). So, here we go . . . as always, do not use these picks for any cash wagers, it just cuts into my take . . .

1. St. Louis . . . “With the first pick overall in the 2006 National Hockey League Amateur Entry Draft, the St. Louis Blues select . . . defenseman, Erik Johnson.” Well, that was a surprise, wasn’t it? He’s at the top of just about every meaningful prospect list. Who am I to argue?

Squirrelly (or just plain Silly) Trade Possibility . . . St. Louis trades the #1 pick to Philadelphia for the Flyers' first, Ben Eager, and Mike Richards. Philadelphia selects Erik Johnson. St. Louis selects Mark Mitera with the Flyers’ pick.

2. Pittsburgh . . . Phil Kessel, C. If the Penguins draft any more centers, they’ll start to look like the center-crazed Flyers. Kessel can be a wing, he can be a thigh and a breast, he can be fryer parts for all the Penguins care . . . they need a goal-scorer, and this guy also provides insurance against a Malkin no-show.

STP . . . Pittsburgh trades the #2 pick to Phoenix for the Coyotes' first and Enver Lisin. Pittsburgh selects Kyle Okposo, Phoenix selects Kessel.

3. Chicago . . . Jordan Staal, C. The Hawks would go for Kessel, if available, but The Peerless, if you’ve read this far, has Kessel gone by now. So, the Hawks go for a player with some degree of name recognition. They need it; folks are starting to wonder if the Hawks have moved.

STP . . . Chicago trades the #3 pick to Colorado for the Avalanche's first and second picks this year and a first next year. Colorado selects Staal, Chicago selects Artem Anisimov with the Avalanche pick.

4. Washington . . . Jonathan Toews, C. There is a temptation to select Niklas Backstrom with this pick, but the Caps used their top three picks last year -- Sasha Pokulok, Joe Finley, Andrew Thomas - on NCAA players. Maybe it’s a GPA thing.

STP . . . Washington trades the #4 pick to Nashville for Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne. Nashville selects Backstrom.

5. Boston . . . Niklas Backstrom, C. Boston needs forwards. Lucky for them, the best player left is a forward.

STP . . . Boston trades the #5 pick to Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver’s 3rd rounder in this draft (82nd overall) and a second rounder in 2007. Why? Why not?

6. Columbus . . . Peter Mueller, C. This selection fulfills a childhood desire to dress up in a red, white and blue sweater with a bug on it.

STP . . . Columbus trades Jan Hrdina to Washington for Dainius Zubrus. The trade hockey fans across the continent have been waiting for over the past five years is finally consummated.

7. NY Islanders . . . Derick Brassard, C. Mike Milbury is seen being physically restrained by Islanders staff in his efforts to get to the podium and announce the selection of Eeku Heikkinen (The Peerless’ choice for the best name in the draft). Fans can hear shrieks of ‘EEEEEEEEK-oo EEEEEEEEK-oo” from the wings.

STP . . . The Islanders trade Alexei Yashin to the California Golden Seals for a conditional draft pick. It is three days before the league realizes there is a problem here.

8. Phoenix . . . Jiri Tlusty, LW. As Gary Bettman experiences difficulty with the microphone, Wayne Gretzky offers assistance . . . “you have to take the microphone thusly.” This is recorded as the Coyotes’ selection, and thusly, Tlusty is selected.

STP . . . Phoenix trades Paul Mara to Washington for the Capitals’ two second round picks in this draft (34th and 35th overall picks), just so Mara can hear Alex Ovechkin describe over and over how he scored that goal after Mara was draped all over him last January.

9. Minnesota . . . Kyle Okposo, RW. Seems a pretty good fit for Jacques Lemaire’s club. And, he hails from St. Paul. They can keep an eye on him while he’s at U-Minn.

STP . . . The Wild trade Marian Gaborik to Atlanta for Andy Sutton and Jim Slater, which will allow journalists to use the line all year, “goal scored by Marian (Gaborik) from Marian (Hossa).

10. Florida . . . Bryan Little, C. It would figure that Florida has four forwards (Roberts, Nieuwendyk, Gelinas, Stumpel) with an average age of 37. The team meal is the early bird at Stuckey’s.

STP . . . Florida trades Roberto Luongo to Detroit for the rights to the last production Hummer H1.

11. Los Angeles . . . Michael Frolik, RW. The sports headlines write themselves in Tinsel Town . . . “Frolik Frolics with Terrific Tally in Final Frame.”

STP . . . Los Angeles trades this pick and an opportunity to be adopted by Angelina Jolie to St. Louis for the #1 overall pick.

12. Atlanta . . . James Sheppard, LW. What with Peter Bondra a sure bet to return to DC (...two, three, four), the Thrashers need to be thinking about the future.

STP . . . Atlanta trades this pick to Carolina for Cory Stillman in the hopes that the Cup will follow him around the Southeast Division.

13. Toronto . . . Bob Sanguinetti, D. With Carlo Colaiacovo, these two constitute the most inches of jersey name plate for defensemen in the National Hockey League. If you can’t have a cup in 40 years, you can have something.

STP . . . The Leafs don’t make any trades, secure in the thought that they have all the ingredients they need to assume their rightful place as Stanley Cup champions. Leafs’ personnel are led out of GM Place in straight-jackets.

14. Vancouver . . . Chris Stewart, RW. Bye Todd.

STP . . . Vancouver trades Todd Bertuzzi to Colorado for “future considerations.” Hilarity ensues.

15. Tampa Bay . . . Jonathan Bernier, G. When the coach kneecaps one goalie with his comments and doesn’t particularly want to play the other one, you’ve got a “situation.” Tampa will be sniffing for a goalie in trade or an FA, but they need a longer term solution, too.

STP . . . Tampa trades this pick to Dallas for the Stars first in this draft (27th) and Vojtek Polak. Tampa selects Riku Helenius, Dallas picks Cory Emmerton.

16. Montreal . . . Nigel Williams, D. Montreal has a lot of young guys, but seems to lack a guy to compliment Mike Komisarek as a physical presence, and Williams seems to have more offensive upside.

STP . . . Montreal offers this pick, their first rounders for the next three years, Chris Higgins, Alexander Perezhogin, and a brick from the old Forum to Pittsburgh for Sidney Crosby. The Pens say, “no thanks,” but do offer Shane Endicott for that package.

17. Minnesota . . . Riku Helenius, G. To get in line behind Josh Harding.

STP . . . The Wild trade their butt-fugly jerseys for burlap wheat sacks with arm holes cut out. It starts a trend.

18. Colorado . . . Cory Emmerton, C. I saw a picture of this kid and wondered if his voice has changed yet.

STP . . . Colorado trades Steve Konowalchuk to Washington for Jonas Johansson and a second round pick in 2007. Konowalchuk retires to collect hub caps in Telluride.

19. Anaheim . . . Ty Vishart, D. Well-regarded prospect pool, but another defenseman can’t hurt.

STP . . . The Ducks trade the term “mighty” for another adjective . . . “dead,” “lame,” and “Peking” are rejected.

20. San Jose . . . Patrik Berglund, C. Insurance against losing a top center down the road to free agency.

STP . . . No thanks, we’re fine.

21. NY Rangers . . . Chris Summers, D. Larry Brooks would rather the Rangers just buy a forward as a long term strategy (he pretty much makes this point in his blurb in The Hockey News). Hey, here’s an idea . . . draft somebody.

STP . . . What?! Whaddya mean the Blue Jackets won’t take Colton Orr for Rick Nash?!?!

22. Philadelphia . . . Mark Mitera, D. At least he won’t be a free-standing sculpture suitable for display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

STP . . . Philadelphia trades this pick to Houston for Yao Ming.

23. Washington . . . Artem Anisimov, C. OK, it’s a stretch, but his name is an anagram for “A Vomit Seminar.” Here’s hoping that’s his effect on opponents with sick skills and not fans.

STP . . . The Caps trade the 34th and 35th picks in this draft to Vancouver for the 14th overall pick. Washington picks Nigel Williams, Vancouver picks Michael Grabner and Mike Forney.

24. Buffalo . . . Dennis Persson, D. Not a deep team at this position, now or down the road. Unless you’re thinking “Norris” and “Nathan Paetsch” should occupy the same sentence, in which case . . . seek help.

STP . . . A three way deal . . . Buffalo sends a 2-CD set of highlights of their second round playoff series to Ottawa for an autographed picture of John Muckler. Buffalo sends the picture to the Islanders for a puck signed by Ted Nolan.

25. New Jersey . . . Ryan White, C. One of the class of player referred to as “two way forward.” Calgary probably would have taken this guy with the next pick . . . nyah, nyah.

STP . . . OK, so let’s go with that. New Jersey and Calgary trade places for the cost of the Flames’ second rounder (59th overall). Calgary takes White, Jersey takes Michael Grabner with the 26th pick.

26. Calgary . . . Michael Grabner, RW. Fast and a scorer. Calgary was 28th in goals scored this year. They could use some help there, even if this guy won’t contribute for a few years yet.

STP . . . I’ll go with that New Jersey one.

27. Dallas . . . Ondrej Fiala, C. I hope you’ll pardon me for a moment. I sprained my face trying to pronounce his name.

STP . . . No, the Stars are not taking Terrell Owens off your hands, Tuna.

28. Ottawa . . . Yuri Alexandrov, D. Hey, does it matter? Really? They have the most talent in the league and go toes up every spring.

STP . . . trade some speed for heart.

29. Detroit . . . David Fischer, D. At least they won’t need to sew a new name plate on the jersey when Jiri has to leave the game much too soon.

STP . . . Kirk Maltby for a case of glucosamine to keep Chelios upright this year.

30. St. Louis . . . Nick Foligno, LW. Pretty good blood lines; his father was a gritty sort. With as much skill as the Blues need, they’ll need this, too.

STP . . . Trade this pick and the #1 overall this year, plus Timofei Shishkanov (who The Peerless picked solely on the basis of liking to say, “Timofei Shishkanov”) and a 2007 second round pick to Pittsburgh for Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh selects Erik Johnson and Eric Gryba.

And, the most intriguing player perhaps in this draft is a 6’2”, 180 pound center out of Russia described by Central Scouting as having “excellent vision ... soft hands - a very good passer and playmaker … very good puck control … has a good selection of shots. very good over-all skill level …Physical, tall and hard working forward.” He is the 30th ranked European skater at Central Scouting, perhaps a middle-round pick.

Viktor Tikhonov, the grandson of the Soviet coaching legend.

Happy Draft Day, Caps fans!!!

Yes...Happy Draft Day, Caps fans.  We'll be posting something about this year's draft soon.

Washington Capitals: The 2013-2014 Season -- Ten Games that Mattered: Milestones, Part II

In looking at ten games that mattered to the Washington Capitals in the 2013-2014 season, we covered those ten that mattered in the team’s fortunes, and we covered those first five in the 2013 portion of the season that mattered in terms of individual milestones.  Now, we close out the “Games That Mattered” series with games from the 2014 portion of the season in which individual milestones were reached.

February 8, 2014: Washington 3 – New Jersey 0

When the Capitals hosted the New Jersey Devils on February 8th, it would be their last game before the break for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  The Caps were struggling heading into the break, stuck in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and 13th place in the Eastern Conference, but just three points out of seventh place.  Every point mattered.  They mattered to the Devils, too, who were tied with the Caps in standings points.  It meant that this game played like a playoff game, or perhaps just a boring game.  The teams were scoreless through two periods, Braden Holtby stopping all 19 shots he faced, and Cory Schneider turning aside all 16 shots coming his way.

Ten minutes of the third period elapsed without either team lighting the lamp.  Then, the Caps had a faceoff in the Devils’ end to the left of Schneider.  Nicklas Backstrom won the draw from Adam Henrique back to Patrick Wey at the right point.  Wey sent the puck D-to-D to Julien Brouillette at the left point.  Brouillette walked the puck down the left wing boards a couple of steps, then wristed the puck at the New Jersey net.  Martin Erat waved at the puck looking for a deflection but had the effect of distracting Schneider just enough to allow the puck to sail by his blocker and in for Brouillette’s first NHL goal.

That would be all that Holtby would need, but there were still a couple of milestones to record.  Martin Erat got his first goal of the season (only his second with the Caps) into an empty net with 1:47 left.  It was enough time for the Devils to pull their goalie again and for the Caps to make them pay again.  It started with the Devils’ Marek Zidlicky trying to backhand the puck up ice from just outside his own blue line to teammate Jon Merrill at the red line. Merrill and the Caps’ Troy Brouwer jostled for the puck, Brouwer prying it out from Merrill’s skates along the wall near the players’ bench and flipping it into the air toward the Devils’ net.  Zidlicky tried to knock it out of mid-air, but swung and missed, the puck settling into the back of the net for Brouwer’s 100th NHL goal in the 3-0 Caps win.

Photo: Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

March 1, 2014: Washington 4 – Boston 2

The Caps embarked on what would be a grueling March schedule by visiting the Boston Bruins, carrying a three-game winning streak to Beantown.  Things do not come easy for visitors to Boston, but the Caps did have their highly-ranked power play in their corner.  It cashed in late in the first period.  If you ordered it in a bar, you would have asked for “the usual.”  In this case it was Nicklas Backstrom off the right wing wall to John Carlson at the top of the offensive zone to Alex Ovechkin in the left wing circle for a one-timer that beat goalie Tuukka Rask to the short side.  It was Ovechkin’s 799th career point.

He got number 800 early in the second period on another power play.  It was “the usual” with a twist.  It started when goalie Braden Holtby skated into the corner to his right to play the puck up the wall to Joel Ward.  After skating the puck down the right wing to the Boston blue line, Ward sent the puck to Marcus Johansson in the middle.  Johansson took a step in, then backhanded a pass to Ovechkin at the top of the left wing circle for a one-timer that knuckled over Rask’s left shoulder to give the Caps a 2-0 lead.

Then it was time for someone else to reach a milestone.  Mid-way through the second period the Bruins won a center ice faceoff.  The puck came back to Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who tried to slide it off to his partner, Matt Bartkowski.  However, Joel Ward stepped between them and stole the puck, breaking in on Rask.  As Ward skated in Rask overcommitted to his left, leaving it only for Ward to pull the puck to his backhand and slide it past Rask’s extended right pad to make it 3-0.  It was Ward’s 18th goal of the season, setting a new career high.  It would be the game-winning tally in the Caps’ 4-2 win over the Bruins.

Photo: Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

March 5, 2014: Philadelphia 6 – Washington 4

The Caps win over Boston on March 1st tied their longest winning streak of the season – four games.  It did not get to five.  The Philadelphia Flyers put an end to the fun with a 5-4- overtime win on March 2nd in which the Caps blew a 4-2 lead in the third period.  The Caps had a chance to get even in the back half of the home-and-home in Philadelphia on March 5th.

It did not go well, especially at first.  The Flyers jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the game was 32 minutes old, chasing starting goaltender Braden Holtby. Then the Caps mounted a charge.  Barely two minutes after the Flyers’ fourth goal the Caps scored on a power play.  It was an innocent enough looking play, starting when Jason Chimera took the puck off the left wing wall and passed it out to Alex Ovechkin at the left wing point.  Ovechkin passed across to Mike Green at the opposite point where Green faded back and wristed a shot at the Flyers’ net.  Goalie Steve Mason seemed to have the shot lined up, but defenseman Andy McDonald might have gotten his hand on the puck as it was sailing by, deflecting it just enough to elude Mason and get the Caps on the board.  For Chimera it was his 300th point in the NHL. The odd part of the moment was that the goal was originally credited to Joel Ward, thus taking Chimera off the scoring line (Green and Ovechkin with the original assists).

After Alex Ovechkin got the Caps within two 6:35 into the third period, the Caps struck again just 2:50 later.  Late in a 4-on-4 situation, Troy Brouwer got things going when, from his own blue line, he sent the puck up to Jack Hillen just as he was being spilled to the ice when his skate and that of Claude Giroux got tangled up.  Hillen chased down the puck along the back wall and nudged it along to Nicklas Backstrom.  Coming out from behind the Flyers net Backstrom returned the puck to Hillen at the right wing wall along the goal line extended. 

As this was going on the Flyers lost track of Brouwer, last seen tumbling to the ice at his own blue line.  He got up and made his way back on the weak side of the play.  It was there that Hillen found him with a pass that Brouwer one-timed past Mason to get the Caps within a goal at 4-3.  For Brouwer it was his 200th NHL point.  It would be as close as the Caps would get, though.  After the Flyers and Caps exchanged goals mid-way through the period the Flyers cashed in on an empty net goal with 52 seconds left for the 6-4 win.

Photo: Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

March 14, 2014: Washington 4 – Vancouver 3

The Caps needed a win…badly.  Losers of five of their previous six games (1-4-1), including both ends of a home-and-home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps took the ice against the Vancouver Canucks.  The Canucks were made to order for the struggling Caps.  They had a 2-4-1 record in tier previous seven games, their wins coming against hapless Calgary and Winnipeg. 

It was the Caps getting the early lead on a goal by Joel Ward.  It was matched, however, by a Vancouver goal by Jordan Schroeder barely three minutes later.  That was how the teams went to the first intermission, an interlude that would be followed by “The Evgeny Kuznetsov Show.”  Seven minutes into the second period Vancouver’s Tom Sestito made the mistake of hooking Tom Wilson, not for how Wilson might respond (he didn’t), but for what followed with Sestito in the penalty box.  A minute into the ensuing power play Joel Ward won a faceoff in the Canucks’ end back to John Carlson at the right point.  Carlson fed the puck to Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer that sailed high and wide past goalie Eddie Lack.  The puck skittered along the glass, dropping at the feet of Kuznetsov along the right wing boards.  He fed Carlson, and Carlson gave Ovechkin another chance.  He did not miss, one-timing the puck past Lack to give the Caps the lead and Kuznetsov his first NHL point.

Then fans got a glimpse of Kuznetsov’s vision and skill.  It started in the Caps’ end when Mike Green sent the puck across to Jack Hillen.  From there Hillen sent the puck ahead to Jay Beagle heading out of the defensive zone.   At the red line Beagle fed Kuznetsov at the Canucks’ blue line in front of the players’ bench.  After taking a couple of steps down the left wing Kuznetsov would up for a slap shot.  However, with Beagle charging for the net a passing lane opened up, and Kuznetsov took advantage of it, hitting Tom Wilson in stride with a pass.  Wilson snapped the puck over Lack’s glove and in to give the Caps a 3-1 lead 12:35 into the second period.

The two-goal lead did not hold up, though.  Vancouver scored a pair of goals 3:06 apart early in the third period to tie the game.  The tie would not last another three minutes.  Kuznetsov did the heavy lifting, working the puck around the back of the Vancouver net with Canuck defenseman Alexander Edler hanging on.  He put on the brakes in the left wing corner, spun the other way and hit Nicklas Backstrom at the near post.  Backstrom circled back around the Vancouver net and found Mike Green at the top of the right wing circle.  Green slid to his left, then wristed the puck through a clot of bodies past Lack to give the Caps their last lead of the night, Kuznetsov getting his third point of the contest.  When it was over, Kuznetsov had his first NHL point and first multi-point game in the Caps’ 4-3 win.

Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

March 30, 2014: Nashville 4 – Washington 3 (OT/SO)
April 13, 2014: Tampa Bay 1 - Washington 0 (OT/SO)

The last “game” that mattered individually among the Capitals in their 2013-2014 season is a two-fer, a reminder of the passage of time.  On March 30th Mike Green appeared in his 500th NHL game.  It was a long night for the nine-year veteran.  He led all players for both teams with 34:08 of ice time, the most ice time he logged all season by more than three minutes and a career high in the regular season.  He also had an assist on the evening, but the Caps dropped a 4-3 trick shot competition to the Nashville Predators.

When Nicklas Backstrom took the ice on April 13th against Tampa Bay, it was his 82nd game of the season.  In doing so he became the third player in franchise history to appear in 82 games four times in his career, tying Dale Hunter and Brook Laich for the all-time franchise lead.  It was the first time he played in all 82 games of a season since the 2009-2010 campaign.  For Backstrom it was as frustrating a night as it was for everyone else, given that no goals were scored by either team in the hockey portion of the evening.  He did tie for the team lead in shots, though, and won 12 of 20 faceoffs in addition to tying for the team lead in blocked shots (three).

Photo: John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

And with that the 2013-2014 season is over so far as our look back is concerned.  It was a disappointing season, but one that had its moments, too.  Let’s hope there are more good ones than bad ahead as we look forward to the 2014-2015 season.