Game 54: Red Wings-Washington

Capitals Jim Anderson
This handsome gent is Jim Anderson, the very first coach of the Washington Capitals, who debuted nearly 40 years ago (1974-75 season). Anderson “guided” the Caps to a 4-45-5 record before being mercifully given the ziggy, never to be heard from again.

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Game 20: Red Wings-Washington Enotes

Another night at the Joe, another night of the white shirts celebrating an OT or shootout win.

This is getting old.

The Washington Capitals stormed back from a 1-3 deficit after two periods, tied the game in regulation in nifty fashion, survived an odd OT period, and won on Nicklas Backstrom’s shootout goal—the only goal in the skills competition—taking a 4-3 decision.

The Red Wings (9-5-6) are 0-1-6 in their past seven home games. They haven’t won at JLA since October 15.

Tonight looked like the night, though, when two points would finally be claimed on home ice.

Danny DeKeyser’s PP goal with less than 20 seconds left in the third period gave Detroit a 3-1 lead.

Johan Franzen scored two goals in two minutes in the first period, as the Wings finally got some scoring from secondary players. But it still wasn’t enough to claim victory.

“We just have to keep stepping on the gas pedal,” coach Mike Babcock said on FSD during the second intermission.

Alex Ovechkin had other ideas.

The Great Eight made like a magician, producing a goal like a rabbit out of a hat, simultaneously taking  a pass from behind the net and popping it over Jimmy Howard’s shoulder to cut the lead to 3-2 at 3:19. It was Ovechkin’s 15th goal of the young season.

Michael Latta scored his first goal of the season at 11:54, pouncing on a loose puck in the crease and burying it into an open net, some six feet behind Howard, who was caught way out of position. 3-3 tie.

The overtime was wacky, briefly giving us 3-on-3 hockey due to penalties. Neither team could capitalize—no pun intended—on their truncated power plays in the extra session.

In the shootout, the Red Wings tried to get cute, and two of their three shooters didn’t even get a shot off.

Backstrom, the last shooter, slipped a deft shot through Howard’s pads to win the game for Washington (11-8-1).

BOTTOM LINE: The Wings have now lost 11 straight games at home that have gone into OT/SO. It’s the longest such streak in the NHL since 1987.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: These one-point gets at home will come back to haunt the Red Wings later in the season. The schedule is home heavy through the end of December, then the Wings will be on the road an awful lot starting in January.

Spotlight on the Opponent: Nicklas Backstrom

What: Washington at Detroit
When: Friday, November 15, 7:30pm (TV: FSD, NHLN-US)

nickbackstromNicklas Backstrom

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is the most prolific scorer in the NHL, post 2004-05 lockout. Since debuting as a rookie in 2005, RW Ovechkin has scored 385 goals.

But as good as Ovechkin is, he can’t create everything for himself.

On a great number of those Ovechkin goals, starting in 2007, an assist has come from Caps C Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom, who turns 26 in eight days, has notched 321 assists since breaking into the NHL as a 19-year-old in 2007. In fact, his assist totals per season almost mirror Ovechkin’s goal scoring.

Of course, not every Ovechkin goal has been assisted on by Backstrom—it just seems that way.

Last season, Caps coach Adam Oates had Ovechkin and Backstrom skating on different lines. The team was struggling for weeks, so Oates reunited the pair and voila! A 13-3-1 run ensued, with O&B combining for 21 goals and 49 points in that stretch leading up to the playoffs.

Kind of reminds you of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, eh?

The spark that Ovechkin and Backstrom provided during that hot streak that began last March came as no surprise to teammates such as Troy Brouwer.

“Nicky and Ovi have played together for quite a few number of years; they’ve got good chemistry between them,” Brouwer said at the time Oates made the move.

Like RW Todd Bertuzzi, who plays with Hank and Pavs in Detroit, the third spot on the line with O&B is one to be cherished.

For now, that spot in Washington is being filled by veteran Martin Erat, recently promoted from the fourth line.

But Backstrom is the kid who flies under the radar, and in the shadow of Ovechkin. Yet Backstrom would undoubtedly be in the top 5 of players most GMs would love to acquire.

These days, Backstrom has other things on his mind. On October 8, his girlfriend gave birth to the couple’s first child, a girl named Haley.

“It was probably the best moment in my life so far,” Backstrom said of Haley’s birth. “It’s just a great feeling when it’s all over. It’s just long, long wait. You get a combination between nervous and excited but after all, we’re all healthy, feeling good.

“It’s hard to describe the feelings. If you’ve been there yourself you understand it better. It’s a great feeling and we’re just so happy.”

And that, of course, was Backstrom’s biggest “assist.”

Backstrom wears no. 19 for the Capitals (10-8-1).

Game 20: Red Wings-Washington

Thank goodness for Google Images, because without it, I don’t know if you would believe what you’re about to read.

The Washington Capitals visit the Red Wings tonight, and as I always do the day of a Red Wings game, I like to post something nostalgic about the opponents—a video, a photo, etc.

Today I must explain what you are about to see.

In October 1974, my folks took us to a Red Wings game. The opponents were the expansion Washington Capitals. The same Caps team that would win only eight games in their maiden season.

So the ice is resurfaced before the game and the door at the end of the rink opposite our seats opens, and here come the Capitals, skating onto the ice.

The jeers and hoots and hollers began immediately. Even as an 11-year-old, I knew that it was not your usual fan reaction to the other guys coming onto the ice.

The reason was obvious. The Capitals were wearing white pants.

WHITE pants!

I don’t know if any NHL team had ever worn white pants before, but certainly it hadn’t happened for a very long time, if at all.

Thanks to Google Images, here’s what the uniform looked like, with the white pants:

Capitals White pants

Now, imagine 20 of these guys skating onto the ice.

I will never, and I mean never, forget that crowd reaction when the Capitals emerged that evening.

And, thanks to Google, I can share it with you, some 39 years later.