To say that the Washington Capitals’ 2011-12 season was tumultuous would be an understatement, but there were several moments that stuck out even more so as being just, well, awful. This is a countdown of those awful moments.
Welcome back to the “KOLWTF Countdown,” where we will look back at the five moments of the season that made us scratch our heads, throw our hands to the sky and simply ask, “Why?” Or more appropriately, “WTF?”
No. 4 – February 13 – A Day To Remember…But Not Really
There were plenty of days throughout the season that were filled with nonsensical events, but February 13 stands out above the rest as perhaps the most inane day of the year.
Try to keep up, but first, some background:
- Tomas Vokoun leads the Caps onto the ice against the New York Rangers, but ultimately d0es not start after the illness he is suffering from renders him too sick to play.
- 10:00 a.m.: Vokoun does not take part in the optional morning skate and while it is not made official at the time, it seems inevitable that Michal Neuvirth will start against the San Jose Sharks. Head coach Dale Hunter says that a decision has not been made on whether or not the team will need to recall a goaltender to replace Vokoun.
- 5:20 p.m.: Hunter says during his pregame press conference that the Caps have “not yet” recalled anybody.
- 5:50 p.m.: The Caps officially announce the recalls of Braden Holtby and Joel Rechlicz from AHL Hershey (meaning that both players are in the locker room as Hunter says otherwise 30 minutes earlier).
- Around 6:45 p.m.: Holtby leads the Caps onto the ice and earns his first NHL start of the season, which comes as a surprise.
- Around 7:20 p.m.: Rechlicz is officially in the lineup over both Mike Knuble and recent call-up/AHL leading scorer Keith Aucoin, which comes as an even bigger (and more ridiculous) surprise.
And this all happened before the game officially started. Once the game began, however, things got worse.
The Sharks took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period when Joe Pavelski tipped Dan Boyle’s shot from beyond the red line, causing it to bounce off the ice, ricochet off the top of Holtby’s glove hand and trickle into the net. San Jose took a 3-0 lead in the second period, but Dmitry Orlov’s last-second goal gave Washington hope entering the third. Yet, those good feelings did not last long as Brent Burns scored about five minutes into the final frame to restore San Jose’s three-goal lead. The Sharks went on to win 5-3.
(On a completely unrelated, yet equally weird note, the three Washington goal scorers were Orlov, Roman Hamrlik and Jeff Schultz, who entered the game with just two combined goals among them.)
After the game, Holtby said that he found out that he was starting when he arrived at Verizon Center around 2 p.m. after being made aware of his call-up at around 9:30 that morning. When asked about his decision-making process regarding his goaltenders, Hunter said that he did not want Neuvirth to start back-to-back games, forgetting that Holtby also played for the Bears the day before and had to travel to Washington as well.
The fallout continued on February 14, when Hunter further explained his reasoning behind his interesting personnel decisions. In Rechlicz’s case, Hunter said that he inserted the enforcer into the lineup to counteract Sharks tough guy Brad Winchester, who took a run at Alexander Semin during the teams’ other meeting January 7.
“They had that Winchester,” Hunter said. “He ran over Semin and Ovi had to jump in last game…. So, Winchester wasn’t a factor out there tonight.”
Rechlicz only played 1:30 and earned a 10-minute misconduct while seated on the bench for chirping the Sharks’ bench.
Meanwhile, when asked to gauge Neuvirth’s confidence level after being passed over in favor of Holtby, Hunter criticized Neuvirth’s recent play.
“It’s one of those things that if he was standing on his head every night, would Braden be playing? No,” Hunter said. “It’s always judged by how you play.”
Before Hunter spoke February 14, Neuvirth said that he was not told that he was not starting against the Sharks (though he was not necessarily told that he was, either).
What a day.
Check back throughout the next two weeks for more “KOLWTF” moments.