This week was eventful for the Washington Capitals. Andre Burakovsky put a stamp on the scoresheet to lift his spirits up after not suiting up for three games and spoke to Sportsnet about his childhood and his teammates. The team visited children in the hospital to spread holiday cheer, while a fan was shocked to be chosen for the Hockey Is For Everyone program.
After being a healthy scratch for three contests, Burakovsky adjusted his game to fill out the Caps’ third line left wing position. The 23rd-overall draftee was not disheartened by the fact that he was scratched because watching from the press box provided the opportunity to see things from afar. Other young players might hold their sticks too tightly or make mental errors after returning to the lineup, but not Washington’s 2013 1st round selection.
Burakovsky, who hadn’t scored since opening night, opened the scoring early in the first period.
He later assisted on Lars Eller’s goal that moved the Caps ahead 2-1. Burakovsky ended the night with one goal and one assist, moving his season totals to three goals and 12 points. Head coach Barry Trotz insisted the string of healthy scratches was an opportunity for observation and a mental reset. This is a contract year for the young Russian, which could be affecting his play.
“It was nice to get back in and finally get a goal,” Burakovsky told reporters surrounding his locker following the game. “It’s been a while, so it’s about time. I think I played a really good game today. I had a lot of opportunities, skated good and I was really confident with the puck. It was fun to get back in.”
Burakovsky played with Lars Eller and Jakub Vrana. The trio combined for two goals, four points and eight shots on goal. It is paramount that Washington finds a way to even out the last two lines if they are going to make a playoff push.
They cannot rely on the top two lines comprised of Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-TJ Oshie, even though they’re impressive right now. Stanley Cup contenders have three productive forward lines and two substantial defense pairs. Stanley Cup champions have four effective lines and six key defensemen.
Strut Your Stuff and Team-Bonding
Hockey wasn’t Burakovsky’s only vocation growing up. He told Sportsnet’s Sophia Jurksztowicz that he spent some time modeling for “barbershops back home.” He showed her a couple photos and talked about how his teammates are involved in his life from tagging Jay Beagle as his father to giving dating advice. The team is a very close-knit group that support each other and the city.
Recently, the team visited patients at MedStarGeorgetown University Hospital on Dec. 19. There, players met hospitalized children and children receiving outpatient treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer. They handed out blankets and Capitals Kids Club kits that were provided by fans through the team’s Kids Club donation program. Additionally, players and patients painted Caps-themed canvas paintings. However, the children aren’t the only ones receiving special gifts this time of year.
Washington Capitals alumnus and ambassador Peter Bondra surprised United Arab Emirates national player Fatima Al Ali with the gift of a lifetime. Al Ali showed off her stick handling skills during Bondra’s visit to Abu Dhabi to help players at Pavilikovsky Hockey School. He learned her favorite player was Alex Ovechkin and her favorite team was the Washington Capitals.
— NHL (@NHL) December 22, 2016
Al Ali recently met with Pet Etihad Airways’ head of corporate communications at the Etihad Airways Headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Al Ali had no idea Bondra was going to invite her to Washington, D.C. in February as part of “Hockey is For Everyone Month.” She received two plane tickets courtesy of Etihad Airways. She was moved to tears by the kindness and is excited for the chance to meet her favorite superstar and other Capitals players.
Al Ali began her hockey journey in 2008 as the team photographer for the UAE men’s national team and has been playing the sport for six years. The Capitals will be bringing her to the States as part of the league’s initiative program that aims to make hockey accessible to children of all backgrounds.
— Fatima Al Ali (@FatimaAl_Ali) December 21, 2016
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 20, 2016
Michael Mazzuca graduated from The University of Scranton with a degree in journalism and electronic media. Mike began writing for The Hockey Writers in December 2016. He has written for the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as well as the Rockland Boulders independent baseball team. Follow him on Twitter at @MazzucaMike.