Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Bus Arrived In NJ, Team Didn't

Capitals 2, Devils 7

Worst game the Capitals have played yet. They didn’t even show up for the game. Two gimme goals by Alex Ovechkin (who has now scored a goal in 4 games straight) and Brian Sutherby were post-Christmas gifts.

The Devils came out with a huge work ethic and out skated, out played, and even out witted the Capitals in every part of the game. The Caps were not in position and watched more of the action than take part of any of it. About 16 minutes in the second, starting goalie Brent Johnson suffered a groin injury (or got out of the game sensing it would be a blow out) and Olaf Kolzig looked very uncomfortable in net.

Not to take from any thing away of the talent of the Devils, but a college team could have entered the building and beat the Caps in this game. The Capitals could not get motivated or produce anything other than headaches. Even with opportunities on Martin Brodeur alone the Caps would shoot into the chest or a soft shot for the Devils net minder to knock down.

The Refs in this game were just horrible. After about the 9th interference pick the Devils did on Caps players, I was ready to rip a pillow apart. The Devils were picking all night. Overall a horrible game if you are a Caps fan, which I am wondering why I still am. Is there a bright side you ask? Ovechkin gets his 21st goal. There is your bright side.

Overall Grade: F

Wash Post will have all the details of the Devils great win over a crappy Capitals’ effort. The only thing I can pray for is for the Capitals to right the ship by the time they play the Flyers.

Now I have to go pack my bags and take a week hiatus in Tucson were hopefully the Caps will find their winning ways when I come back.

Trades Past,Present And Future

Caps make some moves that don’t include Brendan Witt or Olaf Kolzig. General Manager George McPhee made the change for forward Colin Forbes for Stephen Peat. Forbes will not report to the Capitals however, he will start his stint in Hershey.

This is Forbes second round with the Capitals after signing with the team as a free agent in 2002. Forbes last NHL points were with the Capitals in the ’01-’02 season. He has played 308 NHL games were he has posted a career 33 goals, 28 assists, and 211 PIMs.

McPhee did acknowledge on OLN that other GMs were interested in obtaining Kolzig. Whether any of those deals were too good to pass up, we will never know, but McPhee stood his ground on keeping the All-Star goaltender.

No word yet on the trade status of defensemen Witt, but closer to the playoffs teams may look to be interested in beefing up the blue line with a seasoned veteran.

A disappointment for the Capitals would have to be the healing process of Jeff Friesen. He has now been on Injury Reserve since November 11th. The last goal the veteran player has scored for the Capitals was October 26th versus Buffalo.

Jet Lagged

Capitals 3, Bruins 4

It’s good to be back and it’s good to actually see an entire game in as many days. Just wish the outcome was better. The Caps played well, but were not able to stop the Bruins late charge. And it was on “national” television. I can’t wait for NBC to start broadcasting games.

The Caps put together a great game including doing better on the power play. But after the spectacular goal by Alex Ovechkin, the Caps just laid down, and allowed the Bruins to tie the game late in the third and win in overtime. I guess that 13th win is harder to get than once believed.

Overall Grade: B-

Wash Post gets the basics down on the game. Some highlights: Ovechkin scored his 21st goal, Mathieu Biron scored 3 power play goals in three straight games, Olaf Kolzig was outstanding in net with 39 saves. Brendan Witt played in his 600th NHL game, all of them with the Caps. Lowlights: the Caps were held below 20 shots on net, and were out shot 3-0 in the extra period.

Now that I am back, I am off again across the country to Tucson. So it’s my second last post of the year. Yeah for you!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

USA, All The Way!

The U.S. pulls its roster last night during an OLN broadcast of the Stars vs. Wild in St. Paul. I am sure that upped the ratings for this thrilling game.

Okay, so here is the roster for 2006. A few surprises and a few disappointments. I couldn’t be happier that Jeremy Roenick is not found on the roster. Better luck next time Jeremy.

Okay, let’s breakdown the Goaltenders first. All three will be making their debut in the red, white, and blue. Whose in:

Rick DePietro, Winthrop Mass. (Islanders): A good goalie with a so-so year. Right now he is letting big rebounds out and is not squaring up to the puck as well as the next two guys.

Robert Esche, Utica NY (Flyers): A streaky goalie that has improved his consistency of late. I don’t expect him to be the starter, unless he turns it up a notch in the next month or so. Esche however does have some international experience.

John Grahame, Denver CO (Lightning): A goalie that had a rocky start to the season but has found a good grove and is playing well behind the Tampa Bay defense. I see him as the #1 or 2 goalie on this squad.

The D-men.

It’s mostly a veteran squad on the blue line with Chris Chelios (Chicago IL/Red Wings), Darian Hatcher (Sterling Heights MI/Flyers), Brian Rafalski (Dearborn MI/Devils), Mathieu Schnieder (New York, NY/Red Wings) and Aaron Miller (Buffalo, NY/Kings). New-comers include John-Michael Liles (Zionsville, IN/Avalanche) and Jordan Leopold (Golden Valley, MN/Flames).

The defense should be solid in front of whomever, the pick up of Leopold and Liles I thought was a good choice. The D-core should be a quick, yet physical bunch.


Making a return to the USA sweaters are Keith Tkachuk (Melrose MA/Blues), Chris Drury (Trumbull, CT/Sabres), Bill Guerin (Wilbraham, MA/Stars), Mike Modano (Livonia MI/Stars), Brian Rolston (Flint MI/Wild), and Doug Weight (Warren MI/Blues).

Making their Olympic debut are Jason Blake (Moorhead MN/Islanders), Erik Cole (Oswego, NY/Hurricanes), Craig Conroy (Potsdam, NY/Kings), Brian Gionta (Rochester NY/Devils), Scott Gomez (Anchorage, AK/Devils), Mike Knuble (Toronto, ON/Flyers).

I was happy to see Cole’s name on the roster as well as Gomez and Gionta. All of those guys are hard working players and contribute to the team. Gionta is the goal scorer for the US, having the best scoring record to date.

Disappointed to not see Tony Amonte and Eric Weinrich not on the roster as both are favorites of mine. I was surprised that Roenick was not named, but I don’t think he earned his spot for the winter Olympics in Turin Italy.

As usual, no Capitals made the US roster as the Wash Post reports. Jeff Halpern, Ben Clymer and Chris Clark were all passed up for this Olympic bid for gold. Brent Johnson could also be considered, but has not played the games or has much to show for officials to consider his chances.

The Capitals won’t be without any representation in Turin however, Alex Ovechkin will likely be on the Russian squad, Ivan Majesky will represent Slovakia, and Olaf Kolzig will start in net for the German squad.

I think the U.S. team looks solid. A nice mixture of veteran and youth combine should make for a good team core. Who will start in net of course will be the big question. I like Grahame of late. He has helped his team make the Southeast Division more of a race that a blow out by Carolina.

Now all we have to do is wait for Canada to announce their roster, wonder if they will do it during a OLN broadcast. Doubt it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I'm On Vacation!

Caught the game last night and the Caps can’t figure out Roberto Luongo. The Caps once again fall to the Panthers even shooting a franchise record 55 shots against the Panthers’ goaltender.

Caps just couldn’t get anything in, and they had plenty of opportunities.

Overall Grade: B

Since I didn’t see the San Jose game I really can’t grade. Hanlon should have let Kolzig rest for that game, and I was surprised to see his name as the starting goalie. The Caps looked a little tired for the Panther game due to the cross continental trip from San Jose.

Wash Post will cover the details on both the Panthers and San Jose’s wins. Since I will not be able to post until after the holidays you’re on your own for the next couple of games. Just take deep breaths and remind yourself its ok.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Catching Up Just To Fall Behind Again.

I think one of the hardest things about having a blog is the Christmas season. Traveling makes it hard for me to catch the games and update my opinions of the game. So please bear with me as I will try to catch Caps games when I can, while I am on the road.

Wow, what a difference a day makes. Lots of news, so little time.

Penguins say goodbye to Eddie Olczyk Thursday. Olczyk was sort of the Pens’ Jim Schoenfeld to make a comparison for Caps fans. Their commentary was great to listen to in the booth, but taking the reins of a hockey team is a completely different thing.

Olczyk had no prior experience behind the bench. So why did you hire him, because he’s looks good there? That is the least of the Pens fans worries however, as talks heat up more about the team possibly moving to Kansas City.

The Southeast Division is having a surprising affect on Western Conference teams. 4 of the five teams have posted a .500 record or better versus our friends on the left side of the map. Tampa Bay is 4-1, Carolina 4-2-1, Florida 3-3, Washington 2-2, and Atlanta 2-3-1. The Southeast Division will not play the Northwest Division this year.

Talk of raising the salary cap next year has made many general managers chomp at the bit. Gary Bettman figures that the NHL maybe growing after the lockout. The cap will rise from $40 million to $45 million. Big jump.

GM George McPhee flat out denies any rumors of trading the big man Olaf Kolzig. Wash Post covers McPhee’s revelation that Olie is the only thing besides Alex Ovechkin the team has going for them. Raising the salary cap may give the Caps more freedom to improve the team’s dynamic next year.

At this point the Caps are beginning to gain chemistry. The C.B.S. line is getting better at finding each other, the teamwork of the Ocechkin, Zubrus, Clark line has opponents constantly on their heels, and the other lines are improving.

Give AO another year and he will figure out how to get through those defenders standing him up. Then he will be amazing to watch.

Since I am on the road today, I will probably miss the game. I will work on trying to keep my page updated as much as I can while I am on the road this holiday season.

Caps play Sharks tonight, only 6 words of advice: Do what you did in L.A.

Capitals at Sharks Preview

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Clutch Goal Against Kings

Capitals 3, Kings 2

As Olaf Kolzig returned to the locker room at the end of the game, he raised his arms in a sort of “raise the roof” motion. He had good reason to be happy. The Capitals win a big game at the Staples Center 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings.

Just when I was brewing up the story of this game and complaining to whoever was in earshot, “the Caps need to get a clutch goal,” when Jamie Heward put a laser by Jason LaBarbera at 18:57, just over a minute left in the game. This blog was shaping up to be about the lack of clutch players for the Caps. I am glad it doesn’t have to.

Heward came up with a huge clutch goal for the Caps in the waning seconds of the third. The Kings looked on stunned. They couldn’t even put together a 6-on-5 for the remainder of the game. The Caps finally put a solid team back on their heels.

In a game where the Refs were getting bonuses for calling hooking and interference calls (12 hooking/interference calls out of 22 total penalties), the Capitals finally can rely on their special teams for a win. Maybe this should exorcise the demons from the power play.

Matt Bradley had the defensive play of the game, saving a puck that squeezed past Olie and Bradley caught it just in time to clear it away. Video replay shows the puck right on the goal line, but not in (or at the very least inconclusive). Much to the chagrin of Kings’ fans.

Overall Grade: A

The Caps played their game and got big goals from Heward and Brian Sutherby were both timely and clutch. Too bad I didn’t tape the game, because it was a classic for sure. Caps came out physical, which proved to be a positive for them as the Kings could not match the intensity of their aggressive visitors.

Brendan Witt also gets some mad props in this game. Even if his number didn’t show on the scoreboard, he had some big hits and was solid on defense. Witt must really want out of DC if he is playing this well.

Wash Post gets you the quotes and details from the game, including a ton of stats that I can’t think of right now because it’s 1:17 in the morning. And yes I have to be up early tomorrow, thanks for asking.

Caps face San Jose Friday night, same late time: 10:30 pm EST. The game will be on WB50 for you locals. Good night, I am crashing!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

West Coast Swing

On Monday morning the Caps traveled to Los Angeles. On Tuesday they got a skate in at the King’s rink.

"This is probably the closest group of guys we've had," Capitals centerJeff Halpern said. "Trips like this help, because it gets everybody, especially the guys with families, involved. It brings us together. The way our team plays, we should play as well as on the road as we do at home. It's hard to figure out."Wash Post

The Capitals hope to have a revelation and a good start to this short west coast swing. The L.A. Kings got off to a hot start, but have since cooled. Their number one priority for tonight’s game is to stop rookie sensation Alex Ovechkin.

While today’s focus may be on the Capitals, the Kings have Olympic thoughts for the upcoming games in Turin. Craig Conroy and Aaron Miller have secured spots on team USA, but a big name missing is Jeremy Roenick.

"Would I like to be on it? No question. But I'm not expecting to be on it," the 35-year-old forward said. LA Times

The Capitals could catch the Kings going through the motions, if there concentration is on AO, other Capitals must step up their games to give the rookie goal support. The Caps road record has been nothing to write home about. They must play better on the road.

The good news, since their only road win vs. Montreal (the win versus Buffalo was technically at a neutrual site) the Caps losses on the road have been one goal decisions. The Caps look to use their new brand of hard work to improve a dismal 2-10-1 record on the road.

Capitals at L.A. Kings Preview

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Birth And A Rebirth

Yesterday at 1:57 PM, my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Ella. Which makes me Uncle “G”, you don’t have to refer to me as such though. What a great birthday though, 12/12/05.

It’s a new member of our family and I couldn’t be happier for my sister. Of course this means teaching the youth about my favorite sport, Hockey. If we get her in skates now, she has a chance to make the Olympic team in about 16 or 17 years from now. Wishful thinking.

This brings me to the whole point of this post. This is to tell my niece Ella now what the future of the NHL will be like in the ... future. And of course I put it in a letter.

Dear Ella,
You couldn’t have picked a better time to be born. The game of professional hockey is fast, fun and better than it has been in years. Even though I know your mother is a Penguins fan, I hope you will take into consideration that they suck. You don’t have to be a Pens fan like your mom, and you don’t have to be Caps fan like your uncle. Cheer for Anaheim, they need it.

Anyway, by the time you are old enough to understand the game, these are the changes I foresee in the future of NHL.

1) Back in 2005, we tested this whole keeping the goaltender out of the corners by creating a trapezoid area behind the net where the goaltender was only allowed to touch the puck in that area. Soon NHL officials realized more offense could come with a sharp pass from an experienced goaltender rather than just keeping them in designated areas.

2) When you were born Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby were rookies. They were outstanding, and Sid the Kid played in Pittsburgh back then. Ovechkin was traded after the Caps failed to win a Stanley Cup and gone through 5 coaches. But after the lockout, it’s all anyone wanted to talk about, the two rookies, Crosby and Ovechkin.

3) The Nashville Predators had this god awful third jersey that was a mustard color. Thankfully Dijon Mustard makers of America sued the team over patent infringement, and they got rid of them.

4) You may hear about some hockey movies that people will tell you to watch, but there is only one good one: Slapshot from the seventies starring Paul Newman. Miracle is the only other one I consider good, but if anyone tells you about Youngblood, or Mighty Ducks, just know that they suck, and the movies do to.

Well I am sure there will be a lot of changes as you grow older and I will poison your mind about hockey and other things your mother would not approve of. And anytime you want to come to Washington, I will get you a nice warm seat next to me to watch the Caps. Welcome to Earth Ella.

Your Uncle “G”

P.S. If you want to be all girly and hang out with my wife and shop that is fine too, but then no personalized jersey for you!

-- Other Notes --

  • Jiri Fischer is grateful yet uncertain about his future. Detroit’s own was emotional during his first press conference since collapsing on the bench. I am still pulling for Fischer to make a return to the ice.

  • I am starting to believe that the Ottawa Senators are almost unbeatable this year. Why didn’t Colorado start David Aebischer? Is there some kind of goalie problems in Denver?

  • Now that the Capitals seem to be getting better and their brand of play is getting more exciting, Brendan Witt and Olaf Kolzig are starting to like D.C. a whole lot better. Even though Olie didn’t say it, Kolzig thought about moving on and ending his career with a Cup contending team. Even the trade rhetoric from Witt has subsided. But is that good news for the Caps?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Say It Ain't So, Mario

The Penguins just can’t get it together. Sid the Kid was suppose to stop the bleeding, help the city of Pittsburgh realize that a new stadium was what Mario Lemieux and the Penguins needed to bring back a championship team. I guess Pittsburgh is Steeler town.

Every thing is just going wrong for the team. After making the jump to get a talented rookie, and spending enough to pepper the team with proven veteran players, the Penguins face the truth that Pittsburgh really doesn’t need a NHL Franchise.

The Penguins play in the Mellon Arena, the smallest in the league. Even if the Penguins sell out every game from now to the end of the season in 2007 when the lease on the Mellon Arena runs out, the team will not make enough money for even running cost, so they say.

The team desperately needs a new arena, but it’s very doubtful they will get it in time. Too little, too late. The Penguins are looking into funding for a new stadium through a slot license. But it is unclear if the ownership can get the license to start the funding project.

It brings up a plethora of “what ifs” that right now neither Lemieux nor the ownership can really answer with much certainty. The only real answer that is barreling down on them is to move the team. Kansas City and Houston have expressed interest.

My Penguin friends are very concerned that the jerseys they are donning for every game will soon be just collectibles, and the NHL will never play a game again in Pittsburgh. “They are your elected officials,” I tell them.

From the articles I have read in Pittsburgh, the city and county officials are willing to sit down and hear the woes of the Penguins, but seem less likely to act upon those accounts. If the city doesn’t want the team, or doesn’t want to find a solution, then there is no reason for the team to stay, despite a loyal fan base.

If the team were to move to K.C., the chances Nashville will be pushed into the Eastern Conference are great. By proximity, the Predators would be a perfect fit into the Southeast Division.

The Capitals would move into the Atlantic Division which would be more competitive and would improve the Capitals attendance by being close to their rivals (which means more fans from other teams at the phone booth).

No doubt that Ted Leonsis has some interest in Pittsburgh’s demise. But for now it’s a waiting game, will Pittsburgh finance a new arena for their beloved Penguins, or will we be seeing a new team in the Midwest?

If the Penguins do decide to move the team, it will mark an end of an era of great games and rivalries between the Capitals and the Penguins. My first NHL game I ever attended was a Caps/Pens game at the Capital Center.

As much as I hate the Penguins, I would not like to see the team go down like this. But their departure may help the Capitals depart the Southeast Division, argued as the worst division in the NHL.

It’s a question that places a cloud over Mellon Arena, and makes Penguins fans nervous.

-- Other Notes --

  • Olympic talk is running rampant; Lemieux and Steve Yzerman have opted out of playing in Turin. Many Canadians find it a welcome sight not to have either on their Olympic team. Now, how can we convince Jeremy Roenick?

  • Eddie Belfour just can’t surpass Terry Sawchuck. Stuck on 447 wins, Belfour has tried 4 times to move to second place, but has failed. He will get it, but it won’t be against former teammates.

  • John Grahame set a new franchise record of nine consecutive win. Khabibulin who?

  • Shout-out to former Cap, Mike Grier. He had a big night for the Sabres with the winning goal in overtime over the Minnesota Wild. It’s always good to see former Capitals do better on other teams. Maybe not.

That is all I got. Caps play L.A. on Wednesday, late game at 10:30 pm. Bring the chips.

**Editors Note: Okay, you can stop emailing me, my friends from the north. There is a third city that has expressed interest in pulling the Penguins from Pittsburgh. I apologize to my Canadien readers for my exclusion of Winnipeg. 12/13/05

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Red Wings Home Win?

Capitals 3, Red Wings 4

It could almost be counted as a home win for the visiting Red Wings. With as many Capitals jerseys in the crowd you could see even more red and white of the Detroit faithful. And the Mo Town boys didn’t disappoint.

Once again a premiere team has to resort to its special teams to beat the hard working Caps. The Red Wings scored 3 power play goals, with a goal just seconds after a power play ended.

The Capitals played their best game to date. Going against the power house of the west Glen Hanlon pretty much summed up the reality of the Caps playing the number 2 team in the league:

“I don't think you come in and expect to dominate the Red Wings. ... These guys are great. The make me smile, even in defeat. I can hardly wait until we start winning these games.”

Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist and Jamie Heward is back on the scoring side with a buzzer beater goal at the end of the game. Four tenths of a second too late and the Caps lose by two.

Overall Grade: A

If the Caps can play as well as they did against the Red Wings, that can only mean good things for the Caps. The Caps were moving, aggressive on the boards, and were able to move the puck much better than they could against the Predators.

Wash Post covers the close game, closer than would be expected. The last two games for the Capitals were against top 5 teams in the NHL. They were able to hold their own. The ability for this young team to play well against two winning records bodes well for the future of the club.

The Capitals head west to face two good teams on the west coast. The Caps play the L.A. Kings on Wednesday for a late game on the east coast. The game is at 10:30 pm eastern time, which means pajama party at Puckhead’s Palace.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Predators' Power Play Punishes

Capitals 2, Predators 5

The Caps may have been prepared for the 2nd placed team in the Western Conference. They may have been prepared for the likes of Steve Sullivan and Paul Kariya. But the Capitals were not ready for the Predators power play.

3 power play goals lifted the Preds to win number 18 and just one win behind first place Detroit that the Capitals face on Friday. The Capitals didn’t look like the buzzing team that had given the Rangers a beating last Saturday.

With as many times the penalty kill unit has been on the ice for the Caps, you would think that they would have their system down pat. But the Preds caught the Caps standing around, watching the play. They have been a man short 196 times already this season.

Penalties killed the Capitals, and the quick passing of the Predator power play left Olaf Kolzig spinning, and on the first two goals being beaten so badly he didn’t even go down into the butterfly to attempt a save.

Alex Ovechkin had the only power play goal for the Capitals after a pretty pass from Andrew Cassels. Add a Ben Clymer “garbage goal” and the Caps were frustrated all night by the Preds defense and Chris Mason in goal for Thomas Vokoun.

Overall Grade: D

The Caps need to take advantage of opportunities their opponents give them. Unable to score with a two man advantage has plagued the Caps all year. The Caps must stay out of the penalty box against Detroit, or the result will be the same.

Wash Post covers the details as usual. The team is definitely hard on themselves after this game, maybe it will be a wake-up call for them when they face the first place team in the west, the Red Wings.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Preds Come To Washington

Capitals vs. Predators Preview

Capitals are 1-0 versus western teams. It was their home opener win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now they face one of the hottest teams in the west. The Nashville Predators are the surprise team of the season and most of the praise goes to Paul Kariya. Since his arrival to Music Town, the Preds have been hard to stop this season.

The Capitals have to come at the Preds with an aggressive forecheck and play with as much intensity as they did against the Rangers. The Caps have the right system to keep teams that are hot in the scoring column to a minimum if they show up to play tonight.

The game tonight starts a 4 game stretch against the west, with the Detroit Red Wings in town on Friday, then a west coast swing to play the L.A. Kings and San Jose Sharks. This should test the Caps against good teams on the long road trip. This will be a quick trip considering in January the Caps go on a three game swing to the west to play Dallas, Phoenix, and Anaheim.

The Caps should surprise the Preds early in the game; Alex Ovechkin should be able to exploit the defense early. The Caps once again must bring their lunch pales and hard hats and be prepared to come to work. Fearless Prediction: Caps 4, Preds 2.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

The one thing I hate/love about the Christmas season is the parties. I have been partying for the last two nights, hence no post yesterday and I apologize. Normally I like to keep the conversation on the Capitals in my blog, but I had the opportunity to go to the White House for their Holiday Party.

There are two great things about living in Washington D.C.; the Pro Sports and the parties. Every other time I have gone to the White House it has been behind big ropes and a sort of walk through museum type of visit. To actually go, get close to the paintings and sit in the furniture, it blew my mind.

They served the best soup in espresso cups. They had ham, and lamb chops. And no party would be complete without eggnog. I am an aficionado of eggnog! It was okay.

There are few things I take advantage of here when it has to do with politics, I tend to just stay out of it. But when an opportunity like this comes along, it’s once in a lifetime. I got to rub elbows with the powerful and the influential. And the eggnog was okay.

Ok, sorry. I had to brag. Back to hockey.

The Capitals have been busy making moves. The Caps have brought up Graham Mink from Hershey for the game against the Rangers, just to be sent back down, and then recalled again. Jakub Klepis, Tomas Flieschmann have both had ten games or more in the big leagues, but were not able to make much of a dent. Both were sent back to Hershey. After Brooks Laich was sent back to Hershey, he is now back in a Capitals sweater.

Maxime Ouellet has been a disappointment for George McPhee since he was drafted. He was to take Olaf Kolzig’s job, but has been developing slowly and now the caps find that they no longer have much youth in the goaltender department.

The Capitals also have key players still nursing injuries, Jeff Friesen and Stephen Peat.

It is quite clear that Glen Hanlon is looking for players that can make a difference immediately. Although he has allowed players to settle in, mostly for experience, and mostly due to injuries, Hanlon is trying to produce young players faster than normal.

It’s no secret that Hanlon wants the same system in Hershey as they are playing at the phone booth. The payoff is beginning to show. Mink was able to quickly adapt and played well against the Rangers. The system is working, and it will be the machine that will help the Caps withstand slumps, and injuries. It will help when the Caps decide to make their Cup run in a few years time.

The Caps are making the transactions and it proves that this organization is healthy and getting better. With the ability to go to the farm system for help, and getting that help will benefit the Capitals greatly.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

"Drought Over"

Capitals 5, Rangers 1

“All is right with the world, Alexander Ovechkin has scored…” said Joe Beninati. And Caps fans let out a collective sigh of relief.

Three other Caps that needed goals to get out of their 5 game slump. Along with AO, Dainius Zubrus, Jeff Halpern, and Steve Emminger all got a tally on the board.

Olaf Kolzig should have gotten a shutout, but two late penalties cut into Kolzig’s glory. The Caps finally get a game that goes their way. Along with a goal that opened the scoring for the Caps, AO got a playmaker’s 3 assists.

Jaromir Jagr had a nice homecoming only getting an assist on a 5-on-3 power play. Jagr wanted to score, to show off in front of his former team’s house. The Rangers just looked frustrated, relying more on their talent than a system. Only late in the game did New York finally get some pressure on Kolzig.

Overall Grade: A

The Caps hard work and opportunist attitude to scoring paid off. The Capitals still need to work on their power play which was 1-6 tonight. I was so impressed with Graham Mink, who was called up from Hershey. Capitals were so close giving Kolzig a shutout, which seems to be a rarity nowadays in the NHL.

Wash Post sings the praises of the Caps. I happy this team got a good solid win, against a hot team to end their streak. Now if they can turn this into more than one win.

Maxime Ouellet was traded to Vancouver’s system for a fifth-round pick in 2006 NHL Entry Draft. The Capitals must feel pretty comfortable in the goaltender department. Or is it a move to free up some more money for something else? Hmmm…

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and I will see you bright and early on Monday…

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Bottom Feeders

Capitals 2, Panthers 3

It is hard to win games on the road in the NHL, even if their arena has less people than the phone booth. Brent Johnson was excellent in the net, and I do believe that Florida’s third goal was deflected with a high stick.

But what really sucked was the Capitals’ power play, which they were not able to do anything with the extra man. 1 for 7 and an opportunity with a 2 man advantage for 55 seconds, and the Caps couldn’t find the net with a flashlight and a map.

I am starting to see a lot of inconsistency in the Referees as the season wears on. Many soft holding calls against the Caps, while the others were so obvious that people getting a hot dog at the concessions stand could sense it, and no whistle. No wonder the players are confused. The Officiating has to be tighter, and much more consistent game to game.

Overall Grade: C

Caps are playing well, and making the right decisions, but someone has to start getting a nose for the net besides Alex Ovechkin. Even though the local ads say “One man, doing it all by himself” the Caps need to give him another threat to ease some of the pressure off the rookie.

Jeff Friesen is turning out to be a hell of a deal. He needs to be on the ice, or dealt. I don’t think the Caps have the opportunity to lose anymore players to injury. Dainius Zubrus looked a little rusty, but I expect him to be on pace in the next couple of games.

Wash Post of course it the source I go to. Bryan Muir actually couldn’t have said it better as he was quoted about not putting the game away. At least Muir gets it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

It's Gonna Be Fun!

Well if everyone is doing it

This is my list of favorite and least favorite players by team. Be gentle.

Anaheim: Petr Sykora / Sandis Ozolinsh
Atlanta: Peter Bondra / Marian Hossa
Boston: Brian Leetch / Sergei Samsonov
Buffalo: Mike Grier / Jochen Hecht
Calgary: Jarome Iginla / Rhett Warrener
Carolina: Erik Cole / Rod Brind’Amour
Chicago: Anyone but Matthew Barnaby / Matthew Barnaby
Colorado: Tie Steve Konowalchuk, Dan Hinote / Pierre Turgeon
Columbus: Adam Foote / Jan Hrdina
Dallas: Jason Arnott / Brenden Morrow
Detroit: Chris Chelios / Robert Lang
Edmonton: Chris Pronger / Michael Peca
Florida: Joe Nieuwendyk / Everyone else
Los Angeles: Aaron Miller / Jeremy Roenick
Minnesota: Alexandre Daigle / Randy Robitaille
Montreal: Richard Zednik / Mathieu Dandenault
Nashville: Paul Kariya / Yanic Perreault
New Jersey: Scott Gomez / Jamie Langenbrunner
New York Isles: Jason Blake / Miroslav Satan
New York Rangers: Michael Nylander / Jaromir Jagr
Ottawa: Dany Heatley / Dominik Hasek
Philadelphia: Simon Gagne / Michal Handzus
Pittsburgh: Zigmund Palffy / Everyone else
Phoenix: Shane Doan / Wayne Gretzky as coach (not as player)
San Jose: Jonathan Cheechoo (fun name to say) / Alyn McCauley
St. Louis: Dean McAmmond / Patrick Lalime
Tampa Bay: Brad Richards / Martin St. Louis
Toronto: Bryan McCabe / Eric Lindros
Vancouver: Trevor Linden / Mattias Ohlund
Washington: Olaf Kolzig / Brendan Witt

Struggle In Sunrise

Capitals vs. Panthers Preview

After a few days off, the Capitals are hoping to stop their losing skid at the Bankatlantic Center. This will be only the second time the Panthers and Capitals have faced their Southwestern foe. This is the make-up game for the postponed match-up on October 29 because of Hurricane Wilma.

The Panthers have only won once in the month of November and trade rumors are circling around their key star goaltender Roberto Luongo. The team is trying not to panic, but as much talent as the Panthers have, winning has been an up-hill battle for them.

The Caps will have their hands full. In their last meeting, the Panthers faced a much different Capitals team. The Caps were still working on finding each other roles and getting used to their new linemates.

Dainius Zubrus is back and will probably line up with Alex Ovechkin. Having Zubrus back may open some room for the slumping rookie who has failed to score a goal in the last 5 games. Ovechkin’s off ice trouble continues as a U.S. District Court Judge has schedule hearings on whether AO’s former team Moscow Dynamo has rights over the superstar rookie.

The Capitals look to improve their poor road record which is a dismal 2-9-1. The Panthers look to get back on the winning skate, their home record is nothing to be proud of either posting a 5-5-1 at the Bankatlantic Center.

Caps could take two big points away from their divisional rivals if they continue their hard work. It won’t be easy so I am looking at a low scoring affair. However, Panthers should win at home 2-1.

-- Other Notes --

  • Bruins and Sharks do a blockbuster deal which brings Joe Thornton to San Jose for three players, Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart, and Wayne Primeau. Why can’t I ever trade 3 players for a superstar on EA NHL ’06?

  • Ed Belfour has to wait before passing Terry Sawchuck for wins. The Maple Leafs couldn’t give the all-star goaltender a win against the Lightning. I still believe that Belfour is an underrated talent that many take for granted. Good luck on getting 448 Eddie!

  • Jiri Fischer health problems continue after his scare on the bench in which he stopped breathing. The 25 year old was back in the hospital after another abnormal heartbeat this week. This could hurt the Czech’s chance to return with the Red Wings.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Why is Reebok suddenly into hockey? I wouldn’t bring up the whole subject, but the other night while watching hockey my wife asked what was on the blue line marker on the boards. I told her it was the Reebok symbol. We both sat silently absorbing what ever revelation we both were making in our heads and it was the same question. Reebok?

Is the NHL turning its back on traditional hockey companies like CCM and Bauer? When most fans think Reebok, very seldom does hockey come to mind. And Reebok is scoring the big payoffs with Sid “the Kid” Crosby in their new “hard-hitting” ad featuring the rookie wearing Reebok pump skates and the slogan “I am what I am” (Popeye would be proud). That’s right I said pump skates. I thought that died in the ‘90s.

Even when Nike decided to get into the hockey market, it barely made much noise. It tried to take the sport like it did with the NFL and the NBA, make every jersey for every team and sales will follow. But most players stayed with the traditional CCM, Bauer, Itech, and even Mission.

As anyone played with the Reebok gear yet? Is it that fantastic that everyone should be thinking, “For my hockey needs, I have to go to Reebok!”? I know I haven’t. But of course I am dirt poor and can barely pay rent in DC let alone buy new hockey equipment.

So while I sit here and scratch my head wondering whether or not it is a good thing Reebok is so interested in the NHL all of a sudden, I can’t help but wonder what other random companies we will see in the next couple of years.

K-Swiss will make fashionable white skates, Enyce can do a whole hip-hop look for the new NHL, KangaROOs skates for the kids or anyone from Australia (do they have hockey down-under?), Adidas could do shin pads, and who wouldn’t love Doc Martin’s new line of gloves and shoulder pads.

So why should it seem so out of place to see Reebok on the back of the jerseys, or promoting the blue line, or have a new “hard-hitting” ad featuring the league’s top rookie. I don’t know, but somehow it just does.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gotta Wear Shades

While the Capitals struggle in the NHL and going through a sort of rebirth, their AHL affiliate Hershey Bears are quietly doing well. Hershey PA’s hockey heroes have started to put together a winning season and are 4th in the Eastern Conference with a 12-4-2 record. Which has prompted me to ask Capitals fans, do you know who your top prospects are?

Of course many would say Alex Ovechkin. However, the Caps had made a point of trading big names for young talent. So who are these talented youngsters?

1. Eric Fehr, RW – When the Capitals’ Scouts went to Manitoba, they were looking for a talented Ryan Stone, instead they found Eric Fehr.
"Eric has a real nose for the net, a pure scorer. He's the guy who's most likely to score the 'big goal'" - Brandon head coach Dean Clark.
Fehr has 9 goals and 12 assist in 21 games and is the points leader for the Bears.

2. Chris Bourque, C – Many Caps fans fell in love with Bourque during the preseason this year. Son of Hall of Famer Raymond Bourque, Chris was named a New England Prep all-star two straight years. The Caps believe he will be a solid NHL player after some seasoning in the minors.

3. Jared Aulin, C – After playing well in the L.A. Kings Farm system, Aulin joins the Bears and proves to be one of the better prospects the Caps have in the works. As a member of Team Canada under-18 he helped win gold in the 1999 Four Nations Tournament. Aulin will not back down from a challenge, even injuring himself when standing up for a teammate. He has 14 points in 16 games played for the Bears.

4. Mike Green, D – If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Green has already played a few games for the Capitals this year after a slew of injuries hurt the defensive core. Although, he did not score any points and posted a -8 during his NHL span of 11 games. With the Bears Green has 1 goal and 5 assists in 10 games played. Green was named the WHL Eastern Conference First All-Star Team for ’04-’05.

5. Jonas Johansson, RW – Johansson is a smooth skater and has great puck handling skills. Injuries have plagued the young player, but when he is healthy he is creative and active. Johansson can be easily knocked off the puck and has to learn to fight through checks.

Other names to mention are those that are already wearing Capitals sweaters. Players like Jakub Klepis, Tomas Fleischmann, Shaone Morrisonn, Boyd Gordon, and Brooks Laich.

The Caps future seems bright with these new players. If these players grow at the rate GM George McPhee wants them too, we may be looking at a talented fast team that is creative and fun to watch. Many of the Capitals prospects may never play in the big league, but it’s the chance the Caps are taking to win a Stanley Cup.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Turkey Left Overs

Holiday weekend over and it’s back to work. Yea, right. On to Game 1:

Capitals 2, Rangers 3 FOT, SO

It was actually fun to watch this shoot out, even if the Caps lost. 15 rounds to be specific, a new NHL record. The game was just 5 rounds away from resetting the players at the beginning.

Marek Malik’s shot was wicked, between the legs over Olaf Kolzig’s shoulder for the win. I went from being the biggest lover of the shoot out to loathing it. It took me a couple hours to cool down from the lost to realize I watched something that was so fun to watch. Even my wife had to stop from work to watch with me. Do you know how hard it is for my wife to watch hockey?

Overall Grade: B+

The Caps did well, holding the red hot Rangers from running away and keeping Jaromir Jagr to no points (not many teams were able to). At some point the Capitals will get over that hill and turn those close games into great wins. Wash Post covers the sick details of the shoot out, Olie actually thought it was fun, so did I!

Game 2:

Capitals 2, Sabers 3

After a sluggish first period the Capitals actually put together a great game. Just a goal shy of tying the game and actually keeping the Sabres reeling in the last 30 seconds of the game buzzing around the net. How the puck didn’t go in, I will never know.

Again the Capitals looked poised to make the comeback and force overtime, but the post was the biggest foe for the Caps, hitting the post at least 3 times in the final seconds of the game.

Overall Grade: B+

Capitals need a little more seasoning, but I remember watching both of these games how close we were to actually becoming a great team. Alex Ovechkin will start to figure out how to get through the defense or use their respect of him to his advantage. The CBS Line of Ben Clymer, Matt Bradley, and Brian Sutherby have been the best line thus far, and are beginning to play better and better as the season progresses. Wash Post again covers the details.

All is all the Holiday week was tough on the Capitals but they worked hard through it. The last four games have been the best games I have seen the Caps play thus far. Sooner or later, just like in the Montreal blow out win, the puck will bounce the Caps way. And they can only get better!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Bad Turkey

It’s turkey weekend so I apologize for not posting the last few days. But since it is still the holiday weekend, this will be an abbreviated post so I can spend my time with those I am thankful for.

Capitals 4, Penguins 5

Caps actually played well, just not the first period. Pens Fan emailed me to laugh in my face over the first rookie face off of Sid “the Kid” Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. I let him have his laugh and responded, I will give you the first period score if you give me the last two. I will take the last two periods where the Caps out shot and out scored the Pens. Next game between the two will be much more exciting.

Overall Grade: 1st Period: F, 2nd and 3rd Period: B+

Wash Post picks up the full story.

Capitals 3, Lightning 4 FOT

Caps again come out strong, but start to let the Lightning chip their way back into the game. For the third time the two teams had to have a shoot out to settle things, unfortunately for the Capitals, third time isn’t the charm.

Overall Grade: D+

Wash Post again does a good job of getting the true story behind the game.

Caps play the red hot Rangers on Saturday night. And I will see all of you on Monday. Have a great weekend, and Happy Thanksgiving (even all you loveable French Canadians, we are thankful for you too).

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It's Just A Game

In Detroit, reality makes us realize how much this game of hockey is just a game. The entire hockey world is reeling today on the news of Jiri Fischer’s seizure on the bench on Monday night. It took me by surprise this morning as I went through my morning routine of checking on the news of the day. Instead of me babbling on about this or that, I will just direct you to some professional accounts of the events last night.

And ESPN posted a story about past Ice Scares, not for the faint of heart. I applaud the NHL for postponing the game. It was the right thing to do. I doubt if any of the players’ heart was in it to finish the game.

You are in our thoughts and prayers Jiri, we want to see you on the ice real soon.

Bring On The Rookies

Capitals vs. Penguins Preview

There is a buzz around the NHL. Can you hear it? It involves the two new stars that the league wants to ride on the back of to the promise land: Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. The future of the NHL hits the ice to face off against one another. There certainly is a buzz.

It is a story of two different teams with outstanding rookies on each. And even if Sid the Kid (and AO for that point) is the new face of the league to come, the Penguins are not. While the Capitals have fresh names such as Brian Sutherby, Brooks Laich, Jakub Klepis, Mike Green, it is much different on the Penguins side. The Pens are a more veteran squad with 6 to 7 players that will move on or retire within 2 to 3 years.

The Penguins have 8,230 games played total experience compared to the Capitals games played experience at 5,959, which includes Andrew Cassels 999 games played (if he plays tonight he will have played 1000 NHL games in his career) and Jeff Friesen’s 784 games (Cassels and Friesen account for 30% for the entire Capitals team).

While the Penguins might survive games without Sid the Kid, the same is not true for the Capitals. Even though the two account for about 15% of their teams points, Ovechkin has more game winning goals and better individual talent that sparks his team.

Pittsburgh also have a leg up on the Capitals when it comes to talent. I don’t think anyone in this league would dispute the talents of Mario Lemieux, John LeClair, Zigmund Palffy and Mark Recchi. But when you look at the Caps, the only big name talents worth mentioning (besides AO) are sometimes deemed b-list players like Jeff Halpern, Brendan Witt, Jeff Friesen, Andrew Cassels and of course Olaf Kolzig. Ask any fantasy team manager which players he would want from those groups and the Penguins win hands down.

In a way Sid the Kid has some help, a system of talented players that helps the rookie have a guaranteed all-star year, while AO has to do it on his own. I think most would agree that both experiences for rookies Sid the Kid and AO have been lopsided.

But now there is a rift in the perfect horizon for the Capitals. The Russian super team Moscow Dynamo claims it had the rights for Ovechkin. The team does not seek to keep AO from playing in the NHL, they just want money. Go figure. But the case may prove to be a hindrance for the NHL if the Russian league comes calling for all of its players.

The story is compelling, the future looks bright and the suspense is palpable. It’s no wonder that fans of hockey, not just Caps and Pens fans, will crane their heads toward the League’s two top rookies as they face of for the first time this season. If nothing else, it will be exciting to watch the two try to one up each other.

Sid the Kid made it clear that it’s not about Sid vs. AO tonight. "It's going to be cool to have us both out there. It's not something I am going to turn into me against him, though," Crosby told AP.

If you wanted me to make some sort of prediction, I will tell you that on this night I cease to become a sharp critic of the Capitals and will be the fan that I know my team needs. You might say I am weaseling my way out of a prediction, but I don’t want to ruin the occasion, just let the two teams play.

Some will predict correctly, some won’t, but I would rather enjoy the moment of two good teams play the greatest sport there is, hockey.

By the way, Caps win 3-2. Go Caps!

Editor’s Note: Player profile links have changed from to Yahoo keeps up to date stats and less commercial traffic on its site.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Fighting To Keep Fighting

Talking to some friends of mine I couldn’t help but notice the talk turned to fighting in the NHL. You are probably wondering why the talk went to fighting in Hockey. Well keep wondering.

A girl in our group asked, “Why do they even have fighting in hockey?” I was surprised that most of my friends who were somewhat hockey knowledgeable didn’t have an answer other than it was exciting for the fans.

“What? Do you think there is no point to the fighting in hockey?” I asked them. By the blank stares in my direction, I knew the overwhelming answer was yes.

“There is a point to fighting?” the girl asked a bit surprised.

Of course there is. There are two reasons to drop the gloves and scrum it up some. Fighting helps protect more talented players, and it breaks tension and stagnate play from teammates. I saw a few nods, but I knew it needed more explanation.

First of all, fighting keeps bigger guys on the other team in check. Where would Wayne Gretzky be if he was getting nailed into the boards every night? If there were no Mark Messier or Esa Tikkanen, Gretzky would be a target for bigger players to hurt. Fighting keeps those bigger guys honest. If you hit our guy expect an answer back.

Secondly it breaks tension. For instance if an incident occurred in a previous game the two teams have played, like a late hit or a cheap shot, a fight may break out early in the next game (sometimes even during warm up before the game). It breaks the tension of the players on the ice and the game can continue with out worrying about retribution or retaliation from the other team.

It also breaks the monotony of the game. Sometimes a rhythm is established that players just can’t get out of, without any scoring and little action. It seems that the team just can’t get anything going. The fight breaks that up and pumps a team up.

Guys like Gary Roberts, Ian Laperriere, Darren McCarty, Donald Brashear, Todd Bertuzzi, and more both past and present know of fighting’s place in hockey. There is also something almost honorable about the hockey fight as well.

Hockey is a game played with weapons, hockey sticks. What happens in a fight? The players drop the two things that would help most in a fight, their stick and gloves. Players don’t use their sticks to take a whack at other players (except for McSorley, but his career ended because of it).

Other sports don’t have this type of upstanding conduct. Football players don’t even take their helmets off during a fight (have you tried to punch a football helmet with your bare hands? Not smart). In baseball it’s usually the pitcher throwing the ball at the hitter (seems a cowardly act). And in soccer (or football for all my UK friends, which I have none so it’s soccer and it still sucks) there is more fighting in the stands than between players.

Hockey still needs the fight, maybe not every night, but it has to be there. Especially now that the NHL is looking to strengthen rivalries is fighting more important. Not to mention it’s pretty exciting to watch.

The girl just shook her head at me and told me fighting was still pointless. Knowing I couldn’t win that fight I changed the subject again and stepped away from the soap box I used.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ovechkin Troubles

Alexander Ovechkin has more than just Washington fans wanting more. Dynamo Moscow wants Ovechkin on their team, and not for the Capitals. The only bright spot for the Caps this season may be drug back to Russia. Well, maybe it’s early to say that the Capitals #1 draft pick will no longer be a Cap.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Olie's Big Night Back

Capitals 5, Canadiens 1

A second game of firsts for the Capitals. Brian Sutherby scores his first goals against the Habs, the Capitals first 3 and 4 goal lead and the Capitals first win with out a goal or assist from Alex Ovechkin. And I thought the day would never come.

The Capitals finally get the pieces to fall into place. Taking advantage of Montreal’s missed played defense. The Habs defense almost looked as if they were standing around, as if the Capitals took them by surprise.

But the most impressive of the Capitals win was the man between the pipes, Olaf Kolzig. The Caps net-minder stopped 43 shots in an almost shutout. Micheal Ryder’s goal in the second prevented Olie from his 34th career shutout. Coming back from a leg injury, Kolzig was spectacular.

Overall Grade: A

The Caps finally get some pucks to drop their way, benefits of working hard and never letting up. I was very impressed by the play of Chris Clark and Sutherby. Sutherby, a Caps #1 draft pick in 2000, is becoming more a goal scorer than a bruiser I once thought he was. Sutherby received the game’s 1st star.

While on the other end Steve Eminger needs to up his effort a little more. After a quick start for the defenseman, he had gone cold in the scoring department and taking bad penalties at inopportune times.

Wash Post actually did a story on the game (go figure since their coverage of the Caps has dropped, I didn't even see the ap ticker story on the website last night).

Next up for the Caps are the Penguins at the Mellon Arena. It will be the battle of #1 draft pick rookies with Sid “the Kid” Crosby and Ovechkin. If the Caps continue to play like they did tonight, they should be a handful for the Pittsburgh squad.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Eight Steps Back

Capitals 5, Sabres 8

There is a game I would like to forget. Key breakdowns in defense and penalties led the Capitals to their demise. And Brett Johnson couldn’t keep anything from his 5 hole going in. It is not all Johnson’s fault though.

After 6 hard fought games the Capitals took one step forward, but 8 steps back. Penalties and special teams again have plagued the young team. Even when the Caps could get the scoring going late in the second with 3 straight goals, it was just too much of a lead to overcome. Too many times I saw defensemen playing the puck and not the man, or they would collapse on one player leaving open Buffalo players in the slot.

The Caps explosive offense means nothing without sound defense. The Capitals do not start their three game road trip on a good foot. Now their next two road games will be more difficult with a big loss to start.

Overall Grade: D-

I love the Caps never say die attitude, but it has to be backed up with some defense. Alex Ovechkin looks like he is starting to find the cracks in the NHL defensive armor. It’s getting even more exciting to watch him play.

Let’s hope the Brendan Witt’s frustration ends in Buffalo. His play needs to be more disciplined and controlled. I know he wants to be a bruiser, but he has to use his experience for something rather than being a goon.

Wash Post covers the game in detail. They also talk about my prediction for this team all along, close wins and big losses. It’s the story we will be hearing from the Capitals all season long.

Caps play the red hot Canadiens on Saturday. Let’s hope the Capitals can once again learn from their losses.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Kolzig's Back

Olaf Kolzig must be feeling better, because it’s good-bye to Fredric Cassivi as he has been reassigned to Hershey. Cassivi played very well in his single performance against the Devils, but the result was a loss. Brent Johnson took over the other two games while Olie was out with a leg injury, including the shoot out thriller win over the Lightning.

The Caps play the Sabres tonight in Buffalo to start a 3 game road stint that finishes in Pittsburgh to face the Penguins and Sidney Crosby. The Capitals must continue their hard work and win one-on-one battles to gain points against the Sabres.

And the countdown has started to watch the first meeting between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. While talking to some other Caps fans, many said how disgusted they were by Crosby stealing all the rookie thunder from Ovechkin. My only answer was, why can’t they both be good? Look, there is nothing I hate more than the Penguins, but why are we so concerned with what Sid the Kid is doing?

I want this league to be the best it can be, as well as for the Capitals to do well. The rookie chase has certainly been close between these two. I believe that both players can create good interest back into the NHL. And these two will be talked about for a long time. More power to Crosby being the best he can be, ‘cause I know Ovechkin will win the rookie race.

-- Other Notes --

  • The NHL and Garth Brooks (of country music fame) have teamed together for Brooks’ children charities Teammates for Kids foundation. I guess Garth has friends in low places, Gary Betteman.

  • Unless you have been living in a fallout shelter, you must know Sergei Fedorov was traded to Columbus. Not really a back breaker deal for Anahiem who traded the all-star forward, who may be looking elsewhere for a better suited player.

  • NHL Referee Stephon Walkom did a live chat yesterday. He was hit with some really good questions, and it was an interesting read.

  • Todd Marchant was put on waivers today by the Columbus Blue Jackets in order to free up some money. Most likely he will be gobbled up by another team by the end of the day.

That’s it for the day, Go Caps! Caps/Sabres Preview

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bolt Killer

Capitals 4, Lightening 3 OT/SO

In their OLN debut, the Washington Capitals made the most of their number one star when they need him the most, Alexander Ovechkin. The Capitals faced another game of hard work with no scoring to show for it, but Ovechkin only needed one goal to change the whole game. And this time it was on national television (or only as national OLN gets).

The Lightening scored twice in the second period and it looked to be a rout. Until Ben Clymer’s seemingly innocent back hand to the net. It took me a couple of looks later on tape to see that it had really gone in. Going into the second break the Caps only trailed by 1 goal.

If the first two periods of this game looked a bit boring, the third period was a completely different story. The Lightening thought they had put the nail in the coffin by Fredrik Modine’s second goal of the night, making in 3-1. I looked over to my wife on the couch and told her we only needed one goal.

It was the first game that special teams actually worked in favor for the Capitals. A power play goal by Byran Muir from a nice feed from Andrew Cassels and the Caps were within one. If the Caps could get the score within one, their hard work would have to pay off sooner or later. In steps the Bolt killer himself, Ovechkin.

He had about 3 or 4 great chances, each time the puck deflected away or was saved by Sean Burke. Each time he attacked the net with reckless abandon, including a scary moment where Ovechkin’s feet were taken from under him by a Tampa Bay defender (not sure who) and he slammed hard into the boards. He laid there, behind the net, for a few seconds. We he jumped up the crowd let out a sigh of relief.

Then, 1 on 3, Ovechkin powers his way toward the net again. This time with great speed and unbelievable control, the Capital forward made a one in a million shot over Burke’s shoulder and tying the game with 1:15 to go. I literally jumped off the couch freaking out my wife. Overtime.

The Caps and the Lightening both had opportunities on the power play in the extra period but failed to capitalize. Ovechkin once again made the most of his national exposure by scoring a laser of shot over Burke’s glove to score the only shoot out goal. Brent Johnson, in the net for injured Olaf Kolzig, made I thought the biggest play of the night. On the last Tampa Bay shooter, Pavel Kubina, Johnson poke checked the puck away, not even allowing a shot.

Overall Grade: B+

An exciting game for sure, but still the Caps defense core is especially weak against hard forechecking. The Capitals did improve their situation by staying out of the penalty box, only committing 4 penalties, 2 of them in the final minutes of overtime. For the most part this was the Ovechkin show, which is alright by me.

How great was it to see Joe Beninati take the reigns for play by play on OLN! Hey, where was Craig Laughlin? At first I thought my eyes deceived me, “No way does Laughlin looks that good on national television! Oh wait, it’s Brian Ingblom.”

Game Operations gets a F--- (yes that is 3 minuses). Instead of playing Gary Glitter after the Caps scored (which is tradition, am I wrong?), they played that god awful tune from the Vonage Commercials (you know the one, with all the woo-hoo, woo-hoo hoo hoos). Bad, bad, bad. Every time they get a good thing going they screw it up. Again, we are trying to attract fans, not turn them away.

Wash Post picks up the details. And you can see clips and the post game wrap up on OLN’s website.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Two Top Players Sit

Capitals vs. Lightening Preview

One with injury, the other healthy. Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig is still recuperating a leg injury. The Caps suffer badly with out him against the Devils even with good goaltending by Fredric Cassivi and Brent Johnson. Many news outlets are saying the scratch may just be a "better be safe than sorry" which gives time for the all-star goalie to heal.

Andrew Cassels is the other player that is once again scratched for the game. His positive attitude about the situation was chronicled in the Wash Post. Cassels was to be Alexander Ovechkin's set-up man, but he has found himself in a bit of a slump.

The Capitals once more have to put on their hard hats and come to work hard. The Lightening will be without Martin St. Louis with a broken finger. The Caps can hope that the Tampa Bay will be a bit tired after a win versus the Flyers last night, but not likely. The Lightening broke their 6 game losing streak with their win last night.

-- Other Notes --
  • Jeff Halpern has a feature story on the NHLPA's website. Title: From the Ivy League to the Big League.
  • Atlanta Thrasher's Ilya Kovalchuk and Dallas Stars' Marty Turco earn player of the week honors. Kovalchuk's 4 goals single handlely beat the Lightening. It's about time he scored.
  • St. Louis Blues are for sale. I'd offer something to buy them, but then I would have to up end the couch for loose change. Buy the Blues, get the Savvis center for half-off.

Tickets still available for purchase for tonight's game, well for every home game for that matter. Caps play the Lightening on OLN TV tonight. Can't wait to see how bad the ratings are after this barn burner.

Editors Correction 11/16: Andrew Cassels did dress for Caps/Lightening game.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Broken Record

Capitals 2, Devils 3

Just when I think the Devil's defensive trap is no longer a factor in the new NHL, they prove that not only am I wrong, but also that you don't need a 2 to 3 goal lead to win a game in the second period. The Devil defense is so perfect that it frustrated the young Caps and kept most of the final minutes' action either deep in the Caps zone or kept them from breaking out.

All of the Devil's goals came on the powerplay. 5 penalties in the first period killed the Caps right off from the start. Most of the key players on the penalty kill looked sluggish in the third, from being overworked. Alexander Ovechkin did not score a point but still received the #3 star of the game. Would that be some respect for the Capitals rookie?

Overall Grade: C

The Capitals main problem was their system was ineffective versus the trap. And the coaching staff did little to make the adjustments (or the players just didn't execute). However, kudos goes to the New Jersey Devils for using their defense to help them win both games, a rarity these days in the NHL.

Wash Post covered the contest. Capitals must not be frustrated by their effort in these last two games, they have played well. The beauty of youth is the ability to forget and get up for the next game. I expect the Caps to again control their penalties and keep the work ethic high.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Down In Front!

Capitals 3, Devils 4

The one thing I hate the most other than the Penguins is going to a game that has as many Devils fans as there are Caps fans. What is worse is those Devil fans (or any visiting team's followers) that are obnoxious and rude, that sneak their way down the aisles to the seats they will never be able to afford and bang the glass and scream and yell for no other reason than to incite the crowd of Caps jerseys around them.

One such "friend" would hit the glass and scream, spilling his beer and being an idiot for idiot sake. Finally, and mercifully, an attendant finally checked their tickets early in the third and even some of the Devils fans around us applauded MCI Center's finest.

I don't mind the fans that wear their jersey's proud and support their teams and maybe heckle our guys a little bit. I remember when I attended a game in Phoenix wearing my Caps jersey and would jump up when we scored. When the puck scampered down the ice towards the Coyote's goaltender I yelled, "Miss it!"

It was just quiet enough for a few rows to hear me, and two rather large Coyote fans turned my way with scowls. Then they laughed upon seeing my jersey and nervous smile. I ended up haveing a rather good conversation with them through the game and it actually turned out they were relatively new to the game and I helped them understand the subtle differences between a center and goaltender.

My point being is I could support my team without making a drunken spectacle of myself. And in return I turned two guys into fans that would return and support their NHL Franchise.

So during all of this, the Caps drop the first game of a home and home against the Devils. The Caps killed themselves with bad turnovers in their own end. Jeff Halpern, a name not heard for a while on here, gets his first goal of the season on a bad Devil's pass the trickled in front of the net and on Halpern's stick.

If the Capitals play the entire game like they did in the last 10 minutes, the Capitals will be a tough team to beat. Frederic Cassivi filled in the net for the Caps doing a spectacular job in the net. He should have been the number one star because he kept the Caps in the game to the very end.

Overall Grade: C-

Wash Post covers the game in greater detail as always, and since I haven't posted in a while, they also explain personel moves which includes Mike Green's return to the Hershey Bears and Olaf Kolzig's injury.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Caps, Leafs Split Home And Home

Capitals 4, Maple Leafs 6

The Capitals were able to get the lead one more time and Leafs fans were shaking their heads at the end of the first period, "Not again." The Capitals may have won the first period, but they lost the next two periods the Leafs powered their way to a win at home. It's almost fitting that these two teams split their series, a tale of two teams. One packed with experienced and proven winners, another with talented upstarts.

The Capitals work ethic in this game was outstanding, and I loved their never say die attitude. Something that very much comes from coach Glen Hanlon. Alexander Ovechkin scored twice (again), but the Leafs were much too determined and at home. It's hard to win on the road in the NHL, for any team.

The Leafs are a powerhouse club that really needs more solid defense. In terms of goaltending, there is none better than Eddie Belfour (except maybe Olaf Kolzig) and I thought last night he won that game for the Leafs. The two quick goals in the second period by Chad Kilger and Jeff O'Neill gave the Maple Leafs new life, and made sure they were the next to score to take the lead.

The Capitals just needed that one more goal, to make the lead just that much larger, but allowed the Leafs to play their brand of physical play and to defend their home ice.

Overall Grade: A-

The Capitals not only lost the game, but lost a future prospect as well. Just a month into the season, Petr Sykora decided that the NHL wasn't for him. George McPhee agreed for the transfer and the Capitals are dealt another personel blow. Sykora returned to the Czech Republic to play in his former league. Sykora missed the last 3 games due to back spasms. Maybe that will free up more money to land some suitable defense.

The Capitals play a rare afternoon game Friday at home in another home and home series against the New Jersey Devils. The Caps have the potential to win if they continue their hard work and win the one-on-one battles.

Wash Post covers both the game and Sykora's exit.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Caps Win At Home

Capitals 5, Maple Leafs 4

It was a game of firsts for the budding Capitals. First game the Capitals scored more than 3 goals, first game the Capitals won when scoring the first goal, first game the Capitals had a two goal lead, first game the Capitals shot more than 30 shots in a game, the Capitals first back to back wins. Was it any surprise that the Capitals finally found their nitch, using their offensive talent to keep good teams off kilter?

Alexander Ovechkin scored twice (including the game winner) earning the first star of the game. Jakub Klepis got his first NHL assist and Olaf Kolzig stopped 26 to give the upstart Capitals a winning record at home at 5-3.

The Maple Leafs looked tired and uninterested the whole game, even up to the end of the third period they looked as if they were simply going to win. In short the Capitals outworked the Leafs in one on one battles and made a point of throwing the puck to the net more. Special teams were the key for the Caps as their first two goals came off a powerplay shot from Bryan Muir, and a shorthanded tally by Matt Pettinger.

When the Leafs scored back to back goals late in the first, I knew the Capitals were thankful for the horn at the end of the period. And they used that intermission wisely, coming back on the ice and in 1:21 scored the only even strength goal the Caps could muster.

Overall Grade: A

Wash Post covers the details including Kolzig praising special teams:

"Special teams was the difference tonight," Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig
said. "Penalty killing was unbelievable, even though we gave up that
five-on-three goal. Other than that, we were terrific."

The Caps need to continue their hard work against the Leafs Tuesday night. The home and home games played back to back will test the Capitals in a playoff like setting, games against the same opponent back to back. The Caps do have a lot working against them, like their away record, which is a disappointing 1-4.

Most of the talk around Toronto was about Brendan Witt, who many think the Leafs should trade for. The Leafs need a solid defenseman that can come to the plate and make smart plays and Witt matches a lot of what they need. The problem is the Leafs have nothing to trade for him. The Capitals need more experienced defensemen in their line up, so a trade seems unlikely now. However, closer to the playoffs, it may be a different story.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Oh My, Another Shootout Win

Capitals 3, Thrashers 2 F/OT, SO

When I picked up my wife from work and made our way through traffic to the phone booth, I could see that she wasn't quite up for a hockey game. We parked in the MCI garage and made our way to our seats and we settled in for the game. I was excited to be there, a game were Gary Bettman himself attended (it's like royalty, but not really) and couldn't wait to watch Alexander Ovechkin play live for the second time this season.

I told myself, don't get involved in the game, let it go. If they lose, they lose. The Capitals were blown out the night before by Philadelphia, and Atlanta looked as if they were actually glad to play against the struggling Caps. My wife looked at me in her bored mood and started giving me trivia questions from the program. "Who do the Capitals play on Nov. 11?" "New Jersey" "Correct!"

The Caps played hard in the first even though it seemed the whole period was being played at their end. I was admiring the Thrashers ability to control the puck, with the occasional Capital break the other way that made the thinned crowd oh and awe. Then it happened. Stupid Peter Bondra puts the puck high over Olaf Kolzig's outstretched leg to score first. I looked to my wife and said, that is actually a good thing. Everyone around us looked at me like I was mad, then I told them "Look, the Caps are 0-4 when they score first."

Then it happened, Bryan Muir stormed out of the penalty box and gets a lucky bounce and a break away to the net. I actually stood up when I saw the Thrasher defensemen look the other way. "He doesn't know the puck is behind him," I screamed and a split second later it's past Mike Dunham and the place went nuts.

Jakub Klepis (yes, I said Jakub Klepis) scored his first NHL goal less than a minute later, and things were looking up while my wife continued to shoot trivia questions at me. "What is the average age of the Capitals?" "27" "Right."

Midway through the third, my new hero, Ovechkin knocks a errant pass down storms in and scores, the place erupts, except the ref is pointing to the off sides dot. What? Knocked down with a high stick. My wife keeps at it, "What is Ben Clymer's hometown?" "Bloomington MN" "How did you know that?"

The Thrashers tie the game and all looks lost until Jeff Halpern makes a good hit against a Thrasher player (not sure who) then Ilja Kovalchuk takes a cheap shot at Halpern, checking him in the back. The ice explodes with gloves, sticks, helmets flying everywhere. The only ones not fighting were the goaltenders. It was one of the better drop the gloves fight I have seen live in a long time. "Who is the Thrasher's strength and conditioning coach?" "Jay Bear" "Ok, seriously, your scary."

Then came the shootout, my first live shootout. I stood because Ted Leonsis told me too. And the Capitals didn't disappoint. Ovechkin's goals slipped past Dunham. Then Bondra was up against Kolzig. I cringed as he took the puck. Kolzig leaned toward the left, which was odd because if Bondra cut it across, Kolzig would be in no man's land and Bondra would have the whole net to backhand the shot in. I thought, Bondra make your move. But he never cut it and ran out of room shooting it right into Kolzig's pads. I actually jumped like a giddy schoolgirl.

My wife was entertained too, "Wow that was pretty exciting, I actually had fun." There is a god. Capitals work hard to pull a great win, and my wife and I get to go home happy.

Overall Grade: B+

I loved the overall effort, and Klepis was outstanding. Although I didn't know who he was at first (Whose #38 out there? No idea). The Capitals may have a new face to keep in the lineup.

Wash Post has the details. Caps face the Maple Leafs next, on Sunday.