Wednesday, November 30, 2005
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
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
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!
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
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
- “Wings’ Fischer Collapses…” – Helene St. James
- “Shocked and Devastated” – Bob Wojnowski
- “Time stood still…” – Mitch Albom
- “Preds have no time for games” – John Glennon
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.
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 nhl.com to sports.yahoo.com. Yahoo keeps up to date stats and less commercial traffic on its site.
Monday, November 21, 2005
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
Saturday, November 19, 2005
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Friday, November 04, 2005
And I was so hoping for a shootout in this game. Three words describes this game: 8 unanswered goals. The Caps did a good job in this game working hard, until Chris Clark scored for the Capitals.
Overall Grade: D-
Caps need to put in the effort, and in many cases, this is just talent overcoming growth. The Caps were hurting too with three top players out of the line up with injuries. Matt Bradley, Dainius Zubrus, and Petr Sykora all sat this one out. Their contributions on special teams were sorely missed.
This season is turning out to match my prediction for this team a month ago. The Capitals will have plenty of blow-outs losses and close wins. So far, so good. Caps need to again learn from their mistakes and apply it to the next game which is tonight against the Thrashers.
TV note - Caps game will be on News Channel 8 tonight, as the Wizards vs. Knicks will be on Comcast Sports net. Sunday, WB50 will carry the game at 5 pm.
If you really want to read the gory details, go ahead and read the Wash Post. I am going to practice my amnesia and look forward to the game tonight at the MCI Center.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
The future looks bright for the Capitals, but they won't be the only youth on the ice at the Wachovia Center tonight. Ken Hitchcock will be starting three rookies in the center position against Washington tonight. Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and R.J. Umberger will be the rookie players in very important positions.
This won't be the all-star lineup Flyers that we have seen in Philadelphia's previous games. Keith Primeau will be out of the lineup, nursing a concussion.
This is a great opportunity for the Caps to steal one away from the Flyers, if they continue their hard work and disciplined system. Hitchcock's team will be ready for the Caps, and it should be pretty entertaining.
Capitals recall Nolan Yonkman and Tomas Fleischmann from Hershey. Fleischmann is 10th in the AHL in scoring with at least a point in each of last nine games. Yonkman is returning after a short stint for conditioning.
By the Numbers:
- 0-3: Capitals' record when they are the first team to score (Vancouver is a perfect 8-0 when scoring first).
- 11.2%: Capitals' power play percentage, good enough for 29th in the league (only the Blue Jackets are worse).
- 24: Number of hits credited to Alexander Ovechkin.
- 25:50: Amount of time per game (minutes:seconds) Jamie Heward has been on the ice (ranked 12th in the league among all players).
TV - Comcast Sportsnet, Radio - 570 AM. Go Caps!
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Jagr is an elite European player, which means when it comes to playing in the North American style (i.e. smaller rinks, hooking, holding), Jagr would get frustrated. Watching him play in D.C., Jagr would be hooked and held extensively in the first half of the game. Then he just gave up. Spending the rest of the game along the boards and dumping the puck.
In Pittsburgh, Jagr could depend on Mario Lemieux to give him the space needed to play well. It was the support he needed in Washington, someone to take the sticks so Jagr had room to create. However, for the Capitals, Jagr was the one that had to take the sticks, and that role didn't fit well with him there.
Now that the North American style of play has been laid aside, Jagr is finding new life, and space, to score goals. Helping the Rangers to take 3rd in the Eastern Conference standings. A surprise since many thought the Rangers were to be the worst team in the league.
Many players that have played well in the league before almost look like a fish out of water. Players that had the ability to create with a stick in their belly, now look like they almost don't know what to do with the puck when it lands on their sticks. John Leclair is one of those players that would grind it out in front of the net and get garbage goals. Now his muscle has to be used for something else.
Players like Leclair, or Mark Recchi will soon start to adapt. They are great players that know the game of hockey, it will just take time. Jagr on the other hand made the transition rather quickly, and the Rangers are benefiting.
-- Other Notes --
- The Capitals have now taken legal matters against Alexander Semin, saying he was in breach of contract. Both Semin and his agent are being sued for failure to report to the Caps. General Manager George McPhee used this only as a "last resort" against the talented forward. Go get 'em George!
- Mats Sundin will practice with his teammates after the Maple Leaf star's left orbital bone was broken after a puck hit him in the face. No word on when he will be able to play again or if he will be wearing a visor. He will probably do both.
- The Carolina Hurricanes maybe the Southeast Division's new power house. The Hurricanes have an Eastern Conference best 8-2-1. It's definitely Hurricane season.
- Rich Hammond explains how things aren't that rosy for the NHL. He makes a few valid points.