Sunday, January 29, 2006

Stopping The Skid

Capitals 2, Lightning 1

A spectacular ending and a pretty tic-tak score helps the Caps from losing 4 straight. And against the Stanley Cup Champions who played a phenomenal game against the Flyers yesterday.

The Caps seem to have the magic bullet against the Lightning winning 3 out of the five games they have played so far. Although a majority of those games have been at home, the final three games at Tampa Bay.

Jeff Halpern and Dainius Zubrus were the goal scorers for the Caps. Zubrus’ goal came with 2:20 left to play in the third. The Caps were able to hold off a scramble late including a shot that hit the inside of the post with nano-seconds left in the game.

Olie Kolzig played solid and it helped to have Jamie Heward back in the line up. Heward gave the blue line men some strength and speed. When the Lightning forwards looked to gobble up rebounds or bad clearings, Heward’s speed was able to negate those chances.

Alex Ovechkin settles for an assist, but a pretty one on a tic-tak play. After a turn over in the neutral zone, Ovechkin was able to gain the blue line but drew two Lightning defenders to him. After an attempted poke check, Ovie passed the puck towards the slot finding Chris Clark who wisely passed it to an open Zubrus in front of the net. There was little John Grahame could do to save the quick passing play.

Overall Grade: B

The Caps were able to come back from 3 straight losses to play well against Tampa Bay. They were physical and fast against the Lights. Kolzig had 34 saves and played one of his better games.

Wash Post will have some deeper coverage on this as well. Caps will play the Islanders Tuesday, during the State of the Union Speech which takes up every channel here in D.C. Capitals must bring their work ethic and strong physical play and continue to play well.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Like A Broken Record

Capitals 2, Bruins 3

For the second time in four nights, the Bruins continue giving the Caps some fits. Alex Ovechkin had plenty of opportunity, but couldn’t find the back of the net, even on a penalty shot that went wide.

The Capitals needed better puck control on the blue line. Ben Clymer answered the call to help the struggling defense. He did well by tying the game in the third, but the Bruins answered right away with a goal.

A night after a clearly frustrating loss to Pittsburgh, the Caps just couldn’t get past the play of P.J. Axelsson, and Tim Thomas. The Bruins didn’t need to change their game plan too much as the Caps just couldn’t get it going.

Overall Grade: C

It could have been much worse after the debacle at Mellon Arena, but the Capitals were able to make a game out of it. The Caps sorely miss the speed of Steve Eminger and Jamie Heward on the blue line. Capitals defensemen look slow and awkward.

Wash Post has the details. I may have put too much hope into this team after their 4th consecutive win against one of this year’s elite teams, Carolina Hurricanes. The Capitals have to use these losses to learn and correct their weaknesses.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Crosby Takes Over For Lemieux As #1 Cap-Killer

Ovechkin 1, Penguins 8

Talk about playing to the level of the team you playing. Capitals stunk so bad that the entire east end of Pittsburg needed to evacuate from the fumes. If the Caps defense were useless in the Boston game, they shouldn’t even get a check for this game. Too many times did I see the defensemen looking around, standing around with their sticks off the ice, and doing a large load of nothing in front of Olie Kolzig.

In my effort not to be “too” negative about the Capitals (yeah right), I will only talk from now on the good things about the Caps in this game. So here it goes:

Alex Ovechkin scored his 34th goal.

Whew, glad that is over.

Not to take anything away from the Penguins that came into this game with a purpose and a solid game plan. Sid “the Kid” Crosby played probably his best game ever. He was spectacular for the Pens tonight with a goal and a playmaker. 4 points to Ovechkin’s 1. The veterans Mark Recchi and John LeClair have finally put out some production for the Penguins, something the squad desperately needed with the sudden retirement of Mario Lemieux. I was starting to cheer for the Pens by the 5 goal or so.

Overall Grade: F---

Yes, that is three minuses. The Caps didn’t even show up for this game. Glen Hanlon looked like he was about to bust some heads on the bench (and I hope he did afterward). After the 6th goal, I would have benched the entire defensive squad and played all forwards for the rest of the game.

Wash Post will find some positives, although I doubt it (I almost wouldn’t waste print on this game). I miss Jamie Heward and Steve Eminger. Never thought I would say that.

Caps must show up to get revenge against the Bruins tomorrow night. I can’t believe I wasted this much time on this game.

Monday, January 23, 2006

No 5th Win For Caps

Capitals 2, Bruins 3

Apparently the Caps could have used the extra practice. After Glen Hanlon cancelled practice for Sunday, the Caps looked sluggish, slow and not in the game. They played a spectacular game against the league leading Hurricanes, the Caps came out flat against a struggling Bruins squad.

The Caps seem to play to the level of the team they are playing. This means against good teams the Caps come to play while against poor or struggling squads they seem to phone it in. Tim Thomas was the number one Capital killer. He had some spectacular saves but most of the shots were softballs.

The Capitals just couldn’t get it going at either end of the ice. The Caps defense was useless in this game. The Bruins outworked and outplayed the blue line men on the boards and in front of the net. Brent Johnson played spectacular in net, but was overshadowed by the lack of play by his teammates in front of him.

Overall Grade: F

There were moments of great excitement in the game, but for the most part the Caps were just not ready to play this team. Dumb penalties and low level of play kept the Capitals from winning their 5th straight.

Wash Post will have the recap and great quotes. The Caps need to refocus and find their “chi” again. Jeff Halpern returned to the line up and made some minor dents, but also turned the puck over a lot as well. Alex Ovechkin was held shotless in the first and P.J. Axelsson did a good job of keeping Ovie off the score sheet.

The Caps must find their hard hats and come to work for their next game. Now that they have tasted success, they must push themselves through the threshold and raise their level of play. The hard part of this loss is that Caps fans really wanted this win to extend the win streak. Unfortunately the Capitals could not deliever.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Hurricanes Down-Graded To Light Breeze

Capitals 5, Hurricanes 2

It was only hours before the hockey game Georgetown pulled an upset over #1 Duke, that in the same building the Capitals take down the NHL’s #1 Carolina Hurricanes. And “Upset Saturday” was not just a college basketball cliché, as the Caps down their Southeast Division rivals.

It was a game of firsts too, Brooks Laich’s first goal at the Booth. The first game the Caps have scored an empty-net goal, first time the team has had a 4 game winning streak, and the first time the Hoyas have knocked off a #1 ranked team since the ‘80s. And Pat Sajack (of wheel of fortune fame) was in attendance, what more could you ask for.

The Caps looked like a different team than what the Hurricanes had seen in late October. Even though Alex Ovechkin didn’t score, he got assists 28 and 29. Ovechkin was very involved in many aspects of the game including some rough stuff late in the Second.

It set up some heated hits during the game as Brendan Witt went to hit Rod Brind’Amour. Jesse Boulerice took exception to the hit and went after Witt who wisely took the roughing call and kept his gloves on to draw the double-minor against Boulerice. Brind’Amour later took out Ovechkin with a knee to knee (or toe to toe) hit to extract his own justice leading to some heated scuffles on the ice.

Glen Hanlon told reporters later during the post game interview that Olie Kolzig was throwing up between periods, as he made 31 saves and played solid in net in the final period. Although he did not stop the penalty shot from Erik Cole midway through the third, Kolzig made some remarkable saves when the ‘Canes battled back to within one goal.

Overall Grade: A+

The Caps took their game to the Hurricanes early and may have caught the team, who were going for their 10 straight win, by surprise. The Caps nearly allowed their rivals back into the game, until the ‘Canes had to take more chances to tie the game up and got caught deep. It allowed a three on one the other way with Ovechkin, Chris Clark, and Laich who scored.

Wash Post will give you the inside scoop. The Caps face another struggling team, Boston Bruins Monday night on OLN. The Caps now have more confidence to make a run for more points late in this season.

The Caps have stepped up their play and got 2 points from an elite team. This is a different team than just a couple of weeks ago. This is getting interesting.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Right Where He Belongs

Oh happy day in Washington DC, Alex Ovechkin is staying put in a Capitals jersey. That is good news for Caps fans who were worried about the impending decision that could have put Ovechkin back in a Moscow Dynamo jersey.

That doesn’t mean an end to court proceedings however for the Capitals, who are still looking for a way to get Alexander Semin back to the U.S. Many believe including Tarik El-Bashir that Semin will be back in a Capitals sweater by next year.

In a rare interview on Comcast Sportsnet with Joe Beninati, El-Bashir talked about Semin with George McPhee (General Managers extraordinaire) and they are hoping that by next season, the talented forward will be at Capitals training camp.

Injuries are still plaguing the Caps. Jamie Heward, Steve Eminger, and Jeff Halpern are all questionable to return. The three of them account for 61 points this year. The Caps will lose some substantial speed on the blue line with Heward and Eminger out of the line up.

In a rather amusing story, Olie Kolzig tried to recreate Ovechkin’s goal in Phoenix at a recent practice. As reported in the Wash Post:

“Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig tried about a half dozen times during yesterday's practice to replicate the acrobatic goal scored by Ovechkin in Phoenix on Monday. Kolzig, lying flat on his back in full pads, managed to score only once.

‘I show him how to do it,’ Ovechkin joked. ‘But he can't do it. He's a goalie.’”

A goalie indeed.

Caps face the struggling St. Louis Blues tonight at the Booth. All the previews for this game give St. Louis a chance to get back their winning ways, rather than give any real chance for the Caps to win. The Capitals are the underdog for this game.

-- Other Notes --

  • OLN will broadcast ECHL All Star Game. And I thought I was going to miss it this year (sarcasm alert). They may cover the North Dakota State Pee Wee playoffs later this season.

  • Peter Forsberg will miss one game due to groin injury, although he is expected to start the next game. Flyers need a healthy Forsberg to make a last push to the playoffs. Although at this point Ken Hitchcock has the boys playing very well.

  • Marion Hossa helped the Atlanta Thrashers beat the Dallas Stars for the first time in the team’s history. Way to go Thrashers. That is neato!

  • Zigmund Palffy retires for “personal reasons” so says Penguin’s GM. Many are speculating that it may be due to nagging injuries. Palffy joins a list of veteran palyers that have called it quits this year. Although I don’t mind a player retiring, but Palffy gave no reason himself to his quick withdrawal.

Okay, that is all I got today.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Broken Sticks Everywhere

We have all seen it, time is winding down in the third. A pass to the point on a must score power play, and the big D winds up to put all of his weight into his slap shot. And *snap*! His twig breaks close to his right hand in half. The puck softly plays onto the stick of the other team’s forward and he is on a quick break the other way. Bad luck?

More and more I have been seeing composite sticks give wicked shots, but the stick is weak and breaks easily. So it prompts the question, are composite sticks better than wood? This is the most I have seen sticks break in a season that I can remember.

I still play with wooden stick, as I am old fashioned and my stick has lasted me quite a long time. But I see more and more composite sticks in the rink. At the pro ranks, if you play with a wood stick, you might as well play with out a helmet, because your out dated.

But in important games I have seen a Capitals snap his lumber when that shot may not have been a goal, but then the puck would be deep in the zone and not on a break away the other way with a defensemen stickless.

So I asked a few random players why they prefer composite to wood…

“I like it because it’s light, and I can get a better shot from it.”

“It’s a pretty cool stick, I used to have the ones where you just replace the blades. But I got sick of replacing blades all the time.”

“Because I can afford it.”

I understand that some players love the torque and lightness of the stick to improve their shots. But can the stick be dependable in clutch situations. True players aren’t going through one stick a game, but the amount of composite sticks lay broken on the ice is hard to ignore.

Next time you watch a game, any hockey game at the pro level you will see a broken composite every time. I counted one game and saw as many as 7 broken sticks, 3 of them off the shot.

Wood may not be any better, as many have said that instead of breaking, the stick will chip away to nothing or lose its torque after extensive play, making the shot flat and slow. And wood sticks can break as well, sometimes shattering, just not as often as the composites. Am I wrong on this?

Either way, the real winners are the stick manufacturers. As long as the sticks keep breaking, the makers will keep cranking out sticks.

All I know is that my Sher-wood sticks has never let me down, and unless I come into a small fortune or simply they don’t make wood sticks anymore, I have little incentive to change.

Monday, January 16, 2006

You Can Only Hope To Contain

Capitals 6, Coyotes 1

“No way! No Freaking way!” I couldn’t help but screaming on Alex Ovechkin’s third period goal where he scored a goal on his back with his stick over his head and finding just the width of the puck hole to score his 32nd goal of the season.

It was quite possibly the best goal of the year by Ovechkin. I had to watch the replay again and again to fully comprehend what the phenom rookie had done. It was the 17th game that Ovechkin has had a multipoint game with 2 goals and an assist.

When I talked about goal support for Ovechkin, this is what Craig Laughlin talked about spreading it around. More of the Caps needed to score and not leave all of the goals come on the shoulders of their top point maker, Ovechkin. The Caps got goals from Ben Clymer, Dainius Zubrus, Brian Sutherby, and Matt Bradley.

The Caps did a great job in all aspects of the game, defensively and offensively. The Caps kept the scoring chances of the Coyotes down in front of back-up Brent Johnson who was a part of the Coyotes system.

It was a surprise to see Johnson in net, but made sense as he played very well in two straight games. The Caps were able to dominate the Coyotes by playing their brand of hard work hockey. The Phoenix bench boss Wayne Gretzky could only shake his head as the Coyotes let 4 goals by the Caps slip past Brian Boucher in the second period.

Overall Grade: A

Zubrus was credited with the first goal that was an errant pass in front of Coyote’s goal by Mike Ricci that squeezed its way into the net. After review, officials gave the goal to Ovechkin as it didn’t look like Zubrus had touched the puck.

Wash Post has the news and notes of the game. The Caps come off a three game road swing were they won 2 games in Phoenix and Anaheim. Ovechkin scored 6 goals in that stretch. The Caps bring their 2 game winning streak home to the phone booth to play St. Louis on Thursday night.

Ovechkin’s unbelievable goal, I am sure, will be the number one play tonight on Sports Center, unless of course they show some college basketball ally-oop. Call the votes off, no more debate, Alex Ovechkin is the Calder winner. ‘Nuff said.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

NBC's Debut Games, Better Than Expected

The NHL on NBC. Today marked the first day of NBC’s network broadcast of the NHL. And they did surprisingly well. The games they covered were actually good ones. All one goal games and two going to overtime, the Boston/Dallas game featured the shootout.

All in all, NBC got some good games to cover, but did that translate to good ratings in the States. Networks have always had a love hate relationship with the NHL. Remember Fox’s attempt to make hockey easier with the glowing puck. But their numbers didn’t improve.

NBC is a bit different only because they will be the network covering the Winter Olympics as well. Hockey ratings always seem to find a bump just before and after the Winter Olympics, at least in 2000 it did. And with NBC keeping those same viewers that may sit and watch when the Olympian hockey players return to their NHL teams.

I enjoyed the games on NBC, they didn’t try to do too much on their debut broadcasts. I could have done with out the Sidney Crosby campaign piece for Calder during the second intermission. The entry and exits of the broadcasts were clean, and very little interruption from the game.

I would hope that a US Network would stick with the NHL for the whole season. And why not take that chance with the new look of the league. The NFL will always overtake the television on Sundays, but Saturday broadcasts could smell like hockey for NBC. But due to lack of ratings, and consequently the lack of sales will keep hockey out of the lights in the fall.

As for NBC, keep up the good work, and I will tune in again next Saturday.

Ovechkin Gets His Hat-Trick

Capitals 3, Mighty Ducks 2 OT

All the Capitals needed were two men: Alex Ovechkin and Brent Johnson. Both played phenomenal versus a good Western Conference team, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. It was all the Caps needed.

The Caps came into this game needing a win, needing to give Olaf Kolzig a rest, and needing to produce more goals. It was the return of Jeff Friesen (who changed his number from 12 to 41 out of respect of Bondra’s scoring record in DC), both back in the line up for the Capitals and back in Anaheim where he played. There was so much behind this game for the Caps that the Mighty Ducks could no longer contain the super rookie getting his first career hat-trick.

Not only did Ovechkin score all three goals, but won the game with less than two minutes left in overtime. It was almost poetic. And as Mighty Ducks fans looked on in awe and shock, a collective scream of joy rippled through the homes of Caps fans in the Capital City close to 1 in the morning.

The Mighty Ducks did not go quietly in the night, it only seemed that way with some of the miraculous saves by Johnson (Johnny). He had 32 saves which included defusing a 2 on 0. Johnny looked good in net with great pad stops and glove grabs.

Some other players that played well but was not found on the score sheet were Brendan Witt who played the best all year, I thought. Brian Sutherby was another that seemed to find the puck and was always tough on the boards in the forecheck.

Overall Grade: A

The Caps fought this one out. Plus leaning on Ovie doesn’t hurt either. The Caps need to find a way to continue this hard working play. It was quite obvious the Mighty Ducks were not ready for the speed of the Capitals.

Bad news, Steve Eminger was hurt badly with either a tweaked knee or ankle. Either way, it was a heart breaker to see him fall in pain in overtime. When Eminger was helped off the ice with the help of the trainer and teammates, he did not put pressure on the injured leg. Bad sign.

Wash Post will love to fill you in on the sayings and stories of the night (if they stayed up past their bed time). The Caps play the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday, traveling overnight after this game. Kolzig is a likely starter versus Gretzky’s squad. The game is 4 pm local time in D.C.

1/14 Editors Correction: Caps play the Coyotes on Monday which is Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, hence the start time at 4 pm eastern.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bad Start For Caps Road Trip

Capitals 1, Stars 4

Clearly Dallas was the superior team. The second period was the only period the Caps could put any pressure on the Stars, but only yielded one goal for the entire game. Alex Ovechkin scored his 27th goal.

The Capitals even scored a goal after a non-whistle by referee Tim Peel but the play was never reviewed in the second period. The puck was clearly in the net before the whistle blew, even triggering the red light, but Peel skated to the front of the net to nonchalantly stop play to call a penalty against the Stars. The puck was clearly in before the whistle on review. Where is Toronto when you need them?

But the Caps couldn’t even respond in the ensuing power play, nearly allowing a short- handed goal. The Caps were just out of their league. George McPhee, pay attention, these are the teams you have to beat to win a Stanley Cup.

The Stars played a gritty and good game. Jason Arnott (are too!) scored twice and had an assist, so did Sergei Zubov with a pair of his own assists. The Caps just couldn’t slow down the Stars. Olaf Kolzig has yet to win a game against the Dallas Stars, it may be a while too.

The Capitals couldn’t even hit their own man. I saw pass after pass either in the other players skates or right to a Stars player. It was frustrating to see how poor the play making part of the game is seriously lacking in the Capitals. When the Caps had the power play their only play was the dump and chase. Huh?

Overall Grade: Period 2, A, Periods 1 and 3, D

Wash Post has the quotes and notes of the game. Ovechkin was fun to watch in this game, even though he turned the puck over on Dallas’ third goal in the first period. He was fast and lucid, he just was not able to find the open ice to make his moves.

Reported earlier was the fact that many of the defensive squad for the Caps had been stricken with the flu. Not sure if that means if any those players will continue to play on this road trip. Mathieu Biron looked a sight better than death as he played, very pale and at times looked tired and shaky.

Capitals must find a new sense of self on this road trip as they play Anaheim Friday night 10:30 pm. The Caps could pick up a quick 2 points if they continue to play hard.

Nice to see the Comcast crew does the keys of the game with 1:40 to play in the third. Talk about being on top of your game Craig Laughlin. Go back to the Spa! Love ya “Locker.”

Bottom line in this one: Caps just couldn’t play with the Stars.

41 Down, 41 To Go

NBC came out with their schedule of NHL games. No surprise that the Capitals were left off national coverage of the games. Not that it would have been nationally broadcasted as the games are localized. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Detroit Red Wings appear 4 out of the 6 Sundays NBC broadcasts.

The Caps are officially branded the worst team in the league. The question now remains, where do we go from here, and who gets to come? Rumors have been flying of the trades of Olie Kolzig, Brendan Witt, and Jeff Friesen.

As the Capitals start their second half of their season tonight at Dallas, it will be interesting to see if George McPhee makes to move for a more veteran squad or if he will once again squander veteran players with future prospects and draft picks.

What the Capitals have to accomplish this second half is to work on their consistency. Which means, I would guess, is to either be consistently good or consistently bad. At least gain some consistency.

The Caps must give Alex Ovechkin some kind of goal support. Allow a threat to open ice for the talented rookie to do more damage. The team also must find more than one line to produce offense. I would even consider shaking up the CBS line as they have gotten to some kind of stalemate, neither producing goals nor creating many chances.

The team needs more experience. That is the bottom line. Whether it’s in their cards to find more stable, consistent players will be seen as the trade deadline looms and the teams jockey for better playoff teams.

If I were to play general manager of the Caps I would look at what I need to build a successful team around Kolzig and Ovechkin. I would need to find a playmaker to wing with Ovechkin. Then I would strengthen my defensive core and look for a suitable back up for Kolzig that can one day take starting duties after Olie takes his leave.

Right now McPhee has some leverage with trading some good players for draft picks and maybe future considerations to teams that want to win now. I would put Jeff Friesen and Andrew Cassels on the market for a playmaker. Then I would look for solid draft picks for Witt (because I don’t think I could get a better defenseman with a player to player trade).

Whatever does happen, the Caps will have a different look next year and even by the end of this year. It sucks to talk about trading players so soon for the Capitals, but at this point, with half the season gone, the Caps have only won 13 games. Not a lucky number for Hanlon’s squad.

Capitals at Dallas tonight 8:30 pm.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Overtime Loss, This One Hurts

Capitals 3, Blackhawks 4 OT

The Blackhawks looked to end their ten game skid, and they were able to jump to a 3 goal lead early. The Caps powered their way back, but were not able to play with much intensity after scoring the tying goal.

Chicago played with much more urgency than the Capitals. It even looked as if the Caps had the game all but won, with the pressure they had on the Blackhawks late in the third. Chicago was able to kill every penalty tonight. If the Caps wanted to win, they would have to do it at even strength.

The Caps failed to get their 14th win. This whole game had a bad taste in my mouth for some reason. Even as the Capitals were able to pull back with a tie, something told me that Chicago was just hungrier for the win.

Overall Grade: C

I liked the gusto of the team to get back into it, but then they just stopped pressuring after Brian Sutherby’s tying goal. I couldn’t understand why the caps were not playing with a sense of purpose. Almost like their job was over when they had tied.

Bright side, Alex Ovechkin has found his scoring touch once more. Rumor has it that Jeff Friesen will be back in the line up on the southwestern road swing.

Down side, Olie Kolzig may have once again injured his groin but was not taken out of the game. He didn’t look that sharp in overtime and Chicago’s aggressive play may have caught the veteran goaltender off kilter.

Wash Post has the quotes and details. The Caps need to finish the game. They need to match the same intensity has they had when they were down 3-0. This is one they let slip through their fingers.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Stuck In First Gear

The Capitals are stuck in a rut, and they are not sure how to get out of it. The Caps have been in 22 one goal games this year. They have won 10 of those games, 5 of those wins in the shoot out.

The team has the worst penalty killing percentage in the league, and even though they have tightened their special teams up, it’s no where near perfect. The Caps can make the game close, but getting over that hump to win those games is proving to be the challenging part of this season.

“We need to get better at things and guys hate losing. Good efforts aren't good enough anymore,” goaltender Olaf Kolzig said. “We've got to start finding a way to win these games.”

"We expect in due time to win these [close] hockey games," Head Coach Glen Hanlon said.

While some keep a positive attitude, many fans just look at the overall record. 13-23-4 has kept the fans at bay, and the Caps continue to play in a building with plenty of empty seats. Even with the exciting play of Alex Ovechkin.

The list of young hopefuls in the Capitals system may be impressive, but it lacks consistency. It seems that every Hershey Bear has had a chance at the big top only to be sent down as fast.

As much as they don’t want to admit it, the Capitals are defiantly in a rut. The Caps look competitive, but fail to show it when it counts. Out of 40 games played, 22 of them were one-goal decisions. The Capitals must find a way to win.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Capitals Just Can't Put 'em In Net

Capitals 1, Flyers 3

The Capitals may need some extra guns to take some pressure off of Alex Ovechkin, which resumed his scoring against the Flyers. Even with multiple power-play opportunities including a :57 two man advantage, the Capitals needed another scorer to equalize the lopsided power play.

I am getting more and more impressed with the defensive end as they are growing up and keeping shots mostly to the outside where Olaf Kolzig can easily gobble up. The possibility of losing Brendan Witt seems more and more eminent. The Caps must either get a great defensive prospect or a great draft pick for Witt’s desired trade.

In this game the Capitals looked like they brought their “A” game, but the puck didn’t drop their way. It seems the Caps can play solid when playing the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. Now if the Capitals can get those consistencies playing the Southeastern Division.

The Flyers played well enough to get the win. Now they take the 1st place standing in the league away from the sliding Ottawa Senators. The Caps just could not capitalize on the power play and the Flyers defense was able to shut the Caps offense down.

Overall Grade: B-

The Caps’ defense I thought did a good job in front of Kolzig. The aching hole for the Caps is goal support. Alex Ovechkin is on par for 50 goals, but their needs to be another sniper to ease all the defensive pressure on Ovechkin.

Wash Post has all the quotes and details to make one puke. Caps face the Florida Panthers Sunday for an afternoon matinee. Caps must play better against their Southeast Division foes. The Caps are only 4-9-1 versus the Southeast, and all four wins have been shoot-out victories.

-- Other Notes --

  • Congratulations to the World Junior Hockey Champions Canada. Let’s see, playing in Vancouver, in front of a Canadian crowd and playing for gold, and there was some questions about the Russians dominating the game? Yeah right.

  • Some thing that has flown under my radar the last couple of days: Alexander Mogilny was place on waivers by the New Jersey Devils. How long before he gets picked up? Surprisingly no one, he cleared waivers. Patrik Elias scores twice though versus Buffalo, to prove he was worthy to replace Mogilny.

That is all I got for now, see you back in DC, soon.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Great Hockey Not Seen In U.S.

It seems that our neighbors to the north are spoiled in a way. The World Junior Men’s Hockey Championship will be seen in millions of Canadian homes between Canada and Russia. Even thousands if not millions of Russians will be glued to watch the Final on Thursday night. And the Americans, with our Football playoffs and eyes glued to the Rose Bowl tonight, will miss out on some great hockey.

Coverage of hockey in the States is steadily declining, while attendance at the stadiums rises. ESPN has all but ignored the sport, maybe wishing it will just go away. And Fox Sports/Comcast Sportsnet/and any other local sporting medium goes about business as usual, making sure to bump the hockey game if the local high school basketball team happens to be playing for 3rd place in some random tournament.

As the NHL tries to market itself around individuals like Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, it is quite obvious that they have made no headway by going with OLN in the States. The excuses are the same. “Well, when the baseball season/college football season/NFL season/college basketball season/NBA season is over then the fans will comeback.”

The States continue to ignore major sporting events. Given that the USA Juniors made a good run for a medal in the World juniors, and no one down here even knew that they were even playing. While future American NHL players gave their all, like Phil Kessel, Chris Bourque and others that played well got little to no recognition in the States. Maybe a 5 second blurb on ESPN’s Sportscenter.

So on Thursday night two giants will take the ice. Canada vs. Russia in the World Juniors Hockey Championship game. There is already an international rivalry that is heated and hard to ignore. There will be spectacular goals, great saves, and crushing hits. The two teams will make a lot of noise, while the United States will sleep soundly through it all. Can you blame us?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Caps Need To Tighten It Up

The Capitals have to work more on their consistency. It’s the thorn in the side of the Caps this year as the only players to show up to play has been Olaf Kolzig and Alex Ovechkin. And there are trade rumors circling the head of Kolzig even if management promises no exchange for the two time all-star.

The Caps work ethics is unmatched, and at times look as if they are playing inspired hockey. While other times they look disorganized and out played. Part of the problem may be the lack of a solid 3rd and 4th line.

While the first line consists mainly of Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus and Chris Clark, and the second solid line for the Caps, Ben Clymer, Brian Sutherby, and Matt Bradley. The following lines are constantly changing, and it is becoming more of a hindrance rather than a help for the Capitals.

The lines contain Jeff Halpern that is having a tough year but for the most part has shown up to play every night he is on the roster. But his hard work has barely paid off, with only 3 goals to his name, and posting a -5. It’s not all Halpern fault though.

A carousel of rookies and minor league recalls has plagued the last two lines. Players like Jakub Klepis (13GP, 1G, 2A, -8), Tomas Fleischmann (13GP, 0G, 2A, -6), and Boyd Gordon (9GP, 0 points, -3) have come up through the farm system and have barely held their own.

And of course we can’t go too far with out taking a hard long look at the inexperienced and poorly played defensive core. Even with Brendan Witt playing hard nosed hockey, and Jamie Heward becoming the go to guy, the Caps seem to have a problem with defensemen that maybe too offensively minded.

What the Capitals’ coaching staff is looking for is hard hat, lunch pale players to bring more of a consistent game to the ice every night. Even if their squad is a young one, it should be able to put an effort forth every night.

With the playoffs in the now not so distant future, the Caps may want to start shopping for more hard working players and spend a little more of there salary cap. I would hope for Ted Leonsis to look for a more solid team to put in front of Kolzig and behind Ovechkin. Just remains to be seen if he will take that chance early.

-- Other Notes --

  • The Caps have recalled Boyd Gordon and Boyd Kane (no relation). While Boyd Gordon sounds familiar to Caps fans, Boyd Kane is an eight-year pro who has played well of late in Hershey.

  • Alexander Ovechkin was named NHL’s rookie of the month for December. Finally recognized for his league leading points among rookies and highlight reel goals, Ovechkin joins Sid “the Kid” Crosby and Dion Phaneuf who were rookie of the month winners for October and November respectfully.

  • Atlanta fans took out their frustration on Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators as they played in Atlanta vs. the Thrashers. Heatley who requested the trade after the car wreck that killed a teammate returned to boos and heckles. The Thrashers responded by spanking the Senators for their fans.

  • TV ratings move over. Attendance is up around the league. What TV? “The December average of 16,913 per game was 91.7% of capacity and two percent above the previous December high of 16,578, set in 2001.” I guess it’s better to see the game than watch it on TV. Too bad none of those numbers improve the Caps situation.

Glad to see every one made it to 2006, and I hope to see more of you as the season heats up going into the Olympics in February and playoffs sometime in April.