Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hockey Halloween Hauntings

I have been in a little block when it comes to writing lately so it was my wife’s idea for this post. As I was thinking of something to write for today, my wife just blurted it, “It’s Halloween, why not write about the scariest things going on in the NHL.” Brilliant.

So here are my 5 scary things in the NHL right now:

1. Philadelphia “Frightening” Flyers’ spooky slow start – Maybe it was losing to their Pennsylvanian rivals in a rout, maybe it was the lack luster approach to the season or maybe they’re cursed. Whatever the reason, the Flyers are tied with three other teams for second to last place. It cost Bobby Clarke and Ken Hitchcock their heads… er, jobs.

2. Buffalo “Booing” Sabres and Anaheim “Dangerous” Ducks are undefeated in regulation - These teams are just scary good. Neither the Ducks nor the Sabres have lost in regulation. Prompting other teams to turn heads and take notice. Also bringing garlic and silver bullets.

3. Martin “the Marauder” Broduer’s play of late – Marty has back to back shutouts, a remarkable feat considering the new NHL where scoring is the point. Broduer has 3 shutouts this season so far. He has also been known to kill cool looking visors. Is there no end to his evil!

4. Chicago Blackhawks (what? They don’t need a scary nickname) – The Blackhawks had a promising preseason, but they can’t find their offense right now. Chicago is scoreless in their last three games. They may need to sacrifice a billy goat, so at least the Cubbies can nix their curse.

5. Wig Night at the Philadelphia game – The Flyers’ fans broke the record for the most people wearing a wig to a sporting event (Bettman’s toupee doesn’t count apparently). While this isn’t scary in itself, the fact that I am writing about it, is.

Happy Halloween. Be safe, eat a lot of candy.

Caps Finish Road Swing With Win

Capitals 4, Flames 2
ScoresheetWash PostCalgary Herald

Olaf Kolzig is on top of his game. The Capital net minder stopped 37 shots from a goal starved Calgary Flames. But the Flames just couldn’t figure him out. Kolzig ties Ken Dryden on the all time wins list with 258 games.

The Caps did a much better job of playing stand-up hockey. Every time the Flames had a rush, the Caps were in their face and stood them up at the neutral zone. It was a great way to end the 4 game western swing. The opened with 2 points and they ended it with 2 points.

Special teams actually worked out how they are supposed to for the Caps. They were able to score a power play goal, and their penalty kill was perfect. The Capitals also were able to get the match-ups they wanted from time to time, which is hard to do on the road; a tribute to the coaches behind the bench running the lines.

Richard Zednik finally got out of his scoring funk scoring 2 goals, one a stuffer and another on a break away (where he ran head long into Miikka Kiprusoff knocking him backward into the net). Dainius Zubrus also scored 2 goals.

Although Alex Ovechkin didn’t score, his presence was felt with some pretty big hits. It hurt just watching some of the hits he gave out in this game. He had two assists on the night.

Overall Grade: B+

The Caps rebound from a couple of soft games versus good teams in Edmonton and Vancouver. It’s nice to see this team roar back and play a solid road game. Caps do need to be careful however not to sit back in the new NHL, where scoring comes in bunches.

The overall road trip is mixed however, the Caps started so well. The middle is something they should forget, and winning in Calgary helps that. The Caps did well getting 5 points out of a possible 8.

I can’t really complain much about their penalty kill either which has showed so much improvement from a year ago. The Caps were able to score a power play goal too in 6 of their last 7 games.

The Capitals come back home to face the Thrashers at the phone booth and return to a new practice facility that opens Wednesday in Ballston, VA. Caps must play well against the Thrashers who will be looking to avenge their recent loss in Toronto.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's Science

Scientists finally catch up with what most goalies know already. Keep your eye on the puck, not the shooter. Not that this is really news, having coached a few goalies myself I know you need to concentrate either on the puck or the ice just before the puck when you play the netminding position. It's an interesting article though.

Other NHL News:
  • Buffalo finally loses a game, versus the Atlanta Thrashers. The more I see of the Thrashers, the more I fear the Thrashers could be the team to beat in the East. Who knew that dropping Peter Bondra would yield a great start for the Atlanta Thrashers? But it was classy of the Buffalo Fans to give their team a mini-standing ovation at the end of the game.
  • Jeff Halpern scores his first goal as a Star, and he did it in game winning fashion. The puck squirted out in front of Halpern where he buried it past Mathieu Garon late in the third.
  • There is a Russian making some noise in the NHL, too bad it isn't Alex Ovechkin. Evgeni Malkin seems to be turning heads in Pittsburgh. Phil Coffey sings the praises of Malkin in his column on NHL.com. Ovechkin's recent shootout slump seems to reverberate with other Caps. They have yet to win a game in the shoot out.

That is all I got.

Caps Run Out of Offense

Capitals 0, Oilers 4
Official Scoresheet - Wash Post - Edmonton Sun

The Caps played themselves into a shutout. Dwayne Roloson says, “Thank you.”

Roloson didn’t have to do much but show up against the Capitals in the most boring game I have seen them play thus far. They had better control of the puck, clearly learning the lesson from Vancouver. However, the Caps, who are nothing but offense, just couldn’t find any.

What is the point of getting all this high powered offense just to see them not even shoot. 19 shots on net. That’s it, 19. The Caps looked sloppy in this one, taking bad penalties. Every time the momentum was looking to go the Caps way, it would be another short-handed series for the Caps.

Didn’t the Caps hire Donald Brashear to mix it up some? Where was he tonight? It looked like he was going to scrap with Oiler Captain Jason Smith, but he never did it, and the Caps looked like they were just going through the motions. The Caps are becoming the team that everyone beats. There was just no jump in their play tonight at all.

Overall Grade: F

The Caps earn their second “F” in back to back games for good reason. There was a lack of focus, none were working hard for loose pucks and the Caps could only shoot from the outside. There is not much I liked about this game. Edmonton didn’t look that sharp, it was the Caps that looked that bad.

I am wondering if the new banana curve on Alex Ovechkin’s stick isn’t a factor in his inability to hit the spots he wants. It seems his shot is either too high, too low or off the mark. Ovie’s shots were all smothered by “Rolie.”

In the category of “What were you thinking?” Glen Hanlon pulls Brent Johnson with a little over a minute left for the extra attacker. The Caps were already down 3-0. Of course it didn’t take the Oilers long to score making it 4-0. I really don’t understand that reasoning at all.

The only thing the Caps can do now is learn from their mistakes. Then head to Calgary where on Monday the Caps will look to at the very least score a goal. Let’s hope they do.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Caps Barely Get Out Alive

Capitals 2, Canucks 3 OT/SO (0-2)

I’m ba’ack. I know you all missed me, but it is I that has been missing a lot. Bobby Clarke quit and Ken Hitchcock gets the axe. When did that happen? And the Caps win in the Pepsi Center. Maybe I should have been gone for longer, because good things seem to be happening while I am away from civilization.

Okay, okay, back to the game.

It was a horrible start for the Capitals where they only managed one shot in the first period. Lucky for them they came out of Vancouver with one point. A point they didn’t earn. Caps take it to shoot out only to get blanked by Roberto Luongo (again).

The Caps just couldn’t get anything going against the Canucks. It was Vancouver that overall dominated in just about every category and left the Caps to play defense; something they are not equipped to do this season.

The Caps are fine when they play a back and forth game where their offense can keep the opposition’s defense busy. But without a stay-at-home, punishing blue liner, the Caps are vulnerable to high powered offenses and puck-controlling teams like the Canucks.

Olie Kolzig’s play in the last two games has been spectacular. Every time I think that Olie is slipping a little, he comes back with two impressive performances. Brian Sutherby is another Capital that has his stock rising.

There are two ways to beat Luongo, deke him into his butterfly and shoot high or look for the trailing open man. Sutherby found the trailing Alex Ovechkin and that sweet pass tied the game late in the second period.

Overall Grade: F

Even with 2 great goals late in the second the Caps played the whole game on their heels. Vancouver out-played them keeping the puck in the Caps zone for so long that those who had seats in General Motors Place behind Luongo needed binoculars to watch any of the game.

Granted, the Caps could have just taken their sticks home and given up after the first period debacle. They worked hard to get back in the game, but it was Vancouver who was the better team tonight. If they would have shot the puck a little bit more it could have been easily a double digit lead.

Ovechkin and Alex Semin need to watch the diving. Both were given penalties for embellishing a little too much. We don’t want to look like the Penguins. And there is little need for it, no matter the score.

Caps need to pull it together a little better since Colorado’s game. Facing Edmonton tonight will be no picnic. The Western Conference Champions should be a handful for the Capitals and if they play like they did against Vancouver, I doubt they could pull a point out of their hats this time around.

Philadelphia got to see the Caps/Canuck game in their market, but we don’t get to see the Flyers’ games in ours. What’s up with that?

In a side note: Congrats to the St. Louis Cardinals who won the World Series. I owe my dad a pretty penny for taking the Detroit Tigers. Can’t win them all.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Lightning Cut Caps

Capitals 4, Lightning 6

Caps self destruct early in the second period and were never able to recover. Olaf Kolzig could do little but endure an attack from the Lightning in the second. The Caps looked less like the team of now and more like the team of then. Alex Ovechkin, who usually has a great game versus the boys from Tampa Bay, scored 2.

The Caps took too many penalties, made too many mistakes, and lost too many chances where they could bury the puck. All leads to a home loss to a division rival. Credit Lightning netminder Marc Denis, he came up with some key stops including a great save on a rebounder with Alex Semin on the doorstep.

Overall Grade: D-

The Capitals had a great first period, but that team never came out of the locker room afterward. The puck just didn’t bounce the Caps way at all tonight. Ovie and Semin ended up trying to do it all by themselves to no avail. Even some of the official’s penalty calls always sent

Who did play a fantastic game was Brian Sutherby who final got a tally on the year with a nice garbage goal in front of the Lightning net. He was also great on the penalty kill even spending an entire shift with out his stick.

Wash Post actually pays a guy to attend hockey games, and he has the story. Caps must shake themselves from this satisfactory funk they find themselves in after getting the lead, especially on this road trip out west where they will be playing some tough teams in Colorado, Edmonton and Vancouver.

On a side note, Puckhead will be on a little bit of a hiatus this week. I will be with out my computer (gasp) for a few days and will likely miss the Colorado game on Wednesday. Check in with these guys until I get back and return to my post on my couch and my laptop back upon my lap: Japer’s Rink, Caps Nut and On Frozen Blog. Be sure to check out Southeast Shootout as well.

Southeast Goes Head to Head

Since the Capitals play each of them 8 games each during the season, some of the Southeast Division bloggers have decided to let some steam off in a common area. That area is affectionately called the Southeast Shootout. Their tag line is: “Come for the weather, stay for the hockey.” I hope that changes to “Come for the hockey, stay for the weather” as the Southeast Division seems to be winning a lot more awards lately.

Caps vs. Lightning tonight. It’s “Hockey Night in Washington” which is starting to rub off on me a little. I don’t usually do previews… so why start now.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Crosby Doesn't Play Nice

I wouldn’t say I am a big New York Islanders fan, but I am a big fan of Ted Nolan. Let me set the scene: Penguins versus Islanders in OT, Sid “the Kid” Crosby slashes (it was quite obvious too) Alexei Yashin on the hand. When Yashin grimaces but plays through the pain and Crosby turns after successfully stripping the puck by then, Yashin reaches up and gives a one-handed hook. Yashin sits for two minutes and Penguins win the game on a power play goal by Sergei Gonchar.

Ted Nolan had this to say:

"I think for a world class player, for a guy of his caliber, he's diving every time someone touches him," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "No question in my mind, he should have been called for a slash before Yashin had a chance to hook him.

"I'm not saying Yashin's wasn't a penalty, I'm just saying there should have been a penalty before. If Yashin maybe acted like Crosby and dove, maybe he would have gotten that call."

Many coaches would have let it pass, but not Nolan. Go get ‘em Ted.

In other NHL News

  • More Penguin woes. Russian club Metallurg Magnitogorsk filed suit in U.S. District Court to stop Evgeni Malkin from playing for the Penguins. No one is saying anything about the filed complaint which makes it hard to gauge how much merit this lawsuit has. I don’t think Malkin is going anywhere.

  • Brian Sutherby is featured in a story about grit and determination on NHL.com. This just reaffirms my love of Sutherby’s play of late. He has been the hardest working Capital playing against top lines in the NHL, and killing penalties with reckless abandon.

  • Speaking of the NHL, they have added two more “Game On” ads featuring Sid “the Kid” and Marty Turco. The ads are a bit of dry humor and are okay. It was much better than the pointless Warrior story ads of a year ago.

  • New York Mets played spectacular, but in the end, a dazzling catch couldn’t keep the St. Louis Cardinals from going to the World Series. If this sentence is news to you, you’re just too hard core of a Hockey Fan like me because it was news to me this morning when I just happen to overhear it on the Today Show. I didn’t even know that it went to a game seven. I need to get out more.

  • It’s not really news but I forgot to post this in the Caps/Panthers recap. While I was watching the game with my wife (which we have made this sort of celebration dance after the Caps score so she would be more excited about watching hockey games with me) the Capitals just scored the fifth goal of the first period and my wife looks to me and says, “Too bad we don’t know anyone in Florida that we could call and rub it in their face.” Well if you’re from Florida and your reading this, consider yourself heckled.

That is all I got.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thrashers Clutch Against Caps

Capitals 3, Thrashers 4 F/OT/SO (0-2)

There was a time that I looked forward to the Caps going to the shoot-out. That was until Marian Hossa slapped a rebounder with 0:33 left on the clock to send the game into OT. After the Caps played a gritty second period to take the lead, they then sat back and left Brent Johnson to win it all.

As I was thinking how well the Caps were playing, blocking key shots and thwarting Atlanta challenges. The Thrashers had three straight power plays to start the period, which the Caps were able to kill off. But the it would become more disastrous than previously thought. The Caps had their chances after that but just couldn’t bury the puck and the Thrasers were able to extend the game.

Atlanta pulls the goaltender and it pays off with Hossa, who was left all alone on the right side of Johnson, buries a rebound shot from the point up over the out stretched leg of Johnson. Overtime was all Atlanta. With the tide changed the Caps were lucky to get to the shoot out. I said if they score first and we miss game over. And that is exactly what happened.

Slava Kozlov put a move that shook Johnson to his very core and scored on Atlanta’s first try. Alexander Semin took on Kari Lehtonen only to miss the back hand. I didn’t need to see Hossa bury the puck five-hole on Johnson who had lost all confidence after the first shot. Because Alex Ovechkin has missed the last 6 shoot out shots, and this time he deked himself out. Game over.

Overall Grade: C

Caps get the Russian hattrick, Ovie, Semin, and Dainius Zubrus all scored in the second. Too bad they couldn’t hold that up. The Caps power play (1-5) is again a thorn in the side of Glen Hanlon. He even gave more ice time to Donald Brashear on the power play. But what the Caps really need is to start finishing games.

There seems to be no killer instinct in this team once they have the lead or in the third period at all. When the Caps have momentum, they tend to let up a little. That leads to a ton of shots on net late from trailing teams. Florida may not have been able to come back, but Atlanta did.

Wash Post was there, so they know more. Caps come home Saturday to face the Tampa Lightning. Then it’s hit the road time and takes a western swing while locally we get to watch the Horse Show (Yippee!). The Caps will finish the month of October facing Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary before returning home in November to face guess who? Atlanta Thrashers. Hopefully they will clean up all the horse manure before then.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Caps Catch Cats Napping

Capitals 5, Panthers 2

In what I am calling the Bertuzzi/Brashear series, the Caps come out early and survived the first of eight against Florida. Todd Bertuzzi and Donald Brashear never dropped the gloves (Brash almost did late in the third against Mike Van Ryn, but just deked then skated away). Capitals scored 5 first period goals that held for the win.

Even with the scoring spree against the starting Florida goaltender Alex Auld, the Caps couldn’t muster a goal in the second and third periods. The Caps Power-play was dismal (0-5). They cracked under the Florida penalty kill pressure and couldn’t set up much in the offensive zone.

On the flip side, the Caps penalty kill looked pretty good. However, the Panthers scored their two goals on the power play. The Capitals were able to kill a 1:30 2-man advantage but were not able to gain any offensive spark after the long kill.

Overall Grade: 1st Period: A, 2nd and 3rd Periods: C-

Scoring is too sporadic. The Caps must work on their consistency when it comes to scoring goals. The fact that Alex Ovechkin has only scored 2 goals in 6 games concerns me. As it does, I am sure, for Glen Hanlon as well. Ovie needs to shake out of the rut of shooting 15-20 foot shots from the outside (all high save percentage shots).

Details, details, details, and Wash Post has them. The Caps play the Thrashers in Atlanta tomorrow night. Caps need to play a stringy defense, and the goal scorers have to get pucks to the net.

Axe Falls On Flyers

Philly is cleaning house. After Robert Esche’s clinic on how not to goaltend in a National Hockey League game, the likes of Petr Nedved, Nolan Baumgartner and some other guy all were put on waivers. This following an embarrassing national televised 9-1 spanking on behalf of the now 6-0 Buffalo Sabres.

In other news Jeff Halpern misses a wide open net. Well not really news, just same ol’. Actually he was the closest one to scoring on Dallas’ team. I know cause I watched it on Yahoo of all places.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Getting Some DC Butts In The Seats

I guess things are on shakier ground than I thought. Ted Leonsis is actually asking for help on getting more DC-ites into the Phone Booth. It’s a brave post for the Capitals Owner that is trying to solve the problem of getting the ticket revenue up for the city of DC.

Part of the problem is the Caps don’t draw important people to a game. When was the last time anyone saw Anthony Williams at a game in a Caps sweater? I mean, why should he? There are no DC-ites going to games. You don’t see Paris Hilton there either? That one puzzles me to no end.

Winning cures all ills. The Caps may have only survived first and second rounds of the playoffs, but at least they were there. That streak created a strong fan base. If they knew the team was in the post season, the stadium filled.

Another problem is huge gaps in seating at the stadium. I talked to some Caps fans during the Atlanta game about what they thought of the practically empty building. “It’s disheartening, we almost would feel better staying home and watching it on TV. At least the food is cheaper.”

I think the Caps need to rethink their regular season ticket layout strategy. Why not empty the upper levels and pour those people closer to the ice. If you are averaging 12,000 people a game, then cram them in smaller sections closer to the game. Otherwise the seats go to waste and the building looks empty.

But that might be too much for a major market hockey team to do. The only other way to get butts in the door from DC is hope to god there is a somewhat good African-American hockey talent that is making their way through youth hockey right now that may make the NHL. I am asking a bit much since hockey is not the sport of choice mostly because of the expensive cost of it. Most inner city kids can get a pick up basket-ball game going, a little harder to get them in skates and a stick and break out playing on the tennis courts.

Mostly the reason the Caps draw from the suburbs is simply because they can afford the experience. Their kids play at Mt. Vernon, and Piney Orchard. There is no real inner-city hockey initiative mostly because there is just no interest. Caps can do the boring thing and invite school kids to a game free of charge. That may create more of a base, and get kids interested in the game. But just don’t let them watch, get them down on the ice, meet some of the team and let them experience.

I don’t have the answer that is for sure. But I do want hockey to succeed because it’s a sport I love. I love playing it, I love teaching it and I love to be a fan of it. Maybe it just needs more people like us, who can create a spark for someone who isn’t a fan.

Thoughts Of Yesterdays (No More Teal?)

Okay, silly question I know, but what ever happened to the Capitals teal jerseys? Not that I am saying that it was a popular look, or that the black home jerseys the Caps now play in are not cool, but wasn’t the black ones our “third” jersey?

Keep in mind that the Capitals went to the Stanley Cup Finals in the teal. I realized that not only has the Caps replaced it with their “third,” that also they never improved upon the white jersey either (except for take the word Capitals off the black line on the bottom of the jersey).

I wouldn’t have raised the question if I hadn’t gone through my closet to look through some of my old jerseys. Let’s see, an old Billings Bighorns sweater (Pat Rabbit 16), Dale Hunter’s Nordic sweater, and a Northern Virginia Hockey sweater that I think I was suppose to return. And there it was, a teal jersey that more matches the away sweater the Caps wear on the road.

Was this Management’s preferences, or the fans? I guess the teal sweaters fell of the equipment truck and no one seemed to miss it. Except those of us who are cleaning out closets and finding our Craig Berube sweaters gathering dust.

Other NHL News

  • The Phoenix Coyotes are a meager 1 and 4. It’s not that they have lost 4 of their last 5, but how they were decidedly beaten in their last three games. Now mind you, they were on the road for their last three, but losing at Columbus 1-5, at Detroit 2-9 and at Nashville 1-4. Coyotes’ fans are starting to wonder if the Great One shouldn’t be coaching. I am telling you, moving to Phoenix, everything becomes an afterthought to golf down there.

  • Three teams find themselves thus far undefeated. Buffalo (5-0), Minnesota (5-0) and Dallas (5-0). Technically, two other teams have not lost a game in regulation, Montreal (2-0-2) and Anaheim (3-0-2). Who would have thought? Jeff Halpern is on a winning team.

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins are a bunch of goons. That’s my reaction to a blind-side hit by Colby Armstrong on Carolina’s Trevor Letowski. There was no need for that hit and Armstrong defended himself saying he wasn’t a dirty player (in Armstrong’s defense Letowski was admiring his pass a little too much). In a game that should have been about the Staal brother match-up (which is not expected to happen again since Jordan Staal’s NHL contract would kick in after 10 games, forcing him down to the minors), it became a horrific scene of Letowski laying face down on the ice in a pool of blood. The next Pens – ‘Canes game is Saturday November 11th, it should be interesting.

  • Alex Ovechkin has 2 goals and 2 assists. Although he doesn’t lead the team in scoring, he does lead the team in shots. A whooping 30 shots on goal, making his shooting percentage a measly .067. Not exactly what Caps fans want to see, as the Phone Booth collects dust with attendance at about 11,000 for Ovie Night. Mind you they count both teams, the staff at the Verizon Center, and Parking attendants into the attendance.

That’s all I got.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Caps Thrashed

Capitals 3, Thrashers 4 OT

Ilya Kovalchuk willed this win for the Thrashers. It was a good thing too because the Capitals had plenty of opportunities to put this one away. The story really wasn’t how good the Thrashers were in this one, but how many missed chances the Caps had. The Capitals out-shot the Thrashers, out played them at times and yet they were 1 for 9 on the power play.

It certainly is not a lack of talent on the behalf of the Capitals, but maybe a lack of focus. On the power play the Caps lacked movement after being able to move the puck well against Carolina and Minnesota.

Overall Grade: D+

Caps must find a way to turn those scoring chances in to goals instead of just a useless stat. I could say that the Caps need to shoot more, but I am not sure it’s all about quantity, but rather about quality. Alex Ovechkin seems to be shooting the same shot, twenty-footer at the top of the circle, just off the boards. He is not looking his pepper self for some reason.

Wash Post has the story of the Thrashers ruining Ovie’s night. No, I was not able to exchange my coin for a free beer, but I did try. I would have rather been given something more worth while, like a miniature Stanley Cup. Oh, wait.

Caps will face the Thrashers again on Thursday, after they tangle with Florida Panthers Wednesday.

Friday, October 13, 2006

New NHL Brings New Strategy

In the new NHL speed is the key. Speed in hockey, however, means using a lot of energy. Previously, defensemen in the NHL were more about size than speed, but that logic is now obsolete now that those big slow defensemen can’t hook or hold those quick and agile forwards. Defensemen have to be as agile and fast as their forward foes. That means the line-ups may go through some changes in the NHL.

Normally, there are 4 forward lines and 6 defensemen. Coaches like Glen Hanlon are starting to experiment with 7 defensemen. That would allow faster changes for the defensemen, fresher legs and more ice time for talented forwards.

This gives coaches more options on defense and could make little changes on the blue line that could allow teams to better match their defensive talent versus the opposition’s offensive talent. Many teams stick with the same pairings and very rarely do those pairings change through out the game. Coaches could now sort of mix and match defensemen and as the other team makes changes on their forward lines, they could match that on their defense.

Ice time of the blue liners will be cut short since there are more of them cramped on the end of the bench. But the up-side is fresh legs on changes. Defensemen would be fresher too towards the end of the game where in close games, their legs will need to be dependable.

That leaves two extra forwards in a sort of half line which could create problems to this theory. Instead of a Line 1 through 4, there will be mixing and matching forwards through the lines. That could be confusing for players and coaches to keep lines straight and who is going when. If the coaches don’t keep a close eye on getting the right players out with the right match-ups, it can quickly get confusing and could lead to a too many men penalty.

If the players and coaches can keep their lines straight, this could prove a successful strategy. And if that theory becomes successful, then it might prove to be popular. It would put 11 forwards and 7 defensemen on the roster. Three full lines with two forwards and one defenseman to move around. Who said strategy in hockey is dead?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Caps Push Wild Into OT

Capitals 2, Wild 3 OT/SO

The story could have been about Alex Semin’s fourth straight game with a goal or Dainius Zubrus’ strong return after recovering from surgery or Brian Sutherby’s heroics on the penalty kill. But it was Brent Johnson’s spectacular performance that kept the game close and allowed the Capitals to come out of St. Paul with a point.

Johnson stopped 36 shots and made some amazing saves late in the third to keep the Wild at bay until the shootout. His quick reaction to a couple of Minnesota shots that looked like goals kept Wild players shaking their heads and the Caps scrambling to cover guys.

Penalties kept the Capitals from gaining any rhythm and it was two power play goals that got them in trouble. But the situation could have been much worse if not for some great plays on the penalty kill by Sutherby and Brian Potheir.

The Caps power-play looked better two as the Caps seemed to trust their blue liners with the puck. I saw a lot more passes to the defenders which allowed more movement low by the forwards.

Overall Grade: B-

Caps lose their first shoot out of the season. Alex Ovechkin, Semin and Richard Zednik all were stoned by Manny Fernandez. Mikko Koivu scored the only goal on a nice deke around Johnson to score the only goal in the shoot out. Wash Post gets the story right 99.999% of the time.

Caps must play a better all around game on Saturday when they face division rivals Atlanta that look really good early this season. Thankfully the Caps will be at the phone booth for the first of eight games versus the Thrashers.

It’s also Ovechkin coin night. How much do you want to bet that half the season ticket holders try to use it in the Powerade machines on the main concourse? I know I am going to give it a try. I thought this coin was good for one beer? No. Oh okay.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Capitals Stun 'Canes

Capitals 5, Hurricanes 2

Every goal was scored by an Alex. Alex Semin gets his first career hattrick and Alex Ovechkin gets the game winner. No wonder Russia was so mad when these two guys jumped the pond. Bad for them, good for Caps fans.

Capitals always seem to pull it together for home openers (they are 6-1-1 in their last eight home starters). It included some spectacular goals, some sleepers that got past ‘Canes goaltender Cam Ward. This game also included a scary moment when Tim Gleason took out Ovechkin’s legs in the corner after Ovie had a clean hit on Eric Staal (Staal cross checked Ovie earlier in the play). That brought Chris Clark to defend the talented forward and the Capitals momentum was unbreakable.

The Hurricanes have yet to win a game and may have let things go a little bit out of control late in this game. The Caps for the most part looked much faster, a little more put together on special team plays and limited the errand passes. And everyone breathed a sigh of relief after Ovechkin scored his first goal of the season.

Overall Grade: B

Although the Caps had the ‘Canes on their heels, there were times where the Caps got a little Keystone Cops on the ice. The physical play returned and the hits were fast and vicious. The Caps looked more like a returning champion than their counterparts.

Wash Post asks the questions, gets the quotes and answers your queries. Clark had two assists and Brian Potheir both had three assists. Thomas Fleischmann was called up from Hershey to be in this game. Semin has 4 goals in 2 games. Although he didn’t score, Brian Sutherby played probably his best game as a Capital. He always seemed to be in the right place offensively and had his more than fair share of chances in front of Ward.

Caps take a road trip to St. Paul to face the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. The Caps did not play the Wild last season or anyone else for that matter in the Northwest Division. Caps return to home ice Saturday October 14th to host division rivals Atlanta Thrashers.

Friday, October 06, 2006

New Season, Same Result

Capitals 2, Rangers 5

It was Brendan Shanahan’s night. The former Red Winger, now in the Big Apple, future Hall of Famer Shanahan scored his 600th goal as the Rangers win their home opener against the Caps.

The Capitals had plenty of opportunities to keep the game close. However, the Caps looked slow, sloppy and stunned. The speedy forwards looked engulfed in Ranger blue. And again, like a broken record, the Caps defense doesn’t look up for the job.

It’s obvious that the direction the Capitals are heading is total offense domination. That leaves goaltender Olie Kolzig high and dry. I saw just about every defensemen pinch in too far, and on several occasions getting in trouble the other way with Ranger odd-man rushes.

But defense was the only problem. There just seemed like there was no chemistry with anyone. Passes were intercepted, or off mark or not made. Most of the reasons for those odd-man rushes were from bad passes.

Power-play looked sloppy for that reason. The Caps looked like they were always diving and chopping for the puck. Instead of using their legs, they are diving out of position or worse, just giving up on the play. Caps had some key power plays where they could have turned the tide, but didn’t capitalize.

Overall Grade: D

Alex scored. The other Alex, Alex Semin. Rico Fata also added a tally for the Capitals. Wash Post has all the details. Capitals must regroup for their home opener on Saturday night. They will be playing the defending Cup Champions Carolina Hurricanes. If the Caps play like they did against the Rangers, it’s going to be a long night in a semi-full building.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

5 Things NHL Should Change

There are a few things that bother me about the NHL, and being a blogger of this great sport, I just can’t let it go. Of course what bugs me, may not bug others so I urge other bloggers to come up with their own list.

These are just 5 things I think should change about the game.

1. Move teams from unpopular cities to metropolitans that actually want a team. If the city of Pittsburgh doesn’t want to buy a new stadium for the Penguins and the team can’t make money at the igloo, move. Simple as that. There are too many markets both in the United States and Canada that would gladly flip the bill and embrace a team.

2. Kill the restricted area for goaltenders. Why do we continue to penalize goaltenders' skill of handling the puck? Allow goaltenders to be apart of their offense.

3. Slim the divisional games to 6 instead of 8. This will open more inter-conference play and every team can play every team.

4. Find a spot in the desert, dig a hole and put Barry Melrose in it (file photo). We are trying to attract fans, not scare them away with a god awful mullet and the cheapest purple pinstripe suit ever constructed.

5. Push for NBC to carry a few games at the beginning of the season instead of waiting until January. What does NBC have to play right now besides Notre Dame games? There is no basketball and they only have Sunday Night Football. Putting the early season games on may push more casual observers to at least start paying attention, and not to Barry.

So those would be the 5 things I wish the NHL would do or change. It’s not much, but it’s a start. What 5 things would you change about the NHL?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A New Season, A New NHL.com

The new NHL.com is up and running and its more fan friendly than ever. You can make your own personal profile. Here is mine. While the opening page on the new site is still a disaster (too much information in a small space), the site is cleaner and much whiter.

Be sure to check out the blogs section, there is where you will find the different groups and sign up. And if you were curious, as of 4:10 pm Oct. 3rd, there are more members of the Capitals group than any other team group (6 of us). Caps fans are coming out of the woodwork.

Also, my third article on Writeonsports.com is on the main page previewing the Eastern Conference. Hopefully some one gets out a Western one, for I have run out of time. Just one more day!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Ted's Trick

In the Category of “Wha?”

Ted Leonsis Magic Trick

This proves too much time on your hands is not necessarily a good thing. Although, I am not the one who owns a professional hockey team.

Ovechkin's Hole-In-One

I take this as a good sign:

Alex Ovechkin hit a hole in one during the Caps Care Classic at the Springfield Golf and Country Club in Springfield, Va., today. Ovechkin took a shot on the par-3, 160-yard fourth hole that landed short of the green and rolled in.

You go Alex!

Update: Japer's Rink has the video on this slow news day story.

Caps Finish Preseason

Capitals 2, Hurricanes 4

Caps made a game out of it, but in the end Ray Whitney’s two goals including the clincher, broke the back of the Capitals. The ‘Canes get their first win in the preseason, while the Caps wrap up their preseason at 3-2-1.

Ok, I know this post is a little late, but between the afternoon game, the wild Redskins win, and watching The Amazing Race I just didn’t have much time. All I know is that many of the Caps were not on the roster for this game. Injuries maybe the Achilles heel for the Caps this year.

Jamie Heward and Dainius Zubrus are both slow to return after off seasons surgeries. Keeping this group healthy will be a full time job. Players in the system I would like to see come up and be in a Caps sweater all season is Shaone Morrison, Brooks Laich and Jakub Klepis (who had a great preseason). Kris Beech, Mike Green and Alex Giroux all get honorable mention and look to see them up in Capitals sweater often.

Next up is the season opener against the New York Rangers. For Puckhead, I will be doing a season preview, just as soon as I sit down and do the actual research.

Wash Post details the preseason ender and the injury woes. Caps next game will be on Comcast Sports Net. The season is nearly here. Can you feel it?