Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wild Night In Ottawa

Capitals 8, Senators 6
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Just over a minute in the game the Capitals sent the Senators a message. They weren't afraid of the big bad Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. 13 goals later the Caps would once again hand the best team in the east a loss in their building after doing it in November. It was no walk in the park though.

In a game where goaltending just didn't matter (neither did their stats in this game), the Capitals out-shot and out-goaled the Senators. The Caps out-shot the Sens 33 to 22, including an 11 - 2 mark in the first period where they had a 2 -1 lead. The second period would even out some in shots and the Capitals were able to extend their lead 5 - 2. But the third period became a shooting gallery for both teams and Alexander Ovechkin made sure the win would stay pat.

Ovechkin scored his first 4 goal game in the NHL getting his 27th -30th goals for the year and he would end up with a 5 point night. Alex Semin had a goal and 2 assists, Nick Backstrom did the same with a tally and two helpers. Micheal Nylander also scored two big goals to keep the Caps ahead. The Capitals never trailed in this game, but Ottawa made it close pulling into one goal 3 times and Senator Mike Fisher grabbed a hat trick of his own.

Going into the third period, the Senators closed the locker room door not allowing players interviews during the second intermission. Coming out the Senators knew they had to take chances to win. The were able to keep the game interesting, but taking those chances also burned them in the end. The Caps took advantage of some turn overs and never relinquished their lead.

The big story tonight was not Ovie's 4 goals or the wild ending, but the Caps leap frogging the Tampa Bay Lightning that lost earlier in the day for 4th place in the Southeast Division. The Caps start their march up the standings to make the playoffs for the '07-'08 campaign by chipping away points where they can get them. They have been able to get standing points in 6 of their last 7 games and with only 3 wins. The Caps need to keep accumulating points and are 5 points away from a playoff spot.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Disgusting Loss

Capitals 3, Penguins 4 OT
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Um, wow... okay. That sucked. The Capitals give one away after such a gritty performance. The Caps took a lead into the third period and looked as if they had control of the game only to see it slip away in the final seconds of a penalty kill, then a overtime killer by former Capital Sergei Gonchar. Not to mention the Capitals lost two men to injuries, Brent Johnson and Alex Ovechkin.

It was the second game in two nights for the Caps, while the Penguins first game since the holiday break. The Caps just ran out of gas. Donald Brashear got the Capitals' first goal and Brian Potheir continued his scoring ways. Both tallies tied the game up early in the second. Alex Ovechkin on a give away gave them the lead for his 26th of the season. Then everything fell apart in the third.

On the Penguins second goal late in the first, Brent Johnson scrambled for the puck and twisted what looked to be his right knee, but reports claim his left knee was sprained. Bring in Olie Kolzig. Then early in the third Ovie got a cut on his leg and did not return. Although Ovechkin needed stitches, the injury is not serious.

The Penguins had legs in the third and you could see that. The Capitals didn't. While they held Sid "the Kid" Crosby with out a goal, they gave him a little too much attention in the overtime frame, leaving Gonchar a wide open net.

What puzzles me the most about this loss was the Caps were so close to winning it in regulation. But they took a bad penalty. The Penguins looked like they weren't going to be able to convert it until a face off late in the man advantage. If the Capitals won that face off, game over, but Brooks Laich lost it. Where was David Steckel to take the draw, or Nick Backstrom who was 68% on his draws in this game?

The Caps gain a point for at least making it to overtime. That ties them with Tampa Bay for last in the Eastern Conference. The Caps don't have much time to dwell on this loss with a game coming up on Saturday night in Ottawa. The Senators will be looking for some revenge after the Caps slowed down the bunch with a 4-1 win in early November. The Caps better find their legs and stay healthy if they want a repeat preformance.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

When Garbage Is Beautiful

Capitals 3, Lightning 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

If I told you that Vincent Lacavalier scored twice for the Lightning and Alex Ovechkin had only an assist, you would probably think the Capitals dropped their post Christmas foray with Tampa Bay. How wrong you would be my friend. On a night where "interim" was dropped from Bruce Boudreau's business card, the garbage goals reigned supreme for the Caps and they cashed in.

David Steckel was a monster in this game with a garbage goal of his own and two assists. Brian Potheir scored the only pretty goal, a laser from the top of the circle. Matt Bradley was credited with the game winner after crashing the net on a Steckel shot and somehow it found it's way in the back of the cage that looked as if it was off it's moorings. Bradley also had an assist and was a +3. Steckel only finished with a +2 (he stepped off the ice with linemate Quintin Laing when Potheir scored his goal, Bradley was still in front of the net) but did walk away with the number one star.

The Capitals simply outworked the Lightning to give their new coach a big win. While Ovie was scoreless in his 200th NHL game, it seemed the 4th line stepped to the challenge and that was huge. Olaf Kolzig again looked shaky at times and brilliant for the rest. He seems to be averaging 1 to 2 soft goals a game. As long as the Caps can make that up, it may not matter.

The Caps' powerplay is also seemed to hit a rut. The Capitals were unable to convert on 4 chances. Although I do think the squad is gaining in some confidence. It also seems the Caps are doing all of this with out taking bad penalties, how about just one penalty. Ovie was called for the only Capitals penalty which was holding in the third. The Capitals were able to fight it off. I guess the best way to kill off penalties is to not take any. It's a good plan.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

It is a white Christmas up here in Minnesota. Visiting the in-laws and eating way too much food has become common place for me and my wife the last few years. And although I have to sacrifice a few games to self indulge in Hershey Kisses peanut butter cookies and rum cake, there is nothing more important that being with family and friends over the holiday season.

We braved a cold blistery winter storm to get here and it was worth it. The house is warm, so are the beds thanks to electric blankets. And the company is second to none. My mother in-law knows my weakness is cookies and there are more cookie tins than you can shake a stick at, most of it will be coming home with us later.

While I will not be able to get to update as much as I would like over the next couple of days, I hope the rest of you have a great holiday. Now, as much as I want to spend more time with all of you talking about plus and minuses and offensive strategies, there is a plate of cookies with my name on it up stairs and a big glass of milk. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Goaltending Duel In Nassau Co.

Capitals 2, Islanders 3 OT
Scoresheet - Wash Post

After ratting out Olaf Kolzig on being too soft on some of his goals he came out with an excellent effort against the New York Islanders. But it was another soft goal that was the down fall of Kolzig and the Caps after scrapping back to put the game into overtime. It was an extreme angle shot by Richard Park that has the Caps coming home with just one point.

Not that it was all Kolzig's fault. The Caps were out worked in this one to a degree, and Kolzig had to face down 31 shots to Rick DiPietro's 16. In fact the Islander goaltender didn't face a single shot in the overtime frame. With the Caps battling a well defended Islander game all night, it was interesting to see that the ones that seemed to come through the most were ex-Islanders. Both Tom Poti and Viktor Kozlov finished the night with a +2 rating with Kozlov getting two assists. The goal scorers shouldn't have been a surprise in this one with Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin both getting tallies (5th and 25th on the season respectfully).

Olaf Kolzig did have a spectacular game. While the goals from Miroslav Satan on a break away and Billy Guerin from a funny rebound off the boards bested Olie, I didn't feel he was at fault for either one. However the overtime winner I do hole Kolzig responsible for. Even with Mike Green down and a virtual 4 on 3 ensued, from that angle Kolzig should have stopped that puck.

Besides the exciting finish, the rest of the game really lacked any punch from either side. The Islanders were able to bottle up Ovie pretty good, and the lack of offensive punch really hurt the Caps who are now nowhere closer to climbing out of 15th in the Eastern Conference. Lucky for the Caps they get some days off for Christmas and return to the ice the day after to face the Tampa Bay Lightning at home. Then no time to waste, the Caps face the dreaded Penguins on Dec. 27th at the Mellon.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Caps Drop One At Home

Capitals 2, Canadians 5
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The Capitals power play couldn't get going, and the goaltending was soft. The same can't be said for the Canadians who capitalized on their powerplay chances and Cristobal Huet was solid in net. The Capitals jumped early on the Montreal squad but had nothing to show for it.

Nick Backstom was in the right place and the right time to bang home an Ovechkin rebound for the Caps first tally and Alex Semin cut the Canadian lead to 4-2 off a pretty pass from Backstorm. But the Caps couldn't get the puck past Huet. The inability to score still hinders this team.

Olaf Kolzig looks to me like he has already played a full season. At times he was good, then when it mattered most, Kolzig looked tired and run down. I still think that Kolzig is a good goaltender, but he is making bad mental mistakes and still letting in 2 or more soft goals a game. Whether its the fact that the Caps are out shooting their opponents and Kolzig isn't getting much action or if he just looks spent, Kolzig seems to be the root of the Caps problems these last few games.

The Caps have some time to dwell on this a bit since their next game is not until Saturday at Nassau Colosseum against the Islanders. A sobering satistic, the Caps have only won two of their last five. The Caps fall again to the cellar of the Eastern Conference with 29 points, but can make ground on their own with a win over the Islanders who are now 14th at 32 points. While they Caps can't leap frog the boys from Long Island, they can stay alive and with in 5 games of the coveted 8th playoff spot.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Caps Surprise At The Joe

Capitals 3, Red Wings 4 OT/SO (1-3)
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Detnews

For a team - with the start of a season they had - to walk into the Joe Lewis Arena and go toe to toe with the Red Wings and get a lead then come from behind to tie late in the third is nothing short of a miracle. The Washington Capitals worked their butts off and escaped with a point from a team that has made other teams look like Squirt level squads with their possession game. Yes, it would have been nice for Olie to stop at least one Red Wing in the shoot out, but the Capitals have no reason to hang their heads at the effort they gave at the Joe.

Alex Ovechkin tied the game at one with a 5-hole blast on the power play in the first for his 24th tally of the year. Jeff Schultz once again scored a clutch goal to give the lead to the Caps late in the first and Alex "it's about time you started scoring" Semin got the clutch goal late in the third to take the game into overtime. Both David Steckel and Ovie had chances to put the Caps ahead. Steckel chance came early in the third where he missed (I mean by mere millimeters) an open net and Ovie had a semi-breakaway in OT, but Dominik Hasek was there with his glove and pad, Ovie just couldn't get it up.

The Red Wings had trouble playing their game in this one, and at times it looked like the Caps were the possession experts. Semin's first couple of periods were a bit ho-hum, but he picked it up in the third getting good hard shots off on Hasek. Shots were even at 30 for both teams which pretty much indicates a well hard fought game against to virtually even teams.

As good as this game was Ted Kulfan gave all three stars to Detroit players. Homer. You have to be kidding me. This guy's out of his mind, all three stars to the Red Wings, did you not just see the Caps come in and almost beat this team? Kulfan, I can clearly state, is an idiot. That was a major injustice to the Capitals in this game.

Now, I am not saying that the Caps were perfect. Olie is still letting in soft goals and was just atrocious in the shoot out, all three Red Wings scored - it wasn't even close. Ovie also didn't play his best game, he was good at points but he did turn the puck over on Detroit's third goal after trying to do a little too much. The Caps were able to overcome those mistakes and it shows their potential if they ever do play a perfect game.

With this one point performance the Caps are no longer last in the Eastern Conference, they are instead tied in last with Atlanta. The Caps have some time to rest and tighten up their game before they take on the Montreal Canadians at the phone booth. Hopefully some of that hard work continues for the Caps. They are starting to see the light from the basement of the Eastern Conference. Now is the time to take that step up and get back into this thing.

Some good quotes from the game:

Mike Babcock - "I was really impressed, I really was. It was a hard battle for us. Not a lot of teams have kept us off-kilter like they did. We didn't show them respect at the start, but we got better, but they made it hard for us." -

Henrik Zetterberg on Ovechkin and Backstrom - "They have a real good future, both of them. They're real mature for their age and they'll be big stars for a long time." -

Olaf Kolzig - "It's nice, but we had a chance to win the game. I just couldn't get it done for the boys in the shootout." -

Shaone Morrisonn - "We got one point out of it, which is better than nothing. But we felt like we could have won it. We had some power plays in the third period and we gave up two goals on the penalty kill. It's tough." -

Bruce Boudreau - "We're not quitting. There is a good chance if we just keep getting two points here, one point there, rise in the standings and then once they start to believe they are a really good team, then good things usually start to happen." -

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Caps Start Roadtrip With 2 Points

Capitals 3, Lightning 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Brian Pothier's game certainly turned around after a healthy scratch a few games ago. Pothier has become a much more sure puckhandler and ratcheted up his physical play. His power play goal in the third period was the mark that the Capitals were able to hold on to against the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The confidence factor is alive and well in the Capitals now that they have 4 wins in the last 5 games. They will need that against the Red Wings Monday night. Quintin Laing and Tomas Fleischmann also scored for the Caps and Alex Ovechkin's point streak comes to an end at 7 games. Ovie was a little off in this game as he missed on a breakaway opportunity and was a -2 on the night. His longest point streak of this season has been 9 games.

Shaone Morrisonn has quietly been shutting top lines down this season. While Mike Green has been getting offensive accolades, Morrisonn has been a defensive monster on the ice. Watching this game I have seen one of his better performances as a Capital yet, and his name is nowhere to be seen on the scoresheet. But every Lightning rust with Shaone on the ice ended with him breaking it up. He was aggressive when he needed to be and had very timely poke checks and more important, he never turned the puck over. While Shaone was a -2 in this game, neither goal was really his fault, and there were times that Morrisonn was able to thwart attacks late in the game to preserve the Caps' lead.

Brent Johnson did okay in net, he let a soft one in on the first goal, but for the most part he look pretty confident in the crease. What might have been the big accomplishment in this game was the fact the Capitals did not look past the Lightning and did not have the Red Wings game to distract their game in Tampa. I think it's easy for a team to be caught looking ahead, but Bruce Boudreau has these guys focused game by game.

Bring on Detriot!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Luck Can't Help The Caps

Capitals 3, Sabres 5
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Things were just going swimmingly, until Buffalo came to town. The Caps see their win streak come to a screeching halt off of poor goaltending. Not even a lucky bounce that tied the game in the third could help overcome some bad breakdowns on defense and even worse goaltending.

Olie Kolzig still has a problem letting in soft goals at the worst times. A give away that left the net wide open and a sharp angle shot both bested Kolzig. The Caps did lead this game at one point (at two points actually), but due to some goaltending miscues the Sabres stuck around long enough to score a couple key goals late.

The night started off well to, the Caps jumped to a one goal lead on a power play goal by Alex Ovechkin, his 23rd on the year. But then a bad turnover by Kolzig and Derek Roy stashed the puck in a wide open net with a little more than a minute left in the period. In the second the Caps got off to a quick start when Nick Backstrom scored to give the Caps the lead once more. Only to see the Capitals' defense breakdown late in the second and allowed Maxime Afinogenov a break away on Olie (this goal wasn't Kolzig's fault either, Mike Green actually poked checked the puck off of Aginogenov's stick and it beat Kolzig and went off the post and in). Then early in the third the Sabres get a quick goal on the sharp angle, Kolzig had let a another softy in.

The Caps did get a lucky bounce in the middle of the third, Brooks Laich scored his 6th goal of the year after the puck took a strange bounce off the boards catching Ryan Miller out of his net. But even with the tie, it seemed the Sabres out lasted the Capitals and late in the game Buffalo pinned the Caps in their zone for a good minute and a half/two minutes before finally scoring. Add an empty net goal and the Caps have no one to blame but themselves for their loss, well and Kolzig.

It was one of the worst games I have seen Kolzig play. Usually, when the Caps are in a tight game, Kolzig is a bit more sure footed but not this season. The Capitals offense has to make up for their goaltenders soft goals. During their short winning run, the veteran goaltender has let in 2 or more goals a game, lucky for the Capitals were able to scored more than was scored against. Kolzig always seems good for a softie or two every game. I hate to say it, but the Caps may have seen Kolzig's best years behind him.

Caps can't dwell too much on this loss, they have to pull it back together to face off with a southeast rival Tampa Bay on Saturday night. Brent Johnson will probably get the call in net, and hopefully he can fair better.

The Florida Panthers leap-frogged the Atlanta Thrashers for third in the division, while the Caps still struggle to make up some ground. Now they are chasing the Thrashers who are a game and a half ahead of the Caps. The Caps are still 8 points behind the 8th place Toronto Maple Leafs who are tied with Philadelphia with points at 34. Caps are still in a three way tie with LA and Phoenix for worst in the league.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Put On Your Swimsuit...

... 'Cause you're going diving with Sid "The Kid" Crosby..

Seems the gamers got something right... back story.

McPhee A Little Too Quiet

If you read the New York Post on the game last night like I did then the entry Tarik gave today, you might notice that GM George McPhee's refusal of disclosing Micheal Nylander's injury may land him in hot water with the league. Although no action has been taken, general managers must disclose the details of an injury with the media. Not to do so would be a violation of NHL policy.

It's not like the Caps are in the middle of a playoff series where Nylander's condition is made secret until afterwards. But more grumblings about McPhee's attitude seem to follow GMGM around. The Capitals are the only organization that doesn't allow player's agents in the family/friends room at the Verizon Center before or after games. Not that any of this should reflect the Capitals' performance on the ice, but it does strain the relationship between players and management.

McPhee's refusal to talk about contract negotiations with Alex Ovechkin isn't settling over to well either. While the many GMs are happy to discuss contract specifics and negotiations, GMGM stands quiet. Many fans are seeing players being wrapped up in contracts with teams that clearly want them like Sid "the Kid" Crosby, but see nothing in the works with Ovechkin. Just a "hey we are working on it," would suffice. McPhee seems to have a "No comment" relationship with the media, and I am not sure how far that will fly at the end of this very pivotal season.

Caps Rally

Capitals 5, Rangers 4 OT
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The Capitals come out on top in one of the most entertaining third periods the Caps have played this season. In a contest where the Caps and Rangers traded goals in the third period, it seemed fitting that the game winner by Mike Green in overtime was appropriate. The Rangers floundered after a two goal lead and the two teams went to the wire.

Joe Motzko scored the two goals to get the Caps back to even. It seemed the Ranger defense just went to sleep after the two goal lead and the Capitals took advantage. Alex Ovechkin gave the Caps the brief lead with his 22nd tally of the year, and Jeff Schultz and Mike Green added timely goals to tie then win the game respectfully.

What are they feeding Jeff Schultz? The young defenseman has three goals in three straight games, helping the Caps on their three game winning streak. The same could be said about Mike Green who is finding the back of the net. Donald Brashear is getting into the action as well getting two helpers in this game and a fight with Colton Orr.

The Caps have been able to win without veteran leadership, Viktor Kozlov and Tom Poti have not scored during the 3 game stretch and Micheal Nylander has been out of the line up with an injury. What every Bruce Boudreau's preaching in the locker room, has the youngsters up in arms and ready to answer the calls. And Ovie doesn't mind as long as the Caps are winning.

The power play still needs some work, every goal scored was at even strength. And a the Caps did let a goal in even though the penalty had just expired, but it was basically a power play goal for the Rangers. Special teams need to be cleaned up a little if the Caps want to keep this streak moving along. But all in all, it was an entertaining game and I am still wearing my red mullet they gave away at the game for '80s night, much to my wife's disapproval. She thinks it smells funny.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Caps Hold Off Devils

Capitals 3, Devils 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Quintin Laing is known mostly for his hard work, blocking shots and his defensive capabilities. But it was his offense that gave the Capitals a win against a team that had just beat them 3 nights before by the same tally. Bruce Boudreau's critique in this game was a complete 180 turn around from that night they lost in New Jersey. Apparently so did the Capitals' game.

Laing scored his first ever NHL goal and the team made sure it was a game winning goal as the Capitals gave the streaky Devils their second straight loss. Jeff Schultz and Nick Backstom also scored for the Caps that have now won two in a row.

The Capitals definitely had a step on the Devils in this one from the start. While most NJ fans would claim they were robbed from a goal that was disallowed, the Caps could have said the same on a quick whistle with Tomas Fleischmann on the doorstep to shove the puck under Kevin Weekes.

The Caps' forecheck was a thing of beauty tonight and the line of Matt Bradley, Donald Brashear and Backstrom has created havoc for the opponents defense in their zone. Also looking better is Alex Semin. His speed is coming back and his stick handling looks okay. Semin has to improve on his shots though, they look a little sloppy and slow for someone who can rip the puck pretty well. He is starting to look more and more of the Semin of old.

If the LA Kings lose, the Caps could be tied for last place rather than holding the bottom rung. The Kings play Vancouver tonight and have stalled at 24 points. The Caps just make 24 with their win tonight. However they are still on the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They are just 8 points, 4 games from claiming a playoff spot at 8th place (32 points). Of course all of those teams ahead of the Caps would have to lose their games until then. It ain't over 'til it's over.

Update: No such luck for the Capitals, the LA Kings beat the Vancouver Canucks 4 - 2 leaving the Caps still at sole possession of last place in the league with 24 points.

Finally, Someone Else Scores

Capitals 6, Thrashers 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post

These are the types of games I am going to miss this month. Boy did I miss a whopper. The Capitals finally get secondary scoring. Besides 2 goals from defenseman Mike Green, 4 different Capitals scored against the Thrashers. It's something that the Caps must continue to do if they want to jump back into the playoff question.

Nick Backstrom started the scoring off a give away by the Thrashers' defender. Goals were followed up by Jeff Schultz, Alex Ovechkin, Green and one player who needed to find the back of the net this season in the worst way - Matt Pettinger.

Another player that looked closer to normal was Alex Semin. He was faster than he had been all season and it looks like he is getting back in the groove. Semin was close to scoring on several opportunities.

Bruce Boudreau's comments the night before sparked the Caps. Olie Kolzig let in a couple of softies late, which wasn't that bad since the Capitals were in control. Kolzig started in his second straight start, something he hasn't done this season. Boudreau called out the veteran goaltender against the Devils on the first goal and Kolzig responded with some solid saves early in the Thrasher game, but those soft goals still bother me. The Capitals had an chance to keep this game way out of hand, but the Thrashers were allowed to come back.

The Caps didn't score on the power play either. That needs to change tonight against the Devils. The Capitals look to avenge their loss to NJ at home. The Caps are getting a team that has seen it's winning streak snapped in overtime at MSG against the Rangers. The Caps can take advantage of a tired team at home.

After the big win, many of the players decided to celebrate, by throwing Shaone Morrisonn a birthday party after the game. Morrisonn's birthday is actually Dec. 23, but it seemed the appropriate time to go and party which I am sure the Caps did with a big win over a hated rival.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

NHL's Worst

Capitals 2, Devils 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post

What can one say? 5 days off, fresh legs against a team that had to come from behind the night before, and the Capitals come out sluggish. That to me, makes zero sense. The Caps get burned early in the first and shut down the Caps. How? Bad turnovers, lazy plays, bad penalties. You name it, the Caps are experts in all those areas this year. Hanlon shouldn't have been fired, 20 other guys should have lost their jobs.

Instead of going through the game, I am just going to post some of the quotes out there on players reactions to the game. Maybe it will give you a better idea of who really is at fault.

From the Washington Post:

"We didn't play good enough to win, or we would have won. That was a horrible giveaway for the first goal, and Olie should have had the save. He's too good a goalie to let those things go in." - Bruce Boudreau

"We weren't moving our legs in the first period. If you look at it, the first period was the difference in the game. We had no reason to come out sluggish." - Brooks Laich

"We can sit there and look for positives all we want. But the bottom line is we didn't get the job done. In this league, you have to play for 60 minutes at the top of your game." - Bruce Boudreau

"There's not much you can say about that [injured players]. That's the hand we were dealt. We made a valiant effort at the end, but it wasn't enough." - Olie Kolzig

From the AP:

"We're a team that needs 20 guys to go. As I told them after two periods, you can't rely on No. 8 (Ovechkin) to win every game for you." - Bruce Boudreau

Alex Ovechkin didn't score, but he did get an assist and got hit akwardly into the boards by former Cap Danius Zubrus. No penalty was assessed. Alex Semin scored only his second goal of the season and the his wrist shot looks better than ever, now if only that ankle would heal all the way. Brooks Laich scored another goal that gave the Caps some life, but these guys can't play the game in the last 3 minutes.

Bruce Boudreau's comments are a welcome relief to the happy go lucky face Glen Hanlon sometimes would put on. He is laying the blame exactly where it belongs, on goaltending, on scoring, on defense, on this team. This team has to preform at an elite level to win games in the NHL, and right now they are no where near it.

The Capitals don't have much time to dwell on this lose as they have to jump back down to the Verizon Center to Atlanta. I am sure the building will be even more empty. Just another day at the office for the league's worst.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Night of Nights

Tonight is the an important night for the Capitals. After the Caps get nearly a week off to work on Bruce Boudreau's new system, they get to show what they have learned tonight at the Devil's new flat, dubbed "The Rock." Sounds cooler than the phone booth.

The Capitals are now under command of a new coach and how this new system - that was successful in the AHL - will work at the NHL level is in question tonight. Boudreau's new system is much more offensive minded, which is nearly a 180 from what Glen Hanlon had been preaching. This should be more of an exciting team, if they can get on a roll.

This league has been such a roller coaster ride for teams so far. Ottawa getting off to a fast start to fade of late. While the Maple Leafs started slow and have begun to pick it up. This has been the year of streaks for teams, so maybe the Capitals can ride one of those streaks - a winning one hopefully.

They will have to do it though with out the help of Micheal Nylander (undisclosed), Boyd Gordon (broken hand) and Chris Clark (groin). Even though Alex Ovechkin did not practice much over the past week, he will be present and accounted for. Joe Motzko will be recalled for some help against the Devils. Tonight is an important night for the Capitals.

In other news, Scott Niedermayer is coming back. What does that mean for the Capitals? We could pick up a solid defenseman. Sean O'Donnell could be possible trade fodder since the Ducks will have to dump about a million dollars for cap space. Since Brian Burke is no longer on friendly terms with Edmonton (reporters asked him if he had been talking to the other 29 teams about a trade, Burke responded, "28 teams, we don't talk to Edmonton"), the Caps have a 1 in 28 chance maybe of picking up another defenseman. Burke also may not move a defenseman, but instead a forward. Either way, it may be a way for the Caps to dump some problems to southern California in return for some proven talent.

Also there has been talk of how bad the ice is at the Verizon Center. An ideal ice condition for hockey is hard, cold ice. The game is faster and the ice holds together so there is less ruts (less chance for the puck to bounce/players getting hurt). Instead the ice at the phone booth is soft and wet (wet means the ice is not cold enough and is refusing to freeze). I am surprised the league hasn't led the charge for every building to have quality control for ice conditions. Since I have been playing out at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, I can tell you the ice there is in good condition. At the very least, the ice condition at the practice facility should match that of the Verizon Center. Maybe we should just have the games at the Kettler, since we can't seem to fill the phone booth anyway.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Much Needed Break

Sorry about the short absence, but I just got the NHL Network and have been spending my time mesmerized by the wonder and awesomeness of my television. Look at the pretty TV, it's interested in hockey as much as you are, whoooooooaaaaa. Uh-em, anyway.

Plus I have been going through a blogger crisis. It's what every blogger goes through at some point where you consider just not writing a blog. It's too hard, or I would much rather sleep, or who is that strange lady at the end of my couch, oh yea that's my wife. Plus the holiday season is upon us and soon I will be going to fabulous parties and missing much more games not to mention a big trip to Minnesota the week of Christmas. So blogging will be far and few between during this very busy and festive time of year.

Okay, now that is out of the way, Tomas Fleischmann and Jeff Schultz are going to try their hand at coaching. Youth hockey that is and only for a day. The pair will be at Fort Dupont to teach the tricks of the trade to youth players (no, not how to not score, that is an awful thought, shame on you). That happens this evening at 6 p.m.

Addressing some of the Alex Ovechkin might not play here next year rumors. Okay that is just not going to happen, because it doesn't matter what the league may offer Ovie to sail away, the Capitals do have the right to match it to keep him. But if some genius (like a Kevin Lowe) decides to make an outlandish offer for the forward, the Caps could be handcuffed cap wise with the weight of Ovechkin's contract. It would almost ensure that Ovie would be skating with a lot of twenty and twenty one year olds for some time before his is a free agent.

No one quite knows what the real story is however with a contract extension. With McPhee tight lipped and Ovie's "I speak no english/I have no agent" until a something is on paper I don't think anyone will know what is going on. Hence everyone has their own opinion on the matter and rumors abound. Listening to XM Satellite Radio Home Ice, every Canadian team's fan wishes they had Ovechkin on their team. Funny how they aren't that wild about Sid "the Kid" Crosby.

Jakub Klepis is going back to Europe, which is good for the young forward. He didn't earn a contract and the Capitals retain his rights. But at some point I look for that to be traded along with Ben Clymer at some point. Both toughed it out, and both are not getting rewarded with the big club. It all boils down to not enough room.

That is all I have for now....

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Finally, A Win

Capitals 2, Panthers 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post

What can I say about this one, the Caps actually played a pretty good road game. The Panthers though did look ripe for the picking, and the Capitals finally sneak a couple by Tomas Vokoun to register a mark in the win column. It took four games and three losses against the Miami squad to finally beat them, but the Capitals pulled out a win.

Alex Ovechkin was a little frustrated in this one, but he did go away with the game winning goal. After back to back penalties (a phantom high stick on a clean hit and a deserved cross checking when Ovie took out a Florida player right into the goal post), Ovie settled down a little bit and got back to what Ovechkin does best, shoot like crazy. Eventually one snuck in an extreme angle for his 20th goal and kept the Caps to the good for the rest of the game.

Brent Johnson was in goal and was good and Brian Potheir got on the scoreboard as well with his second of the year. Matt Pettinger had his fair share of chances in this game but just couldn't put the puck in the net. If it weren't for his bad luck he would have no luck at all, even hitting the post on an virtual empty net. Nick Backstrom had a tough game too. The rookie didn't get any love from the panthers after getting thrown down by the head on more than one occasion. No penalty was assessed.

The Caps actually look like they are on the verge, and it might be Bruce Boudreau's new system that the team will be working on this week. The Caps have a few days to work in a new system the hopefully will breed more offense out of this lackluster offense.

Another thing that concerned me as I listened to the out of town play by play on my XM Satellite radio was the commentators talking about Ovechkin possibly leaving at the end of the year. They continued by saying that the Caps had offered a deal to the Ovechkin that would make him the highest paid player in the league, but the it was Ovie that was stalling the talks in maybe an effort to go somewhere else. That worries me greatly if that is true.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Just Plain Bad

Capitals 3, Hurricanes 4
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Now it's just getting ugly. The Caps get two goals washed while a bouncing puck and a high stick deflection that counted gives the Hurricanes the win. For the Capitals they have dropped three straight proving it's not who you put behind the bench, it's the guys on the ice that have to score.

Alex Ovechkin had one of his best and worst games. It seemed to come and go like the tide. A spectacular goal on the power play off the face off started a good night. Then Ovie was caught out of position and had to back check on a break away giving up a penalty shot in the process (that LaRose did not score on). Early in the third he made amends with a pretty goal only to later score on his own net. After that, Ovechkin's high tide never returned despite two great chances late. Ovie scored his 18th and 19th of the season.

After coming off an ankle injury, Alex Semin got no love from the Carolina Hurricanes who slashed the forward on the legs the entire game. Semin left limping in the waning seconds in the third after another slash to the leg. Which proves to me that the 'Canes are a bunch of stick happy goons. They were clearly, clearly looking to injure the forward again, and the refs did nothing.

Speaking of which, this officiating crew really dropped the ball on this one. Two glaring problems I saw were missed calls and phantom penalties. They called a delay of game penalty on Tom Poti after his shot was deflected off the rink off Nick Backstrom's stick, which the puck has to touch nothing on the way out for a minor penalty to be assessed. Chad LaRose clearly hooked Mike Green late in the third and Green high sticked LaRose back. Green sat in the box and LaRose got off. Just the little things are killing this team, so it doesn't help that the officiating was off tonight.

The same problems are plaguing this team. The big problem is the second and third tier lines are not scoring. Ovie, Micheal Nylander, Viktor Kozlov, and Nicklas Backstrom are all in the double digits in terms of points (goals and assists). But Brooks Laich, Boyd Gordon, Matt Bradley, Matt Pettinger, Tomas Feischmann, Dave Steckel and Donald Brashear are all in single digit points with 7 points or less. Of those seven, four just have one goal. Chris Clark and Alex Semin have both been injured, but for everyone else it's been a scoring drought. The Capitals have to, have to, find second tier scoring from someone, anyone.

Chalk all of this down though as a loss. They get 2 points, the Caps get zero. In the end that is the bottom line. The Caps are not just losing, they are failing. They are again the rock bottom worst team in the league. The absolute worst.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Caps Manage A Point

Capitals 1, Panthers 2 OT/SO (3-4)
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The Caps faced their first shootout of the season. While they hung in there, they couldn't keep up with the Panthers after 11 rounds. Flashes of the 15 round debacle came to mind against the Rangers, and it was basically the same result. The Caps did not improve on their record and drop a very important game against the surging Florida Panthers.

Chris Clark got the only goal for the Capitals to tie the game at one in the second period. David Steckel had more than one opportunity to bury the puck, but was stoned each time by Tomas Vokoun. Olie Kolzig had a solid game too. It was the story that has plagued the Capitals all season long, the Caps just couldn't score.

Richard Zednik was again a thorn in the side of the Capitals. After sniffing out a rebound, the former Capital had no trouble finding the back of the net against his former team. After that though, I thought the Capitals did a good job of keeping him in check.

Unfortunately the Capitals lost a couple of guys during the course of the game. Both Alex Semin and Chris Clark left early with injuries. Semin reaggrivated his ankle injury and I am not sure what happened to Clark. Although Tarik was told it wasn't serious.

The Capitals have to find some way to get their offense back on track. It's already a long season.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Switch'n It All Up, Again

Again the lines get shook up for the sake of getting every ounce of offense out of this team. Micheal Nylander gets paired with Alex Ovechkin and Chris Clark on the front line. For some fans, that was supposed to be the plan, but both Bruce Boudreau and Glen Hanlon seemed to fight that line up at first.

Nick Backstrom sticks to the fourth line, which I think has helped him. Maybe the pressure is less or he is playing a simple system on this line (the triangle and simple break outs with emphasis on defense), or maybe he doesn't feel he has to do so much with the likes of Alex Semin and Nylander on the same line.

There is talk of Tomas Fleischmann sitting out, I wouldn't be surprised if he is sent down at some point. Flash is just not producing like the coaching staff envisioned. While many are still questioning why Donald Brashear still gets a jersey every night, he has been getting scoring chances. We just need to work on his aim, hit the net Donnie!

In terms of defense, the pairings that worked last year and at the beginning of the season are a thing of the past. I think the most movement that has happened in terms of line changes really has happened on the blue line. Shaone Morrisonn, the most under rated player on this team, has been paired with Mike Green on the first line. It doesn't matter who they line Morrisonn up with, he has turned out great defensive performances. He is always in position and he has a little mean streak in him. Just ask Vincent Lecavalier.

Steve Eminger has been having a tough season so far. He hasn't had the minutes or starts that he would like, but when he does get those starts his play is inconsistent. It's been an up and down season for Eminger who seems to be caught in a catch 22.

Sad Day

I mostly stick to hockey, it's what I know and what I like. But the news out of Redskins' Camp is too hard to ignore. Sean Taylor passed away this morning after being shot in the upper leg. Times like these, it's less about the sport or whose winning and whose losing. Rather it's a time of reflection and realization that our heroes are mortal. They are as human as you or I.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Taylor family and to the Redskin family too. It's a senseless way to go and 24 is too young. It is a sad day to be a Washington sports fan.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sabres Confound Caps Again

Capitals 1, Sabres 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Not even with new head coach Bruce Boudreau, or Alex Semin actually playing, or an amazing goal by Alex Ovechkin could the Capitals hold off a hot Buffalo Sabre team. Not for lack of chances though.

The Capitals had the Sabres on the ropes more than one occasion but could not score. The Caps could not score - sound familiar? While Boudreau has brought life to the Caps, it's the same problems that haunt this team. Sure it's one loss, no big deal - does that sound familiar too?

Olaf Kolzig did just about everything to keep the Caps within reach, all for not. You could even say that the puck wasn't bouncing the Capitals way - sound familiar?

Now we will see how the Capitals respond. Under Glen Hanlon, this team just didn't respond after a loss. That has to change if they want to save the season. But in the meantime, the Caps just seem to get no love playing Buffalo, either on the ice or in the stands.

The very empty Verizon Center was half filled with Buffalo fans. Don't these people have jobs? They made their presence known by booing every time Ovie touched the puck and it nearly sounded like the home team scored with the reaction the Sabres got in the phone booth.

The Capitals' power play was mortal again as the Caps failed to convert on any of there power play chances, not that the Sabres gave them much time staying out of the box. There were moments that the Capitals had this team pinned in their own zone, but no goals. All that work and not one red light or penalty. Credit the Sabres, they came to play and out worked and out hustled the Capitals when it matter most.

Sutherby Is A Duck

I had a chance last night to catch the Anaheim/LA game, otherwise known as the Freeway Faceoff. It was the third game Brian Sutherby had started for the Ducks and he never looked better. Last night even though he didn't get on the score sheet, his line looked very dominant. He settled on a line that included Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. It seems Sutherby looks right at home in black, gold and orange.

You can also get some reaction Sutherby had to the trade and his new team from that link. I am sure he will feel right at home with an aggressive physical team like the Ducks.

Closer to home, the timing might be right for a Capital resurgence. The Atlanta Thrashers coming off a hot streak have now dropped two in a row, including a blow out in Pittsburgh. The Carolina 'Canes have lost 3 of their last 5 and the Tampa Bay Lightning have cooled a bit losing their last 4. In the Southeast, it looks as if a tide is slowly turning. Both the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals have winning streaks to their credit going into tonight. The future seems a little brighter for the Caps with every win.

Caps look to avenge their worst loss of the season against the Buffalo Sabres tonight. The Caps have two things going for them in this contest. One, they are at home and two, their special teams are coming around. Not to mention Alex Semin will be in uniform for this one.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Getting Back on Track

Capitals 5, Hurricanes 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The most important stat of the night: Capitals went 3 for 4 on the power play and the 'Canes were 0 for 3 on their power play. This was what Capitals fans were expecting from the very beginning. The Caps were supposed to have a dangerous power play and our penalty kill was to be the toughest on the league. It was a design that was suppose to have the Capitals in the playoff hunt, not scraping the bottom of the NHL barrel with a league worst record.

Not to say that the Caps have reached the pinnacle of perfection, far from it. But getting two wins back to back is a start. Alex Ovechkin looked as dangerous as ever scoring two goals, his 15th and 16th markers on the season. Micheal Nylander was a force in this game getting a goal and two assists. Also scoring for the Caps were Mike Green (second straight game were Green scored on the powerplay) and Boyd Gordon (on a empty netter and short handed).

The Caps were able to hold off a late game surge. For a good five minutes it look as if the Caps were once again squander a lead in the third. But with some good defense, good goaltending and a little bit of luck (the washed out Justin Williams goal that would have made it a one goal game with under a minute left in the game) the Capitals were able to hold off the attack.

The "Don't think, just play" mantra new head coach Bruce Boudreau laid on the Capitals have certainly loosened them up. For the Capitals turn their season around they still have to put together 5 to 6 game winning streaks just to pull with in .500 on the season. Boudreau may have just taken the cloud of expectation off the Caps' block, but now is the time to make up for lost time. It won't take long for those expectations to return with every win and non win.

For now, this is a good win. Even the many in attendance found it in themselves to give this team a standing ovation at the end of the first and of course at the end of the game. And for the moment GM George McPhee is starting to look like a genius agian. For the moment.

Big Win For Boudreau

Capitals 4, Flyers 3 OT
Scoresheet - Wash Post

I have to first apologize to the three people that read my blog, (my mom being one of them - Hi mom!). To be honest with you I was dragged into the craziness that is Black Friday and spent most of the day shopping with my wife, so I did not see the game against the Flyers. I tried to tape it but apparently my VCR (yes I said VCR) has a mind of its own. Instead of seeing a thriller of a game, I can only go off the writings of Tarik, the rantings of Joe Reekie and the meager highlights on Comcast SportsNet.

Happy Belated Birthday to Nick Backstrom and what a game he had. Two assists and the game winning overtime goal. The Caps quickly took it to the Flyers amassing a 3 goal lead only to blow it late. What Bruce Boudreau has done is to quicken the offense. Faster shots, hit the net and you will eventually score. There was a turn around, but as I expected, the same problems still exist.

The Caps were still taking bad penalties, and giving up the easy play. But so many things went right for the Caps that it seemed destined that they should finish it. And on the road too. Backstrom finally broke out of his little slump and seems to see the ice much better now. The defensemen are starting to get points. The jump in their step needs to continue with Carolina in the V house tonight.

As far as Broudreau, it's a good first start. An offensive minded coach, you can bet that the Caps will be looking to score even more as the season progresses. As far as Hanlon being let go during Thanksgiving, I thought it was a bit harsh when there were better opportunities for them to do it earlier. Hanlon was a good coach, who I think deserved better.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hanlon Out, Boudreau In

Why does this always happen when I am as far away from my computer as possible? Glen Hanlon has been axed. Happy Thanksgiving Caps fans, you got your wish. GM George McPhee decided he liked his job too much to go down with Hanlon, hence the change.

Bruce Boudreau (of Hershey Bears fame) takes the reigns. His job, to turn this team around. This had to happen. Not the Glen Hanlon is a bad guy, he did this team a great service. What he did with what he had over the last two years was nothing short of a miracle. He took a rookie team and made them a hard working competitive organization.

However, the team struggled out the gate this season. It got to the point that the players, of no fault of their own, just stop listening. A team that losses like this just turns numb to Hanlon's call. Hanlon can no longer coach effectively in an atmosphere like that.

Bruce Boudreau, besides having a cool hockey name, is no slouch either. There was concern in some circles that he wouldn't stay in Hershey long. That the NHL would come calling for him, and the Caps organization would take the hit if he left. Lucky for management (unlucky for Hanlon), the opportunity to keep Broudreau in the organization now has him leading his own NHL team.

While the interim is still attached to his head coaching job, I wouldn't be surprised that he would inherit the job depending on how the season goes. Maybe this is just what the Capitals needed, some fresh perspective. What Broudreu brings is a championship and that is worth it's weight in gold.

So for the moment, George McPhee succeeds in keeping his job, and replacing the coach without touching the back of the bench. Although Hanlon has been relieved, the rest of the staff are still employed. No word if that will change as of yet. The Caps face Philly tomorrow night. I don't imagine a dramatic turn around, but the team should respond in some way. I am going to hold judgement on this move until I watch the game. Until then, this is just appeasing a very large fan base.

For more coverage:
Capitals Insider
Japers Rink
In the Room

Now if you excuse me, I am going to help myself to turkey seconds!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Good-Bye Playoffs

Capitals 1, Thrashers 5
Scoresheet - Wash Post - AJC

This team is done, they aren't going to be playoff contenders. There is no longer any talk of making the post season, talks are now about just getting a win. The Capitals aren't moving their feet, they are not scoring and they are not winning. That is the bottom line.

The "Fire Hanlon" jeers filled the Verizon Center late in the second and carried over into the third, and fans trickled out with seven minutes left. Even the television commentators were doing wrap ups of the game with just under six minutes left in the game.

Just like the laundry that piles in the corner of my bedroom, it's not the single shirt or single pair of pants that make the laundry pile stink. It's the whole pile of clothes that keep adding up that makes the mess. It's roughly the same for the Capitals. Each game itself sometimes doesn't seem that bad, but the accumulations of the losses is making quite the stinky mess that has my wife throw scorn looks my way. Clearly the laundry has to be taken to the cleaners, make what ever connection to the coaching/management staff you want.

Alex Ovechkin scored on a power play chance to give the Capitals a one goal lead, after that it was 5 unanswered goals by the Atlanta Thrashers. The players on the bench are clearly not into the game. They are doing just the minimum, doing what the coach is telling them to do, but there is no extra sacrifice being made by players other than Ovechkin and a few (very few) others.

The Capitals had the same chances to score the Thrashers had. Atlanta took advantage of theirs, the Capitals didn't. There was no jump in their play. The Caps looked beyond lost on the ice on more than one occasion and there just was no connection, no chemistry. It lead to a lot of standing around and watching the play.

Why are the Caps not pulling players from Hershey? Why is McPhee and Hanlon staying with the same roster, just line juggling? Where is Steve Eminger? Where is Ben Clymer? Why are these players still on the sidelines when the Caps need help? Why is the management trading players for draft picks if they need others to step up? Why aren't these questions being asked and/or answered?

From AP: "General manager George McPhee was present but declined to answer questions." And the Wash Post: "Asked to address his team's woes outside the locker room, General Manager George McPhee declined to comment." What, is asking questions to the general manager against team policy?

"'It snowballed,' Capitals defenseman Brian Pothier said. 'We were careless. We made some plays that burnt us.'" I think it's more the lack of "plays" that is the problem.

Bobby Holik (in his infinate wisdom) had an interesting quote in the Atlanta Journal Constitution: "'They played like they wanted to get their coach fired, but that's another story,' Holik said."

On a side note, if the Capitals wanted to be back in the hunt for the playoffs they would have to win their next 5 straight and the Lightning, Maple Leafs, Thrashers, Panthers, Penguins, Devils and Sabres would all have to lose during that span for the Capitals to overtake them in the standings. The Tampa Bay Lightning are currently in 8th place in the Eastern Conference
with 22 points, the Caps are stuck in neutral (and in last) with a meager 13 points. (stats as of Nov. 21)

Oh and if you were paying attention, the Hershey Bears just won their 4th straight. They had clutch goals by Chris Bourque on the power play and Joe Motzko with the game winner.

Bears Pulling It Together

While the Caps struggle, the Bears are thriving. Quietly the Capital's AHL affiliate the Hershey Bears have just won three straight and look to add more wins tonight against Bridgeport. And guess whose leading in scoring: Joe Motzko with 6 goals and 4 assists and Jakub Klepis is not far behind with 9 points. You can find out more on BearCap12's blog.

In other news around the rinks, Sid "the Kid" Crosby is leading the All-Star voting in the east. Big surprise. But it looks like Alex Ovechkin may not even get a starting position. Apparently the Capitals have returned to an afterthought on the minds of NHL fans everywhere.

Caps have to pull a win tonight against another southeast rival, the Thrashers. I am not holding my breath, but anything could happen. That is why we watch!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Not Near Enough - Bye Suts

Capitals 3, Panthers 4
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The afternoon started with some news, Brian Sutherby was traded to Anaheim for some draft pick (that is all we seem able to get anymore). I am a bit confounded by this trade because it doesn't help the team now. It's a draft pick, and I thought the rebuild was over. Already the night was getting off on a bad foot.

Next, the Capitals start a home stand against the Florida Panthers at the phone booth. Well it was supposed to be a home stand but with the restless Caps fans just looking for a win, they might have well been on the road. The heckling persisted in the ears of the Caps even behind their whole bench with fans not shying away from using bad grammar and even worse slang at the Capitals. Oh, and Peter Bondra was in the building, so that was nice.

"They are supposed to be breeding a winner," a season ticket holder was overheard saying, "but they can't win." "Who cares if [Ovechkin] gets 50 goals this season," another said, "we just want them to win a game." The Caps still had a game to play, and didn't show up until the third. Dropping another loss against a Southeast rival.

The Caps seemed a bit listless in the first and second periods, but that changed late in the third with the team down 4-1. They quickly put the Panthers on their heels and got two quick goals. But then that advance petered out and the Capitals again left the ice with Alex Ovechkin stretched out on the ice with his head in his gloves and another loss.

After the game the team had a meeting with GM George McPhee in attendance. Not sure what was said, but I was told the air was cleared between the players and their general manager. But maybe this is what is needed as now every move the team does will be closely watched. The Glen Hanlon watch is also in affect with fans starting the "Fire Hanlon" chant half-way through the game. One thing is for sure, this team won't get much sleep tonight.

Scoring for the Caps were Brook Laich (shorthanded goal), Chris Clark and Alex Semin. Olie Kolzig started in net, and at times was brillant and other times looked slow.

Worst Trade Ever

I am sorry, but GM George McPhee has seriously bought the farm on this trade. McPhee traded Brian Sutherby to Anaheim for a second round draft pick. What? A draft pick. Ben Clymer has to be steaming right about now.

Apparently for McPhee it's of no concern his team has a worse record than the season before, it doesn't matter that his team is considered an afterthought and now a joke. Nope, he got himself a draft pick, whoopee! Are you kidding me?

This trade does squat for the Capitals. Even after a summer of great signings, it's blunder moves like this that makes this a second rate, never-gonna-go-anywhere club. Don't fire Glen Hanlon, kick GMGM to the curb. McPhee was in talks with Anaheim since training camp wasting a good player on the bench just to get a "good" deal. A piece of drift wood at this point would be a better trade than this.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lightning Strikes Twice

Capitals 2, Lightning 5
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Even jumping to a 2-1 lead, the Capitals just couldn't stop a very hot team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Caps again breakdown ever so slightly on defense and the Tampa took advantage. After that it was shut down time, which teams don't seem to have a problem doing to the Washington Capitals.

Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich were your scorers. Laich tipped in a Shaone Morrisonn point shot and Ovie buried a wrister off a pass from Chris Clark. Brent Johnson got the nod in the net only to suffer another loss.

For whatever reason, Glen Hanlon has not played the Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina line against Tampa's top line since their first game against them. Back on Oct. 24, Morrisonn and Jurcina held the top line of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Loius and Vinny Prospal to a goal and an assists. Since then, these three have accumulated 4 goals and 8 assists.

The Capitals special teams are their crux, not their savior this season. The Capitals are a disappointing 0-10 when their opposition scores a power play goal. What is more depressing, the Capitals can't score clutch goals when they need it most. That might be the back breaker that has Caps' fans fuming.

The talent on this team is just not connecting. For whatever reason, the opportunities are there but the goals are not. The Caps need a shake up, not necessarily a coaching shake up. I would like to see more of what Brian Sutherby, Steve Eminger, Ben Clymer, Chris Bourque, Jame Pollock and Jakub Klepis can do.

Southeast Woes

Capitals 1, Panthers 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

This is down right pathetic. Horribly pathetic. The Caps have a problem finding the back of the net. And as result, they lose to Florida, again. The Caps couldn't buy themselves a goal on the powerplay and their clutch performers just aren't performing.

Alex Ovechkin scored on a broken play in front. The Capitals did have their chances, but couldn't score on a net even if it was a drunken prom date in the back of the limo. Olie Kolzig got burned by a rookie for the game winner, but played pretty well considering.

The Capitals need some scoring and need it bad. Ovie is on pace for what he was doing last year (remember this is the season where they were supposed to improve). I have heard from a couple of sources that Alex Semin would rather smoke outside of the Verizon Center during games than work on getting healthy. That helps.

Glen Hanlon wasn't too happy about the loss. On the trip from Miami to Tampa the Caps got an earful from their coach (I heard from a source). Hanlon is fighting for his job right now, so it seems only natural that he lose it on the plane ride. The Caps are getting players open shots, players alone in front of the net and good one timers, but all for not. Just chalk it down as another bad loss at an inopportune time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Grumblings Start To Grow Within

Tarik at the Wash Post may have just caught the scent of dissatisfaction of Capitals' management not from fans, but from the locker room. In the Post today was an article about Steve Eminger who sounds like he is ready to move on:
"It's past frustrating," he said following yesterday's practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "It's just a matter of them putting me in the lineup, and putting me in there for more than one game, or moving me to somewhere I'm going to play. Because clearly I'm not in their plans."

I am not quite sure why they aren't playing Emmy either. But add another player on the "I am not happy here" train with Ben Clymer. It was only a matter of time that the players who can contribute but are sitting on the sidelines during a slump are starting to feel a bit jaded. Watching Eminger at practice yesterday, he looked good. His speed is up and his intensity is there. But for what ever reason, there is not a game night jersey with his name on it.

It's All In The Numbers

It's fun with stats time. Mostly because I am bored. I had thought up a song to go with it, but we better save that for another time. Just know I am humming it in my head as I type.

1.000 - The Capitals winning percentage when leading after two periods, but are only .500 when leading the first and only .300 if they outshot their opponents.

6 - Number of times the Capitals were shutout last season, Carolina shut them out twice last year. So far the Caps have been shutout twice, once by the 'Canes.

1 - Number of times the Caps shutout their opponents last year, they hit their quota already this year with just one shutout against, yep you guessed it, Carolina.

5 - The number of overtimes the Capitals played in through 17 games last season, they have only played overtime once this year. Of those 5 games that went to over time, three went to a shootout.

51% - The Capitals face off percentage which is ranked 9th in the league.

1/3 - The fraction of games the Caps win when they are outshot, their winning percentage when they out shoot their opponents is worse: .300.

53 - Alex Ovechkin's on pace number for goals this season.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day Practice

Yes, I know that Veteran's Day was yesterday and today is only the observance of the holiday, but it seemed appropriate since veteran Chris Clark has been sited at a practice on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Micheal Nylander. It looks like Viktor Kozlov, Nick Backstrom and Tomas Fleischmann makes up the second line.

The mood around the practice facility was a little quiet. Ovie more than once took his anguish out on the boards after a missed shot or two. The team is not talking, which is bad. While it's just practice, there is no chatter, no joking, no communication during some drills. Most of that melted away by the end of the practice (after Hanlon left the ice). George McPhee sat on his little balcony and watched most of the practice with a sour look on his face (but when does he not have a sour look on his face) in front of a very dark and still front office. It was a bit eerie to watch him and the empty office behind him (foreshadowing?).

Hanlon looked a little peeved through the whole practice. Stopping drills every now and then to give clear instructions. Most of what they worked on today were quick passes and stretch plays on the break out.

There was one drill that sort of caught my attention, which was defense recovering after shooting from the point. A defenseman would take a pass from the corner, draw it to the middle and shoot on net, then catch up to a two on one. The best two defensemen I saw were John Erskine and Brian Potheir who were able to get back in a defensive position every time.


Washington D.C. The nation's capital. Home of the most powerful in all the world. Unless your talking of the area's pro teams. The Redskins, Wizards and the Capitals have collectively made the District groan with dissatisfaction. But every team seems to have the same problems besides not winning (although the Wiz did win last night), they are relying on their defenses a little too much. One could draw parallels.

For the Redskins, you think they would learn from their mistakes. Yet again they put too much emphasis on the defense side of the ball only to realize they weren't as tough on "D" as they were last year. They allowed teams to creep back in the lead when their offense suddenly gets the equivalent of a brain cramp. The same could be said about the Capitals.

The Caps have put all their eggs in to a defensive package with little importance put on offense. Glen Hanlon's philosophy will always be defense (he is a former goaltender), but there seems to be no room left for creativity on offense. It's like an afterthought. And teams who are patient enough to wait for Caps' mistakes take advantage.

When I see the Capitals practice, they aren't working on offensive plays. You can't help but notice there is more work on getting back than pushing the attack. It's all apart of this possession game that Hanlon is pressing. Even in games it seems the only offensive play that seems evident is get the puck to Micheal Nylander or Alex Ovechkin and let's see what happens. Or my favorite play (sarcasm warning) Mike Green driving it up the wing only to lose the puck in the corner.

The Capitals cannot win games with out scoring goals. But that doesn't seem to be a priority for the Hanlon or the Caps right now. They are preaching defense, defense and more defense. Yes defense is important, but wins are too. Defenses are always going to make mistakes during a game, it's the offense that has to respond and respond when it is needed most. If I knew that the Caps give up 2 or 3 goals but could make it up with their offense, I wouldn't bite my nails everytime the Caps go down a goal or two. It is teams like Ottawa strike that perfect balance.

I was reading the comments on the website following the Caps win Ottawa and I couldn't help but see comments talking about Ovie being a bit of puck hog. I made a point of watching Ovie in the Lightning game and a couple of things were made apparent. Ovie is damn fast, he outskates his teammates often leaving him alone in the offensive zone. There other thing I notice is he doesn't quite know what to do with it once he gets there, and it just becomes another low percentage outside shot on net.

The Caps are not setting anyone other than Ovie up either, which goaltenders have gotten wise to. But in the Lightning game, Tom Poti and Tomas Fleischmann set up a beautiful give and go. I remember thinking, why don't we see more of this from the Capitals? I am not sure if Hanlon or anyone on the coaching staff knows much about producing offense at the NHL level. At the moment teams are not really cowering at the Capitals offensive punch.

The Caps need to start producing, but if the only suggestion is to put a guy in front of the net a la Tomas Holstrom style, the Caps need to do a little bit better than that (or trade the farm for Holstrom). The Caps instead should be working on getting their scorers in a position to, well, score.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

And Right Back Where They Were

Capitals 2, Lightning 5
Scoresheet - Wash Post

How can you go from a stellar win to loss to a lesser team? It seems the Capitals only show up for big games, but not the ones they are supposed to win. The Caps let their guard down early in the third and it was all the Lightning needed.

The Caps certainly didn't work the whole 60 minutes and it cost them. Even with a Alex Ovechkin goal late in the second to tie the game, the first five minutes of the third period the Caps were caught flat footed. After it looked like the Caps were going to keep the Lightning's top line off the scoreboard, there was just a complete break down.

The fact that again this year the Caps will not be able to win back to back games, is going to make this a very long season for us fans. Again the Capitals are last in the Southeast, again they loss a very important division game, again the power play fails to score on their chances, again they lose. Again and again.

Ovechkin scored late in the second to tie the game, but couldn't bury a shorthanded breakaway late in the third. Penalties killed the Capitals in the third when Mike Green took a high sticking penalty worthy of a double minor. There went any chance of a come back and the Lightning added an easy goal to push the game farther away. Tom Poti did have a pretty give and go with Tomas Fleischmann, giving Flash his forth of the year.

You can scratch the playoffs this year for the Capitals. Unless they can pull a winning streak comparable to 5 to 6 game stretches, they are not going anywhere. All that talent and no where to go, talk about a bad date.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It's Downright Poetic

Capitals 4, Senators 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Ott Cit

The Caps were just setting up the Ottawa Senators. They lost those games just to get the Senators right where they want them. They wanted the expectation level so low, that when they visited Scotiabank Place they would catch everyone off guard. Or the Caps were just due for a big win.

Viktor Kozlov had a huge night with a goal and two assists. When Kozlov scores the Caps win, apparently. Nick Backstrom finally got a goal, his NHL first off a Kozlov assist. Tomas Fleischmann snapped a pretty wrister past Ray Emery and Alex Ovechkin finished the scoring putting the Ottawa Senators away in the third. I even got the wife to start the cheer "Beat the traffic - beat, beat the traffic" to the 19,666 Senator faithful heading to the exits after Ovie's goal. What a great game!

The Capitals simply outworked the Senators in the pivotal second period. And when Kozlov outworked his defender off the side boards to score, the Caps could smell the blood in the water. Last season the Caps would lay off a little after the first goal. It has been a significant improvement to say the least. The Caps penalty kill was also spectacular. And the fact that the Capitals could kill off a 5 on 3 then turn the offense on was something Caps fans have been waiting almost 2 years to see happen.

While my poll may say different, Olie Kolzig finally showed that spark that we all know and love. He played one of the best games thus far. He challenged shots, read the plays beautifully and recovered better. He was worthy of the number one star but settled for the second. Kozlov took top honors. And talk of firing Glen Hanlon should lessen a little, thankfully.

Caps face the Lightning at the phone booth Saturday. Their work ethic must still be as potent as it was against the Senators. If not, it will be another 4 games for the next win.

Update: Allen Panzeri from the Ottawa Citizen wrote the following:
The Washington Capitals aren't going to win the Stanley Cup this year.

The Ottawa Senators might.

It was tough to tell them apart on Thursday night.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Coaching Quandary

I am not saying that Ted Leonsis is making calls to replace anybody at this point. But if Capitals fans seem dead set on cutting Glen Hanlon loose, then we might as well look at our options.

The likeliest outcome would be the dismissal of Hanlon. GM George McPhee most likely will stay. General managers normally are not replaced mid season. Mostly because the GM would cut the coach before his hot seat gets too hot. If McPhee stays with Hanlon, they both go. So it's likely that McPhee would rather find a new coach rather than a new job. Much like the situation in Atlanta, Don Waddell had to cut Bob Hartley or lose his job as well.

So if Hanlon is out, who do you want in? Bob Hartley? Pat Quinn? Another?

Bob Hartley would be a bad choice. He is a harsh coach more apt to push veterans rather than a young squad that is short of confidence right now. Pat Quinn would be a better choice. His knowledge of international hockey would be helpful with both Russian and Swedish stars on this team. Those are the two I know of that I could talk about, but I am sure there is more.

But again, I think a lot more bad has to happen before we go down this road. There is still time to turn this around. The Capitals are playing with more urgency, which is good, but the results are less than spectacular. And when this offense gets hot, talk of coach replacement will be the last thing on Caps fans' minds.

I think part of the reason for the recent decline is that teams are more prepared for the Capitals. The Caps aren't the rebuilding youth of years past. They are getting NHL's best full attention. Maybe a couple of those games last year the other teams didn't take the Caps too seriously. This year they are.

I doubt Uncle Ted will be making any drastic changes soon. But I have been wrong before.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dead Last

Capitals 1, Thrashers 2 OT
Scoresheet - Wash Post - AJC

The Capitals find themselves in familiar territory. Unfortunately, that is last place in the Southeast Division not to mention a spot at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Caps third period comeback wasn't enough to penetrate Ondrej Pavelec. That's right, I said Ondrej Pavelec. The Thrasher rookie goaltender was close to getting his first NHL shutout. Wouldn't that be poetic for the hapless Caps.

Micheal Nylander tied the game with a wrap around pass from Viktor Kozlov on the power play. No points for Alex Ovechkin in this one but according to Tarik, the top line play was nothing sort of amazing:
The most notable switch involved putting Alex Ovechkin, Nylander and Chris Bourque on the top line.

Rookie Nicklas Backstrom was moved to center, his natural position, on the second line, where he skated between Tomas Fleischmann and Kozlov.

Both of the revamped top lines were effective and, at times, outstanding.

Many of the shots could be described as glorious scoring chances, but each time Pavelec was there with a pad or glove or blocker.

The moral on this team cannot be very high. The Caps have dropped ten of the last 12 games. That could put both Glen Hanlon and GM George McPhee in the hot seat. The Capitals scored just 3 goals in four games. The Media, again, have put the blame on injuries, which could be the saving grace for Hanlon and GMGM. But that was the only reason the Caps went out and got free agents, wasn't it?

I don't see the Caps fortunes improving as they take a trip up to Ottawa. These are two teams going in two very different directions. If there was a game to black out for Caps fans, it should be the on Thursday. Alas, every Capital debacle will be on TV for the remaining 67 games. Cruel and unusual punishment for Caps fans everywhere.

Who would have thought that goaltending would be an issue for this season?

Bourque Gets A Shot

Not that we will see it due to the Versus blackout. But Chris Bourque will be in Caps colors for the Atlanta game tonight. Something has to get this offense sparked and start scoring goals, maybe that comes from a Hall of Famer's kid.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Going Nowhere Fast

Capitals 0, Hurricanes 5
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Remind me why I am a Caps fan. Three straight losses. Not to mention that the games were boring. The Caps were at least fun to watch even when they were losing a season ago. Now? It's like we are beating a dead horse and it's getting more painful to watch. Now when the Capitals get in the hole, it's like a shooting gallery from the outside. Are you kidding me? Where is this effort to get the puck to the net, to create traffic, to do anything?

The Capitals have to stop this giving up after the first goal. Every shot to the net is from the outside, there are no set up plays, no attempts to jam the puck towards the crease. Where is this creative offense that the Capitals are suppose to have? If I see Mike Green skate up the side and lose the puck one more time, I am going to puke. That is it? That's all we got?

Alex Ovechkin is on an island, playing and hitting harder than anyone else on the team. Here is a forward that should be scoring, NOT LEADING THE TEAM IN HITS! What is going on? The team keeps hoping for lucky bounces. Good teams make their own luck boys.

With Florida playing well and Atlanta getting over the funk they are in, the Capitals cannot afford anymore streaky losses. Losing 3 or 4 in a row and we are talking tee times in April, not playoffs. Maybe it's time to get Ben Clymer back in the line up, and send down Tomas Fleischmann and Nick Backstrom. Both players have been as useful as a plank of wood.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Capitals 0, Rangers 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The Rangers just seem to have the Capitals number. The Capitals had just a couple of defensive breakdowns and Hendrik Lundqvist deserves some credit. The Caps start November on the wrong foot however as they lose this game even playing the better game.

Olie Kolzig took a beating in this one, getting run over by Rangers virtually all game. But Kolzig played well and again it was penalties the Caps couldn't control. The game should have ended a 1-0 or 1-1 tie.

It was a pretty exciting game besides the loss and the shut out. The Capitals stayed to their game plan and had some great opportunities to score, but just couldn't beat Lundqvist.

Caps come back home Friday night to face off against the Flyers, a totally different team from a season ago.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

XM Capitals Interview

If anyone has XM Satellite Radio on XM Ch. 204, Milan Jurcina, Shaone Morrisonn and Mike Green will be on the NHL Live show that broadcasts from the Reebok Edge store in NY. The Interview is sometime in the 1pm hour (eastern time).

Update: the Interview went well. Most of the talk was about foreign players getting use to playing in North America. And there was talk about Morrisonn's fight with Vinny Lecavlier. Sounds like they were going to a nice dinner on Holloween night. Hope they had fun.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Night Of Firsts

Capitals 7, Leafs 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Toronto Star

You had the feeling that this team was about to break it open. The frustration over the last couple of games spilled out into a blitz of goals for the Capitals as they smacked the Leafs in Toronto 7-1.

Scoring their first goals of the season were Matt Bradley, Brian Sutherby (who has been a healthy scratch for a while), Jeff Schultz (his first NHL career goal as well), Boyd Gordon and Matt Pettinger. Micheal Nylander added a playmaker (3 assists) and Alex Ovechkin had the two other goals and an assist. Olie Kolzig stopped 32 shots, and looked much better in net this game.

This is a big road win for the Caps. After starting their road trip with a lose to St. Louis, it looked like the team was doing everything right but nothing to show for it. Playing the Leafs - a team that started a little shaky this season - seemed to cure the Caps' ills.

Olie still looks like he is lacking a little confidence right now. He look as if he too far back in the net and not challenging shots. It looks like he is trying to hard to make the big save, when all Olie has to do is be Olie. His goaltending has to continue to improve as the season moves on.

Nick Backstrom is still without a goal, although his assists are starting to pile up. He has been close on several chances, but has yet to get a solid shot on net. Looks like his teammates are helping him out though, every game he is getting a nice feed or two in front of the net. Once Backstrom gets that goal, he may loosen that grip on the stick a lil' bit and gain some confidence.

The Caps seemed to have some of that "killer" in them in this game. Even getting the home crowd to turn on the Leafs. In the Toronto Star:
By the time the third period started, at least one third of the Air Canada Centre was empty and one small section could be heard chanting "Let's Go Raptors!". The NBA season starts Wednesday for Toronto's club.

Now that hurts.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bondra Retires

Peter Bondra is no longer a player. More of a General Manager. As far as the last two games, I will save my angst for the Toronto game.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

That's More Like It

Capitals 5, Lightning 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post - St. Pete Times

Chris Clark may not be very flashy, fast or a sniper. But when you put the Capitals' captain on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Viktor Kozlov, the hard working forward becomes a different player. Clark scored two goals, Ovie netted a goal and had two helpers and Dave Steckel scored his first NHL goal to stop the losing skid at just 4 games.

For the Capitals to end their losing ways and to do it versus a division foe is a big plus. Clark and Ovechkin looked right at home with one another. The chemistry that seemed to be lacking with forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Joe Motzko was there instantly with Clark back on the top line.

Alex Semin was back, but again looked a little behind Micheal Nylander and Nick Backstrom. It will take him a game or two to get back up to speed. Backstrom nearly got his first NHL goal, after a pretty feed to the slot, Backstrom was denied. Dave Steckel got his first NHL goal scoring on a feed from Ovie. Olie Kolzig still looks a little shaky to me, but played well enough to get the game. Brooks Laich also scored giving him his second on the year.

In the third, Shaone Morrisonn got under Vincent Lecavalier's skin and the two scrambled to fight when Morrisonn took an awkward turn and face planted into the ice with his arms behind him. He got a nasty cut, but was soon out to finish the period out. Both Shaone Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina have both been quietly shutting down the opposition's top line. The two have been a wall back there, playing very very well.

The Caps will face an old foe in Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks as they come to town Friday night.