Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Caps Start To Solve Sabres

Capitals 4, Sabres 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

If I told you that Alex Ovechkin didn't make the scoresheet, the Capitals were outshot 2 of 3 periods and the Caps were playing Buffalo in their barn, you might have marked down their last game as a loss. Buffalo always seemed to be the team that has frustrated the Caps for the past couple of years. But last night was different and the Capitals actually enjoyed their experience in HSBC Arena by beating the Sabres 4-2.

Brooks Laich stays hot getting the Caps on the board early with a power play tally. Chris Bourque finally gets his first NHL goal in nine career games with the Capitals. Nick Backstrom gets the eventual game winner and Boyd Gordon sealed the deal on an empty netter.

Jose Theodore would be the first to admit that playing Buffalo hasn't been fun for him through out his career. He has only won twice in his nine career games at HSBC. He turned away 31 shots. For the first time the Capitals were frustrating the Sabres. Theo played a big part in that keeping the Sabres off the scoreboard through two periods.

Ever since Bruce Boudreau put an "A" on Nick Backstrom's chest, the playmaker has elevated his game. He had a goal and an assist and seemed to have a hand in every Capital scoring chance. He has a four game point streak going where he has a goal and 7 assists.

The Capitals did a good job of frustrating the Sabres as the Buffalo squad looked very uncomfortable playing on their rink. They took a couple of bad penalties early (a problem the Caps have had when they have played Buffalo the last few years) and just could never recovered. It was the first time the Sabres seemed content to slow down the action when they were trailing by a couple of goals. Usually when the Caps and Sabres play an open back and forth game, the Sabres usually get the upper hand.

In the third period when the Sabres cut into the Caps 3-0 lead, the pace was furious. Players were going all out, it almost looked as if it were a playoff game. But the Caps held their ground and JT60 came up with the solid saves to keep them in front for good. A late power play by the Sabres on a 6 on 4 didn't damper the Caps mood about the win. But they want more, eying first place in the Eastern Conference.

"We're focused on just trying to win every game," Backstrom told reporters after the game. "We know we're up there, so if we keep hunting them it's going to be fun."

The Caps end the year on a very good note. The Caps finish 2008 winning 11 of their last 14. The Caps improve their road record to 9-10-2. They have also opened a 12 point lead over their division. Caps start 2009 right off the bat on New Year Day against the divisional foe Tampa Bay Lightning.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Garts Honored, Caps Win

Capitals 4, Maple Leafs 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin shared the load in this game both scoring 2 goals each. Jose Theodore stopped 23 shots to get his third straight win. Laich got the first star and the red hard hat for his efforts last night.

Because of my travel schedule it has been hard to catch all these games during the holiday season. You can imagine my disappointment that I would miss Mike Gartner night. I had a chance to see a taped version of the game so I will just make a couple of observations.

--Ovi may have been a bit of a puck hog by not passing to Laich at the end of the game, giving Brooks his first career hat trick. But Ovi apologized later and pointed out that he is now only a goal away from being the top scorer in the league. I mean geez Brooksie, look at the bigger picture here.

--Theo has played his best string of games to date as a Capital. After allowing 4 goals in the Ranger comeback, JT60 has turned away all but three goals in seven periods of play.

--I think the new annoying commercial after the "Saved By Zero" monstrosity has to be the Netstar 1 commercial with the guy in the bathroom making faces in the mirror. What the heck is that all about.

--Matt Bradley took a big spill in the third and you could literally see the birdies fly around his head.

--Eric Fehr should check his stick for holes, I counted at least three times the big forward let a puck past him, including on the Leafs goal.

--Mike Green was back in the line up. He must be going for the most cute moves award, because he had a lot of pretty moves that accomplished zilch. Having said that, that was a pretty wicked shot that rang the post in the first period.

--If the Capitals do consider a third jersey (and I don't think they should) they should do the retro look, because those old Capitals' design looked spectacular in warm ups. The stars down the arms and across the front just made Ovi look faster for some reason. They would also have to bring back the stars on the pants.

--What was with Joe Benanati's tie? U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi, that tie is ugly! (This observation is brought to you by my wife)

--I agree with Craig Laughlin (a rare thing). With Labre, Hunter and Langway, they really did need some speed up there.

--During Mike Gartner's ceremony, the Caps players couldn't look more disinterested. Except Chris Clark.

--Speaking of Clark, he had one of most physical games since being injured. Being a pest and and all around nasty player, getting into scrums and throwing a punch or two. His roughing penalty in the second seemed to energize the Caps when Jonas Frogren and Clark were called for coincidental penalties. Ovi scored on the ensuing four on four to break the tie.

--Jeff Schultz is another player who made a comeback. He had a really bad shift in the first where he coughed up the puck, screwed up his assignment and nearly let a Leaf walk in front of the net with the puck before he stepped in front of him. When the whistle blew Schultz skated right back to the bench, even though it looked as if the coaches were going to leave that defensive pairing on. It's always my mantra that if you have a bad shift, get off, regroup and live to see another shift. Schutlz played much better the rest of the game.

--Congratulations to the Washington Redskins New England Patriots Dallas Cowboys Baltimore Ravens on making the playoffs.

The Capitals open a ten point lead in the Southeast Division and move to second on the Eastern Conference ranking. Their dominance at home has masked a difficult road record where the Caps will be tested in Buffalo for their next game. The Capitals attendance is also up 33% from a year ago, last night's tilt was sold out. It's getting harder and harder to grab a beer between periods.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Caps Keep Winning At Home

Capitals 3, Sabres 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The game was cluttered with defensive play in the first two periods, but when the Capitals went up 2-0, Buffalo and Washington went all out and played to an exciting 3-2 finish. The Caps keep their winning ways at home as they work on another winning game streak and avenging a 5-0 loss to the same Buffalo Sabres nearly a month ago.

Alex Ovechkin scored another highlight reel goal after some how picking the puck out of the defenders stick and skates beat Patrick Lalime five hole for the game winner. Boyd Gordon tipped in a goal (he was due for one) and Viktor Kozlov seems to have found his scoring touch getting his fourth goal in as many games.

Ovi had a goal taken away after Brooks Laich interfered with the Sabres' goaltender. After that he seemed driven not just to score, but to out-hustle the entire Sabre team. Ovechkin is still ahead of his pace a season ago.

The more I watch Sean Collins, the more I am impressed with him. He does the simplest play to defuse the Sabre attack. It is not flashy, it is not a big hit. Just a poke check, or a well timed stick check or reading the play to cut off the pass, Collins was a rock the Caps leaned on in the final minutes of the game. Bruce Boudreau put a lot of trust in his play by leaving him out there as the Sabres pressed and it was a simple poke check that deterred the Sabres from getting the puck in the front of the net.

Bryan Helmer also had a great game. The veteran assisted on the game winner by Ovechkin (2 assists in all). He also broke up a few plays and earned the game's first star. The three star selection was an odd one with Helmer with the number one star, Donald Brashear with the game's number two star and Ovi with the third star.

Jose Theodore played better than the two goals he had no chance on saving. He played compact and swallowed alot of pucks not allowing rebounds. The Sabres' power play goal was breakdown in defense when Gordon thought the puck was played with a hand pass. The second goal went off of Maxim Afinogenov's legs and bounced pass Theo. Besides those two goals JT60 was solid in net. When Tyler Sloan was fooled on a deke, Theodore cleaned up the mess with a great glove save.

Ever since Boudreau gave Nick Backstrom the "A" on his chest, Backstrom has been showing some more hustle and great leadership by doing rather than saying. Chris Clark's return was a welcomed sight, the Caps just look more whole with their captain back. Kozlov played one of his most physical games I have seen him play this year and was a pest on the forecheck leading to some great scoring chances.

Caps go back at it Sunday night, Mike Gartner night. Toronto is in town and they will be coming off of a disappointing loss against the Islanders. Then the Caps are in Buffalo for a game, then start their new year with a four game home stand.

Highlights by

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, You Puckheads!

The Christmas season is all about reflection. Usually that is done with mounds of family around and stuffing yourself with turkey and junk food and gaining about 400 pounds before you have to make the same resolution you make every year when the clock strikes midnight on January first (usually to lose the 400 pounds you gained at the dinner table).

This Christmas season, my wife and I have made the same trip to Minnesota (driving through a nasty snow storm in Wisconsin to do it) to spend time with the in-laws. Being away from the Caps and not be able to see Ranger comeback win at MSG or not being there for Mike Gartner's number raised stopped me to reflect about being a Caps fan and Puckhead's Thoughts.

I have been a die hard Capitals fan since my first game I went to in 1988 (we had another team in DC called the Bullets, hmm, I wonder what ever happened to them). The Caps played the Pittsburgh Penguins in that particular game and I became a fan of the Caps and an enemy of the Penguins in just 60 minutes of playing time at the Capital Center. I remember it so vividly, we sat right below the noise meter. If you remember when it hit 100, the strobe lights on it would blink wildly. Ah, good times.

It is hard to imagine that Puckhead's Thoughts had been around for three plus years. I started at Tuesday September 2, 2005. Before that I had one of those geocities pages (that none of you ever saw or knew about). I maintained that on my own since college (roughly since '97 with weekly updates). I think my website was or something very close to that. Back in the day when you had 100 megabytes to make a website. Now you have 7 gigabytes just for a free email account. I guess that makes me old.

Since then, this blog has become more comprehensive and more exposed. It's something I have been very proud of for the last three years, and it has been great that a lot of you come here to read my rants, frustrations and adoration about the Capitals. I have gone from posting random messages on fan boards on a Microsoft 3.1 to having my own blog with a steady 580 hits a week. Not bad for doing it all on my spare time. I even have a backup puckhead in Haven joining me this year to help this blog cover more than I could ever do on my own.

This hasn't been a monster blog like On Frozen Blog or Japer's Rink, both blogs I love to read consistently. But it's done alright for itself these last three years. I don't know why people come back to read it, I only write this blog for myself, but I am glad you do. I always welcome comments on what I write (good or bad).

So as I sit to eat way too much food, gain a gazillion pounds and make far fetched resolutions at year's end, I can say that Puckhead's has been a bright spot for me these last three years. I am glad I got to share it with you and I look forward to doing more. Rock the red, game on, and LET'S GO CAPS!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hey, They Said It...

I missed the Caps/Rangers game as I am in the Midwest for Christmas. As soon as my phone buzzed that the Caps were down 4-0, I turned if off and spent the rest of the evening with my family trying not to think about another disappointing loss. Imagine my surprise this morning when I woke up to read about the debacle that Haven so kindly stepped in to write for me in my absence. It was a great Christmas present to open this morning!

Here are a few quotes from the game:

"They stopped playing hockey. They probably believed (at) 4-0 they'd win the game. They tried to play conservative, but we play a different way. We play a hard, physical game and take lots of shots. You see the results."
--Alex Ovechkin on the comeback win.

"The good thing is we were down 4-0 early. It's almost better. If we could get one and start believing ... that's all we kept thinking about in the room. If you believe, it can happen."
--Bruce Boudreau on Christmas miracles.

"Sometimes the coach wants to give you the chance to bounce back, and that's what he did. I was really lucky that I did have the chance to show character."
--Jose Theodore on being pulled and put back in.

"When he came in and he stopped Zherdev, you need defining moments, you need saves at the right time. And that was a save at the right time. The guys knew on the bench that we had the opportunity to come back after he made that save."
--Boudreau on Theo's save in the third period that could have made it 5-2 for the Rangers.

"I was looking at the goals in my head. The way the plays kind of happened, I wouldn't do anything differently. I was just trying not to get down on myself. I was just thinking, 'Do the same thing and it's going to pay off.' In the second I made a couple of saves, and the confidence kicked in."
--Theo on his return to the net in the second period.

"It was a hard loss for us. We just want to improve every game, especially when we lose 7-1. It was a great comeback. We started believing each other again and we won the game."
--Ovi on rebounding from the loss in Philadelphia.

"It came right back to me. It was on edge and I just fired hard. And got a break. It was huge."
--Birthday boy and red hard hat wearer Shaone Morrisonn on his OT game winning goal.

"That was the hardest shot I've ever seen him take."
--Boudreau joking about Morrison's OT winning shot.

"There were some signs in the first period when we were building our lead that we were playing with fire a little bit."
--Ranger coach Tom Renney.

"You've got to let this one go. It happens. They took advantage of the special teams. We've got to regroup. We just let it slip."
--Scott Gomez on the loss.

Quotes are from the Washington Post, AP and broadcast services.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hold the MSG...

Capitals 5, Rangers 4 (OT)
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The last time the Caps won a game at Madison Square Garden was a long time ago December 23, 2008.

For a while tonight it looked like the MSG non-winning streak would continue, but the Caps mounted a comeback that would have made the '04 Red Sox proud.

The Rangers scored four unanswered goals before Alex Ovechkin caught a break in the second period to put the Caps on the board. From that point forward it was ALL CAPS (yes, that's a joke)--Tomas Fleischmann and Viktor Kozlov both scored in the third, and Ovi scored again to tie it up in the back half of the third.

Meanwhile, musical goalies (it's like a game within a game) continued, with Jose Theodore #1 struggling early, giving way to sick and injured Brent Johnson, who was replaced at the start of the second period by Theo #2 (who looks suspiciously like Theo #1, but is much, much better).

And to top it all off--could you script this any better?--birthday boy Shaone Morrisonn got his first goal of the season with just under a minute into OT to win the game. A birthday present for Shaone; a Christmas present for Caps fans. Normally I'd say birthday and Christmas presents shouldn't be combined, but in this case I'm more than ok with it.

Highlights by

Monday, December 22, 2008

Oh Heut, How We Miss Thee...

The one question mark coming into this season for the Washington Capitals was it's goaltending. George McPhee tried to calm those fears pointing to new acquired Jose Theodore's resume. He was NHL's MVP, led the Avalanche back to the playoffs last spring, yada yada yada.

The Caps thought they were getting a steal after they couldn't come to terms with Cristobal Huet. Theodore was playing well in Colorado (never mind the stinker of a playoff series with Detroit) and they got him for less money and less time on July first. It allowed the Caps to sign some key players that they wanted to keep and allow some young goaltenders some time to grow down in the AHL. Good deal, right?

It only took two shakey games for that plan to come unraveled. Theodore let in some head scratchers just in the first 2 games. Suddenly, back up Brent Johnson needed to step in and take some of the work load from Theodore. Now the coaching staff is just going with which ever way the wind seems to be blowing when making the starting night goaltender decision. There is no clear number one goaltender in Washington.

Hockey Night In Canada might have spilled the beans on McPhee's plans as Al Strachan told the panel between the second and third periods of the Penguins and Maple Leafs game, "Washington is, indeed, asking around about goalies."

It shouldn't be shocking that the Caps have been looking for an early season trade. The Caps did have a deal in the works with Chicago, a Micheal Nylander for one Nickolai Khabibulan with a few more particulars. But the time expired on that front and the Capitals had some major injury shoes to fill. The way Caps were dropping like flies they needed Nylander. Besides Khabibulan was playing inspired goaltending when Chicago thought about putting him on waivers or even sending him abroad. Khabi became indespensable to the Blackhawks.

Who could the Capitals be looking for now. A name that was batted around on HNIC was Tomas Vokoun, but I highly doubt the Panthers would make a in division trade. Other goaltenders to consider but are not likely canditates are the Boston pair of Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez. Both are UFA's at the end of the year and Thomas comes with a very attractive $1.1 million price tag. It's unlikely anyone in the Eastern Conference will make that deal on the off chance they would play the Capitals in the post season (since it appear the Caps would be in the playoffs, knock on wood).

How about the west? There are a plethora of goaltenders that are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season that the Caps may consider trading for. Some highlights on that list are:

Andrew Raycroft, Colorado - But only if the Avs don't make it to the playoffs or Peter Budaj channels his inner Roy.

Ty Conklin, Detroit - Not very likely the way Chris Osgood has been playing. Detroit will need a good one, two going into the post season.

Dwayne Roloson or Mathieu Garon, Edmonton - Both goaltenders' contracts are up at the end of the year. Both come with plus and minus. Garon would be cheaper and younger. I can imgine you could get some inspired play out of Roloson (when he was traded from Minnesota he took that Oiler team to the finals).

Jason Labarbera, LA - Big goaltender, but nothing overly special about him.

Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota - Yeah, right.

Mikael Tellqvist, Phoenix - A back-up, not really a number one.

Brian Boucher, San Jose - Good, he filled in for Evgeni Nabokov and the Sharks didn't miss a beat with him in net. But unlikely as San Jose will want a good tandem going into the post season.

Manny Legace, St. Louis - Injury prone.

Curtis Sanford, Vancouver - Only if the Canucks miss the playoffs.

Ottawa has a couple of marginal goaltenders they may want to trade with to spark their roster in Martin Gerber and Alex Auld (Auld comes with Southeast Division experience). But the pickings are small for the Caps right now. If they want a trade for a goaltender the Caps have more than enough to bargin with, Nylander and the growing talent pool in Hershey. It just depends on how much the Caps want to spend too.

All of this is pure speculation of course. Many times I have claimed to know the best way of running the Capitals' organization. And many times I have been wrong. Hence I don't have a job as a GM in the NHL. But the Caps apparently do have a situation in goal that needs some fine tuning. Maybe they should tap the ticket sales department for their next goaltender.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snap Back To Reality

Capitals 1, Flyers 7
Scoresheet - Wash Post

It's times like these, when the Capitals blow a big game, I wonder what kind of emails Caps owner Ted Leonsis gets. I am sure there are the regular "the goalies suck" or "why haven't we traded for a big time defenseman." Then there are the ridiculous emails about how the Caps should bring back Peter Bondra or they should fire George McPhee and Bruce Boudreau to hire Dale Hunter as coach/GM (as ridiculous as it sounds, I have actually heard Caps fans say things like this).

So instead of focusing on how bad the Capitals effort was against a Philadelphia Flyer team that waited them out, I will focus on the positive. Just like Paul Maurice in Carolina, even if I have to "fake it" here are the positives in the 7-1 beating the Capitals took:

Brooks Laich scored his eighth goal of the season and Tomas Fleischmann added an assist against an apparently hot goaltender.

Sean Collins was a +1. The only Capital in the plus column.

Several Flyers fans left with out their hats.

The Capitals had 25 shots in the first period, if only one of the damn shots would have gone in.

At the end of the game the Capitals bench was pretty comfy with all that room.

Jose Theodore played just as well as Brent Johnson.

The Capitals penalty kill was good for two periods.

Alex Ovechkin had a lot of shots. 12 all together. So much for the law of averages (oh sorry, positive things, got it).

Carolina lost today too. Against Boston they let in a mere 4 goals and got twice the goals the Caps got today (2 for those not paying attention).

Donald Brashear had a good afternoon, 6 penalties and 26 PIMs. Not bad for only being on the ice for 7 minutes and 41 seconds.

It's gaudy to have all those wins in the win column.

Looking back to see the puck in the net behind you really stretches your ab muscles.

The Caps will have a few days off to think about it, they should be more than ready for the Rangers Tuesday night.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Caps Home Dominance Continues

Capitals 4, Blues 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Caps fans may have been more interested in the Carolina/Florida game rather than the dominant Capitals taking on a struggling St. Louis Blues game. Not to say the building was full of rowdy fans looking for some Blues' blood. But the Southeast Division is starting to get a bit more competitive these days. As long as the Caps keep winning, the battle for second is just what those other teams will have to settle for. And the Capitals keep to true form getting their 20th win of the season, their fifth straight victory, and their 13th win at home.

Viktor Kozlov had a pretty good game, netting two goals and had an assist. I think the Capitals would like to see more offensive production out of him this year and tonight he had a big turn in that direction. Tomas Fleischmann added a nice goal of his own off of a Blues' defensive breakdown that had him wide open in front of the net and Eric Fehr hit him with a beauty pass. Alex Ovechkin got a powerplay tally that sealled the deal a mere 13 seconds into period three.

Unlike the game in Long Island, the Caps didn't let up in the third. It could have been easy too when St. Louis cut the lead to two with a powerplay tally. But the Caps kept their aggresive pressure up and the Blues comeback frittered away in the third.

That comeback was also stymied by rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov who made some pretty big saves down the stretch in the third. He had some amazing saves to keep the lead at two when the Blues began to pressure him. Varlamov had to be sharp on a couple of defensive break downs by the Caps and when they needed a big save, he gave them one. Two starts, two wins. Not to shabby.

Mike Green might not be at a 100%, but some if his hits look like he is just fine. Against the Islanders he had a huge hit in the overtime period and in this game, midway through the third he drove a forechecker right into the net. To me he looked great, but he left early after re-aggravating his injury. For now he is questionable for Saturday against the Flyers.

Fleischmann had a great game and could have had three goals in this one. He made a couple of sneaky moves on some Blues' defenders but just couldn't finish the play. As he gains more confidence, I can see Flash doing much better than 30 goals this year.

Scary moment in the third when David Backes cross checked Alex Semin from behind. Forcing the winger to leave 9 minutes into the third period. Semin will be re-evaluated tomorrow, and may likely sit out against the Flyers. Semin already has missed 12 games with a back injury, so the hit did the Capitals no favors.

Now we get to the hard stuff. The Caps embark on a little road trip, but the foes they face will not be little. The Caps have a game versus the Philadelphia Flyers (who lost their game tonight to the Canadiens). I expect a wide open game and very, very physical.

The Flyers are not afraid to put the body on Ovechkin. The Caps have to be ready to battle. They also have to be ready to battle for the full 60 minutes. This Flyer team has a few great comebacks this year already, against very good teams. The Caps can not afford to take their foot off the pedal with this team.

Then if the Flyers weren't bad enough, the Caps have to face down the Rangers who find ways to score. While they may not be as physical as the Flyers will be, the Rangers will take advantage of the game following the Caps/Flyers and try to wear down the Caps. With both games on the road, I'd be happy if the Caps were able to sweep up at least 2 points.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Caps Squeak Out Of Long Island

Capitals 5, Islanders 4 OT
Scoresheet - Wash Post

One could say in the last few games that Alex Ovechkin has scored in, his goals were no considered clutch. No one could consider that now. The Caps blew three 2 goal leads as the Islanders pressured to tie the game pushing it to overtime where Ovi scored the game winner with a mere 11 seconds left in the extra period.

It started off pretty good with some much needed secondary scoring. Boyd Gordon stuffed a goal for only his second of the year. Brooks Laich had a pass go a wry that ended up in the net anyway when Joey MacDonald tried to stop it with his stick and snuck in through his five hole. Milan Jurcina added a goal and Ovechkin tallied the last two including the game winner.

The Caps seemed to be in control of the entire game, but the Islanders just kept hanging around. The Isles were able to cut off the Capitals' break out. The Caps just couldn't clear their zone cleanly all night, and those turnovers finally bit them in the butt. The Caps were ahead 2-0 to see the Islanders cut it to 2-1, then cut a two goal lead again for 3-2 and 4-3 finally getting the game tying goal off of Cap killer Jon Sim pushing the game to overtime.

It may have been a good loss for the Islanders and a bad win for the Capitals. The Caps had the win and let the Islanders out work them. For the Islanders it was quite the comeback. It would have been nicer to get the win in overtime.

Brent Johnson played really well and deserved better than 4 goals against. The Caps penalty kill had some trouble keeping the Isles at bay, while their power play was stagnated going 0 for 3. Johnny did have a couple of beauty stops keeping the Caps from losing total control.

The schedule does not get any easy for the Capitals. They head home for a game with St. Louis before hitting the road to play both Philadelphia and New York Rangers. Two teams that will be unforgiving to the Caps. Hopefully they can shore up the break out.

Highlights by

Monday, December 15, 2008

Canadians Tap Caps' Prospects

Team Canada made their last rounds of cuts. Stefan Della Rovere made the cut and will represent his country in the World Junior Championship held in Ottawa. You will be able to see him on the NHL network as well as all of Team USA's games.

Apparently it suppose to be in high definition, but Comcast just has the NHL Network in boring standard vision. It's Comcastic!

Here is what Canada is hoping to see more of this with Della Rovere:

Fun With Numbers

I haven't done it in a while and I was bored. So, here are some interesting stat numbers feed your brain with. Just don't hurt yourself.

+19 - Alex Semin still leads the league with a plus 19. Which means when Semin is on the ice for the Capitals, it usually means a win.

25 vs. 31 - 25 is the combined number of goals scored by Sid "the Kid" Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who are now one and two in the race for points leader in the league. 31 is the combined goals of Alex Ovechkin and Semin who are three and eighteen on the same points list. Remember, Semin has been injured and out for twelve games this season.

3rd - The Caps are third in the league when it comes to scoring on the power play at home. In 14 games played at the phone booth they have scored 17 goals. Only Boston and Philly are better. Surprisingly San Jose is tenth on that list but are a perfect 16-0-2 at the tank.

5th - Boyd Gordon is 5th on the list of face off leaders in the league winning 58.1% of his draws. His good buddy Dave Steckel is a mortal 11th on that list.

9, 7 and 14 - Ovechkin is 9 points away from league leading Malkin, 7 goals away from league leading Thomas Vanek and 14 assists away from league leading Malkin. He is in the top five in all three categories.

16 - The number of games the Capitals have held their opponent to 2 goals or less, of which they are 13-2-1.

33 - The number of players the Capitals have used to this point. They lead the league.

Caps are back at Kettler for practice this morning. Updates on Nick Backstrom, Tyler Sloan and Sergei Fedorov should follow soon after they hit the ice. All three left the game Saturday night with injuries.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Kid's Alright

Capitals 2, Canadiens 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Simeon Varlamov may have has a little bit of jet lag when he was told he was going to start against the Montreal Canadiens, at the Bell Centre. He had just jumped on a plane from San Antonio to join the team last night to back up Brent Johnson, then jumping on a plane for Montreal for the second of back to back games. Wearing an unpainted white mask, the young goaltender did not show that he was bleary from his travels. That is until the last seconds of the third period when he raised his head to the rafters and tried to catch his breath. He had just helped the Washington Capitals defeat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in Montreal. He was also the night's number one star. Not bad for your first NHL game.

Nick Backstrom scored just nine seconds into the Capitals' first power play and Micheal Nylander scored just his third goal of the year as the Caps squeaked out of Montreal with a rare road win. But it came at a price as Backstrom, Sergei Fedorov and Tyler Sloan all left the game early with injuries.

With the Capitals' offense smothered, Varlamov had to come up with some big saves. He must have added the goal posts to the pads he wore tonight because it seemed the only things the Canadiens were able to hit, Varlamov or the post. He came up with a fluery of saves late in the third period when the game was tied at 1-1. In all he stopped 32 shots. It wasn't long after that offensive onslaught that the Capitals got their lead off a Nylander chip at the net as he was falling down.

The whole Nylander, Viktor Kozlov and Alexandre Giroux line was pretty impressive tonight getting more than enough chances to score. Giroux was wide open in front of the net a few times but just couldn't bury the puck and Nylander himself was stopped after finding himself in the open. You just had the feeling that this line was due for a big goal and tonight, it happened. Nylander was actually falling away from the net when he just chipped it toward the net. The puck bounced off of Canadien goaltender Jaroslav Halak and into the net. The Caps bench exploded in relief as the late goal was scored by Nylander who has been struggling offensively of late.

The game was pretty physical and a little bit chippy. One thing was clear, the Canadiens and the Capitals are the best of friends. Alex Ovechkin played a good game with two big hits. He seemed to be in the middle of everything and had an assist on the Backstrom goal. He would have had another assist on a beautiful feed that sprung Alex Semin on a breakaway, but Semin couldn't bury the puck.

The Caps have now won three straight while holding their opponents to only one goal in each game. Not too shabby. Their power play has been solid during that stretch scoring 5 goals on thirteen chances. However, the Caps did take a few too many penalties. They gave the Canadiens 8 chances with the extra man, lucky for the Caps Varlamov and the penalty killers kept the Habs' power play in fits all night.

This is also the third game in a row that the number one star has been goaltenders for the Capitals. Johnny in the last two games earned first star honors while Varlamov had the honor tonight. The Caps finally get a day or two to rest before they play the Islanders on Long Island Tuesday.

Highlights by

Friday, December 12, 2008

Caps Dominate At Home

Capitals 5, Senators 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Imagine this, you are sitting in your cubicle, doing your job for a professional hockey team. When the general manager comes by early in the afternoon explains that the back up goaltender is injured and his replacement will not be in town on time. He tells you to be ready to strap on the pads. A pipe dream you say? Not tonight. Not for Brett Leonhardt.

Website producer, tall man, and college goaltender extraordinaire, Leonhardt got to live his dream of playing for a NHL team, even if it was just warm-up and a stint on the bench that only lasted 9 minutes into the first period. Normally, he can be easily spotted amongst the reporters with the team's camera getting the images for the Capitals' website (at six foot seven, he is hard to miss in general). Jose Theodore injured his hip in the morning skate and Simeon Varlamov had to travel from San Antonio and was not scheduled to arrive until the game had already started. That prompted George McPhee to ask the web producer to strap 'em on.

Leonhardt signed a Amateur Try-Out contract (i.e. no money contract - hey, he already is on the Caps' payroll) before the game and got the NHL's blessing to dress up and help out during warm ups before the Capitals game against the Ottawa Senators. The Capitals did have to get permission from the NHL to put three goaltenders on the starting night roster.

Now Leonhardt (or Stretch as he is nicknamed) is the hero of every recreational hockey player in the Washington DC area (hell, the whole western hemisphere for that matter). Now before you think that the Capitals' injury situation is so bad that they have resorting to pointing to random people in the stands at the phone booth to fill roster spots, Leonhardt has practiced with the team when either Jose Theodore and Brent Johnson where unable to skate and has played four years of Division III hockey.

The Players were very supportive of Stretch's surprise roster fill. Many players encouraged him in the locker room before they took the ice at Verizon Center. Sergei Fedorov told him that moves like this is why he loved this organization. After his role had been full filled, Leonhardt even took the color chair for a few minutes with Steve Kolbe for the radio broadcast late in the second period. He took credit for assisting on Ovi's goals. "He got a few past me in warm ups, so I helped him out," Stretch joked on air. It prompted Kolbe to make the case that maybe he should be a back up one night.

The storyline of the game had little to do with Leonhardt. Brent Johnson's played outstanding in net and Mike Green and Sergei Fedorov's return was a welcome sight. But Leonhardt stole the spotlight. Even if it were for warm ups and half a period of sitting on the bench.

Alex Ovechkin got his scoring touch back scoring two goals. Alex Semin also got back on the scoring column with a beauty goal of his own. Brooks Laich and Mike Green added goals as the Caps rolled over the Ottawa Senators 5-1. Feds return was a sucess as he made the score sheet with three assists.

The Caps' power play has been on fire. Tonight the Caps were 3 for 7 and shutting down the Senators on their struggling power play. Ovi scored both of his goals on the power play, Green scored the other.

Brent Johnson played another spectacular game, although most questions at the end of the night were more about Leonhardt's breif stint as a Capital than Johnny's impressive 32 saves. He is still favoring that hip. I would expect Johnny would get the start again tomorrow night in Montreal.

The tandum of Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin gave Senators' goaltender Alex Auld fits all night long. Alex would pass to Alex for a one timer when Alex would make the save on the Alex shot, which Alex got the rebound and shot it at Alex who Alex then passed to, um, Alex for a low shot against Alex... and Alex um... well I think you get the idea. The Caps could have easily been up 7 or 8 nothing against a Senator squad that played very lackluster and uninspired.

Leonhardt just about made every Sports news agency all over North America. Including a breif interview on ESPN, Larry Murphy telling Bruce Boudreau he should have played him on the NHL Network and the top story on The Caps win took second seat to a guy who got his 15 minutes.

Highlights by

Photo AP, Luis M. Alvarez - Brett 'Stretch' Leonhardt takes a shot during warmups at the Verizon Center.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Caps Cool Red Hot Bruins

Capitals 3, Bruins 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Globe

The Capitals had bad news, good news before the game against Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins. Bad news, Tomas Fleischmann would sit out this game with an injury and Oskar Osala got his number called up. Good news (and it was very good news), Tom Poti and Alex Semin were back in the line up. The Caps used it to their advantage as they beat out the Bruins 3-1.

Alexandre Giroux scored the game winner in the second. He could have had two goals when he was awarded a penalty shot but he missed just wide. Nick Backstrom's deflection opened the scoring in the first. It actually quelled any concerns early as the Caps got off on the wrong foot taking a penalty before the game was a minute old. Alex Ovechkin finished with an empty netter goal and an assist.

In a very tight checking game, the Caps held their own. Having Tom Poti back on the blue line was a welcomed sight. He played solid even getting an assist on the game winning goal. In fact a lot of this win was due to a great defensive effort.

Milan Jurcina had one of his better games. When a Boston shot from the point went wide of the net and bounced off the boards on the other side, Jurcina was there to knock over a Boston player that was looking at a wide open net. It was the defensive play that saved the game for the Caps.

Karl Alzner played one of his best games too. In fact he looked very much like a veteran out there, boxing players out, finding the open man and just making good decisions with the puck. Sean Collins has also played very well and nearly had a goal in the first following Backstrom deep in the offensive zone.

Brent Johnson played an inspired game. Even when it looked like the Caps' goaltender was injured, Johnny played through it and came up with some great saves. He was much better about his rebounds, although he still needs to control them better.

Whenever the Caps broke down though, Johnny was there. The only Boston goal was off a bad dump and a bad change late in the second. It ended up being a two on one with Phil Kessel feeding Milan Lucic a dynamite pass and Lucic buried it, Johnson didn't have a chance.

Call-up Oskar Osala played okay, but looked a bit lost at times. There were more than one occasion where he seemed to be on top of one of his linemates as if they were playing the same position. Most of that comes with spending time with your linemates.

Semin's return was okay too, nothing really special. He looks just a step off as one would assume after sitting out for a while. I am sure with a couple more games he will be able to shake off the rust.

Ovehkin's battling with Zdeno Chara was another one of those epic battles that I say ended up in a draw between the two. Chara plays with a lot of confidence against Ovi, and Ovi seems to welcome the challenge. The two were fun to watch all game long.

The Caps sent Bryan Helmer and Keith Aucoin back down. They decided they needed some size against the Bruins. It payed off as the bigger players seemed to cancel out the Bruins big bad guys up front. The Caps have some time to rest up for back to back games against Ottawa at home and then at Montreal Friday and Saturday nights. This is definitely a game the Capitals can build on going forward. As more players return from the infermary, the better this team will be.

Highlights by

Photo AP, Lawrence Jackson: Washington Capitals' Alexandre Giroux, left, celebrates his goal against Boston Bruins goalie Manny Fernandez (35) in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008. The Capitals won 3-1.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Big Bad Boston Bruins

The Capitals will gauge how good they are as they face a very good Boston team. In fact, the Bruins are first place in the Eastern Conference. You want some encouraging news? Even when the Capitals were going through a tough stretch last year, they beat the number one team in the east.

The Ottawa Senators were playing with reckless abandon. The seemed slighted after coming so close to the Stanley Cup only to fall to the mean ol' Anaheim Ducks. They started the '07 -'08 season 12-1-0 before they played the Capitals who were in last place. It looked like the Senators were making a strong case for the dominant team in the league.

But the Caps (who lost 4 straight and won only once in the last 12 coming into Ottawa) seemed ready for the challenge, handing the Senators a 4-1 loss at Scotiabank Place. With the Senators being such a heavy handed favorite, the Capitals rose their game to the occasion and played solidly. It wasn't the perfect game, the Caps did have to kill a 5 on 3, but for once the Caps outworked the top team in the east.

While this is a different Capitals team, the premise is not too far off as the Caps face the Boston Bruins. The Bruins are off to their fastest start since the 80's. They are a hard working group that seems to have put the pieces together finally. They could be a due for a loss.

The Capitals can not just bank that this hard working Bruin team is due. They have to match the Bruins intensity. And the good news, the game is at Verizon Center. A very unwelcomed place for opponents this year. Even more good news, an injured player may play.

The Caps have seven players that are listed "day-to-day" and there is a possibility that the defensive core could be bolstered for the Bruin game, and many could be back in the line up by the weekend according to Bruce Boudreau.

Per Tarik and the Wash Post: "I'm optimistic that they are looking better - they actually participated in practice today," Boudreau said. "They're all questionable. I'm hoping we'll have two or three back by the weekend. It would be a blessing if any came back earlier."

Sami Lepisto was sent back down to Hershey which opens a slot for an injured player to return. The Caps still miss two important forwards in Sergei Fedorov and Alex Semin who both seem frustrated with their progress. In the mean time the Caps seem to be sharing the load more evenly than in years past, not having to rely on Alex Ovechkin as much.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Lepisto's Tough Time

Sami Lepisto's time at the big league started off well enough. He had an assist in his first two games and was a +1 in each game. Since then, it has been hard to be Lepisto. In his last five games he has had 2 more assists but was a -4 with 6 PIMs.

He was taken advantage off when the opposition started to forecheck him. Lepisto's control of the puck in his own zone may have been the reason he is sent packing back to Hershey as one Caps' defender looks ready to suit it up again.

I pulled together Lepisto's lowlight reel. One of the many problems Lepisto had was controlling the puck in his own zone and recovering when he did lose the puck. While making mistakes is nothing new to the Capitals, allowing the other team gain momentum from those mistakes seems to hurt the Caps especially on the road.

The first lowlight was in the Islander game where Lepisto may have been on the ice for too long. Apart of the powerplay squad, he was on the ice for a bit longer then he probably should have been when Andy Sutton left the penalty box. Sami seemed to have it under control until Sutton (not known for his offensive prowess) wrestled the puck away from Lepisto and found the open Trent Hunter in front of the net:

The next lowlight was Lepisto's misassignment on the first Carolina goal. He gave up on the play letting not one, but two Hurricanes get around Jose Theodore. You can also fault Bryan Helmer here too as he was out of the play in front of the net:

The last lowlight was in the same game against the Hurricanes. It's the game winning goal where Lepisto just lost control of the puck (again, behind the net). He could have dumped off the glass or ring it around the boards. But he loses control and the goal was the back breaker for the Caps in Raleigh:

These make the top lowlights as they lead directly to goals. It is clear that Sami Lepisto has some things to work on. Even though is was one of the first called up, his play at this level also made him the first sent back down.

The up side for Lepisto's demise is a replacement of an injured player back in the line up. That could be Mike Green or Tom Poti. We will probably know more at tomorrow's morning skate.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Caps' Offense "Staals"

Capitals 1, Hurricanes 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post - News Ob

They certainly had their chances. Good teams find a way to score the goals that win games, bad teams often squander their chances. The Capitals happen to find themselves in the latter. The Capitals were prime for a big win to distance themselves from the closest competition, but they squander their chances and lose to divisional rivals Carolina, 3-1.

Nick Backstrom tied the game with a 5 on 3 power play goal set up by Alex Ovechkin. Even though the Capitals had 39 shots, more power play opportunity, a penalty shot, more pressure on the 'Canes, the only thing they had to show was a single 5 on 3 power play goal. Frustrating to say the least.

You could say the bounces just were going the Capitals way. But the Caps had Carolina on the ropes for most of the game and they just couldn't find the back of the net. Even with two of the top scorers in the AHL in Keith Aucoin and Alexadre Giroux (called up for one injured Eric Fehr), the Caps scoring has hit a wall.

Ovi needs to work on his penalty shots, this one was just terrible. He deked himself right into Micheal Leighton's pads. Sami Lepisto also had another bad game where he was beat on the wall behind the net allowing a Hurricane to overpower him and dink, goal.

The Caps just didn't play good defense and maybe the injuries are starting to show. But the Caps offense was just flat in terms of scoring. Missed opportunities and missing the net with shots, it was all just too much to watch at times.

Highlights by

Photo AP, Gerry Broome

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Depleted Defense Help Caps Win

Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Toronto Star

The Capitals just couldn't catch a break when it came to injuries. Even the call-ups are getting hurt. Sean Collins was called up to replaced injured Tyler Sloan as the Caps never ending carousel of injuries borders on ridiculousness. As deplete as they were, it was two goals by the defensemen that propelled the road win as the Caps squeak by the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1.

Milan Jurcina's third period goal was a response to a Leaf goal just 60 seconds earlier. Karl Alzner scored his first NHL goal, on Canadian national television as well. Even though Alex Ovechkin didn't earn a point, he played a style we are all accustomed to and earned the games number one star. Alzner was the game's second star.

The Caps seemed to have a step on the Leafs who have just returned from a road trip. Alzner played the best game so far. He was solid on defense and was able to break the scoring early int he second that seemed to stabalize the Caps through the second and through out the third. His goal was a result of his hustle. The Leafs tried to dump the puck out of their zone and Alzner was able to keep it in and get one past the Leafs' netminder.

The Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala was a big reason the Caps were only able to net two goals. He had a plethora of great saves that denied the Caps top scorers. He got some help from the pipe and Brooks Laich's goal that was called back because he kicked the puck in (although it looked like his stick touched it before it crossed the goal line).

The Caps played a much better road game as they made a better effort to crash the net. They were able to pressure the Leaf defenders too deep in their zone and that led to scoring chances and a goal that was eventually recalled. In the past two games the Caps have gotten good scoring chances just by getting dirty and looking to score that ugly goal.

Washington's powerplay was brought to a halt, thanks mostly in part due to the Maple Leafs discipline. They had only two chances with the man advantage. Proving that the way to keep yourself in the game against the Caps, stay out of the penalty box. However the Leafs' lone goal was a power play tally. Proving that the Caps can't afford to take too many penalties themselves.

Jurcina had a good game. Not only did he net the game winner, but he looked much more solid at his position. Kieth Aucoin was another solid gamer tonight. He nearly squeaked one past Toskala in the first, it trickled wide.

Caps' schedule does them no favors, as they are off to face the Carolina Hurricanes for a 5 pm start in Raleigh. That is less than 24 hours away.

Just some interesting things I observed about the game non-hockey related. The Comcast Sportsnet broadcast was not in high definition. I have noticed that the last couple of road games they have done. The frame is still 16x9 but it's not in 1080i. The picture just didn't look very sharp.

Also, Slapshot was on this road trip as the mascots are in town for who knows what. He was attacked after a break in the first by other mascots with his own sign and bags of popcorn. It was a pretty funny scene to watch.

Highlights by

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Not A "Game Recap" Recap

Capitals 5, Islanders 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

To be honest, I didn't see most of the game. You can blame DC shutting down just about every road during afternoon rush and the small spattering of rain that turns DC drivers into idiot bumper car deviants. Match that with other commitments and I was a bit tied up tonight.

Having said that, the parts I did see showed that Sami Lepisto did not have a good game, Alex Ovechkin did a disappearing and reappearing act (also apparently you can board Andy Sutton, who knew?), Micheal Nylander worked his butt off after being called up for the first line (he might have been working too hard), Tomas Fleischmann would have had a goal if someone just pass the stupid puck, and Donald Brashear got the game winning goal.

Feel free to add your own commentary. Once I see the whole game, maybe I will be more comprehensive (if I am up for it). Until then, enjoy the some highlights from

Civic Duty

If having President-Elect's transition office in Chinatown wasn't enough, now there are even more restrictions due to the lighting of the National Christmas Tree that has parking restricted and streets both closed and restricted. Fun.

Street Closures and Parking Restrictions For 2008 Pageant of Peace.

(Washington, D.C.) The Metropolitan Police Department has provided the following information regarding street closures and parking restrictions for the 2008 Pageant of Peace on Thursday, December 4, 2008. The ceremony for the Lighting of the National Christmas Tree is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. on the Ellipse near the White House. Please note the times and locations of the road closures have been amended. Amended Road Closures:

-Beginning at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 4, 2008, and in effect until the completion of the ceremonies, there will be no traffic allowed northbound or southbound on 15th Street, NW, between E Street and Constitution Avenue.

-Beginning at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 4, 2008, and in effect until the completion of the ceremonies there will also be no traffic allowed northbound or southbound on 17th Street, NW, between Constitution Avenue and New York Avenue.

Parking Restrictions:
(These restrictions remain the same as previously released.)

-From 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 4, there will be no parking allowed on 15th Street, NW, between Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues.

-There will also be no parking allowed during that time on 17th Street, NW, between Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues.

These street closings and related parking restrictions are subject to change without notice based upon prevailing conditions.

Traffic delays may occur during this event and motorists should consider alternative routes to avoid the area if possible. The Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Transportation (DDOT) encourage motorists to expect increased pedestrian traffic around this event and to exercise caution.

Graham Mink has been sent back down to Hershey and Keith Aucoin (who has been lighting it up in Hershey) gets his first look in the Capitals sweater.

Crazy Week

Sean Avery has to be the biggest loud mouth in the league in some time. His recent comments have landed him in some hot water. As much as I love characters in the NHL, he did cross a line using the media for his trash talking that had really no bearing on the game itself.

What is even more disturbing is Avery thought it was funny while he was doing it. The way he looked as he was delivering his line in front of the camera, you knew he was holding back his laughter. While trash talking is part of the game, Avery seems to take it to a new low (much like his antics on the ice).

Avery has since apologized for the comment, and he will face a pretty hefty suspension for his bone-head move. He claims he was just "creating some excitement" for the game.

NHL Notes:

Also this week Carolina dismissed Peter Laviolette just to hire Paul Maurice back to the organization. Hmm, most winning American-born coach and a Stanley Cup Champion coach or a coach that is under .500 for his career with Toronto and Carolina?

The Southeast Division is turning out to be the weakest division in the NHL again. Tampa and Atlanta seem to be tripping over each other for last place in the league. Florida is still on the outside looking in, and Carolina is hovering in that 8th spot (a place where the Capitals could be if they relinquish the lead in the Southeast). In every division there is at least one team with 30 or more points except for the Southeast.

And what is with interviews being done on the bench after the game and being played back on the PA system in the arena? What is the point of doing the interview out in the open when you could do it back in the locker room where there is less chance of feedback or suffer through long pauses as both the player and the interviewer realize that is what they sound like on the arena's sound system? I would like to know what the player has to say, and most times it is indistinguishable through the arena's system. Just an observation.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Capitals' Misfortune Ends Home Streak

Capitals 3, Panthers 5
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Mia Herald

You know the old saying, if I had didn't have bad luck I would have no luck at all. It pretty much sums up the Washington Capitals in the this game. Two pucks that bounced off defenders beat Jose Theodore and the Florida Panthers take a rare win at the Verizon Center 5-3.

The Caps effort on home ice actually started off well. They outplayed the Panthers in the first coming away with more shots than the Panthers (8-4) and the one nothing lead off a power play tally from Nick Backstrom.

The second period was a nightmare for the Caps. The Panthers did finally wake up in the second and got the tying goal. Then all went to poop. Alex Ovechkin was called for goaltender interference. The Panthers actually had a hard time getting any sustained pressure on their power play. Dave Steckel got the puck and tried to fire it to Shaone Morrisonn on the other side of the rink. The only problem was Karl Alzner was between them and Steckel's would be pass hit Alzner in the skate and beat Jose Theodore five hole.

As weird as the goal maybe (and credited to Jay Bouwmeester as he was the last one to touch it), it gave the Panthers the lead and sparked their offense. The Caps couldn't withstand the pressure and Eric Fehr threw the puck over the glass and sat for delay of game. The Panthers power play pressed, and a would be pass by Bryan McCabe went off Morrissonn's skate and beat Theodore to give the Panthers a 3-1 lead.

The last one seemed to break the Capitals back as they looked just to salvage the period and come up with at least a goal going into the third. But Florida closed everything down and the Panthers goalie Craig Anderson played solid. Florida scored early in the third and that sort of sealed the deal. There was a late surge in the third by the Caps. Viktor Kozlov scored and that sparked the Capitals' offense and Alex Ovechkin. Tomas Fleischmann made it close after a rebound goal to make it 4-3, but the Caps couldn't solve the Panthers down the stretch.

The Caps unbeaten streak at home ends at 9-0-1. Their first home loss had to sting a bit as misfortunes did the Caps in. It is sort of one of those games were you can't really get mad at the boys, they did play a great opening period and their surge late was very exciting to watch. But those two bad bounces seemed to bruise the Caps and they never really recovered.

San Jose keeps their home unbeaten in regulation record and now stands alone with that distinction. The Caps will look to rectify both their second straight loss, and a plethera of injuries. Graham Mink was called up to play from Hershey.

Due to the black-out, just about every blogger and their mother were online to give up dates on the game. Lucky for Caps' fans, this is the last blacked out game for the Capitals for the rest of the season. No more will you have to sit next to your computer to hit the refresh button every 15 seconds.

Ovi starts a new point scoring streak, he had an assist which means he has a one game point streak going (although so does every other Cap who had a point toinght). Fleischmann scored his tenth goal of the season, continuing to impress at the NHL level (he had an assist as well). Bryan Helmer had a good game. Although he was a -1, he had 4 shots, 2 hits and 4 blocked shots. Backstrom and Kozlov both had a goal and an assist for 2 points this evening. more pics Panthers vs. Capitals (if you go through the pictures fast enough, it's almost like highlights).

Monday, December 01, 2008

Looking For A Less Rocky December

The Capitals enjoyed their longest game winning streak and suffered through their longest game losing drought of the season all in the same month. The Caps now are looking for something they have certainly lacked so far, consistency. The winning kind of consistency anyway.

Road games have been the Achilles heel for the Capitals who are a humble 4-8-2 wearing their white jerseys. Head coach Bruce Boudreau also put that road record in a little bit of perspective. "I think, quite frankly, we are going to be a really good road team," Boudreau responded to a question about the team's road record. "If you [would] look at our road record, we battled back to .500. And then we had those three games out west, which is a really brutal trip. And we didn't have a lot of time to recover."

"You get frustrated because you want to win every game," Boudreau went on to say at the practice today in Kettler. "Every game we lose, you are going to see a frustrated coach." The Caps won twenty road games last year, Boudreau responded, "We will win 20 plus this year. It's just a question of when they fall."

Part of the Capitals woes stem from a depleted bench. Nine players at one point have missed ice time because of injury. And they are all performer players. When asked about the injury situation, veteran Sergei Fedorov has never seen this many top guys out of the line up. "[In Detroit] we had seven guys out of the line up," Fedorov recalled, nursing an ankle sprain himself, "but never nine."

Brian Potheir (noggin cobwebs), Mike Green (shoulder), Jeff Schultz (broken digit), Tom Poti (tweaked groin), John Erskine (noggin cobwebs), Alex Semin (shoulder) and Sergei Fedorov (ankle) are all out against Florida. Boyd Gordon (back spasms) is questionable. Karl Alzner who left in the third against Columbus is fine and will play.

The frustration level for those injured players is starting to reach a peak. "Yeah, I am going crazy," Fedorov said after his skate. "I feel really, really good physically and I am trying to push as hard as I can on the ice... but you need to be patient."

The Caps thankfully have a home game, blacked out as it maybe, to sort of get off on the right foot against Florida tomorrow night. At home, the team is a nearly perfect team at 9-0-1, making the phone booth a very uncomfortable place to be for visiting teams. They will have to build off of their success at home and translate it on the road.

The last time the Panthers were at the Verizon Center, the Capitals clinched the Southeast Division and propelled themselves into the playoffs for the first time in 5 years.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Caps End Rollercoaster November On Sour Note

Over the past month, we have seen the good, the bad and most definitely the ugly. This rocky road the Caps seem to find them on this season has them stuck trying to figure out if they are really good or not. The Caps started the month of November much how they ended it, underachieving.

The Capitals first game where they failed to score was on November 1st. Buffalo shut 'em down 5-0. Follow that up with a narrow overtime loss to Ottawa, both losses on the road. But a three game home stint was just what the Caps needed to get back on track. They knocked off the 'Canes, Rangers and Lightning in impressive fashion.

Alex Ovechkin broke his scoring drought with a redirect past his pal Olie Kolzig and the Caps seemed to fix what was ailing them. For another two games anyway. The Caps started a long western road trip with a home and home with the Devils. The Caps won their game at the phone booth, but lost to the Devils at the rock.

It looked like the Caps got over what ever kind of funk they were in as they beat Anaheim in their building on the second game of the western swing. But then it didn't go well after that. The Caps dropped the next three games and players dropped like flies due to injuries. They were manhandled in the next three, dropping to Los Angeles, San Jose and Minnesota.

In the process Jeff Schultz broke a finger, Mike Green hurt his shoulder, Tom Poti tweaked his groin and John Erskine got a few cobwebs up in the ol' noggin. Not to mention players like Sergei Fedorov and Alex Semin found themselves watching from the sky boxes nursing ailments.

When the Caps got back into friendlier confines, it seemed that a few call-ups was all the Caps needed to win the next two home games in pretty impressive fashion. They won the next two with a Hershey heavy roster that included call ups Graham Mink, Chris Bourque, Sami Lepisto, Karl Alzner, Tyler Sloan and Bryan Helmer.

The ship had been righted, well for two games at least, until the Capitals were embarrassed in Columbus being shutout 3-0. The Caps started November posting a goose egg, and they finished posting a second goose egg.

During the month of November we saw Tomas Fleischmann continue his pace for a 30 goal season. Ovi's point streak stretched to 10 games. Jose Theodore had a 4-2-1 record and had his frist shut out as a Capital. Nick Backstrom went on a 9 game point streak in which he posted a career high of 5 points against Devils.

What the Capitals need to work on for the month of December is consistency. Let's hope for consistenly good, and not consistenly bad. It seems when the Capitals have something rolling, it can be gone in a blink of an eye. And maybe this shut out in Columbus is a wake up call for the Caps that they have to be ready to play every night, home or away.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mason Frustrates Caps

Capitals 0, Blue Jackets 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Hmm, okay. The roles are reversed in just 24 hours. The Capitals put up a goose egg as they can't seem to buy themselves a win on the road. Columbus Blue Jackets take advantage of a Caps team playing it's second game in as many nights, and the Caps can't stuff one past Steve Mason as they go on to beat the Capitals 3 - 0.

The Capitals didn't seem like the same team that posted their own shut out just 24 hours earlier. They were badly outshot by a Jackets team that jumped all over them early in the first 15 - 8. Brent Johnson actually played a good solid road game but the Caps offense just couldn't solve Columbus netminder Mason.

Alex Ovechkin and the Caps seemed to wake up in the second and third, but every offensive chance was squandered. The puck just didn't want to go in the net for the Capitals tonight. And to add to the craziness that is the Caps on the road, Karl Alzner left early with an (you guessed it) injury.

What the Caps really needed tonight were some ugly, garbage goals. Those seem hard to come bay lately for the Caps. Sometimes they were just too cute with the puck, which is fine if you end up scoring at the end of being cute. It only seemed late in the game, did the Caps drive the puck on net and went after it. Alex Ovechkin's point streak comes to a halt as the Caps road woes continue.

The injury situation is past the line of ridiculous. That now makes five injured defensemen if Mike Green, Tom Poti, John Erskine don't return by Tuesday's game versus Florida. Jeff Schultz will be out for some time with his broken digit. Sergei Fedorov and Alex Semin's status is still up in the air. The reinforcements so far have been outstanding, the 3-0 score aside.

Caps get a couple of much needed days off before playing a Southeast Divisional foe on Tuesday night. A game that is blacked out by the way, thanks to Versus evil tinkering.

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Fantasy Sweep Part 2

Capitals sweep the fantasy boards again, this time exchange one Nick Backstrom with one Tomas Fleischmann:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Theodore Gets Shutout, Boudreau Gets 50th Win

Capitals 3, Canadians 0
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The Capitals had a decimated blue line and yet the call-ups from Hershey were more than enough. Bruce Boudreau and Jose Theodore both reached milestones in a place where it seems the Washington Capitals can do no wrong, the Verizon Center. Boudreau earns his 50th career win in 84 games at the NHL level, and Theodore posts his first shutout as a Cap as the Montreal Canadiens find out how hard it is to play the Caps at home losing 3-0.

Tomas Fleischmann's rare home goal was the game's first tally and the game winner. He scored off of a broken play by the Canadiens when Francis Bouillon tried to clear the puck when Flash intercepted it. He quickly passed it to Micheal Nylander who passed right back for Flash's 9th goal of the season. Alex Ovechkin keeps his point streak alive with a goal of his own, now at 10 games and Dave Steckel tipped a Sami Lepisto shot up over Jaroslav Halak to finish off the Habs.

Jose Theodore secured his first shut out as a Cap against one of his former teams stopping all 28 shots. Actually, it was his first win against Montreal (previously 0-1) and his 26th career shutout. JT60 now is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts. He was tested by a very aggressive Canadien team in the second as they outshot the Caps 13 - 7. But Theo kept coming up with the saves. His rebound control has improved in the past 3 or 4 games, where pucks now seem to be swallowed up by him. Before bad rebounds led to easy opposition goals. JT60 also gets his second straight win and is a perfect 5-0 at home.

Bruce Boudreau set a milestone himself. His 50 wins in 84 games is the fastest any coach has reached that mark in franchise history.

The Capitals defense sure took a bad hit in the past 3 or 4 games with injury after injury sidelining major contributors. Mike Green (shoulder), Tom Poti (groin), John Erskine (concussion), Brian Potheir (long term concussion) and Jeff Schultz (broken digit) all have been sidelined nursing injuries. That prompted the call up of Tyler Sloan, Sami Lepisto, Karl Alzner and most recent Bryan Helmer. Only two defensemen from the Caps original seven at the beginning of the season were on the ice for tonight's tilt, Shaone Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina. Both Erskine and Green are hoping for a return after the Caps visit Columbus.

In the mean time the call-ups are doing better than alright. Since Alzner and Lepsito have been called up, the Caps seemed to have settled down the goals against. The Caps have only allowed 3 goals in the last two games while offense is doing their job posting 8 goals. What is more impressive, the Caps penalty kill did not allow a single shot on net from the Canadiens. Granted the Caps were only shorthanded 3 times, it's still impressive considering the core of the defensive unit is now reserves from Hershey.

It's kind of scary to think how deep this Capitals team really is. With seven players out, the Caps look to have gain momentum rather than lost it. The talent pool is to the brim with players that have the potential to break into the league right now. The youth seems to sparked this team back from the dead. Making us all forget a horrible five game road trip where the Caps could only secure 3 points.

Graham Mink was reassigned back to Hershey as Boyd Gordon returned to the line up. Chris Bourque stayed up as Alex Semin (shoulder) and Sergei Fedorov (ankle) are still nursing injuries. It is likely that the same team that played tonight, will be on the roster for tomorrow night's game at Columbus.

Highlights by

Caps Sign And Recall Helmer. Wait, Who?

The Washington Capitals have signed Bryan Helmer from Hershey and have called him up to the big squad. In the face of mounting injuries on the blue line, the Caps have no choice but to bring up another defenseman. Of course Helmer had to sign a contract before he could be called up, I am sure for the league minimum.

You are probably wondering, "Who the heck is Bryan Helmer?" Besides being the Bears captain, Helmer has had a yo-yo of a career between the NHL, AHL, and the IHL. He is no stranger to the NHL ranks, he has logged 134 games and amassed 15 assists and 23 points. But he never to seem to have any staying power in the NHL.

Helmer could be considered a career AHLer and his numbers are solid, in 848 games in the developmental league he accumulated 342 points and is a +126. The Caps signed Helmer as a unrestricted free agent in July. Although he has never been drafted, he has been through some good organizations like the New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings and the Phoenix Coyotes mostly playing for their affiliate AHL squads.

At 36 (my personal hero now), he has made the AHL All-Star first and second team. His career year happened in his last year as an Albany Rat in '97 -'98 where he finished with 63 points in 80 games. His best year of late has been with Grand Rapids in '05 - '06 where he scored 56 points and was a +25 (he was a career best +29 in Albany in '95 -'96) through 80 games. He is also a father of two (Cade 7 and Rylan 3), who will be in attendance for his first game back along with his wife Pam.

Helmer will play tonight against the Canadians and will wear #43.

Caps Notes:

Karl Alzner, a big Scott Niedermayer fan, turned in his #47 for #27. I think it suits him better.

Mike Green and John Erskine are aiming for a return on Tuesday against Florida (a game that is blacked out). The way injuries seem to be worse than first reported, I am not holding my breath.

I did not get up and 4 am. I did not go to the Mall at all today (knock on wood). I am enjoying my Black Friday immensely.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fantasy Team

Yahoo fantasy sports haven't overlooked the Capitals. It's a Washington sweep as the three hottest players to have on your fantasy team happens to be:

Happy Turkey Day!

Enjoy the Caps' victory. Enjoy your large turkey dinner. Enjoy a couple of days off.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kids Spark Caps

Capitals 5, Thrashers 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post - AJC

With eight players in the injury column the Washington Capitals, they were looking for a little help from chocolate town. And did they get it. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Caps gave four from Hershey a change with the big squad and it helped spark Alex Ovechkin and company for a much needed win at home 5 - 3 against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Ovi recorded his sixth career hat trick, two goals on the powerplay, and finished with 4 points on the scoresheet (all of Ovi's first 3 shots went in). Eric Fehr finished a pretty three on one for his second goal of the season. Viktor Kozlov, who finished with 3 points, rounded out the scoring at 5 for the Caps after the Thrashers collapsed on Ovechkin leaving Kozlov open for the break away goal. Micheal Nylander finished with an assist and Tomas Fleischmann finished with a pair of assists himself.

The Capitals, upon getting the news that now 8 players filled their injury list, called up four from Hershey. Karl Alzner, Graham Mink, Chris Bourque and Sami Lepisto were bekoned to the District. Mink was lined up with on the checking line with David Steckel and Donald Brashear and that line energized the Caps early. After nearly scoring on the first shots of the game, it seemed the team rallied around their effort.

The much awaited arrival of Karl Alzner did not disappoint. He played well logging a little over 21 minutes and was defensively sound, even with a bit of a black eye. Sami Lepisto seemed to channel Mike Green (still out with a sprained shoulder). In fact, I had to do a double take a couple of times when Lepisto took the defensive side next to Ovi on the power play. He had an assist and finished a plus one.

As far as the recalled forwards, Chris Bourque had a pretty solid game. He recorded 3 shots on net but finished a -1. His hard work did draw a penalty in the first which led to Ovi's second goal. Graham Mink probably had the best game of the four. Mink played less than ten minutes, but his line often kept the Thrashers on their heels and had four shots on net (although I thought he had more than that). Mink's experience served him well and his line's early jump was the catalyst for the Caps' quick start.

The power play, that seemed to hinder the Caps on the road, was in fine shape tonight. They tallied two goals in four chances. However, the penalty kill was weak allowing two goals on three chances.

Jose Theodore had a big save early, after that he played pretty solid wearing his brand new mask. Honestly, he looks better in his new helmet and even played better. The Caps defense is still making the little mistakes that are costing them goals. Some Thrashers were scoring when the defense let their, well, defenses down. It was a good win, but by no means a perfect game.

The Caps obviously are much more comfortable wearing their red uniforms. The recalls definitely helped the cause as well. The Montreal Canadiens will take the ice at Verizon on Friday as the Caps continue to stay unbeaten in regulation at home, now 8-0-1. It looks like the kids will stick around until then too.

Hightlights by