Saturday, May 31, 2008

On The Brink

The Detroit Red Wings have a chance to close out the series, in two days. No wonder people lose interest in the sport, we have to wait a collective 5 days for a the Finals to play 2 games. Something that should happen in 3.

Anyway, the Red Wings look to take the Cup on home ice and still look like they have a choke hold on the Penguins. They could be getting to the head of one Sid "the Kid" Crosby too. At the games conclusion Crosby threw a tantrum in the direction of Henrik Zetterberg. When Zetterberg was asked what it was all about he calmly replied, "I don't know, couldn't hear him. He's just frustrated."

More than once Crosby has lost his cool at the opposition and at the officials. Apparently the "C" on his chest means you can whine to everyone and everything with out reserve. I find it pretty interesting that you don't see the same kind of protest or gabbiness from Nick Lidstrom, Detroit's leader. Being captain for your team is not a license to go off on referees, rather it's a position of leadership and having a cool head when others go off the handle.

I always thought Sid needed a few years before donning the C on his sweater. And his inexperience on how to handle oneself is a glaring bad attribute a team's captain shouldn't have. I would be this critical on any player chosen to lead his team by being the captain, even if it was Alex Ovechkin.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Tragic Loss

The hockey world was saddened to hear the news of Luc Bourdon. A Vancouver Canuck defenseman that was killed on his motorcycle in Northern New Brunswick. A budding d-man on his way up, Bourdon had a bright future in the NHL. He was a teammate of both Matt Cooke in Vancouver and recently signed Karl Alzner for team Canada under 18.

Bourdon was regarded so highly that the Canucks refused to trade him for Brad Richards at one point. He won gold with Canada twice in the under 18 category where he shared the blue line with Alzner in 2007. He was on the verge of becoming much more well known in the NHL community as a promising defensive talent.

It's a sad day in hockey indeed. My thoughts and prayers go to his family.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Five Men Unit

Six if you count Chris Osgood. The Detroit Red Wings are making a mockery of the the Pittsburgh Penguins. One way you can tell is the excuses the Pens are coming up with on why they can't play their game against the President Trophy winners.

"We fell behind early in the game yesterday," Michel Therrien addressed reporters on the off-day. "And this is a team that it's tough to generate offense with the obstruction that they're doing."

I purposefully watched the entire game again and tried to take the side of the Penguins. But it was hard to see what Therrien was trying to accomplish. When a coach often goes to the excuses for his team, he is doing one of two things, trying to get marginal penalty calls go their way or he has no idea how to combat what the opposition is doing; obviously they must be cheating.

Instead of obstruction, I see a five man unit playing well against a team the relies heavily on the one playmaker to create space. The Red Wings do not spread the floor, their wingers do not rush up right away when their defensemen maintain control of the puck. Compare that to the Penguins style where the wings immediately leave the zone once they have control, which is fine if you have good puck moving defensemen.

Therrien's talk has also changed when it's come to experience, a factor he did think was such a big deal a week ago. Now it seems to be another excuse to deflect what might be a coaching mismatch.

"This is a team that we don't have much experience," Therrien said. "But we're still young. We're talking about guys ‑ you make comparison about guys who are 20, 21 years old against other guys. So there's a process."

Now this might all change if the Penguins offense decides to show up at the igloo in Pittsburgh. But my feeling is that Therrien may have turned his team into a "defense first - score second" kind of a team. Stifling the Pens offense with defensive responsibility.

But mostly I just think Mike Babcock has the upper hand on coaching in big situations. Also an interesting stat for you, Sergei Gonchar is now 0-6 against the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is There Room For 2?

Matt Bradley signed his 3 year, $3 million contract today. What could that mean for another tough guy on the free agency, Matt Cooke? Cooke could be looking for some dough (why shouldn't he, he's earned the right) and could be looking elsewhere for it.

Looking at who needed to be resigned this off season, I always thought it would be a decision on who you would keep between Bradley and Cooke. Both are hard working pests in a way, Cooke could be a bit more of an agitator than Bradley. I thought it would be a good indicator on who was sticking around for the '08-'09 season when one or the other were signed.

While it looks like it maybe Cooke out the door, I am sort of done trying to figure GMGM out. McPhee has done nothing the conventional way, or the way that I would have approached it. But hey, I am not the one with the job title. Nor am I in charge of one of the most exciting teams in some time in the NHL. So you go, George!

Bradley will definitely keep the Caps a tough squad and his energy line served the team well down the stretch. Truthfully, I am happy we will see Brads in red, white and blue for another three years.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Summer Came Too Fast

In DC, it's been a beautiful weekend. Maybe you did the cookout thing with friends and family. Took a trip to the National Mall and went to the Vietnam War Memorial or Arlington Cemetery to pay tribute to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice. Or you were like me, stuck inside with the AC cranked watching the Stanley Cup Finals and the NHL Network for my hockey fix.

We are just three wins from the end of the season (or four wins for those who still entertain the hope that the Penguins can defeat the Red Wings). I don't know about you, but the end is too near. It can't be over. In a matter of a week it will be though.

No more hockey, the World Championship is over, the AHL will wrap up soon too. And that's it. Back to our alter egos as normal members of society contributing to the greater good. The ice will melt and the Internet collective will no longer be searching for their favorite players or looking at their choice blogs for information. That is until the draft and development camp and then training camp in September.

Maybe it's because of the Capitals success this past season that has me feeling so anxious at the conclusion of the season. Or that our arch nemesis is still playing. What ever the reason, I find myself holding on to every last game, watching them intensely and replaying them over and over on my tivo (I still have the last Caps/Panthers game where the Caps clinched!).

But it's here, I couldn't stop it as I bit into a dripping Bar-B-Que rib and sat back in a lawn chair sipping the innards of a lemon mixed with an irrational amount of sugar. Summer has come, and hockey soon will just be the anticipation of another season that seems to far off on the horizon.

So now it will just be talk of who needs to be signed, who didn't. What did the Caps draft, who did they trade for. Who will be the dark horse to be in a Caps sweater come next October. Who is the new face guarding the net. And are the Caps going to beef up the defense. All until we see the puck drop once more.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why So Long?

You'd think I would be writing about the break between the Red Wings last win over Dallas and the start of the Stanley Cup Finals. Actually, I am talking about the painfully long process it's taking the Washington Capitals to resign the few free agents they have.

Are we waiting for the July 1st deadline for Mike Green? Shaone Morrisonn? Is management even negotiating with the players and their representatives? Guess we will never know, being GMGM has a tight pair of lips. A guy who wouldn't even comment on a contract for their own coach.

Mike Green will be the cap gobbler, as he should. A budding defenseman that had the majority of the league sitting up and taking notice. But how much is enough to keep Green on the blue line. Many are talking Dion Phenuef numbers here (around $6.5 million a year), but I think Green is closer to a $3 million dollar keep. I am sure he would want a bit more than that, but who wouldn't.

Shaone Morrisonn's contract has to be pounded out too. The two sparked in chemistry during the regular season, both so-so in the playoffs. But with young talent in the tubes in Karl Alzner, is it a good time to let Morrisonn go? Although with a good partnership that Green and Morrisonn shares would someone want to chance letting the two work another season together.

While it seams the team is willing to wait a couple of months to start signing players, other teams are busy keeping their core together, not waiting until the last minute to get their RFA's under contract and away from the Kevin Lowe's of the league. Then there is the whole UFA situation.

While Caps' fans are frothing at the mouth following the World Championship trio of Alex Semin, Alex Ovechkin and Sergei Fedorov successes, Fedorov still hasn't confirmed nor denied whether he would be back in a Caps sweater next season. Based on the signing track record of GMGM, I would think he would be looking at a $4 million or less (or much, much less) and a 3 to 4 year contract for the experienced Russian. But Fedorov has confessed he is on the waning side of career. He might sign for 3 years, but will you get all of them?

Not to mention that Micheal Nylander will be back next year and the Caps depth will enjoy more puck retention with the crafty playmaker back in the fold. But can the Capitals survive the Cap with both Fedorov and Nylander in the lineup? I guess we will find out July first.

Monday, May 19, 2008

In Case You Hadn't Heard...

...Russia won gold at the World Championships thanks to an Ilya Kovalchuk overtime snapper. Alex Ovechkin had the primary assist on the game winner and Canadian hearts are breaking everywhere. Although, I don't really sympathize with our neighbors to the north, remember 2002? Yea, I do. Sucks doesn't it.

What is more exciting than Russia winning the gold and three Capitals players with some big points in the process, is the rivalry starting between Canada and Russia. It's making for some very exciting hockey on the international stage. Maybe NBC would have gotten better ratings showing the gold medal game rather than a Penguins blow out? Hmmm.

I guess that is the frustrating part, here was a game for the ages. Russia down 4-2 going into the third period. Canada look to have the gold in their back pockets when it all fell apart. In the end when the dust settled, the Russians win 5-4 in overtime in an instant classic game. Yet, not a single channel on the US dial carried the broadcast. That was a shame.

It was the best hockey I witnessed in some time on the international level. I don't think the Canadian players should have been so down hearted, they played a hell of a game and in the end they retain the number one spot in the IIHF world rankings. Not too shabby.

If you haven't seen the entire game, I urge you to do so. has been awesome in their coverage of the tournament. You can check out the game in it's entirety here. If you just want the highlights, you can go here instead.

Alex Semin was the tournament's point leader as far as Capitals' players are concerned. He had 6 goals and 13 points, including two goals in the gold medal game. Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov and Mike Green all had a great tournament and tied in points. Ovie had 6 goals and 12 points, Green had 8 assists and 12 points, Fedorov had 5 goals and 12 points.

While everyone talked about the domination of the Ryan Getzlaf, Rick Nash, Danny Heatley line, it was the Capital connection of Semin, Ovechkin and Fedorov that seemed to steal the show in the end. Throughout the tournament the three of them combined for 49 points, and a +32.

Other Capitals in the tournament:

Tomas Fleischmann CZE - 7 GP, 2 goals, 5 points, +6
Sammi Lepisto FIN - 7 GP, a goal and an assist, +2
Cristobal Huet FRA - 5 GP, 91.12 save%, 3.60 goals against
Nicklas Backstrom SWE - 9 GP, 3 goals and 7 points, +1

As far as Team USA's early exit, that is a hard draw to play the Finns twice and two very heartbreaking games. But the young core can only get better, and maybe good things are in store come 2010 in Vancouver. I still would have liked to see Craig Anderson in the net a bit more, and Tim Thomas' injury I think hindered a chance at a medal. Not that Robert Esche is a bad goaltender, it just would have been nice to see a fresh face in the US net.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stay'n Alive

Both the Dallas Stars and the Philadelphia Flyers have finally won a game after going down 3-0 in their respective series. While I doubt there is enough momentum for either to make the 4 game turn around to win the series, but at least it made the Conference finals somewhat interesting to watch for now.

While some will talk about how the feat has been duplicated every 33 years or so, coming back from a 0-3 deficit is never easy when you don't have home ice advantage. Both the Stars and the Flyers will have to win one on the road, something that hard to do against highly skilled teams like the Red Wings and the Penguins. But stranger things have happened.

While the Stanley Cup Finals may be set following the weekend, coaching changes are abound the NHL as there is plenty of talk (especially in the Southeast Division) of coaches getting the heave ho! We already know that the Florida Panthers and Atlanta Thrashers are in the coach hunt, but there has been talk of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes could soon be in the same predicament.

But those teams have coaches, you say! Peter Loviolette's job could be in jeopardy as he had a closed door meeting with the owner. Uh-oh. And 'Canes GM Jim Rutherford is neither confirming or denying Loviolette's job security. Now there is talk of John Tortorella getting the boot as well, meaning of the 5 teams in the Southeast Division, Bruce Boudreau hired last November, could be the most senior coach in the division come next season.

There is even talk of Barry Melrose coming back to coaching. You remember, he had all those successful years with L.A. Okay one successful year and the leagues best player ever basically carrying the team on his back. But hey, there was the mullet! I guess all those years at ESPN is like coaching school. Maybe he learned him something! Like I do with grammer.

Anyway, the only good thing about Melrose coaching is that I don't have to see his mug on TV as much. I always thought he was the worst ambassador of the game and the fact that he was the face of the NHL on ESPN played to every stupid stereotype that the league didn't really need. Plus I always thought he was 100% wrong on most of his analysis. But that is just me.

Off season will be something to watch as teams ramp up for free agency. We will be pretty busy talking about who will be in a Cap's sweater, and who may be out there behind the bench's in the Southeast Division.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Shaone Morrisonn Stops By Pt. 2

Yesterday, we touched briefly on Shaone Morrisonn's first foray into the NHL playoffs. Now, we get to talk about Game 7. If you missed it, here is Part 1.

Puckhead's Thoughts: Okay, now the difficult stuff, Game 7. Your thoughts on how you guys played?

Shaone Morrisonn: Well its a tough way to lose. Philly is a great team, they played well but we had our chances and it didn't work out. That is just they way it goes. I know everyone gave 110 percent on the ice and we can be proud and learn from this for next year.

PHT: Now you were apart of the "goaltender non-interference" call when Patrick Thoresen looked like he shoved you into Cristobal Huet, your thoughts?

SM: It was interference no question! All we ask is that the referees have some consistency.

PHT:It seemed like you guys kept your cool, what was the frame of mind of those on the bench in that third period when it seemed you had the Flyers on the ropes?

SM: We never get to down or to high just stay on the course and stay composed. We had our shots and Biron played great it could have gone either way.

PHT: Would you have done anything differently in that Game 7?

SM: Not have a game seven!

PHT: This off season has a lot of questions, one of which has you a restricted free agent. Would you like to stay a Cap?

SM: I enjoy this team and the coach is great and the fans were awesome this year.

PHT: Not that I want to ruin your negotiations with management, and if you don't want to answer, I understand, but how much do you think you should make next year?

SM: no comment.

PHT: Fair enough. Which players, who are up for free agency, would you like to see come back next year?

SM: I would love to see all the guys come back next year we have a great group of guys and are so close to a great playoff run.

PHT: What are your plans for the off season?

SM: Just go back home to Vancouver train and recover from this season injuries. I'm going to relax and take a Hawaiian vacation with my girlfriend. I'm going to do some golfing and spend some time with my family.

PHT: What do you need to work on this off season?

SM: I want to become a little more confident offensively contribute with more points and become stronger in every part of my game.

PHT: What personal goals would you like to accomplish for next season?

SM: Get more points, help the team make the playoffs, and play into june.

PHT: What does this team need to improve on, in your opinion?

SM: I think we need to get a better start to the season, not chase points into the last game of the season, and have better special teams.

PHT: If Olie Kolzig doesn't come back next year, what would his moving on mean to this team?

SM: Well Ollie is a great leader, we will miss him in the dressing room and on the ice. He has been great for this organization and the city. He has been someone to look up too for so many people and he will be greatly missed. I wish him the best of luck.

PHT: I made it no secret this season that this team has been something special to watch to my readers. When everyone counted you out ,you guys found a way to win (myself included). We can’t wait to see what you guys have in store for us next year. Thanks for a great season Shaone, and we want to see you back next year.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Shaone Morrisonn Stops By Part 1

Apparently, Shaone enjoyed his time so much last time, he decided to come back for more punishment. I had the opportunity to once again do a season follow up with the Caps defender.

Shaone Morrisonn had a pretty consistent year. His chemistry with Mike Green helped him to see quality ice time. As a stay-at-home defenseman, he finished the season with a goal and 10 points. Its a slight reduction from his 13 points a season ago, but his +/- ratio always eeked out to the + side for the last three seasons.

In the playoffs Morrisonn was involved in the game 7 controversy "interference" call when Patrick Thoresen checked him into Cristobal Huet. We touched on that a little bit in the interview.

For his first ever NHL playoff series, Morrisonn definitely experienced what it means to play injured after either Scottie Upshall or Scott Hartnell broke his jaw. Green stood up for his defensive partner in game 3, but also drew a bad penalty in the process. Morrisonn had his jaw wired for several weeks and was demoted to protein shakes and smoothies.

In a brief interview with Tarik on his blog: "It's terrible not being able to talk properly and watching people eat juicy burgers and sushi and all of the good stuff," Morrisonn said. "That's the hardest part."

Again, I have split the conversation into two parts: one today, and the other tomorrow. Enjoy!

Puckhead's Thoughts: Hey Shaone, thanks for answering some questions for me. The season started pretty well, three straight wins, but then it started to fall apart. What were your thoughts going through that tough stretch?

Shaone Morrisonn: Well going into training camp and then after I knew we had a great team and we had a great start but things were wrong and you could feel that in the room. Things were about to fall apart and it was time for a change.

PHT: What kind of coach was Glen Hanlon to you?

SM: Glen is a great guy and good coach but the team we had was a contender and we needed a little more discipline and experience to get over the hump. I believe that Glen knew the team was falling apart and it was unfortunately time for a change. I appreciate Glen giving me a chance my first year.

PHT: What did Bruce Boudreau bring to the locker room that seemed to lack with Hanlon?

SM: I think Bruce had a little more experience. He had won championships, and was older. Bruce made every player better and pushed harder for guys to be even better. He demanded perfection every night know matter if you play 8 minutes or 24 minutes. All the guys that played under Bruce had nothing but great things to say and his record speaks for it self.

PHT: From the coaching change to the push for first in the Southeast was a great story, what do you think it took for this team to accomplish that?

SM: It was a long time coming for this team. We have the talent and the work ethic we just needed guidance and for everyone to get on the same page. We played like a team sacrificing our bodies every night. We did the little things and believed in ourselves. We wanted to prove everyone wrong.

PHT: Let's talk about your first NHL playoff series. It seemed to start a little slow for you guys, what sort of turned it around for the second part of the series?

SM: We didn't have many guys with playoffs experience and were a little tentative and nervous. Once we had nothing to lose and were on the brink of elimination, we played our game the way we played to get in the playoffs and we just fell short.

PHT: Were there any regrets in those early games?

SM: I think if we would have won the second game we would have been playing still.

Okay, cliff hanger! The next two questions have to do with Game 7 and the dreaded "interference" play. Plus I ask about Shaone's plans for the off season and talk about his restricted free agency. All this and more, tomorrow!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

International Officials Screw It Up Again

Team USA may not have played well to beat their Finnish counterparts, but the officials certainly didn't help matters. After allowing an obvious non-goal after the puck entered the net from the side, the officials also turned their backs on several obvious infractions on both sides or calling the slightest infraction. In the end the US will have to lick their wounds with a 3-2 loss as the game ended on a violent note.

The highlight of the game was Robert Esche (that's right I said Robert Esche) had the glove save of the century on a Finnish forward that made his way past the defense. The Finn made a move to the back hand and only Esche's glove was there to make the save and did it ever. has the highlights.

Following the game John Tortorella ripped the officiating. Classic JT.

In other World Championship news, Alex Ovechkin seems to be finding his groove. He had a goal and an assist against the Swedes on Saturday. In fact the Capital line of Sergei Fedorov, Alex Semin and Ovechkin seems to generate pure offense for the Russian squad, if Feds isn't doing blind passes to the front of his net.

Nick Backstrom had an assist in Swedes surprise win over the Czechs. So far he has 3 goals and 6 points in the tournament. Tomas Fleischmann scored in that game as well for the losing side. Backstrom's point total matches what Mike Green is doing for Team Canada, who also has 3 goals and 6 points. If I am not mistaken, Semin leads all Capitals in the World Championships with 7 points (3g, 4a).

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Kolzig Hangs 'em Up

Tarik caught up with the veteran goaltender over lunch and found out that Olaf Kolzig has "played his final game" for the Washington Capitals. Although he said he may not be done playing, he is done as a Capital.

Some quotes from the article:
--"For me, it was disappointing the way it ended," said Kolzig, who led the Capitals to their only Stanley Cup finals appearance in 1998. "It's unfortunate, because they have a good team here now. It's a fantastic team, fantastic group of guys. Not to be a part of that is going to be tough, especially after 17 years and three years of what we went through post-lockout." After a long pause, he added: "It just doesn't feel right. But at the same time, as an athlete, you have to know when to move on."

--"I realized that Game 7 was my last game as a Cap. That night was a very emotional time for me. I was one of the last guys to leave. It sucked that I wasn't playing, but I wanted us to go as far as we could. In the back of my mind, I thought that it's ironic, I'm not playing, but this could be our time to win a Cup. And in a weird way, this is how I get my ring, especially the way we were coming back. So I was even more disappointed when we lost Game 7, knowing that was going to be my last game."

Kolzig knew he was on his last legs, even telling management he had "2 or 3 years" left in him a season ago. When Cristobal Huet took over it meant something had to break. It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that Kolzig, the best goaltender the Washington Capitals ever had, was close to the end.

#37 will be missed in this town, he has been an institution. Olie Kolzig made this city believe in '98, and we all hoped that he would do it again. But just like the awkward ending to the playoffs in Game 7 to the Philadelphia Flyers, it was an awkward end to Kolzig's brilliant career in Washington. There will never be another Godzilla like him.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Canada Barely Escapes USA

Team USA had about the best starts you can think of in a tournament. But Canada quickly grew a 3-0 lead before the United States roared back and tied them 4-4 in the third. That is when Dany Heatley buzzed a one timer past Craig Anderson (who replaced Tim Thomas in the third) with just 47 seconds left to play. Things got a little testy at the end of the game with a few roughing calls being given past the buzzer, but it was a relative and Canada beats the US 5-4.

The best player on the ice for either team was Cam Ward, who had to make some pretty spectacular saves to keep Canada in the game. Thomas was switched out in the third period after tweaking a groin muscle and Anderson took over. Both played well, considering. The Rick Nash line was pretty dominate throughout the game, but when they went for a change Team USA would dictate the play.

I think the game was closer than Team Canada wanted, but the US did not disappoint. Team USA was shaping up to be a resilient group that played hard and never gave up. A good sign when the elimination rounds start.

In other World Championship news, Alex Ovechkin scored a goal and Sergei Fedorov had an assist in Russia's 4-1 win over Denmark. It was Alex Semin's first game without a point. And in the Czech's win over Italy, Tomas Fleischmann had an assist.

There was a really good article on Nick Backstrom on the IIHF website. You can check that out here.

And Tarik got the skinny on Cristobal Huet's intentions this offseason. Sounds like there is a good possibility of seeing Huet in a Caps' sweater next season.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Pittsburgh Plays The Team They Didn't Want

A lot going on in the hockey world. First both my favorites for the Stanley Cup finals got bumped in the second round in deciding fashion. San Jose lost to Dallas and Montreal lost to Philadelphia. That means there are just four teams left.

The Penguins will now play a team that seems to have success against very good skilled teams, the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was the team they had no ambition of playing in the opening round of the playoffs and some have speculated that the Pens threw the last game of the season to avoid playing the Broad Street Bullies in favor of the beat up Ottawa Senators. Myself included in those that speculate.

How hockey karma can be cruel. Now the Penguins will have to face their cross state rivals and let me tell you, the Flyers are no Senators or Rangers. I actually am cheering for the lesser of two evils, and hope that the Flyers can put the Pens in their place. I kinda like this Flyer team (when they aren't playing the Caps), they are the Anaheim Ducks of the '08 playoffs. Tough, rugged with a touch of skill. Plus they are riding the hottest goaltender in the NHL in Marty Biron. There is a 50/50 chance the Cup will be raised by a Pennsylvania team this year.

In the West Conference the Dallas Stars look pretty impressive, but so do the Detroit Red Wings. This should be a battle royal and will be an interesting series to watch. Logic says that the Red Wings should be the stronger of the two, but I have been counting out the Stars for the last two rounds with little luck. Plus, I am secretly a big Mike Modano fan.

In World Championship news, the stage is set for two good hockey teams to butt heads Tuesday as the United States takes on Canada in their backyard. Canada remains heavy favorites in the tournament, but Team USA has been on a winning streak themselves. They will play in the early game at 4:30 pm EST. Both come in with 2-0 records and have had easy success with their previous opponents. Tim Thomas most likely will be in net for the United States.

As for Caps in the tournament, Nick Backstom scored two goals in three shots as Team Sweden crushed France 9-0. Cris Huet did not start, but he did come in relief and made only 3 saves on 5 shots. Backstrom did score on Huet late in the third.

Backstrom leads all Caps in the World Championships with 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist and 5th on the scoring list overall). Alex Semin is right there with him with 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) and leads all Capitals with a +4 rating (ranking him tied for fourth overall).

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Hop Switz! Vs. Hip Hop Huet!

As good as Cristobal Huet may be, when you are under a barrage of 48 shots some are bound to go in. Switzerland defeated France 4-1 on Saturday, Huet had 44 saves in a one sided affair. Huet's return to Quebec brought out a raucous French contingent cheering "Allez les bleus!" (Go the blue ones! translated) amongst other things. While the Swiss side hollered "Hop Switz!" (Go Swiss! translated) to counteract. Martin Gerber was in net for the Swiss stopping 25 of 26 shots.

In other World Championship news (concerning Capital players), Nick Backstrom's Team Sweden eek out a win versus Belarus. Backstrom scored a goal, had an assist, and was a +1. Sami Lepisto did not play for the Finnish in their 5-1 win over Germany.

Also Friday, I forgot to mention that Tomas Fleischmann recorded an assist and was a +3 in the Czech Republic's win over Denmark. Jakub Klepis also played for the Czech and recorded 6 shots. Klepis was seen with a very clean shaven head.

Friday, May 02, 2008

USA Too Much For Latvia

Team USA started their World Championship quest for gold with an impressive opening game. The US attack was at it's best, beating their opening opponents Latvia 4-0. In their retro 1960's jerseys, the United States scored in every period and out shot the Latvia squad 49-24.

All four goals were scored on the powerplay. Team USA's passing was crisp and they were able to keep the Latvians in their end for much of the game, besides a stretch in the first period and in the middle of the second when the Latvians found some life.

Tim Thomas gets the shutout and Patrick Kane finished with a goal and two assists. Lee Stempniak was pulled down and granted a penalty shot, but failed to convert in the second period. Dustin Brown, Zach Parise and Patrick O'Sullivan were the other scorers for USA.

Russia pounded Italy 7-1. Capitals Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Sergei Fedorov connected to help lead the Russian club for their first win. Semin had two goals, an assist and was a +4. A clean shaven Ovie scored a goal and Fedorov had an assist.

The Russians wore their retro jerseys which had the old Soviet Union logo of CCCP. “It was a little strange to have the CCCP logo there, but we had the Russian one too,” said Ovechkin of the retro look. “We consider it like a gift to the older players.”

Team USA Starts WC Quest Today

Team USA will start their quest for WC gold today at 7:15 pm EST at the Halifax Metro Centre in Halifax, NS, Canada. Their opponent will be Latvia. The Americans will start off in the B group which includes Latvia, Slovenia and Canada. While team USA has loaded up on young talent, they aren't even the favorites for their group or for gold or silver. Canada and Russia have those honors.

But the youngsters can make some noise. Especially now, which seems this is the year where the torch has been passed to a new generation of hockey players. Team USA's development program has paid dividends with gold and solid competitive edge in the U18 group for the past couple of years. Now many of those players have come to age.

While there still seems to be the standard veterans that pepper the line up, like Robert Esche (who didn't play in the NHL this season, but in the Russian Super League) and Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils), now there are new faces in the USA sweater. Young talent like David Booth (Florida Panthers), Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Peter Mueller (Phoenix Coyotes) and James Wisniewski (Chicago Blackhawks) get their chance on a bigger stage. Former Capital Jeff Halpern takes captain honors from current Capital Chris Clark, who is still nursing a bad groin.

It's all about experience, something that will be needed in two years time when the Winter Olympics rears it's ugly head. How these youths perform will be something to take some interest in now and could predict Team USA's chances in 2010. The group Team USA has been placed will be no easy task with Canada in the mix and will most likely be the toughest team to play on their home soil.

Team USA's chemistry seems okay as they won easily against Team Sweden in an exhibition game 5-1. Their camp in Portland, Oregon seemed to be productive and the team gelled well. They would have to, with the two favorites Russia and Canada picked to play in the gold medal game with inflated rosters. One thing is for sure, this new group should prove to be an exciting bunch to watch, and of course they are my dark horse for the gold medal game.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Boudreau And Alzner Get Recognized

Well, if you hadn't heard, Bruce Boudreau was named a finalist for the Jack Adams award. And why shouldn't he? He turned a team around from worst to first and had to deal with key injuries. Gabby's job was to turn young talent into full blown hockey players. What has all of DC pretty excited about him may not be his nomination for Coach of the Year, but what lays in store for next season. If Gabby can keep this team on its winning ways, we may be looking at a very interesting season in front of us.

Karl Alzner seems ready to try out for the big club as he was named both WHL's player of the year and top defensemen. He was even called to Hershey for their playoff run, but the Bears were quickly eliminated 4 games to one. Alzner may find himself in a Caps sweater next season. He talked of how excited and nervous he was about the possibility of playing with Ovechkin:
"I've been very fortunate to have perfect timing for a lot of things and this is another one because they're taking in young guys and getting better and better and are people's second-favourite team next to their home team," Alzner said.

"I don't know how it's going to be playing with a guy like Ovechkin. I don't want to mess up any passes or shoot the puck too high when he's in front of the net."

The young player's resume continues to impress, should make for an interesting summer camp.

One thing is for sure, the Caps expectations are going to be much higher come next year. With the accolades this team is getting, playoffs should be a given next season.