Friday, October 31, 2008

Welcome Haven To The Neighborhood

Over the next week and a half I will not be in town. In fact, I will not be near a phone or a computer or the internet. On purpose! Being married for ten years now entitles my wife and I to take a much needed second honeymoon. For the three people that do visit me in this corner of the blogosphere (hi mom!), don't fret. I have found a suitable replacement.

You may have notice that there are now two names in the right column under "About The Thinkers" (now plural). The other name joining me here is Haven. She will be filling in for me with game recaps while I am away and she might even join me for the rest of the year with a few posts of her own.

Haven may be somewhat new to the sport of hockey, but she has proven to me over the span that I have known her that she is very passionate about the sport. She even plays floor hockey in a local recreational league. She is learning more and more about the game and is quickly becoming a die hard Capitals fan.

Haven has been a competitive young gymnast that was featured in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd" and went on to win several titles and awards (I think she was even ranked nationally). She is also a local girl from Northern Virginia and was once a Redskin's Cheerleader.

Throughout her back ground, Haven has understood team work, athleticism and the competitive spirit. The same attributes that I believe parallel what hockey is all about. She is well spoken and very professional. I think Haven will bring a unique perspective to Puckhead's, and I am thrilled to have her join me.

She, like myself, will always welcome your comments for any of our posts on Puckhead's Thoughts. This has always been an open forum for fans to discuss this great sport of hockey and the best team in the world, the Washington Capitals. Even though we may not always agree, we do value your opinions too (besides if everyone agreed with us, who would be fans of the other 29 teams).

I couldn't be happier or more excited to have her on board. Welcome Haven.

Bruce In Print

Caps PR released a statement today about head coach Bruce Boudreau getting his own book deal. I really thought I had him beat for my autobiography. But, what can you do? Bruce's story should be an interesting with his turn around of the Washington Capitals last year as the crowning jewel. It will be a book I would definitely be purchasing.

Press release:
"Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau has signed a deal with Potomac Books, Inc. to publish his autobiography. The book, co-written with Tim Leone of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., is scheduled to come out in October of 2009. It will chronicle the colorful Boudreau's playing and coaching career and his storybook rise to the Capitals after more than three decades in the minor leagues. Boudreau guided Washington from last place to the Southeast Division championship in 2007-08 and won the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year. Leone, a winner of numerous national and state sportswriting awards, covered Boudreau during his tenure as head coach of the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears. Potomac Books, Inc., based in Dulles, Va., is located on the Internet at"

Also per Tarik Tyler Sloan was demoted, which means either Tom Poti is ready to go, or Sergei Fedorov will go back on the blueline


I did this about a year ago, mixing the latest NHL news with scary titles for the top 5 scary things. It was such a great success that I thought, what the heck, let's do it again.

1. Montreal's "psycho" penalty killing. The Habs killed (with their bare hands... er hockey sticks) 10 penalties as they beat the Minnesota Wild. It's impressive as the "Wicked" Wild have cooled a bit after such a fast start. "Creepy" Carey Price made 28 saves as the "Headless" Habs keep themselves first in the Northeast Division.

2. Brenden "Spooky" Shanahan is still looking for a team. But his salary would have to be severely slashed if he wants to join any team that is up against the salary cap.

3. Adam "Marauder" Mair gets a hefty fine for going where he shouldn't. After a heated Buffalo/Ottawa game, Mair just couldn't let it stay on the ice. He walked over to the visiting locker room to continue some conversation with Chris "Noose Man" Neil. It cost him $2,500 for his little visit. I don't see what the big deal was, obviously he was just going over to make dinner reservations.

4. Zach "Boogie Man" Bogosian will be out with a broken leg. News the Atlanta Thrashers think is pretty scary as they get off to another sluggish start. Bogosian, who was one of the bright spots for the Dizzy Birds, will be out indefinitely.

5. Finally, the scariest news of all. The Montreal Canadians might have just been duped after allowing a prospect return to Russia to attend to family matters and his name shows up on a website that he has signed a contract with the KHL. Didn't the Caps just let Ovi go back? Uh-oh. That is scary! Some one hold me.

Have a safe and happy Halloween! May there be more treats than tricks.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Have You Been Up To?

Not a lot, thanks for asking.

Capitals get a rare week off in many ways. This little lull has allowed the team to get in some much needed rest and healing in before their small stint on the road and a three game home stand. Viktor Kozlov and Sergei Fedorov were both absent from today's practice. Alex Ovechkin is still in Russia and his timetable to return on Sunday has not changed. Tom Poti skated today with the team, but it looks like he will have to get a few practices in before he can crack the line up. He pulled a groin muscle in the Penguin's game, this was the first time he took the ice since the injury.

The Caps will be on the road for the next two, visiting Buffalo and Ottawa before coming home to face their division rivals Carolina. It has been ten games since the Caps opened their season against Atlanta for them to meet the next divisional foe. During that time the Caps have renewed a rivalry with Pittsburgh and have gone on a three game western road swing.

Right now the Caps hold a tiny one point lead on the 'Canes for first in the division (actually the 'Canes take the slim lead after beating St. Louis tonight 1-0), so you know that game will be a good one at the Verizon Center on November 6. But first thing is first, Buffalo will prove to be a worthy opponent.

The Sabres will becoming off of a tough loss against Tampa Bay and Olie Kozlig, funny enough. After starting the season red hot, they have cooled since then losing their last three (one a shootout loss). They will be trying to get back their winning ways against the Capitals. The Caps are coming off of two hard fought wins.

The Caps need to play a strong road game and get some consistency under their belt.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Versus Sucks; Caps Win Anyway

Which game would you rather watch? A 7-0 blowout between Philadelphia and Atlanta or a tied game in overtime and shootout between to exciting teams in Washington and Nashville?

Hmmm, tough one.

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

The Washington Capitals may have been with out Alex Ovechkin, but they were able to find offense from other sources. Much like the last time the Caps played the Nashville Predators, the Caps had the upper hand through out the first half of the game, but the scrappy Preds found a way to stay in the game. The game could not be settled in regulation or overtime and it went to shoot out where the Caps pull out a shootout win in 4 rounds.

David Steckel scored his second goal of the season, both shorthanded. Alex Semin added to his total with a goal of his own and an assist and Viktor Kozlov scored for his first of the year. The Caps shot for the cycle in a way, Semin's goal was a powerplay tally, Steckel's a shortie and Kozlov's goal was at even strength. Semin and Micheal Nylander scored in the shootout for the Caps.

Jose Theodore got the start, even though it was reported that Brent Johnson was supposed to start. He played well, coming up with some pretty solid saves. He turned away 23 shots in regulation, the Preds didn't get a shot off in the overtime period. Theo made three stops in the shootout for the win.

It was a pretty one sided game early as the Caps pressured. But the Predators always seemed to have answer for every one of the Caps goals. Nashville goaltender Dan Ellis played well to keep the Preds in it as he had to turn away 29 shots. I think Nashville should feel fortunate that they came out of Verizon center with a point.

As you may know, the game was not televised because Versus had squater rights for the night. It was the only game that blacked out. If you tuned into Versus to maybe see some highlights, you were out of luck. Not only did they force the game in the dark, they didn't even give you highlights of a very entertaining game. A game that was much better than the 7-0 blowout between Philly and Atlanta. Since the other two games that started at 7 pm had Canadian teams, they were televised and available on Center Ice leaving Caps and Preds fans pissed at the channel that is trying to be NHL friendly. If you are going to black out a game, at least get us some highlights, that's all I am saying.

Steve Kolbe and Mike Vogel both did a great job by the way.

Viktor Kozlov was the first shooter in the shoot out, his attempt was saved. Alex Semin was next and scored on a nice deke to go top shelf on Ellis. Nick Backstrom got a chance to shine but his shot was saved. In the extra round Micheal Nylander roofed a backhander. Theo saved Radek Bonk's attempt, J.P. Dumont missed on his attempt. Ville Koistinen scored on his attempt on a shot that hit Theodore and bounce into the net. Theo made the save for the win against Martin Erat.

F.Y.I. - The Capitals have another game that is blacked out when they play the Panthers on December 2nd.

What Team Am I?

My goaltender is the best in the league with a .941 save percentage. I am also 4th in the league in face off percentage. And I am seventh in the league for goals against. Give up? I would be the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Yes, while the Bolts have a hot goaltender in Mike Smith (not Olie Kolzig), their offense is severely suffering. Averaging only 1.57 goals a game (30th in the league) and giving up 2.43 goals a game (good for 7th). All this with a new look front and a goal scoring dynamite Steven Stamkos. Jamie Heward (2 assists, -1), who was sent to the minors and a defenseman, is scoring more than Stamkos (0 goals, 0 points -3). Ouch.

On their schedule for the week, the surprising Maple Leafs and red hot Sabres.

What Would You Do...

No Alex Ovechkin? Hmm, considering this has only happened twice that Ovi has not been in the Capitals' line up ever, you might have some hard choices on how to replace him. Well, you can't really replace Ovechkin.

Bruce Boudreau pushed Brooks Laich up on the top line which makes sense. I know what your thinking, why not slip Alex Semin up in the open spot? That is an excellent question, but I think Semin is fine where he is on that second line. With Sergei Fedorov as a line mate, the two were responsible for 3 of the Capitals six goals against Dallas. There is no need to split them up. Putting David Steckel or Eric Fehr on that line to add some grit should make it a good offensive line.

Tomas Fleischmann and Micheal Nylander seem to be a good pair too on the Caps' third scoring line. With Flash starting to finish on some of those open looks he gets from great Nylander passes, they are starting to produce some goals. Chris Clark looks more comfortable on that line as well. With his gritty play and ability to get to the front of the net, the line as potential to score the pretty goal and some garbage ones. Which I think the Caps need to start scoring some garbage goals anyway.

The second and third lines just have good balance, right now. So, that just leaves Brooks who has been a lineup journeyman from the second and third lines all season, so far. Laich may not have the shot Ovi does, but he isn't afraid of carving a path to the net and getting his nose dirty. With Viktor Kozlov's smooth skating and ability to gain the blue line, Brooks speed and tenaciousness should pay off on changes. This may also get Nick Backstrom back into the game, allowing him more offensive responsibility. Instead of getting the puck to Ovi they will have to plan a break out, move the puck on their own and find the open guy.

It will be an easier line to defend however. Ovi's speed and wicked shot had a way of keeping the opposition defense honest. It also drew a crowd as the forwards back checked on him and the second defender came in to help. Not that this line will be seeing the opposition's best defensemen, it would make more sense for them to play the second line with Semin's hot hand of late.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sans Ovechkin

Tarik broke the story, confirmed by the Caps media relations team, the Washington Capitals will be with out Alex Ovechkin has he returns to Russia to visit an ailing grandfather. He will not be in the line up against the Predators tomorrow night. He most likely will not be suited up Saturday night either against Buffalo.

I was in the middle of writing a post about the slow start. To me something looked to be bothering Ovechkin and I was surmising that maybe it was a nagging injury that keeping him from scoring through the last six games. But perhaps it may have been his family on his mind.

Whatever the case, a couple of days off may help the left winger find his scoring touch.

Bruce Boudreau's thoughts on Ovechkin's time off.

NHL Notes:

I'd thought I would repost the stats from "Super Saturday" where all 30 teams were in action Saturday:
99 goals were scored tonight out of 974 shots (including the Islanders' 60 shots on net, they still lost to Carolina). The Caps/Stars game contributed one of the two games that had 11 goals (Detroit and Chicago was the other 11 goal game but technically the 11th goal was the shoot out winner). There were 24 fighting majors tonight, 8 of them just in the Philadelphia/New Jersey game (including two fights simultaneously). Thirty power play goals were scored and only 3 shorthanded goals. There were 3 penalty shots awarded, but all were unsuccessful. 5 games went into overtime, three went to the shootout. Nine home teams won their games tonight, 6 teams were able to win on the road.

The 99 goals did include the the shootout winners one goal count for winning the tiebreaker. The NHL resumes tonight after taking a day off Sunday.

Blame Versus for the hockey black out Tuesday night that will keep Capitals' fans in the dark for the Nashville game. They have an exclusivity clause for Tuesday night hockey. Since this is the first year I have ordered the Center Ice package, I am unsure if the game will be available there. So if anyone knows, drop me a line. Other wise get cozy to the radio and listen to a very capable Steve Kolbe with the call.

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford has finally spoken up about the league's attitude to protecting their players in McKenzie's editorial on
"The league should at least stop saying it's concerned with hits to the head, because it's not," Rutherford told "I've had four players - Erik Cole, Trevor Letowski, Matt Cullen and now Brandon Sutter - get badly injured on hits to the head and only one of the guys who hit them was suspended. So don't tell me the league is concerned about hits to the head because it's not."

It's a point that Caps fans should agree after a hard hit that took Brian Potheir out of the line up indefinitely. Sometimes a clean hit can be a bad hit.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Caps Survive A Shootout In Dallas

Capitals 6, Stars 5 OT
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Dallas News

On a night when all 30 NHL teams were in action on "Super Saturday" the Washington Capitals survive a wild night of goals as Alex Semin nets the game winner in overtime to defeat the Dallas Starts 6-5. Sergei Fedorov had a big night too as he scored twice and moved ahead of Alexander Mogilny in goals in the NHL by a Russian born player.

Semin scored the game winner off of a nice curl and drag after retrieving the puck from behind Dallas' net and also had a pair of assists. Fedorov scored twice and Tomas Fleischmann found his scoring touch scoring twice as well. And Tyler Sloan gets his first NHL goal in his third game. For the sixth straight game Alex Ovechkin was kept from the goal scoring column, although he did contribute with an assist.

Fedorov, always the professional, deflected any praise over the accomplishment of surpassing Moginly. "It's just a record," Fedorov said. "I'd rather talk about Alex than the record. I know his career was shortened by injury. I didn't expect to ever get it. He had a great shot and amazing hands. Realistically, if he'd played more he'd have a lot more stats. He was a powerful forward, a scoring machine. Records are nice on a personal level, but most important was that we finally won a game."

It was a wild game at that. Both teams look completely disorganized at times, the Capitals seize two points on this three game road swing. It's a big two points for the club as the club had to go through some soul searching following their last two losses to Calgary and Phoenix.

"We've always been resilient," Bruce Boudreau told reporters following the game. "You can see the passion we have by how we reacted when we scored the overtime goal."

After Semin scored the game winner he was immediately mobbed by his teammates off the bench not far from where he shot the game winner. While Ovechkin has been kept from scoring, the Caps have made up the offense from different players like Semin and Fleischmann, so far. Flash scored a pair in this game and finally looks as if he has found a way to finish those shots. Plus playing on Micheal Nylander's line doesn't hurt either.

Sean Avery scored the game's first goal, his first as a Dallas Star. He also made it a point to push around Semin all game long. That might have frustrated Semin before, but his maturity level has grown ever since the trade that brought Fedorov to DC. He is a new player, less concerned about diving at the slightest breeze or folding up after a big hit. I would still like to see him take a few less sticking penalties.

On "Super Saturday" in the NHL, all 30 teams played tonight. 99 goals were scored tonight out of 974 shots (including the Islanders' 60 shots on net, they still lost to Carolina). The Caps/Stars game contributed one of the two games that had 11 goals (Detroit and Chicago was the other 11 goal game but technically the 11th goal was the shoot out winner). There were 24 fighting majors tonight, 8 of them just in the Philadelphia/New Jersey game (including two fights simultaneously). Thirty power play goals were scored and only 3 shorthanded goals. There were 3 penalty shots awarded, but all were unsuccessful. 5 games went into overtime, three went to the shootout. Nine home teams won their games tonight, 6 teams were able to win on the road.

Caps/Stars video highlights courtesy of

Friday, October 24, 2008

It Could Be Worse...

...cough, Flyers, cough.

The Caps may not be firing on all cylinders yet, but there are some encouraging signs. No one here is saying that the Capitals have the capability to go 82-0, but it would be nice to think that this team is a shade better than 3-3-1. And I think they are.

As much crap Caps' fans have given to the goaltender situation, seven games in it's not the goaltending we are complaining about. Jose Theodore has settled down into a groove of some solid net minding. In both road games, more so in Phoenix than in Calgary, Theo was the most consistent player and kept his team with in reach of the tie and win. Easily the Coyotes could have made the score 3-0 at the end of the first and start of second periods last night. But Theo came up with the big save. Brent Johnson has been no slouch either.

Caps are still getting their opportunities. It's true that Alex Ovechkin is getting a little lost when the entire opposition line collapses on him, but that only means there are 4 other open players. Phoenix took it to a whole new level, I thought if Jose had the speed he could have had a scoring chance since he was so wide open. Ovie is going to start finding those passing lanes, and his linemates will start getting into those open lanes and burying the puck.

The Caps will find a way to stop playing to not lose and start playing to win. If that makes sense. Several players are too concerned about their positioning than being aggressive and too worried about making a mistake than trusting their skill. This team was so much better when they realized they have nothing to lose, and their play reflected that. Now that they think they have something to lose, they are holding their sticks too tight. This team really needs to forget the expectations that have been put upon them and play as if they are underdogs.

All in all, the Caps are a talented good team. Once they get over what ever funk they might be in, they are going to start winning some exciting games. But just like anything else, they have to stink at a few to make it humbling. The Caps are just getting that out of the way early. When the team starts building confidence, things will turn around.

But if it makes you feel better, Panic Buttons available here.

Yotes Outhustle Caps

Capitals 1, Coyotes 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Az Rep

The Capitals had a hard time with their power play of late, not tonight. They actually scored on the power play. Their even strength game however was the problem. The Phoenix Coyotes slap two past Jose Theodore in the third to come from behind and beat the Caps 2-1.

Brooks Laich scored the lone goal on the power play off of a nice feed from Alex Semin who curled and dragged around the defender before dishing the puck to the wide open Laich. Thoedore played well. Take that back Theo played awesome. He came up with some huge saves, keeping the Caps alive when they could have easily been down by a couple before going into the third.

Besides Theo's outstanding goaltending and Semin and Laich's pretty power play goal, that was pretty much the only bright spots in the game for the Caps. It seemed that the Coyotes had their legs underneath them and were beating the Capitals to loose pucks. They were clogging up passing lanes and pressuring their opponents on the forecheck. It had looked like the Caps were the inexperienced young team that just couldn't muster an attack against a more experienced, highly talented team.

Mike Green takes a lot of blame for the breakout being abysmal. He would try to make a move and when he couldn't shake the defender, he would make another and another until he either coughed up the puck or cornered himself right out of the play. Credit the Phoenix Coyotes for having a better forecheck than the Capitals.

The short of it, the Caps now can only salvage 2 points out of this road trip with a game against Dallas on Saturday. This will be the Capitals second straight loss, and they have only amassed a single point in the last three games.

The Capitals have to simplify their game. Green, Alex Ovechkin and Semin are trying too hard to make that extra play. The puck has to go to the net and they have to get some ugly goals. They all can't be pretty.

Maybe that magic from last season is gone. The Capitals just were not pushing their play, instead were on their heels for far too long. They were losing battles along the boards or turning over the puck too many times to count. Once the defensemen did get the puck, the forwards all took off on them, leaving them outnumbered in their own zone.

I would be surprised if there was no team meeting after this one. As much offensive talent that is on this team, they should be doing better against teams like a struggling Calgary or a young Phoenix. But it's been a slow start for Ovechkin (2 goals, 4 points), Nick Backstrom (2 assists), Chris Clark (1 assist, -1). Let's hope whatever is ailing them get cured quick.

Hightlights courtesy of

John Erskine did not play tonight due to a bruised calf. He did get a contract extension however, that was announced before the Coyotes game. His contract will pay him $2.5 million over the next two years.

Also a pretty cool thing happened that I have only seen once before. Coyotes forward and captain Shane Doan let a wrister go that broke the puck in two. Pretty impressive. But I have seen it done once before. The puck was stepped on first with a skate blade, then when a shot hit the post it shattered.

Among the weirdest things I have seen at a hockey game was a puck go through a pane of glass. Not shatter the glass, got straight through, leaving a puck sized hole in its wake. The puck nearly hit my wife standing to my left and the piece of glass grazed my friend standing on my right. It took us a second to realize what had happened. I always say, thank goodness I am surrounded by good people.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

5 Things To Imporve Powerplay

The following is a list of things, in my opinion, that have to change on the Capitals' power play. Looking over the tape of the Caps 9 minute debacle against Calgary, I couldn't help but come up with a few observations. And wouldn't you know it, it came out to 5. How convenient.

1. Move your feet. The Capitals are all standing around in the offensive zone watching the puck carrier. By not moving around you give the penalty killers an easier time to pick off passes, clog shooting lanes and be aggressive toward the puck carrier. There has to be more movement.

2. Three words: traffic, traffic, traffic. The Caps have to make the goaltender uncomfortable in his own crease. Make the goaltender have to look around people rather than square up to the shooter. In the Atlanta game, the Caps did a better job of getting traffic in front and allowing Green to slip behind the commotion in front to get the back door shot.

3. The need for speed. The power play needs to step it up a notch. Passes to the open man have to be quicker. Movement has to be decisive and quick. This team has some very speedy players and that should work to their advantage. Plus speed catches defenders off guard, and could lead to more penalties.

4. Collapse. Once the shot does come from the point, the Caps need to collapse down to the crease to gobble up rebounds, or at the very least create more screens for second and third shots. Often when the shot comes from the point, the Caps power play unit stands around waiting for who knows what.

5. Shoot... the... puck. Get shots to the net. Passing the puck around the perimeter may look cute, but it's ineffective if it's done too much. The penalty killers can easily read the play to pick off passes and ice the puck. More shots need to get through. You can't score if you don't shoot.

If the Caps can't convert on opportunities, they are not going very far. The Caps power play sets up other things for them. A good power play will open the ice for their high powered offense. If the defenders are too afraid to take a penalty, the more open ice you will find.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Capitals 1, Flames 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Cal Herald

The Capitals fail to convert on a first period 9 minute power play, and their penalty kill can't stop the struggling Flames. The Caps start their road trip with just a horrible game as they fall to the Flames 2-1.

The game actually started off great for the Capitals. Sergei Fedorov redirected a Jeff Schultz pass to start the scoring off. Calgary native Tyler Sloan who was called up for his first ever NHL game laid a monster hit on Daymond Langkow that drew the 9 minute penalty in the first period. Sloan's hit was a clean one, but the Flames took exception to the hit and Rene Bourque came to the rescue of his fallen Flame. Bourque was called for 5 minute major for fighting, 2 minutes for instigating, 2 minutes unsportsmanlike. 5+2+2=9 minute penalty.

But the Capitals power play (if you want to call it that) failed to convert. Micheal Nylander even took a penalty in the middle of the large penalty in the first and the Caps couldn't even get shots on net. The Flames' penalty kill deserves some of the credit, they forced the Caps to pass before they were set which led to turnovers. Once the 9 minute power play ended, the Caps never recovered.

Calgary went on the attack and the Capitals were guilty of getting too stick happy. Eight consecutive penalties on the Capitals did them in. For a stretch from the end of the first period and the start of the second the Caps just could not stay out of the sin bin. Nine different Capitals were called for penlaties. Mike Green for two of them.

Shaone Morrisonn played one of his worse games, one I think he would like to forget. He failed to clear the puck on the first goal, and he took the wrong player on the second. When the game did settle down into 5 on 5, it looked the Caps had lost off it's gas killing off penalties. The third period the Flames were able to frustrate the Capitals offense. The game slowed down to Calgary's advantage. When the Caps did have pressure, Mikka Kiprusoff was there to clean the rest up.

The power play needs help. Special teams continue to be a liability for the Capitals. When they had the chance to go up and really put the Flames on the ropes, they couldn't. This team was not the same team that found ways to win and played their game. The Caps usually bear down and attack the offensive zone. Instead they were all over the place, sloppy with their passes and out of sync.

Fedorov ties Alexander Mogilny for most goals by a Russian in the NHL. He was reinserted as a forward in this game. Eric Fehr sat out as a healthy scratch as Donald Brashear returned to the line up. Both Tom Poti and Viktor Kozlov did skate this morning, but did take part of the whole morning skate. Jose Theodore played very solid, the two goals against him were really his fault. But for the first time, he seemed much more comfortable in net as a Capital.

Let's hope its a better effort in Phoenix on Thursday.

Replay courtesy of

A Busy Tuesday

Let me explain. No, too much, let me sum up.

If you watched the Capitals season opener, then you are part of an elite group of Washingtonians who did so in the area on Comcast Sportsnet. But what is so great about being apart of that group is there is twice as many of us. The Capitals pulled a 1.2 rating in the DC Metro area which is approximately 27,600 households. That's a 100% increase from a season ago. Of that total, about 75% of us have blogs. We should have just gone to Japers' house to watch the game. Peerless, I hear, can microwave a mean hot dog.

Matt Pettinger returns to the Southeast Division to rejoin former Capitals Olaf Kolzig, Jeff Halpern and Jamie Heward in Tampa Bay. Well maybe not Heward who was sent down to the minors. With the amount of ex-Penguins and ex-Capitals, I am going to start to call Tampa Washburgh South. Or Pittsington South. In all honesty, I am happy for Pettinger, he is a good guy and a good player. I knew it wouldn't take him long to return to the league.

A handful of NHL governors are pondering a second team in Toronto. What? Why? So two teams can suck there?

Sid "the Kid" Crosby was named 45th most influential man according to Apparently all that whining is paying off. Also on the list Chris Angel and Ryan Seacrest. Seriously? I got as far as 43 before I got annoyed at the website. Just give me the list dammit.

I am agreeing with a lot of you about how bad the Caps game opening is. I would much rather see hockey players be hockey players. I didn't pay the for my ticket to see them pretend to be rock stars. They are already very cool guys because they play in the NHL on my favorite team. We don't have to make them look like they are anymore than what they already are. Wrap your head around that one.

Enjoy the game tonight.

A Home Coming Of Sorts

The Washington Capitals embark on their first significant road trip that will take them from Calgary to Dallas in less than a week. Their first stop however will be a special occasion for a few Caps who call Calgary their home.

Mike Green has rented out a suite at the Pengrowth Saddledome for friends and family attending tonight's game. The Calgary native played with the junior team here, the Hitman. Jeff Schultz is another native who has friends and family that will be in attendance as well.

Tyler Sloan
, who was called up for the first time his career to the NHL is also a Calgary boy (or Calgarian, as they liked to be called). Sloan's father, who made the trip to Hershey to see his son play, has to jump on a plane and head back to Calgary to witness his boy's first NHL start. Racking up those miles.

There some are other connections to the Calgary area that has some Capitals feeling at home. Chris Clark was apart of the Flames amazing run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2004 only to lose in game 7 to Tampa Bay. Micheal Nylander has also donned the Flames sweater for parts of 5 seasons. And assistant coach Dean Evason is a former coach of the Calgary Hitman.

While the Caps may feel comfortable in the Stampede City, they are still there to win a game and getting off on the right foot on this road trip is important. The Carolina Hurricanes and the Caps tied in points (7), the race for first is starting in the Southeast Division.

The Caps will face a dangerous, but struggling, Calgary Flames squad. Since the Flames haven't gotten the start they were hoping for, one could surmise that they will be playing the Capitals pretty tough. I expected a physical game as Jerome Iginla will never back down from a fight (both literally and metaphorically). It should be a good game.

Capital Notes:

The Caps signed goaltender Braden Holtby to an entry level contract. It doesn't mean much as Holtby will stay with his team. He made quite an impression in development camp and beyond. Congrats on becomeing a Cap!

Tom Poti, Viktor Kozlov and Donald Brashear are all making the western swing road trip. All have been nursing injuries, but the possibility of them returning to the line up during the trip west has them on the plane with the rest of the team.

It looks like Nick Backstrom has been demoted (if you want to call it that) to the second line with Alex Semin. That pushes up Sergei Fedorov to the first line, where he was for the playoffs. Backstrom and Semin both found a chemistry together last April as the series with the Flyers dragged on. With Semin's hot hand, this might spark Backstrom's performance after a slow start. Also Matt Bradley has moved up to a scoring line. His hard work has him adding some toughness to the Caps second line. He is a guy to also get into the corners and dig out some pucks from scrums. Hopefully a few of those pucks go to an open Semin.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Next Up: Sloan

According to Corey, Tyler Sloan has been called up from Hershey. Sloan, a gritty stay at home defenseman, will most likely make the western swing road trip with the Capitals. This might also put the kibosh on Sergei Fedorov's time as a defenseman (for now).

This also means that Tom Poti, Donald Brashear and Viktor Kozlov may not make the trip.

The Capitals are a bit up against the salary cap, which maybe the reason Karl Alzner's name wasn't called. The Caps would have to take his signing bonus into account, and that would put the Caps over.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Devil Of A Time

Capitals 3, Devils 4 OT/SO (0-1)
Scoresheet - Wash Post

You know the old saying, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." The Capitals are guilty of not working hard enough for this win as they drop in the first shoot out of the season to the New Jersey Devils 4 - 3.

Alex Semin continues to have the hot hand as he has now his fifth and sixth goals of the season. Mike Green also tallied on a 5 on 3 power play. Alex Ovechkin added to his assist total but was kept in check by the Devils throughout the game.

The Caps power play was pretty sloppy. Credit the Devils for playing an aggressive penalty kill. The Caps just couldn't get it together. The Caps shot total on the power play I could count on one hand, out of 8 chances too. The Devils aggressive forecheck kept the Caps off balance all game, and they never seemed to get into any kind of rhythm whether it was 5 on 5 or not.

Brent Johnson deserved a better fate in this one. He was absolutely spectacular in net. More than once did Johnny take away the back door one timer and stood solid in net. He certianly didn't play like a back up tonight. He played his angles well, was quick east to west and looked big in net. But the Devils found ways to score late and the Caps just couldn't outwork a very good Devil team.

Marty Brodeur stopped all three Capitals' snipers in the shootout; who could have used Viktor Kozlov in this situation. Micheal Nylander, Semin and Ovechkin all failed to convert their shots. In the end the Devils only needed one to go in, and they got it off of a backhander by Zach Parise.

For the Capitals to come out of this one with a point is somewhat acceptable, but the Caps did carry a lead into the third only to squander it after a few defensive break downs. Late in the second and even early in the third, the Caps had several chances to put the game away while they had a lead and failed to do so.

What did the Caps learn tonight? That good teams can comeback on them as well. Give the Devils their due, they earned this win tonight. The NJ boys were stepping in front of shots, shutting down passing lanes and playing very good team defense. Like I said, the Caps are lucky to come out of this with a point thanks in part to Johnson in net.

Ovechkin needs to learn some new moves on the shoot out. He has gone from shootout darling to dropout in his last couple of chances. He has been looking to beat that glove hand with his quick wrister. But I think goaltenders have gotten wise to it. But his points will come.

Chris Bourque was the call up as a few Capitals are already nursing injuries (Kozlov, Brashear, Poti). He played pretty solid, and he even got a few pucks to the slot that sometimes was not occupied by his linemates. He played some time on the powerplay and had one really good shot from the point that Brodeur just got a piece of. His father, Ray Bourque was in the stands for his son's first game of the season. C-Bo was sent back to Hershey after the game. Sergei Fedorov played back on defense and there were a few times he stepped up and got caught behind the play.

Next for the Capitals is their first western swing road trip as a horse show will occupy the Verizon Center this week. Their trip will take them to Calgary, Phoenix then Dallas before returning back to the phone booth next Tuesday to take on Nashville.

Highlights courtesy of

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bourque Recalled

Injuries already have the Caps calling up some talent for Saturday's game against the Devils according to Capitals Public Relations. Chris Bourque will suit up for the Caps as Donald Brashear, Tom Poti, and Viktor Kozlov have nagging injuries that will keep them out of the line up.

Because the Caps have brought up a forward, it's almost certian that Sergei Fedorov will be back on defense.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cardiac Caps Pull One Out

Capitals 4, Penguins 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Pitt Gaz

To be honest, I was pretty concerned for the Capitals in this one when they fell 3 - 0. The Penguins are a team that don't surrender leads all that much, except for tonight. Three unanswered third period goals do the Pens in as the Capitals win their first game against Pittsburgh when Marc-Andre Fluery was in net. And on the road no less.

Jose Theodore looked a bit shaky in the start, but the Caps more than make up for it in the third. Tomas Fleischmann (got the red hard hat for his goal and assist), Alex Semin (his fourth), Micheal Nylander (game-tying goal) and Boyd Gordon (his first and the game winner) all scored for the Caps. Eric Fehr, in his first game this year, played huge getting two assists. Ovi did not get on the score sheet, but he was an impact player that finished with a +2 rating. Crosby finished a -3.

The Caps looked a bit out of their element early. Shaky goaltending and some bad penalties got them behind the eight ball in a hurry. The Pens jumped out to a three to nothing lead. All three Penguins' goals were on the power play and they took a 3-1 lead into the locker room after the second period.

Evgeni Malkin and Ovechkin were on a tear all evening long, both were going out of their way to put the hit on one another. These guys really don't like each other, and the antics seemed to work in the Penguins favor as Ovi was kept off the score sheet and Malkin had a goal and two assists. But the Capitals found a way back.

The Capitals special teams were abysmal. The penalty kill allowed three goals while the Caps failed to convert any power play tallies. Credit the Pens though, they did take advantage of the Capitals penalties and played an aggressive PK. In the third the Caps stayed clean and out of the box.

The game turned physical quickly as both sides went at each other. With the Capitals down 3-1, Matt Bradley (the resident tough guy in Donald Brashear's absence) picked a fight with Paul Bissonnette. It's a fight I think Brads would like to have back. He was caught off guard with a few jabs and then Bissonnette landed one that had Brads down and out, cut and bleeding badly in the mouth. Bradley would leave the game for a short time but would return and make his way on the ice in the third. The Caps seemed to rally after Brads efforts.

Tom Poti was also injured leaving the game with a groin pull, he did not return. Sergei Fedorov came to the rescue replacing Poti on the blue line and the Caps benefited from the change. The smooth skating Fedorov seemed to calm things down.

Theodore may have started a bit off, but he did come up with some pretty big saves. The first goal he gave up just looked as if he was stuck between whether to get up or stay in the butterfly. The other two goals were not his fault, just really bad penalty killing by the Capitals.

Once the Capitals had their game on, which was almost the entire third period, they looked unstoppable. They had the Pens scrambling and making bad plays to get the puck out of the zone. Crosby himself was guilty of a behind the back pass to no one that lead to a goal. The Capitals out shot the Pens 21 to 6 in the third period.

While it's unorthodox, the Caps have found ways to win. The battles this team has faced to make the playoffs last year has allowed this team to grow and find a way to get it done. While it isn't a perfect win, I am sure the Caps will take it. At the end of the game, Crosby took a shot at Ovechkin who was looking to score on the empty net. The two had words all the way to the locker room. This is turning into a pretty heated rivalry indeed.

Video highlights courtesy of

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ovechkin, Crosby; Crosby, Ovechkin

The Washington Capitals have a date with the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night. This will be the 11th time the Pens and Caps have faced off with both Sid "the Kid" Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in the line up.

Crosby has 7 goals and 19 points in his career against the Caps (although you could count one of Sid's goals to Nick Backstrom, but I am not really going to get into that), while Ovechkin only has 6 goals and 15 points. So far this year both players have gotten off to slow starts, Ovi has only scored in one game so far (albeit 2 goals and a slew of really good hits) and the Kid has only has two assists through 4 games.

The Penguins are a different team this year. No Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Marian Hossa. Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney are out of the line up with injuries. If anything, the Pens seem to be a bit vulnerable unlike the past few years these two have met. Even though both Ovi and the Kid down play the rivalry between them, every game has been highly competitive and pretty exciting to watch. The Pens are coming off an emotional OT win over their cross-state rivals.

The Caps are coming off of a big win against the Vancouver Canucks where their team defense only allowed 10 shots against, a franchise record. Viktor Kozlov is out of the line up for at least two weeks with a leg injury. He was cut down in the second period (about 9:04, Rob Davison took out Kozzies legs after he had dished the puck away). If this Capitals play to their potential, then we could be looking at a Penguin/Caps swing in wins between the two clubs with their superstars.

NHL Notes:

In Moscow, thousands came to mourn the sudden passing of Alexei Cherepanov who collapsed during a game in the KHL, the Russian league. While we on this side of the pond didn't really know the New York Ranger prospect well, it is a sad day for hockey everywhere. It brought back memories of Jiri Fischer's collapse on the bench in Detroit. Unfortuneatly this didn't have a better ending.

Okay, I am a little bit over this no commercial break on an icing call. I think the NHL shouldn't have changed this rule. The reason, television broadcasts now are scrambling to put in their commercial breaks later in the period and in the smattering of games I have seen so far it seems like tv was going to commercial at every whistle. I was much happier when I knew that the commercials were relatively balanced through out the game (to time out bathroom breaks, beer runs, etc.). While it's fun to watch nearly 20 to 30 minute of hockey at the beginning, sitting through commercial break after commercial break at the end of the period gets a bit frustrating.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Schedule Looking Better

Three games into the season and I am already loving this season's new schedule. Compared to a year ago where the Caps played the Eastern Conference 8 times before seeing a Western Conference team and played their division foes 10 times out of 15 games in one month (Nov. '07). It's nice to see some of those western sweaters at the phone booth.

Just in the first week of action the Caps have played two Western Conference teams, a divisional foe and now they face off with an Eastern Conference foe in Pittsburgh Thursday night. The diversity is a breath of fresh air. Plus it will be fun to stay up for some late west coast games when the Caps hit the road.

The previous two seasons, the Capitals were forced to play each team within their division a whopping 8 times, the games sort of lost interest after the 20th time they played their close foes. The NHL this year scaled back on the number of division and games and allowed more interconference play. I would like to see the League take it a step further, allowing a team to play the other 29 both home and away.

Caps Notes:

Well if you haven't already heard, Viktor Kozlov is out for a couple of weeks with a leg injury. That puts Eric Fehr back in the line up although Bruce Boudreau had already planned to play the forward this week.

Both Donald Brashear and Alex Semin did not practice today at Kettler as both were taking a day off to nurse some nagging injuries. The line ups for practice were a bit jumbled up, but Boudreau told reporters not to read into any of the changes. Fedorov was back up as a forward, partly because they were short with Semin, Kozlov and Brashear out. Gabby still has not ruled out using the former Hart Trophy winner as a defender Thursday night.

If you were following the red hard hat, Nick Backstrom was awarded the crimson plastic crown in last night's tilt. Although he was not envolved on the scoresheet, he did play a solid game and got a couple of good shots on net. While we would like to see him on the scoresheet more, it's tough when someone has to watchout for Mike Green's position when he too busy moving it up ice by himself.

Also the Caps are thinking about loaning out one of their prospect goaltenders to another AHL squad. Micheal Nuevirth may be lent to another team while Daren Machesney and Simeon Varlamov seem to be gobbling up ice time for the Bears. Tarik has the latest on that.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Capitals 5, Canucks 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Van Sun

It was the second straight game the Capitals had let in a goal on the first shot of the game by the opponent, but just like the home opener, they were able to overcome. The Vancouver Canucks could only muster 10 shots on net as the Capitals shut down what was considered a very high powered offense winning 5 - 1 on Columbus Day.

Scoring for the Caps were Alex Semin (netted two goals), Mike Green (power play goal), Milan Jurcina (his first of the season) and Micheal Nylander (who scored on a penalty shot). Brent Johnson was able to stop 9 out of 10 shots (not bad) for his 100th win. The Caps chased Roberto Luongo from the net after two periods of play, but it's all they needed. Luongo surrendered all 5 goals, but to be honest, it really wasn't his fault.

Semin was all over the place tonight. The puck seemed to follow him around, especially in high traffic areas in front of the net where he scored both of his goals and secured the game's first star. In both goals, which seemed identical in a way, the Caps drove hard to the net and Luongo had a hard time buttoning down the rebound. The puck squirted loose right to Semin's stick both times; once on the backhand, the other on the forehand. With the Canuck netminder down and out, Semin shot to a wide open gaping net high.

What created problems for Vancouver was the Caps' aggressive forecheck that seemed to rattle the Canuck defense. Nylander, who was then only Cap with 3 points (1g, 2a) tonight and the game's number two star, scored on a great deke on a penatly shot that was awarded late in the second period. It was the first successful penalty shot for the Capitals since November 2005.

Sergei Fedorov (who got the game's third star) was positioned on defense and the transition was seamless. He was the only Capital to finish a +3 and added an assist. Putting him back on D kept the speedy Vancouver forwards honest and his offensive skills kept the Caps in possession all night. His ability to move the puck up ice and his calm demeanor with the puck was a confidence booster for the whole squad. Apparently the switch worked perfectly as the Capitals defense held the Canucks to only 10 shots the entire game (35-10).

The Caps didn't need Alex Ovechkin, everyone seemed to be able to contribute. But boy, did Ovie throw his weight around in this one. Three goals were scored by forwards, 2 by defensemen which means the Caps are moving the puck around successfully. Penalties really were not a factor in this game has both teams stayed pretty clean throughout the game. Both teams did net a power play goal however.

Viktor Kozlov left the game in the second period with an injury and did not return. New NHL rules state that a team does not need to divulge any information on an injured player during or after the game. So as you can imagine, the Caps management were pretty tight lipped about what happened with him. I thought Kozzie played well in both home games. He was strong on his feet and his big size and speed helped him with his aggressive forecheck.

I have been hard on Nick Backstrom lately, but I made a point to watch him closely this game. I found out why he gets lost so much and the blame mostly comes from Green. Every time Green streaks up the ice, Backstrom holds back to cover his position. He is actually doing the correct thing. So while he is often slow to join the rush, especially if a defensemen decides to jump up on the play, Backs is being defensively responsible.

This was a very good showing for the Capitals, and if anything it shows how dangerous they can be if they play within their system and everyone works hard. Johnny looked good in net when he needed to be. The Caps kept a very explosive offense from getting no more than 10 shots on net, a new franchise record for the Caps.

In fact the only faults I could find was the only Vancouver goal and the not so sold out Verizon Center which broke it's consecutive sold out streak to 9 which includes the playoffs from last season. 16,847 was the head count, but the crowd was still pretty loud.

Bruce Boudreau is playing his cards pretty closely with Pittsburgh coming, neither confirming or denying that Fedorov would be back on defense. The Caps face off with the Pens Thursday 7 pm in Pittsburgh.

Highlights courtesy of

Time Flies When The Caps Play

Four months with out Caps hockey and we are cramming in 3 games in less than 4 days. I haven't had time to get my season pass up and running on my Tivo. The Washington Capitals play Vancouver tonight at the phone booth. All these games, it's already starting to bug my wife.

It may not be such a bad thing that the Capitals get off to a slow start. I would rather have these breakdowns early than later. It's only two games into the season, calls for axing the coach and the GM and throwing Jose Theodore out of town are a bit premature. These players have had the whole summer off. It's not going to be instant chemistry when they get back. Although there were some pretty amazing plays in the second and third periods of the home opener that look very familiar.

I think the jury is still out on Theo. I can understand the pressure that he puts himself under coming on to a team on the up. I believe him when he said he was trying to do to much. "I said to myself, 'Go out there and play like you can,'" Theodore told reports after his win at Verizon Center. "From there I did my part and the guys did the rest." Once Theo settled down, made simple plays, he was able to master the front of the net and his defensemen played better in front of him.

Nick Backstrom is like a shadow out there. He look much like he did at the beginning of last year. He did show some good flashes with the puck and a nice pass here or there, but I think he needs to step up his game if he wants to stay in either the number one or number two line. But again, it's only two games in.

NHL notes:

I Love, with a capital L, the retro Oilers look. It brought back flashes of Wayne Gretzky breaking down the wing and Mark Messier camped out in front of the net. Instead it was Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner but still, I thought they looked fantastic.

Who would have ever thought that Micheal Peca was this big of a goon. I highly doubt that Peca intentionally whacked a ref. I have seen worse actions from refs breaking up fights and getting full on punched in the back of the head. You can barely see the infraction here on some amateur video. Is that worth an indefinate suspension?

Whoa ho ho, look who is 4 and 0. The New York Rangers, although they almost let a 4 - 0 lead get away in Philly, but the Rangers seem to have it going on. Maybe letting Jaromir Jagr go wasn't such a bad thing.

Speaking of the Kontinental Hockey League, former Capital and all around tough guy Chris Simon leads the league in penalty minutes. Also former Cap Jakub Klepis is on the same team as Jagr for the Avangard Omsk. Klepis has 3 goals and 9 assists, 2 of his goals are game winners. It's a small hockey world afterall.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Welcome Back Home

Capitals 4, Blackhawks 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Chi Trib

The Caps may have gotten off to a horrible start, but they sure made up for things on banner night at the Verizon Center. Brooks Laich broke the 2-2 tie in the third and Alex Ovechkin scored a pair as the Capitals extend their home opener winning streak to seven games, beating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2.

The game started a bit late as the Capitals raised their Southeast Division Champions banner before the game. In their amazing run last season, the game they played against Chicago was the last game the Caps lost. They would go on to win 7 striaght to clinch the division crown.

Ovechkin, Laich and Matt Bradley are your scorers. Each got their first goals of the year. Jose Theodore even got involved in the scoring as well, getting an assist. Ovi, Bradley and Mike Green were all a +2. Sergei Fedorov was a solid faceoff man winning 13 of 17 draws while Nick Backstrom struggled in the circle winning only 2 of 10.

The game started pretty shaky for the Capitals. The Blackhawks took the lead :26 seconds into the game. The Hawks followed that up with a second chance rebound that got passed Teddy halfway through the first. From the Atlanta game into the start of this game, the Capitals just didn't look right. Something was off. They didn't look fast enough and looked as if making a pass was the same as solving Pythagorean theory. It just wasn't Caps hockey.

The energy line consisting of David Steckel, Bradly and Donald Brashear finally brought some energy back to the phone booth when Steckel set up Bradley's goal and from then on the Caps started to look much more familiar. They were forechecking with abandonment, finding the open player, getting shots to the net and, most importantly, dictating the tempo. The Caps kept the Blackhawks on their heels for good long portions of the game.

Maybe the Caps were energized by their energy line goal or by the amazing crowd at the sold out Verizon Center, who were loud even during team warm ups. Even a few M-V-P shouts resonated after Ovi's second goal. Whatever the case maybe, the Capitals looked much better in the second and third periods.

Theodore's play reflected the team's play as well. Even down two nothing, Theo made an awesome save on a wide open net shot from a Blackhawk. A few hit posts here and there, he looked much more comfortable in net towards the end than in the start. While he was not perfect, he did look better at stopping shots in this game than in the previous two.

While Ovechkin took the praise and the game's number one star, it was Laich that was recognized by his team as the hardest working player. Captain Chris Clark gave Laich a hard hat, after which several of the guys poked fun at him, even Ovi. But Laich's hard work gave the Caps the lead and his hard work didn't go unnoticed.

Some quotes from after the game:

Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard on Ovechkin: "Look at him and how he plays - he wins his battles. That's why he's a star player. You want to be a star player, you do it every night, not just once in a while."

Bruce Boudreau on Theodore: "I just felt really bad for Theo. I knew he wanted more than anything the start tonight, and I knew he wanted to redeem himself."

Ovi on the comeback win: "Showed our character. We know we can come back. It doesn't matter what the score is."

Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell on Ovechkin: "You can't defend him with just one guy. Especially when he cuts to the middle, it's hard to gap up on him. You need help from forwards."

Theo on his performance: "It didn't start the way I wanted, even yesterday in Atlanta. At one point, you try to do too much, and it affects your play. Tonight when they scored two goals I said to myself, 'Go out there and play like you can.' From there I did my part and the guys did the rest. I knew that if I allowed only two goals, we would come back. And that's exactly what happened."

Laich when asked about the hard hat given to him by Clark: "It's something new. It goes to the guy who works hard and does something to help the team win. He (captain Chris Clark) also said I have to wear it for all interviews."

Highlights by

And Brooks Laich in his fashionable hard hat from Caps 365:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Not The Best Of Starts

Capitals 4, Thrashers 7
Scoresheet - Wash Post - AJC

The Washington Capitals didn't get the best of starts tonight as they fell early 3-0, fought their way back to a 4-4 tie, only to surrender another 3 goals in the third. In a wild scoring affair the Caps drop their season opener to the Atlanta Thrashers, a team that is not expected to do much, 7-4.

Scoring for the Caps were Alex Semin, David Steckel with a shortie and Mike Green who scored two on the power play including the game tying goal. Jose Theodore continued to look uncomfortable in net and was pulled in the second after giving up 4 goals. Brent Johnson came in and looked much better, but still surrendered three in the third. The Caps out shot their rivals 43 - 31.

This game was all about the Caps' stellar play in the second period sandwiched between absolutely horrible first and third periods. The Caps started their season the same way they ended last year, yielding a powerplay goal. The first Caps' penalty was a tripping call against Tom Poti. Yes, the same Tom Poti that was called for tripping in overtime of game 7 against the Flyers. In both cases, the opponent scored on the ensuing power play. Coincidence?

The Caps start was good. They were working hard for pucks, keeping within their system. Then when an early goal that was disallowed because of a high stick from Brooks Laich off a point shot from Green stopped the Caps momentum as the play went to review. That delay helped the Thrashers get over some opening night nerves. Then at 8:20 in the first period on the power play, the the dizzy birds were given a gift wrapped rebound off of a nice stop by Theodore. From that moment on, the Thrashers picked up some confidence and jumped to a 3-0 lead.

Bruce Boudreau had to call a time-out to settle his own crew down, and Semin scored the first goal of the '08-'09 season off a nice wrister from the top slot soon after. They seemed to gain some momentum back late in the first and in the second, cutting the Thrasher to 3-2. But after Steckel's short handed goal, the boys in blue got it right back on the same power play.

Theodore was pulled after only seeing about 30 minutes of ice time. He mishandled the puck, miscommunicated with his D-men, he couldn't control rebounds and looked shaky in net. Whatever transpired in the Bruins preseason game seemed to carry over. In no way did he look as he did in Colorado.

Johnny didn't expect to replace Theodore. "We can't have third-period shortcomings like that when the game is tied," Johnson told reporters after the game, "You don't want to be in that position. You don't want that to happen to your partner." Theodore was not available for comment after the game.

It looked as if the Caps were back in control after Johnson was put in. Johnny made some spectacular saves and the Caps took advantage of a double minor for Marty Reasoner's high stick. Green scored both power play goals as the Caps special teams finally came through in a pinch. The Caps were only 2 of 7 though, their penalty kill was dismal allowing Atlanta 3 goals in 9 chances.

Start of the third it looked like the Caps were going to take the lead and eclipsing a 3 goal deficit on a Alex Ovechkin penalty shot after Toby Enstrom covered the puck in the Thrasher crease. But Kari Lehtonen deflected the shot. And the Thrashers took advantage of some poor neutral zone miscues.

Things got chippy in the end, as they always seem to do when the Caps play Atlanta. Boudreau did not look like a happy camper throughout the whole game, maybe sensing his guys were not putting forth the effort needed. "There were too many guys not doing their job," Boudreau said. "When you don't do your job, anyone can score seven goals." I think it's going to be a long plane ride back for the Caps.

So it's just one game, right. Maybe this is a wake up call that the Capitals have to do better than before. Some bright spots, Alex Semin played well, although I would like to see him dish it to an open guy once and awhile. Tomas Fleischmann had a couple of good chances, but needs to find a way to finish. Mike Green was good in this game, netting two goals on the power play. Outside of that, there wasn't much good to be found on the Capitals season opener. But hey, the Caps are still tied with Tampa.

Good Friends Go At It

The first step for the Washington Capitals starts tonight in Atlanta. And it's two good friends in Bruce Boudreau and John Anderson that will lead their teams on the ice in a Southeast Division show down. The Caps are actually facing a pretty tough weekend with a game tonight and turn around and play their home opener tomorrow night.

Boudreau and Anderson have talked this week on the phone, but not about hockey. Two friends that have helped one another out in the AHL have found themselves in charge of a NHL team. "I hope he wins the next game," Boudreau told the reporters. "We've been talking for many, many years about coaching in the NHL and here we are, coaching against one another." If I had to pick which team I had sitting on the bench in front of me would be the Capitals (I am also bias too).

In talking with the players on Tuesday during media day, all were aware of how important this weekend is to starting off on the right foot. Reminded that the team had started 3 and 0 the start of last year only to slip down to their lowest point in November. Everyone on this team realizes that the start of this season is more important than in years past.

The Caps can't get away with just being a youthful team as an excuse any more. This team will find out what it's like to play with a target on your chest. Every team will put their best against this team, and that fact has not been lost on Boudreau. He has emphasized that whatever this team has accomplished is not going to be good enough. Much like the t-shirts handed out to the team in training camp, "The future is now" on the front, "Good is not good enough" on the back.

Question marks still remain for this team. Can the team's defense live up to its expectations this year? Can Jose Theodore repeat his success from a season ago in Colorado? Is this team all offense and one sided? I have a feeling that these questions will be answered with in the Capitals' first 10 games.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Fedorov Brings Back Memories

During Media Day at Verizon Center yesterday, seeing the players as they were being interviewed was quite the experience. Seeing how this team was nothing a few short years ago, to a team that is full of youth and character that seemed excited for the season to begin. But it was an old vet that had me thinking of the past instead of the Caps' future.

Sergei Fedorov's presence in the room was that of a consummate professional. The way he looks, acts and how he speaks. His experience spans 18 years in the NHL. He has amassed 472 goals and 1146 points throughout his career. When he is in his second skin, a pair of skates and a stick in his hand, he usually has a wide smile on his face. Whether it's game 7 in the playoffs or practice drill, Fedorov just looks like he loves to be out there.

As I watched the Comcast Sportsnet interview with the Capitals' Russian contingent in the Acela Club at the phone booth, I couldn't help but look past Fedorov to the seats my wife and I sat in for game 4 in the 1998 playoffs. The Caps made their run in 1998 and that team was vastly different than the one rubbing elbows with the Washington media today. How far this club has come from that gritty, hard nosed, experienced team that willed its way to the finals to a team of extreme talent and youth that may be Washington's best shot at a Stanley Cup.

Fedorov was apart of that memory, he scored in that game and lifted the Cup in this very building. He was a big part of Detroit's success for many Stanley Cup wins. I have watched nearly his entire career through high school and college and even now, he was the model of a player that always played to win. To see him here in a Capitals' sweater makes me all that more hopeful for this team, this year.

It was a special moment for me as I mingled with players and media. The whole point of the media day event was to talk about the future but instead I couldn't help but to look back at the struggle of a franchise that has tried and is trying to reach the pinnacle of their league. It has been a long road to get here.

Now we are at the start of a very promising season, knowing that a Stanley Cup championship is not far away from this team. It finally looks as if there could be a light at the end of the tunnel. And the moment is not lost on this team that feels the burden of high expectations. While they are young, they know what it takes to get there. Thanks to veterans like Fedorov.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Media Day At Verizon

The Capitals had their Media Day today at the Verizon Center. Being a well known blogger (to like 5 of you out there), I had an opportunity to crash the luncheon. So putting on my Sunday best, I sat through ridiculous traffic and pulled into the phone booth garage.

I actually wanted to see the team photo and sit through the Caps practice on Verizon Center Ice. I was surprised to see Brian Potheir dressed and in the team picture. He is still apart of the team, but his head injuries will keep him from seeing little, if any, ice time. I tried to snap a few pics, but my camera died on me.

The practice started a little late as after the pic was taken, the VC crew took a good 10-15 minutes to get the scoreboard back up. The practice was pretty intense; lots of hard skating. As you may have heard already, Alex Ovechkin left early and looked like he was wincing as he left. Alex Semin followed soon after, but not before he was stopped by Bruce Boudreau. Semin pointed where it hurt and Gabby rolled his eyes and let him go.

As far as I could see, based on the jersey color coordination, the lines looked like this:



Viktor Kozlov seemed to still be feeling the after effects of a strained groin, but he did not leave practice. For the most part practice was pretty uneventful, besides Ovi and Semin leaving. Dave Steckel took a big spill into the net after he made a nice move to get around John Erskine. He laid on the ice for a bit before shaking it off. When I talked to him later, he said he was fine.

After practice was the big luncheon. The players trickled in and soon players were pulled one way and the other by the press core to ask a plethra of questions. Are expectations too high? How is the chemistry on this team? Are you excited for the season? Did you see the games in Europe? How about them Red Sox? How do you pronounce "Jose"?

For the most part I just stood back and watched as players drudged from station to station. Watching as most of them go through the motions it's interesting to see which players enjoy the limelight, and who just wanted to get out of there. Alex Semin, whose English is getting better, walked around the room like owned it. Nick Backstrom couldn't find the exit soon enough.

I mostly talked to the reporters and Hockey Mom picked me out of the crowd. I don't know how she did, but it was nice to see a couple of bloggers there.

The only interview I did was with Dave Steckel who was waiting for Matt Bradley to finish up. Even then it was sort of a breezy conversation that didn't really go anywhere. We talked about how long the training camp seemed to drag on, and the large gap from preseason games to the regular season.

I hadn't thought of it this way but the Caps have a week between games, then they have jump a plane to Atlanta, play their first regular season game, jump back on a plane and get back to DC for the Home Opener. "It's gonna kick our... butt," Steckel conceded.

Overall it looked as if the players were ready to get it started. Talking to the media is just a necessary evil. Many players ate their lunch and headed for the door. I didn't blame them either. And with that, I headed out myself.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Eastern Conference Shake Down

Ok, let’s break it down. Here are my predictions on how the Eastern Conference is going to lay out from worst to first. Since the top three spots are reserved, those will be my picks for Division Champs. The list is ranked much like it would if it were the end of the season and we would see who’s in and who’s out of the playoffs. Again, worst to first.

#15 - Florida Panthers. This team just traded what could be considered the heart and soul of their team to Phoenix. Olli Jokinen lead the team in points, goals and assists. Now they don’t have anyone to replace that production. The Panthers are still stuck somewhere between an experienced team and a young team. Richard Zednik, Tomas Vokoun, Jay Bouwmeester and Corey Stillman seem to be the statesmen and they have extreme potential in young guys like David Booth and Shawn Matthias. The team will have to find it’s identity early, or find themselves at the bottom of the barrel.

#14 - New York Islanders. This team has the tools to do great things, but the way this team changes course so many times, it’s leaving not only the players and coaches heads spinning but the fans too. The Islanders looks like they are going to go the youth route with bringing Kyle Okposo into the fold late last season and shedding some older players in the process. Depth is a problem for the Isles, especially in net. If Rick DiPietro can stay healthy and the rest of the team can hold together, maybe it can be a different fate.

#13 - Atlanta Thrashers. There is no denying the Thrashers have a potent offense. That is not the problem. Their defense still waddles along with head hunter Andy Sutton, Ken Klee and Garnet Exelby on guard on the blue line. If you add recent addition Mathieu Schneider into the fold and it improves a little, but the whole blue line is starting to age and show it. Ilya Kovalchuk will get his goals, but if the rest of the team isn’t scoring behind him, the Thrashers will alienate their fans even more after their playoff appearance in what seemed like a lifetime ago.

#12 - Toronto Maple Leafs. Ron Wilson is just a coach. Not a miracle worker. This team is still in the process of being stripped so they can rebuild. However, with most of the heavy contracts now gone, so too does the talent go. If the Leafs are hoping that Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, and Jiri Tlusty to carry the burden, then only Wilson’s good name keeps them from falling to the bottom.

#11 - Buffalo Sabres. This team is going to do the same thing they do every year, look good, then look bad, then look good, then look bad. Lindy Ruff’s system will have to be bought in by every one in order for this team to go anywhere. Just about the only good thing to come out of this off season maybe a healthy Teppo Numminen.

#10 - Philadelphia Flyers. This team had to reach deep down to barely make the playoffs last season. They were 2 points of just missing it if the Penguins hadn’t thrown the last game. The Flyers still have issues on the blue line to contend with and they can’t depend on Marty Biron to carry them through the season like they did through the playoffs. This team will also have to depend on some scoring instead of muscle to win games. They are guilty of taking a penalty or two too much. If Simon Gagne is fully healthy and Mike Richards shows he can be a good leader, then maybe they can sneak in again. If Pittsburgh lets them.

#9 - Tampa Bay Lightning. I do think this team can do well. If the team can find the right chemistry and if Barry Melrose knows what he is doing. If not, it could be a big disappointment for Lightning fans. Yes, on paper this team looks very, very good. But the game isn’t played on paper. Tampa needs the pieces to fall into place with the mix of youth and experience. Although there are too many veterans on this team to totally count them out.


#8 - Boston Bruins. Tim Thomas is like a coin flip, he can either be spectacular or very bad. Good thing Manny Fernandez is back healthy. However, it’s not whose in net that is going to help or hurt the Bruins. It’s going to be their lack of offensive production that give them fits this year. One good thing on the horizon for the B’s will be getting Patrice Bergeron back into the line up. With Zdeno Chara still manning the blue line, they should be able to sneak back in to the playoffs, where they have proven they can make a little noise.

#7 - New York Rangers. Tom Renney is going back to basics. After losing one of the league’s best scorers to the KHL, he has to focus now on what he has. And what he has is a pretty good defensive core. With the offensive prowess gone, the Rangers will have to pick up the slack defensively. Newly acquired Wade Redden will help in that regard. Also off season pick up Markus Naslund will help to fill in Jaromir Jagr’s goal tallies. As long as Henrik Lundqvist stays sharp, the Rangers may back their way into the playoffs.

#6 - New Jersey Devils. Every time you count them out, they make it in. This will be a very tough team again this year defensively (as always). Start with Marty Brodeur and work your way out if you want examples of a competitive team. The only way this team will falter is if the offense goes to sleep. This team will always find a way to get a playoff spot, they always seem to get it done.

#5 - Carolina Hurricanes. This team had the playoffs in their hands last season, only to lose the final game of the season. Instead they watched as the Washington took the Southeast crown. If that isn’t motivation for this team to have a better year, I am not sure what will be. But the ‘Canes have already started out rocky, several injuries on the out set could set them back.

#4 - Ottawa Senators. When the Senators are healthy, they are a force. If they are not 100%, they are soft. The return of the big three, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Danny Heatley will win you some games. The defensive core, that needs to find some cohesiveness, will lose you the rest. At least there will not be any Days of Our Lives drama with Martin Gerber in net. This team is still too good to miss the playoffs.

#3 - Pittsburgh Penguins. What? Not number one in the Eastern Conference? Yes. While you still have superstars Sid “the Kid” Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, this team should return as Division champions. However, with some key components missing this year, I figure the battle for top spot in the Conference with the still very hot Canadiens and Capitals would be a stretch for this team. The Penguins are still very dangerous, no doubt about that.

#2 - Washington Capitals. Did you think I wasn’t going to pick them for Division champs? If the Capitals play in any way, shape or form of how they ended last season, then this team is not only dangerous, but a contender for Conference champions as well. Bruce Boudreau will lead a team very similar to the team they ended with in April. The only question marks about this team is the Caps perceived “weak” defense and a new face between the pipes in Jose Theodore.

#1 - Montreal Canadiens. In their one hundredth season, the Canadiens are going to make it special. It finally seems they have put the pieces together and riding a young phenom goaltender in Carry Price has this team on the top of everyone’s charts. Quite simply, this team has 3 solid scoring lines with solid defense to back it up. Alex Kovalev must have a repeat season for them to win, but there are no signs to doubt he won’t. Guy Carbonneau has his team playing the right system.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Caps Finish Preseason With Loss

Capitals 4, Bruins 5 OT/SO (1-2)
Preseason - Scoresheet

The Washington Capitals faced their first overtime of the preseason and their first shootout. But the result wasn't what they wanted as Alex Ovechkin was the only player with a shoot out goal and the Bruins drop the Caps 5-4.

The Caps finish 5-1-1 with 11 points. They finish second in the Eastern Conference followed only by Montreal that played two extra games. They of course finish first in the Southeast Division in the preseason play. The Caps finish with 26 goals for, only 16 against. For a defensive squad that is believed soft, that's not to shabby.

Ovi scored his first goal of the preseason at even strength. Also on the score sheet with a goal were Chris Clark, Mike Green and Chris Bourque. The Caps did not score on the powerplay, but Boston only gave the Caps two chances with the man advantage. Their penalty gave up a goal.

Even though this game was down as loss, the Caps were able to over come several lead changes to tie the game in the first place. Both Green and Bourque were able to get big goals to keep the game with in reach. Jose Theodore seemed more human in this game. However there was a lapse in defense as the Bruins were able to get 44 shots on the Caps' netminder. The Caps could only get 24 shots on Bruins' goaltender Manny Fernandez.

There were times the Caps got a little too cute with the puck. The Caps are still struggling, it seems, on the shoot out. Micheal Nylander and Alex Semin were the other shooters, both were stopped by Fernandez. Caps get a work week to finalize their roster (Oct. 7th is the deadline for rosters), get some more practice in and start the season on Friday in Atlanta.