Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lordy, Lordy, Ovechkin Hits Forty... Three

Capitals 5, Canadiens 4 OT
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The Caps may have felt a little slighted at the end of their game in Montreal a few nights ago after the Habs scored their 4th goal and pushed for a fifth. They were determined to pay Montreal back. While it wasn't the same retribution, maybe the overtime stinger that gave Alex Ovechkin his 4th goal of the game and the Capitals the win will suffice after a Canadien comeback.

Alex Ovechkin not only got the hattrick (goals 40, 41 and 42) but also netted the overtime winner 3:34 in the extra frame (his 43rd). And he did it with stitches and a broken nose. Is this kid tough or what? Viktor Kozlov scored the only other goal that was set up by none other than Ovie himself giving him 5 points on the night.

After the Habs had shut out Ovechkin the game before, they couldn't deny Ovie's tenaciousness. He was hit with a high stick early, then broke his nose on a hard hit, then the puck hit him in the face forcing the All Star winger to get stitches. Yet the gritty and spectacular forward was able to get 4 goals matching a career high and finish the night atop both the points and goal standings for the League. He is also only the second player in franchise history to record three straight seasons with 40 goals or better (Peter Bondra was the first).

Besides Ovechkin's heroics, the Caps did have a little trouble closing out the Canadiens. They jumped to a 3-0 lead only to see it squandered away in the second with some never-say-die plays the Habs were able to muster including a last second goal to end the second period to make it 3-2. Ovechkin was able to score midway through the third only to see the Canadiens to get two big goals to tie the game and force overtime. It looked like Montreal was satisfied with taking it to a shoot out, but Ovechkin had different plans.

The Caps' defense were a bit bi-polar in this game. At times they were dynamic and outstanding, then at times they looked little stiff and uncertain. The Defense sort of broke down a couple times down the stretch and the Habs were quick to capitalize. A week and a half did Olie Kolzig some good apparently, because he was outstanding in net. But Olie was able to do only so much with when rebound after rebound seemed to land on Canadiens' sticks.

The Caps jump right back in the hunt for first place in the division and a playoff birth. They have a chance to put some air between them and Atlanta, their next opponent and nipping at their heels for second in the division, on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Caps, Carolina is starting to win their games again. By beating Toronto tonight the 'Canes stay 3 points ahead of the Washington squad. The Capitals need points now then ever. Since Bruce Boudreau took the reigns of this team, the Capitals have not lost two consecutive games.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Two Steps Back

Capitals 0, Canadiens 4
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Well, that sucked. The Capitals' worst case scenario came true against the Canadiens. They lost and Carolina won their contest with the Rangers. Instead of the Caps being snug against the 'Canes for that first place Division lead, they gave up some slack now making it a 3 point stretch. What's worse, the Caps fell back into their non-scoring phase.

No Capitals scored, zilch, zero, nada, nobody. Give Cristabol Huet some credit though, he played the Caps pretty spot on. And the Caps special teams weren't that special. The Canadiens were able to pick up two power play goals and a shortie. The Caps powerplay was dismal. They had a chance early in the first with a two man advantage and only one goal down, but they still found it hard to get that big goal and ended up getting scored on short handed (which is really where the Caps lost this game). The Caps never went on the pp after that.

Brent Johnson was a little on his own. There wasn't much he could do with the defense that looked to be asleep for the entire game. Johnson did look sharp though, stopping 36 shots and keeping the Caps somewhat in it. Alex Ovechkin's point streak came to an end at 7 games. Ovie has yet to match his 9 game point streak he had earlier in the season.

The Canadiens are on a little bit of a hot streak, that is for sure. And the Caps need to find a way to counteract this hotness Thursday night when they finish off a home and home against the Habs. The glaring problem is scoring, and scoring when it matters. The Canadiens have a way of shutting down teams defensively when they want to.

The Caps weren't very physical in this contest either. The Habs out hit the Caps 30 -25. Ovie was a willful participant of the hitting letting known to his defensive rival Micheal Komisarek that he was there. But the Caps looked a little man handled at times early.

Both Alex Semin and Mike Green decided to tuck their jerseys in their pants. It really has no bearing at all at the result of the game, but it bothered me the entire game. They both looked a little ridiculous. Are they afraid they are going to get their shirt tails caught? Green was the only Capital with a -2 rating.

Also, during the first intermission there was an Ovechkin interview that got a little personal about him being a father and married (there is a rumor that he is engaged and wants to get married 8/8/08). Weird. Then there was some questions about Alex Semin and Ovie looked a little uncomfortable answering for the speedy winger that Washington media (or any media for that matter) has a hard time understanding. Until Semin learns English, he will always seem to be a conundrum.

This is one of those games that you just want to forget, and hopefully the Capitals can when the Habs come to town. The Caps have to stay out of the penalty box and get some pucks in the net unless they want to continue to slide down the standings. For now, they can afford to lose a little, but very little.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Down To Business

The Capitals are back to business and they will be taking on Montreal tonight to see if they can leap frog not only the Hurricanes (who are also playing tonight) but 7 other teams to take possession of 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. That would be a huge jump for a club that was nearly out of it in the first 20 games of the season, so there is something significant about this accomplishment.

If they lose and Carolina wins, it means the Caps have to work harder to eclipse that 3 point stretch. They will have to do all this without Shaone Morrisonn who is still nursing a bruised foot. Morrisonn has been a rock for the Caps D. He had been paired with Mike Green and the duo have turned their plus/minus stat around since Bruce Boudreau's take over.

In other news, the NHL is coming out with some pretty good ads for their website, NHL.com:



The Crosby commercial is pretty good, I did get a chuckle out of it the first time I saw it. You can see the other commercials here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A New Record Broken

East 8, West 7
Scoresheet - Wash Post - AJC

Better late then never. After going through a couple of days in pain and finally getting my fillings replace today, I finally had a chance to sit down and watch the All Star game. So here are a few thoughts on the game.

The opening was actually pretty cool. The Hives started the festivities and played through the introductions. It was a classy move to put Ilya Kovalchuk on the starting line up, and Chris Osgood and Rick DiPietro both took goaltending starting honors. Nearly 20 minutes later we were ready to drop the puck.

Alex Ovechkin played a stand out first period, and the announcers were a bit fawning over him. Which is better than hearing Sid "the Kid" Crosby every other second. Ovie didn't fail to perform netting two goals and becoming the first Capital to three goals. Mike Gartner held that record with a mere 2 goals in four All Star appearances. Ovie was able to break it in two All Star appearances. He shared a line with Jason Spezza and Martin St. Louis.

The game started like every All Star game, a bit tentative and a little slow. But it didn't take long for the game to jump up a notch when the West made a comeback. In the second period Evgeni Nabokov stone cold stopped fellow countryman Ilya Kovalchuk not once but twice, keeping the Atlanta All Star from scoring in front of the home crowd.

In the third period the action started to get furious as the speed had picked up and the action came to a dramatic ending. The West eradicated a 4 goal lead by the East and took the lead in the third. Then Marc Savard capped a furious series of goal scoring chances with a game winning goal for the East.

Eric Staal took MVP honors. Rather stole them, Rick Nash who scored a hattrick and helped the West come back was I thought a shoe in for MVP, or at the very least former Thrasher Marc Savard with his last minute goal. But it was Staal who had two goals and an assist. It seemed to me that Nash was robbed.

Overall the game started slow, but ended great. The game was a perfect showcase for the NHL. Now it's time to move on and the Caps have a team to catch in Carolina and they can do that with a win in Montreal Tuesday night. The Caps are a point behind and can leap frog a good number of teams to end up in third. There is a lot of season left though.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Life's A Beech

Does this guy ever get a chance to unpack in one place? After starting the year with Columbus, Kris Beech was picked up by Vacouver on waivers, then picked up by the Capitals, only to once again claimed off waivers again by Pittsburgh. It's like a mini tour of the NHL. The Penguins do need the help though since they have a slew of injuries (much like the Caps, but what can you do).

Not sure which team is paying what half of Beech's salary but it will be interesting to see if he gets traded or grabbed up once more before the end of the year. It would be his 5th team in one year. Let's hope it's a Stanley Cup contender.

Caps Stand Out In Hot-lanta

There was only two of them, but both made some pretty big waves in Atlanta. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both wowed the Thrasher faithful and NHL fans everywhere at the NHL's All-Star spectacular.

Backstrom scored two goals in the young stars competition which became part of the skills competition with each conference trying to earn points. The young stars played a quick game of 3 on 3 while the All Star goaltenders stood in net. Backstrom helped the East with final 7-6 score and giving the East 2 points.

Then Ovechkin impressed the crowd and the judges in the breakaway challenge that was NHL's version of the slam dunk contest in the NBA. Ovie flipped the puck up on his stick then took a big baseball swing. Strike one. On the second trip down he flipped the puck up higher, did a 360 and took another swing. Strike two. But the point wasn't to score. Ovie won enough style points for the attempt and gave the East their win over the West in the skills competition.

Ovie won the crowd over, the same crowd the loudly booed him during introductions. Atlanta is a bitter divisional rival to the Capitals, but that didn't matter much as Ovie stole the spot light. He even got a standing ovation after his 360 move. His toothy grin made him the star of the night.

All of this on a night where some of the new events drew mixed reactions. The beginning event called the obstacle course was a horrible start to the night. The challenge was a bit boring and went for far too long. While the breakaway challenge was good in theory, but many of the league's best took a more conservative approach. While Ovechkin and Marion Gaborik made attempts at something a little different. Gaborik did a wrap around the net on Rick DiPietro but didn't score. That wasn't the point though.

While many of the events did more to yawn than excite, the real game starts tomorrow.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Big, Big, Big Win

Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post

The Capitals were a little outworked in this one and it was up to goaltender Brent Johnson to hold the fort. And did he ever. The offense struggled through a more sure footed Maple Leaf team but it was Johnson's heroics that saved the Caps from going into the All Star break with a two game losing streak.

Brooks Laich opened the scoring in the first period on a powerplay goal. That goal stood through the second and into the third when the Leafs finally put the puck past Johnny. But the Cap answered right back withe a Viktor Kozlov goal just :36 seconds later. Brent Johnson and the Caps survived a late barrage to pull two points out and pull to with one point of division leading Carolina. Although Alex Ovechkin didn't score, he did assist on both goals keeping his point streak alive. Kozlov has picked up his offensive stride scoring 5 goals in the last 4 games.

Brent Johnson started in net for Olie Kolzig and did he ever do well. Johnny stopped 31 shots and made some impressive saves late to keep the Caps in the lead and to take home the win. He was awarded the number one star of the night, rightly so. While Kolzig hasn't been putting up big numbers, Johnny has been quietly putting together good games and impressive stats. He as a .902 save percentage and 2.79 GAA while Olie is a scary .885 save % and 3.10 GAA. Both goaltenders are currently at .500 (Johnny is 5-5-1, Olie is 17-17-4).

What's bigger than all of that is the Capitals pull to within one point of division leading Carolina. They also stay ahead of Atlanta who gained a point tonight against the Rangers. If the Caps had lost, they would have fallen to 3rd behind the Thrashers. Now the Caps have some time to heal for the All Star game break. If the Caps can take the lead of the Southeast Division, they will be catapulted to 3rd in the Eastern Conference standings. But there is still a long ways to go. If the Caps do make that jump, they will have to stave off both the Hurricanes and the Thrashers who are starting to realize they need wins if they are going to even make the playoffs. The battle for first place in the division may decide the fate of one and only one team from the Southeast to make the post season.

Donald Brashear was resigned to a one year, $1.2 million contract to stay a Capital. I had a good hunch followed by some confirmation early that Brashear was resigned. But the Caps waited to release the info, probably to give the lawyers some time to hammer the details.

I Was Right

Turns out I was right about Brashear being resigned!

More Than A Cute Pic

Sid "The Kid" Crosby maybe the face the NHL is pushing, but Alex Ovechkin is quickly becoming a super star in his own right. On NHL.com, the frozen moment caught a young Ovechkin fan watching his idol at the Air Canada Centre.

Around the National Hockey League, Ovechkin fans are growing. There seems to be more Caps' jerseys peppered through out the stands at away games. While the voting for the all star game was a bit disappointing, Ovechkin's play is infectious and more hockey fans are realizing what a special talent the Washington Capitals have.

The Caps are getting more and more respect around the league with every win. They were ridiculed for the last 3 seasons, and it's nice to see hockey people recognize the Capitals as a whole from the players to the model the Caps have built.

Replacing Nylander

As you may know, Kris Beech was claimed off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks. This was done to "bolster" the Hershey Bears lineup (uh, okay). And being a center, if anything should happen to the already fragile position, he will most likely see some action in a Capitals' jersey. Beech was set to make $585,000 in the two year deal he signed with Columbus Blue Jackets. But the Caps are just looking to keep Beech in the minors for half price.

The best part of trade deadlines and off season moves is always the speculation and rumors that go on with fans. So I am taking this opportunity to speculate a little myself. Alex Ovechkin's contract will not hit the salary cap until next season which still gives the Capitals some room to play with for the rest of this season. Since the Caps may be looking for a Micheal Nylander replacement, here are a couple interesting names to throw out there.

Peter Forsberg still wants to play in the NHL. While still recovering from injuries, Forsberg could start his recovery in a Caps sweater. He would cost around $5.75 million (what he made when he left the league) and his Swedish countrymen on the Caps could help convince him to make a return to "bolster" the Capitals' line up. Just how recovered the playmaker is from his injuries remains to be seen, but the Caps could sign the dynamic center to a one year contract to fill an empty slot.

If the Captials are looking for temporary help, why not trade? Mats Sundin's future in Toronto seems to be on the rocks as new management takes over there. It would cost the Caps a few first rounders and maybe some prospect talent (Fehr, Beech?) but the Caps could take Sundin's $5.5 million contract then he is a unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Sundin would be a grinder of a center with the skills to both be a playmaker and the ability to score.

Those are just two of the possibilities the Caps could take. I am not saying that they would, but the Caps can afford it since they are still $14 million shy of the Cap ceiling. If the Capitals do want to make a playoff push it might be wise to get some proven talent like Sundin or Forsberg to help out for the rest of the season. Then next year, Micheal Nylander will be able to return and both Forsberg and Sundin are free to sign with who they want in the off season.

Leafs One Ups The Caps

Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Wash Times

The Caps were victims of bad passing and making it a little too cute at times. The Leafs were able to gum up the neutral zone against the Caps and wait it out. Then in the last 29.2 seconds it was all over on a Mats Sundin rebounder and the Caps see their nice little win streak come to an end.

Alex Ovechkin continued his scoring streak putting some distance in the Rocket Richard award race with 39 goals. Alex Semin also put a wicked move on Vesa Toskala to score late in the third. But the Leafs perseveared even though they were badly outplayed at times. The Caps just weren't themselves this game which was a shame because Olie Kolzig played one of his better games.

The Capitals were 0 for 4 on the powerplay, but was perfect on the penalty kill. John Erskine's hitting picked up with some pretty heavy weight hits. He laid out Darcy Tucker mid way in the first that caught the attention of the fans, then a hit later against Jiri Tlusty in the cornor. Steve Eminger was in the line up again, and looked better even though he took a bad boarding penalty in the first. Tom Poti just couldn't stay out of the box getting a hattrick of penalties, a double minor for cross checking and roughing in the second, and interference call in the third that gave the Leafs some momentum to score with just 30 seconds left.

The second period was horrible for the Caps. They just couldn't pull a comeback this time. That snapped a 4 game winning streak for the Caps. The loss doesn't hurt the Capitals in the standings, they will stay in tenth spot and stay tied with Atlanta. But the Caps will have to play strong against the Leafs again as they round out the home and home before the All Star break. The Caps don't want to leave for vacation with another loss fresh on their minds.

All this and Kris Beech just can't stay away from a Caps uniform. Beech was claimed off waivers for his fourth stint in a Capital's sweater, sorta. I understand we are low on centers, but Beech, really. If we wanted him so bad, why didn't GM George McPhee sign him when he was here? I really don't understand this move, but I am not a NHL General Manager (neither is John Ferguson for that matter). Beech has hardly had time to unpack his bags as he was picked up by the Blue Jackets, then waived and picked up by Vancouver, then is back in the DC area all in this season. Beech won't see much action in the bigs though (unless there is yet another injury), he was sent to Hershey to help bolster the Bears line up. Again, it just doesn't make sense.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pittsburgh Smarts

Saw this on the Pittsburgh-Gazette NOW website:


Yea, the only problem is that isn't Ovechkin. It's actually Jeff Schultz. Don't get me wrong Schultz is a good looking guy, but he's no Alex Ovechkin. Way to go Pittsburgh! You are not suppose to eat the steel, just manufacture it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Cardiac Caps Pull It Out

Capitals 6, Penguins 5 OT/SO(2-1)
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Both the Capitals and Penguins were down a couple of players due to injury. But you wouldn't know it by the way others had stepped up. In a night were defense was a mere thought, the Capitals win a see-saw battle with the Pittsburgh Penguins to end a six game losing streak in the shoot out.

The open game went back and forth and Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin conducted one of the most exciting one-upmanship I have seen to date. Malkin took a few good body shots at Oveckin and recorded 7 shots with two goals and an assist. Ovechkin had 11 shots on net also getting two goals and an assist, but was also a +1 and a shoot out goal. The Caps ended up winning the game at the Igloo and had the last laugh. Ovechkin takes over the league scoring race with his 37th and 38th goals.

It was a marathon of offensive chances that had both goaltenders scrambling and defensmen's heads spinning. Viktor Kozlov scored a pair of goals and Tomas Fleischmann got a tally. Alex Semin and Ovechkin both scored in the shootout to take home another 2 points.

It wasn't easy for the Capitals though, they nearly lost the game numerous times taking some bad penalties and the Pens took advantage on the powerplay. Without Shaone Morrisonn on the blue line with Mike Green the Penguins found it easy to penetrate the defense. The Capitals had to take chances to get back and both teams seemed content with the high risk, high reward type of play.

In the third period the Caps came out with some jump with the game tied at 4 and it looked as if Jeff Schultz had scored off a face off, but then a phantom hooking call on Matt Bradley washed it out. I call it phantom because that was going on all game for both teams and it seemed convenient to call it when the Caps had scored. I thought the Refs sort of home called it. Not only was the goal not counted, Bradley was sent to the sin bin and :20 seconds later the Pens score on the power play. But the Refs did make up for the oversight by 3 straight penalties on the Pittsburgh and the Caps were able to come back on a Kozlov wrister.

Overtime wasn't pretty either, the Caps were caught in a rare 3 on 5 PK for one minute and seven seconds. The Caps were able to fight it off and take it to a shoot out. Honestly I was almost afraid to watch as the Caps record in the shoot out was not something to shout about. But Both Alexes scored, and the Capitals once again come from behind to win. Coming from behind sort of exemplifies the Washington Capitals. It makes for some exciting games, but also a lot of heart trouble when the Caps lose a lead. They are quickly becoming the cardiac Caps.

I am a little tired of calling out Olie Kolzig for soft goals, but he didn't have a very good performance against the Penguins. He even admitted it after the game:
"In all honesty we deserved to win that game in regulation," said goaltender Olie Kolzig, who yielded five goals on 15 shots. "It wasn't a great night for me, obviously. But the guys persevered." - Wash Post

Kolzig should have stopped the first goal by Maxime Talbot and both Malkin goals, they were all stoppable shots. In all fairness, the Capital's defense did break down a few times. Kolzig lucked out in the shoot out as the first shots the Penguins took were misses.

These two points have catapulted the Caps into a tie for second in the Southeast Division and tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference standings. Their hard work has them in a tie with the Atlanta Thrashers and if they continue to gain points, they will also overtake the lead in the Southeast. Carolina seems to be feeling the Capitals' pressure as they have won their last two to stay atop the division. Right now the Caps are the only team with a winning record in their last 10 games in the Southeast Division. They play Toronto in a home and home (Wednesday in Toronto, Thursday at the phone booth) before the All-Star break.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Random Thoughts

Are the Capitals really at .500? Aren't winning percentages compiled by the number of wins divided by total games played? If so the Caps have that "5" that just dangles on the end of their team stat. Those are overtime losses, and don't they exist just as regular losses? If they did the Capitals would be 21-26, still below .500 (.447 to be exact). But the league doesn't care about that stat too much, that "5" that just attaches itself there, like a freckle or a cancer. Gross.

Not that I am underachieving what the Capitals were able to do in their five game home stretch, but am I the only one that sees this? The league is treating shoot outs and overtime losses like they almost don't exist. Players stats are not recorded during the shoot out. Then when looking at the stats, you want to ask what's that "5" doing there?

"That '5', it's nothing, the Caps are 21 and 21, those 5 games don't count."

Ah. I guess I watched those five games for nothing.

Just a thought.

Speaking of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the media has gone hog wild about Sid "the Kid" being out of the line up. Top three hockey headline stories on CBS Sportsline, ESPN and Yahoo were all fawning over the Penguins able to win a game with out Crosby (they beat Montreal 2-0). If I were one of the players on the Penguins, I might just be insulted. What do you think just because Crosby's out that the team was going to tank? Apparently they did. Let's hope they do against the Caps Monday night.

The Verizon Center last night actually looked pretty full. Seems the fans are starting to believe in the team again. For those have been there all the time, you may have noticed it's taking longer between periods to get to our precious beers. On the other hand, it's nice to see a crowd out to cheer on the Caps, not just the other team.

The crowd gave the team a nice standing ovation at the end of the first period and I have to say not only are the Caps' fans knowledgeable, but classy too. It's times like these I know I am cheering for the right team. So it's not such a bad thing that I have to wait an extra 6 minutes for a beer. Wait, I have been standing in line for 6 minutes? Good Lord, Uncle Ted, get some more beer windows!

That's all I got for now.

Home Sweet Home

Capitals 5, Panthers 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post

It's good to win at home. For the Caps they used their own backyard as a vessel to climb back to .500 and as Bruce Boudreau said, "We've officially reached mediocrity." The Capitals help their own cause and leap frog the Panthers (again) to regain 3rd place. The third place standing they had was lost with Florida's win over New Jersey the night before.

Brent Johnson got the nod in net and looked pretty solid. The Caps took it to the Panthers early jumping to a 3-0 lead on a couple of tallies from former Panther Viktor Kozlov and John Erskine. In the second period though, the Panthers jumped right back into the game with three straight goals of their own, two on the power play. I was starting to think the only way the Capitals ever win is by coming from behind. But Alex Semin dashed my fears on a powerplay goal and Alex Ovechkin added another for insurance, his 36th goal of the season.

Shaone Morrisonn blocked a shot on the penalty kill in the second and did not return. The big defenseman was not listed in the injury list and team officials said he was "okay." Tomas Fleischmann also had some drama early when his metal blade fell out of his skate. Flash took a big spill when he tried to skate on the plastic holder but made it back to the bench on one skate. Unfortunately for him play kept going for a good 4 to 5 minutes afterward and he had to wait for a whistle to get the blade back so the equipment manager could fix him up.

Nicklas Backstrom deserves some props as the first rookie in nearly 30 years to post 4 assists in a game. If that doesn't put him in the running for the Calder, I don't know what else can. Backstrom has 27 assists and 36 points in his debut year in the NHL. He is above the league average for goals, assists and points. Not too shabby.

The Caps are on a roll and finish their home stand 4-1-0 gaining 8 points in the process. The Caps jump over the Panthers again to regain a 3rd place spot in the Division and find them selves just 4 points from a playoff spot. While it's good for the team to get back to .500, they still have a long way to go. Lucky for the Caps the Southeast Division is not very strong. While they might be 4 points from the team in eighth place, they are only 3 points from division leading Carolina. If the Caps can surpass them, they could be sitting in 3rd instead of 8th.

The Caps have to continue their winning ways and it looks like the Penguins helped them a little with Sid "the Kid" Crosby out with a high ankle sprain. Who didn't see that coming with Crosby? He dives time after time when he skates to the net, it was a matter of time that he would take an awkward crunch into the boards. Stay on your feet boy! The Caps look to their losing streak against the Pens on Versus Monday night.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Resilient Win For Caps

Capitals 5, Oilers 4 OT/SO (1-0)
Scoresheet - Wash Post

There were plenty of reasons for the Capitals to lose this game. The Edmonton Oilers themselves are last in the Northwest Division and needed some much needed wins on their Southeast road trip. They jumped on the Caps early, throwing their aggressive game right back at them. The Oilers played with high emotion and took advantage of their power play opportunities. But the Caps somehow found a way to come back and in the end it took a 12 round shootout and a brash move by Matt Bradley to give the Capitals the 2 points they needed to get back in the hunt for the playoffs. It was one of the most resilient performance I have seen from the Capitals in a long time.

Matt Bradley wasn't going to sit through another round as Bruce Boudreau pondered who he was going to put in as the shoot out reached 12 rounds. "I told him [head coach Boudreau], 'I'll score, let me go,"' Bradley said. "I don't think either of us actually believed what I was saying." With that he jumped the boards and stuffed a back hand past Dwayne Roloson and the Capitals take home 2 points.

The big kids on the Capitals needed to score to come back from a 2-0 hole they had dug in the first period. In the second the Caps tied it with a Nicklas Backstrom tally and an Alex Ovechkin wrister :38 seconds apart. The Oilers didn't let down though, pulling ahead 3-2 and the Caps again had to scramble to score again to tie and take the lead late in the second with goals by Mike Green and Alex Semin. The Oilers again found the back of the net in the third and forced overtime and eventually a shoot out.

Both Olie Kolzig and Roloson didn't make it easy for the shootout participants both shutting the door through 11 rounds. It seemed that no one was going to be able to score, until Bradley took matters in his own hands. "He just said, 'I'm going to score, put me out there,' and he jumped over the board and he went in," Boudreau remarked. "He told me, he didn't ask."

Olie responded very well after being pulled and seated for a game pitching a perfect shutout in the shoot out. After a couple of defensive miscues that lead to goals, Kolzig battled back making key saves in a long game. The game didn't end until 10:02 pm, nearly 3 hours of hockey. Most of the Caps games have settled somewhere in the 2 and a half hours range.

It wasn't one of the prettiest games the Capitals have played this season, but they found a way to win. Something that was just not possible in the first 20 games. Now they have put themselves in a position to make the playoffs. With their two points the Caps leap frog two other teams to 11th spot in the conference and take 3rd in the Southeast Division. Now just 3 points behind Carolina for 2nd in the division and 4 point from an 8th place position in the conference. The Capitals are finally seeing some movement up the standings, that hard work is paying off.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Brashear's A Keeper

Donald Brashear resigned a one year contract with the Capitals. GM GM guessed he was worth keeping around. Brashear seems to be fitting in on the checking line and the fact that he is one big mean player that is a good protecter if anyone took liberties with Alex Ovechkin or Mike Green doesn't hurt either. No word on what the contract is worth just yet, but Brashear will be around for another year according to a source.

Brashear has scored 7 goals and 19 points since becoming a Capital. He has also accumulated 226 in PIMs. His career high 11 goals he has scored with Vancouver and 19 assists with the same team. Through Donald Brashear's career he has been in the penalty box 2391 minutes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kolzig Conundrum

It's okay to say that Olie Kolzig's gone soft. It happens. After being babied by Glen Hanlon, it's not surprising that Kolzig wants to throw a tantrum and consider retirement after being pulled then sitting out the next game. If Olie wants the starting job, he has to play for it just like any other player on the team.

Kolzig is a great goaltender. But, 4 goals on 16 shots (2 goals on 3 shots in the second period) isn't going to cut it at any level. Kolzig has to prove that he is just as prepared for making the post season as the rest of the team has. Glen Hanlon looked out for Olie too much and it might have made him soft to NHL competitive hockey. Now that Bruce Boudreau is in charge, Kolzig was starting in 13 straight games, instead of a couple of games here then a day off, then a couple more games there, and a night off. Boudreau was basically saying, "Olie you're the number one goaltender, start acting like one."

I have seen flashes of Kolzig's brilliance this season, but far too many soft goals that over-shadows those great performances. Kolzig is still a loved player by the fans, and still has time to turn his game around. If I had the choice to start Olie or Brent Johnson in net for the playoffs, it would be Kolzig every day of the week and twice on Sunday. But his play of late is inconsistent.

There is a part of that interview that gives me the impression that Olie made the mistake of staying with the Capitals through the rebuild. I can understand that, to stick by an organization for that long and feel that that loyalty should be rewarded in a way. But Boudreau wants to win and if that means putting more pressure on his goaltenders to do better by sitting them on an odd night out after a bad game, then he is going to do it. Just like every other coach in the NHL is doing now.

Nylander Out For Season, Caps Win Anyway

Capitals 4, Senators 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

I didn't see a single broom at the game, but I did witness a sweep as the Captials finished off the Ottawa Senators (the best team in the east) with a perfect season record of 4-0-0. All this with the news that Micheal Nylander is having rotator cuff surgery and most likely will be out for the rest of the season. If there was ever a Capitals' curse, Micheal Nylander has been a victim once again because of it.

The news was a shocker for sure, but the Caps didn't hang their heads. Instead they were on a mission to sweep the Senators and they did that in comeback fashion. The Caps opened the scoring in the second period with a Mike Green power play goal (his 13th goal and leads all NHL defensemen in goals). The Senators responded with two quick goals of their own and took a 2-1 lead. Then Alex Semin picked off a Senator pass and made some quick dekes to evade the defender and Ray Emery to score the equalizer. Add an Alex Ovechkin power play goal (his 34th on the year) mid way through the third and a Semin insurance marker gave the Caps the season sweep.

The first period was a physical affair as some of the biggest hits happened early, but those seemed to subside in the second and third giving both teams a chance to play their system. Brent Johnson started in goal and was run into in the first minute of the game by Chris Neil but there was no penalty called on the play. It almost looked as if it would be an early exit again, but Johnny shook it off and played one of the better games he has preformed in this year. Besides the two goals on him, one a deflection the other a garbage goal, Johnny was very solid in net not letting a single soft goal against him.

Nicklas Backstrom has stepped up in absence of Nylander in the line up, and is starting to find more space for himself. I thought Backstrom, Viktor Kozlov and Ovechkin were the best line of the night. But the checking line found themselves with more scoring chances than the Senator's number one line they defended against. Dave Steckel, Quintin Laing and Matt Bradley played the best game I have seen thus far of them with out scoring a goal. They had their chances for sure, and I was hoping the trio could beat Emery after being close so many times.

The crowd is growing at the phone booth as well. While still not a sell out, the seats seem pretty full. Nice to see a crowd come out and even pull out the "Em-ery" chant a few times in the third period. Winning cures all ills and it's paying off for the Caps. It's a good sign to see some seats in the butts for a Tuesday night game. The fair-weathered fans must be seeing some blue skies for the Caps.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Caps Fall To Flyers

Capitals 4, Flyers 6
Scoresheet - Wash Post

I can't decide if this was a offensive let down or a goaltending one, but the Flyers didn't have much trouble scoring when they wanted to as they outlasted the Caps offensive punch to end the Capitals point gaining streak. The Flyers were able to get timely goals, the Caps weren't. And in a game where the Caps should have been tougher in net, it just seemed like there were too many loose pucks, bad rebounds and missed saves.

Alex Ovehkin didn't let $124 million slow him down much as he was back at it again today with the hitting and the scoring. Ovie scored his 33rd of the year. Also on the scoresheet were Alex Semin, Mike Green and Micheal Nylander. Chris Clark got the nod to return, but looked really rusting. Truthfully, he didn't look 100%. The Caps also got Tom Poti back as well.

The Caps came out so strong in this game, but a couple of soft goals and it just seemed the Caps couldn't keep those Flyer garbage goals from going in. Brent Johnson came in for relief after Kolzig was pulled and he played spectacular. Johnny robbed two goals right off the sticks of the Flyers. Kolzig continues to have a roller coaster of a season. One game he is 3 minutes from a shutout, the next he can't stop a beach ball.

This one left a bad taste in my mouth, because the Caps looked as if they were the better team. They were tough on the boards, winning the one on one battles, but just couldn't find the back of the net and turned the puck over too many times. The Caps power play was abysmal going 0 for 5. Special teams was a sure let down in this game for them. The Caps better pull it together and tighten it up as the Ottawa Senators come to down and they won't be taking the Caps lightly.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Breaking Down the Deal

The Capitals sure turned some heads with their offer to Alex Ovechkin. $124 million over the next 13 years, the wealthiest contract in NHL History. Ovie will be paid $9 million in the first six years, the the price jumps to $10 million for the remaining seven. However, this isn't the first time the Caps have paid the most for a single player (at the time Jagr's contract was a load to swallow too).

The contract also includes limited movement. When Ovie turns 27, he will hand George McPhee (if he is here in 5 years) a list of teams he would not like to be traded to. Apparently, in case the Caps hit the fan and have to move one of the biggest stars in the NHL.

The Caps leave themselves a little cap room too, under the current configuration the Caps have roughly $13 million in Cap space. With Ovie's hit next season, that still leaves $7 million for the Caps to play with and stay under the cap ceiling. The Capitals will have to say goodbye to some good talent at the end of the season.

So, who do you hold on to? Who do you part with? And what can you offer Mike Green who suddenly is making himself just as invaluable as Ovie in a Capitals' sweater? The list of RFAs includes Shaone Morrison, Steve Eminger, Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr and Brooks Laich. Good chance that more than one of these players will be in a new uniform next year. Not to mention the UFAs that include Olaf Kolzig and Donald Brashear (Quintin Laing and Frederic Cassivi are also free agents at the end of the season). If the Caps miss the playoffs, look for some major moves by McPhee to keep the players he does want. Based on Ted Leonsis comments talking to Scott Laughlin on XM Satellite Radio the core of this team is Ovechkin, Green, Alex Semin and Nick Backstrom.

Also consider this, what team in the NHL has the means to make that kind of deal if they wanted to lure Ovie away from the Caps? Could he have made more? Any other team would have taken a significant hit. Would have Montreal ponied up the dough? New York? Are you glad that you don't really have to answer those questions because Alex Ovechkin will be a Capital for a very long time? Yea, me too.

The deal is big, but manageable. The Caps do leave some cap room to play with. They may also be betting that the cap hit will grow over the years. In any case Ovechkin is the new face of the Capitals organization. When people think Capitals, Ovie will be synonymous with those thoughts. A happy thought for sure.

There is a lot to read about the deal this morning and these are some of the interesting musings:

On Frozen Blog
Japers Rink
Washington Post
Washington Times
Toronto Sun

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Done Deal

Alex Ovechkin will be a Capital for at least 13 more years. The initial numbers were not correct, previously reported as a contract worth $54 million for six years, but Ted Leonsis struck down those numbers. The announcement was made tonight at a press conference at a meet the team party for season ticket holders. It was probably orchestrated that way.

Still up for grabs though are Mike Green, Shaone Morrisonn, Eric Fehr, Tomas Fleischmann, Brooks Laich, Boyd Gordon, Steve Eminger who are all restricted free agents at season's end. Still, this is a huge relief to Caps fans everywhere who had to withstand rumor after rumor of Ovie possibly leaving to play for a different team. If that had happened, that would have been a catastrophic mistake for the Capitals organization.

But Ovie is a Cap, and that is a good thing.

P.S. 6:59 pm: Word is circulating that the contract is for 13 years, not 6.

P.S.S. 7:14 pm: The Contract is worth 13 years $124 million. Whoa!

Close To A Deal?

RDS.ca is reporting the Capitals closed a deal to keep Alex Ovechkin a Capital for six years at a price tag of $54 million dollars, but no one is confirming the rumor. TSN.ca also ran a story that the deal had been reached, but then quickly backtracked after their "sources" said no deal had been finalized.

One good thing that is coming from this is that the two sides are talking. While before all we were getting were "we have time" and "I haven't spoken to them" from both sides. This could also just be a first offer, a pretty handsome one at that. But the drama continues and I won't be jumping up and down until a contract has been approved by the league.

What Ever Happened to Johnson?

Ooooh right, he's in Hershey. Looks like Frederic Cassivi will get a chance to play some in a Caps sweater. Brent Johnson is rehabbing a twisted knee in a Bears uniform after looking to get back on the Caps bench as Olaf Kolzig's back up.

Speaking of the standings, the Capitals have registered 13 points in their last 10 games. That is the most in the Southeast Division (Carolina 9 pts., Atlanta 10 pts., Florida 9 pts., Tampa 6 pts.). The Southeast is more like the Southworst. Not a single team in the division has more goals for than against. If the Caps can take advantage, a playoff trip is possible if the status quo continues.

Speaking of stars, the NHL named Olaf Kolzig the third star of the night.

Caps Start Home-stand With A Win

Capitals 2, Avalanche 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Bruce Boudreau celebrated his 53rd birthday with a win. It was a lucky bounce that was the game winner and the best gift Boudreau could ask for. The Caps slip past the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 to start their 5 game home-stand with an important win.

Dave Steckel was just looking to put a pass to the front to Quintin Laing on a semi 2 on 1. But a back checking Avalanche defender ended up tipping the pass past Jose Theodore. It's Steckel's fourth goal of the season and turned out to be a game winner in a very defensive game. Donald Brashear broke the scoring open for the Caps tipping a Brooks Laich shot past Theodore early in the third period.

The Caps just outworked the Avalanche who played Detroit the night before and it showed as the game wore on. Olaf Kolzig was a big part of adding to Colorado's offensive woes. While Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green didn't score, the Capitals were able to find scoring when there seemed to be none. Theodore played solid for the Lanche and it took a lucky bounce to help the Caps. It takes me back to when all those little bounces used to go against the Caps, it's nice to see some hockey karma.

Shaone Morrisonn also played well early getting 3 or 4 good scoring chances early when the Caps were swarming. Even though he didn't find the scoresheet and was a -1, Morrisonn is quickly becoming a presence defensively on the ice. Morrisonn, late in his shift and heading off for a change, quickly had to back check on a broken play that sent an Avalanche player in alone on Kolzig. Morrisonn busted his butt and was able to knock away the puck with out taking a penalty.

Steve Eminger got his second straight start of the season with Brian Potheir and Tom Poti out of the lineup. He is looking better so it seems the rust is starting to fade. Still, his speed looks a little off, probably due to his leg injuries. But Emmy did get a few good hits off, and played solid defensively.

More important than just the win, the Capitals have jumped to 13th in the Eastern Conference with the two points they earned tonight. Leap frogging Toronto, the Caps pull even with Florida at 41 points and are poised to make that jump again. It puts the Caps just 4 points behind 8th place Islanders and a coveted playoff spot. But more work needs to be done. The teams don't get any easier, Philly comes to town next, then Ottawa and Edmonton. The Caps must continue to work hard and pick up those standing points every night.

In some side news, Glen Hanlon isn't begging for work anymore. The Capitals have hired Hanlon as a scout based out of DC. It wasn't going to take long for Hanlon to get a job again in the league and it was nice to keep Hanlon in the fold in some way. He is probably sleeping better at night now. Also in Hershey, it's good news for Eric Fehr fans as not only is he back skating, but was in uniform tonight in Hershey's game against Norfolk and registered an assist.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ovechkin Snuffed, Gibbs Goes

Washington area sports were dealt a couple of blows over the last couple of days. Redskins' Joe Gibbs called it quits after his second stint as head coach for Washington. While Gibbs didn't move the team to a Super Bowl appearance in his second go around, he is considered going out on top. Considering the type of season the Skins had this season, Gibbs was responsible for turning a team around and getting them into the playoffs when it seemed the Redskins were done. Anyone who follows Washington sports or football in general knows what kind of titan Joe Gibbs has been as a head coach.

While one blow was a resignation the other is a snuff of one of the best players in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin will have to sit the first 40 some seconds of the NHL All Star game. Ovie finished 5th in Eastern Conference voting besides being on pace for a career season and tied for second in scoring in the league. The NHL fans let Ovechkin down. What's even more disturbing is what some people are saying about it.

Bruce Boudreau talked about it on Washington Post Live, saying if Ovechkin was playing for a Canadian team, Ovie would have topped the voting. It's sort of a jab at Capital's fans. But I also think it's a League problem. Their efforts to jam Sidney "the Kid" Crosby down the throats of hockey fans every where have made the kid probably one of the most overrated players in the League. Mind you, I think Crosby is a great player. But I also think Ovie is better.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Caps Perfect In Canada

Capitals 5, Canadians 4 OT
Scoresheet - Wash Post

Mike Green didn't look so hot after being deked out of his gear by Andrei Kostitsyn and the Canadians took a 2-0 lead. But Green made amends for his momentary lapse of defensive savvy by using some offense. Just 1:27 into overtime Green just got enough of a Micheal Nylander pass to beat rookie sensation Carey Price. And all is right with the world again.

What looked like a defensive challenge much like the Bruin game from two nights ago changed with Alex Ovechkin's first goal at Bell Centre. Ovie played one of the most physical games I have witnessed yet and worthy of the game's first star. His first goal was a quick goal from the face off, the second was a screened slot shot after Ovie sprang from the penalty box for his 31st and 32nd goals of the season. Also scoring for the Caps were Nick Backstrom (who has been mounting points of late), Boyd Gordon and Green's overtime tally.

The Caps and Habs exchanged power play goals but for the most part the Caps were able to snuff the NHL's best power play team. The Caps were able to solve their scoring quandary they experienced in Boston to come back from two goals down.

The Caps were also hurting with Tom Poti, Brian Potheir, Alex Semin and Chris Clark out of the line up. Steven Eminger got his 3rd start of the season and he looked a little rusty. With injuries mounting, the Caps face a tougher challenge to gain points to move up the leader board.

Viktor Kozlov, who normally plays well against the Canadians, was a -2 in this game. He was the only player with a -2 rating for either team. In fact Kozlov hasn't been living up to his billing. He is having a hard time of replicating his 51 point performance from a season ago. While he has 20 assists, he is no where near being a 25 goal scorer for the Capitals with only 4 goals in the first half of the season.

The Caps come back home for a 5 game homestand. It's an opportunity for the Capitals to pick up some standing points. It won't be easy though as the Capitals will face the Avalanche next, Philly, Ottawa, Edmonton and Florida. The Capitals, with their win and 39 points, have pulled to within two points of both Atlanta and Florida who both have 41 points. The Caps have an opportunity to not only leap frog two teams ahead of them but also put Division-leading Carolina within range. If the Caps can pick up 8 points through their 5 games at the phone booth, the Capitals are right back in the hunt.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Shut Out

Capitals 0, Bruins 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

What is it about the Boston Bruins that has the Capitals so screwed in their heads? The Caps came off two big wins against one of NHL's elite teams only to be blanked by a somewhat struggling Bruin squad who had lost six of their last seven coming into this contest. The Bruins seemed to have the same mental edge over the Capitals as the Caps do over the Senators.

The Caps end their first half of the season with a loss, a disappointing one at that. When it seemed all the offensive angst the team had been fighting seemed to be lifted, the Caps once again find it hard to score. The Caps had a glorious opportunity to make some head way in the Southeast Division, but couldn't manage a single goal against the Boston squad.

While the Caps floundered, Olie Kolzig was spectacular. Besides being left to dry on the two goals scored against him, Olie played one of his best games of the season. Too bad the rest of his teammates seemed to be in slow motion. Alex Ovechkin's point streak comes to an end at 7 games. Nick Backstrom, who earlier was named rookie of the month, had more shots on net then Ovie but was held pointless after going three straight games with a point. Jeff Schultz also played one of the worst games I have seen him play, he knocked over Kolzig for the second goal, and the Boston forwards seemed to have their way with him. Schultz didn't impress me too much in this game.

Let's hope the effort in Montreal is a shade better than that of this game against Boston. The Caps must continue to scrap for points. They are now four points behind Florida who is ahead of them in the Southeast. That is two games they have to make up and they have to do by beating teams like Boston and Montreal. Teams that are not the elite squads, but are solid performers in the Eastern Conference. With the Southeast easy for the picking, the Caps have to earn points every night they play. 41 down, 41 to go. Get 'er done.

Brian Potheir left the game injured and did not return for the third period. He is listed day-to-day. Add him to the list of key injured players Chris Clark, Alex Semin, Tom Poti and Brent Johnson. As much as Steve Eminger was hot to play, he hasn't seen a game since Nov. 26th.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

No Anthem

I didn't notice it at first, but thanks to some awfully observant folks (my wife included), the U.S. National Anthem was not sung at the Winter Classic. I know, I just saw the replay on Universal HD.

Instead of the 3 and a half minute anthem, the League instead decided for the one minute 30 second "God Bless America" sung by an Irish Tenor (if you can figure that one out, you deserve a medal). But looking back, the Irish Tenor spent a good minute to two minutes saluting the troops. With out the banter, the League could have fit the Star Spangled Banner in after all.

I also found it weird that the League normally doesn't do the Canadian Anthem when two American teams are playing, which last time I checked Buffalo and Pittsburgh were both still below the Northern border. I thought it was classy that the League did do the Canadian National Anthem. But, then to stiff the U.S.?

Hmmmm....

A Great Day of Hockey

I came from a football family. New Year's Day was always about the bowl games around my house growing up as a kid. But this past holiday was a day of hockey bliss. Sure we still forced ourselves to get up and watch the Rose Bowl Parade from Pasadena, but then it was all NHL for 2008.

We staggered out of bed around 10 in the morning to catch some of the flower laden floats from California slowly creep across the screen. Besides those who wanted to turn it into a large protest, it has always been good tradition on New Year's Day. Then it was make some quick breakfast and flip the channel to NBC to catch the Winter Classic.

Even my wife, who normally rolls her eyes if I turn on any hockey game besides the Capitals, bought in to the novelty of the outdoor game. What the NHL did at the WC was impressive. Besides the game being a bore in the second and third periods, the NHL put on a good product and I lost myself in the excitment of the moment. 70,000+ fans cheering and then these guys:
Please don't tell me this is going to be the new standard of dress seen at hockey games.

The scene was unbelievable to watch, the falling snow, the skill of the NHL players, the condition of the ice all added to the drama and fun of watching this game between Buffalo and Pittsburgh. No idea what the ratings were for the outdoor match against college football, but the event was a success by the teams' fans, those who participated and by hockey fans in general.

The Winter Classic dragged on almost as long as some of the rival football games that played in the same slot. And then it was time to flip the channel once again when 4 o'clock turned around. The Caps were playing their second game in a home and home with the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Sens came out strong, but the Capitals endured and swept the home at home.

By the start of the second period I had lost my wife to the bedroom where she elected to watch the "Modelthon" on VH1. The Caps sealed the deal against Ottawa and we had to make a quick trip to Target and returned just in time to catch the second period of the Leafs/Lightning game on the NHL Network. It was a day that saw football take a back seat to hockey, at least in my household.

I didn't watch a single bowl game, didn't even turn the channel to ESPN for any highlights. I supported my sport of hockey on a day normally reserved for football. My dad was disgusted with me when he found out that I had watched hockey all day and my wife vowed we were going to do something else next New Year's Day. But for one day, it was a great day of hockey.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bad Start, Better Finish

Capitals 6, Senators 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post

There was a lot of talk on the side of the Ottawa Senators who knew they couldn't be shown up again by a weaker Washington Capitals team. After the Caps handed the Senators a loss at Scotiabank Place, the Caps looked as if they had awoken the sleeping giant at the phone booth. The Senators shot out with a 2 goal lead in the first 5 minutes of the first period, but the Caps struck back with 5 unanswered goals for an eventual 6 - 3 win and won their season series against the Ottawa Senators, the best team in the Eastern Conference. In the end, the Senators were just only talk.

The Senators have been the elite team of the east easily running over other teams in both conferences. But the Washington Capitals seemed the only team to figure the Sens out, beating them in three straight contests. Since the Caps play the Senators 4 times this season, they solidified a season series win against Ottawa. A team that has an outstanding road record as well as a good overall record.

What makes this win somewhat more of an accomplishment over the wild 14 goal game from a few days ago is that Alex Ovechkin did not score a goal in this contest. Viktor Kozlov, Brooks Laich, Micheal Nylander and Boyd Gordon all scored for the Caps. Mike Green scored twice and the Caps finally get a tally on a 5 on 3 power play. Ovie finished with two assists to keep his points streak alive.

It looked early as if the Senators were going to lay the hammer on the Capitals in their building, exacting revenge on the Caps from the previous two games. But the Caps responded after being two down. Nick Backstrom threw a blind pass to Kozlov who scored his first goal at home. Then Nylander slammed home a rebound and Green placed a pretty wrist shot up over Martin Gerber and the Caps never looked back.

The Caps were effectively able to shut down Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. All three top line Senators finished with a -2. Shaone Morrisonn and Mike Green both finished with a +3 for the Capitals. Morrisonn played one of his best defensive games I have seen thus far in the season. The pair were effective against the Senator's best even with Tom Poti injured and pulled from the lineup leaving the Caps' defensive core short manned. The Caps also lost Alex Semin early to injury.

Olaf Kolzig looked a little shaky after the first period blitz by the Senators, but the settled in and actually played phenominal at times to keep the Senators frustrated. Kolzig's confidence is starting to grow a bit, but he still is good for a soft goal or two. The Senator's will was hard to deny for the first to goals, but Kolzig settled into a grove and made some pretty big saves.

The Capitals' special teams did their job as well. The Senators had no shots on their power play, while the Capitals were able to capitalize on their 5 on 3 chance. The Senators never took another penalty after that tally. The Caps did their best to stay out of the sin bin as well, not taking a penalty in the third period. They also capitalized the open ice on the 4 on 4, getting the tying and lead goals with each team down a player.

The Boston Bruins are on the schedule next, the game on Thursday night. The Capitals have started the New Year off on the right foot, but now have to continue to play well to accumulate points through this stretch. Thanks to a weak division showing in the Southeast, the Caps are still in this. But they have to avoid complacency. A big part of Bruce Boudreau's mantra over the last couple of days, keeping the Capitals focused on the job at hand.