Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Three Too Many Games

The Washington Capitals still have three more games to round out the preseason. And the Capitals are very close to 23 man roster now that they have cut Keith Aucoin (sent to Hershey) and Jakub Cutta (released by the team). It makes me wonder, why not sacrifice the last three games to the regular season and have the ability for the Capitals play every team for both a home and an away game.

I understand the importance of the preseason. But if the Capitals, like most other teams, are almost NHL ready with just 4 games into the exhibition season, what's the point of doing 7 or 8 games? I would rather have less preseason and more season, and I think several fans would agree.

When Gary Betteman is ever questioned about it, he references how tired the players would be with a longer schedule. Yet we can ship them overseas for the start of a season without the worry of jet lag (just ask the Anaheim Ducks and LA Kings who both had slow starts after coming back from London's game last year).

In any sport (except maybe spring season for baseball), fans just want the season to start. The possibility of players getting hurt in games that don't mean anything is pretty substantial. And with the competative nature of players in general, it's not like they are playing at half speed or "just going through the motions." But every year we have to drudge through 7 or 8 games of preseason until we get to that season opener. And then make excuses for why we can't play every team at least once during the season both home and away.

Coming up for the Capitals is a home and home with the Philadelphia Flyers, then a final home game against Boston. With both teams close to their set rosters, there should be some bad feelings about one another for this preseason tilt. For a few players like Chris Bourque and Quintin Laing, something spectacular has to happen for them to crack the line up. One thing is for sure, it's getting harder and harder for the coaching staff to set their roster for the '08 -'09 season.

Boudreau In Search Of "Cup" Holders

Head coach Bruce Boudreau found himself in a Mercedes commercial asking about "Cup" holders. It's the same Mercedes sales center that did the Eddie Jordon commercials with the t-shirt cannon. I have to admit, those movie skills from Slapshot are paying off.


The video isn't great and the first part was cut off, but you get the gist.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Caps Keep Rolling; Kozlov Hurt

Capitals 3, Devils 2
Preseason - Scoresheet

There has been a lot of talk of the Capitals picking up where they left off. Since it's still the preseason, I don't put a lot into that statement. But, I guess something should be said for the fact that the Capitals are a perfect 4 and 0 on the preseason. Apparently Corey Masisak's 90-0 season dream is still intact.

Alex Ovechkin has yet to score 5 on 5 in the preseason. He netted a goal on the penalty kill which eventually turned out to be the game winner against the Devils. His previous goals this preseason were on a penalty shot and on the power play. He must be hitting for the preseason cycle. Add goals by Mike Green and Boyd Gordon and two assists from Micheal Nylander (who also got the game's first star) and the Caps come away with a 3 to 2 victory up in New Jersey.

The Caps did have a 3 - 0 lead at the start of the third period. Brent Johnson played the first two periods and played very solid. He really is looking like he wants that starting position. Jose Theodore couldn't keep the shut out going, but the Devils did push up the intensity in the third. During the Devils' late rally, they were trying to get goaltender Kevin Weekes off the ice for an extra attacker with a minute left in the third. The Caps did a good job of forechecking keeping Weekes from getting to the bench. When the Devils finally did get an extra man on the ice, it was far too late for it to be effective.

Interesting to note that Bruce Boudreau has been really experimenting with his line combos, especially on the special teams. He put Chris Bourque, Green and Ovi on the PK a couple of times which eventually lead to the game winning goal on shorty by Ovechkin. The Caps were able to kill off all of their penalties for a second straight game (including a long 5 on 3 in the first period). The power play was sufficient as the Caps were 1 of 6.

Viktor Kozlov suffered a "groin strain" and was taken out of the game as a precautionary measure. It's not believed to be serious. Gordon stepped up on to Kozlov's line and rewarded the decision with a goal off of a nifty Nylander pass. With Chris Clark out of the lineup Ovi wore the captain's C, John Erskine was the only player on either team with a -2 rating. The Devils had less veterans than the Caps in this game.

Donald Brashear got some work in. Getting into the game's only scrap, he took on Pierre-Luc Latourneau-Leblond (pick a name, geez). Not sure why an AHLer would want to take on Brash, but hey, maybe just to get on the scoresheet.

The Caps improve to 4 and 0. I want the preseason to end, but it's not going to. Next up is a date with the Flyers on Wednesday night. Caps will most likely get some practice in and maybe a few more cuts here and there.

On a side note, what are the boys up in Toronto smoking?:

Uh, no they are actually undefeated, and they have only played 4 preseason games. Stellar reporting.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Perreault And Carlson Sent Down

John Carlson was sent back to his junior squad and Mathieu Perreault was sent to Hershey. The forwards list is starting to get tighter, but the defensemen roster is still pretty beefy, which could be a sign of they are not sure which direction they might be headed in defensive pairs.

Chris Bourque continues to make the decision to send him down more difficult after netting two points against Boston which included the game winner. While he has been my dark horse for making the team some 3 years running now, it's not likely he will take any contract players position as the lineups in preseason turn more veteran.

Simeon Varlamov is apparently injured, first I read about it. He tweaked his groin in the second Carolina game. Bruce Boudreau is taking it easy on him, but I am surprised they haven't sent him down. It could be the fact that he could get better treatment here. Maybe.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Caps Win A Tough One

Capitals 4, Bruins 3
Preseason - Scoresheet

Chris Bourque continues to shine in the preseason games, making another strong argument to be this year's dark horse to make the big squad. Bourque scored the game winner with under 3 minutes left in the third on the power play and added an assist as the Capitals remain undefeated in preseason play.

I didn't get to see or hear the game unfortunatly, most of my analysis will have to be off the scoresheets and the play-by-play. Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Nick Backstrom, Micheal Nylander and Mike Green all sat this one out. Boston's tough guy Milan Lucic and the Caps' enforcer Donald Brashear were both in the line up, but apparently behaved as there was no fighting penalties assessed.

Chris Clark, Tomas Fleischmann and Boyd Gordon where your other scorers. Keith Acoin had two assists and prospect John Carlson added another assist to his first stint in the preseason. Bourque has past Ovechkin and Nylander in points for the preseason with 4.

The Caps got the early goal on a Clark power play tally, but the B's answered back with a couple of goals to take the lead halfway through the first. Gordon's goal evened things out before the first intermission. The Caps took the lead back scoring the only goal in the second frame, but the Bruins answered right back at the start of the third. Bourque banged home the game winner on a Marco Strum penalty with assists from Sergei Fedorov and Brooks Laich.

The Caps penalty kill took center stage this afternoon as they were able to kill off all 6 penalties including two 5 on 3's. The power play was pretty potent as well working toward an efficient 2 for 3 which included Bourque's game winner with 2:15 left in the game. Jakub Cutta, Jeff Schultz and Fedorov were the only players on either team to have a -2 rating on the night.

Jose Theodore played the first 2 periods and turned away 13 shots allowing two goals. Brent Johnson got his first look at the preseason and saved 15 only allowing a single tally.

Caps are back at Kettler on Sunday then it's the Devils for a Monday night matchup at the rock.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Add A Few More

Andrew Gordon, Andrew Joudrey and Daren Machesney have all been sent down to Hershey. For those of you keeping score, that leaves 3 goaltenders, 18 forwards, and 13 defensemen.

It looks like the forward lines will be more in focus for the remaining preseason games, probably a little tweaking as they go. There are still a lot of blueliners that are hanging around. The goaltending ranks seem the only thing that seems pretty much set at this point with Jose Theodore as the number one, Brent Johnson the back up and Simeon Varlamov third in line.

As far as more cuts go, I imagine we would see a person sent down from here or there but this should do it for massive cuts.

It's Not You, It's Me (Updated)

The Capitals make more cuts as Hershey starts their training camp today. The latest include: Greg Amadio, Dean Arsene, Jay Beagle, Francois Bouchard, Sean Collins, Viktor Dovgan, Michael Dubuc, Alexandre Giroux, Bryan Helmer, Maxime Lacroix, Tommy Maxwell, Patrick McNeill, Graham Mink, Travis Morin, Michal Neuvirth, Oskar Osala, Steve Pinizzotto, Sasha Pokulok, Darren Reid and Kyle Wilson.

Some surprises and thoughts:

Osala gets sent down after what I thought had a good development camp/rookie camp. It seems though he is getting lost amongst the veterans. I really thought he would last much longer.

Mathieu Perrault stays but Bouchard is sent down.

The forward's list gets tighter going down to 20 players, but there are still 14 defensemen at camp. The competition must be getting pretty stiff for a job on D.

The goaltender list goes down to fourth and surprisingly, it's Neuvirth that was the low goaltender on the todem pole. Daren Machesney, Simeon Varlamov, Brent Johnson and Jose Theodore remain.

UPDATE: Per Caps PR Dept., Josh Godfrey was also sent down to Hershey. Now the defensemen are down to 13 players. 6 more to cut before October seventh.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Caps Curtail 'Canes, Again

Capitals 5, Hurricanes 2
Preseason - Scoresheet

Alex Ovechkin picked up where left off, scoring a lot. Ovie picked up two goals, one on a penalty shot, and also tallied an assist. Micheal Nylander also netted two goals including a beautiful back hander up and over the Hurricanes goaltender's shoulder.

The Caps started off a bit shaky, but were able to settle it down and push their attack. They were down 2 - zip going into the second period. But once again, the powerplay came through in a pinch and the Caps rallied with 5 unanswered goals. The Caps were 3 for 9 with the man advantage (the penalty shot counts as a power play goal apparently) but they faltered on a 1:04 of a two man advantage. Scoring 5 on 3 was a major headache for the Capitals last season. It's an area they have to improve upon.

The affair at the Verizon Center in front of a little over 13,000 was a feisty one and got chippy towards the end. In fact both clubs had 15 penalties for 36 minutes each. The only fighting that took place were between some AHLers, although a few others were thrown in the box for some roughing minors. Josh Godfrey and Patrick McNeill both dropped their gloves for the Caps in the second period.

The Nylander, Chris Clark and Chris Bourque line was a pretty potent line. They were great grinders and they all combined for a plus 2 rating and each regestered 2 points on the night. Clark had two assists, and Bourque had a goal and assist. Ovechkin was the only player with 3 points on the night.

Speaking of Bourque, he had a pretty dynamite game, not only did he have a goal and an assist, but he also got the game's first star. He was involved in 4 goals tonight. Not too shabby. Ovechkin got the second, Nylander the third. Although Alex Semin didn't get on the score sheet, he still has it. Semin made some pretty dazzling moves and plays throughout the game.

Micheal Neuvirth got in two periods of play and turned away 24 shots. Daren Machesney cleaned up in the third and only had to turn away 3 shots. Although the Hurricanes just outshot the Capitals 30 - 29.

Caps are back at practice tomorrow and a new wave of cuts are expected tonight as Hershey's camp starts tomorrow as well. As soon as I get word of the cuts, I will pass them along.

Both Tarik and Corey have good recaps.

Caps Photoshoot: Clark Wears Makeup

ESPN the Magazine posted a video of the shoot with Alex Ovechkin as President, Bruce Boudreau as VP, Jose Theodore as Press Secretary and Nick Backstrom, Brooks Laich and Chris Clark as Secret Service.

No Time To Admire (Updated)

On the heels of the Caps win in Carolina, they turn around and have to play the Hurricanes again to finish the home and home preseason start tonight at the Verizon Center. According to Japer's Rink, it has been 156 days since hockey has been played at the phone booth. I can't count that high. Tonight, we will get a chance to see some Russians in the line up and others that skipped the trip south. More cuts may happen today as Bruce Boudreau shrinks his roster for camp.

The collection of AHL and a handful of NHLers pulled together for a 4-1 win. the Caps' power play was an impressive 2 for 3. It's been my pet peeve for the team from last year, the power play was not potent enough.

Now the Hurricanes look for some retribution. The Caps have a morning skate and I am sure they will release the roster for tonight sometime this morning. Even though it is just preseason it would be nice to see the Caps to keep the momentum going.

UPDATE: Braden Holtby, part of the Geatan Duschene Cup winning squad, was sent back down to juniors.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Caps Curtail 'Canes

Capitals 4, Hurricanes 1
Preseason - Scoresheet

Tomas Fleischmann is making a bid to stay with the big club for good this season. He made a pretty good argument tonight as the Capitals roll the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. Fleischmann scored twice, both on the powerplay, which continues to be an area that the Capitals need to improve, but looked good tonight. Viktor Kozlov added two assists to the effort and the Caps open looking pretty solid.

While Karl Alzner was pretty sound, it seems he has some pretty stiff competition. Not from veterans, but from John Carlson. Carlson had an assist on the first power play goal and looked pretty solid through out. Although I would like to see him fill out more, he held his own.

Matt Bradley and Matheiu Perreault were the other scorers, both at even strength. Perreault had a lucky rebound come his way. Oskar Osala, Milan Jurcina, Micheal Nylander, Quintin Laing and Alex Giroux all added assists. Eric Fehr took two penalties (both stick fouls) but still came out a +1.

The Hurricanes lone goal was on Darren Machesney on a 5 on 3 penalty kill. It was the only power play tally the Caps allowed, obviously. The 'Canes were only 1 for 6 with the man advantage, compared to the Capitals who were 2 for 3 on the power play.

The Caps have not let up on their high pressure forecheck. And goaltenders Simeon Varlamov and Machesney looked pretty solid in net for the Caps preseason opener. On the other end, Cam Ward gave up two goals and Justin Peters gave up two as well for Carolina. Varlamov only played the first period of play.

The 'Canes play looked very flat, almost dull at times. In fact head coach Peter Laviolette alluded to the stagnet play, “I thought the tempo was great for the first four to five days (of camp) but we seemed to hit a wall tonight.”

Since captain Chris Clark did not play tonight, Bruce Boudreau made Bradley captain for the night. Per Tarik: "I was pretty excited that Bruce made me captain and it's something I enjoyed," Bradley said before joking, "My record speaks for itself. I'm 1-0. I just went out there and did what I do: get the game winner."

Also check out the very positive Corey at the Wash Times. Now that is optimism.

Preseason Starts For Caps

The Washington Capitals take the next step to getting the season underway. In their first look for the '08 - '09 season starts tonight in preseason action against the Carolina Hurricanes. It's the first game in a home and home that will see the 'Canes play the Caps at the Verizon Center tomorrow night. Probable line ups for the Caps are as follows:

Fleischmann-Nylander-Kozlov
Giroux-Perreault-Fehr
Laing-Steckel-Bradley
Osala-Beagle-A. Gordon

Cutta-Jurcina
Alzner-Schultz
Lepisto-Carlson

Machesney-Varlamov

The Hurricanes will have a live video stream according to their website. You can also listen to the action on 1500 AM WFED in the DC area. And I believe you can listen on XM Satellite Radio, check in with XM Home Ice 204 for more info.

A New Domain

I was sitting at my computer typing away when my wife looks at me and asks what my domain name is. I told her, http://pheadsthoughts.blogspot.com. Easy right? Apparently not so. $10 bucks later we became www.puckheadsthoughts.com. Better ring to it.

I am planning to redo much of the site now that I officially have a domain name. I even have email, this is pretty cool. So make a mental note, or write it down if you don't happen to be very mental at all. As far as other sites that just randomly pick up my feed, I will figure that out later. I am to busy making cool stuff for my new domain name.

So, to recap:

http://pheadsthoughts.blogspot.com
is now
www.puckheadsthoughts.com

Tell your friends, neighbors, relatives and complete strangers!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Being A Good Listener

All seven preseason games will be broadcasted on 1500 AM WFED. No word on if any pregames will be televised, but I am sure some of the later games will be on Comcast.

The final four preseason games will be broadcasted on both 1500 AM and 820 AM.

For the rest of you here are the winners of the Geatan Duschene Cup. Congrats.

I am sure these guys have bragging rights for the rest of the year, and hopefully the next cup some of these guys win is bigger.

First Round Of Cuts

Looks like a few are being cut from training camp. Joel Broda, Stefan Della Rovere, Dmitry Kugryshev, Brett Leffler, Eric Mestery and Justin Taylor were all sent back to their junior teams for more seasoning.

Kugryshev and Della Rovere had a good rookie camp, but proved that playing with the big boys is a little more than they could handle. Not that they were horrible, more that they sort of got lost in the shuffle.

In other news, Group B won the very first Geaten Duschene Cup by shootout. Sergei Fedorov lifted the Cup and then shared it with his teammates. They even took pictures in front of it. Pretty fun to watch those guys get a kick out of it.

Tarik has released the roster for the preseason game in Carolina. Some of the big names are not on the roster like Backstrom, Green, Ovechkin, Semin or Clark. Which is to be expected. While a win isn't that important, the Caps still want to do well and the players I will be watching closely will be John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Oskar Osala, and Mathieu Perreault.

And I heard that Alex Ovechkin's nickname has changed from Ovie, to Ovi. At least to the boys (and girl) at OFB. I guess Ovie was too close to Olie. Makes sense.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Spending Some Quality Time With The Boys

I got a brief chance to check out the goings on at training camp this morning. I got there just as the morning practice for the B squad finished, and stuck around for most but not all of the scrimmage between groups A and C.

Just some observations.

Nick Backstrom, to me, looks fine. Except for the fact that he has tacked on a few pounds since last year. In the skating drills, it just looked to me that it wasn't the ankle that was holding him back, rather he seemed to be a little winded.

Boyd Gordon is one focused dude. This is an important camp for him because the roster is tight and there are several youngsters gunning for his spot. While guys might be joking around him, Gordon has a very serious look on his face through out practice.

Joe Beninati stood next to me at the glass for a few minutes as we watched the warm ups for the scrimmage. I told him what a difference it was going from rookie camp to training camp. Throw a few veterans and everyone is that much bigger. He agreed and added how much faster the action was. Then we sort of stood there in awkward silence. Man, he's short.

The scrimmage was fun to watch, looks like Micheal Nylander's shoulder is just fine. He is interesting to watch with the puck in and out of traffic. He is a master with his stick. Alex Ovechkin looked like he was going half speed, until the defender was Mike Green. Then it was all out for the fiesty left winger. Green had his hands full, but I must say held his own.

Speaking of Green, he is beaming with confidence. He looks a little heavier than last season, and he completes the 4-1 offense often. He carried the puck deep in the zone and stayed apart of the play for long periods of time in the scrimmage. While it's fun to watch Green do his offensive thing, sometimes he would leave his defensive partner high and dry. Only Shaone Morrisonn and Karl Alzner were able to cover defensively when ever Green shot up ice on his own.

Don't tell Quintin Laing that it's only a scrimmage. He jumped in front of an Ovie bomb from the point on the penalty kill, continuing to show he has the puck blocking skills that endeared him to the team last season. And it's so good to see Chris Clark back in action. He looks like he wants to do well every time he is on the ice, and he is doing well. His gritty determination and leadership was sorely missed last year on the ice.

It's hard to believe, but tomorrow is the last practice before preseason starts in Carolina. It will be the rookies chance to shine and I expect that most of the veterans will sit this one out. Caps play the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 pm, Wednesday. Not sure if it will be televised, maybe on the internet. Find out more soon.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Giddy As A School Girl"

I ran into my big money season ticket holder friend at the rookie game. Dressed in his Caps' Ovechkin sweater, his friend in a rock the red t-shirt, I had a chance to check in with him to see how his summer had gone. For him, this prospects game was something he had spent a month waiting to see.

"It's been a rough summer," he told me between periods as we warmed up in the sunshine to escape from Kettler's cold. "I am sick of watching the Nats implode and Redskins fans who want to crucify the QB then turn around and love him to death the next week." Yea, I can't deal with the weekly drama of being a 'Skins fan either.

So we were happy to talk hockey, even if it was just about the rookie game. I asked him if he was going to be out at training camp this weekend and his eyes lit up. "I am giddy as a school girl," he said, "to see those boys back in town and see what they can do. There was a buzz about this team last year that I have never seen before. I can't wait for this season to get under way."

Not only are the fans excited, but the fact that many of the players (both North American and European) showed up a full week early for camp shows their enthusiasim for the new season. The Caps have even embodied what they are all about this year in the workout shirts given to the players for camp. On the front it says "Our future is now." On the back "Good is not good enough." It is a return on how important it is for the Capitals to start early and remain focused all season long.

At the rookie game, the fans were loud and into the game. It was a pretty intimatading place to play if you were just some prospects from Philly. It was quite a site to see just a small concentrate of fans to come out and totally support this team. They jumped to cheer for every goal, a few "Flyers suck" chants were thrown in. And just about every one were "giddy as schoolgirls" to see the season start.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pack Your Swimsuit And Your Tent, It's Time To Go Camping!

Today is the first step every team must take to win a Stanley Cup. In some respects today is the most important day of the entire season. It will decide what kind of team the Capitals will be this season. This is training camp.

If you have never gone to a NHL camp before, it's different for every team but the same. Coaches will run players through a complex set of drills mostly to weed out the out of shape and to analyzed the most improved. Usually first day of camp is just about confusing for the fans who want to see their favorite players in their practice garb running down orange cones on the ice than it is for the rookies who are fresh from rookie camp.

Just know that through that craziness, that veteran players will always look like they know what they are doing (even though they might not), and rookies will always look like deer in the headlights. Many of the players that attended rookie camp will stay and train with the team until they get shipped to Hershey for the start of their camp, or if they make it all the way through (unlikely for most). Karl Alzner and Oskar Osala are the two to watch through out camp and are probably the favorites to make the team. Don't count out Francois Bouchard and Mathieu Perreault who both had strong rookie camps.

If you are wondering what to watch for, rather than snapping a picture of your favorite player, is how players respond to coaches commands. Usually it's the first sign if a player is doing well is if he is focused and honed in on what the coaches want. It's not always if you can do the drill perfectly, although Bruce Boudreau does harp on the guys level of perfection at the NHL level, but if the player can understand what the drill is teaching them and how well they take direction. Believe it or not, but some of the veterans will be scratching their heads with some of the drills the coaches will come up with.

Loosely based on the my earlier poll on this site, most Caps fans are interested in seeing Jose Theodore in this year's camp. With Olaf Kolzig gone and Cristobal Huet of to greener pastures, Theodore has some big pads to fill and a lot of fans have their doubts. As they should. In a way, the Caps are like the Green Bay Packers, their are with out their Kolzig (Brett Farve) that they have enjoyed for years for now some one new (but not entirely new because Jose's been around the block a time or two).

It will also be interesting to see who Alex Ovechkin lines up with though camp. Nick Backstrom? Micheal Nylander? And there will be a battle for the third and fourth line forwards, I guarentee.

So enjoy the festivities, and get a chance to see your heroes up close. Hockey is back in Washington. Finally!

Rookie Game: Flyers RIP

In an almost packed house (there were a few open seats) at Kettler, the Capitals' prospects routed the Philadelphia Flyers' prospects 7 to nothing. If the game sounded one sided by the score, it was. The Caps kept the Flyers to their own end for a majority of the game. Since this is a late post, thanks in part due to a cold, I am going to leave the story line to others like the Post, Times and OFB boys.

Here is what stood out for me in this game.

If I had the size Oskar Osala had, I would have used it much like he did today at Kettler against the Flyers. While there were bigger defensemen on the Philly side, he purely out worked them and out manuvered them time and time again. While the Flyers were using their size to plain out just hit everything in site, Osala reserved his hitting for the right moment. He got his defender off kilter and then used his speed and strength to open holes.

Mathieu Perreault is magic with the puck. He picked up a couple of assists (mostly on the power play) but his vision made him a great set up guy. He was lined up with Francois Bouchard and Steve Pinizzotto and the three were hard to stop all afternoon long. That line gave the Flyers the fits, and also accounted for drawing the most penalties from their opponents just by using their speed and quickness. Pinizzotto often found himself being the enforcer for most of the game as the Flyers got more and more chippy.

While the Caps didn't have the size, they sure had the heart. Stefan Della Rovere, who stands at 5'11" on a good day, may have been the smallest Capital out there besides Perreault. But he was the fiestiest. You could tell each time he took the ice he did his best to be a pest and make the Flyers look twice before fighting for a puck in the corner with him. In fact all the Caps seemed to have no problems fighting pucks off the boards and winning the little battles for possession. Jay Beagle (who missed on a penalty shot) even killed at least a minute of a Flyer power play by his board work.

On defense, Karl Alzner is a smooth defender. Nothing rattled this guy. Even when an errant pass was picked off, he was right there in position to deal with it. John Carlson is a stand up guy too. More than once did he come to the rescue of his goaltender. In fact when any Flyer crashed the net and so much touched the goaltenders, the Caps defense sent a message. They did a nice job standing up for one another as well.

Goaltenders, Simeon Varlamov didn't see much action in the first half of the first period, maybe a shot or two. But by the end of the period the Flyers mounted their best attack. It turned out to be the only sustained pressure the Flyers were able to put on all game. Varlamov made two outstanding saves late in the first to complete a third of the shut out. Micheal Nuevirth and Braden Holtby also had to be sharp to complete the shut out.

All and all, the Caps prospects look pretty good. George McPhee has got some talent in the pipeline for years to come. Although, personally I am not sure if he will be able to hold on to all of them as they make their way up the ranks. But for now be content in knowing the Caps' talent runs deep.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Crowd Pours In At Kettler

Doors opened a little early and already there is quite a crowd. Looking at the stands, I say it's about half full. So far I have seen one Flyers jersey. I guess they do know how to use the internet.

I can't update during the game. It will drain my cell phone. But if something amazing happens, I might.

UPDATE: Okay maybe a quarter full now that I am on the other side of the rink.

UPDATE: As of 2:20 pm the stands now look half full. Exciting I know.

UPDATE: Caps and Flyers are warming up. Both are dressed in game uniforms, Caps their home red, Flyers in their away whites. Nuevirth is not dressed. Slapshot is here per usual. He has already alienated what looks to be the only Flyer fan here.

UPDATE: End of the first. Caps 2, Flyers 0. Bouchard and Morin are the goalscorers, both on the power play. Varlamov made an incredable glove save right at the end. Storyline so far is the Caps speed and talent vs. the Flyers size and physicality. The hitting is pretty intense and is leading to a plethora of penalities. Start of the second, Holtby is in net.

Update: End of second, Caps 4, Flyers 0. The power play continues to payoff. Morin scores his second power play goal, Pinizzotto scored as well on the PP. As a result, the Flyers are getting chippy. We had our first fight, Dovgan took on Flyer Josh Beaulieu. It was a good bout, the crowd loved it. The crowd is pretty into the game. A few "Flyers Suck" chants, and standing and cheering at every Caps score. Start of Third, Nuevirth is in net.

Update: Caps win 7 - 0. Bouchard scores on a beauty deke. Lacroix scored at even strength. I will do a complete wrap when I get to a Computer and take some meds.

Ready For The Flyers

It just maybe a scrimmage. There is nothing at stake. Teams won't get points, or find out who will decide their division status or conference superiority. The game won't be held at the Verizon Center or the Wachovia Center. It is just one team's prospects versus another team's prospects. But if you think there will be no emotion behind this game, you would be mistaken.

Both teams' players have seen the heated playoff series between the Caps and Flyers last season. And as far as the prospects are concerned, this might as well be an extension of the playoff bad blood since the summer. And while there will be no Daniel Briere or Alex Ovechkin, there will be some passion in this game.

Sure players will want to make an impression on coaches and managers on a individual basis, but I would imagine that winning will be much more important for both teams and that means a lot of "team first" play. While fighting is rare, I wouldn't be surprised to see the mits drop once or twice during this game.

What to watch for:

This will be Simeon Varlamov's first real look at NHL style of play. The smaller rink and faster pace should humble the goaltender, but I expect him to shine. He needs to make a good impression early to solidify a number 3 position on the roster and his future as a Capital.

I will be watching for Oskar Osala's big frame and how he uses it against the Flyers rookies. If he can make space for himself, he will be an invaluable aspect in this game for the Caps. Also it will be interesting to see Stefan Della Rovere, the 18 year old, play in this caliber game.

I am not sure if Anton Gustafsson will be on the ice, but it would be nice to see him just once with other prospect players before he reaches the Training Camp stage. Although, his injury may keep him from the line up.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Finally Getting A Look

While I am still under the weather, I took in the morning skate at Kettler. Seeing the Rookie practice in a cold rink isn't the best for a cold, but some how I soldiered on.

The practice centered around a lot of passing and break out work. Obviously, the coaches are trying to emphasize puck possession for their last practice before the Flyers rookie game. The drills consisted mostly of quick on the fly passes, breakouts and drop passes. Overall the practice was pretty light considering. The players may have been saving most of their energy for the scrimmage that followed.

The scrimmage was more of a pick up game with referees. Most of the guys looked tired after getting in a practice first. The action in the scrimmage was more about finding that chemistry with line mates and working on the system the coaches wanted them to play in. The scrimmage consisted of two periods, fifteen minutes each. It ended in a one-one tie and went to a shoot out. I didn't get a chance to see the winning goal, but white team won. Then Bruce Boudreau gave a quick pep speech on the bench before concluding the work out.

Just some things that jumped out at me. Karl Alzner is never afraid to slow down the action, more than once he would take that extra second behind the net or on the break to get the pass right. Oskar Osala is using his size much more than at development camp last July, I thought. It might have be just the fact that he was giving a 100% in practice but in the scrimmage Osala seemed a bit behind or lazy.

John Carlson has a wicked shot but it has to be a quicker release. His goal for the blue team was off a fast release at the top of the slot, but his all of his other shots from the point were predictable and easily rebounded to the side by goaltenders. Speaking of the goaltenders, they looked pretty sharp, especailly Braden Holtby. I thought he looked much more comfortable in the crease then he had in July. While Simeon Varlamov looks much more refined, I thought both Micheal Nuevirth and Hotlby held their own.

It was a disappointment not to get a look at Anton Gustafsson. He missed the development camp in July and may have reaggrevated his injury at rookie camp. I don't think it's likely to see him on the ice again for the rest of camp, although the Caps insist he will stay through rest of training camp and will be on the ice again.

Tomorrow the veterans have an optional skate in the morning, then it is the Caps/Flyers rookie game. It will be interesting to see what the lines will end up being and how the kids fair. Then Friday is the big day. First day of training camp. Although many players have been in town and working out for a couple of weeks, it will be the first time the coaches will be able to get their mits on them.

See you at the rookie game!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Slow Start For Me

Okay, I have been procrastinating going to Kettler to watch the rookie camp. But this week looks to be a very busy week for me. So I encourage you to check out guys like On Frozen Blog and Peerless. And I will try to get out to some practices in the near future.

And if you wanted to know about other teams development camps, the NHL network has been broadcasting (through TSN I think) the rookie tournaments in Traverse City. Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild (there might be more, that is all I saw) have been playing games pitting their rookies up with each other. While it's only rookie and development players and the lighting at the rink is pretty bad, it's still pretty interesting to watch.

Only other news that has hit me was Alex Ovechkin checking out the Washington Mystics. Apparently he got a pretty good response when his face was flashed on the scoreboard.

Also I got a chance to check out the new Nationals stadium Monday night. It was my first time there and let me say, it certianly shows that they put a pretty penny into it. I love how the staduim is not overbearing, much like FedEx Field is. It's a very nice, intimate stadium. Well done.

Friday, September 12, 2008

So It Begins

The weekend of all weekends. Rookies report to camp tomorrow and their first practice is bright and early at 10:30 am Sunday. Hockey is back in DC. There are some obvious players to look out for in this rookie camp like Karl Alzner (favorite to make the team) and Oskar Osala.

But someone who was not on the roster in July for the development camp but will be here this weekend would be Anton Gustafsson. We didn't get a chance to see the offspring of former Cap Begnt Gustafsson for injury reasons. While it will be a stretch to see Gustafsson on the team or going to Hershey, it will be a very important camp for him to make an impression on management.

It also exactly a week away from the big boys taking the ice for the official start to (big voice here) Training Camp 2008. A start to a promising season, if the fireworks carry over summer. It's a season of high expectations and camp is the first start to be playoff bound for a second season in a row.

It seems that most of my readers (based on the small poll on the right) are looking forward to see how Jose Theodore will fare. The goaltending situation seems pretty straight forward, Theodore the starter Brent Johnson the back up. But don't say that to Johnny. He is looking at this as a competition for the number one spot. Which can be a good thing.

A full roster of the rookies should be out later today.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

50 Goals In 50 Games?

After watching too much of the NHL network, (partly because I have been sick the last few days, and partly because I have the TV to myself) a spot that keeps playing is Wayne Gretzky's amazing 50 goals in 39 games. But it made me think, could 50 goals in 50 games be duplicated again? And who has the best chance to do that?

50 goals in 50 games is a mark that was only achieved by five players, eight times in the NHL. Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull and Gretzky. In modern day NHL that milestone seems to have taken a back seat in recent years.

In today's players, Alex Ovechkin and Sid "the Kid" Crosby are the two names that come to mind that may be able to break that record again. Maybe Vincent Lecavalier, Jerome Iginla or Ilya Kovalchuck could hit that mark if the conditions are right.

It is a harder aspiration to make in today's NHL. The goaltenders are bigger and are much better than Gretzky and Lemieux's time. The dreaded butterfly that was perfected by Patrick Roy has changed the game making it harder for the outside shot to slip by other stand up, old school goaltenders.

But if there was a chance to see that number crumble, dynamic scorers like Crosby and Ovechkin are your best bets. Ovechkin more so since this season Capitals will be a much more aggressive offense on the direction of Bruce Boudreau.

Here is some food for thought, in Ovie's last 50 games (a stretch from Dec. 15, 2007 to April 5, 2008), he scored 42 goals. Eight shy of 50 goals in 50 games. If the Caps get off to a quick start (knock on wood), could he be the next player to bear down on the 50 goals in 50 games mark?

A Time To Remember

I remember exactly where I was that morning. I know exactly what I was doing. To see the Pentagon 9/11 memorial finished makes today both a sad occasion and a happy one as well. It's a tremendous memorial for those caught in the crosshairs of mad men. It's the opposite of what those evil men wanted, it is peaceful.

Those in New York, here in Washington DC, and those who will be honored in Pennsylvania all have our respect today.

In other news, Comcast will be on top of 73 games this season including all home games in beautiful High Def (50 games will be in HD).

And more players trickle in to Kettler which is an earlier start for some players on the season. Micheal Nylander is the latest in town. That tells me that this team is excited about this season. And that should make any Cap fan smile.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

5 Things Caps Must Improve

Training camp looms on the near horizon. It may be a good thing to look at what the Caps need to work on. These are the five things they must improve upon in order to return the the playoffs and move farther. The Caps have their first real expectations that have to be met this year. It's a burden that this rebuild team has yet to encounter in over 5 years. Overall consistency will be key.

5. Veterans Must Play To Potential - While this is still a young team, the veterans have to pull their weight as well. While the veteran core had to deal with injuries last season (Nylander, Clark, Potheir), the Caps veteran core will have to produce their fair share to keep the team balanced through out the year. The Caps will still rely on their young guns for a large majority of the offense, they will still need the veteran leadership and consistency to help with any lulls through out the year.

4. Stop Lazy Penalties - Discipline will be key if the Capitals need to return to the playoffs. Not just because of the Tom Poti trip lead to the game winning goal in game seven, but overall last season, the Caps took bad penalties late in close games. From Alex Semin's lazy stick fouls to Donald Brashear's blow up in the Bruins debacle, the focus has to be there for the entire team.

3. Faster Start - Probably the most obvious improvement needed for the Capitals. They can't afford a slow start to the season. The Southeast Division will not be as weak as it was last season. But there has to be a balance it. Look at the Ottawa Senators as an example. The Senators got off to one of the best starts, but fell apart midway through the season. Consistency every night is the key to getting off to a good start and a strong finish.

2. Improve the Power Play - While it improved some toward the end of the year, the Capitals power play was a source of pain for them all season long (and can be argued a problem in the playoffs series with Philly). Plus, the Caps 5 on 3 was dismal last season. To me, it seems a bit slow and predictable. The passes need to be crisper and the play has to be set up much faster to get the penalty killers off kilter. With the talent they have in snipers and set up men, their numbers on the power play must improve.

1. Three words: Goaltending, Goaltending, Goaltending - It's like location but different. Jose Theodore has to prove he is a capable replacement for not just Cristobal Huet (who took his pads and stick to richer waters), but long time Cap Olie Kolzig too. Brent Johnson can't be a slouch either. For the Caps to make it to the post season Theodore as to at least match his performance with the Aves (which was 28 wins). But it would be better if the Caps can get 30+ wins out of him.

Another thing to mention would be the Caps have to get quicker starts in the game. When the Capitals led after the second period they had a .900 winning percentage. But they spent a lot of time in games playing catch up.

Friday, September 05, 2008

I Was Promised Hockey

Bored, bored, bored. I see other bloggers typing away at their keyboards scrambling to put up stuff I just don't want to read and could care less about. Let's not get into mainstream media either. I am just ready for the crunch of the ice, the smell of sweat on the equipment, the flashy bright colors contrasting with the white ice. Let's go already.

The election season has gone on for far too long now and the bitching between the KHL and the NHL seems to be reaching a feverish pitch (entertaining but not very interesting). I would rather see the boys on the ice.

I am looking forward to spring training to see the Capitals form a collective. I want to see this team prove that last year was no fluke. That they have the potential to go deep in the playoffs and sustain their good fortunes in the years to come.

These last two weeks seem unbearable. I found myself debating with friends over the Redskins. I never talk shop about the 'Skins. For two reasons, one, I am just a casual watcher and two, football isn't a sport I am overly knowledgable about. Maybe a tough year for the Skins could mean more support for the Caps. Of course I say that every year and it never happens.

I am tired of watching youtube craziness on players or reading about worthless stats from a year ago or probable salary cap scenarios. I am just ready for hockey.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Eleven To Be Retired

The Washington Capitals will be putting number 11 out of commission. No, not for Jeff Halpern. The Caps are going to raise 11 to the roof in honor of Mike Gartner. The honor will happen on December 28th when the Caps play Toronto. According to the Caps' press release:

“Capitals fans have fond memories of Mike Gartner flying down the right wing and scoring goals at the Capital Centre,” said Capitals chairman and majority owner Ted Leonsis. “This is a fitting tribute to one of the elite offensive players in the history of the game who was a crucial member of the first Capitals playoff teams.”

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the Washington Capitals and to join the distinguished company of my fellow teammates Ivan Labre, Rod Langway and Dale Hunter,” Gartner said. “I look forward to the upcoming evening in December and sharing those fond memories with my family and those fans in attendance.”

Sounds like fun.