Sunday, November 30, 2008

Caps End Rollercoaster November On Sour Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mason Frustrates Caps

Capitals 0, Blue Jackets 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lowlights by

Fantasy Sweep Part 2

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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Theodore Gets Shutout, Boudreau Gets 50th Win

Capitals 3, Canadians 0
Scoresheet - Wash Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlights by

Caps Sign And Recall Helmer. Wait, Who?

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

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

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

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

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

Caps Notes:

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

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

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fantasy Team

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

Happy Turkey Day!

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

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kids Spark Caps

Capitals 5, Thrashers 3
Scoresheet - Wash Post - AJC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hightlights by


Caps have recalled forwards Chris Bourque and Graham Mink. They have also called up defensemen Sami Lepisto and Karl Alzner.

Wee, Wee, Wee All The Way Home

It's been 12 days since the Caps have dropped the puck at the Verizon Center. They have been on a 5 game road trip that did not treat them too well. One win in the last five, they have been outscored 26 to 18 and lost now seven players due to injury (I am sure we will find out how severe those injuries are today).

The Capitals' goals against are just about even with their goals for (67-68). Which puts the Caps in interesting territory. They are 27th in the league in terms of goals against, a stat I am sure they would like to see changed. Meanwhile, they are also 5th in the league goals for, a stat I am sure they would like to keep.

Venturing away from the phone booth, the team has been mortal. They are badly outscored 52 to 40 when they don the white sweaters. At home? They have outscore their opponents 28 to 15. Good not great.

This all sets up the Capitals to face a team that suddenly has found its scoring touch. The Atlanta Thrashers will be rolling into town after playing a physical high scoring game against Toronto. They put up 6 goals and Johan Hedberg stopped 33 including a couple of ten-bell saves to shut down the Leafs. This is also the team that scored a 7 spot against the Caps back on October 10th, the last time these two teams faced each other.

Injuries aside, the Caps will have to find a way to keep the puck from behind their own net.

Caps notes:

With Jeff Schultz now out 4 to 6 weeks with a broken finger (no word on which finger and if he can still give the bird) the Caps most likely will put him on the IR. Making room for Sami Lepisto to join the club, who costs less that Karl Alzner. They also need a puck moving defensemen in the absence of Mike Green in the line up.

The Caps are hurting big time. Sergei Fedorov is listed day-to-day (ankle), Mike Green is listed day-to-day (may return this weekend), Boyd Gordon is listed day-to-day (back spasms), John Erskine is listed day-to-day (unknown), Alex Semin is listed day-to-day (may return tonight), Schultz is out 4 to 6 weeks (broken digit), and now Chris Clark may be out with inuries (status to be updated, retweak of the groin?).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

You Might Think It's Funny, But It's Snot!

All sports seem to have their bad, crude habits. In baseball it is the crotch grab and spitting. In football it's the well placed (and timed) butt slap. In NASCAR, their fans. For hockey, apparently the gross-out, crude habit seems to be placing a thumb on one's nostril and blowing the nuggets out of the other. Otherwise known as the Snot Rocket.

Gross to say the least, but it seems to happen way too much not to say anything. When the Caps were in Anaheim, the camera settled on Ryan Getzlaf as the announcers went over his impressive resume. At that moment, in glorious high definition, Ryan took a deep breath in and placed a thumb over one nostril and blew out a pea sized nugget out of the other. And then proceeded to clear the other next. I had to shutter, my wife let out a "Ewwww!"

Beside the fact that it is pretty disgusting, every hockey player seems to do it. Just watching Alex Ovechkin during the course of a game has cleared his nose at least 3 or 4 times when the camera looked his way. Not to mention how many times the network doesn't catch the nasal clearing that seems like an awful lot. Makes you wonder what the inside of those boards look like on the bench.

Now I consider myself a man's man. I have done things that men do that may not be socially appropriate in public like spitting over the railing of a high place, rearranging the package in a grocery store aisle, or peeing behind a tree. But one thing I have never done is blow nuggets while at a picnic or walking down the street (I guess I do have standards).

One would think a player would be more discreet with their boogers. Maybe blow them into one of the towels that are stacked in piles on the benches. Or clear one's honker between periods. Or just hold it, it can't be that bad for your health if those suckers stay put. It might be more embarrasing to have a "hanging chad" than flinging the nugget toward the ice or on the boards, even if it is on national television.

I am even more surprised that no one seems to mind the bad habit these hockey players have developed (besides the rare pick and eat ones that we won't go into here). Then again, if a player is on a break away and is more concerned about their nasal congestion distracting them from putting the puck past the opposing goaltender, than by all means, blow it out.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Late Rally Not Enough

Capitals 3, Wild 4
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Star Trib

The Capitals road woes continued tonight as they took on the Minnesota Wild. The Wild jumped out to a 4 - 0 lead that was just too insurmountable and you can add Jeff Schultz to the injured department as he left in the first with a broken finger,Boyd Gordon also went missing and didn't return after the first period and John Erskine left after the second. While the comeback was admirable, the Caps close out their road trip with a measly 3 points in five games and amassed a three game losing streak.

The late rally was sparked by a Matt Bradley goal less than 5 minutes to play. Alex Ovechkin finally got his first goal ever against the Minnesota Wild and Nick Backstrom made it interesting after the Wild took a late penalty. But the Caps could do no more and fall short 4-3. Both Backstrom and Ovi keep their point streaks alive.

The Caps really got beat in special teams. Both San Jose and Minnesota are two teams that you just can't take stupid penalties. The Wild were 2 for 6 on the power play and had two 5 on 3 opportunities which they scored on one of them. All of the infractions against the Caps were just bad penalties to take. Holding, tripping, elbowing, closing your hand on the puck (not once, but twice). Just lazy, mental errors that the Caps just couldn't afford to take.

Washington wasted yet another great goaltending effort by Jose Theodore, who had his share of some ten-bell saves including one on Pierre-Marc Bouchard who had a wide open net and Theo just plan robbed him. Besides the two power play goals that were scored against him, the Caps' defense (who took a big hit to the line up with Schultz and Erskine out) just didn't give Theodore much support. The Wild seemed to gobble up too many loose pucks and there were too many bad give-aways for Theo to stop them all.

With players out injured Tom Poti's ice time stretched to nearly 30 minutes, Ovi's ice time was nearly 26 minutes and Brooks Laich volunteered to play defense. The Caps had been beating the Wild in face offs in the first period, but that soon evened out when Gordon retreated to the locker room. Eric Fehr had two assists and played well tonight. Tomas Fleischmann also keeps a point streak alive with an assist tonight.

The Caps just got beat up this road trip. Losing now Erskine, Gordon and Schultz to injuries, the Caps can't get home soon enough. No word on any call ups from Hershey.

In the Southeast Division, the 'Canes also lost their game tonight and the Caps lead remains at just a single point. They will face division rival Atlanta at the phone booth Thanksgiving eve.

Caps Look To Salvage Road Trip

I think we all knew that this wasn't going to be a walk in the park. The Capitals are in danger of only getting 3 points on this 5 game road trip. They will finish it off with a trip to the Twin Cities to face the Wild (yet another hot team).

The Caps aren't getting any healthier, Sergei Fedorov re-tweaked his injury in Saturday night's game. Mike Green and Alex Semin could still be out of the line up when the Caps play in Minnesota. Several players left the practice yesterday after Bruce Boudreau gave them the okay if they were feeling sore.

Besides limping into St. Paul, the Caps are also nursing a losing streak. It may only be two games, but the Caps were held to just two goals and their road record has dropped to a 4-6-2. There are a few bright spots. Alex Ovechkin keeps his point streak alive, now going on seven games. Nick Backstrom is going on his 8th straight game with a point. Tomas Fleischmann, who is the most comfortable Cap on the road, has scored 7 of his eight goals wearing the white jersey.

The Caps will have to pull themselves back together. They had the opportunity to put some distance between them and Carolina, but now that slim Southeast Division lead could be eclipsed if the Caps lose to the Wild and the Hurricanes win against Florida. But I have a feeling that this race with Carolina will be tight all season long.

NHL Notes:

From number two to number one. Bathroom humor aside, Mike Smith is hurt in Tampa Bay which means big ol' Olie Kolzig is in net for the Bolts. Tampa lost their game Sunday with New Jersey 7-2. Dainius Zubrus netted four goals (two of them on Olie) and Kolzig was replaced by Kari Ramo in the second period.

Jose Theodore got his new helmet, but still has to work the bugs out. The first mask was too uncomfortable for him, so he sent it back. The helmet features two twin eagles on either side of the crown with some momuments under them, the overall look is blue. See more at Caps 365.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hunter Love From Cherry

Since a new feature this year on NHL network is the broadcast of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, my wife has just about had it up to here with hockey already. Needless to say, I pick my Saturday nights to get a peek at what we are missing state side.

Last night, Toronto gave mad props to Wendel Clark and the Maple Leafs got off to a fast start. What I am really waiting for is the Coach's Corner with Don Cherry. Cherry did his normal rant as he does every Saturday night, but he took an interesting turn when he talked about Andrew Ference playing on a broken leg.

"Dale Hunter did even better," Cherry recalled. "Dale Hunter in Quebec going into the playoffs had a broken leg like [Ference] and he had two screws in it. The doctors told him, 'Dale, you can't play anymore, the screws have come loose in your leg.' ... You know what Dale did? Played the whole [series] and played great with two screws [rattling] around like that."

Then came the kicker: "Not only that, [Hunter had] like twelve hundred points and he tied with the "Rocket" [Maurice Richard] ... with four overtime goals and he is not being considered for the Hockey Hall of Fame. That's ridiculous."

Oh Don Cherry, you made a lot of Caps fans very happy with your rant. And on a night where two greats were being honored in Patrick Roy and Wendel Clark, Cherry had to bring up good ol' Hunter. I knew I always like Don, crazy suits or not.

Actually Dale Hunter had 1020 career points regular season and 118 points just in the NHL playoffs. His number is already in the rafters at the phone booth.

Defensive Debacle

Capitals 2, Sharks 7
Scoresheet - Wash Post - SJ Mercury

One would think that the tilt between the Washington Capitals and the San Jose Sharks would produce an exciting, high scoring game. Well it was high scoring for one team, the Sharks put the beat down on the Capitals who go on to lose their second straight, 7-2.

Tom Poti and Tomas Fleischmann were your goal scorers in a game that turned out to be a blow out for the other team. Alex Ovechkin keeps his point streak intact with a power play assist. Brent Johnson played better than the team played in front of him. That being said, there were seven goals.

It was very frustrating to watch the Capitals start strong and finish so poorly. They kept the Sharks pinned in their own zone but could not produce a goal. A heavy weight battle between Donald Brashear and Jody Shelley seemed to work out in the favor of the Caps, but they didn't feed off it. It seemed every shot the Caps threw at the net were extreme angle shots or they would lose the puck after one too many passes.

The Sharks scored on their first shot on net. After Shaone Morrisonn kindly gave San Jose goal number two by knocking it into his own net, the Caps unraveled and broke down defensively.

It is hard for any team to win on the road, but the idea is to at least try. The Caps were guilty of missing plays, telegraphing passes, losing the one on one battles and basically just stinking up the joint. Ovechkin, to me, does not look 100%, although that could just be San Jose's very good defense.

When the Capitals were able to get it out of the zone, they didn't get the puck in deep enough or passed it right to a waiting defender's stick and boom the play was right back in their zone. Perhaps it was too close for bed time for some of them.

Those who may have been up past their beauty sleep were the defensive squad. Morrisonn tapped in the puck behind Johnny to give the Sharks a then 2-0 lead. Even though Poti scored, this was not his best game. Watching him tee up a slapshot that just kept getting blocked was a bit hard to watch. I counted 3 times Poti wound up and shoot it right into a defender standing right in front of him. Jeff Schultz had a rough night too, he was a -4 on the night. The worst of any other Capital.

The Caps could ill afford to take dumb penalties against this very dangerous Shark power play. But that didn't stop them of course as they were called for 9 in fractions. 7 of which were stick infractions. The Caps needed to stay out of the penalty box, but just could not.

Sergei Fedorov made a brief return to the line up but left after logging less than 5 minutes of ice time after the first period. The Caps are already without the services of Mike Green and Alex Semin whose seemingly minor injuries apparently have kept them sidelined longer than anyone but the doctors want them to.

There is really no excuse for this loss. The Caps just didn't do the things they needed to do to win. I think the Caps need to get back to doing some leg work and crashing the net. This team seems to rather make one more pass than get the garbage goals. Instead of the shot heading on net, it was one too many passes that the Sharks jumped on, nullifying any offensive chance.

Asking the Caps to shake off the last too games and face another hot Western Confernece in the Minnesota Wild is a hard task for Bruce Boudreau and his coaching staff. But that is exactly what they need to do.

Video highlights courtesy of

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Third Jerseys, Nylander Trade Talk

In the NHL, the "in" thing to do is make a third jersey. Personally, I am kind of glad the Capitals are sticking with just the two. I really only see two reasons for teams to go the third jersey route, revenue and revenue. Other than that, the jersey is just a jersey.

Before the days of the flying eagle and the dome with crisscross hockey sticks, the Capitals only had two jerseys; home and away. Now every team wants to have a third jersey which never made sense to me as a fan. Third jerseys are like a fade, a crazy what if.

Hey, I used to place playing cards on the wheels of my bike with clothes line pins to improve my bike. After awhile I realized it didn't improve my bike. It turns out my bike was just a bike whether it had the playing cards on or not, it was just louder. A team is just a team no matter what they wear. A third jersey is not going to guarantee a playoff spot.

Clarification. If a team uses their third jersey as a retro jersey, then surprisingly I am okay with that. Buffalo, Edmonton and the Islanders have introduced third jerseys that are throwbacks from the day, all of which I liked. If you think about it, their current jerseys would be the third jersey.

I don't consider myself an traditionalist by any means, but there is just something about heritage in the logo you started out with that I am partial too. I still like the vintage Caps' jersey. The blue pants with the stars down the side. Now that the Caps are back in red, white and blue, I do like the modernization of the logo and love they are back in the colors they started with.

The San Jose Sharks will be sporting their third jersey tonight when they face off with the Capitals. The Caps will be in their same ol' white road jerseys.

Trade talks seem to continue about a possible exchange concerning the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals for Micheal Nylander. Since management is pretty mum here, most of these reports have been coming out of the Windy City.

The Blackhawks reportedly were considering putting newly acquired Cristobal Huet on waivers to make room for Nylander. While that might be fun to speculate, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense on the Blackhawks behalf. I am almost certain if Huet hits the waivers, he will be picked up by a team in need of a goaltender of his stature. Seems like a lose, lose for Chicago.

Nylander/Brent Johnson for developing player/Huet? Hmm.

NHL Notes:

The Boston Bruins are quickly becoming a very scary team to face. They have been climbing up the standings and now find themselves tied for first in the East with the Rangers (who have two more games played than Boston). The Bruins are first the Conference with goals for with 66, the Capitals second with 64.

The Southeast Division maybe a race between just two teams. It seems Carolina and Washington have pulled to a 3 and 3 and a half game lead respectively over the rest of the division. It's too early to rule out the remaining three, but I wouldn't be surprised if the 'Canes and Caps finish in the top two.

Contract talks have started with Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Are fans in Toronto sure they want an American running the team? I guess the resounding answer is yes.

It's not hockey, but it's played on ice and in full pads. Close enough. It's Red Bull Crashed Ice where you go down a rather steep ramp of ice that curves and banks, beating out four other competitors to win a Red Bull (there is a video of it on the site). It will be held in Quebec City January 24, '09. Since it doesn't look like it takes much skill, I took the liberty of signing up JP and DC Sports Chick for the competition. Good luck!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Anniversary Of Hope

When the Washington Capitals roll into San Jose for their tilt with the Sharks tomorrow night, it is not only a game between two elite teams, but will also mark the anniversary of Bruce Boudreau's arrival to DC as the Capitals head coach.

The Caps had started the '07-'08 campaign with three straight wins, but that was the only bright spot of Glen Hanlon's reign that year. The Caps fell to last in their division and last in the conference. Fans were calling for heads to roll. George McPhee and Hanlon were both in the cross hairs as the Caps struggled to win games.

There was player dissent. Simply put, the players just sort of stopped listening to Hanlon's quiet approach. The coaching staff were preaching more defense and the Caps offensive talents were stifled. The team was going nowhere fast and a change was certain.

When Bruce Boudreau took over the Capitals after Hanlon was let go, the change was immediate. Even in the first practice, Boudreau yelled at Alex Ovechkin for making a mistake. Something Hanlon never did. And while McPhee and Ted Leonsis were defending the coaching change, the Capitals locker room changed.

The Caps went from a hard working defensive minded team to a high tempo, powerful offensive team. The quiet, reserved Hanlon was replaced by a talkative, open Boudreau. Slowly and surely the Caps began to buy into Boudreau's system and the Caps made the turn around.

From worst to first. Bruce Boudreau broke some records doing it. Boudreau was the fastest coach in club history to reach 20 wins (34 games) and 30 wins (53 games) and the first coach in NHL history to lead his team from 14th place at midseason to a playoff berth. He led his team to 17 come from behind wins. He won the Jack Adams award for NHL's top coach.

Boudreau took the reigns of the Washington Capitals November 22, 2007.

Caps Notes:

Trade talks concerning Micheal Nylander seem to be heating up. The pros to trading Nylander: Frees up cap space to pull up Karl Alzner, Quintin Laing and/or Chris Bourque. The cons: you are losing a dynamic playmaker that when properly motivated can add to the Caps powerful offense. If McPhee is interested in moving Nylander, he better get some value for it instead of just unloading his contract.

McPhee has a lot on his plate after the NHLPA filed a greivence with the Capitals for not letting player representatives in the locker room before and after games. This following the shooing of Joe Reekie from the locker room as he is employed by the players' union. The union contends it's a violation of league policy. McPhee has never permitted anyone outside media and family near the locker room areas.

Two words: Red Rockers. Alright!

No Gas Left In The Tank

Capitals 2, Kings 5
Scoresheet - Wash Post - LA Times

The Capitals just couldn't match Los Angeles' intensity. Playing their second game in as many nights, the Caps looked tired and beat up. The Kings coming off of a short rest and a small losing streak took it to the weary Capitals.

Nick Backstrom and Brooks Laich were your goal scorers. Alex Ovechkin keeps his point streak alive with an assist. Several streaks were snapped for the Capitals at Staples Center. Goals scored in consecutive regulation periods, ended at 14. Games where the Caps scored 3 or more goals consecutively, ended at 7. Ovi's goal scoring streak, ended at 5 games.

The second goal is a shot I think Brent Johnson would have liked to get back. It was a straight forward shot off the wing by Patrick O'Sullivan that slipped past Johnny. Otherwise Johnson was the only reason the Caps were even close in this game down the stretch. He made some amazing saves on the penalty kill and played aggressively in the crease. He just had a tired slow defense in front of him.

The Caps play was sloppy and uninspired. From the start the Kings got their legs moving on the Capitals, making them run around silly in their own zone. Washington were badly out shot in the first period, 12 to 3. Credit Terry Murry and the Kings as they played hard and kept moving their feet knowing the Caps had just finished playing a physical Anaheim team the night before.

The Capitals were just too tired to get anything started. Passes were sloppy and often behind players breaking for the net. They were getting beat on the one on one battles along the boards. When the Caps tried to make that second or third breakout pass, the young legs of the Kings quickly snuffed out any chance of a break through the neutral zone.

The Capitals penalty kill and power play were actually pretty good in this game. The Caps were one of 5 chances scoring on a 5 on 3. The Caps even killed off a 1:24 of a 5 on 3, thanks to the heroics of a stickless Brooks Laich who blocked shot after shot with his bare hands (well there were gloves on, but he stopped a few shots with his palms where there is no padding). But the Caps could't build off of either success.

Also, this was the same officiating crew from last night. A phantom interference call late in the third sealed the Caps fate. Dustin Brown and Alex Ovechkin simply ran into one another and Brown's skate caught Ovi's ear on the way down. While the contact was just an accident (both players were unaware of the other), the officials called Ovechkin for interference. The Kings were able to score after the Caps were a little too offensively minded with the man down. Frustrating to say the least. Especially considering that obvious tripping and hooking infractions seemed to go unnoticed.

The Caps just needed some rest it looked like. Shots of Ovi snorting some smelling salts sort of told the story of how this team just couldn't get it up and going at the Staples Center. The Caps could have used a spark from injured Alex Semin, Mike Green and Sergei Fedorov. They will get a little rest now, their game versus San Jose is Saturday night. This is one game I would think the Caps would like to forget.

Video highlights courtesy of

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wild Wednesday

Capitals 6, Ducks 4
Scoresheet - Wash Post - LA Times

Just three games were played Wednesday night. All three games combined for 30 goals. The Capitals faced the rough and physical Anaheim Ducks and took a few hard hits but came away with a 6-4 win.

All six of the Capitals' goals were scored by a different Cap. Tomas Fleischmann, Mike Green and Nick Backstrom got the Caps out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first. The Ducks answered with a couple of goals. Alex Ovechkin scored in his fifth consecutive game, Matt Bradley and David Steckel scored and the Ducks pressured late.

The Ducks played a hard, physical game against the Caps. That was to be expected, but they also have a bit of a dirty side. That led to some senseless penalties early in the game and the Caps' power play made them pay.

"We've been practicing it and practicing it," Bruce Boudreau commented on the effectiveness of the Capitals' power play. "Just because we haven't scored multiple goals, it doesn't mean that we haven't had chances. I think we have scored one in four or five games in a row, and we are steadily moving the percentage up. Those things are difference-makers and we thought today with special teams were going to make the difference in the game."

The Caps took advantage of some early power plays as the Ducks got into some penalty trouble early. They were 3 of 8 with the man advantage and the penalty kill did its job knocking off 4 of 5.

Ducks' Steve Montador gave Ovi a little spear following one of his runs. The after whistle hitting and chirping continued all game as the Ducks tried every thing to get the Caps off their game. What they couldn't do was recover from an early 3 goal deficit in the first.

Mike Green who had a goal and an assist left the game early after a monster hit by choir boy Chris Pronger. The hit was clean, Green just kept his head down a moment too long. Green left soon after and never returned, although he didn't appear to be injured right after the hit. The Caps, true to form, did not divulge what could be ailing the defenseman.

Jose Theodore played okay. Good but not great. He did come up with a couple of big saves. Viktor Kozlov played his best game of the season so far. He used his size effectively and had a pretty assist on Backstrom's goal. Micheal Nylander also played well getting two assists. In all twelve players made their way onto the scoresheet.

But the night really belonged to Alex Ovechkin. He had a goal and a playmaker to finish with a four point night. Ovi played possessed, skating hard and making plays happen. It's the fastest I have seen him all year. Especially when J.S. Giguere took over in net.

"We beat a great team tonight," Ovechkin told reporters after the game. "We just tried to play it simple, and that is the key for us. We have a lot of skilled guys, and we just have to use our skills. Sometimes we just try to play too fancy. But tonight we just shot the puck, controlled the game and created some great chances to score goals. And you saw the results."

Injuries may start to hinder the Caps as they were once again without of the services of Sergei Fedorov, Alex Semin and Shaone Morrisonn. If Green is down too, there could be another call up from Hershey if Morrisonn isn't ready to return. Unlikely though as the Caps stay in southern California for tomorrow night's game in Los Angeles.

The Caps have now earned points in 8 consecutive games. The have also scored at least a goal in 14 consecutive periods in regulation. The month of November has been very good to the Capitals as they have posted a 6-1-2 record so far. They have outscored their opponents 30 to 24.

Video courtesy of

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Burning The Midnight Oil

Sometimes you need a stinker to fix the little things that slipped during a winning streak. For the Capitals, the little things would be their neutral zone play. Granted that the Caps played the best team in the league concerning neutral zone play (the dreaded Devil's trap), they still needed to shore up their possession play now that they are going to be playing the league's best over the next few games.

Anaheim, San Jose and Minnesota are in the top five teams in the Western Conference (interesting note: the next four competitors' team name are one syllable, cavemen ecstatic**). The Caps will have to be on top of their game on this road trip, which is probably why Bruce Boudreau had them working on neutral zone play and break out.

They will also be limping into this game with injured players Alex Semin and Shaone Morrisonn were set to return, but now both might be a game time decision. Sergei Fedorov, at the moment, will be out of the line up nursing his sores. He too may be a game time decision.

The good news? With Semin out the Caps haven't slowed their scoring. In the past six games the Caps have scored 3 goals or more. Where Semin was missing, it seems Alex Ovechkin has stepped in. Ovi is on a three goal game streak included putting up a deuce against the Devils including the dramatic tie with only a second left.

Plus the Caps are getting secondary scoring, a problem for them all of last season. Twelve players have 5 points or more so far this season. Considering the Caps had maybe 5 players with 5 points or more through 18 games last season. Players like Tomas Fleischmann (8 pts) is on pace for a 50 point season and the Caps defensemen are starting to warm up with a combined 31 points.

It's a late start for us here in DC, they will drop the puck at 10 pm eastern time. That means get the coffee pots stirring and cozy up next to the fire (for those that have fireplaces only, those who don't, please do not start a bonfire in the middle of your apartment, take it from someone who has been down that road).

** Ducks, Kings, Sharks, Wild. All one syllable. Geico caveman jokes can made here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

20 Games In

What has surprised you most now that we are about 20 games into the season? The Sharks strong start? Barry Melrose's short tenure? Alex Semin atop the scoring list?

There have been more incidents in the last 20 games that raised an eyebrow or two. Here are a couple that surprised me.

Around the League:

While I am not surprised at Melrose's dismissal, I am surprised that it took all of 16 games to decide his fate. Where does that leave the Tampa Bay Lighting? In the hands of Rick Tocchet. You remember him, he had a thing with Wayne Gretzky's wife.

Brian Burke's sudden availability. Good news for Toronto? Maybe. Burke has been apart of a Stanley Cup winning Duck team and he pulled Dustin Penner out of the dust (which seems to be working out for the Oilers). It seems all but certain that Burke will bleed blue as the latest change in Toronto, that is there isn't another franchise that gets to Hogtown first.

The Boston Bruins strong start has surprised me. For a team that was hanging by a thread just to make the playoffs last season, they have certainly turned it around. It seems that Claude Julien has his team working hard and winning. The Bruin's head coach had some time to make the system work (I wonder who else needed more time... hmm...).

Nikolai Khabibulin. Why is he such a surprise? He is playing the best goaltending I have seen from him in a long time. All he needed was a little motivation in one Cristobal Huet. The Blackhawks have tried to trade him, send him to the minors, loan him out to the KHL all for not. In return Khaby is making the case to stay in the NHL. Now the Hawks have a couple of very good goaltenders which will make beating this team down the stretch that much harder.

For the Capitals:

I know you are thinking I am going to say Semin's offensive explosion. Well, here is a surprise of my own. The most surprising thing, in my opinion, is Tomas Fleischmann's improvement over a year ago. I really had my doubts putting the fourth year Czech on the second line but Flash is on pace for a 30 goal season considering he only had 10 goals all of last season. He has come up with a couple of big goals already this year.

The Caps goaltending situation has been a bit surprising only in that it's better than originally thought. Jose Theodore may have not been the best fill in, Brent Johnson has picked up the slack. This back and forth between goaltenders maybe good for the Caps as well. A little competition seems to keep both goaltenders sharp. While it's not a perfect arrangement, for the moment it's working.

I can't wait to see what the next twenty games bring. If it is anything like the first twenty, we have some very interesting times leading up to the All Star game in Montreal. Especially the consideration of voter fraud in the balloting. It's been a pretty entertaining first quarter of the season so far.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Caps Will Be Tested

There was a time when a trip out west was a way for Eastern Conference teams center themselves and get back their winning ways. Those were the days of weak California teams and all the trip was good for was to break away for a couple of days from the harsh cold of north. Maybe get a tan, visit the beach. Those days are long gone.

Anaheim is next on the calendar for the Capitals, and they are no push overs (even if they dropped the "Mighty" from their name). The Ducks have won 10 of their last 15 games and play a grueling, physical game. Choir boy Chris Pronger is not going to just let Alex Semin or Alex Ovechkin have all the ice they want. The Caps will have to use their size to their advantage.

Then after a good beating from the Ducks, the Caps face an up and coming Los Angeles Kings. A young team with plenty of talent. They are starting to put it slowly all together. Unlike the Ducks, the Kings can match the Caps' play with quick talented forwards in Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. The Caps may consider it a spa day compared to their next competitor, San Jose.

The Sharks are the hottest team in the NHL right now. They lead the league in points (31) and have a power play that can turn your lights out. In San Jose's last two games against the Flames and Wild, the Sharks scored four power play goals in each game. The Caps will have to work on playing nice. With players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau playing to their potential, it maybe be asking a lot for the Caps to pluck two points from the shark tank.

If that wasn't enough, they end their western swing with a stop in the Twin Cities to take on the Minnesota Wild. A team that is 10-4-1, the Wild have one of the best starts to the season. And they play exceptionally well at home. Backstrom has been a force; no, not Nicklas, rather Niklas. The Wild has also only lost once in regulation at home.

If the Caps can come out of this western swing with 4 points, I would be happy. But it could be possible that they could come away with only 2, or less. While the Caps play at home has made the Verizon Center an uncomfortable place to play for both opponents and groins, on the road the Caps are a humble 3-4-2.

The Caps can not afford to take bad penalties against any of these teams (i.e. Milan Jurcina bone head delay of game clearings or too many men on the ice calls that always seem to come back to bite the Caps in the butt). Anaheim (11th), San Jose (6th) and Minnesota (3rd) are all ranked in the top eleven in the NHL when it comes to the man advantage. Los Angeles is (18th). The Caps rank 18th in the league on the penalty kill.

This is also not a place to have problems with your power play either. The Caps will face three teams that are in the top eleven in the league concerning their penalty kill skills. L.A. is fourth in the league, San Jose is 11th and Minnesota is ranked first (although, they did let in 4 pp goals against the Sharks).

NHL Notes:

The League has decided it's going to crack down on head shots in the NHL. Of course this news comes too late for Brian Potheir, this should help crack down on concussions through out the league. As the game has gotten faster, it has become much more dangerous to avoid injury on a clean hit, let alone some one that is out head hunting. Hopefully this isn't all just talk.

Brian Burke has resigned his post in Anaheim in a peaceful exchange of power in the general manager position. This leaves Burke open to persue (or just tease Leaf fans) the open position in Toronto. Burke has already been reigned in as GM for the USA Hockey team in 2010 Vancouver games.

Darryl Sydor is a Star again. Traded from Pittsburgh for Philippe Boucher. Truthfully, this is a head scratcher. Sydor was a big part of that blue line for the Penguins' run to the finals. You think you would want to keep that stability there. But then again, I am no GM.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Caps Remain Unbeaten In Regulation, Lose In Shootout

Capitals 5, Devils 6 OT/SO (0-1)
Scoresheet - Wash Post

In a game that had much more excitement than any game should against the New Jersey Devils, the Capitals play a back and forth wide open affair and tie the game in dramatic fashion only to fall in the shootout and see their winning ways ended. It was a sloppy game for the Caps at times, and they just couldn't make good on timely scoring down the stretch. Alex Semin was not in the line up for this one and the Caps go down in the shootout 5-6.

Nick Backstrom had a hand in all five goals for the Caps. He had a goal and 4 assists worthy of the games number 3 star. He had a big assist as he dished the puck to a wide open Alex Ovechkin who netted the game tying goal with only a second left on the clock. He had an earlier goal giving him two tallies and an assist to finish the night with three points. The other Caps' scorers were Tomas Fleischmann (who has goals in back to back games) and Viktor Kozlov.

The New Jersey Devils split a home and home with a win that meant more for their team then maybe a loss for the Caps. However, the Caps didn't look too solid on defense in this one. Sloppy openings to both the first and second periods got the Caps in trouble.

Mike Green looked a little too shakey in this game often losing the puck on the attack and missing a few key defensive plays. It wasn't his best game. He was nearly a bystander on one of Patrick Elias' goals, not even pressuring the shooter as he bore down the left wing. Green also seemed to find himself standing around too much in the defensive zone. When he did get to the offensive attack, he would often turn the puck over or make bad decisions with the puck.

The Caps waste another spectacular performance by Jose Theodore, who got his second straight start in place of an injured Brent Johnson. Theo kept the game with in reach with 4 or 5 whopper saves. It was defensive breakdowns that lead to the Caps demise. Failure to clear the puck effectively and turning over pucks in the neutral zone against a team like the Devils whose quick transition game will kill you really hurt the Capitals in this one.

It's not like the Caps get to come back home and nurse this loss. This is the first game of a five game road trip that will have the Caps making a western swing. Their next three opponents are Anaheim, Los Angeles and red hot San Jose. The Caps were able to salvage a point from tonight's debacle, but they will need to keep accumulating points through this road trip.

Video highlights courtesy of

Riding The Hot Hand

What has been clear in the new regime (Bruce Boudreau celebrates his first full year has head coach this month) for the Washington Capitals is that they are not afraid to use one goaltender over the other to get wins. While that makes it hard for analysts and media to figure out just who is the number one goaltender for the Capitals, it may make for a better Capital team.

Brent Johnson lately has been the hot hand. Playing incredibly smooth and calm in the crease, his numbers have jumped to an impressive 5-1-2 with a .931 save percentage. The month of November has been good to Johnny, who has been credited with the win in four straight games and only allowing two goals in every game he has played this month. Add a third star performance to that resume and Johnson looks like the Caps number one.

But a slight hip injury opened the door for Jose Theodore, who has been sitting on his rump for the previous four and a half games before coming in relief for the injured Johnson in Carolina. Since then, in 5 periods of play, Theo has only allowed one goal in 46 shots (if you were wondering that is a .978 save percentage). His last game versus the Devils, Theo played spectacular, easily his best game as a Cap.

While it's nice for the Caps, who now seem able to put either goaltender up and get good performances, some may see it more of a weakness than a strength when it comes to the job in the crease. The Capitals will have to endure that kind of questioning all year, if they were losing that is.

But the Caps are win streak. That makes a huge difference. If they were losing and grasping for the hot goaltender, it may be more of a hindrance rather than confidence that putting either goaltender in the net. The way both goaltenders are taking advantage of the starts bodes well for the Caps... for now.

For tonight's game in New Jersey, I would assume Brent Johnson is back in the net. But with the way Theo has played the last couple of games, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jose Theodore in the net either.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Win Streak Stretches To 5

Capitals 3, Devils 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post

It was going to be a devil of a time for the Caps as their high powered offense would face one of the best defensive teams of all time. The Capitals had momentum with four straight wins, while the New Jersey Devils were hitting a slump with All-Star goaltender Marty Brodeur out of the line up. The Caps take the first of a home and home with the Devils as both teams now shift their attention to the second game at the Rock in NJ.

Alex Ovechkin continues his modest scoring streak to three games with the empty netter tonight. Tomas Fleischmann (one of his best games as a Cap) and Brooks Laich (a power play goal, his fourth) both tallied the other markers for the Caps. The Caps made good on their opportunities the Devils afforded them and jumped out to an early 2 goal lead. Even though the Devils came back with a tally to cut it close, goals seemed hard to come by these days for the Devils.

Alex Semin was hurt sometime late in the second and did not return. Although, it may not be too serious. "He'll be fine tomorrow, as far as I know," Bruce Boudreau said. Semin was a held with out a point for the first time in 5 games, but where Semin left off, Ovi came on. Ovechkin had a goal and a helper, finishing the night with two points.

But probably the best player for the Capitals was the man in net, Jose Theodore. After sitting for the past 4 games in favor for Brent Johnson's stint in net, Theodore came back with an impressive performance. Allowing only one goal on 33 shots, Theo had a couple of game-saving stops to keep the Caps lead. When Theodore has the lead, he is a better goaltender. Johnny is presumably back in net for tomorrow night's tilt in NJ.

Flash had a pretty good game as well, he finished the night with four shots and a goal to boot. Fleischmann is becoming a better player before our eyes, and that is built around his confidence and coming to camp in better shape. He is making himself more and more invaluable on that second line. Viktor Kozlov's assist on Flash's goal was his 500th career point.

Boyd Gordon and Tom Poti where two other players that stood out tonight as the pair of them were able to thwart the Devil's power plays with Gordon winning the draw on face offs and Poti sending it the length of the rink. As much as Poti sometimes looks invisible out there at times, when he is out of the line up the Caps miss him dearly which means he is doing something right.

The Caps winning streak continues now to 5 straight. If the Caps can keep winning in long stretches, then they are head and shoulders above where they were last season. While their are still some bugs to clean up here and there, the Caps now embark on a very long and tricky road trip and will face two hot teams in Anaheim and San Jose once they conclude their business in New Jersy.

Video highlights courtesy of

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keeping The Streak Alive

Capitals 5, Hurricanes 1
Scoresheet - Wash Post - News Ob

For anyone who was worried about Alex Ovechkin's lack of scoring, tonight's game should quell some of those concerns. As well as concerns about Nick Backstrom's lack of scoring considering the second year forward has 6 points in the last 3 games. Ovechkin opened the scoring for the Washington Capitals and Backstrom put the nail in the coffin as they dominate the Carolina Hurricanes in a divisional game for first in the Southeast.

Both teams came into this contest tied in points, and one would think that this game would be a battle royal of sorts. But the Caps, who seem to play better with something on the line, kept the 'Canes on their heels for most of the night. Ovi started the scoring, and that was followed up by a couple of tallies by Alex Semin who took the lead as top scorer in the league (with goals 12 and 13). Mike Green and Nick Backstrom (his first of the season) both added to the scoring to make it a nice rounded number at five goals.

The five who scored where the only point getters on the night as well, Semin finished with 5 points, Backstrom had 4 points, Ovi with 3 points, and Green with a goal and assist for 2. In all, these five players accounted for all 14 points the Caps scored tonight. In a game when you would think that the 'Canes would start Cam Ward in net, back up Michael Leighton was a bit shelled shocked after a 3 goal opening period by the Caps.

Brad Johnson looked smooth in net, before he was injured at the end of the first period. However the Caps were moving right along with Jose Theodore filling in. Johnson looked as if he over stretched on a pad save (groin possible), but was back in the backup goalie seat for the third. So I don't think it's too serious. Thoedore came in relief and played solid making 13 stops.

The big story here really is the Caps penalty kill. Only allowing the single 'Canes tally was sort a fluke off the boards caught Johnny off gaurd. Other than that, the kill did it's job even killing off a minute and eighteen of a 5 on 3. The power play did an okay job at 1 of 5 chances. But I see promise there as the Caps seem to be able to move the puck with much more authority and quickness. As their confidence continues to grow, so too will the power play's danger.

This is just one game, even though the build up was the two top teams in the Southeast Division walk into this one tied in points. The Capitals stretch a win streak to four games. While it's nice to celebrate this one, the Caps have little time to enjoy the top seat in the division as they are on a plane back to DC for a home and home with New Jersey.

Highlights courtesy of

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Good To Be Back, Kinda

Good things seemed to happen while I was in the British Virgin Islands. The Caps are on a bit of a win streak, granted all three games were at the phone booth. It is good to see the team be able to put a stretch of good games together. Also Alex Ovechkin got his scoring legs back as I just got my land legs back. Very good news.

However, I am missing the beaches and the boat we were on for a week in the Virgin Islands. At one point I vowed never to come home. And the biggest disappointment of the whole trip (if you could really call it that) was missing Olie Kolzig's return to DC. Although I enjoyed the outcome.

As I am catching back up with the news and notes, I know I have missed quite a few things and it will take me a few practices and games to get back to proper form (like, Steve Eminger now a Bolt? I assume waivers?). But I think Haven did a spectacular job in my absence.

Next up, Carolina. And they will be hard up for some revenge. Both the 'Canes and Caps are tied for first in the Southeast and Tampa (a little late, but getting there) is starting to press as well. I expect that this will be a season long race, which would make the division a much tougher place to play.

After that will be a home and home with the Devils then another western swing that will have most Cap fans up past the stroke of midnight as they take on Anaheim (Brian Sutherby alert) and Los Angeles. Then off to the Bay Area to visit the shark tank in San Jose.

The next couple of weeks will be a tough one for the Capitals. It will also be a tough one for me to get back to society after being here for a week:

Little Dix Bay (yea, that is really the name of the resort... I snickered too). I am sure after some rather big loads of laundry and getting some things straight from being gone a week, I will fill you in on the whole trip. It really was quite the amazing adventure for my wife and I.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Bizarro World

Capitals 3, Rangers 1

The Rangers traveled down to play the Caps, but I left DC and went up to NYC...and tried pretty unsuccessfully to watch the game up there.

A couple comments though:

I arrived later than planned in NYC because I sat in traffic for approximately 1.5 eternities just trying to get out of DC. While still on the road, I found some opening commentary on the game on the radio around 7pm. Apparently there were NY announcers that felt as though netminding was the Achilles heel of the Caps. Really? I understand maybe making that point several games ago, but were the previous two games just figments of our imagination? Conclusion: If those announcers still feel the same way after last night, they may want to consider other career possibilities.

I didn't get to a bar until the third period (ugh). I had done a little research, and thought I'd be walking into a bar obviously owned by Rangers fans, and would see the game on lots of TVs with the sound up, with fans in Rangers gear crowded around them. Not so. It was a very nice bar, with very nice TVs, and the game was on, but it really didn't seem like the clientele in suits and metro garb cared. Conclusion(s): I picked the wrong bar, and/or we just have better fans.

What a debacle...but Caps win!

Other notes:

Official Caps booty call Tyler Sloan is back up from Hershey and started for Shaone Morrisonn in last night's game.

Tom Poti got his first goal of the season last night. The other two scorers were Brooks Laich and Alex Semin.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Prime Time Drama

Capitals 3, Hurricanes 2

The newly formed Semin-Ovechkin-Federov troika masterminded all three Caps goals, but the threesome waited until ten seconds before the end of regulation to actually seal the deal. What a tease.

The Hurricanes found the net on their first shot of the game, going up 1-0 just three minutes into the first period with a deflection goal by Scott Walker. Sergei Federov scored off of a nice leading pass from Alexander Ovechkin early in the second period to tie the game 1-1. The game stayed knotted at 1 until Tuomo Ruutu scored later in the second, putting Carolina up, 2-1.

During a long, intense (awesome) stretch of whistle-less play in the third period, Craig Loughlin (sort of) successfully predicted that the next shot would be the "game winner." Alexander Semin proceeded to score off of assists from Ovi with less than three minutes left in the third, and then again with just over ten seconds left in the game, securing a Caps victory and just barely keeping the game from going into OT.

This, fortunately or unfortunately, is pretty much how we roll. It would probably be better for our blood pressure not to win or lose games in such a dramatic fashion, but it definitely keeps things interesting...and it's pretty sweet when we come out on top.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Caps Look Better, Still Lose in OT

Capitals 1, Senators 2 (OT)

An exciting game; a disappointing outcome. The Caps played hard last night, highlighted by the defensive efforts of Brent Johnson in goal. The only scores in regulation were in the second period: the first by Ottawa's Dany Heatly, followed soon thereafter by a Tomas Fleischmann goal. In the end though, the Senators emerged victorious, when Mike Fisher scored his first goal of the year with just under 40 seconds left in overtime.

Johnny summed it up simply: "It's definitely a tough loss. You want better results any time you can play like that." (Associated Press)

It looks like we've addressed the problem of limiting opponents' we just need to score more ourselves. Last night, the Caps put up a mere 27 shots to Ottawa's 44. In regulation, the Caps scored once in 25 attempts, and the Senators scored just once in 41. Realizing that there's a difference between good shots and bad shots, and that offensive efficiency shouldn't be derided, the law of averages would suggest that a few more Caps shots could very well have kept this game from going into overtime.

Next game: Thursday at home vs. Carolina.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Blame Game

Oh, I get it...the Caps took Saturday off instead of Sunday.

Saturday's 5-0 loss to Buffalo equates to sipping Mai Tais by the pool (with Garrett), so Sunday will consist of skating until your lungs explode.

I both appreciate and am amused by the logic, although I'm not sure it's entirely appropriate.

We already know that Saturday's game against the Sabres was disappointing. More than once, an offensive effort broke down into what I can only describe as a "now what?" moment. We seemed confused: a few ginger passes around the crease, an ill-advised shot, a mass rush to the net in an effort to jam something in...messy. But can this only be attributed to a lack of effort? What about less than ample preparation? Team frustration? Coaches, aren't those your buckets?

Sunday's grueling session may have been as much about coaches tightening up as getting through to the players. Ted Leonsis was also at the session to show his support and concern. This should send a reassuring message to fans: what happened Saturday is not acceptable, and we should not expect it to become a habit.

So, will it? We'll find out tomorrow, when the Caps (no longer sans Ovi) play the Senators in Ottawa.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Good Grief

Capitals 0, Sabers 5
Scoresheet - Wash Post - Buff News

What the Capitals have to quickly realize whether they have Alex Ovechkin in the line up or not, teams will bring their "A" game every night against them. Especially a team that thought they embarrassed themselves in a loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning the game before. Caps get a little shell shocked as the Buffalo Sabres roll them over 5 - zip.

No goal scorers this time around. Even Alex Semin found it hard to get some open space as the Sabres buckle down and give the Capitals fits all night long. Instead of the Caps weathering the storm, Jose Theodore gives us another shakey performance and the defense broke down soon after.

The first period was just bad, so bad I refuse to use any self respecting adjectives to describe how bad it really was. The Caps should have been ready for this team, they should have known they were coming off a disappointing loss and wanted to come back strong at home. Bruce Boudreau knew it too, but more on that in a bit.

The second period the Capitals came back and actually put the Sabres on their heels, at one point out shooting them 9-1. But for what ever reason, it seemed the Caps were content to shot from the outside or try to make the pretty pass rather than get the puck to the front of the net. As a result, Ryan Miller saw everything he stopped (and he stopped them all for his eighth NHL shutout). The only really good chance was a Micheal Nylander steal right in front of the net and he hit the post.

The announcers tried to say comforting things like, "put this one in the circular file," or "this is a game the Capitals would prefer to forget." But I think the Caps have to learn from this one rather than just forget it or write it off as a bad game. The good way to judge how successful a team will be is how they react to bad games (Buffalo is a good example: lose at home against the Bolts 5-2, next game they tighten everything up and win 5-0).

Like we feared, Theo's play can either be spectacular or really, really, really... really bad. I think tonight is a night he would like to have a couple of those shots back. It's not like the defense played stellar in front of him, but there are some shots a goaltender just has to stop.

Speaking of the defense, the good: Tom Poti was back in the line up and his return was felt, kinda. The bad: Shaone Morrisonn left in the second and was rushed to the hospital for a CT scan. He may not even make it back with the team. The ugly: how they played. Mike Green always gets praise for his offensive swagger, but he needed to clean up his defensive end work in a game where he just didn't look like he wanted to play defense. Also, the "stay-at-home" defensemen didn't. Creating a plethera of odd man rushes against with Sergei Fedorov back to play defense after staring the game at forward.

Bruce Boudreau was clearly not happy every time the camera panned his way. Some of his quotes were dead on tonight:
"I wish I had an answer. I believe we were one of the better first-period clubs last year, so I don't know why this is happening. But you could definitely tell there were some guys not ready to play tonight. And it's unacceptable. We've got some great players, but Mike Green isn't ready to play and Sasha [Semin] didn't come to play and Viktor [Kozlov]. You can go on."

"You don't want to throw the blame on the goalie when everybody else is not playing well. But I think there were a couple in there he could have had. But even if he had stopped four more shots, we would have lost by one."

So, the Caps lost a stinker. Yes, these types of games are going to happen. How they respond will detrmine how much this team learned.

Now, I am off to vacation on a sour note. Haven will do a great job filling in. Peace out, see you in a couple of weeks.

Video highlights courtesy of

Two Schools Of Thought

My two cents worth on the whole Alex Semin interview on Puck Daddy's blog. It basically comes down to two different styles of play and two different hockey school philosophies.

I don't see Semin's comments about Sidney Crosby all that shocking, in fact I almost expect it. In the Russian school of hockey, they are taught control and speed, while in the Canadian school it is a bit more physical and zone control.

The best analogy I can come up with is in football where you have wide receivers (Russian style) and running backs (Canadian Style). Both have different skill sets that can accomplish the same goal. Receivers are a bit more flashy and fun to watch, while running backs often are more smash mouth, physical and also fun to watch. Both Semin and Crosby are very good at their seperate skill set as well.

Sometimes flashy receivers are not shy about letting everyone they know that their way is better and vice versa. Semin is obvisouly not a big fan of the Canadian school of hockey. Of which Crosby is a prodigy of, a dump and chase, battle in the corners and be physical on the puck.

The only thing I find really surprising about Alexander Semin in that interview was his maturity level. He is extremely well spoken (albeit in Russian), and is looking at his efforts within a team system. For me, watching him play for the Capitals the last couple of years, my impressions have always been of him as a stat hog and a "what's in it for me?" player. But he understands the team concept and he is fun to watch with the puck.

The Caps have a tough stretch ahead of them starting with Buffalo tonight. Should be a very wide open, end to end game.