Saturday, March 28, 2009

Somewhat Of A Spark

Capitals 5, Lightning 3
Scoresheet - Post - Times - St. Pete Times

It may have been an unlikely source, but when the Capitals were looking to break a critical 3-3 tie the game winner would come from a Player that was on the injury list for 14 months. Brian Pothier shot ricocheted off a Lightning player and past their goaltender Mike McKenna. That wayward shot tilted the contest for the Caps as they go on to win their last game in March against a feisty Tampa Bay team 5-3.

Pothier scored his first goal of the season and got the game winner. It might have been Pothier's night, but this was Nick Backstrom's best performance as a Capital yet. Nick had two goals and an assist, scoring his 20th and 21st goal. Alex Ovechkin added two goals, the first and the empty netter to seal it. Brooks Laich had the playmaker with three assists.

The Tampa Bay Lightning may have a had a chip on their shoulders since the "hot" stick celebration by Ovechkin. Evgeny Artyukhin, lightning's resident Neanderthal, took to hunting Capitals all night. In fact the game was a little chippy through out. If Artyukhin ever gets kicked out of the NHL for doing stupid stuff, he could star in Geico's commercials.

Whether it was retribution for the celebration or Donald Brashear's absence, there was a quite a bit of hitting and jabbing following the whistles and the play. But the atmosphere was conducive to a playoff type game where both teams really wanted the win.

Lightning's Martin St. Louis was spectacular in this game. The 5 foot 9 forward was a terror for Capital players all night. When ever the puck was up for grabs, St. Louis came up with it. He figured into every one of the Bolts' goals.

The Caps seemed to have a bit more energy for tonight's game which has been a turn around for them in the last few. While the big stars got their points, a concern is secondary scoring. That was accounted for with Pothier's goal, but guys like Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr, Viktor Kozlov and Micheal Nylander need to have better finishes (like the puck in the back of the net).

The Caps end March and start their four game homestand on a good foot. Next up is the rough and tumble Islanders who have been putting in a line up mostly made up of Bridgeport's best. And that means it should be a physical affair as well. As much as you want to over look the Long Island team, they did post a 2-0 win over Detroit at the Joe.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Caps Clinch Playoff Spot

With the Florida Panthers losing tonight, the Washington Capitals have made the playoffs. The Panthers playoff hopes may have also died in Buffalo. But with 8 games remaining in the Panther's schedule, it is mathematically impossible for them to over take the Caps who are 17 points better than their Divisional foes and the 9th place team in the Eastern Conference.

The Caps make the playoffs for the second year in a row. The last time they have accomplished that feat was in the '99 - '00 season. The Capitals did not need to wait for the last game of the season either like they did last year. In fact, the way the Caps ended last season and how they are finishing off this season is a story of two very different teams.

The Caps start their four game home stand Friday night against Tampa Bay.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Your Sarcasm Is Noted...

"[Phil] Oreskovic got the first goal and point of his NHL career at 9:04 in the second. The hulking defenseman had his point shot bounce off at least one Capitals player before it got behind goalie Jose Theodore.

The celebration was pretty muted for a guy who only has two goals in 116 career AHL games - he simply raised both arms in the air."

-The Canadian Press

Caps Can't Get Much Going Agianst Leafs

Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 3 OT/SO (0-1)
Scoresheet - Post - Times

The Washington Capitals' stagnant offense continues as the they are pushed to a shootout and lose to the lowly, non-playoff, 12th place Toronto Maple Leafs. The Caps lack of offense against a Leaf team, that has been anything but solid on defense, has put serious doubt in the preparedness of the Caps going into the post season. I am not saying they need to push it, but there should be a panic button at hand.

It has been a struggle to finish out the season for the Capitals. After being solid at home for a great majority of the season they have only won one game in the month of March and that came at the reigns of a shootout with Carolina. In fact, March is now the only month this season that the Capitals have had a losing record (March is currently 5-5-2, even with a win against Tampa they would have only won 6 games out of 13).

Alex Ovechkin scored on the power play on a nice speed play set up by Nick Backstrom. Backstrom drew all four defenders in as he crossed the blue line and then hit Ovi with a saucer pass in full speed on the wing. Ovi bypassed his defender and juked Martin Gerber when he moved the puck to his back hand to score his fifty first goal of the year.

Brooks Laich added a last minute goal that was controversial as Laich pushed the puck and the goaltender into the net and the referee counted it. Gerber got up incensed and pushed the ref getting him an automatic ejection, although there was no penalty assessed. Gerber had an arguement though as most referees would not allow that goal after the puck and the goaltender are pushed into the net.

Curtis Joseph came in after Gerber was thrown out and stopped every shot his way including the three shootout trys by the Capitals.

However, and sadly, Gerber's ejection was really not the story of the game from a Capitals' point of view. Their lethargic offense has become stagnant. The Caps can't seem to buy themselves a goal. No one seems immune to the scoring struggles including both Ovechkin and Alex Semin. When the Caps seem to get a scoring chance, it's either an extra pass or a wide shot that keeps them from the scoreboard.

It is an awful time for the team to get Can't-score-a-goal-to-save-their-lives-itus. As much as some of us want to say that the Caps just want the playoffs to start and other teams are trying to end theirs with some pride, that is just one of a multitude of excuses to mask the fact that the Caps are in trouble if they can't get the red light to flash over the opponents' net.

For some reason their forecheck seems less aggressive. There are too many extra passes, being too cute, not stepping up, too many penalties, not enough this, too much that. It can make your head spin. Bottom line, the Caps have to find a way to break their slump. A team of the Capitals' caliber should not be stuck in shootouts with teams below the 8th place standing in their conference.

Thankfully (or unfortunate) the Caps come back to the phone booth for the next four games before finishing the game on the road. Everyone of the teams they face are below the 8th place playoff line. Something has to spark for the Caps' offense to get it back on track.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Are The Caps Ready For The Playoffs?

The NHL playoffs are battles of epic proportions. Two teams locked in a dog fight for seven grueling games. Those not ready for the post season find themselves with four quick losses and a off season full of questions. Those ready to go the distance are hardened warriors, gritty and ready for anything. Skilled players are at the peak of their potential and the hard worker role players are ready to do anything for their team mates.

Are the Capitals the fore, or after? While they can brew talk of a "hot" stick, they seemed mortal against their divisional foes. They can play the best team in the east to four close games and drop a 5-1 loss against a non-playoff team later on. Are they ready for these intense battle or will the over look their opponents and get ushered out to a off season early?

The Capitals have shown that they can be a tough, talented team to beat, unless you play them a bit dirty. Much like the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes have been playing them.

"You've got to play those guys tough," 'Canes defenseman Joe Corvo said following their 4-1 win over the Caps in Raleigh, NC Saturday night. "You've got to get under their skin. We took a lot of their weapons away."

"Under their skin" is a good way of putting it. It seems this year when the Caps were faced with some chippy-ness, they somehow get off their game. Frustrating them is a way of containing them. The Capitals are not immune to lazy penalties and playing lethargic when faced with a bully-like team.

If the Caps are not ready to come to work for the playoffs, like they have been in a few games down the stretch here, then they will be answering those tough questions after their first round bow out. But they are too good of a team to have that happen and they have too good of a coach to let that happen.

It's time for them to put on their hard hats and go to work. They can't afford to take any team down the stretch lightly. Especially those who may be close to or have a playoff spot. The Caps have eight game remaining on their schedule, five of which are against the Southeast Division (two games against Tampa and Atlanta and a final game with Florida). They also play the Islanders, Toronto and Buffalo, teams that could be easily looked over and have played the Caps tough of late.

  • The playoff picture is coming into focus in the Eastern Conference, but don't count out the teams on the bubble just yet. In an interesting scenario, all eight teams in the Conference maybe be divisional rivals in the first round with Boston/Montreal (North East Division), New Jersey/Rangers (Atlantic), Washington/Carolina (Southeast) and Philadelphia/Pittsburgh (Atlantic). Florida still has a chance to make it as well as Buffalo, but looking at their schedules it will be an up hill battle.
  • The on going Alex Ovechkin and Don Cherry drama is updated on Puck Daddy's website. I have already said my piece on the hot stick. I concur, it is a very hot stick.
  • Speaking of the Bruins, they have clinched a playoff spot with their win over the New Jersey Devils yesterday. the first team to do so in the East. The Caps are close but need a couple more points to wrap up a clinch.
  • Walt Puddubny, a former NHLer, died suddenly in Thunder Bay, Ont. Besides having a fun name to say five times fast, Puddubny was a former Maple Leaf, Oiler, Devil, Ranger and Nordique. Puddubny was only 49.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Caps Lose It In Third Period

I have just finished a 17 hour road trip from DC to Rochester Minnesota. Needless to say, I am not really in any kind of mood to recap another tough loss for the Capitals. Thanks to my handy-dandy XM Radio, I was able to listen to the Carolina feed of the game.

It sounded like the Caps just could not cash in on their opportunities and the Hurricanes played tough on home ice. It does not matter whose building you play in, playing on the road in the NHL is a rough gig. The Capitals were victims of a raucous crowd and an energized home team.

The Caps' Southeast Division tour was a bit disappointing to say the least. Out of 8 possible points, the Caps only secure 4 before coming home for a quick practice then jetting up to Toronto to finish the 5 game road trip. After some sleep, I might be able to better analyze the loss and express my frustration a bit better.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ovechkin's "Hot" Stick Generates Cool Reactions

Alexander Ovechkin certainly has made his fiftieth goal of the season the most talked about marker with his "hot" stick celebration. Ovi's goal at 7:43 into the first period sparked controversy when Ovechkin laid his stick on the ice and acted like it was too hot to pick up. It was a celebration technique that he talked about with his team mates.

"Me, Jose Theodore, (Nick) Backstrom and (Mike Green) said if I score goal, Jose told me just put the stick on the ice and try like it's so hot," Ovechkin explained. "Backie stopped and Greenie stopped, so I have to do it myself."

The reactions after the game were pretty swift. Rick Tocchet took exception to the practice of showing off how hot one's stick can become. "I think he's a terrific player (but) he came down a notch in my book after that. I grew up in the old days in the Spectrum where that first period, after that happened, it might have been a three hour first period. It's not something I like, it's hard for me to see that in our building."

But the Lightning didn't seem to use it as motivation. They allowed three third period goals. Their comments are 50% angry at Ovechkin's actions and 50% unhappy with the way they lost the game. The Lightning did have a 4 game unbeaten streak in regulation coming into this game, so you can understand their frustration.

"He's the game's most dominant scorer, but to do that, especially on our ice, I took it as an insult," Lightning wing Ryan Malone told the Tampa Tribune. "It's embarrassing. This isn't football."

Draw your comparisions between Terrel Owens and Alex Ovechkin all you want, but Ovi's action did not hold up the game or really show disrespect to his competitors, even though their attitude states otherwise. I fail to see how this any different than Teemu Selanne (the only other active player in the NHL with 3 seasons and 50 goals) throwing his glove in the air and shooting it down with his stick, or Theron Fluery's knee slide to the other side of the rink.

If Don Cherry wants to go after the Russian's actions, that is fine. This coming from a guy that revels in the lime light with his purple suits and over the top reactions to just about every minor thing that happens in the NHL. Don't get me wrong, I personally love Cherry. But on this he can be very wrong.

Ovechkin's personality is what is creating excitement in the NHL right now. He is the only Capital to have fifty goals in three seasons, now fourth in scoring as a Capital. He has pretty much earned the right to get excited after reaching a milestone.

If Ovi had scored the goal at the Verizon Center, would the outrage be as strong? How can the Lightning fans approve of anything a rival team does in their building? Do they speak for all fans?

Ovechkin's actions didn't take up any time away from the game. He even showed his team first attitude by registering two assists on big goals late in the game. The Bolts had an opportunity to use it as a rallying cry as the goal was the first goal of the game, but they didn't. Instead, they reserved their feelings until after the game with their words, instead of actions.

Caps Notes:
  • Quintin Laing has a torn spleen and was not at practice today. Instead he was at a local Tampa hospital to undergo, I presume, surgery. Tough luck for the gritty shot blocker who had to clear waivers to rejoin the team and looked like he was in a Capital sweater for the rest of the year as Boyd Gordon is out with a broken digit. Laing's season appears to be over. Poor dude.
  • Mike Green was also missing from practice apparently nursing the wind that got knocked out of him. Green tangled with Steven Stamkos late in the game and Stamkos pulled #52 to the ice. It looked as if the defenseman injured his shoulder as he gingerly skated to the bench. After the game he scoffed at any seriousness of the injury.
  • Bruce Boudreau drew Ovechkin to the side and the pair had a talk of Ovi's 50 goal celebration. Tarik has the scoop on what was said.

Green Nets Two Goals, Leaves Injured

Capitals 5, Lightning 2
Scoresheet - Times - Post - St. Pete Times

The Tampa Bay Lightning are no where close to a playoff spot, but their play and their intensity was hard to deny. The Capitals had to be patient against a team that had not been beaten in regulation in their last four games. It was a tight checking, push and shove kind of game, but the Caps break it open in the third period scoring three unanswered goals.

Mike Green had a great night, taking home the game's first star with two goals including the game winner in the third period. But Steven Stamkos pulled the defenseman down late in the third and Green seemed to injure his left shoulder. Although he claimed he was fine after the game, Green was down on the ice for some time before skating gingerly to the bench in obvious pain.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 50th goal of the season and following the goal he laid his stick down on the ice and waved his hands at the "hot" stick. Although it might have been funny to see, most of the 16,000 plus crowd, Lightning coach Rick Tocchet and even Ovi's head coach Bruce Boudreau were not very amused.

"I haven't said anything yet," Boudreau told reporters during his post game conference. "It was his 50th, so maybe he was thinking of something special, I don't know. He's never done that with me that I've seen. I personally don't like it as much."

Tocchet weighed in on the celebration. "I grew up in the old days in the Spectrum where in the first period, after that happened, it might have been a three hour first period. It's not something I like. It's hard for me to see that in our building." [Editor's note: What he means by a "three-hour first period" is there would have been a lot of fights]

Ovi tried to get Green and line mate Nick Backstrom in on the act, but both just let Ovechkin do the celebration on his own. "He told me was going to do it," Green said. "He wanted me to join in, but there was no way I would join in on that. I just kind of stood back and let him do what he does. I think it's great. Fifty goals, that's incredible."

Ovechkin finished the night with a goal, two assists and a +2.

Micheal Nylander and Matt Bradley also scored to help solidify the win at St. Pete Times Forum. Viktor Kozlov got the play maker (3 assists). Eric Fehr thought he had a goal and after looking at the replay it did look like the puck had crossed the line. But the Referee's deemed the play dead even though the puck was over the goal line.

Puckhead's player of the game has to be Kozlov with his three assists. He has been ramping up his play of late and the last two games have been his best by far this season.

Boyd Gordon suffered a broken finger in the Florida game and the Caps recalled Quintin Laing. He had to clear waivers to make it to the big club which he did. Laing blocked a shot and was instrumental in Bradley's goal, even though he wasn't on the scoresheet.

John Erskine was a healthy scratch for Brian Pothier who had a better second half of the game rather than the first half. Pothier is going to be just fine, it looks like his thought process needs to speed up some (i.e. what to do with the puck once he gets it).

Simeon Varlamov played well. His biggest save of the night had to have been on Milan Jurcina, his own team mate. Jurcina poked checked the puck from a Lightning forward and then as he was falling to his knees shot a back hander right on net. He was trying to keep the other forward from getting the puck. Varlamov made the save and is owed a steak dinner on behalf of one Jurcina. Three starts and three wins for Varlamov for his NHL resume.

I am not sure if it was the ice surface, but the puck was pretty lively all game long. Plenty of passes did not find their targets and the puck just did not want to settle down for anybody.

Once the Capitals took the lead in the third, they started to look like themselves again. They will stay in Tampa overnight and may practice at the St. Pete Times Forum before they head to Carolina. The Caps are looking to finish the season on a high note, but also healthy. The Green scare may keep him from the lineup on Saturday night, but that is a decision that will happen closer to game time.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Caps Looking To Climb

The Capitals took some time off yesterday, Bruce Boudreau canceled the practice scheduled at St. Pete Times Forum. It was an earned day off considering they held the Florida Panthers, a team desperate to make the playoffs, shot less in the third period helping Jose Theodore to only his second shutout of the season.

Tonight they face the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that will not make the playoffs. The Caps have had their troubles with teams below the 8th and final playoff spot in the standings (ref. Atlanta Thrashers' beat down 5-1). But with a win tonight, the Caps can leap frog the New Jersey Devils (who lost last night to Carolina) and put the pressure on the Boston Bruins (who play tonight and on Sunday then take five days off before playing again).

Just when you thought the Bruins would not be caught, the Caps are just five points away from the Eastern Conference leader. They had as much as a 12 point lead in the East, but surges from both the Devils and the Caps have the Bruins looking over the shoulders. For the Caps to catch the Bruins they will have to play better defensively and be more consistent.

The game tonight against the Lightning should be a different style of play for the Capitals than the game they played against Florida. Look for the Caps to be a little more aggressive on the forecheck and it should be a much more wide open game. Although, the Caps have to play within themselves and four-on-ones will hurt more than help if they are not more responsible on defense.

The Capitals are 1-1 on this long, five game road trip. They will come back to the phone booth for a four game set before jetting off for their last three games on the road. The season's end is approaching quickly and it is important for the Caps to end these games on a high note as we shift into the post season.

NHL Notes:
  • Congratulations to Martin Brodeur for becoming the winningest goaltender in the NHL. I remember when Patrick Roy broke the wins record at the phone booth against the Capitals. What is he going to do with that net?
  • The experts at are debating who gets MVP honors. 2 to 1 Alex Ovechkin gets the votes, but it is hard to deny Evgeni Malkin's point assault this season. Of course the reigning MVP should take top honors again, but I am bias.
  • The playoff race in the Western Confernce is so tight, it's like a 6'7" fat guy getting in and out of a Smartcar. As it stands, the twelfth place Anaheim Ducks are still in the play off race with 72 points. That makes it as much as seven teams that are on the playoff bubble. This should make the home stretch in the West a battle every night.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Perfect Road Game

Capitals 3, Thrashers 0
Scoresheet - Post - Times - Mia Herald

After a dismal effort in Atlanta, the Washington Capitals made a re commitment to playing better defense and putting forth a better effort. Their response to a 5-1 shake down by the Thrashers was to stifle the Panthers quick offense. They had a few timely saves by Jose Theodore who recorded only his second shutout of the season and the Caps were able to keep the Florida Panthers at bay with a 3-0 win.

The Capitals just could not be guilty of not working hard in this tilt as they battled for every puck along the boards, jumped to loose pucks and played a much better possession game. Brooks Laich was the benefactor of a lucky bounce that gave him some room shorthanded. He beat Tomas Vokoun stick side for the Caps first goal. Viktor Kozlov added an early third period goal and Mike Green took the empty netter goal to finish off the Panthers.

What might have been the stat of the night was the Caps' defense who did not allow a single Panther shot in the third period. That's right, they could have played with an empty net and still won the game. The Caps also played better on the penalty kill, obviously killing all four Panther extra man chances.

The Caps powerplay didn't have much to work with as the Panthers stayed pretty disciplined. But Kozlov's goal was on the heels of the Panther penalty. The Caps themselves were not as disciplined, but their team defense was so good and the way Jose Theodore was playing it didn't seem to matter much.

This was just a picture perfect road game for the Capitals. They stifled their opposition and quashed their speed in the neutral zone. They did not have to be flashy offensively, but just make the simple play. The forwards came back and were more defensively responsible. It was a team effort and the fruits of their labor was a shutout for their goaltender.

Viktor Kozlov is your Puckhead player of the game. He was every where tonight. He had several chances to score and eventually did in the third. He used his size and strength to get to loose pucks and win battles.

Caps road trip continues as they have a tentative practice in Tampa then play the Lightning on Thursday night. If the Caps keep playing like this on the road, they could get themselves out of their funk just in time for the post season. The best time to come out of one.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Posting A Stinker

Capitals 1, Thrashers 5
Scoresheet - Post - Times - AJC

There is a saying in hockey that rings true of all sports, hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard. That was pretty much the story of the Capitals taking the night off against a hard working Atlanta Thrasher squad and getting spanked 5-1.

Eric Fehr scores the only Capital goal with assists by Milan Jurcina and Keith Aucoin.

The Thrashers goaltender, Kari Lehtonen, is quickly becoming the Roberto Luongo in his Florida days of the Southeast Division (great goaltender on a bad team). He made 49 stops. That's right, the Capitals threw 50 shots at him and only one shot slipped past him with 1:16 left to play in the game. The Thrashers took advantage of their goaltender's hot streak.

The Caps got into some penalty trouble and the Thrashers made them pay with three straight power play goals. The Thrashers could do no wrong with the extra man advantage. They were 3 for four on the powerplay and held the Caps scoreless on their four chances.

When the Caps were coming out of their "funk," they did it with solid defense. But in the last two games, the Capitals have seemed to lack that defensive grit that gave them wins against playoff caliber teams in Nashville and Philadelphia. The post a stinker of a game on national television (if you can call Versus national) by getting out-played and out-worked.

It seemed that when the Capitals were down just a goal, their sticks tightened. They clammed up and couldn't make the right play. Just about everyone of the penalties called against them were unnecessary. You can call it playing to the level of their competitor, but you have to credit the Thrashers and Lehtonen for playing a perfect home game against a team that for some reason just didn't move their legs tonight.

The Caps were clearly upset following the game. Alex Ovechkin refused to answer any reporters' questions after having 10 shots turned away by Lehtonen. Bruce Boudreau offered some insight on what his team did tonight. "We did everything wrong that a team could do," Boudreau said. "They played very smart, had a great goaltender and sometimes great goaltenders stand you on your head, and that's what he did."

When the Caps were down, they were also guilty of being a little too fine with their shots, often missing the net or just missing the open man. Ovechkin had seven missed shots himself. Their forecheck was abysmal with only two hits in the first two periods. They were out done in just about every category, only 35% in faceoffs, they were less physical as the Thrashers took them on hits and out-worked as the Thrashers had more take aways.

Brian Pothier played well, but you could see he still has some rust to shake off. One of his biggest concerns was the speed of the game, and you could see he was trying to figure it out all game. There were times he would have the puck just a second too long or he had to look down to make sure the puck was on his stick. Those are things that players just kind of work through and you can only work through them if you are playing at this kind of level.

Puckhead player of the game is Keith Aucoin as he was the hardest working Capital tonight. Boudreau gave him a couple of extra shifts and more ice time as the game wore on. He came away with a +1 on the night, and an assist.

Caps must put together a better defensive effort (mostly by staying out of the sin bin) against Florida. As a general rule, the Caps have not yet won in both back to back games this year and it looks like that trend continues. Rough start to a long road trip.

Pothier Returns

It's been over a year ago that Brian Pothier suffered a major concussion. It has been a long and winding road for the veteran defenseman who wasn't diagnosed with astigmatism in his eye until just last December. Once they found the problem, the solution was easy and Pothier was on the fast track back to the NHL.

Hershey was the first stop in a road to returning. Brian Pothier was a little nervous about his first hit, but he recounted his time in the minors in a conference call last night. "I actually had a few good collisions," Pothier recalled. "I took a couple of big hits and gave a couple. I was real excited about it. I was relieved. You go in and you don't know what to expect. You haven't had a hit in a while, and when you do get hit, you realize that I'm not damaged goods, I'm not fragile and everything still works real well."

The concussion was able to resolve itself months after the hit, but the astigmatism in his eye was not diagnosed for some time. When Pothier visited a specialist in North Carolina, where Dr. Susan Durham gave him a full two hour exam to find the root of his headaches and disorientation.

"She sat me down at a computer screen and she had me look at the screen," Pothier explained on the conference call. "The letters were kind of gray and pink and blurry. Then she put these glasses on, and I mean, it's hard to explain, but instantly, everything, even the letters changed colors. The letters turned crisp and dark. Instantly, all the pressure and headaches and tension in my head was gone. As soon as two days later, I was able to get on a bike and a couple of days after that I was able to skate. It progressed so quickly."

So quickly in fact that Pothier jumped from his car onto the plane to Atlanta as the Caps take on the Thrashers tonight. He did not even have time to discuss whether he would even be in the lineup. "I just got on the plane. I'm sure we'll sit down and chat real soon."

Pothier is pretty jacked up about his return. Even his wife was pretty excited as well. "It's been a long year and I'm sure she's just happy to get me out of the house. We're all excited."

Michal Neuvirth was sent back down to Hershey and Simeon Varlamov was called up now that his knee has healed. Neuvirth started in three games, replaced Jose Theodore in two games. He left with a 2-1-0 record and a .892 save percentage.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Desperate 'Canes Push Caps To Shootout

Capitals 5, Hurricanes 4 OT/SO (2-0)
Scoresheet - Post - Times

The Carolina Hurricanes need to start accumulating points if they want to stay in the playoff race. For the Washington Capitals, it is all about finishing the season strong. The Caps are feeling good about themselves with two wins on the road, the 'Canes were looking to stop their two game skid. These ingredients all mixed together made for one heck of a game that could not be settled at the end of overtime. It would take a shootout and the Caps take the win as both Alex's score in the shoot out and win the game 5-4.

Alex Semin had quite the game, it was a four point night for him with a goal and three assists. Mike Green, Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin also scored tonight. While Semin's four points were enough to give him the night's number one star, he was also a -3, Green was a -3 and Alex Ovechkin was a -2.

The Caps played an outstanding first period. They didn't take a single penalty and scored both even strength and on their only power play. In fact the Caps power play was very potent as they were 3 for 4 on the power play tonight. But when the Caps seemed to get the lead, their defense seemed to suffer giant lapses like several breakaways in the second and a bone head 5 on 1 that the Capitals didn't score on and the play came back to bite them in the butt.

Alex Semin and Mike Green were on the ice for every goal. Whether it was for or against, Green and Semin were hand in hand for every goal tonight which accounts for their -3 ratings.

Jose Theodore played an outstanding game. While he looked like he took the wrong angle on the first goal, he was outstanding in the overtime period. Tom Poti took a hooking penalty in the extra frame and the 'Canes had at least 5 shot on net for their 4 on 3 powerplay. Theo stopped them all. Toward the end of the game it was apparent Carolina may have been huffing a bit much late in the game as they couldn't get their shots up on Theo and he made the pad saves.

While the Capitals can chalk this one as a win, they have to continue to play through games. Keep their foot on the throats of their opponents sort of speak. When the Caps get a big lead like a two goal lead, they are often guilty of getting too cute with the puck and not being responsible defensively.

Caps home game was a good pit stop, but their next five games put them in their opponents' barn. It will be just under 2 weeks before the Capitals make it back home. Also nine of their last 12 games are against division foes. The Caps will have to keep up their strong play against the Southeast to keep those standing points coming.

Morning Notes

Alex Giroux just can't find his scoring niche on the big club. The Caps felt they could use his size and scoring ability against Philadelphia. They sent Giroux back down and called up Keith Aucoin for the Carolina game. I am sure this is just in case Sergei Fedorov is still feeling under the weather or if Matt Bradley can't play after getting his snoz reset.

Aucoin is the points leader in the AHL right now with 86 points and 64 assists among them. He has already debuted with the Capitals earlier this year against the Rangers and may be in the line up as Carolina will be in the phone booth.

The Capitals are looking forward to keep their winning ways going after their two, one-goal wins against Nashville and Philadelphia. Their next five games are all against Southeast Division foes. In fact 10 of the Caps last 13 games are against the Southeast. Points against their divisional foes are more important now than ever.

  • The Capitals embark on a five game road stretch as the Verizon Center will host the Frozen Four NCAA Championship games. The Caps will not return until almost 2 weeks from now to face Tampa on Friday March 27th.
  • Jose Theodore has been stacking up the numbers in the last few games. He has stopped 62 of 64 shots in the last two games, and has posted a 1.71 goals against average in his last four starts. What goaltending problem?
  • Final thought, I will be at the game tonight in a media capacity. My wife convinced me to apply for a media pass for tonight's game and the Caps' media relation department were happy to oblige. Apparently, they don't do background checks. So if you look up to the press box tonight and see a guy that doesn't look like he belongs, that would be me. That is if I can find the press box.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Caps Win Fifth Straight Road Game

Capitals 2, Flyers 1
Scoresheet - Times - Post

Bruce Boudreau told reporters a week ago that it takes two victories to get out of a slump. What makes the last two wins more impressive other than just breaking a four game slide would be the Capitals getting those wins on the road against two very tough teams. The Caps keep to their tough defensive stand and get the same result as the game before. They ground the Flyers in their barn 2-1.

Alex Ovechkin got the game winner in the second period when the Flyers just coughed up the puck to Alex Semin who found Ovi wide open in front of the net. Brooks Laich also scored in the first period off a slap pass from Ovechkin on the powerplay. The Caps defense and Jose Theodore take it from there as a slight breakdown led to the Flyers only goal.

The Caps end their season set with the Flyers by playing just about the perfect road game. An early power play goal kept Philadelphia honest. Taking the physical play away from the Flyers played into the hands of the Capitals who were satisfied playing a tight checking game through the neutral zone and keep Philly at bay.

The first two periods was a chess match as both teams were systematically working a way to defeat the other. The third period was nothing like the first two as both teams had goals washed out due to an incidental contact by the Capitals and an interference penalty by the Flyers got the Philadelphia crowd to life and opened the game as both teams shared chance after chance down the stretch.

Both Marty Biron and Theodore exchanged great saves late in the game and the Caps take the one goal lead and the two points back to Washington. The KLF line, Viktor Kozlov, Brooks Laich and Tomas Fleischmann, was a potent line all night getting chance after chance. The trio found some pretty good chemistry and dang near had a couple of goals late in the game.

Micheal Nylander came into the lineup to replace an injured Donald Brashear, although he didn't fill in the enforcer role. He played well enough, but found himself on the bench late in the game as the Caps shortened their bench. Sergei Fedorov was a last minute scratch as he was feeling ill. The Capitals recalled Alexandre Giroux for that very reason although the Caps didn't say who was ill until minutes before the game.

Puckhead player of the game goes to Jose Theodore whose 35 saves helped keep the Caps in the game and could have taken home a shut out. He made some great acrobatic saves as well as a few just solid routine saves that killed offensive momentum of the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Caps have one more home game Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes before a long road trip due to the Frozen Four in house at the phone booth. They will be in and out of hotel rooms for the next five games before coming back home to face the Lightning on March 27. The Capitals would like to keep their good fortunes rolling on the ensuing road trip.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Bloody Win

Capitals 2, Predators 1 OT
Scoresheet - Post - Times

I think there is little doubt that the Nashville Predators have a tough team. But the Washington Capitals stood their ground even if that meant taking some pretty heavy blows to do it. In overtime it was Sergei Fedorov that won the game on a pretty pass from Viktor Kozlov to snap the longest losing streak the Caps have had all season as they defeat the Preds 2-1.

The Predators took the early lead, in fact it only took :50 seconds in the game for the Preds to take the early lead. But after a shakey first couple of minutes, the Caps stayed pretty determined.

Things got physical early when Donald Brashear got into a fisticuffs with Wade Belak. Belak took the bout with a thunderous left hand knocking Brash square on the butt. The very next face off Matt Bradley wanted to take revenge by taking on Jordin Tootoo in a battle that maybe Bradley shouldn't have gotten in. Brads ended up with the worst of it as he took the worst as his fast looked like a Warsack test of blood after that fight. Both Brads and Brashear finished the game.

But the fighting didn't end there as John Erskine took exception to Wade Belak in Belak's second fight of the night. Erskine stood his ground and got a few good shots in while Belak got a few cheap shots in including a shot to the back of Erkines head when the linesmen stepped in.

While the Caps let in the first goal in the first minute of play, their defense played a pretty solid game. The blue liners seemed to have a better handle on the Preds and besides the early flurey by the men in blue, the Caps had an answer for Nashville whether it a solid save by Jose Theodore or the defensemen being more active with their sticks getting into shooting and passing lanes.

Nick Backstrom was your only Caps' scorer in regulation. He scored off a pretty pass by Alex Ovechkin who drew in his defender and Backstrom was wide open deke and beat Dan Ellis stick side. Alex Semin was a force tonight, but just couldn't make the puck do what he wanted it to do. He had some great looks and a few nice dekes, but either Ellis was there with the save or shots went wide.

In the overtime period the Caps caught the Preds napping a bit as Kozlov found a wide open Fedorov in front of the net. One deke and the game ended with the Caps getting a much needed two points. Nashville walks away with a point themselves.

Puckhead player of the game has to be Shaone Morrisonn. He had a solid game and was a big part of the shutdown crew as the Caps didn't let in a goal for the remainder of the game. He finished the game with a +1, two shots and three hits, including a monster hit on Jason Arnott (are too!).

Caps aren't out of the woods yet. Next up the big bad Philly Flyers. Caps have to keep their defensive work up and make a few of those shots go in.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dangerous Teams On The Bubble

The Washington Capitals have a habit of not taking teams on the bubble very serious of late. That has lead to four straight losses at home, a place that was a tough place to play in for opposing teams. The Caps' trail doesn't smooth out anytime soon as three of the next five opponents are on the playoff bubble and they will have to finish the month of March on the road playing the next seven of nine games in someone else's barn.

The Nashville Predators will be the next test for the Caps who have not done well against the West this season. The Preds are sitting in eighth place in the west and there is a log jam for teams trying to make the playoffs there. The Preds are looking to solidfy a playoff spot in a very tight race in the west. There are signs that they are starting to get out of their slump, but like Bruce Boudreau alluded to, it takes two wins to officially get out of a slump.

The next in line would be the Philadelphia Flyers. A team that the Caps have yet to figure out since the post season a year ago. The Caps are 1-2 against Philly and will have to face them at the Wachovia Center. The Flyers are not on the bubble, but this rough and tumble team are the kind of teams the Caps seem to have trouble with. And the tough opponents will not stop there.

After a tough road trip, the Caps will have to come back to the phone booth to face the Carolina Hurricanes. The 'Canes have been playing very tough and are on a 4 game winning streak that includes beating the Caps, Flames, Rangers and Lightning (they pounded the Bolts 9-3). They too are trying to make the playoffs after having to sit out last post season, at the hands of a surging Capitals team that pushed them out of the playoffs in the last game of the season.

The next three games should be more than enough of a test for the Capitals who desperately need a few wins to keep the pressure on for the top of the East Standings and keep Florida and Carolina at bay in the Southeast. I would be so bold to say that these next three games could be the biggest games of the season for the Capitals.

NHL Notes:
  • Guy Carbonneau got the boot in Montreal as the story here seems to be a break down in communication. That makes seven coaches that got their walking papers in the NHL this season. That is a 23% unemployment rate, damn this economy! That is a lot of nice suits in the soup line.
  • Former Capital Brian Sutherby found a home for the next two years. He signed a two year contract worth $1.6 million with the Dallas Stars.
  • The General Managers' meeting in Florida seems to be obsessed with fighting... on the ice that is. As Brian Burke put it, "This will sound really silly, is there a way to [make fighting] safer? You know, guys like me who believe fighting has an intrical part or intrical place in our game. What's the best way to do it in a way that senseless or needless injuries can be averted."

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Fourth Straight Loss At Home

Capitals 3, Penguins 4 OT/SO
Scoresheet - Post - Times

This could have been a tale of two teams heading in two different directions. The Pittsburgh Penguins, needing to win to stay in the race for the playoffs, and the Washington Capitals, who have dropped three straight at home and have hit a lull, played in what many think could be a key first round match up in the post season. If they do the Penguins would have the momentum as Sid Crosby scored the only shoot out goal to give them the edge over the Caps 4-3.

But would they really? The Penguins at one point held a 3-1 lead into the third period only to lose it in the opening two minutes. It had looked like Alex Semin was going to be the only goal scorer all game and the Penguins pulled ahead in the second with some interesting chemistry suddenly with newly acquired Bill Guerin and Crosby. But Alex Ovechkin scored a power play goal and Brooks Laich followed that up with a break away goal just 49 seconds later.

The roughing filled game seemed to play right into the hands of the Penguins who looked to get under the skin of the Caps. The linesmen were kept pretty busy through out the game having to separate people, but the center of the cheap shots seemed to center around the Caps' star players. Chris Kunitz, a late season acquisition for the Penguins took a pretty good whack at Mike Green's hands as the horn sounded to finish regulation. No penalty was assessed on the play.

While the Penguins might have come away with two points, the Capitals did play much better then they have in the previous three games. The Caps lack of scoring is a troubling thing, as the Caps have had a hard time finding the net. In their last three games they have been outscored by their opponents 11-5 on home ice.

The bottom line comes down to chemistry. Chemistry that seemed to be rock solid at the beginning of the year, but is struggling now. Finding that right line up, tweaking and re-tweaking, has been the job of head coach Bruce Boudreau who see signs of that chemistry starting to come back.

Puckhead player of the game has to be Alex Semin, who has played as well as he could in the past four games, and was at times brilliant in this game. He had a goal and was one of only two Capitals who were a +1 ( Green was the other). He also had 6 take aways.

The Caps have to realize that teams near the playoff bubble will be the toughest teams they face here on out. While they only grabbed a point, they are still a quite aways from Boston for Conference lead. Plus, They can't fall very far behind or Florida, who is making a serious push could catch them. The Caps hit the road this week and must come away with points.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Ovechkin-less Caps Drop Third Straight At Home

Capitals 1, Maple Leafs 2
Scoresheet - Post - Times

Alex Ovechkin took a nasty slap shot on the foot in practice. The Capitals were not going to take any chances and pulled the league leading goal scorer from tonight's game with the Toronto Maple Leafs. They sorely missed his energy as the Caps came out flat and were unable to sustain any kind of energy against their opponents and drop their third straight loss on home ice 2-1.

Alex Semin had another outstanding game and the Caps only goal scorer and that was with a pulled goaltender. As for the rest of the team, it was close but never close enough. It's another tale of players seemingly waiting for something to happen. Even an early fight didn't help the Caps out much.

You had the feeling that if the Caps could just get one in the net, things would open up for them. The problem was that goal never came. There were plenty of close calls as Martin Gerber and Jose Theodore matched save for save. Some signs of life were here and there for the Caps but they just couldn't get anything sustainable. No one wanted to step up and take that leadership role by their actions.

Every team seems to hit a lull during the season. This duldrum may have come at the right time, if they can shake out of it and finish the season strong. Boston and San Jose seem to also be running into ruts as the finish line is in sight. Bruce Boudreau wants his team to peak at the right time and that is going into the playoffs.

The announced crowd was 18,277, a sell out, but there were a few seats empty. A few more emptied out before the horn sounded to end the game. Puckhead's Player of the game was linesman #80 Thor Nelson, because his name is Thor, how cool is that.

The Caps end their home stand against the Penguins on Sunday. Maybe a big emotional game against rivals will shake the funk they are in. Ovechkin talked to reporters during the game and said he was "okay" and it was possible for him to be back in the line up for the Pens game. The Caps could use his 150% effort to spark something.

Getting Back To Business

With the trade deadline now in the past, the Washington Capitals now have to focus finishing the season on an up note. With just 17 games remaining on the schedule, it is important for them to finish strong not only to keep their distance in the Southeast Division, but keeping the heat on in the Eastern Confernece.

The Caps high water mark has been second in the Eastern Conference, but their two disappointing losses at home have allowed a reinvigorated New Jersey Devil squad with Marty Broudeur back at the helm to surpass them. Amazingly enough, Boston is still catchable at just 8 points away from the Capitals. Pressure from both the Devils and the Caps could put the heat on the Bruins and crack the giant at the wrong time.

The defensive core must play a better game. Mike Green is included in this call to refocus. Green was a -3 on Tuesday night, and was a factor by being a non-factor on the two short handed goals the 'Canes scored in the second period. In fact Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and Green needed some focus juice Tuesday night (since it is not likely that they will ever be traded).

If the Capitals wish to catch Boston, it starts with regaining some face at home. The Caps have to win against a team that was a seller at the trade deadline. The Toronto Maple Leafs come into the phone booth nine points from a playoff spot, and it's important for the Caps to beat teams they should.

Whether it was the distraction of the deadline or just a loss of focus, the Caps have to regain that tonight if they want to success in the post season.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Pronger "Too Steep" - Potheir On The Comeback

The cost of pulling in the big names would wipe out two years of good draft picks for the Capitals. So when general manager George McPhee was faced with the choice, he choose to error on the side of prospects.

"For us to do anything, it had to be an upgrade on what we had, and based on what was out there, there were not a lot of upgrades we saw that we could do," McPhee addressed reporters. "Guys like Pronger and Bouwmeester, but the price to get into that game wasn't something we were willing to pay. We had some discussions with Anaheim and it wouldn't make sense to go after Bouwmeester and have the guy be a free agent."

I could not agree more. Why work so hard to get good draft picks just to waste them on a rental player. It took three young players to land the Coyote's Derek Morris, a price the Rangers paid for a marginal defenseman. The cost for an All Star blue liner would be something that would go against what the Caps have worked so hard to build.

In other news Brian Potheir has been sent down to Hershey to start his recovery. There is a possibility that he could see some action by the end of the year. He was a big reason why McPhee didn't really persue Morris or any other defenseman.

The conditioning stint for Potheir is the biggest of his carreer. McPhee made no bones about it, if he suffers a setback now, his life as a hockey player is over. Staffan Kronwall was also sent to Chocolate Town.

Caps Stay Quiet Through Trade Deadline

Last year the Washington Capitals made quite the splash bringing in the the trinity (Fedorov, Huet and the holy Cook). The move helped the team pull off an historic run to make the playoffs. But this year was different.

Whether it was due to their cap hit or the price of aquiring players, general manager George McPhee might have done the smartest thing and not do a thing. It was clear that McPhee wasn't going to give up three prospect players for Derek Morris in Phoenix, he wasn't going to give up the picks they have left and he wasn't going to make the rash move just to free up some space or get someone they don't really need.

The Capitals still have a very good team and this is the team that is going to take them to the playoffs and beyond. Right now, when they put some effort into it, the Caps have a solid first line and pretty good second line. Plus the Caps are deep on defense with prospects spilling over into the ECHL, and they talent they have should be enough to keep the Capitals in the hunt.

Part of the problem may have been the lack of teams to work with in the Western Conference. Only two teams considered themselves sellers at the deadline, the Colorado Avalanche and the Phoenix Coyotes. With the playoff race so tight in the west the Caps had little to work with if they wanted to make deals outside their conference.

It was rumored the Caps were in talks with the Islanders for Bill Guerin but for whatever reason that deal fell through. Guerin instead went to Pittsburgh. Other players the Caps had an interest in were either not for sale or the price was way to high for what McPhee was willing to deal with.

Micheal Nylander was rumored to be traded, but he has a no trade clause and I am sure Nylander shot down any offers from teams he didn't want to play with. Now Nylander plays out this season as a Capital.

Caps need to get this behind them and make the final push to the playoffs. They have a game tomorrow night against Toronto Maple Leafs. The passing of the deadline may cure their ills after they dropped their last two at home. Now it's time to get it going.

On The Clock - Trade Deadline '09

I will be updating this post as info comes in. You can refresh your browser for the latest.

Here is what I know from this morning, Chris Pronger is off the market. Much like I thought, the Ducks are still in the playoff hunt and they will need Pronger to make it. Tomas Kaberle left his game early last night with an apparent hand injury. Caps are rumored to be in talks for Coyote Derek Morris, Islanders Bill Guerin and Brendan Witt, and Wild Marian Gaborik.

Latest news first:

3:30 pm: A few more trades are coming through but none of them seem to concern the Washington Capitals. You can keep up with them on

3:29 pm: Panthers trade Noah Welch and a 3rd round pick to the Bolts for former Cap Steve Eminger.

3:09 pm: Atlanta trades Erik Christenen to the Ducks for prospect Eric O'Dell.

3:06 pm: Leafs deal Dominic Moore to the Sabres for a second round pick, per TSN.

3:01 pm: TSN reports Derek Morris is now a Ranger. Still waiting for reports on any last minute deals to come down the pipes. Rangers give up Dimitri Kalinin, Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes.

3:00 pm: Pens and pencils down, time is up! It may still take a few minutes for some of the trades to be reported. But it looks like the Capitals made no moves at the deadline. What you see is what you got. I will do a recap of the day in a little bit.

2:55 pm: 5 minutes. No word from the Caps.

2:47 pm: Leafs unofficially trade Nic Antropov to the Rangers, per Starting to heat up! Rangers gave up a second round pick and a conditional pick.

2:46 pm: Coyotes unofficially trade Dan Carcillo to the Flyers for Scottie Upshall and a second round pick, per

2:45 pm: 15 minutes left. Some are saying if Jay Bouwmeester had been traded earlier than other trades would start to drop. As it is, it may look like Bouwmeester would be a Panther for the rest of the season and the teams interested in him are scrambling to pick up what they can instead. Again, no word from Caps' war room. The smartest move maybe the one you don't make.

2:30pm: Are you kidding me? No news, but plenty of chatter. Looks like the trade deadline is going to come and pass with little fanfare. Half a hour to go and no news from the Capitals' camp.

2:15 pm: 45 minutes to go and the story is a pricing game. Those teams looking to buy believe the price will come down in the next half hour or so, while teams selling are betting the price will go up. It should be interesting to see how this all plays out. Several sources that are producing the rumors are mum about anything the Capitals might be doing. Sounds like they don't have a hand in anything at the moment.

2:01 pm: The Islanders have unofficially traded Bill Guerin to the Penguins, per Details are Guerin for a conditional draft pick.

2:00 pm: One hour to go and it sounds like the Caps will sit on their hands for this one. There were rumors that Caps were in the race for Marian Gaborik, Bill Guerin and Derek Morris. But all of those deals may have broken off and the Caps are no longer the leading team in talks for those players.

1:34 pm: Details on the Boston trade, the Bruins get Mark Recchi and a second round pick in '10 for prospects Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums.

1:26 pm: Rumor from that Pittsburgh is in talks with the Islanders for Bill Guerin.

1:24 pm: Tampa's Mark Recchi has been unofficially traded to the Boston Bruins. I was holding out hope that maybe the Caps could pick Recchi up, but being in the same division that was a hard deal to sell.

1:11 pm: Pretty slow for just under 2 hours until the deadline. So far there have been 6 trades involving 13 players and 5 picks. Biggest news is Olli Jokinen's trade to Calgary. Other than that it seems a lot of teams are just positioning and solving short term problems. A lot of the chatter today seems to point that Jokinen may be the biggest name moved today. Also there has been a lot of deals lost in the last 36 hours. This is all setting up for either a buzz of activity in the last hour or a whole lot of nuthin'.

12:59 pm: It is official, Coyotes have traded Olli Jokinen and a third round pick to Calgary for Matt Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a first round pick in either '09 or '10, per

12:44 pm: Boston trades prospect Petteri Nokelainen for Ducks' defenseman Steve Montador. It looks like Boston might be out of the race for Derek Morris.

12:39 pm: Calgary unofficially trades Matt Lombardi, prospect Brandon Prust and a first round pick for Coyote Olli Jokinen, per This should start a arms race in the west.

12:33 pm: Olli Jokinen details are starting to emerge in the trade to Calgary, but it's not official. Names involved in the other direction is Adrian Aucoin and Matt Lombardi. Other teams interested in Jokinen have been told a deal has been done with Calgary.

12:28 pm: Minor league trade with the Blues trading Andy Wozniewski to the Penguins for Danny Richmond.

12:10 pm: Latest from Caps practice: A TSN reporter point blank asked Micheal Nylander if he was asked to waive is no trade clause. Nylander responded, "I can't answer that." Also Alex Ovechkin was hit in the foot by a slapshot and left the ice surface with a trainer. Caps PR said it was not serious. Tarik thinks otherwise.

12:03 pm: Sabres pick up Mikael Tellqvist from Coyotes for fourth round pick, Leafs pick up Martin Gerber off waivers, there were a couple more waiver pick ups but my fish sticks are ready.

12 noon: Lunch time! Left over fish sticks in vinegar, bowl of Joe's O's and maybe I might make some mac and cheese. Yummm!

11:39 am: Avalanche Jordon Leopold unofficially traded to Flames for Lawrence Nycholat (former Capital prospect), prospect Ryan Wilson and a second round pick, per Scratch that defenseman off your list. If you are keeping track, this is Nycholat's 5th team in three seasons. 12:26 pm, Trade is official.

11:33 am: Rumors are circling around Pather Jay Bouwmeester and a possible trade to the Flyers. We should start seeing deals fall closer to one this afternoon. As far as the Caps, rumors have all but stopped which could mean they have concentrated their efforts to a few players.

11:25 am: Coyotes unofficially trade Olli Jokinen to Calgary, per Details to follow.

11:08 am: Tarik reports all are accounted for at practice this morning with the exception of Tom Poti. Poti was yanked before last night's game with a groin pull.

10:47 am Tim Connolly agreed to the offer by the Sabres, and you can scratch him off your list.

10:25 am: Blues' Keith Tkachuk looks like he is staying put. That pretty much means the number of teams in the Western Conference is dwindle to 2 sellers. The LA Kings figure they are still in the hunt for the playoffs. Teams left are the Avalanche and the Coyotes. Meanwhile in the East there are as many as 6 teams that could be sellers.

10:08 am: Contract offer for Sabre Tim Connolly still on table but Connolly reported to have left morning skate. Of course it is an optional practice.

9:56 am: Columbus goaltender Pascal Leclair and a second round pick traded unofficially to Ottawa for Antoine Vermette, as per 10:17 am, Trade is official.

9:55 am: News just came down that Filip Kuba has been resigned with the Ottawa Senators. Scratch that defenseman off your lists.


Capitals 2, Hurricanes 5
Scoresheet - Post - Times

The Carolina Hurricanes played like a team desperate to make the playoffs, the Washington Capitals played like they could care less. Four goals including two short handed goals in the second decimated the Caps at home and they drop yet another disappointing loss at the phone booth to a team they should beat.

Alex Semin and Sergei Fedorov saved face for the Caps.

!Warning, a Mike Green rant!

If you are the only defenseman on the power play and their team is coming down the ice with the puck shorthanded, PLAY DEFENSE! Both goals Mike Green looked like he wanted no part of the play, backing off the penalty killer and watching rather than getting into the play. Mike, if you want to be a winger, just ask. I am sure Bruce Boudreau would accommodate you. But if you want to play defense, the play the damn position.

Put your body on him, get a stick on him, get in the play, DO SOMETHING! Anything. Take a damn penalty. But don't just stand there and watch like it's not your responsibility to play defense. Both shorthanded tallies by the Hurricanes were a direct result in Green just not engaging in the play. It would have been a different story if there was a off winger breaking and you needed to cover him, but Matt Cullen was all alone on the first one and Green just skated backwards and stopped in the slot. Get in there and play defense doof.

End rant, thank you.

The Washington Capitals just did not play well and as a result there was a steady stream of fickle Caps fans heading for the doors. Can you blame them? They wanted to see the Caps put up a better effort than this.

One would think on the eve of the trade deadline, one would want to have a really good game as to show your general manager that you worth keeping. No one in red got the memo. The Caps were guilty of standing around, watching the 'Canes as they skated hard for the puck, won the battles on the boards and just outplayed their counterparts.

If you play your hardest and still get beat, then I can chalked it up as the hockey gods just were not on your side in this game. But that was not the case, the Caps did not work for their supper and instead we payed them to have the best seats in the house for 60 minutes.

The Capitals' system they play depends on the score remaining close. If it is not, and the other team as the lead, they can sit back and play defense and frustrate the Capitals. The Caps depend on their team to stretch their forwards and defense to open lanes and score on quick transitions. That can not happen if the other team can build up a nice lead.

Puckhead player of the game, the horn guy. God bless him, he was still trying to get the fans going as they headed for the exits.

Tom Poti was the one that was sitting out with a re-aggravated groin pull. John Erskine got some playing time after all. Micheal Nylander sat out as well for the fourth straight games as the Caps try to shop the forward.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Theodore Out (Flu), "Quiet" Night For Caps

Two important posts on the Capital Insider scrolled across my screen. One said that Jose Theodore will not be on the ice tonight due to the flu (must be one of those 24 hour flu's). Michal Neuvirth will be in net tonight to take on Carolina.

The second is Tarik's post on George McPhee's intentions for the rest of the evening. From the sound of things, the Caps are not looking to make a huge splash (at least tonight). Rather they are going to tweak here and there ensuring a return to the playoffs for some years.

Make sense, and it seems likely the Caps are not going to make any rash moves. Until the last minute when it seems McPhee is able to work his magic. Remember, it was just hours before the deadline when McPhee brought the trinity to Washington last season (Fedorov, Huet, and the holy Cook). He told everyone pretty much the same story he is telling us now:
Capitals General Manager George McPhee recently said (for the second time) that he's not anticipating making a major move. - Capital Insider, February 25, 2008. 9:48am.
Should make tomorrow a very interesting day (or a boring one) for Caps fans.

Rumors Revised - Trade Deadline '09

The Capitals again have Micheal Nylander on the sidelines for now 4 straight games. Joining him is John Erskine. Both could be the ones the Capitals are considering trading.

In talking with some Western Conference people an interesting name popped up. Edmonton's Erik Cole was apparently asked about from several teams and the Caps are rumored to be one of them. Now that it may look like Marian Gaborik will stay in Minnesota or be traded to LA, the Caps may look for Cole's speed and play making ability to set up second line scoring.

Another rumor that will not quit is Chris Pronger. In exchange could be a first round pick, prospect player and a contract player now. Take your pick, Erskine or Nylander?

What The Caps Seem To Be Looking For

General manager George McPhee has been a busy bee so far this week. Not only his he using up cell phone minutes, but he is looking to improve his squad. The rumors that have circled around the Washington Capitals has two areas of concern that McPhee seems to concentrating on.

One area seems to be leadership. It is rumored that the Capitals are in talks with the Islanders to work out a trade with Bill Guerin. While he is not having a career year, Guerin brings a gritty leadership and playoff savvy to the Capitals. Bruce Boudreau recently called out his team's leadership in their embarrassing loss at home to the Florida Panthers. It is an area the Caps need someone with playoff experience to step in and be a voice in the locker room when things aren't going so great.

The Islanders have not released who they are talking to concerning Guerin, however.

The other area of concentration is on defense. The Caps are rumored to be in talks with several teams about potential trades with blueliners. The list includes Chris Pronger, Tomas Kaberle and even Brendan Witt. The Caps need a shut down guy that isn't afraid to make a game changing big hit and keep opponents honest in front of Jose Theodore. All this and staying out of the penalty box would be nice. The Panther game seemed to be a micro-chasm of problems for the Caps this season.

The Caps are also looking for some secondary scoring, but that just seems like hobby rather than a concentration at the deadline. The Capitals' name has been linked to landing Marian Gaborik who is recovering from hip surgery.

The Caps are not looking for goaltending. Even when it looked like that was going to be the problem earlier this season. Theo has shored up his play and has been more consistent. The Caps believe if they can solve their leadership and defensive shortcomings, then nothing but good things will happen.

Possible players the Capitals could be shopping include, but are not limited to, Micheal Nylander and his heavy contract will free up cap space and teams desperate for some scoring may take a chance. Sami Lepisto may be on that list as he comes up as a RFA and didn't play as well as management thought he would when they recalled him earlier this year. Shaone Morrisonn is also a possible trade. While Morrisonn has been a solid blue liner for the Caps, his contract is up and since he went through arbitration at the beginning of this season, the Caps may not want to go through that again.

As always if I hear of any rumors concerning the Capitals I will pass them on. I will also be around all day Wednesday as the trades come flowing in at the deadline. Last season McPhee pulled some smart trades to improve his team, it will be interesting to see how he performs this year.

Monday, March 02, 2009

One More Rumor - Trade Deadline '09

The anticipation is so palpable, I could just spit. Latest from the rumor mill concerning the Capitals is Minnesota Wild's Marian Gaborik. It is an interesting rumor because Gaborik is just coming off of hip surgery. Per USA Today:
Gaborik has resumed skating on his own, a step forward in his recovery from left hip surgery. The two-time All-Star right wing will go through a major physical test on March 1 to assess his progress, with the possibility of returning to the team later in the month. Gaborik has appeared in only six games this season.

Chris Pronger's name is also circling but not around the Capitals, Pittsburgh and Ottawa are possible landing spots. Wait, Ottawa? Hmm.

In the only game of the night featuring the Colorado Avalanche at New York Islanders, both Bill Guerin and Brendan Witt are out of the line up. Is a trade emminent?

The Rumor Mill In Full Effect, Trade Deadline

I love rumors at the trade deadline. And today the rumor mill is cranking out some pretty big ones. It doesn't look like it will stop until the deadline on March 4th.

According to a couple of sources, Brendan Witt is rumored to be back in a Capitals' sweater. Which is interesting considering he wanted no part of the "rebuilding" process.

Some non-trade news, Mike Green was named February's second star:
Green led NHL defensemen and ranked second among all scorers with 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 13 games, helping the Capitals post a 9-3-1 record. Green set an NHL record for defensemen with goals in eight consecutive games from Jan. 27 to Feb. 14, breaking the mark previously held by Mike O'Connell of the Boston Bruins (1983-84). It also matched the longest streak by any NHL player since 1997-98. The 23-year-old Calgary native leads all NHL defensemen in scoring with 23-33--56 in 51 games. His 23 goals are a career high and the most by a Capitals defenseman since Sergei Gonchar had 26 in 2001-02.

Trade Update 5:30pm: Niclas Havlid is now a Devil, per

March Madness, Trade Deadline

Today and tomorrow should be the busiest times for the Washington Capitals as the NHL trade deadline looms. Here is what we know so far... kinda... is reporting that the Caps are in talks with the Islanders to land Bill Guerin. But that is just speculation to this point.

Tomas Kaberle is rumored to be dealt to Boston, but it seems Brian Burke shot down those rumors pretty quick. Kaberle did come to management a week or so ago with a short list of possible teams he would like to be traded with. The Caps were rumored to be on that list.

Chris Pronger doesn't look like he will be going anywhere if the Ducks look to make the playoffs. Right now the west is so tight that teams on the bubble maybe looking to buy or stay rather than sell.

Dereck Morris, who is also mentioned in the same article as Guerin, is another good defenseman on the market, and the Coyotes are thinking about dealing him. Not sure if the Caps have a hand in this one or not.

I will try to update as much as I can over the next 24 hours as the countdown has started.

Probable players the Caps can trade: Shaone Morrisonn, Micheal Nylander, Sami Lepisto, John Erskine.

Other names in play:
Forwards: Ryan Smyth (COL), Chris Neil (OTT), Olli Jokinen (PHX)
Defensemen: Filip Kuba (OTT), Niclas Havelid (ATL), Brendan Witt (NYI).

Caps Start March Like A Lamb

Capitals 2, Panthers 6
Scoresheet - Post - Times

Bruce Boudreau did not want to make a single excuse about their losses at home, especially when the Caps gave up three power play goals in the first period.

"It seemed like they had the puck in the power play for the whole 2 minutes in our zone every time," A frustrated Boudreau said. "I can't sugarcoat it, and I can't find excuses for it."

He even called out his leadership on his team: "As a coach, you'd like to see [people take charge]. We were just discussing that, as coaches. You know, it's tough for the coach to come in there every day and yell when we're not doing well. Someone's got to take initiative in the room."

As tough as it was to rewatch the game, I had too to really see where the Capitals broke down. To be brutally honest, this was the worst defensive stance the Caps have put forth since the days of Glen Hanlon. The blue-liners were losing battles on the boards, standing around, allowing Florida to use their speed.

John Erskine and Milan Jurcina may have been the whipping boys for Boudreau as their ice time was severely cut in the third. He also placed Sergei Fedorov on the back line to try and jump start some kind of offense, but by the time the third came around the Caps just looked beat.

But not all of the blame goes to the Capitals' defensemen. Backchecking seemed to be a problem for the Capitals centermen and wings. It may have been a long hard fought game in Boston that tamed the Caps, but Boudreau was quick to dismiss that.

"It's not like we are asking them to play 5 games in six days," Boudreau said.

Undisciplined play caught the Caps flat-footed in the first. The Panthers were a perfect 3 for 3 in the first period. It was an easy area to find out where the Caps had gone wrong because without those power play tallies, the Caps could have taken a one goal lead in the the first intermission.

The penalties are just bad too, 2 hooking, a holding call, tripping, a high stick and a delay of game over the glass. Lazy bad penalties to take. 4 stick in fractions that were not really necessary. It means the Caps were not moving their feet nor winning any battles. If the Caps just let that player go the worst that can happen is a goal or give Theodore a chance to make a great save.

Alex Ovechkin gets a tally late in the game to bring his league leading total to 46 goals. Alex Semin scored the early powerplay tally that started the Caps off right, but turned out to be the only bright spot in the first 55 minutes of the game.

Puckhead's player of the game is the goal official in charge of turning on the red light. He had a busy night.