Thursday, December 31, 2009

Here Is To A Happy New Year

To Mike Green,

Sorry Team Canada is a bit short sighted not to have you representing your country. I guess with the offensive juggernaut the Swedes and the Russians are coming to Vancouver with, offensive defensemen were not high on their to do list. To deny a talent such as yourself a chance at a gold medal is down right criminal.

To Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, Alex Semin, Tomas Fleischmann, Semyon Varlamov,

Congratulations boys on making it to Vancouver. Good luck to you all, do your home team of DC proud and we expect nothing but great things from each and everyone of you. Bring back a medal.

To my faithful readers,

I appreciate the regular readers I get on PHT, all 3 of you. I have been going through some tough times with my dad's stroke as well as starting a new family and getting moved into our new house in Alexandria. It hasn't been easy to try to work up the time to do the blog and twitter and what ever else I can do. I can only tell you that I will keep this up for as long as I can.

To Corey Masisak,

We will miss your wit, your writing and your wisdom. I know you will land on your feet soon. That "kid from Pittsburgh" is alright with me.

Here is to a happy and prosperous 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Distracted Caps Lose Divisional Battle

If George McPhee was looking for a bit of "shock and awe" with his trade before the Capitals played the Carolina Hurricanes, the shock may have back fired. The Caps allowed 3 first period goals and never recovered as the Hurricanes blow away the Caps 6-3.

What preceded the game left both fans and players a bit on edge as the team's captain Chris Clark and defenseman Milan Jurcina were traded to Columbus for Jason Chimera. Yes, the same Chimera that got under the skin of the Caps and was involved in the play that may have injured Alex Ovechkin. McPhee wanted more grit and some salary space. He got it with this trade, but he also disrupted a very tight locker room.

The Caps changes in the past 2 and a half years has not had a shake up like this in it's ranks, unless we are talking about goaltending. McPhee even came out and stated he would like to keep the group together for as much as he could to give them another chance. He already has a tight nit group of guys and this shake up may have caught them off guard.

The end result is a team that was off kilter, off game and a team that failed to win against a weaker team and slipped in the standing a point behind the New Jersey Devils. All for more grit. McPhee may have realized his team lacked a bit of toughness. Chimera will bring that edge that is not quite a fighter and not quite a saint either.

What McPhee brought in was someone to add some energy to a team that seems to only thrive on goals. A player that can mix it up, and still have the speed to cut to the outside and make a play. Not so much a fighter, but an agitator. It is something the Caps have lacked since saying good bye to Matt Cooke, choosing Matt Bradley instead.

GMGM has also made room for another possible trade or pick up at the trade deadline. He dumps salaries of $2.5 and $1.375 million off his cap will only absorbing $1.875 and a contract through 2012. In a word, some cap "srtategery" going on here.

It was a shock for the Caps to make the move and deal the players that seemed to grow on the fans. Captain Chris Clark was the leader of this team, and a close friend to many in the locker room. His play through injury and hard working attitude seemed to satisfy the Capitals' faithful. Jurcina would probably be the last defenseman you would think be traded. He was a physical player that had a laser of a shot. The trade does ease the log jam of defensemen the Capitals have as well.

That shock seemed to rub on to the Caps as they took the ice to get their ninth straight win against a divisional foe. But that didn't happen. In one of the worst first periods I have seen the Caps play in some time, the Hurricanes took advantage of a stunned Caps' team scoring three goals in the first and never really looked back. When the Caps needed a save, they didn't get one from Jose Theodore. Not that it was entirely his fault, but he certainly didn't look very special out there.

In the grand scheme of things, it was simply just another loss. We sill need to see how Chimera fits into the locker room and how his play will affect the Caps as a whole. There might be more moves to come out of GMGM and that remains to be seen as well.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Spreading The Christmas Cheer

The Washington Capitals have been generous in the month of December. It's proving that it is better to give than receive. Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin have more assists than goals this month. A stat that seems to be gaining in popularity among the entire team. In fact only three Caps have more goals than assists and one player evened out.

Ovi, so far, has 7 goals and 10 assists during his short stint playing in the month of December. Compared to a year ago, Ovechkin was raking in the goals with 12 tallies and only 7 assists. It marks a turning point for the Capitals in more ways than one. They are not just relying on the star players to get the job done. Although the top line of Semin, Nick Backstrom and Ovi do account for 21 goals and 29 assists this month alone.

In fact, Backstrom has more points than Semin and Ovechkin with nine goals and nine assists. Never has Backstrom scored more goals than Ovechkin in a month (even if Ovi missed games due to injury).

Only three players have scored more goals than assists thus far in December (which has two more games to go). Tomas Fleischmann (7 goals, 4 assists), Matt Bradley (3 goals, one assist) and David Steckel (2 goals, one assist). The puck is definitely being passed around a bit more and secondary scoring seems to be hitting it's mark more and more. A good sign the team is playing better and will be tougher to beat down the road.

A sign of a championship team would be every line is a threat to score and tough to score against. The Caps are slowly making that happen. While lines 3 and 4 could produce more, the fact that the Caps are starting to get production outside of the top line is a promising sign.

Caps Notes:
  • The Caps face Carolina tonight and try to go 9-0 against the Southeast Division. The Caps are the only team in the NHL to be undefeated facing their divisional foes.
  • Backstrom’s three points Saturday night give him 202 points in 202 career games. He is one of only 10 NHLers with at least 100 games played to boast a point-per-game average in his career (Alex Ovechkin is another). Backstrom reached 200 career points before anyone else in his draft class (2006) had 150. -- Per Washington Caps PR.
  • Michal Neuvirth is off to a fast start, relatively speaking. In the last three games he has started and won he has posted impressive save percentages (.929 vs. EDM, .941 vs. BUF, and .967 vs. NJD). His numbers should make the Caps' management pretty happy, since they now have solid depth within the goaltending ranks.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Caps Dropped By Canuck Defense

Capitals 2, Canucks 3
Game Summary - Post - Times

The Washington Capitals in the middle of a long west coast swing road trip were not able to get past a stingy Vancouver Canuck defense. The Canucks would battle back from a one goal deficit to beat the a road weary Capital team 3-2.

In a strange first period, the Canucks opened the scoring as Ryan Kessler broke away from the Caps defense and was hooked from behind. The puck hit Jose Theodore, bounced off the leg of Jeff Schultz and into the net. Not long after that Brooks Laich took a hit along the boards after dishing the puck to Alex Semin. Laich was thrown over the boards into the Canuck bench. Semin scored off the play and the game had it's first two goals in very unconventional ways.

The Caps took the lead from there when Chris Clark scored off his own blocked shot. That is where the they would begin to sputter on offense. The Canucks tightened the defensive end and capitalized on opportunities given to them. Rookie Mason Raymond scored on a two on one when the Caps got caught deep in the offensive zone. Then the Canucks would take the lead on a Tom Poti penalty where he took an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike.

The story of the game was the ineffective power play for the Capitals. They had only one shot on net in all four of their power plays against the Canucks. Alex Ovechkin remained pretty much ineffective against a stingy defense. Through the first two periods, Ovi didn't even have a shot on net. He would finish pointless on the night.

Semin did have a late penalty shot but failed to score on his opportunity. It's a disappointing finish to a game that saw the Caps dominating play through much of the first period. Letting their power play chances slip away, there wasn't much room the Canucks afforded the Capitals as the game wore on.

The Caps have to put this behind them as they travel to Edmonton and face the Oilers for a second late night game in a row. The game against the Oilers will end the four game western road swing for the Capitals as they will play Buffalo at home on Wednesday.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Ovechkin Is Not A Dirty Player

There is a distinct difference between playing all out and playing dirty. To suggest that Alex Ovechkin's knee on knee hit with Tim Gleason was in any way dirty is absurd to say the least.

Was it a penalty? Yes. Was it worth a two game suspension? Not necessarily.

If anyone who has watched Ovechkin play, you know he doesn't cut corners nor does he let up whether it is game seven in the playoffs or just a divisional game between two teams separated by 21 (now 23) points in the standings. This is just an unfortunate incident that Ovechkin reacted late to a Gleason deke. If Gleason doesn't deke, he probably would have been buried by a crushing check. Ovi committed himself to the hit and as a last second adjustment stuck his leg out to catch the 'Cane defender.

I can see a game suspension and time served as Ovechkin was ejected from the game. But two games? Two game suspensions are handed out to players who have the reputation already as dirty players and those who go into situations with intent to harm (like let's say Matt Cooke's latest handy work against the Rangers). I can understand if the league wants to make knee on knee hits a thing of the past, but this was not an intentional event and Gleason finished the game (he didn't even miss a shift).

Coach Bruce Boudreau called the hit reckless, but would he be less apt to criticize if Ovechkin didn't engage in the play at all? I didn't see reckless in the hit, I did see a player making a last second mistake.

When a player is committed to the hit that player has two choices when the other player makes a move to avoid the hit. He can bail on the hit and go right by, which I have seen Ovechkin do on countless occasions (i.e. the last Caps/Flyers game where Ovi lined up Mike Richards and Richards made the move to avoid the hit. Ovi skated right past him). The other is to stick your leg out and slow them up (which is a penalty). At the speed of this game I am not surprised it happens more often.

Caps Notes:
  • The injury list is making the trip from Hershey to Washington a regular route for some players. Boyd Gordon, Alex Semin, Shaone Morrisonn, Tom Poti, Mike Knuble and Quintin Laing's injuries have made it tough for GM George McPhee and Boudreau to build any kind of chemistry through the lines. Hence, a slew of one goal games. Of the many that have traveled the road between farm club and Verizon Center have been Mathieu Perreault is making the most of his time as a Capital. Though small, Perreault has been a bright spot amongst the injury gloom and doom. He has scored 2 goals and has 4 assists. But the biggest stat of all would be his +6 rating. In fact, Perreault has yet to recieve a minus rating in any of the 13 games he has played.
  • Ovechkin is calling his injury just a bruise while his mother came out in defense of her son's suspension. Nice to see the mom standing up for her little boy.
  • Last but not least, Jose Theodore played one of the best games I have seen him play as a Capital against Carolina. True that the effort came against a struggling offense, but he flat out robbed Eric Staal of a goal on a what looked to be a tap in tally. Let's hope this is a more consistent trend.

On a personal note, my time is still torn between a new home (I put in dimmer switches in my new house and my wife thinks I am a genius, nice) and my job which has been pulling a good chunk of my free time from me. I am trying to even everything out, and hopefully things will clear up after the holidays. I will try to update as much as I can but I am watching the games and I appreciate all the friendly emails and the encouragement to keep P.H.T. going.