Friday, October 30, 2009

Caps Game Winning Streak Snapped

Capitals 3, Islanders 4 OT
Scoresheet - Post - Times

The Washington Capitals didn't play a bad game, but they didn't win it either. The New York Islanders finally find a way to beat the Caps in overtime 4-3. The home team was able to put together a better effort and got some offensive infusion from Tomas Fleischmann who scored his first two goals of the season and had chances for even more as the game wore on.

Alex Ovechkin continues to be on pace for another spectacular season as he started the scoring after the Islanders' Kyle Okposo was called for a double minor high-sticking infraction. The Capitals' power play, which has looked inept and stationary of late, was more animated in this game. Knowing the Islanders were going to block a ton of shots, the Caps moved the puck well. They even showed some creativity that led to some pretty good chances, but just came short of scoring.

Fleischmann, who was playing in only his second game of the season as he was recovering from a blood clot in his leg at the end of last season, played one of his best games as a Capital. Both goals he scored were tight affairs where he was at the Dwayne Roloson's welcome mat.

The Caps played a pretty solid game, but it was very mistake ridden. Often they seemed to lose focus or just unfortunate luck did them in. Mike Green was a victim of some Halloween trickery. His mis-play of the puck led directly to a goal.

The Islanders just found a way to hang around and in the overtime period, they took advantage of a Caps team that was being just overly nonchalant with the puck in their net. Jose Theodore played an inconsistent game, but an overall good game. He came up with some whopper saves in the second and third periods. It was the first and third goals that seemed to give the Caps' goaltender fits. Both goals squeaked under Theo and he just didn't look ready to make saves on either shots.

New York kept in the game with some really good goaltending in Roloson. He stopped 37 shots and didn't face a single shot in overtime before his teammates scored the winning goal. The Islanders benefited from some hard work and some fortunate take-aways. But the Caps couldn't get their scoring going with any consistency. Their power play, which was 2 for 6 tonight, couldn't seem to get that next goal they needed.

Caps Notes:
  • The top line for the Caps of Nick Backstrom, Alex Semin and Ovechkin continues to struggle 5 on 5. The trio combined for one goal, one assist and a collective -2. Part of the problem is their willingness to give up a puck to their teammates instead of taking the shot. It was frustrating to watch the line get a great scoring chance and give it up for an extra pass. Bruce Boudreau is thinking about splitting the line up for Sunday's game.
  • The Caps have cut down on their penalties, only sitting in the sin bin three times this game. The new discipline is great as the Caps kept the Islanders from getting much on their power plays. Theo also played outstanding during the penatly kill.
  • When the Caps play on Sunday against Columbus, they will have a player very familiar with the Blue Jackets in Brendan Morrison. B. Mo has played in 30 games against the Ohio team and has 28 points in those games. The Caps have never had the best of luck when it comes to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Having B. Mo around should help.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Caps Struggle To Close Out The Thrashers

Capitals 4, Thrashers 3
Scoresheet - Times - Post

It should have been a open and shut game. The Capitals worked up a 3-0 lead. They were dominating the Atlanta Thrashers, who were without star player Ilya Kovalchuk (out with a broken foot), through the first half of the game. But it would take an empty netter to be the Caps' game winning goal as they let the Thrashers claw back into the game late. This should have been a story about how the Caps were back on track, instead it is about how a team stopped competing once they had the 3-0 lead.

"It's ridiculous," Caps' bench boss Bruce Boudreau said. "We just let up and let the other teams back into the game. It's very frustrating."

Alex Ovechkin continued his march to 50 goals in 50 games, a feat last done by Brett Hull in the '91-'92 season. Ovi has kept pace scoring goals 12 and 13 in the Caps' 12th game of the season. He also had an assist for his 8th multipoint game of the season (4 games in which he had 3 points). Brendan Morrison scored on the power play and Mike Knuble scored the eventual game winner when he score on the empty net.

The Caps came out playing really good hockey. They were dominating the play, drawing penalties and making the Thrashers pay for their infractions. Their power play looked much better scoring 2 goals in 5 chances. It seemed the Caps could do no wrong. But, they fell back into old habits. They stopped skating and stopped competing. Tyler Sloan took a lazy hooking penalty late in the second and the Thrashers found life with a power play goal to start the third period.

Atlanta would out hustle the Caps dominating them in the scoring chance column 15-3 in the third period. Semyon Varlamov, who had played a gem of a game to that point, was suddenly overwhelmed with what would end up being 20 shots on net in the final frame. He did the best he could keeping the score 3-1 but Atlanta just kept pushing. He made a stop on a penalty shot after Jim Slater was able to break out (although it didn't look as if he was quite in the clear), and made some stand-on-your-head saves in the third period.

"I wasn't happy [about our effort] for Varly," Boudreau sympathized with his goaltender. "He plays an outstanding game and ends up with three goals on him and [there was] nothing he could do. He kept us in the game in the third period."

The Thrashers were able to follow up their power play goal when Todd White caught the Caps' defense napping. He got behind the Caps' defense and beat Varlamov blocker side. Atlanta would pull the goaltender to try and tie the game up at 3, but Knuble scored on the empty net. Zach Bogosian would score his second goal as the clock struck 0:00 to make it a final 4-3.

Washington again lost their focus to allow a team they had all but beaten in the first half of the game to come back. If the Caps weren't able to score on the empty net the game would have been tied and gone into overtime. It is the same trouble they had a season ago, playing a full 60 minutes and keeping their foot on the gas pedal.

"I thought with about seven minutes to go in the second period we thought this was going to be easy," Boudreau said of his team's inability to finish the game. "And then we stopped skating and stopped playing and their crowd was out of it. But I knew once they got one goal, just like the last time, they would be flying ... we had a hard time getting it going after that."

Consider it a cheap lesson to learn, as the Caps do take the 2 points from a divisional foe and continue their winning streak stretching it to now 6 games. The Capitals have earned at least a point in 10 of the 12 games they have played this season. Mike Green stretches his point streak to seven games after he made a beautiful no look pass on Ovechkin's first goal. Dave Steckel was 72% on face offs. He ranks fourth in the league for face off wins with 61.5%. Nick Backstrom has been struggling on the face off dot, tonight he was a mortal 29% on draws.

Caps Notes:
  • Tomas Fleischmann made his season debut for the Capitals after he was shelved for having a blood clot in his leg. His conditioning stint in the AHL with the Hershey Bears was short lived before he started tonight in Atlanta. He finished the night a -1, but had two great chances and had 3 shots on net.
  • Eric Fehr sat this one out as he is ailing from a rib injury. Fehr had just returned to the line up after having successful shoulder surgery on both shoulders. He only has one goal in his six games this season.
  • Of the 5 games that Varlamov has started, he has let in 3 or more goals in four of those games. In fact he has allowed 4 goals in three of his five starts. The only game in which Varly has played and shut out the opponent is when Jose Theodore suffered back spasms in the San Jose game and he came in relief.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Caps Squeak Off Long Island

Capitals 3, Islanders 2 OT
Scoresheet - Post - Times

It may have not gone according to plan, but the Washington Capitals were able to grab 4 points on their quick two game road trip. The Caps rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the New York Islanders just a minute into the overtime period. The win wasn't a perfect game for the Caps as they were badly outworked through the first half of the game. Their power play has also suffered during this two game stint as it went 0 for 4 on the night.

"In the first period we were definitely out-worked and out-played and out-hustled," Caps bench boss Bruce Boudreau said.

"The game in Atlanta, I thought we played well in the first half and then we let them back into it. And tonight I don’t think we played well in the first half and played well the second half," Brooks Laich said of their effort in the last two games. "Winning you are always happy. But we are not satisfied where our game is at. And we will be better."

Mike Green finally broke out of whatever funk he was in to score in the first half of the third period and get the helper on the game winner in overtime. Kieth Aucoin was able to tie the game just seven minutes later to get the Caps into overtime. From there Green sparked the game winning play by doing what he did best, using his speed to gain the zone. He threw the puck to the slot to a waiting Brooks Laich who squeezed the game winner under Dwayne Roloson's pads.

The Caps found themselves struggling early to get any kind of spark going as the Islanders played a solid defensive game against them. Jose Theodore, who returned to the ice after back spasms kept him from starting the last three games, played an inspired game stopping 28 shots and keeping the team within striking range.

But things seemed to turn for the Caps after a knee on knee hit. Nate Thompson took out Green in the second period by swiping his knee with the Caps' defender. The hit seemed to be a wake up call for the Caps, and to Green in particular.

"Maybe the hit woke him up a little bit, made him a little angry," Laich said of Green's performance in the second half of the game. "But the goal he scored was just a big time goal."

"[Green] got mad and he said “To heck with this” and he played the way he can," Boudreau quipped about his defenseman.

The Capitals power play through the last two games is 0 for 11 and has now allowed two short handed goals against. That is Caps power play zero, opponent's penalty kill 2. Not a especially good place for a power play of the Caps' caliber to be. There seems to be a lack of movement and an aggressive penalty kills knocks the them off kilter. Their pitiful power play will continue to hinder this team if they can not start scoring on opportunities their opponents give them.

Alex Ovechkin nearly spent a second game off the scoresheet, until his helper on Aucoin's game tying goal. He seemed to be struggling through the game to get shots through the Islander's defenders who blocked 25 Capitals' shots on the night. Ovi had 5 of his shots blocked on the night and only registered a pair of shots on net.

Bottom line, the Caps come away with 2 points. But their overall effort in the last two games has been not something the Caps are particularly proud of. Nothing will help the Caps more than some focus and effort on their part.

"[We are] happy with the four pionts," Laich summed up. "[But,] I think we still have a lot of things to work on."

Caps Notes:
  • Just when you think Don Cherry has run out of hot air, he comes back at Ovi over his "slew foot" hit at the end of the Atlanta game:
    "Ovechkin - I love you as a guy, I love you as a player, you play my type of game. You take no prisoners, that's fine. But you're running out of lives, I'll tell you right now. Watch what you've done. Too many times have you hit guys from behind. You won't fight so guys right now have you on a list. I'm telling you, you better be very careful right now. You're going to be very, very sorry some day because somebody is going to cut you in half. I hope it doesn't happen because he's an exciting player. ... When he gets it, it's going to be a goodie."
    Perhaps in response, Ovi was first to give Islander Thompson a good shove after his knee on knee hit on Green.
  • Jeff Schultz's goal in the Atlanta game maybe taken away after video shows the shot being deflected off of Mike Knuble's stick. Even if Schultz gets an assist on the play, he now has 4 points in the last two games with an assist on tonight's game tying goal.
  • Boudreau did some line shifting through out the game. Often putting Chris Clark on the top line with Nick Backstrom and Ovechkin and keeping the tandem of Brendan Morrison and Knuble together. The line shifting mostly had to do with poor play from some players and exceptional play from others. He put Aucoin on as a winger for his play making ability and it paid off with the game tying goal.
  • The face off dot was not a fun place to be for the Capitals. Backstrom was only 28% on draws and Dave Steckel was worse at only 28%. The Islander second goal was a direct result of Backstrom losing the face off.

    "I was just praying for no more face offs in our own zone," Boudreau said of the face off fiasco. "We got terribly out played in the face off circle tonight."

  • Backstrom was also the only Capital on the ice for both goals against and was not on the ice for any of the Caps' goals. He was listed as having a -2 rating. Which is incorrect, because a plus or minus would not be given to any players for short-handed goals just as they are not given on power play goals.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Odds and Ends

As The Nylander Turns

The Micheal Nylander drama that is starting to turn into the Capitals' "What not to do with a contract you not happy with" took a turn for the weird yesterday when they sent him to the minors for a conditioning stint. Send him to Hershey? Oh no, the Caps don't want to risk the playing time of their young prospects (I mean, they sent a first round pick back to Sweden to play a second tier team because he wasn't cutting it). Instead, they sent Nylander to Grand Rapids, the Detroit Red Wings' AHL affiliate.

This is not a trade, the Caps are still on the line for Nylander's salary and he still takes up a spot on the roster. Think of it as a young girl looking for the right prom dress, she has to put it on in the fitting room to see if she likes it. Nylander has to play so that teams in the KHL or other teams in the NHL have a chance to evaluate him. But why Grand Rapids?

Well if you ask anyone in management, on or off the record, they are pretty tight lipped about the move. A KHL team may have had some interest in taking the 37 year old forward off the Capitals' hands. But that interest waned when Nylander didn't see the line up. Whether George McPhee is keeping him off as to not hurt him, or McPhee and Bruce Boudreau can't stand it when he is in the line-up (or Hershey's line-up either) remains unclear.

If Nylander's presence is such a nuiscence, why are the Caps so hard pressed not to take a pitiful pick in return? Why not place him on waivers (not sure if that is stipulated in his contract)? Why not buy him out of his contract and take the hit (They are still on the hook for buying out Ben Clymer, remember him)? OR, why not just play him if other team's want to see his conditioning? No one really knows the answers to those questions but McPhee, and thus far his moves have been a quandary.

This move to send him to Grand Rapids could be a precursor to him being traded here or sold overseas. But at this point, who really knows.

Nylander's contract drops from $5.5 million down to $3 million next season.

Bank On Aucoin

Due to Alex Semin feeling a bit under the weather (hope it isn't H1N1), the Caps have recalled Keith Aucoin. Aucoin is quickly becoming a favorite of the Caps in call ups (mostly because Chris Bourque is a crutch they can't go to anymore). He shows flashes of brilliance at the NHL level and if given the time to work up some chemistry, I believe he could help the Caps' third line get a little offensive punch.

Back In The Southeast Division

Tonight marks the first time this season the Capitals will play a team from their division. The Caps head to HOT-lanta to face a Thrasher team that is off to one of their better starts. It looks more like a match up between friends rather than divisional foes. Head coaches from both teams shared a friendship in their AHL days (that still continues to this day). Star players from both teams also share an off ice friendship. But when the rink door closes, neither team seems to like each other.

The dislike stems from a Andy Sutton's high hit on Mike Green in 2006, although it could have been brewing way before that. Sutton's dirty antics set off a parade of Thrashers and Capitals to the penalty box with roughing and fighting majors sentences to serve. Ask any player on the Caps' squad and they will tell you that there isn't much love for Blueland.

The Dizzy Birds are 4-1-1 through their first six games of the season, hot on the heels of the Caps in the Southeast Division trailing by only one point (Caps 10, ATL 9). This should be a statement game for the Capitals who look to repeat as Division champs, otherwise the Thrashers could leap frog them for the lead in the division.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sluggish Start?

There is no real need to panic. So why is everyone acting like there is? Could this team have real problems with finishing games? Could it be the Redskin effect (great talent, marginal effort)? Could it be we are just too Cup fixated just 8 games into the season?

In the first eight games of the Capitals' season they have faced teams that have averaged 113 points last season, and six of those teams made the playoffs (four of those were division champions). It's easy to say that the Caps faced some of the league's toughest teams and the result was above .500. Also, they have yet to be blown out of a game (lost with a margin of two goals or more).

Compare that to someone who has a 7 and 1 record like, um... let's say the defending Stanley Cup Pittsburgh Penguins. In their first eight games, they have faced teams that had an average of 82 points last season and only three of those teams were in the post season last spring (none of which were division champs). Talk about a team easing into a schedule.

Part of the problem to this whole panic thing is we know how good the Washington Capitals can be. With convincing wins against teams like Boston and San Jose, fans have seen the best and want that result every time. But we haven't seen the Caps lose a game in total disaster. There haven't been 6-2 losses and the Caps have yet to be shut-out this season. All their games where they have fallen have been one goal games.

Small mental mistakes mostly do the Capitals in. Whether it is a bad penalty here, a must-stop save that isn't or a break down in defensive structure, the Caps do have the propensity for being human. These small errors in judgment are frustrating to witness because they end up resulting in a goal for the bad guys.

I am pretty confident that the Caps will be able to shore up those problems as the season progresses. The power play will show their bite against teams that don't have a great penalty kill unit. Mike Green will take advantage of those teams that can't handle the fourth man into the zone and Alex Ovechkin will feed on goaltenders that are destined to be back ups. That is why the Caps and a few level-headed fans are not worried about the sluggish start of the season.

Caps Notes:
  • Redskins' Chris Cooley took in a game Thursday night at the Verizon Center and as he was coming out of the locker room he was heard saying, "Isn't this environment so much better than ours? The people are so nice here."
  • If you think that the Caps' games are sold out, think again. According to the Washington Times, the Verizon Center can squeeze in about 800 more souls to see Ovi do this.
  • Caps finally face a team with in their division (to be honest, I didn't miss it). They play the hot Atlanta Thrashers who are off to their best start in franchise history Thursday night.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rough Finishes

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

Just when you think the Capitals are unstoppable, they always seem to shoot themselves in the foot. On a night when it looked as if Washington was going to run away with a win, they once again allowed a lesser team to get back into the game. The Nashville Predators were able to erase a 2-0 deficit to tie and send the game to a shoot out. They would eventually lose to the Capitals 3-2.

Alex Ovechkin had another stellar start. He netted his first power play goal of the year then followed that up with a lucky bounce off the boards to give him two goals in the first period. The Caps looked as if they might dominate again, but mental breakdowns and unfortunate bounces gave the Preds a chance to get back into the game.

First periods for the Caps have been awesome. They have outscored their opponents 13 to 2 in the opening frame and have never trailed. Eric Fehr drew a couple of penalties that eventually led to the Ovechkin power play goal. Their execution in the first shows how dangerous this team can be.

But the Caps have once again failed to preserve that lead and fail to score when they seem to need it the most. The Caps had some very good opportunities to take to add to their score or to take the lead back, but failed to so. Either teams are making adjustments after the first period to counteract the Caps' offense or the Caps are just failing to execute what they were able to accomplish just one intermission ago.

The power play was a disaster to start with. The Predators seemed to be able to turn the puck over at their blue line and get a jump on the Caps aggressive defenders (Ovechkin and Mike Green were the defensive pair). It would give them two back to back breakaways on Semyon Varlamov. Varly would come up with both saves, bailing out the Caps power play that would eventually lead to Ovi's PP goal later. Varlamov, who came in for the injured Jose Theodore, played solidly through out the game but couldn't overcome a bad defensive play and a puck that he should have been able to stop.

A shoot-out was inevitable after the Preds played a much better defensive scheme and their goaltender, Dan Ellis, was able to bail them out with some great saves. The Caps dodged a bullet as the first two Nashville shooters missed the net and Varly came up with the save on the last one. Ovechkin's goal in the shootout was a show in stick handling and deke, as he got Ellis to move to the left as Ovi went right. The goal prompted a few fans to throw their hats on the ice, but it is not a hattrick for the Caps' winger.

Caps Notes:
  • Shaone Morrisonn was scratch after he suffered a lower body injury in the last game. Tyler Sloan was his replacement. Sloan nearly had a goal after an aggressive play, he shot the puck and the rebound came right back to him. He rang the rebound off the post.
  • Braden Holtby was called in to be Varlamov's back up. His stay with the club didn't last long, as he was sent back to South Carolina following the game. Theodore claims his back is now a dull pain rather than a sharp one that prevented him from finishing the game against San Jose.
  • The Capitals are second in the league in 5 on 5 goals with 20. They are second to Edmonton (22). On 5 on 4 power plays the Caps are tied in 8th place with 5 other teams at 7 goals. They are ranked 5th in the league in goals for average per game with 3.50.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Back On Track

Capitals 4, Sharks 1
Scoresheet - Times - Post

The Washington Capitals shook off some heavy woes in one game. They snapped a four game losing skid and stopped a San Jose Shark team at 11 straight wins by defeating them 4-1. In their first visit to Verizon Center since Feburary 21, 2007, the Sharks couldn't solve the Capitals.

Alex Ovechkin scored a pair of second period goals just :28 seconds apart. The fastest two goals of his career. Alex Semin scored a power play goal, much needed goal for a PP squad that has not been producing. Matt Bradley goal was icing on the cake as the Caps seemed to have put together a complete 60 minute game to put away a Western Conference foe.

The Caps got off to a quick start as the Sharks got into some penalty trouble early. Called for three straight minor penalties, San Jose gave the Caps nearly 5 straight minutes with a man or two man advantage. The Caps were able to take advantage on a 5 on 3 when Nick Backstrom fed a pass to a waiting Semin across ice. The Caps have struggled scoring with the extra man, scoring only 3 goals in the last 22 power play opportunities in their last three losses.

The Sharks were able to tie the game late in the period when Eric Fehr couldn't cover his man. Jose Theodore had a strong start, but an earlier play in when Ryan Clowe fell on him and injured the goaltender. Later when the Sharks were breaking down the ice, Theo did not step out to take the shot and the puck sailed over his shoulder and the period ended in a 1-1 tie. Semyon Varlamov took over in the second period as Theodore left the game with back spasms and did not return. He is listed day-to-day.

The Caps also took the lead in the second when Alex Ovechkin scored twice less than :30 seconds. Ovi was lined up with Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison for the first time in the season. The trio would connect for both goals with Ovechkin driving to the net. Bradley added the clincher in the third period as the Caps shut down the Sharks potent offense.

In only the seventh game of the season the Capitals have faced six teams that were in the playoffs last season, four of them division champions. Of the four division champs (Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils and San Jose Sharks) the Capitals had a 2-1-1 record and earned 5 of 8 possible points. In the two losses, one a shoot out loss and the other a loss in regulation, the Capitals have only lost those games by one goal. The Caps also had the lead and/or scored the first goal in each of the four games.

There is certainly some relief for the Capitals coming out of this one with a win. Even if the Sharks looked a bit travel weary in this one, the Caps did hold the to 8 shots in the second period and 7 shots in the third. Varlamov would step in for the injured Theodore and come away with the win stopping all 15 shots he faced.

Caps Notes:
  • The Caps had to deal with injury issues. John Erskine (IR, upper body injury), Boyd Gordon (day-to-day, back spasms) and now Jose Theodore (day-to-day, back spasms). Keith Aucoin was recalled from Hershey to replace Gordon and played on the third line with Fehr and Chris Clark. Tom Poti took a stick up high on a follow through on a shot. He left the game shortly to get stitches and returned to the line up soon after.
  • David Steckel was a monster in the face off circle. At one point he was a perfect 7 for 7 on draws, and would end up winning 75% of his face off battles (12-4). The Capitals as a whole were only 48% in face offs.
  • Mike Green was 2:01 short of logging 30:00 of ice time (27:59). Green spent over ten minutes in the first period due to the Sharks' penalty woes. He finished the night with an assist and three shots on net.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Put The Panic Button Down

Capitals 2, Devils 3 OT/SO (1-2)
Scoresheet - Post - Times

The Washington Capitals opened their three game home stand with a shoot out loss to the New Jersey devils 3-2. Much like the last game, the Caps played much better team defense, but it's the little mistakes and mental breakdowns that seem to cost the team wins. After starting off to a great first period, the Caps seemed to lessen the pressure and the Devils worked their way back from being down 2-0.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau started the night by demoting Alex Semin to the second line and putting Mike Knuble up with Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom. The result was a stellar first period for the top line, netting two goals, one by birthday boy Mike Green and the other by Knuble. Ovi had assists on both goals. But after the first period the Devils started shutting down all of the Caps offense and putting the pressure back on the Capitals.

In the second period, the Capitals had a defensive breakdown and the Devils scored on a 3 on 2. Then in the third period, the Devils pinned in the Caps in their zone for what seemed an eon and scored the tying goal off of some outstanding board work. The Caps once again, for the fourth straight game, fail to hold on to a third period lead.

The game would go to over time, where Brendan Morrison took a bad tripping call and the Devils had a 4 on 3. Some how, some way, Jose Theodore stood on his head to keep the puck out. He made save after save keeping it a tied game and sending it to the shootout.

Backstrom was able to score on the Caps first attempt with a laser shot to the top right corner, besting Martin Brodeur's glove. But Theo couldn't keep out Zach Parise's wrister. Semin missed fired when he went glove side on Brodeur. Theo looked as if he had saved the Jamie Langenbrunner shot, but it ricocheted off his pad and into the net. Ovi couldn't deke Broduer on his back hand and the Devils take home 2 points.

The Caps didn't play a poor game. Besides the occasional mental mistakes, they were solid versus a very hard working Devil team. The Caps took fewer penalties and were able to kill off the ones they did take. But the Capitals couldn't score on the power play, including 53 seconds of a 5 on 3 in the third period. It is an area of concern for the Caps who know rank 20th in the league with the man advantage.

Is there cause for concern, sure. But it is not time to go full blown red alert. 5 of the six teams the Capitals have played so far were 95 points or better last year. Washington only lost by one goal in each of those loses. For the Caps to come out with 6 points is on the disappointing side, but not on the "let's blow the team up and start from scratch" side.

Areas that need improving are the power play, better defense and goal production from the second line. The Caps haven't pulled together a complete game either. Something they will have to do if they wish to simply repeat what they have done last year. What is frustrating about it all, it's the same problems they had last season. They couldn't score on 5 on 3's, they took bad penalties and they were prone to small mental mistakes.

I would rather have these breakdowns on game 6 rather than game 78, or in the playoffs. There are positives to pull out of this loss as well. The top line of Knuble, Ovechkin and Backstrom can be a really scary line. Theo is playing a much more focused game. And Mike Green finally has a goal.

Puckhead's Player of the Game: Jose Theodore. The game could have easily ended in over time when the Devils had a 4 on 3 power play. But Theo made the saves to keep his team in it. It's hard not to start this guy after the effort he put forth in the last two games. If the Caps could get him a win, it would help.

Caps Notes:
  • There was a fight in this game between Chris Clark and David Clarkson, but it was more hugging than throwing punches. Clarkson got in a cheapy at the end.
  • Ovi finished with 2 assists to bring his points total up to 12 and the lead in points in the NHL.
  • Green celebrated his 24th birthday by netting a goal, had 30:31 of ice time (most by any Capital), had 3 hits and 3 giveaways.
  • John Erskine blocked a shot and injured himself in the third period, he did not return to the game. He is listed as day-to-day, it opens the door for either Jeff Schultz or Tyler Sloan to see more ice time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Few Surprises

We have made it a full week through the start of the '09 - '10 season and there have been a few surprises. It's still too early in the season for these to be permanent trends, but the good and bad starts have certainly raised eyebrows.

Phoenix Coyotes' quick start. The Coyotes weren't expected to do much this year, with their coach pushed out and the franchise in danger of moving to southern Ontario. But Dave Tippett may have got this team concentrating on playing more than worrying. They started with two big wins over division rival Kings and shut out the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. They have cooled a bit losing their last two games.

Vancouver's slow start. Roberto Luongo did start the season on a good foot, allowing 13 goals through his first 3 games. The Canucks have since turned it around, but he has a mortal .865 save percentage and a dismal 3.52 goals against. Not good for a team that believes they are Cup bound.

Ray Emery's return to the NHL. It started off pretty good, but in the last 3 games Emery has let in 13 goals. The Flyers see something in Emery that the rest of us can't see. But team mate Mike Richards is off to a great start, scoring a hat trick against the Capitals.

Montreal's slow start. I really thought the Habs got it right in the off season, re-vamping the team, making the right moves and getting a new coach. But that hasn't translated to wins. They lost an ugly one to Vancouver 7-1. With all that talent, they still don't have a consistent goaltender.

In a month we will see how this all shakes out, but there are some interesting storylines developing in the NHL. There are a few more interesting starts to the season for some teams, the Capitals' slow start and the Blues' big wins in Europe.

It is always nice to talk about what is happening on the ice, rather than the stuff that happens off of it. So far, the season is off to a great start.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Caps Fall To Red Wings

Capitals 2, Red Wings 3
Scoresheet - Times - Post - Exam

The Capitals answered their coach's desire to play better team defense, but it was bad penalties that give them fits again. The Red Wings took advantage of some free stick work by the Capitals beating them at the Joe 3-2. The Capitals drop their third straight game.

Matt Bradley opened the scoring with a tough angle shot that beat Chris Osgood. Brendan Morrison also scored on the power play to tie the game early in the third. But the lack of offense hurt the Caps in this one as Alex Ovechkin was held to an assist and Alex Semin and Nick Backstrom were left off the goal ledger all together.

It was penalties that led to the Caps demise once again. The Red Wings took advantage of the last two power plays to take the lead, the last one for good. Alex Semin and Mike Green were both called for penalties that lead to Red Wings' goals. It's been a carry over problem the Caps had from last season.

"It's the same culprits from last year," Bruce Boudreau said of the players that were in the sin bin. "We got to make them understand somehow that they can't do that."

It's not like the Caps played poorly, in fact they were much better at playing team defense. A problem against the Rangers on Thursday night. Bradley's goal early on gave the Caps some life early. The Red Wings tied it up by crashing the net and sneaking the puck past Jose Theodore. Then the penalties started to hinder the Caps. They were able to kill off the first three calls, but when Semin was called for interference late in the second period, the Wings took advantage with a boom from the slapshot of Jason Williams.

The Caps would get the game back to a tie early in the third on the power play carry over from the second period. Patrick Eaves crashed the net and was hit by Green and knocked the Caps net from its moorings. The Referee did not blow the whistle as the play went back down the ice and Ovechkin found Brendan Morrison in the slot. Morrison shot it passed Osgood and the Caps tied the game at 2.

Washington seemed to get a momentum swing from the goal, but Green took a lazy hooking call late in the third. He got his stick up into Ville Leino who didn't have the puck and was covered by Brooks Laich as he cut into the middle. There was just no justification for him to get his stick up like that. Green's penalty was answered by the Red Wings with a power play goal and the game winner.

Detroit badly out-shot the Capitals 37-24. The Caps only registered 4 shots in the third period.

The Caps played well all game long in a tough building to play in. But it was small mental mistakes that cost them the game. Jose Theodore deserved a better fate as he made 34 saves on the night and kept the score close for the Caps to claw back. They would pull the goaltender and get a chance late, but the damage had been done.

When Boudreau was asked about what is attributing to the Caps taking bad penalties, he shrugged. "It's just going bread dead, I don't know, I wish I could get inside their heads. It's not like they are raw first year guys doing that."

"We played a hell of a game tonight," the Caps head coach summed up. "And two bad penalties cost us."

Caps Notes:
  • Ovechkin had a great night, just didn't score. He had 4 or 5 great chances to score and Osgood was there with the save. He finished the night with one assist, 9 shots on net and 10 hits.
  • Bradley had a heck of a first period. Not only did he score, but he blocked a big point shot on the penalty kill and drew a penalty himself.
  • Green led all skaters (both Caps and Red Wings) with 26:50 of ice time.
  • A big thank you to for having me as a Guest Chatter on their live chat during the game. It was a lot of fun, even if there were not too many there. You can catch the replay of the chat here.
Caps face New Jersey on Monday night.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Chat Stew

The following is an embellishment of my email conversation about doing a live chat for Will you host a live chat on our website during the Caps/Red Wings game?

Me: Sure. I would be happy to. We will need a really big pic of your ugly mug.

Me: Uh, talk to my wife, she has more than a few. Great! See you tomorrow night.

Me: Sweeeet. Joe B. will say your name during the game too.

Me: *Passes out

So in short, follow a live chat with moi tomorrow night during the Caps/Red Wings game on

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Tough Night

Capitals 3, Rangers 4
Scoresheet - Post - Times - Exam

For the third straight game, the Washington Capitals have failed to stonewall their opponents in the third period. They came up a goal short in the last two. The latest was a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers after they had built a lead with over ten minutes left in the final frame.

"Anytime you have a lead in the last ten minutes of the game you have to [win the game]," a visibly upset coach Bruce Boudreau said. "If you want to be a great team you have to."

The Capitals built a lead after a fluky goal let in by Ranger goaltender Henrik Lunqvist and a power play goal with just over 12 minutes to play in the game. But the Caps' defense took a turn for the worse allowing the tying goal just :18 seconds later.

"We've blown two leads... almost a third in four games," Boudreau was blunt. "It's really an upsetting trend that better stop in a hurry."

Nick Backstrom scored a pair of goals including one that was a dump in on Lundqvist from the red line. The puck seemed to hit the Rangers defenseman's skate and Lundqvist, who was square to the shot twisted a bit to try and glove the puck. But the puck went under the netminder's glove and into the corner of the net. Backstrom also scored a power play goal off of a well designed passing play from Brooks Laich and Alex Semin. Semin also made the score sheet with a goal and an assist. Alex Ovechkin was held pointless after three straight games in which he scored at least 3 points.

Backstrom is the first player in the NHL to have 10 points through the first four games in the season since Martin Havlat did it to start the '06-'07 year. But for Backstrom, stats just didn't mean much on a night the Caps took a loss.

"[The two goals I scored] didn't matter, we lost the game," Backstrom said. "We have to get back [to the way] we started the season. We have to play [for] sixty minutes. We can't just play a couple minutes a game. That is bad on us."

The game started on a good note for the Capitals. Brian Pothier created a passing lane with his ability to skate and found Semin cross ice to open the scoring for the home team. But the Rangers came back with Ryan Callahan goal that was practically a shorthanded goal and break down in the defensive zone goal by Ales Kotalik. The Rangers would take a 2-1 lead into the locker room after the second period.

When the third period started, the Rangers were in full defend-the-lead mode, shutting down passing lanes and blocking a slew of shots (22 blocked shots in all). But Backstrom's half court goal gave the Caps some life and the Rangers took a penalty soon afterward. Unlike the previous 7 tries, they were finally able to score on the power play with some nice passing. Backstrom again was the beneficiary.

But the Rangers answered back with Marion Gaborik who scored a pair of goals five hole on Jose Theodore to give the Rangers the lead with 9:18 left to play.

"There was time left," defenseman turned forward Tyler Sloan said. "You can't get down. The bench has got to stay up to come back the next shift and stay aggressive and try to create chances. We didn't do that, I felt."

The Caps' power play sputtered again for the second straight game. They were a pitiful 1 for 9 with the extra man, including 1:33 with a two man advantage. The top power play line once again has fallen into bad habits, being too cute with the puck at the wrong times and allowing the other team's PK unit out work them.

"We played as individuals instead of a unit," Boudreau commented on the Caps listless power play. "If you are going to play as individuals, you are going to get individual results and nothing is going to happen."

After such a good start against Boston, the Capitals seemed to fallen back to being too cavalier on defense. A defense core that doesn't have youth as an excuse anymore. A point that Boudreau brought up in his press conference.

"The guys that are making the mistakes are not first year guys," Boudreau said. "They are the guys that have been here for 10 years, 5 years... and it's been what their jobs are. There is not one first year guy on defense... these guys should know what the hell they're doing."

Caps Game Notes:
  • Sloan played his first game in the NHL as a forward on the fourth line. "[It's a] position that is foreign to me, I haven't played [forward] in a long time" he said. "But I settled in [during] the second and third period."
  • Mike Green has yet to score a goal this season. Not for lack of trying. Green had thirteen shots that either missed the net or were blocked (7 blocked, 6 misses). Only two of his shots hit the mark, both were saved by Lundqvist.
  • The Rangers' Sean Avery sat this game out, but that didn't stop him from signing some autographs for Rangers' fans from the Press Box.
Puckhead's Player of the Game was Brian Potheir. He has improved tenfold since last season. His vision is much better, he is skating smoother and making some great defensive plays. It was his vision that helped score the first goal, finding Semin cross ice and waiting for the passing lane to open up.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Ugly Game

Capitals 5, Flyers 6 OT
Scoresheet - Post - Times

In a see-saw game with plenty of weird moments, the Capitals came up short against the Philadelphia Flyers. It was a game of anything goes as the two teams swapped goals and chances all game long. No one seemed to have the upper hand as the Flyers win in front of their own crowd and birthday boy Daniel Briere scored the game winner as the Caps fall 6-5 in overtime.

Alex Ovechkin added a pair of goals and an assist for his third straight three-point game to start the season. Alex Semin added another pair of goals including a beauty of move that undressed Braydon Coburn and beat Flyer goaltender Ray Emery. Brendan Morrison had a goal bounce in off of him to give the Caps the 5-4 lead in the third, but some defensive breakdowns lead to the Capitals' demise.

The game started with both teams playing it tight. The Flyers got into some penalty trouble early but the Caps were not able to capitalize. The period would end dead locked with no score. In the second, the Caps would get into some pretty heavy penalty trouble. They were called for six minors in the second frame. Whether they were deserved or not, the Caps could not hold back the Flyers power play for long. In fact, the Flyers first three goals were two power play goals and a goal scored on a delayed penalty.

Ovi would score goals 4 and 5 on the season to keep the Caps right in the hunt as both teams exchanged chances and goals. Semin broke the 2-2 tie with an highlight reel goal that left Coburn frozen before firing it through Emery. But the Flyers would come right back as Mike Richards shows why he wears the "C" for the Flyers netting two goals in 18 seconds to give the Flyers the lead right back. Richards makes Flyers history as the only Philly player to score a hattrick in the home opener.

Semin would tie the game at 4 apiece on the power play. The goal came off of a Nick Backstrom chip pass after the Flyers misplay the puck in front of Emery. Backstrom finished the night with 3 assists and make his eighth helper in the season thus far. Then the Caps took the lead again as Matt Bradley threw the puck to the net and the rebound deflected off of Brendan Morrison's body and into the net. The goal would go for review but ended up counting.

"I thought we were going to get out of here [with the win]," Caps' coach Bruce Boudreau said of the goal. "We were pretty determined to defend the lead. "

The Capitals couldn't defend the lead however. Tom Poti tried to clear a rebound from in front of Jose Theodore, but ended up hitting the goaltender with it instead and it bounced into the net. The Caps would get a late power play, but they were unable to score as the penalty carried over into the overtime period. The Flyers did what they did best, feed off their crowd and crash the net. The result is a game winner by the little guy and the Caps take away a point.

"I think tonight we [were] our worst enemy," Brendan Morrison summed up. "It's a game we should seal down and win with that much time left in the game."

Undisciplined play by the Capitals ended up costing them the game. They were called for nine minor penalties, six minors in the second period alone. The Flyers were 3 for 9 with the extra man, while the Caps were a mortal 1 for 5 on their power plays. The Caps just could not get into a rhythm as they marched in to the penalty box time after time.

"You take [nine] minors in a game, you are not going to win the game," Boudreau said. "Six penalties in one period, that is how you get four goals scored against you. It's unacceptable."

"Tonight was more penalties than anything," Brendan Morrison said. "We just couldn't stay out of the box." He continued, "We have to learn this lesson quickly if we want to be a great team, not just a good team."

Semyon Varlamov looked very much like a rookie goaltender tonight. To be fair, he was left to dry on a few Flyer chances, but as each goal went in he looked less sure of himself. He was pulled after the Flyers fourth goal, letting in four goals on 14 shots in the second period. Theodore came into the game and seemed to give the Caps some better balance in the second and third periods.

"Varly has got to be mentally tougher," Boudreau said of his young goaltender. "... They score in bunches on him. He can be fabulous for two periods then he gets scored on ... I think he gets down on himself."

Mike Knuble returned to Philly only to be left off the scoresheet and finished a -1.

"I had some butterflies before," Knuble said of his return. "But it was an interesting game, fun game to play in."

To pull some positives in the game, the Capitals do take one point for making it to overtime. Also the Caps battled back in the third to take the lead, but it was an unfortunate bounce that tied the game up and sent it to overtime. The Caps played much better 5 on 5 than the Flyers did. If they would have stayed out of the box, they could have spoiled the Flyers home opener. And the Caps did get good production from it's top line (4 g, 4a). This was a good effort in a tough arena to play in.

The Puckhead's Player of the Game was Nick Backstrom with his three assists on the night. For some reason, Backstrom loves to show up in games against the Flyers.

Caps come back to the phone booth to face the Rangers in their second home game on Thursday night.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Caps Rake The Leafs In Home Opener

Capitals 6, Maple Leafs 4
Scoresheet - Times - Post

The Capitals' faithful filed the Verizon Center to watch their team play the Toronto Maple Leafs. They were not disappointed in the effort the home team gave. In one of the loudest home openers in memory, the Caps dominated the Leafs through at least two periods and hang on to finish with a 6-4 win.

Alex Semin played one of the best games I have seen him play as a Capital. He scored a pair of goals and he had an assist. He also played a bit more physical throwing a hit and not shying away from the Leafs defense. Other Caps adding to the scoresheet were Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and new comers Brendan Morrison and Mike Knuble.

"It felt like we were in a piranha fish tank," Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said of the Capitals quick start. "They came out and they were all fired up."

Even though the Caps were out shot through most of the game they were dominating the play against the Leafs through the first two periods. They held a comfortable lead going into the third period 6-1. But the hard-work Leafs didn't quit and the Caps were guilty of letting up a little.

"It’s a great start but we have to learn to win 6-1 and not think we are going to win 9-1," Bruce Boudreau said. "It was a cheap lesson for us."

"We can’t turn the puck over against them, because they are coming two guys hard," Caps' defenseman Shaone Morrisonn added. "It’s a team that works very hard. We don’t want to be giving up that many goals. When we are up 6-1, going into the third we want to finish the game."

The Leafs were able to shut down the Caps' dynamic scoring and score three straight goals in third period. A stark contrast from the stingy defense played up in Boston where the Caps held their foes to only 3 shots in the final frame.

"In the third period we came out determined not to let any more goals in, played a little bit better defensively and found a way to get back into the game," Wilson said when asked about the positives the Leafs could take from the game.

Semyon Varlamov played very well through the first two periods and then was left out to dry in the third by his collapsing defense. But when he had to make the big stop for the Caps, he was there. He did the full on splits to make a save on John Mitchell who was looking at an open net. Varly was there for a few more saves for his first win of the season.

"Toronto is a team that shoots everything and on the PK, [Varlamov] had some big stops," Shaone Morrisonn said of his goaltender. "He is a young kid and he is just going to get better and better."

What did work through the first two periods of the game was the Caps transition game, which turned out four or five breakaways on the Maple Leafs who let forwards get in behind them.

"Our transition game is great, it’s top notch," Brendon Morrison said. "Get the puck, move it up the ice, chip and support, use our speed ... We have got guys that can skate and guys that can score so we are a dangerous team on transition."

Puckhead's Player of the Game is Alex Semin who impressed me in this game. He was moving his legs, he was playing more physical and he got rewarded for taking the puck to the net. Semin also stayed around the locker room to answer questions from reporters, something he rarely did since his arrival to DC.

Caps Notes:
  • The Hershey Bears opened their season tonight against the Norfolk Admirals and won 3-1. Andrew Gordon scored a hattrick and Braden Holtby nearly had the shut out. Keith Aucoin and Alex Giroux both had three assists on the night as well.
  • The Caps gave out Mike Green bobble head dolls for the home opener. Green had one assist tonight and was a -1.
  • The Caps "dropped" their '08-'09 Southeast Division Championship banner before the game. The Leafs did not attend the pregame ceremony. The Caps redid all of their banners and retired numbers to match the teams red, white and blue uniforms. The banners are also much bigger than last years.

Thursday, October 01, 2009 Gets An "A" For NHL Gamecenter

This is the third year I bought into the NHL Gamecenter Live online. It's the NHL's online version of Center Ice where you can watch games not in your market on your computer. It has been a process with this NHL service for the last couple of years, but this time they have got it right.

The viewing screen has grown to fill up a good size of your monitor and is in the HD format (when available). The picture is super clear with little or no hiccups, thus far.

There is still real time stats as well as chat with other fans (although it is mostly trash talking). You still have access to archived games that track back to the '07/'08 season (when your are feeling nostalgic for a season or two ago). There is also a multiple game feature (up to 4 games) with the bigger screen space, which is much nicer than the multiple screen mode from last year where the feeds were much smaller. A sample below:

They have added a new DVR-like controls with a download where you can pause, rewind and replay the action. Also there is picture in picture (PIP) and real time scores to keep track of all the action.

I use to cringe every time my credit card was charged for the service, but this year it has been definitely worth the price tag ($159.00 USD). Games are still blacked out if they are on local television (like Versus, NBC, NHL Network, etc.). It's not a service if you just like your local team because they black it out every time. The window will slow a bit if you open more than 2 or 3 games at once. But, if you have high speed Internet, it is not so bad. If don't have high speed Internet, it will not work as well and you should not get it.

It might be worth a spin if you are a super NHL fan and love to watch out of market games from your computer and/or to keep track of your adopted Western/Eastern Conference team.

A Perfect Road Game

Capitals 4, Bruins 1
Scoresheet - Post - Times

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals played their season opening game against the Boston Bruins and things went just about text book. The Capitals got goal production from the power play, killed all of their penalties, got a pair of goals from Ovechkin. All in all a good road game for the Capitals as they beat last year's number one team in the East 4-1.

Ovi had a great start to the season netting a pair of goals. His first goal was off of a bad line change by the Boston Bruins and Ovi was the late man in. He beat Tim Thomas with a wrister 5 hole. His second goal was off a feed from Tom Poti who had carried the puck from his own goal line. Poti just sent the puck toward a breaking Ovi in the slot who had Milan Lucic all over his stick. But he over powered Lucic and sneaked the puck past Thomas to put get the game's fourth goal.

Ovechkin was one of three players who had a three point night. Brooks Laich scored a pair of goals on the power play, one off of a great set up pass by Nick Backstrom and the other when Thomas failed to cover the puck on a Backstrom shot as well getting an assist on Ovi's second goal. Backstrom himself finished with three assists.

Alex Semin had a pair of assists while Poti had an assist as well.

The Capitals' special teams did its job. The power play was a dangerous aspect of the Caps game as they were 2 for 4 with the extra man. The penalty kill took care of all 5 of the Bruins power plays and only allowed one Boston shot on net.

But what impressed more than anything was the Capitals ability to come into a team's building on their home opener and steal a game away. The Caps were able to nullify the Bruins' aggressive forecheck with quick passes up the boards. Boston certainly could have used some more speed against their foes, maybe the missing piece was traded to Toronto.

The Caps were also solid on defense. They only allowed Boston seven shots in the second period and only three shots in the third period. Only when David Steckel lost control of the puck sending Patrice Bergeron on a break away. He beat Jose Theodore with a great deke. For the most part, the Caps defense did a great job of stepping into the Bruins' shots. Those that did get through to Theo were stopped.

There wasn't much need of an enforcer, but John Erskine went to fisticuffs with Shawn Thornton anyway. I was surprise that Thornton didn't get an instigator penalty after he clearly dropped the gloves before Erskine did. The Bruins did get burned after Ovechkin cleanly hit Mark Recchi and Zdeno Chara cross checked Ovi in response. The Caps didn't take long to score on the ensuing power play proving that the Caps would rather score on any retaliation penalty rather than just have a fighter out there to protect.

There is not too much to complain about as the Caps first game. It was a good road game win. For all the drama of Micheal Nylander and Chris Bourque being claimed on waivers by a rival, the Caps put all the off ice problems behind them to get the win they needed against a very good defensive team in Boston.

The Caps come home to face Toronto Saturday night at the Verizon Center. They will face a grittier and tougher team in the Maple Leafs who nearly won their home opener against Montreal before they fell to the Habs 4-3.

Puckhead's Player of the Game is Alex Ovechkin who started off much like he left off from last season. He was also the game's number one star. He is well on his way to defending his title league's most valuable player.

Bourque Who?

After years of quietly pulling for the 5'9", 173 lbs. forward to make it the big club, it finally happened and didn't happen, then happened again all at once. Calling him a dark horse to make the Capitals for almost 3 years now, it was exciting to see a spot for him in the lineup. But when the salary cap became an issue, the Caps had no choice but to put some one on waivers to send them back to Hershey. Pittsburgh picked up the crafty forward and in a way, Chris Bourque finally made a NHL roster, just not the Caps roster.

Frankly, I am happy for him. He goes to a team that thinks they can use him after the Penguins themselves lost a player to the waiver wire. Bourque has his shot at the big league and maybe this is for the best in the end. He has the potential to be a sneaky scoring forward. The Penguins will be forced to play the young forward, or place him on waivers yet again if they send him to the W/B Baby Pens.

We all sort of got hypnotized by the last name Bourque. But as I always say, don't hate the player, hate the game. Since I love the game, I have to accept it and know that Bourque will be just fine in a Penguins' sweater. As for the Caps, they just lose out on a player with no compensation for him. A bit frustrating to see the Caps' management got caught with their pants down a bit.

And don't put this on Micheal Nylander, he didn't put Bourque on waivers or force GM George McPhee's hand to do so. McPhee signed Nylander to begin with, now McPhee has to deal with his contract the best he can since Nylander doesn't fit in Bruce Boudreau's system.

Caps Notes:
  • Caps are all set for their season opener against Boston. Jose Theodore will likely be in net for the first game. Mike Knuble may not see any first line duties at first according to how they have lined him up on the second line in practices. Of course, this just might be Boudreau holding his hand close to his vest.
  • Matt Bradley will be wearing a newly designed helmet to prevent concussions made by Cascade Sports and designed by Mark Messier. I have some first hand knowledge of the helmet, because I have been playing with the Cascade helmet for just over a year now. It may look a little bigger, but if it does what it says then it's worth it.
Let's Go Caps!