Monday, December 27, 2010

Caps Hold Off 'Canes

Capitals 3, Hurricanes 2
Game Summary


Perhaps it was the break for Christmas, but both teams had sloppy starts the day after the December 25th holiday. But the Washington Capitals got the lucky bounces and they edge the Carolina Hurricanes for their fourth straight win against the Hurricanes and an important two points in a much tougher division. The 3-2 win would also end a long scoreless drought for Alex Ovechkin.

The Caps had to rely on a bit of luck to win tonight. Mathieu Perreault would open the scoring on a pretty "no look" pass from Alex Semin to the front of the net. The lucky pass would avoid the poke-checking sticks of Cam Ward and Eric Staal and Perreault got his stick on the pass and tipped it passed the 'Cane goaltender.

David Steckel would benefit from an Ovechkin misstep with the puck as he tried to deke around the defender. The puck went through Ovi legs and luckily to an open Steckel who scored the goal. Even Ovechkin's big goal was due to a bit of luck as the point shot from Mike Green hit traffic in front to a wide open Ovechkin crashing the net. It would break a goal drought of 8 games and only 2 goals in the past 19 starts.

While the Caps take home a win, they do take some damage as Tim Gleason ran Perreault into the boards. MP85 would leave the game with broken nose. Gleason was given a five minute major and was ejected from the game. The loss of the defenseman seemed to blow the wind out of the sails for the 'Canes.

The Caps did have a 3-1 lead in the second intermission but allowed an early third period goal just :30 seconds in. The goal gave the Hurricanes some life and the Caps were constantly on their heels through out the final frame. Their defense would bend, but not break as they killed two big penalties. Even a few misses in the final minute with Ward pulled, the Caps would hold on to their one goal lead and go on to win the game.

Injuries seem to hinder the team's defensive core. Tom Poti missed the game after taking a stick to the face in the Penguin game from his own teammate. Jeff Schultz remains out with a broken hand. The core is beginning to thin.

Power play woes continue for the Caps as they failed to take advantage of three minutes of a five minute major late in the first period. Not that they would have a lot of chances, but they were 0 for 2 with the extra man.

The two points takes points away from the Hurricanes, but the Tampa Bay Lightning stay hot as they down the Thrashers in overtime to stay tied with the Capitals in the Southeast. The Caps have two very tough games ahead, and it is important that the Caps come away with 4 points in those next two games. They can't overlook the Montreal Canadiens as they come to the phone booth on Tuesday night.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a very happy holiday season. May you get what you want this year. I know that I have, a happy wife and a beautiful baby girl.

Enjoy the preparations of Heinz Field for the Winter Classic:


Let's Go Caps!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Penguins Take Round One

Capitals 2, Penguins 3 OT/SO (1-2) 7th round
Game Summary

It seemed only fitting that two rivals, soon to be Winter Classic participants and new stars of HBO's 24/7 sports documentary would fight tooth and nail to the very end.  It would take seven rounds of the shoot out as these two teams take the rivalry to a whole new level as the NHL Winter Classic draws near. Pascal Dupuis would score the winning goal in a shootout as the Pittsburgh Penguins win the first of four games against the Washington Capitals 3-2.

Mike Green would finally get power play goal, his first tally since November 14 and the first goal by the any of the young guns since Alex Ovechkin's goal against Toronto. Mike Knuble would score the game tying goal to force over time. Michal Neuvirth played one of his best games stopping 25 shots, including surviving 7 rounds of the shootout until Dupuis' goal.

The Caps would come out like a bullet as Alex Ovechkin set the tone by laying out fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin with a hard hit. It led to a Penguin penalty and a power play chance for the Caps. But the Pens would get the first goal as Malkin exited the penalty box and drew three Capitals' defenders leaving an open Sidney Crosby who tipped the puck past Neuvirth.

Even though the Caps out shot the Penguins in the first period 12 to 6, the Penguins would take the 1-0 lead into the first intermission. The Caps looked to step it up a notch in the second period. But a break away pass to Malkin meant Green had to take a penalty that would lead to a penalty shot. Neuvirth turned aside Malkin's bid to put his team up 2-0.

Then the Pens would get into penalty trouble in the second period. Mike Rupp was called for a hooking call and Matt Cooke would be called for a delay of game call after clearing the puck all the way down the ice and over the glass. The resulting power play would struggle until some good passing opened a shoot lane for Green to shoot it high glove side to tie the game at one.

But a lazy start to the third period would haunt the Caps as the Penguins outworked their rival to regain the lead just :17 seconds in to the period. The Capitals struggled again to find some offense due to the spectacular play of Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury made stop after stop on the frustrated Caps. When Matt Perreault took a penalty with six and half to play in the third, it looked as if the Caps rally would be stifled.

When Brooks Laich streaked down the wing to get the puck to the front of the net, Knuble was there to make a stick move to get the puck past Fleury. It would once again tie the game and the Caps seem to gain some of their mojo back. They pressured the play keeping the Penguins from chances late in the third. But they weathered the storm and both teams would find themselves in overtime.

It looked like Green had won the game when he juked out of the corner and nearly had it past Fleury only to have Fleury reach back and snatched the puck from going past the goal line. It would go to video review, but it was inconclusive as Fleury's glove blocked any view of the puck crossing the goal line. It would go to a shootout.

Ovechkin would score on his attempt, but every Capital afterwards would struggle to beat Fleury. Neuvirth would allow the first shot by Kris Letang then get beat by Dupuis in round seven after turning away Crosby, Malkin, Letestu, Knuitz and Kennedy. Semin, Backstrom, Knuble, Laich, Perreault and Green would miss for the Caps.

The Capitals' power play is still not where it needs to be. The Caps were able to score on a 5 on 3 but where 0 for 5 with the extra man. At times the power play seemed too predictable as the Caps shot right into Penguin defenders as they clogged up shooting lanes. But as the top players struggle to score, so goes the power play for the Caps. It is an area they need to work on.

Jay Beagle did not show up on the scoresheet, but he played a great energy game. Often out working Penguins along the boards and creating chances for his teammates. Michal Neuvirth was also great tonight, keeping his team in it. He would come up with big save after save even when he did not face shots for long stretches of the game.

It was not a great game for Nick Backstrom. While at times he looked good, he has failed to produce much this season. At times he looked invisible, even though this is the type of game he often accelerates at, the big games. His lack of production seems to be hindering the Caps.

The bottom line was this was one heck of a game by both teams. Both teams earned their point by taking the game to overtime and the Penguins win the coin toss shootout to take home the extra point. It sets up more drama for the up coming Winter Classic. That is where Caps can exact some revenge. If it is anything like this game, we are in for a treat.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rookie Night At VC

Capitals 5, Devils 1
Game Summary

The Washington Capitals looked to continue their hard work ethic after winning in Ottawa a few nights ago. That was apparent by the strong first shift where a returning Alex Semin joined in an aggressive forecheck and kept the New Jersey Devils inside their own zone for almost the entire first minute of the game. The hard work would pay off as the young guys helped the Caps win their second straight as they beat the Marty Brodeur and the Devils 5-1.

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)
It was a belated happy birthday gift for Andrew Gordon who opened the scoring for the Caps as well as getting his first career NHL goal. Another young Capital, Jay Beagle, would also tally along with Jason Chimera, rookie defenseman John Carlson and vet Mike Knuble added to the Caps' win. Michal Neuvirth made 35 stops to earn his second win in his second start in a row.

The first period would be a tight checking affair with both teams trying to keep each others star players from getting too much room. It would be the kind of game where the grinders would have to show some production. A. Gordon, who has been like a yo-yo being sent to Hershey only to be recalled again, would work to get to the front of the net where Marcus Johansson found him from the boards. The puck slipped five hole and the young player would get his first ever NHL tally.

The Devils didn't sit back though. Early in the second period, Matt Bradley was tagged with a hooking call. New Jersey would score with the extra man after Danius Zubrus made the perfect screen on Neuvirth and Patrick Elias' shot it the heel of Neuvirth's glove and into the net.

But the Caps did not deflate. In fact the grinders seemed to work even harder to make sure the tally would change in the same period. It would pay off just over five minutes later as the Caps' checking line would score, Beagle with the tally. Chimera would score on a break away even after being hooked. The hard working Chim would finally score by going top shelf on Broudeur.

Alex Ovechkin, at times, looked as if he was more on the checking line than the top line. He was working hard along the boards, battling in front of the net. While the Devils were able keep Ovechkin from getting any clean shots on net (1 shot on net, with three shots blocked and 6 missing the net), a poke check by a Devil defender forced the puck from Ovi's stick. But Carlson following the play had a juicy puck just sitting there and he made no mistake beating Brodeur high glove side.

Mike Knuble would add the finally tally after the Caps power play gained the momentum in the third. But by that time, the game had been already decided. The goal explosion in the second period sealed the win for the Caps as they went back to their staunch defense to finish up the game. The dominating play urged the fans to cheer "We want Pittsburgh!" The Penguins come to town Thursday night.

The Capitals continued their strategy of keeping the play simple. Get the puck in deep and let their aggressive forecheck create chances. It work to a tee against the Devils. It would be the most complete game for the Caps, but the only negative marks the Caps had was their failure to score on the power play.

The Devils were called for 5 minor penalties, but the Caps were unable to score. New Jersey does have a top ten penalty kill in the league and the Caps couldn't crack them even with 1:18 of 5 on 3 time. Often standing still, the power play has been lacking of late. Most of what they do has been predictable, but it just might be a sign of the top guns are still struggling to find a way to score. Knuble's goal was the result of the momentum the Caps had because of the power play, but a goal with the extra man would have demoralized the Devils.

In contrast, the PK did okay. They only allowed one goal in 4 chances. Their aggressive style of play with a man down seems to be working well so far for the Caps.

Neuvirth played another solid game, often stabbing at pucks with his glove. Although he had a couple bad rebounds, the Caps' defense were their to help in this game and eve scrums in front of the net seemed to take a Capital bounce. Neuvy was there for the rest to make the save.

Mike Green still looks like he is bothered by his injury. He just seems a step behind the play and often is throwing the puck at where he thinks his teammates are instead of playing with his head up and reading the plays correctly. But as Green struggles, the kids are maturing quickly.

Caps' fan with a Christmas wish.
(Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)
Carlson had a goal and an assist tonight and had a team high +4 tonight. Johannson used his speed to create havoc on the slower Devil defensemen. His legs created A. Gordon's goal and also nearly caught them sleeping to carry the puck right to the blue paint.

Next up for the Capitals are the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night. It will be their first meeting of the season and it will set the stage for NHL's Winter Classic on New Year's Day.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Erskine Extended

The Washington Capitals have announced their contract extension for John Erskine. It is a good resigning as Erskine brings an edge to the Caps' blue line. He was a good pick up to begin with when the Caps picked him up from Dallas. Per Caps' PR:
ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have signed defenseman John Erskine to a two-year contract extension, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
 
Erskine has seven points (three goals, four assists) and 43 penalty minutes in 31 games for the Capitals this season. His three goals are a career high for the 30-year-old defenseman.
 
The Kingston, Ontario, native registered six points (one goal, five assists) and 66 penalty minutes in 50 games for the Capitals last season. In addition, he finished 2009-10 with a career-best +16 rating, his third straight season with a plus-rating. The 6’4”, 224-pound Erskine ranked sixth on the team with 109 hits and fifth with 80 blocked shots despite playing 18 fewer games than anyone ranked higher than him in both categories last season.
 
Erskine, who signed with the Capitals as a free agent on Sept. 14, 2006, has appeared in 354 career NHL games with Dallas, the New York Islanders and Washington, recording 38 points (10 goals, 28 assists) and 673 penalty minutes. He has also registered three assists and 22 penalty minutes in 19 career playoff games.
 
Erskine was originally drafted by the Dallas Stars in the second round (39th overall) of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.

Caps' Skid Opens Door

The recent losing stretch the Capitals find themselves on hasn't just relinquished the lead in the Eastern Conference, it has also given an opportunity in the Southeast Division for teams to make a run to knock off the defending divisional champs. The seven game losing skid has the Caps on the ropes with teams like the Atlanta Thrashers and Tampa Bay Lightning playing the role of spoilers.

At the moment, the Capitals allowed a once double digit lead in the Southeast dwindle to a mere one point advantage over the Thrashers within the division. Atlanta saw the opening the Caps gave them and made the most of the chance by accumulating 10 points in their last eight games. Including a 3-1 win over the Capitals.

Tampa has also made a push getting 6 points in their last six games and find themselves with an opportunity to also leap frog the Caps with a pair of wins.

For the Capitals, another loss or two and they could find themselves out of third place in the East and struggling with the middle of the pack teams jockeying to just stay in playoff contention. With two tough back to back games with Boston and Ottawa over the weekend, they must find their winning touch again if they hope to keep home ice advantage in April, or worse, just staying in the playoffs.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Caps' 24/7 Debut Tough To Watch

HBO's award winning series 24/7 premiered tonight that featured teams the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals as they face off in this year's NHL Winter Classic. The premiere was a fantastic look at the sport and the trials and tribulations of a NHL season. An inside look at team meetings, practices and the lives of NHL players was an awesome behind the scenes access.

While it was good for drama, watching what goes behind a six game losing streak is a tough thing to watch for Caps fans. The Capitals' aspect of the show was that of a rough stretch of games testing the team's fortitude. Hearing some of the intermission speeches and listening to the frustration levels of both players and coaches is both hard to listen to and fascinating to watch. The series followed the Caps through losses against Florida, Colorado and the pounding at MSG against the New York Rangers.

In stark contrast, the Penguins were on a winning streak. Players were more loose, joking around and playing a more laid back style. While the meetings in the Caps' locker room were intense and very frustrated, the Pens' locker room was pumped, ready and looking for more.

It was exciting to watch the two teams go through different stretches in the season. It has me begging for more and it's just the beginning.

Watch a preview of the series from HBO's website:

Capitals' Losing Stretch Hits Seven

Capitals 1, Ducks 2 OT
Game Summary

It was a far better effort by the Capitals but the result wasn't what they were hoping for. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim come into Verizon Center and beat the Caps with just 56.6 seconds left in overtime. The loss stings the Caps who know find themselves with just 2 points in their last seven games.

"We executed the game plan we wanted," centerman David Steckel said. "We just chewed the short end of the stick."

Even with a strong start and the opening goal by Brooks Laich, the Capitals seemed to hit a mental block. Whether it is taking an untimely penalty, a bad turnover, inability to score or breakdowns in the Caps' defense, the mistakes the Caps make seem to pile up a wall of doubt in the players minds. A team that has been used to winning based on talent now have to face the toughest adversity in some of their young careers.

It wasn't a bad game for the Caps' defense. But in close games, the most minor of mistakes become glaring miscues. On the Ducks' power play, both Caps' defenders Mike Green and Karl Alzner played the shot from the point instead of covering and boxing out the two Ducks in front of the net. Joffery Lupul was able to slide the puck under Semyon Varlamov to tie the game at one.

The game hit a stalemate with chances on both sides. But the Ducks seemed to play a good road trip by weathering the storm of Caps' shots and making the most of opportunities. Their overtime goal was a result of some miscommunication on behalf of the Capitals. John Carlson backed off of Ryan Getzlaf after his move to gain space. Either Alex Ovechkin or Scott Hannan were either a step too late, or didn't step in to take away Getzlaf's space and he made no mistake shooting the puck over Varly's shoulder to win the game.

Even though it will go down as a loss for the Capitals, their effort tonight was much better than the previous two games they have played. The Caps will have to dig deeper to turn their fortunes around. Their defensive effort was good, minus the few mistakes they made. They did have chances to add to their one goal lead. Mike Green did spring Ovechkin on a break away, but Ovi hit the post. Laich nearly had a second goal, but the trickling puck was swiped away by a Duck defenseman. Nick Backstrom had a wide open net and Jonas Hiller made a hightlight reel save to keep it from going in.

"I thought we played very good," Boudreau said. "Sometimes you play very good and lose."

This is a game the Caps can build on, if they continue to work hard. They made the jump into 40 points in the standings and at the moment have held off other Southeast Division rivals to stay atop the division for now. However, their schedule does not give them much sympathy as they have to travel for the next two back to back games on Saturday and Sunday. One would think their luck would have to turn. Soon.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bad Night On Broadway

Capitals 0, Rangers 7
Game Summary

I am not sure how to write this post with out going into a rant about the Capitals' poor play of late. But the 7 to nothing shelling by the New York Rangers, makes it hard to do anything but. Poor play, followed by an unwillingness to work hard leads to a serious problem for the Washington Capitals.

The Caps drop their sixth straight game, a team worse under the direction of Bruce Boudreau. They have been outscored 13 to 2 in the last three games, shut out twice. Zero goals from Alex Semin in seven games, only three assists for Nick Backstrom in the past six games and only two goals for Alex Ovechkin in his last 14 games. As their woes continue, the team woes continue as well.

It was a tough night for the Caps' defensemen. They seem to have lost all confidence in the last few games. Scott Hannan has had trouble tonight picking up players in front and often looking more like a rookie than a veteran at times. Injuries have hampered the back line with Mike Green and Jeff Schultz out, more than originally thought.

It is more important than ever for the Capitals to reset and put forth a better hard working effort for the next game. If the Caps fail to learn from this blow out, it will be a long season. Sure there is a flu bug going around the team and injuries are a good crutch to lean on, but the Capitals have to look past the excuses and work to get themselves out of this funk.

There were positives to come out of this game. Alex Ovechkin frustrations came to a boiling point when he dropped them with Brandon Dubinsky. In his first real fight of his career, Ovechkin sent a message to his bench, but it did little to energize the ailing team. The fight is below:


Matt Hendricks continues to lead with his actions on the ice. He fought twice and again worked his tail off to get chances for his team.

The Caps did have some offensive punch in this game, but hit the post a least 6 times in this game. But the push would not result in any significant reward for the Caps' effort. The third and fourth line got to see some extended action towards the end of the game including a few chances to score. Too little, too late, but it could have been something the Caps could build on for the next game.

Bruce Boudreau's hands were tied with a sick Michal Neuvirth on the bench. Semyon Varlamov would have to face the music all game long and it lead to his worst regular season game in the NHL. He let in 6 goals against Ottawa in February '10 (L 5-6).

Caps will come back home to face the Anaheim Ducks at the phone booth.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Caps Left Seeing Stars

Capitals 1, Stars 2
Game Summary

It would be a difficult ending for the Capitals to swallow. In a game where they dominated much of the play, outshot the Dallas Stars 38 to 21 and seemed to have every bad bounce go their way, the Capitals could not complete the rally and the Stars stop the Caps win streak at 4 games. Even an apparent late goal by John Carlson was waved off after what looked like Alex Ovechkin hitting a Star defender into the Andrew Raycroft and the Stars survive 2-1.

It looked as if the Caps had tied the game with 7.6 seconds left. John Carlson shot it from the top circle with a crowd in front of the net. The official waved it off immediately and called goaltender interference, after Alex Ovechkin crashed the net. On the replay though, Ovechkin did not push Karlis Skrastin, but instead the Star defender went to hit Ovechkin, missed and took out his own goaltender. 

When asked about the waved goal call, Bruce Boudreau was visibly irked.

"What do you want me to say that I can't get fined for," Boudreau started. "If you look at the friggin' call and Ovi doesn't touch the guy. Their guy slides into the goalie and takes him out of the play and the one ref is telling me Ovi is in the paint. Well I want to know when that rule changed where you can't be in the paint."

Boudreau would continue, "Why the two refs [are not] consulting each other and you want to know why I voted for [a] coach's challenge, there it is."

"I just saw the replay, you know, no comment about it," Ovechkin said of the play after the game. "It's unbelievable."

"It was a good hockey game up to that point," Matt Hendricks said to reporters. After another strong game for Hendricks who helped his team get chances by moving his feet, drawing penalties and dropped the mitts too.

The Caps looked as if they dominated the first period, outshooting the Stars 14 to 7. But the second period gave them fits as the officiating missed a slashing call when a Dallas player two hand slashed and broke Jeff Schultz's stick then a phantom interference call on the Caps' defender when Schultz hit him after he had the puck. A quizzical call that baffled Boudreau and buzz killed the Caps good play.

"[Penalties like that] takes a team that is, I think, outplaying them fairly good at that point and takes them out of the game because [you] have to play defense for 6 to 8 minutes," Boudreau said. "It's going to switch momentum pretty quick."

The only Capitals' goal would be scored by Mike Knuble and it would tie up the game at one a piece. But Michal Neuvirth, who had played brilliantly all game, couldn't track a knuckle ball shot just :20 seconds later as the Stars retook the lead.

Hannan Premiere

Scott Hannan saw his first minutes as a Capital and those minutes mounted up after John Erskine took an awkward fall into the boards in the first period. He played just over nineteen minutes and registered 4 blocked shots. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, play a simple shut down game and block shots.

"I think he did his job," Boudreau said of the new acquisition. "He is a good shut-down, stay-at-home [defenseman]"

"It was good," Hannan said of his first start as a Cap. "It felt good out there. I tried to get into it as quickly as I could. But it is a good team here, I am glad to be out there."

Ovi Goal-less Streak

Ovechkin has now tied his career longest stretch with out a goal to now nine games. As the Caps four game win streak comes to an end so does Ovechkin's assist and point streak. While not scoring a goal in the past 4 games he has amassed seven assists.

Coach Boudreau's post game interview:


Alex Ovechkin, Scott Hannan and Matt Hendricks post game interviews:

Skate With The Caps

One of the cool things about getting updates from the Capitals Public Relations staff is the occasional gem of an opportunity for fans to connect with players in cool mediums. This one caught my attention as a pretty cool way to interact with some Capitals' players. Per Caps PR:

ARLINGTON, Va. – Washington Capitals players Karl Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and Marcus Johansson along with assistant coach Dean Evason and Caps mascot Slapshot will skate at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink for Community Day on Sunday, Dec. 5, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is an opportunity for the players to skate outdoors less than one month before the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
 
The event will kick off at 10:30 a.m. with an appearance by Slapshot and complimentary hot chocolate. At that time, art stations will be set up in front of the Pavilion Café for children to color. At 11 a.m. Capitals players will take the ice with the National Gallery of Art Ice Rink School skaters for a skills exhibition. They will start by incorporating the surrounding art into their skills, then transition to a hockey demonstration focusing on stickhandling, passing, agility and speed.
 
At noon, after the resurfacer cuts the ice, the Caps players and Slapshot will take to the ice to skate with the fans. The first 200 fans in line will receive free admission with $3.00 skate rentals for an hour-long open skate. If you have your own skates and are one of the first 200 people in line, you’ll skate for free!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Gut Reaction: The Trade The Morning After

Before the season started, I sat at a table in the upper level between two ice rinks at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. The Caps were having their media luncheon and John Keeley, founder and writer of On Frozen Blog, sat next to me and we talked shop. He asked me questions about how the Caps would fare, if this was a championship team. I shrugged my shoulders and said, "I don't think George McPhee is done, I think they are working on something."

Turns out, I was right. Since August, the Caps have been pursuing a trade using Tomas Fleischmann to possibly beef up their defensemen.

The Capitals were thin on the blue line, there was no doubt about that. While it was nice to see rookies Karl Alzner and John Carlson make the opening night roster, there were questions about the young defensive core and fans griped that it was not experienced enough to go far. McPhee had more than enough room in the salary cap to pursue someone, we just did not know who he was after.

The season would start with no help coming (although we thought the Edmonton Oilers sending Sheldon Souray to Hershey was a possible trade in the mix). Fleischmann's name was splashed on every rumor mill before the opening night face off as the Caps seemed to shop the winger around. But like Souray's time in Hershey, nothing really significant developed.

Young as they may have been, the defensive core turned out not to be that bad. Through 25 games, the Caps' core of defensemen dealt with injuries to veterans Mike Green and Tom Poti and had to fall on Tyler Sloan and transient Brian Fahey to man post. They were able to maintain enough stability to win 17 games, and register a 2.68 goals against average putting them smack in the middle of the league (13th overall). They ranked tenth in the league in shots against per game at 28.7. Not that shabby.

It turns out the Caps did want Scott Hannan before the season started. Perhaps recent injuries to the Avalanche's forward lines convinced them that they could do with out Hannan's services to get scoring back on track. Caps get a veteran defensemen, Colorado gets a talented forward that is on the verge of having a break out year. Now more so since Flash is outside the shadow of Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, and Nick Backstrom.

Fleischmann never panned out the way the Caps had hoped. They wanted Flash to become a 30 goal scoring threat on the second or third line. They moved him from center, to wing, to center again and again. He would drift from line to line and even miss out on some big games in the playoffs because of his, at times, under-achieving play. He would have a career season last year, posting 23 goals and 51 points in 69 games played. Most of those scored early in the season when he posted a nine game point streak. This year he has struggled to get just 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in 25 games.

In return, the Caps get a sandpaper defenseman. Hannan, not known for any sort of puck support or offensive threat (in 81 games last season he only posted 2 goals and 16 points), is an agitator as well as a tough guy on the back line. Not so much as a fighter, but a good stay at home defenseman with veteran experience and savvy. Looking to bolster the blue line with a consistent pro, the Caps will most likely use him like a security blanket to Green's rushes up ice.

But Hannan comes at a heavy cap price, nearly soaking up what ever was left of the space McPhee has stored up going into the season. A hefty price tag for a defenseman that is considered marginal when it comes to the NHL defensemen league-wide.

It remains to be seen if this is the final move McPhee is going to make. With Semin's impending contract negotiations, the Caps are looking to squeeze every last drop of their salary cap this year to bring a championship to DC. It is the first time the Capitals have gone outside the organization for a defensemen since they traded Carolina for rental player Joe Corvo.

The move itself is a good one, and the timing seems to be perfect for both sides involved. Hannan adds grit to a blue line that is struggling to stay healthy. Avs get a talented forward that could flourish outside an organization that is deep in talented forwards. Hannan should help the Caps especially in front of the net as more and more teams are looking to create traffic in front of young goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.

We will see if this is the last move McPhee makes, but I tend to think he has a lot more he wants to do more before the deadline in March.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Caps Make A Move: Flash For Hannan

The Capitals wanted to address their depth on defense and improve on their grit on the blue line. They did that when GM George McPhee traded Tomas Fleischmann to Colorado for 11 year vet, Scott Hannan. Per Caps PR:
ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have acquired defenseman Scott Hannan from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Tomas Fleischmann, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.
 
Hannan, 31, is an 11-year NHL veteran who has played for Colorado and the San Jose Sharks. The 6’1”, 225-pound defensive defenseman has played 775 career games, recording 30 goals, 150 assists, 456 penalty minutes and a +22 rating. This season Hannan has six assists and a +1 rating while playing all 23 games for the Avalanche.
 
Hannan has played at least 71 games in each of his 11 pro seasons, including 97.2% of the games since he made the NHL full-time in 2000-01. He has averaged 18:37 of ice time per game this season and 22:02 per game in the course of his career. His teams have made the playoffs eight times in 10 seasons prior to this one, playing a total of 73 playoff games.
 
A first-round pick of the Sharks, 23rd overall, in the 1997 Entry Draft, Hannan broke into the league after an all-star career with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. He was a teammate of current Capital Matt Bradley with the Sharks and signed with Colorado as a free agent on July 1, 2007.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

'Canes And Caps To The Wire Again

Capitals 3, Hurricanes 2 OT/SO (1-0)
Game Summary

When these two divisional rivals, the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals always seem to play one another very tough. Tonight was no exception. Even with a 2-0 Caps' lead, the 'Canes would make things interesting scoring a last second goal in the third. But the deciding factor is a goaltender that was on only his fourth start of the season and Semyon Varlamov turned away all three shoot out shots to ensure the Caps third win in a row.

Alex Ovechkin did not score a goal. In fact his last 8 points have all been assists. But not for lack of effort as Ovi had seven shots on net and another five shots attempted. He seemed to have a jump in his step as he had more than a few glorious chances to bury the puck but were all thwarted by Carolina's top goaltender Cam Ward. Ovi did manage a beaut of an assist on Alex Semin's goal to give the Caps a two goal lead and he scored the only shoot out goal to give the Caps the win and much needed two points.

Marcus Johansson continues to impress as a rookie after some hard nose forechecking. Eric Fehr dug the puck out of the corner to a wide open Johansson and the rook made no mistake waiting out Ward and slipping the puck five hole to give the Caps the early lead.

The Caps' defensive core did their best to keep the 'Canes explosive offense and Varly was there to clean up any mistakes. However, the 'Canes would make a rally and with under 4 seconds left, Tom Poti failed to tie up Eric Staal's stick in front and Carolina tied the game with only 2.2 seconds left on the clock.

Carlzner

The defensive duo of John Carlson and Karl Alzner continues to impress. The pair were called upon to neutralize Carolina's top line including Eric Staal. They were successful for a majority of the game keeping the 'Canes from penetrating Varlamov.

Sem-sational

Alex Semin continues his hot hand scoring yet again. He has his fourth goal in 2 games and he finished off a great pass from Alex Ovechkin to keep his point streak going to now three games. Semin's work on the penalty kill was superb, and has been this season.

Questionable Officiating

I don't like to comment on officiating. For one, it's a hard job to make split second decisions in an incredibly fast game to decipher exactly what happened. Two, you can't really use officiating as an excuse. But the officiating in this game was weird to say the least. Obvious plays that were penalties on the Hurricanes seemed to go unnoticed. While the Caps couldn't get away with much. The game was relatively penalty free, but the Caps just couldn't get the calls their way.

Sergei Samsonov clearly tripped up John Carlson in the corner in the third period. Samsonov threw his hands in the air as if he was expecting the call. But no hand went up. Ovechkin was tripped up right in front of the referee, and he nearly put his arm in the air but decided not to. It lead to some frustrated Capitals through out the third period who felt they deserved better from the officiating.

In the end there was only one penalty against the 'Canes, and three calls against the Caps. At the end of the game, it wasn't the deciding factor. Thankfully.

Shooting Star

Ovi's new approach to the shoot out, swinging out wide left and cutting to the net has opened options for the dynamic left and/or right winger. Tonight was no exception as once again he started his run by swinging out wide left and waited out 'Canes goaltender Cam Ward and roofing it up over his glove side. Ovechkin would score the only shoot out goal.


Gnarly Varly

Semyon Varlamov is making the choice of going back to Michal Neuvirth a tough one. He was spectacular tonight stopping some great shots by the 'Canes in overtime. He would stop 26 shots and all three shoot out shots by the 'Canes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Buzz

HBO's The Buzz takes a look at the new series of 27/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic:


Also ask a question and get it answered by a Cap or Pen.

Gobble, Gobble

It's the holiday season and with a new one here, it gonna be harder to do recaps and updates.

The Capitals played a pretty good game last night. Of course it wouldn't be complete with out a little drama toward the end. But the important thing is the Caps big guns had a confidence booster of a night and the if they can figure out secondary scoring and get the all-stars going, this team could be unstoppable.

Having Semyon Varlamov in net was strangely like Linus' security blanket against the 'Canes. Very worthy of the game's second star of the night as he made the saves that counted.

Bottom line, it was a fantastic win to start the Thanksgiving weekend off right. It keeps the Caps tied with the Flyers for best in the Eastern Conference and in the league, and it stops a three game skid.

From my family to yours, I do wish you a very, very happy Thanksgiving. And we will see you when the Bolts come to the phone booth on Friday!

If you really wanted a recap of the game, here are some really good ones (ones I love to read the morning after):
Happy Turkey Day!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Caps Drop Third Straight

Capitals 0, Devils 5
Game Summary

The Capitals had a bad first period. It didn't improve after that as they fall with out a goal against the New Jersey Devils 5-0.

Bad turnovers, poor coverage, shaky goaltending. Take your pick, it all lead to the Caps demise. The Devils took the early 3-0 lead and added a pair in the second. The Capitals had no answer for Johan Hedberg who would only face 4 shots in the first period.

Cold Holtby

It wasn't all his fault, but Braden Holtby struggled tonight in more ways than one. He lost rebounds and had a hard time picking up where the puck went after the first save. He didn't get much help from his defensemen who failed to cover Devils in front of the net. At times the Caps' defense looked a bit like Keystone Cops in their own zone and the Devils just took advantage.

Hometown Kid

John Carlson was one bright spot for the Caps playing in front of family and friends. Too bad his team posted a stinker. Carlson played an aggressive game hoping to score one at home. It lead to some great chances, but the Caps' rookie couldn't finish through the Devils' stifling defense. It would have been nice for the kid to score one.

Big Guys Continue Struggle

Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Nick Backstrom continue their little slide over the last three games. The trio have only a goal and an assist in the last three and neither was from the Capitals captain. Their line started the game, but lines were shuffled through out the game. Nothing seemed to help the Caps.

Blowout Lessons

I have said it many times on this blog. Blowouts happen in hockey all the time. It is what you learn from them and what you carry over to the next game that is important. For the Caps, it seems there were no lessons learned from a 5-0 beating in Atlanta. They didn't come out with any energy or urgency to get into the game early. Instead the Caps continue to allow the first goal and find themselves behind the 8-ball game after game. If this team wants to achieve something bigger, they must learn that lesson.

Caps Notes:
  • Semyon Varlamov was called in to back up Braden Holtby after Michal Neuvirth tweaked something in the morning skate. Varly's skates however did not arrive on time, leading to Neuvirth to sit on the bench in the first. The Caps' coaching staff had to get permission for Neuvirth to stay from the officials as they waited for Varly's skates.
  • Both defensemen Mike Green and Tyler Sloan were hurt during the game. They status will be assessed in the morning. Both left the game and did not return.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wild Ending

Capitals 4, Flyers 5 OT/SO (0-1)
Game Summary

Playing like the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers did not disappoint. After it looked like the Flyers were going to sail to an easy win, bad discipline by the visiting team gave the Caps the opening they needed to tie up the game and sends it to overtime and eventually into the shoot out. But the Flyers' skill guy Daniel Briere scores the only shoot out goal and the Flyers put this one in the win column 5-4.

Rookie Marcus Johansson started the scoring off for the Caps as he cleaned up a broken play in front of the net. The Flyers would respond on their power play then scored a pair of even strength goals to take the lead with 10:20 left in the third period 3-1. A couple of ill-advised penalties by the Flyers created the Caps' comeback. They scored a pair of power play goals (both garbage) to pull the game even. Nick Backstrom and Jason Chimera were the goal scorers. Flyers would come back with a slick goal of their own but again take a bad penalty late in the game. Eric Fehr scored the game tying goal with a rocket of a shot from the right face off dot to force overtime.

Wild End

When the Flyers took the lead in the third and the Caps' Alex Semin was nicked with a tripping call. It seemed the game was at hand for the visiting team, but Kimo Timonen took a holding call to negate the Semin call. The Caps would score on the shortened power play chance. Mike Richards would take a penalty after slashing a Caps player after the goal was scored and it offered the Caps yet another chance with the extra man. It wouldn't take long for the Caps to tie up the game.

After that, it seemed chance after chance for both teams presented itself. The Flyers would regain the lead after Andreas Nodl scored by spinning around the Caps' defender and backhanded the puck through Michal Neuvirth's five hole. But the Caps would answer after the Flyers were yet again called for a penalty and with six skaters on the ice Fehr buried a shot to tie up the game.

Three goals were scored in the first two periods, but the scoring exploded in the third with 5 goals scored by either team. 4 of those were in the last nine minutes of play.

Super Kid

It was a great game for Marcus Johansson. The Caps' rookie would score his second goal of the season when he cleaned up a bouncing puck in front of the net and beat Flyer Brian Boucher glove side. Using his speed, Johansson created a slew of chances especially five on five. He was clearly the best Capital on the ice through most of the game. He will be even more exciting to watch when he figures out that wrister of his and starts beating goaltenders.

Invisible Ovi

Alex Ovechkin may have an assist in this game, his scoring has seemed to hit a wall. He has only scored 2 goals in the last eight games. He had a few golden opportunities to score early after line mate Alex Semin fed him a couple of pretty feeds to cut him loose. But he rang it off the post on one shot, missed the net on another. In all, Ovi could only muster 3 shots on net. The rest? Five shots were blocked and 6 of them sailed wide of the net. The Caps' winger showed his frustrations at times often looking to the rafters after shots or shaking his head as he returned to the bench after a tough shift.

Great Goaltending Thwarted

Neuvirth kept his team in it for a majority of the game. He stopped 31 shots including some humdingers on the Caps penalty kill. The Flyers tried his glove side, to little avail through the first two periods. Only when they held on to the shot, delaying to make the young goaltender to bite early, did they find the back of the net.

That Seems Fehr

The line combo of Tomas Fleischmann, Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr created some havoc for the Flyers. They had a slew of even strength chances. Fehr himself had a heck of game as he lead the Caps in shots with six and scored the power play, game tying goal. He even had a jump in overtime and nearly scored in the extra frame.

A Much Better Effort

After the humbling loss to Southeast Division rivals Atlanta Thrashers the night before, the Caps came to play against their Conference rivals the Flyers. The Caps were getting early chances to score and seemed to be moving their feet better, keeping the visiting Flyers on their heels. Besides a couple of defensive breakdowns and poor discipline, the Caps did play a much better game than they did the night before.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Caps Hold On

Capitals 4, Sabres 2
Game Summary

The Capitals had no problem building up a lead against the Buffalo Sabres. Up 3-0, the Caps looked as if they were going to skate away to an easy victory. The Sabres, however, have a way of getting back into the game against the Caps and it would take a spectacular effort by rookie goaltender Michal Neuvirth to preserve the Caps' one goal lead as they down the Sabres and avenge their earlier loss by a score of 4-2.

Alex Semin continues his hot streak starting with a helper on the game's first goal. He drew the penalty to give the Caps a 5 on 3 then found Nick Backstrom on the far post and slipped him a pass to get the Caps off to a good start. Semin would also add a empty netter to seal the victory. David Steckel and Matt Bradley also scored for the Caps.

Good For The Grinders

The Capitals fourth line is not assembled for scoring prowess. But lately the line of Jason Chimera, Steckel and Bradley have been getting chances and adding the all important secondary scoring the Caps desperately need.

Chimera, although taking a third period penalty that nearly cost his team, played his best game as a Capital even though he didn't score. Using his superb speed, Chimera was able to pounce on loose pucks and found teammates Bradley and Steckel in front of the net. The Grinders combined for 5 points out of the Caps total of ten on the night. Chimera's efforts earned him the game's number one star.

Bending But Not Breaking

It got hairy towards the end of the game when Chimera took a hooking call halfway through the third period. But the Caps defense kept the Sabres from getting the game tying goal. With the help of Neuvirth who stopped 31 shots and had a .939 average against the Sabres.

Special Teams

The Caps special teams again came to the rescue. While they did allow a power play goal in the second period that pulled the Buffs to within one goal, they were pretty good the rest of the night. The new aggressive style of penalty killing has benefited the Caps in such a manner that they are starting to get scoring chances in the other direction. They were able to register two shots on net short handed.

Bringing Body

Again the Caps went after the Sabres physically. They outhit the Buffs 23 to 11. Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with 4 hits of his own, while Mike Green and Steckel had three hits of their own. A stat they could have lived with out though would be turnovers. The Caps coughed up the puck ten times compared to their opponents who only had one giveaway.

Caps Notes
  • Tomas Fleischmann, Tom Poti and DJ King were the Caps' scratches. Flash was sitting only because coach Bruce Boudreau said it was his turn to sit. 
  • Marcus Johansson is starting to get a handle on his face-offs. He won 10 of fifteen draws (67%). While he was not on the ice for any goals, he was not on for any goals against either. 
  • Alex Semin is riding a nine game point streak with his goal and assist tonight. The Caps have won eight of their last nine games, the only loss came at the hands of the very same Sabres a few nights ago in overtime. Alex Ovechkin was left off the score sheet for a second time in three games. The other game was against Buffalo.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Are You Excited Yet?

HBO's 24/7 Winter Classic Promo:



Sorry for the poor audio. Sneak peak will premiere on Saturday following boxing on HBO.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vanek Vex Caps In OT

Capitals 2, Sabres 3 OT
Game Summary

Coming into tonight's game, the Buffalo Sabres were struggling to score goals and struggling to win games. The Capitals were riding a six game winning streak and looking pretty unstoppable. On the shaky ice at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, the Sabres were able to down the Capitals in overtime as Thomas Vanek took it upon himself to make some great moves to the net and score with just a minute remaining in the overtime period beating the Capitals 3-2.

Things got off to a pretty good start for the Caps for a change. They were able to benefit from a Tyler Myers turnover inside the Sabres' zone. Alex Semin snatched up the wobbly dump off the boards and found Karl Alzner entering the zone late. Alzner had the time to wind up and shoot, which he did and beat Ryan Miller on the short side.

After much success in the second period this year for the Caps, their luck seem to run out as they allowed two goals and only could muster up 4 shots on the Buffalo goal keeper. In the third period Nick Backstrom was able to tie it when Jason Chimera found him open in the slot. Backstrom took his time, avoiding a sliding block from the Sabre defender, and buried it top left corner over Miller's shoulder.

Vanek would finish it all off in OT as he was originally forced out of the zone by Marcus Johansson, but turned up ice with some speed, eluded two Caps' defenders and stick handled around Braden Holtby's stick check to score easily. He handed the Caps their first overtime loss of the season.


A Point

The Capitals do escape out of Buffalo with at least a point, keeping them atop the league with 25 points (12-4-1). While they have been good with a lead, it has been rare that they score first. In fact out of 17 games played this season, they have only scored first in 5 games. Of that they have won 3 games, lost one and the over time loss tonight. They have opened a 7 point lead in the Southeast Division over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Semin Streak Soldiers On

While not able to score a goal tonight, Alex Semin did keep his point streak alive to seven games now. This after a spectacular game against the Lightning where he had 5 points which included a hattrick. It was also the first point Semin has scored at HSBC arena in his career.

Bad Timing

The Capitals were called for 3 double minors in the game. Two of them high sticking double minors after the offenders drew blood. The other was a cross check call against Chimera and another two were added for unsportsmanlike for being a bit gabby about the call afterward. The long penalty kills hampered the Caps offensive flow, they were only able to achieve 4 shots in the middle frame. The Sabres were able to score on the Tomas Fleischmann double minor to take the lead in the second period.

Minor Ovi

Alex Ovechkin had a glorious opportunity when Nick Backstrom sprung him free on a break away on Buffalo's goaltender Miller. But Ovi didn't score as Miller stopped him with the leg pad after the deke. A goal would have put the Caps up 2-1 in the first period. Beyond that, Ovechkin seemed to struggle against the Sabre's double and triple teaming. He would become a non-factor in this game with no points, a minus one with only a single shot on net. Ovi did throw his body around, matching team mate Matt Hendricks for most hits by a Caps' player tonight (5).

MJ Back

Marcus Johansson made his return to the line up in ten games. He was a bit sluggish at times in the opening two frames, but his speed came back in the third period. MJ90 saw some time with the top line, centering Ovechkin and Mike Knuble. He would finish a minus one, with three shots on net and struggled on the face off dot (3-6, 33%).

Back to Back Woes

Again the Capitals have had a hard time in games they play two nights in a row. Last time the Caps had two games in two nights, they lost the first game and exploded in the second game against the Calgary Flames. They will face of against the Atlanta Thrashers back at the phone boot at 5 pm Sunday evening.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sem-sational

Capitals 6, Lightning 3
Game Summary

The Capitals are having a hard time finding their game in the first period this year. They would once again fall to an early opponent goal by the Tampa Bay Lightning. But a superb second and third periods and a hattrick for Alex Semin helped the Caps down their Southeast Division rivals 6-3.

Alex Semin would net the game winner after scoring a pair of goals in the first half of the third period. One on the power play, the other even strength. It would cap a 5 point (3 goals, 2 assists) night for the Caps dynamic winger as he also got the empty netter at the end of the game to give him the hattrick.

In his first game back, Tom Poti would make an early impact in the second period by roofing a back hand rebound shot to give the Caps their first goal. Mike Knuble would bury a broken play in front of the net with himself below the goal line. But his reach back and chip it would beat a defenders attempt to clear and rang off the far post and in.

Alex Ovechkin is back in the goal column as he sprang Semin lose for a break away then followed up the play. When Semin was hooked he circled and found his fellow countryman in the slot and Ovi didn't miss shooting it seven hole on Bolts' goaltender Dan Ellis.

Back in the Swing of Things.

Nick Backstrom finished the night with a whopping four assists on the evening. His assist on Semin's power play tally was another amazing feed from the corner as the Bolts were quick to cover the pass to Mike Green on the point leaving Semin open in the slot. He would finish with a +3 on the night.

Contract Year Heroics

Alex Semin just hasn't been impressing with his laserbeam shots or his golden hands. The Capitals winger has been solid on both ends of the ice. In this game he was the lead back checker and thwarted the Lightning on more than one occasion. It was his second hatty of the season, sixth of his career.

Gr8 Eight

Ovechkin is sporting a eight game point streak and he can add a goal and 3 assists tonight. He has goal 9 and assists 13 and 14 giving him 23 points on the season so far.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Wild, Wild Night

Capitals 5, Rangers 3
Game Summary

It was not pretty, but it was a hard fought, good two points for the Capitals. The New York Rangers came out to play a rough, physical game to knock the Caps off their skill game. While the top line was held in check, the Caps' grinders came through for them as they down the Rangers 5-3.

The Caps would, once again, have to come from behind to win the game. After letting the first goal in by Ranger Brian Boyle, Brooks Laich would answer for the Capitals on the power play. He tipped in a Semin shot-pass and it beat Ranger's goaltender Henrick Lundqvist five-hole. Laich would add a empty netter to seal the deal.

After that, the Caps' grinders and tough guys had their night. John Erskine scored a wicked shot high stick side on Lunqvist. Mike Knuble finally gets on the board for the season, burying a pass from an Alex Ovechkin. Matt Hendricks scored the game winner after some hard work by the grinding line keeping the puck deep. Matt Bradley found Hendricks in front and the Caps would go on to win.

A Chippy Affair.

Every crash at the net, every tussle along the boards led to a scrum as both teams got a little chippy with one another. While a fight was due to break out, it was a bit of a shock to see Mike Green take on Brandon Dubinsky in a dust up. The scrums would become less and less prevalent as the game wore on, but there were plenty of sore feelings between the two.

Goons On Ice.

John Erskine is not really known for his sniper abilities, but he scored on a blast of a shot from the point that beat Lundqvist high stick side. It would snap a 31 game goal-less streak for Erksine but the Rangers topped that just :41 seconds later when Ranger goon Derek Boogaard scored his first since his rookie season. Boograad shot it in the exact same spot where Erskine scored. It would snap a 234 game stretch where he did not score a goal.

I Laich It.

Brooks Laich may have been left off the three stars of the game list, but he had himself a pretty good game. He scored a pair of goals, was a +3 with three points. He drew a boarding call after hustling, negating a Ranger power play. Laich also was perfect on the face off dot (100%), but only took one draw. At the time this post was written, Laich now leads the league in =/- with a +13.

Streaks

Alex Semin snapped a 4 game goal streak, but keeps his point streak alive. It now stretches to 5 games. Ovechkin stretches his point streak to seven games and his assist streak to 5 games. The Capitals stretch their winning streak to 5 games. Neuvirth now leads the league with wins (9) and has won 3 of his last 4 starts in net.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Holtby, Green Power Caps Past Flyers

Capitals 3, Flyers 2 OT
Game Summary

It would take overtime for the top two teams in the Eastern Conference decide a winner. When the dust settled Mike Green scored the game winner just :29 seconds into the extra frame and both the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers will end up tied for the top spot in the standings. Caps come away with the two points with the overtime win 3-2.

The Caps would have to, yet again, come from behind to get the eventual winner in over time. Eric Fehr would score to tie the game at one apiece on a snapper shot from the left wing boards beating the Flyers rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The Flyers would again take the lead, but the Caps answered when Alex Semin buried a great feed from Nick Backstrom on the power play. Mike Green would put the cherry on the top of a physical, hard grinding game with the overtime, power play goal.

Holtby's first.. again.

Braden Holtby would make his first NHL start after getting his first NHL win against Boston in the last game. He would turn away 23 shots to get his second win. He had a few big saves including three straight stops moving from left to right and all three Flyers' forwards registered a shot. Hotby's saves seemed to spur his team to play better defense in front of him. Besides a couple of breakdowns, the Caps' defense kept the Flyers' scorers in check. Holtby would earn the game's second star. He is the youngest NHL goaltender to start a game this year (21 years, 52 days).

Taking advantage.

The power play again bailed out the Caps offense. Chris Pronger took a late penalty with 3:55 left in the game. Unfortunately, it was a double minor for high sticking David Steckel and drawing blood. The Caps' power play drew yet another penalty to extend the extra man advantage and allow Green's game winning goal.

The Caps now have seven power play goals in their last 4 games. This after the power play struggled at the beginning of the season. The Caps' penalty kill also factored in this game as they were able to kill off the only two penalties they took against a very physical team in the Flyers.

I got your Backstrom.

It is the second straight game Nick Backstrom has registered two assists. Three of the last four have been the primary assists. He has ten points in the last six games (3g, 7a) and his point production has been a bright spot for a struggling Caps power play.

Streaks

Caps finish their home stretch of three games with 6 points. They have now won four straight games. Alex Ovechkin continues his point streak now to six games with ten points during that stretch (4g, 6a). Alex Semin stretches his goal streak to four games.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Classic Cardiac Caps

Capitals 5, Bruins 3
Game Summary

It was the best first two periods by the Washington Capitals, followed by a Boston Bruin rally in the third. What looked to be a walk away domination, the Caps took a couple of bad penalties early in the third period and it spurred a Bruin offensive outburst. It was stemmed when John Carlson put a slapper past the Bruin goaltender with over six minutes remaining to get the game winner.

While no goals were scored in the first period, the Caps played their best first period of the season. They held the Bruins to only 3 shots in the first while peppering Tim Thomas with eight shots of their own. In the second the dam broke for the Bruins when Tomas Fleischmann wins the face off and shovels it back to Tyler Sloan who cranks it past Thomas for his first of the season.

The Caps' defense wasn't done there as the Bruins defenders broke down in the zone and Alex Ovechkin found Mike Green open cross ice. Green waited out Gregory Campbell going down for the block and beat Tim Thomas high glove side. It would extend the Caps lead to 2-0. Green would figure in on the third goal when Alex Semin makes an aggressive move on the penalty kill. It would lead to a two on one with Brooks Laich and Green the trailer. Semin passed it back to the Caps defender who gave it right back. Semin's shot slipped under Thomas and the Caps would take a 3-0 lead into the second intermission.

The first half of the third it was a different story. Jason Chimera took a hooking call off the face off and while he sat for two, the Bruins' power play took advantage as Micheal Ryder scored. Then John Erskine was called for interference and the Bruins rallied to cut the lead to one goal with another power play goal by Nathan Horton. Then a bad turnover by the Capitals lead to a Shawn Thornton goal off an odd man rush.

Bruce Boudreau would pull Michal Neuvirth after the third goal and replace him with Braden Holtby. It would be Holtby's first action in the regular season in the NHL. After the change, the Caps started to clamp down on the sudden hot Bruin offense. Holtby would only face 4 shots, but they were all huge saves. John Carlson would put the cherry on top netting the game winner off another face off win. Add an Alex Ovechkin empty netter and the Caps are close to tying up the season series with the Bruins who already have the 2-1 advantage.

A first for Holtby

Braden Holtby not only got the win, his first NHL win in his first start, but he also donned the hard hat in the locker room following the game. For a rookie who wasn't expected to see much of any ice time while backing up Neuvirth, to be thrown in to a game tied with the tide going against your team is asking a lot of any goaltender, let alone a first timer. Holtby would face 4 shots, repelling them all.

Zero Zdeno

It wasn't a great game for Zdeno Chara. He finished with a -4 and no shots on net. A big part of the Bruins offense, especially on the power play, the fact he had no shots means the Caps did a good job of keeping him from being a factor for the Bruins.


A ten minute brain cramp

The Caps played the perfect first two periods, only to allow a talented Bruin team to roar right back and tie the game up early in the third period. The Bruin rally would be snuffed out when Boudreau would change goaltneders and the Caps' defense suddenly woke up again. In the first 9:51 of the third period, the Bruins would score three goals on five shots.

Shaky Neuvy

While Neuvirth wasn't scored upon until the third period, he had only faced 9 shots through the first two periods. After the power play goal, which had very little to do with the Caps' netminder, he seemed to struggle going down early on Bruin advances. Both the second and third goals could have (and should have) been stopped. Boudreau would pull him after the third goal.

Caps' D helps with Caps' O

Three of the five goals the Capitals scored tonight came off the sticks of the Capitals' defensemen. Sloan, Green and Carlson contributed to the scoring effort tonight. Jeff Schultz was the Caps best in the plus/minus column with a +3 and had an assist.

Fantastic Faceoffs

While the Caps trailed in face off wins (45%) against the Bruins, two big draws led to two big goals. The first was Fleischmann's draw back to Sloan that led to a goal. The second was Boyd Gordon's win the led to Carlson's goal. Both were clean face off wins.

Streaks

Ovechkin continues his point streak now through 5 games with 8 points during that stretch (3g, 5a). Semin has a three game streak for both goals and points, 6 points (3g, 3a).

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Caps Squeak Out Win At Home

Capitals 5, Maple Leafs 4 OT/SO (2-0)
Game Summary

When the Toronto Maple Leafs score first, they were a perfect 4-0. When the Capitals give up the first goal they have the best record in the league coming back with a 5-3 record. The Leafs would score first in this tilt taking the lead in the first before the Caps would explode to a three goal second period, only to be answered by three goals by the Leafs in the third. It would take overtime and a shootout to decide this wild game. The Caps overpowered the Leafs as Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin both scored to give the home team the win, 5-4 OT/SO.

The Capitals will benefit from a better power play as Mike Green starts the goal spurt in the second period. Jason Chimera his third goal of the campaign after a hustle move by Boyd Gordon digging the puck out of the corner and found a charging Chim in front of the net. Just :53 seconds later, John Carlson would throw a wrister to the net and Tomas Fleischmann would tip it in for fourth goal of the season. It would be Carlson's sixth assist. Semin would score the game tying goal in the third period on the power play.

Putting the power back in power play.

Before the last two games the Capitals could only muster 3 goals in 39 chances. It was struggling to say the least. But in the last two games, the Caps have spurred their offense with power play tallies. Now, they have four power play goals in eight chances.

Having Mike Green on the back end of the power play seems to jolt the sleepy power play up. It is starting to rev up and teams will have to be on their best behavior in front of the Caps if their power play continues like it has in the last two games.


Sloppy breakouts.

The Capitals broke down in the third after being a bit too cavalier with the puck clearing their zone. The passes have to be tape to tape and if the play isn't there, the defenders have to clear the zone. The quick goals by the Leafs was result of failing to clear the puck and breaking it out. It seems the Caps turn the puck over too many times at their own blue line.


Overpowering shoot-out.

Any goaltender in the National Hockey League will tell you that the last three players they would like to face in the shoot-out are probably Nick Backstrom, Ovechkin and Semin. Leafs' goaltender Jonas Gustavsson faced just that only stopping Backstrom (he also shot it wide). Ovechkin moved from left to right opening the Leafs' goaltenders' legs to score five hole. While Semin just wound up and shot a slapper in the slot that beat Gustavsson glove side cleanly. A wicked shot that any goalie in the NHL would cringe to see.


Stay consistent. 

Just about the only consistent thing the Capitals have going for the them is in net. Michal Neuvirth had a pretty good game, although he did let 4 behind him (mostly not his fault). But when the Capitals needed a big save, he was there with the stop. Plus his performance in the shoot out was pretty spectacular too.

Keeping the streaks alive.

Green is back into his old scoring ways. He has 5 points in the last three games (2g, 3a). Ovi is back on a point streak through four games netting two assists tonight. He has seven points in the last four (3g, 4a).

DJ "Not So" King

It was a pretty tough night for the Capitals' tough man. He got into a scrap in the first with Colton Orr. But the fight was to a draw as both players found it hard to land any punches. But it wasn't Kings fisticuffs that have some worried. King turned over the puck at the blue line, then made half attempts to swipe the puck away. It would eventually lead to a goal against. He was a -2 tonight.


Secondary scoring... Finally!

The Caps were concerned the top line would have to do it all. Talk about pressure. But the Caps did get some goals from outside the top line of Ovechkin, But goals by Chimera and Fleischmann relieves some of the strain of the top lines. They needed those goals.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Little Spooky

It's my annual look at the league as Halloween comes around. Can't skip on tradition, so here is a quick look around the league to take a look at some of the scary things that are afoot in the NHL.

Penguins' Horrifying Home Record: 2-4-0 in their brand new building, including two losses to heated rival Philadelphia. One thing they have going for them, the Winter Classic will not be played at CONSOL Energy Center. The only teams they have beaten at home have been Ottawa and an overtime win against the NY Islanders. Still it is not as bad as Phoenix that has only won once in Glendale Arena.

Devils' Decapitated Cap: After signing a whopper of a contract with Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils have run into salary cap troubles. They started the season with only twenty players on their roster, leaving little room for injuries or bad play. They have dressed as little as 17 players for a game. Lucky for them, some injuries have helped to alleviate the pressure. But unless a trade is looming, they will have to make tougher choices further down the road like letting a veteran player go.

Tim "Trick or Treat" Thomas: What a great and scary start for the Boston goaltender. He has won every start this season for the Bruins (5), but what is really blood curdling is his goals against average at this point in the season, .50. Yup, that is half a goal allowed per game. Credit a great Bruins defense and Thomas' recent spooky-good play.

Steven "Slimy and Scary" Stamkos: 18 points through nine games. He is averaging 2 points a game. Not a bad start kid.

Alex "The Invisible Man" Ovechkin: Usually a man in the lead of the scoring race or close to the top, it is hard to find Ovechkin's name in the top twenty of either the goals column or points. It is still early, but his scoring production has dropped sharply, including three games where he failed to score a single point. He started the season with five straight games with at least a point. Not good news for you fantasy players out there.

Carolina's House of Horrors: Zero goals on home ice. That is it for the Hurricanes. Shut out in their last 2 games by both Washington and Pittsburgh, the 'Canes are looking for answers on to their home ice woes. They did score a goal while in Europe when they were considered a home team. But since returning to RBC Center, the 'Canes offense has sputtered.

Eve of Halloween Routs: These games weren't even fair in some cases. Philly routs NY Islanders 6-1, Pittsburgh embarrasses the Hurricanes 3-0, Boston veto the Senators 4-0, Detroit dismantle the Predators 5-2, Dallas shoots down the Sabres 4-0, Colorado unravels the Blue Jackets 5-1,  and Capitals douse Flames 7-2. In all the winning teams scored a combined 56 goals while the losing end only mustered 14 goals.

Flames Doused

Capitals 7, Flames 2
Game Summary

You would have to go back four years to recall the Caps last win in the Saddledome. Even with a poor start, the Capitals would break it open in the second period scoring 6 goals to water down the Calgary Flames 7-2. The Caps finish their three game road trip taking four of six possible points and earn their first win in Calgary in four years.

Alex Ovechkin would score a pair of goals within a minute (:12 seconds apart to be exact) both on the power play. It would cap a three point night for the Great 8 (2g, 1a) and earn him tonight's number one star. Nick Backstrom, Mike Green, Alex Semin, Matt Bradley and David Steckel would all add goals of their own in the rout. 

It would be the Capitals' struggling power play that would spark the sudden offensive explosion by the Capitals. After falling behind to 2-0, the Caps had a chance on the power play to try to get on the board before the first period ends. Green would set up Backstrom on a beautiful cross ice pass to get the power play goal. Backstrom would finish tonight with the game's third star and four points (1g, 3a)

In the second period, the Flames would take some bad penalties leading to a Caps five on three power play. Green would set up Ovechkin's game tying goal with the two man advantage. Then :12 seconds later Ovechkin would score the game winning goal on the ensuing five on four power play. He scored almost from the same place, left of Miikka Kiprusoff inside the face off circle about fifteen to twenty feet out.

It seemed after that, the Flames' wheels started to come loose. Green would score his first goal of the season after Calgary turned the puck over at their own blue line. Jeff Schultz kept the puck in finding Jason Chimera. Chimera would pass it cross ice to an open Semin while Green made a b-line to the Calgary net. Semin fed it to Green and he made no mistake going high glove on Kiprusoff. It would be Chimera's first point in four games as he was credited with the secondary assist.

Just over twenty seconds later, Flames' Cory Sarich would knock down a soft shot from the point and was pressured by Bradley. Sarich would chip it to try to get it clear of the forechecking player but instead beat Kiprusoff with the shot. Bradley would take the credit for the goal.

The Capitals' power play was on a roll and the penalty kill was pretty good tonight too. The Caps killed all six Calgary power play opportunities. They even contributed a goal as David Steckel blocked a shot and had a break away in the other direction. Mark Giordano hooked Steckel from behind and it led to a penalty shot for the Ohio State Buckeye. Steckel beat Flame back up Henrik Karlsson top shelf. It was Steckel's first career penalty shot/goal.

It had been a point of contention that the Caps just were not scoring enough. Ovechkin had only one goal in his last 4 games. Bruce Boudreau would put Alex Semin up on the top line. The result would lead to the early second period penalties and 2 of the three even strength goals.

Michal Neuvirth again was strong in net. His saves in the first period, even with the Caps down by two goals, made the second period outburst possible. After the Caps had scored to make it 2-1 on Backstrom's power play goal, the Flames had a great follow-up shift pressuring to score again. Neuvirth came up with a big pad save and what could have been a 3-1 lead for Calgary the Caps only found themselves down by one when breaking for the first intermission. Neuvirth would turn away 27 shots tonight.

Caps return home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night and then the very hot Bruins on Friday.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Caps Out Of Gas

Capitals 1, Wild 2
Game Summary

Bruce Boudreau didn't tweak his team after their inspired 3-0 win in Carolina to face Minnesota on the very next night. But the Capitals legs couldn't keep up with a Wild team that lost their previous two games and wanted to start well at home. The Caps will drop another game to the Wild and fail to win at Excel Energy Center. Their record falls to 0-5-0-1 in this building.

Alex Ovechkin scored the Caps lone goal with a little over a minute and a half left to play in the game. The Caps had a few other chances, but they just did not have the legs to put up any consistent offensive pressure.

Where the Caps played a complete 60 minutes in Carolina last night, they couldn't pull together any similar type of effort 24 hours later. The Wild did a good job clogging up the neutral zone, but the Caps made it easy not getting the puck deep and looking for cute east/west passes that were being picked off by Wild defenders.

It wasn't pretty and there is not much to take from the game. The Caps' penalty killing only allowed a single goal, which ended up being the game winner. They didn't have much time on the power play since they didn't move their feet to manufacture many penalties against the Wild.

Michal Neuvirth continues to play very well. Since he has let in 4 goals in the season opener against Atlanta, Nuevirth has not allowed more than 2 goals or less a game. He had some beauty saves in this one too, flashing the glove on a few Wild chances.

Caps have a night to rest up before they play a hot Calgary Flames team that won three straight before playing the Avalanche tonight. They will need to turn their energy knob up a notch for their next game.

Why It Was A Goal

Last night, the Washington Capitals game winning goal was also the game's most controversial play. It left the Hurricane coach mad, Carolina's defensemen confused and Matt Hendricks and the Capitals very happy. But what preceded Hendricks chipping the puck into an virtually open net was a run in with Hurricane goaltender Cam Ward and Caps centerman David Steckel.

The Hurricane's cried foul, mainly goaltender interference on Steckel, and that the goal should be disallowed. At first glance it does look like Steckel interfered Ward from making the save. But all is not what it seems at first glance. Here is the play, video courtesy of NHL.com:



So by the commentary, you are probably wondering why this is a goal, right? Steckel obviously took out the 'Canes goaltender.

Okay let's break down the play. First the play starts from a point shot by John Erskine. That is him down there:



Steckel is coming from the corner to the front of the net. The first of the two pictures is a bit fuzzy because the camera is moving with the shot from Erskine but notice the path both Ward and Steckel take from the first photo to the second. Steckel is skating from board to board (or east/west or up screen to down). He is well away from the blue crease area while Ward is challenging the shot and moving into Steckel's skating path.


Actually Ward could be called for tripping as he interferes with Steckel who is falling in the second shot. Also notice the referee #38 Francois St. Laurent in perfect position to see the entire play. Next Steckel, who has at this time fallen to the ground because of Ward's aggressive play, corals the puck and throws it back to the slot.


Notice the official St. Laurent is signaling that Ward had initiated the contact, before the goal was scored, before Steckel is even able to pass the puck back to Hendricks. At this point Ward is out of position, but he is not being interferred from going back to make the save. Ward probably doesn't think Steckel is going to pass this to a wide open Hendricks who isn't on the screen yet. Also notice the two 'Canes players just standing and watching this all go down.


Last photo is Hendricks working his tail off to get to the slot, Steckel is no longer part of the play and the 'Cane defenders are badly out of position as is Ward. Hendricks will score and the goal will count. All of this happens well outside of the blue crease which is scared ground for goalies in the NHL.

If Steckel initiated the contact with Ward, it is a different story. The goal would be washed out and possibly even a penalty called on the play. But Ward's aggressive play put himself out of position, not the other way around. The goal is good, Caps win.

The Hurricanes can argue about the call all game long, but this did happen halfway through the first period. There were plenty of opportunities for them to get back into the game.

Then again, maybe not.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Neuvirth Spoils Hurricanes Home Opener

Capitals 3, Hurricanes 0
Game Summary

Michal Neuvirth didn't coast to a shut out against the Carolina Hurricanes. He earned every one of the 29 saves he made in this game giving his team, the Washington Capitals, the win 3-0. It would be the perfect road game for the Capitals as they down a Southeast Division rival on their opening night, in their barn.

Matt Hendricks would score his first goal as a Capital in the first period and that goal held as the lead for most of the game and would be the eventual game winner. Nick Backstrom would give the Caps some breathing room they didn't really need when he scored on a Cam Ward rebound, then again on an empty net late in the third.

But the story of the night was Neuvirth. He made a slew of great saves. One was on a Hurricane power play where a smart pass in front found Eric Staal wide open on the far side of the net. He shot in what looked like a wide open net, but Neuvy stretched out and made the glove save leaving Staal looking to the rafters. Even when the 'Canes thought they had slipped one past Neuvirth, a long video look from Toronto came back with a "no goal" call.

The Caps defense did a much better job keeping the Hurricanes from using their speed or getting pucks inside on them. They held the Hurricanes to 29 shots on net, this after allowing season high shots on net in the last 4 games prior to tonight. With Mike Green back in the line up, the blue liners seemed to gel better than they had in games where Green sat out.

The fourth line also chipped in with scoring the first goal of the game. Hendricks goal was a product of hard work in the offensive zone by his linemates Matt Bradley and Dave Steckel. Steckel crashed the net and Ward came out to play him aggressively. It looked like Steckel ran into the Hurricane goaltneder, but it was deemed a good goal.

In fact the Caps benefited from the bottom lines having much better chemistry. The Jason Chimera, Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr line saw some pretty good offensive pressure through out the game. While the top two lines still looked inconsistent and fighting the game more than allowing it to come to them.

Case in point, the top line of Mike Knuble, Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin struggled all night trying to set up the perfect play. But it would be a simple shot on net by Knuble that would lead to a bad rebound by Ward leaving a perfect rebound for a crashing Backstrom. That simple play would lead to a big goal in the third. It took the wind out of the sails of the Hurricanes, and the Caps would finish off their rivals for a solid road win. Sometimes its the simple play that make the biggest difference in a game.

Caps can't waste too much energy on this celebration as they are back on the road heading to Minnesota to face the Wild tomorrow night. Braden Holtby is expected to start, but with the way Neuvirth is playing, it might be a start for the second night in a row in back to back games.