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

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.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Semin's Trick Tanks Thrashers

Capitals 4, Thrashers 3 OT
Game Summary

Alex Semin broke out with three goals as the Washington Capitals overcome another slow start against the Atlanta Thrashers. Tomas Fleischmann would finish it off in overtime and the Capitals stop their losing ways at just 2 games. The Capitals are a perfect 3-0 when going into overtime thus far in the season.

Semin would score a natural hattrick to bring up his season total to 5 goals. His first happened after Chris Mason made an errant pass up the wall and found Semin at the half boards. He ripped it into the open net sending out a loud ping as the puck hit the post and went in the net.

On his second goal, Mathieu Perreault's gritty play would benefit Alex Semin's game tying goal after Brooks Laich forced a turn over along the boards to Perreault. MP85 would get tripped up and Semin would clean up after the play in front of the net to tie the game at two in the third.

Perreault would make the most of his call up by also assisting on Semin's third goal to give the Caps the lead in the third period. Perreault moved his feet to open some space and found Semin on the far post open. Semin chipped it with his back hand past Mason and the hats rained down on the ice. It was Semin's fourth career hattrick, and the first by the Caps since February of last season (also scored by Semin).

The penalty kill has hit a snag in the last two games. After being perfect through the first 6 games, the Caps shorthanded have allowed 4 goals on 11 chances in the last two games. While the PK was okay tonight, the Caps' power play continues to struggle as they went 0 for 3 tonight. They blew three minutes of a major penalty on Dustin Byfuglien. Buff ran the Caps' goaltender Michal Neuvirth and got his head nearly taken off by John Erskine standing up for his goaltender. But the power play sputtered and a hooking call by Brooks Laich would negate the penalty early in the third.

The Caps would dress Mike Green for the tilt, but he would see no actual five on five ice time. He was just in to help the struggling power play. He would bounce a puck off his skate in the net, but the call was called back as it was deemed Green kicked it into the net. He didn't play in the overtime period either and spent most of the time sitting on the bench.

A season ago the Washington Capitals have been off to fast starts in games. They have outscored their opponents in the first period 92-67. In the first 8 games of this season, they have had to come from behind being outscored in the opening frame 9-3. Without the quick start, the Caps are finding a difficult time getting through their games. Tonight would be no different as the Capitals allow a late first period goal against the Thrashers and have to work from behind.

The Caps now go on a three game road trip starting with the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night, then hop over to the Twin Cities to take on the Wild Thursday night and end up in Calgary to face one-time Cap Brendan Morrison on Saturday night. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Caps Can't Solve Bruins Second Time Around

Capitals 1, Bruins 4
Game Summary

In the second game in a home and home with the Boston Bruins, the Washington Capitals showed flashes of what it was like a year ago. Facing a good goalie and a tough defense, the Caps' power play sputtered, the PK fell apart and mental mistakes you can count on two hands. After the Bruins play the perfect road game, the turn around and play the perfect home opener in front of their fans. The Caps however find more questions about their struggling offense.

Jason Chimera goal was only a result of a errant pass by Bruins' goaltender Tim Thomas that lead to a nearly empty netter. The Caps would only get that single point on the night.

The Capitals power play continues to struggle. At pivotal points in the game, they had the chance to crawl back into game. But the Caps were caught standing around and any chances they had were swallowed up by Thomas. There is little or no movement on the Caps' power play. The passes are predictable and there seems to be no need to change the system.

While the PP struggled, the penalty kill was going along just swimmingly. Until tonight. The Caps could only kill off the first penalty, then took a nose dive allowing three straight power play goals by the Boston squad. The Bruins moved the puck masterfully with the extra man. The set up got the Caps defenders running around and tired them out. Goals came easy after that.

Boudreau tinkered his lines again moving up Marcus Johansson to the second line, hoping the promotion to better talent might get the rookie going and make that second line come together. Tomas Fleischmann continues to fall short of expectations. Flash was demoted to the third line and was nearly invisible tonight.

This effort was sort of lacking. The Caps have to find other ways to win when the defense squeezes all the chances out of a game. Four power plays were squandered for the night. If the Capitals scored as many power play goals as PP goals against, this game would have been tied.

The Caps also had the time to come back and improve over the loss to the Bruins from Tuesday night. They failed to do that.

The Caps get back into Southeast Division play by facing the Atlanta Thrashers at home Saturday night. This after the Thrash handed the Capitals a season opening loss. And then they take on the Hurricanes in Carolina on Wednesday night. Both should be good tilts.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bruins Spoil Caps Win Streak

Capitals 1, Bruins 3
Game Summary

It was the perfect road game for the Boston Bruins. They got the early goal, played physical as well as desciplined, took the crowd out of the equation and got solid goaltending when they needed it from Tim Thomas. The Washington Capitals couldn't wake up offensively as their power play has turned stagnate. They see their win streak end at four.

In honor of Caps Girl, I will be comparing tonight's highlights to ex-girlfriends.
  • Marcus Johansson first NHL goal is like my very first girlfriend Tina. While Johansson scored on his first, I didn't (hey, I was in 5th grade, I think we just sat in her basement and colored). His goal was started by Matt Hendricks creating the turnover deep in the zone and Jason Chimera feeding a beautiful pass in front to a waiting MoJo. Johansson beat Thomas top shelf, welcome to the NHL kid.
  • Kendra was constantly coming down with some kind of illness. Sort of like Michal Neuvirth's sudden exit from the game after two goals. Neuvirth complained of dizziness and a headache, taking himself out of the game. Semyon Varlamov came in and stopped all shots but one, a floater shot that had eyes around a well placed screen. 
  • The Capitals' power play was disappointing like my ex-girlfriend Rose. With all the great talent on that top power play line, the Caps have fallen into a PP funk. They are falling into a habit of over using Alex Ovechkin at the point for the shot and standing around way too much. It looks good on paper, but the Caps PP isn't cutting it.
  • Just like Erica, there were a couple of good fights. Although it was more of the physical kind in the game where Hendricks got reacquainted with Gregory Campbell. The two went to blows with Campbell decked Ovechkin rudely into the boards and Hendricks stood up for his captain. Campbell looked like he was really looking forward to a rematch, wildly swinging his arms. Hendricks just waited his turn and threw in a few good punches. John Erskine also got a scrap in against Milan Lucic. A bad trade off for the Bruins. And no, I never hit women, although took a few punches in the arm from Erica. 
  • Finally, the Capitals' PK is definitely like my beautiful wife. Just like my wifey, the PK came up big killing off all 4 Bruin power play opportunities. It was dependable for the Caps and a center of great pride for the team. They even mastered a :53 second 5 on 3 frustrating the Bruins offense.
 I joke about the ex's. The Capitals did play a good hard game. They just didn't come up with the goals. They finished checks, played tough through the neutral zone and used their speed effectively on the Bruins defense. Thomas' play was really good tonight and the Bruins' defense did a good job keeping Ovechkin in check for most of the game. 

Caps get a chance at redemption as they head up north to Boston to finish this home and home with the Bruins on Thursday night. This will be a great opportunity to see what the Caps have learned, and what changes they make to their play in the second game. But if the Caps put forth the kind of effort they did tonight, I doubt it will be disappointing. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Grand Larceny In Nashville

Capitals 3, Predators 2 OT
Game Summary

From the moment the puck was dropped, the Capitals were on their heels. In the opening seconds the Nashville Predators had a breakaway on Michal Neuvirth, then Brooks Laich took a penalty just :24 seconds in the game. It would be the first of several penalties the Caps would take through the first two periods. But Neuvirth held strong, and the Caps used a late rally to defeat the Predators in overtime 3-2.

Brooks Laich scored the game winning goal in overtime after he tipped in an Alex Ovechkin point shot. Alex Semin also scored on the power play to get the rally going for the Capitals early in the third period. Tomas Fleischmann scored his second goal of the season to tie things up late in the third off of some hard work by the second line.

The Capitals had a hard time clearing the puck from their own zone. It lead to both Nashville goals in the first and second periods. J.P. Dumont scored a picture perfect shot over Neuvirth's right shoulder to catch the top corner for the first goal. That came after a Caps' turn over at their own blue line. The second goal was a cross ice pass that caught Brian Fahey's skate and deflected into the open net behind the Caps' goaltender.

Besides those two blunders, Michal Neuvirth was the story of the game. While the Caps' offense was dormant, Neuvy came up big with save after save keeping the score close. He would stop 28 out of thirty shots on net through the first two periods. He would finish the night stopping 37 shots out of 39, making a few beauty glove saves and taking the game's number two star.

Alex Ovechkin was originally credited with the game winning goal, but it was changed to Laich afterward. Ovechkin sees his goal streak end at three games, but he has scored a point in every Caps' game this season (a five game point streak). Ovi has also either scored or assisted in every game winning goal in the past 4 games.

The Capitals' penalty kill was heavily tested in this game, but came up perfect. The Caps took 4 minors in the first period, another two in the second. The Caps PK remains one of only two teams that are 100% so far this season (Florida is the other). Their power play also came through for them late in the game. Their power play goal early in the third started the rally, and the game winning goal was a PP tally.

Bottom line, the Capitals stole these two points. They might have even not deserve the win with their play through the first two periods. But they rallied behind Neuvirth's play in goal and when the puck started to go in for the Capitals, the Predators' lost their steam. The Caps must play much better, especially in their own zone.

The Caps next play the Boston Bruins in a home and home two game series first at the phone booth then at Boston.

Caps Notes:
  • Brian Fahey was recalled from Hershey to play for injured Mike Green and Tom Poti who did not dress for the Nashville game. Both defensemen have been listed as day to day. Fahey was a -2 in 9:50 in ice time and was credited with one hit.
  • The Hershey Bears received their championship rings and lifted their banner tonight. But they lost their home opener to the Rochester Americans 3-2

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Welcome Back Backstrom

Capitals 2, Islanders 1
Game Summary

Nick Backstrom scored his first points of the season, a goal and an assist, to help the Capitals down the New York Islanders 2-1. Alex Ovechkin also had two points on the night and John Carlson added to his point streak that now extends to 3 games.

Due to time constraints tonight, I will just give you some highlights of the game.
  • Bruce Boudreau switched up his lines before the game to jump start some key players. Basically to get Backstrom on the board. He pulled Tomas Fleischmann up to the top line with Ovechkin and Mike Knuble. Backstrom was put down with Alex Semin and Brooks Laich. The chemistry of both lines were atrocious and Boudreau quickly corrected the lines back to the original in the second period. The change led to both Ovi's and Backstrom's goals.
  • The Caps won the game on a power play goal, only their second PP goal of the season. But the power play is far from being a working system. The extra man strategy continues to struggle with predictable plays and little or no movement. With as much talent the Caps have, it would serve them better to add more movement and to finish their passes. 
  • Michal Neuvirth is really good. He made a few game saving stops, especially in the third period. The Caps' defense still needs to tighten up their game a bit. Although they did keep the Islanders to only 6 shots in both the first and second period. Neuvy stopped all 12 shots in the third.
  • The Capitals overall play was pretty sloppy tonight. Missed passes, bad clears and bad decisions with the puck is going to hurt them against much better teams. It was partly due to the line switch ups and partly to Caps waiting for the perfect homerun play. The Islanders luckily tried to play a defend-first style game, keeping the play from opening too much. The Caps were able to capitalize late from a bad penalty by the Islanders. Sometimes it pays to be lucky.
  • DJ King dressed for his first game of the season for the Capitals. He didn't disappoint, as he dropped the mitts just 2:47 into the game. He took on Trevor Gillies in a heavy weight battle. He was pretty invisible for the rest of the game as he was only used for a total ice time of 4:43.
  • Mike Green took a beating tonight. The Islanders didn't shy away from getting a body on the Caps' defenseman. He would leave late in the game smarting. Boudreau told the media that he had a stinger and is listed day to day.
  • The Capitals struggled all night in the face off dot. The whole team was only 41% on the draws. Boyd Gordon only won three out of 13 (23%), Backstrom was only 30% (3-7), Matt Hendricks was 33% (2-4), and David Steckel was 44% (2-3).
  • Alex Ovechkin takes over the points lead in the league with his two points tonight. He has 7 points in 4 games played. He also has a 4 game point streak going and a 3 game goal streak at the moment.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fun With Numbers

Just a little fun with some Caps' stats. Some of the numbers are pretty impressive, others are a bit depressing. But one thing is for sure, it's going to be fun.

7.7% - The Capitals power play efficiency which ranks them 26th in the league. It is still early in the season, but the Caps find themselves in the basement of the league in putting the puck in with the extra man. They are tied with Philadelphia before three other teams that have yet to score on the power play which are Florida, Montreal and Ottawa.

100% - That would be the Caps penalty kill which through 3 games has yet to allow a power play goal against them (knock on wood). They are one of six teams with such an honor, but the only team to have three games already under their belt.

28:20 - Mike Green's average time on ice per game which ranks him fourth in the league. Green has also accumulated the time in less average shifts per game than the 3 players ahead of him (27.3).

2 - The number of game winning goals by one Alex Ovechkin. Pretty impressive considering the Caps have only played three games thus far in the season. Ovi has 43 total game winning goals in his NHL career in the regular season. Three game winners in the playoffs.

95 - The third most shots on net faced by a NHL goaltender this year. That would be Micheal Neuvirth, who has a better goals against average and save percentage than the two ahead of him (2.62, .916).

4.00 - Average goals per game for the Washington Capitals which puts them in fourth place in the league. One team they trail are the New York Islanders, their next foe, who are averaging 5.00 goals per game through 2 games.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Caps Edge Sens In OT

Capitals 3, Senators 2 OT
Game Summary

It wasn't the prettiest game the Capitals have put together. A struggling power play, some bad turn overs leading to goals and a couple penalties to boot, the Caps found away to take the Ottawa Senators into overtime. Alex Ovechkin would net the winner with just 31.1 seconds left in the overtime frame, giving the Capitals two points and win.

It was a relatively quiet game for Ovechkin. He had been tagged with two penalties in regulation. One a cross check to Daniel Alfredsson who was already off balance. The second was a clear dive by Jarkko Ruutu that saw Ovechkin go off for interference. It had seemed the Senators had kept the Capitals' captain in check. But in overtime, with extra space on the ice and time winding down, an innocent skate up the rink led to a game winner. His faked pulling the puck inside before shooting it outside. The momentary fake opened Pascal Leclaire up and the shot slipped in five-hole.

"I played a minute (into my shift) already," Ovechkin said. "I was kind of tired so I just want to shoot the puck and go change. A lucky goal and a good win."

Also scoring for the Caps, Alex Semin gets on the board for the season. Brooks Laich chased the puck into the corner and dug out the puck to the open Semin on the other side of the net. Semin made no mistake putting the puck top shelf.

Eric Fehr would score after doing double duty after Matt Bradley left due to an undisclosed injury. Fehr stepped into the fourth line and Matt Hendricks found him from behind the net. Fehr just had to tap it into the net.

"I just saw the big one-six going hard to the net, yelling and screaming like a big freight train," Hendricks said of the play and his assist. "I tried sliding it out there and fortunately he got on his stick and he did the rest."

Fehr earned the game's number one star with a goal and an assist on the night.

The player of the night, however, was goaltender Michal Neuvirth. The rookie stayed calm and collected in the net. The two goals scored against him came from bad turnovers by his team. He is looking more and more like the goaltender the Caps need.

"(Neuvirth) keeps getting better every game," Bruce Boudreau said. "That is a good sign for a young goaltender."

Neuvirth made a slew of third period saves to force overtime and even calmly iced the puck just before Ovi's game winner. At the moment, Neuvy is making it very hard for Semyon Varlamov who also is trying to be the Caps number one goaltender. Neuvirth was also robbed of a game star, even though he stopped 29 of 31 shots.

While the overtime winner was a thriller, it didn't even need to get to that point if the Caps' power play could convert on any of their 5 chances tonight. Their passes were not crisp, there was little to no movement and the play seemed forced and predictable. Even with tweaking the lines, the Caps could find little success after the set up in the zone. Even with back to back Ottawa penalties, the Caps just couldn't get any momentum going.

"The powerplay will get better," Boudreau promised. "It just seems to be out of sync a little bit and when we get chances we are not burying them."

On the flip side, the Capitals' penalty kill was pretty solid. They killed off five Ottawa chances tonight. Washington is one of six teams that has not allowed a power play goal this season (the only team that is 100% on the PK and three games under their belt). That is due, in part to the Caps rookie goaltender Neuvirth who stopped all 6 shots on the Ottawa power play.

The Caps did lose a couple players due to injury in this tilt. Tom Poti, who skated warm up, did not show up on the roster come game time. He was a game time scratch and is listed day-to-day with a lower body injury. Matt Bradley only played three shifts before he retreated into the locker room. Bradley is also listed day-to-day with a lower body injury.

Caps Notes:
  • Next Capitals game is versus the Islanders on Wednesday night (Oct. 13).
  • Mike Green's 31:53 of ice time was more than he had in all but one game last year. He led both teams in power play minutes (8:37) and penalty kill minutes (5:42).
  • The Capitals keep their sell-out streak alive, official tally for tonight's game is 18,398.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Day And Night

Capitals 7, Devils 2
Game Summary

There could not have been a more different team from one night to the other. After a lackluster effort in Atlanta, the Washington Capitals made sure their home opener would be a memorable one. Boy oh boy, was it ever. The Caps defend their home ice in more ways than one and embarrass the Devils 7-2.

Alex Ovechkin is officially on the board with a pair of goals and an assist on the night. John Carlson also played well netting a goal and two assists. Tomas Fleischmann, Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr also added goals in the rout.

Since I am short on time tonight, here are some of the major points of the big win.
  • Michal Neuvirth played fantastic again for the Caps in net. He stopped everything he saw in the second and third periods. Both goals against him were the result in some bad turn overs. When the Caps need a save (especially in the second period) Neuvirth was there, worthy of the games third star.
  • Marcus Johansson is going to be a really good player in the NHL. Even with a turn over early in the game that led to a Devil goal, his play roared back with some solid moves to the net. He didn't score, but his game was not a disappointment after the turnover. 
  • Ovechkin's goal was the catalyst for the outbreak late in the second period. His game winning goal earned him game's first star. His penalty shot was a departure from is normal move. He swung wide and opened Brodeur up before out waiting the Devil goaltender and backhanded the puck past him. 
  • The Caps' power play still needs work. They were just one for five on the night including a chance to add to a five goal lead after Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Lablond took a instigator penalty with less than five minutes to play in the game. Granted the Devils have a great PK, but it would have been nice to see the Caps power play unit gel.
  • Letourneau-Lablond is not the sharpest tool in the shed. After a series of fights, he challenged the smallest Capital Johansson to a fight twice. Johansson said no both times. Lablond then chased Johansson down the ice and jumped him when play started. The play will be an automatic game suspension for an instigator with under 5 minutes left in a game. The Devils' coach will also be fined $10,000. Dumb move.
  • Mike Green played a well rounded defensive game. That is right, defensive game. He had 6 hits and blocked 3 shots, including an important block on the penalty kill in the second to keep the score tied at 2 at the time. His fight with Kovalchuk was a highlight as he stood up for his teammate.
  • The fights at the end of the game got to be a little ridiculous. The Devils would rack up 41 PIMs in the third alone. Compared to the Caps 32 PIMs as they engaged in the Devils frustrated rants. Jason Chimera started the rough stuff with David Clarkson. Following that bout, Green took on Kovalchuk. Then Matt Hendricks and Rod Pelley took a turn, followed by Matt Bradley and Clarkson (again). It ended with the instigator on Lablond after he ran down Johansson. Carlson came to the aid of his team mate and was given a 10 minute misconduct. 
  • Just like the loss in Atlanta was nothing to get hung up on, this win against New Jersey doesn't mean the Caps have won anything significant (besides two points). Caps need to keep playing their style and move on.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Flat Start For Caps

Capitals 2, Thrahsers 4
Game Summary

The Capitals wanted to put the sudden exit in the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens behind them. To bury it and start a new season. The last thing they wanted was a flat start, but that is what they got in Atlanta. The drop their season opener 4-2.

The game started with a dark cloud just 2:25 into the first period. Thrasher goaltender Ondrej Pavelec motioned to the bench during a stoppage at play and then he collapsed right after. That prompted trainers and doctors from both teams to rush to the young goaltender's aid. Pavelec was taken off the ice strapped to a stretcher and rushed to a local hospital. The sudden collapse left the building and players stunned.

Tomas Fleischmann and Michal Neuvirth both knew the goaltender and both mentioned after the game how shocked they were at Pavelec's collapse.

"He is a good friend of mine," Neuvirth said to reporters after the game. "It was really scary. I am just hoping he is alright."

At the time this post was written, Pavelec was conscious and stabilized, talking with doctors and asking about the score of the game. The game would resume following his departure to the hospital.

Brooks Laich would score to start the scoring. He finished off a great tic-tac-toe play where Alex Semin fed Fleischmann cross ice and Flash tap-passed it to Laich open on the other side of the net. From that point on, the Caps seem to have lost that offensive touch and the defense made poor decisions.

The Thrashers would even the score when Evander Kane picked off an errant clearing pass. In the second period, Andrew Ladd would score when the Caps were unable to clear the zone. Then Mike Green would be whistled for pushing the puck out of the crease with his glove. The referee called him for covering the puck in the crease and awarded the Thrashers with a penalty shot. Kane would score his second goal beating Neuvirth five hole.

Mike Knuble would make it interesting in the third as the Caps caught the Thrashers rushing the puck into their zone on a four on one. When the play fizzled out, Alex Ovechkin led a two on one feeding Knuble with the puck. Knuble made no mistake with his shot, going top shelf.

However, another bad defensive slip left Fredrik Modin open in front of the net with the puck. He buried it to bury any chance of a Caps' comeback and seal a season open win for the Thrashers.

Neuvirth played outstanding in his first look in the season. Besides being left out to dry on a couple of defensive slips, he made some very good saves to keep his team close. If a better effort was given in front of him, he could have come away with the win tonight.

"I thought he held us in the game," Head coach Bruce Boudreau said of his goaltender. "He made the big save when he needed to make the big save. I wasn't unhappy with his work at all."

The Capitals power play lacked any serious threat against the Thrashers tonight. They were 0 for 3 with the extra man, and only had one serious chance with Ovechkin shooting a one-timer that Thrasher goaltender Chris Mason swallowed up. The PP once again sputtered to put pucks in net and continues to struggle. 

"We didn't play our game at all," Ovechkin quipped at the end of the game. "They just outworked us."

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.

The only good thing about tonight is the Caps will return home to face New Jersey tomorrow night (Saturday). They must show up in their home opener with a much better effort than tonight. Perhaps the quick turnaround will aid in some memory loss from this one.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

New Leader For Tampa

The Capitals face a tougher division this year than the supposed "cake walk" it was a season ago. I am going to preview the Southeast one team at a time, and finally a look at Tampa Bay.

The Lightning have been sort of a conundrum for the past two years. Despite having a boat load of talent, the Bolts have far under exceeded expectations. Now that the team is under one entity ownership and Steve Yzerman has taken the general manager reins, things could change in Tampa Bay.

Gone is Rick Tocchet as head coach and in steps new coach Guy Boucher. If the Lightning players can buy into Boucher's system (and by all accounts they have been through the preseason), then the Bolts could be a tough team to beat. With veteran players like Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier re-energized and Steven Stamkos can repeat the kind of season he had last year, the Lightning could have a really tough team to play with.

Forwards - B+

Much like last year, the Lightning will once again have some great talent up front. Stamkos, Lecavalier, and St. Louis make up the core. But add in Simon Gagne (acquired from Philadelphia), Ryan Malone, and Steve Downie and the Lightning should be okay offensively. But can these players create the chemistry they lacked last season? That is the big question mark for the Bolts and keeps this category from being an A.

Defense - D

With all their concentration on building up the forward lines, the defense was left to dry a bit. Their defenders are not bad, but not that great either. The Lightning were 27th in the league in goals against (3.08), and there is not much improvement on the blue line from last year.

Goaltending - C+

When he isn't getting blasted off Twitter Dan Ellis brings some consistency in goaltending they have been missing. Ellis was a capable starter in Nashville, and could bring that starter experience to a team that struggled between the pipes after laying all their hopes with Mike Smith. Smith couldn't handle the load, but maybe if he splits the time with Ellis the result could be advantageous.


The Lightning look so good on paper, but which team will show up night in and night out remains to be seen. It was the same problem they had a year ago and it is a problem that both Boucher and Steve Y. have to deal with. This is the basically the same team from a year ago. If they can't make it work, expect some major changes through out the season.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Panthers Practice Patience

The Capitals face a tougher division this year than the supposed "cake walk" it was a season ago. I am going to preview the Southeast one team at a time heading south to warmer weather and the Florida Panthers.

Fans at Miami Beach might be scratching their heads more than cheering their Panthers on this season. Upon Dave Tallon's employment as general manager, the Panthers moved to shake some salary burdens saying good-bye to Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell for some draft picks and defenseman Dennis Wideman.

The Panthers would like to rebuild from the bottom up, but whether their fans have the patience for that or not will remain to be seen. There is a lot a speculation that Miami might lose the franchise.

Forwards - D

This team was 28th in the league in goals per game (2.46). Considering they have dumped 74 points in Horton and Campbell being shipped up north. They still have great talent in David Booth and Stephen Weiss. Both should carry the offensive load for the Panthers. But this is going to be a tough year for them to generate much offense.

Defense - D

There are only two names on the blue line for the Panthers that are worth even noting. Wideman, acquired in a trade with Boston, and Bryan McCabe. Beyond that, you are looking at a bunch of players that you may have never heard of.

Goaltending - B

Tomas Vokoun should be the Panthers' crutch for most of the season. And Vokoun is good for a few wins. Behind him is Scott Clemmensen, a very capable back up. The Panthers will have to rely on both heavily as this team will most likely try to make it close rather than play anything wide open.


The Florida Panthers fans may not want to take this road the organization is taking them. A fan base that once tasted the Stanley Cup Finals may decide to save their money for LeBron James and the Heat. With the building empty, it might be hard for this team to gain any kind of emotional lift from it. They could catch a few teams napping this year, but the outlook at the moment seems pretty bleak.

Hurricanes Turn To Youth

The Capitals face a tougher division this year than the supposed "cake walk" it was a season ago. I am going to preview the Southeast one team at a time with Carolina next on the list.

The 'Canes lose some key veterans in Rod Brind'Amour (retired) and the wizard Ray Whitney (signed elsewhere). It's time for the youth movement to happen for Carolina. Don't blink, you will see two Staals on this team. Eric Staal will get some brotherly love as Carolina acquire Jared from Phoenix.

Bottom line is the 'Canes will have to lean on the leadership of Staal and Erik Cole. The rest of the team will be mostly young players. Get used to seeing new names on the back of Hurricane sweaters this season.

Forwards - C

The 'Canes will have far less experience all around than they had a year ago. Losing Whitney will make it harder for snipers like Cole and Staal get clean feeds. Carolina also loses some great leadership in Brind'Amour. If the 'Canes can get some dependable play on the third and fourth lines, it might be that bad.

Defense - C+

The Hurricanes should be okay on the back end. Joe Corvo makes his return after his short stint with the Capitals. Add in Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen and the blue liners are okay for the Hurricanes.

Goaltending - B

No mater what some critics say, I still think Cam Ward has a good season coming to him. Ward will be backed up by Justin Peters. Unless they suffer any kind of injury, like a freak skate cut, Ward should be the 'Canes number one netminder.


If the Carolina Hurricanes can just stay healthy, they will be okay. Cam Ward, Erik Cole and Eric Staal have all suffered from the injury bug that made it tough for this team to go very far. The Hurricanes have been atop the Southeast Division for some time before the Capitals took that honor back. They are itching to get back into the playoffs and they will have to do it with their youth.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Dizzy Birds' Big Offseason

The Capitals face a tougher division this year than the supposed "cake walk" it was a season ago. I am going to preview the Southeast one team at a time starting with Atlanta.

Atlanta these days are looking more like southeast Blackhawks. In the off season that saw the Thrasher make changes among the brass, they also picked up a few salary cap casualties from Chicago. Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd and Brent Sopel all will be sharing a moving van from Chicagoland to Blueland.

With a new head coach in Craig Ramsay and a general manager that seems to make Atlanta playoff worthy now in Rick Dudley the Thrashers are looking to muscle in the top 8 in the Eastern Conference. But it may take a while for this team to click, they went without a win in the preseason.

Forwards -D

The Thrashers can now boast two solid lines for the first time in a long time. If Evander Kane can repeat the season he had a year ago, the Thrash will have some scoring power on the left wing along with Ladd and Eager. The trio combined for over 75 points last season. But there is not a whole lot of talent there. Youths Kane and Niclas Bergfors can't be expected to carry this team to a playoff spot.

Defense - B

Byfuglien was pushed back to the blue line to give this defensive squad some more size. Coupled with the fact that they have some solid youth on the blue line in Zach Bogosian and Toby Enstrom, The Thrash feature a pretty solid defense. That should help out the goaltenders a bit more.

Goalies - C-

The Thrash dealt away their franchise goaltender in Kari Lehtonen. In return they acquired Chris Mason from the Blues. Mason did pretty well in St. Louis posting save percentages above the .900 mark both seasons he played there. If Mason doesn't pan out, their backup in Ondrej Pavelec who has yet to get is goals against average below 3. It could be the only weak point the Thrash have this season.


The Thrashers' organization is a bit frustrated that they haven't been back to the playoffs in some time. They have tried to grow and develop much like the Capitals have, but the patience is starting to wear thin. The changes they have made starting at the top is an aim to shake up the club and start getting production out of their youth. The experience they gain from Chicago should give this team a boost, but it's got to click quickly for it to work.

Caps Sign Grubauer

Caps sign goaltender Philipp Grubauer to an entry level contract. Obviously he impressed the brass. Per Caps PR:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have signed goaltender Philipp Grubauer to a three-year entry-level contract, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Grubauer, who was drafted by the Capitals in the fourth round (112th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, has posted a 2-2-0 record with a 2.75 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in four games for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this season.

Grubauer split last season with Belleville and Windsor of the OHL. The 6’, 180-pound netminder led Windsor to the Memorial Cup (championship of the Canadian Hockey League), posting a 23-15-2-5 record with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. Grubauer also led Germany to the gold medal in the second division of the World Junior Championship, elevating the Germans to the top group for 2011.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Pluses And Minuses

The Washington Capitals are set to start the 2010 - 2011 season with pretty much the same team as they started with. The Caps face some positives and negatives this year.

Three Pluses

+ One of the minor moves McPhee did in the off season was to procure some muscle. After playing an entire year with out an enforcer, the Caps were subject to some extra curricular activity with their star players. They traded prospect Stephen Della Rovere for big guy DJ King. King will add some muscle when teams look to start to intimidate the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and some of the other talent players.

+ Nick Backstrom's long contract was also a plus for the Caps going into this season. He signed a 10 year, $67 million dollar contract to stay in red, white and blue for a long time. With Backstrom and Ovechkin locked up long term, the team can grow around them.

+ The last plus will be the Caps offense. With Semin, Ovechkin and Backstrom all back for another year, the Capitals will not have to worry about it's offense. The two time MVP Ovechkin will have something of a chip on his shoulder after spending a summer hearing about how the Caps choked in the first round. Now that the team is his (team captain for the entire year), it will be less about personal accomplishments and a drive to make this year count.

Three Minuses

- Goaltending is unproven. This is not to say that Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov can't come in and do a great job. But neither one have carried the load of an 82 game schedule and carried that into the playoffs. Jose Theodore was an outstanding back stop for the Caps late in the season. That safety net of Theodore is now gone for the youngsters and it is a swim or drown situation that both young goaltenders will have to face. McPhee pulled in some back up in Dany Sabourin, but the load of the season will be in the hands of Neuvy and Varly. Don't count on Sabourin to rescue the season if the kids can not cut it.

- Maintaining focus will be key for the Capitals' defensemen. You can look at their record and see only 15 regulation losses last season. It is a pretty number to throw out there, but the blue liners didn't exactly stop the other team from scoring a few night in and night out. Mostly, the Caps wins were a result in a better (and aggressive) offense. The Caps D has to beef up and play better especially in close games and playoff games. So far, the defense has psyched themselves out in both situations. This trend has to end of the Caps hope to face stingy defensive-minded teams.

- The final minus is distractions. The Capitals are playing in this year's Winter Classic against a big rival the Pittsburgh Penguins. HBO has decided to do a "Hard Knocks" style show with both teams leading up to the January 1st game at Heinz Field. The team's ability to focus will be a tough one with cameras all around and the exposure some players will be subjected to. It is hard enough to play 82 games and win the Stanley Cup with out the whole world watching you, even off ice. It remains to be seen if the Capitals can stay focused through out the hype.

The intangible for the Capitals this year is a better division. The Caps could still take the Southeast Division, but it will be no cake walk from the year previous. Teams expected to get much better are the Atlanta Thrashers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. It could work in the Caps' favor, playing tougher teams will help them be a more rounded team by season's end. But if the Caps are not careful, this division could pose problems for them.


Capitals 0, Predators 3

It wasn't pretty, but it is preseason. The Caps get shut out in their final preseason game keeping them from being undefeated before the games count for real. It would be some miscues on special teams that would do the Caps in as the game wore down in the third period.

Predators' Joel Ward would give the Caps fits in the third as he scored shorthanded early in the third, then under 5 minutes later he would score again just as the home team's penalty kill finished up a double minor by Brian Fahey.

The Caps finish the preseason (finally) with a 5-1 record. Great, all done. Bring on the regular season.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Something New In The Old

Who says the Capitals don't have tradition...

The Capitals unveiled their uniforms for the Winter Classic versus the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 1st. The uniforms are a kickback from the jerseys the organization wore from 1974 through 1995 before moving to then the MCI Center and getting a uniform make over.

The unveiling featured three great Caps captains Yvon Labre (left), Alex Ovechkin (center), and Rod Langway (right).

“There is a great sense of history in playing hockey outdoors, and we wanted to pay tribute to our team’s history with this uniform,” general manager George McPhee said. “They turned out very well, got a terrific reaction from our fans and will look fantastic on New Year’s Day.”

The unveiling was apart of Caps Con, the second ever Capitals convention that invites fans a closer look into the team they love. Nearly 7,000 fans attended the event this year at the Washington Convention Center. Fans had a chance to meet their heroes as well as partake in forums and round table discussions.

The Caps will finish their preseason against Nashville tomorrow (Sunday) at 12:30 pm before opening their season on the road against Atlanta on October 8th.

Caps Notes:
  • Former Cap Olie Kolzig attended the Convention. An interview can be found here.
  • Probably the best commercial Ovi has done yet.
Photo courtesy of Caps PR.

    Friday, October 01, 2010

    Enough Preseason

    Capitals 5, Blue Jackets 3

    It would have been a pretty good regular season game. Maybe even an interesting playoff game. However, this is preseason. It means that it doesn't really count.

    This game had just about everything, good goals, good saves, competitive spirit and a few scrums for good measure. Eric Fehr had two goals and an assist to give him the game's first star. Mike Green added a pair of assists and the Caps get goals by Brooks Laich, Nick Backstrom and Alex Semin.

    The Caps special teams had been pretty solid up to this point. Against the Blue Jackets, the Capitals allowed a shorthanded goal and a pair of goals on the penalty kill. Tyler Sloan had a hard night after started well enough as he stood up for teammate Matt Hendricks. Sloan would end the night with 4 penalties and 11 PIMs. A tough go considering he is in a fight with John Erskine for the last 6th defenseman spot.

    The game had a chippy undertone as both teams played a physical game. Even Alex Ovechkin wasn't immune to the rough stuff as the team's captain came to Mike Knuble's defense after the winger took a hard cheap shot in the neutral zone. Knuble had presence of mind to get back on his feet to help out his linemate and keep him from getting hurt.

    This would have been a very entertaining game if it were a regular season tilt. The history between these teams is not long, but there is no love between them. While it was fun to watch these two teams pound on each other, injuries are a concern here on out for all teams in the preseason. I think four is a good number for general managers and coaches to pull their teams together. By the fifth and sixth games, players just want the season to start.

    Those fighting for jobs should have already made an impression. It doesn't make sense to me to continue any longer for games that just don't count. Marcus Johansson impressed in every category except in face off draws. He didn't win a single one out of 10 draws.

    Caps will play their 6th and final preseason game Nashville on Sunday 12:30 pm.

    Caps Notes:
    • Caps prepare for the second ever Caps Con tomorrow at the Washington Convention Center. Former Cap Olaf Kolzig, who was at the game tonight, will be one of the many big names at the Convention. 
    • Braden Holtby was sent back to Hershey after the Bruins game, Lawrence Nycholat and Cody Eakin are the other two cut, sent to Hershey and Juniors respectively.
    • The Hershey Bears have started their preseason agianst the WB Baby Pens. They fell in overtime 4-3. Brian Willsie and Kyle Greentree combine for 4 points in the exhibition opener.