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.