Saturday, September 24, 2011

Caps Waive Three

Francois Bouchard, Kyle Greentree and Zack Miskovic were put on waivers Saturday according to Hershey Bears are set to start their training camp Monday and Keith Aucoin and Dany Sabourin were sent down. They join players Andrew Carroll, Jacob Micflikier, Joel Rechlicz, Brett Flemming and Julien Brouillette.

Bouchard was signed about the same time as Mathieu Perreault but has failed to be even considered a call up from Hershey. His production numbers have plummeted since his arrival from Juniors where he had 125 points (45 g, 80 a) through 68 games in '05-'06 with Baie-Comeau. Since being with Hershey, he has only mustered an average 52 points through 77 games in '09-'10 and dropped to just 24 points and a -5 through 74 games last season.

Miskovic was a free agent signed by Washington, but was another prospect that did not pan out.

Since attacking the free agent market this summer, it is likely the Capitals might be thinning the ranks through Hershey so clear way for cheaper call ups with a tight salary cap. It is also likely that the players they waived (which none have been claimed as of yet) were players that could flourish in a different organization since space is tight with the Caps new additions.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just Short

Capitals 3, Blue Jackets 4 OT
Game Summary

#25 Jason Chimera wears the captain's C in preseason action
The Washington Capitals came out with a bit more urgency in their second preseason game. Out shooting the Blue Jackets in their home preseason opener 6-1, the Capitals looked like they might have found an offensive groove. But some flubs on special teams again confound the Caps and they fail to complete the comeback in overtime to lose 4-3.

Jeff Halpern started things off with almost a lucky bank shot off of Columbus' goaltender Steve Mason for the early lead. The BJs scored three straight and took a 3-1 lead into the midway point of the final period. After Columbus scored early in the third, Andrew Carroll got into a scrap and later would cut the BJ lead to one with a garbage goal. Roman Hamrlik scored just over a minute and half later through heavy traffic in front of the net pushing the game into overtime.

Jeff Schultz, of all people, took a hooking call trying to reign in Rick Nash and the BJs win on a power play goal scored by Alexandre Giroux (former Hershey Bear/Washington Capital property).

Again, special teams hindered the Capitals as the power play went 0-4 and allowed a shorthanded goal in the second period that made the game 2-1. The Caps penalty kill was okay, but did allow the game winning goal in OT. The Capitals still have not found the magic bullet with the extra man. A luxury they had prior to the last season was a solid power play to put teams on their heels.

While it is still preseason, there is the feel of "Oh, this again" when it comes to special teams. The Capitals are able to play tight 5 on 5, which can only benefit from a good power play that will keep the opposition honest at even strength. The Blue Jackets scored a goal in every period. Washington will finish the game out shooting their opponent 30-24.

Halpern was a stand out for the Capitals scoring a goal and getting an assist to finish a +2. Hamrlik had a goal and assist himself. Matt Hendricks played well, getting  and Jay Beagle was the only other Cap to finish with a +2. Chris Bourque did play his best as he finished with a -2.

Braden Holtby made some great saves only allowing 2 goals after being pulled after the second period. He faced 14 shots and finished the game with a respectable .857 save percentage. Philipp Grubauer finished the game in the third period.

Jason Chimera returned to Columbus wearing the captain's "C" on his jersey in the absence of Alex Ovechkin who got the night off.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bad Ice In B-More

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Capitals 0, Predators 2

It should have been about the amazing skill of the players on the ice inside the 1st Mariner Arena at the 2011 Baltimore Hockey Classic. Or how great it was to see a Caps' sweater in Baltimore for a preseason match up with the Nashville Predators. But instead, the poor ice conditions overshadowed what should have been a great start to an annual event for the Washington Capitals. Add a 2-0 loss to the Preds and the Caps preseason begins with a disappointing start.

It certainly was not a good game to really gauge the players trying for positions on tight rosters. Stand outs for the Capitals would have to be Garrett Mitchell, Cody Eakin, Chris Bourque, and Jay Beagle. But early attempts at some pressure just was droned out by bad ice conditions.

Alex Ovechkin would have a solid game, but a late slashing call with under 4 minutes left sealed the deal for the Caps who were held scoreless since facing Carolina to start the '05-'06 season where they lost 6-0. He did have a big hit when Ryan Ellis tried to take a run at the All-Star foward, but Ovi was able to thwart the hit away sending Ellis flying as a result. 

The power play lacked any substance, again. The Caps special teams again suffered with the extra man. It did look like they scored in waning seconds of the game, but the whistle had blown leaving the Preds to hold the Caps off for their first preseason win.

DJ King was the overall stand out player for the Capitals. King, who is in roster limbo with the team since signing here a year ago, played a tough physical game, but also added some offensive pressure with Beagle on his line.

Caps don't have time to wallow in there sadness (or grab a sock). Some of the team will head off to Columbus tonight to face a preseason game against the Blue Jackets tomorrow night.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Access Denied

This is not how I got snubbed or how unfair the Capitals PR staff is (I actually think they are pretty cool). Rather this is one blog that is struggling just to keep up this summer and has come to the proverbial fork in the road. 

The Washington Capitals officially denied credentials to Hey, I would have done the same thing based on the last few months. Truth is, life has gotten a little more complicated with home ownership, a one and half year old, and an unforgiving work schedule. I have been more on the outside these last few months since I first got credentialed by the Caps. It's funny how life gets in the way of a good thing. Several times I have contemplated ending it all and killing the site (it would save me ten bucks every year for the domain name). But on the behest of my wife and several other bloggers and well wishers, I have trudged through the summer months and these last few days with a flooded basement pumping out basement water and so so posts. 

Finally I have come to the decision to not make my mind up on abandoning the site just yet (how's that for an answer). It will be fun to casually blog and get back to just being a fan. Back to my roots. Respect. 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

"I'm in shock!!!!!R.I.P."

Those were the tweeted words of Russian phenom Alexander Ovechkin upon hearing about a plane crash the took the lives of several Russian and Czech hockey players. has the entire story here. Not only were they just KHL players, but some notable NHL players and prospects as well. It hit the Ranger organization the hardest.

It tops one of the saddest off season for the NHL. The loss of enforcers to depression, and now this horrific plane crash remind us how human these players are. In a series of unfortunate tragedies, the league will start camps soon with heavy hearts. It times like this, we have to remember it is just a game.

New Look Division - Lightning

The Washington Capitals might have made the Southleast Division into one of the toughest divisions in the NHL. After winning the division title for the last 4 years (regular season eastern champs for the last two), the division is wising up and bettering their teams to make the playoff push. The influx of better talent into the division makes this year's division champ a toss up. But all the pundits agree, it is Washington's to lose.

Tampa Bay Lightning:

The Lightning took just about everyone by surprise last season. After winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, the organization has floundered. Even with some great draft picks, the Lightning could barely climb into a playoff spot. After a circus of free agency two seasons ago and some ownership problems, they cleaned house and Guy Boucher gave them the one-three-one. The team finally found it's stride and did away with their divisional champs with a four game sweep in the playoffs. The Lightning were one game, one goal, one game seven from making it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Who's in: Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos were resigned over the summer. Tom Pyatt, Micheal Ouellet, Ryan Shannon, and Matt Gilroy were signed in July. Dwayne Roloson signed on for another year.

Who's out: Matt Smaby, Simon Gagne, goaltender Mike Smith, Sean Bergenheim, Randy Jones were all allowed to sign with other teams.

Not much is going to change this team since they have found some chemistry under the direction of Guy Boucher. The core of Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier will remain the Lightning's solid production. Their special teams, mainly their power play is dynamic and dangerous.

With the addition of Eric Brewer, the Lightning defense took their play to a different level. Along with Victor Hedman on the back end and their one-three-one system, the Lightning will be tough to score against. Add in veteran goaltender in Roloson, the Lightning are hungry for more.

With any new fandangled system, it doesn't take long for the league to find a way to beat it. While the one-three-one confounded some teams, the Capitals included, other teams have found ways to beat it. If the Bolts want to take the division title away from the Washington Capitals, they either have to perfect their new trap system or mix it up against teams they face the most.

The Lightning are a dangerous team, and it is likely they can take the division. If Stamkos has another big year and the offense continues to hurt teams on transition, Tampa could find themselves battling for another Eastern Conference championship.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

New Look Division - Panthers

The Washington Capitals might have made the Southleast Division into one of the toughest divisions in the NHL. After winning the division title for the last 4 years (regular season eastern champs for the last two), the division is wising up and bettering their teams to make the playoff push. The influx of better talent into the division makes this year's division champ a toss up. But all the pundits agree, it is Washington's to lose.

Florida Panthers:

If anyone took the new look thing to a whole new level, it was the Florida Panthers. Just when it looked like it was about to blow up their organization and start from scratch, they instead rebuilt through free agency.  Of the twelve forwards in this new look roster, 7 are new faces to the Panthers. But it is not just new faces, the club went and got players that can add to the team dynamic now. Add some new coaching and the Panthers could be the wild card of the division. It is still remains to be seen if the new-comers can translate to wins.

Who's in: I guess the better question is who isn't in. Scotty Upshall, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim, Tomas Kopecky, Marcel Goc, and last but not least, tough guy and easy bleeder Matt Bradley. That is just the forwards, Brian Campbell, Keith Seabrook, Nolan Yonkman, Ed Jovanovski, and Erik Gudbranson were acquired on defense. Shake in one Jose Theodore and it's a team almost on it's own.

Who's out: Rostislav Olesz was involved in the trade with Campbell as was Bryan McCabe traded to the Rangers at the deadline. Marty Reasoner, Darcy Hordichuk, Sergei Samsonov and Tomas Vokoun were lost to free agency.

As with any team with a slew of new coming players, success lies with chemistry. The head brass made it clear that things have been cleaned out from the top down just hours after the season ended and Peter DeBoer was shown the door. New bench boss Kevin Dineen definitely has the resume to coach at the NHL level after his years as a player and his success at the American Hockey League level.

The Panthers are not just looking for some wins. They want to put the organization back on the playoff map. So far, on paper anyways, it looks like they have taken the step in the right direction. It could easily look like DC south with the additions of Fleischmann, Bradley, Theodore and Yonkman. All alum from the Capitals organization.

The only setback or downgrade in the team is in the goaltending ranks. With Vokoun chasing a championship with the Capitals, the Panthers really need to find a stand out starter to fill out the roster. The problem is, the goaltending in free agency was not the best. They got what they could in Theodore who should give them a good 50 to 60 games as a starter. But whether he is the answer in net remains to be seen.

The rest of the team looks to be pretty solid. Upgrades in defense, offense and even their special teams should improve with the new additions. Plus add the core of young talent they have kept. Dmitry Kulikov and David Booth now have the tools to expand their talent with out taking the brunt of the work. It could be a break out year for the pair if the Panthers can find their chemistry in time.

Caps Notes:
  • In a press conference today, Alex Ovechkin took his gear in a different direction. Dropping the CCM label for Bauer gear. He is also helping youth hockey in both Washington DC and Moscow Russia with some new Bauer gear. It was not a surprise that Ovi went in a different direction. He often would use Alex Semin's stick when the going got tough. 
  • In more touchy, feely good news, per Caps PR:
    The Capitals have donated $25,000 to the Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association (PVAHA) to help grow the sport of hockey, the Washington Capitals announced at a press event today. In addition, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and Bauer Hockey have donated 108 full sets of youth hockey equipment to Kettler Capitals Iceplex and PVAHA.

Friday, September 02, 2011

New Look Divsion - Hurricanes

The Washington Capitals might have made the Southleast Division into one of the toughest divisions in the NHL. After winning the division title for the last 4 years (regular season eastern champs for the last two), the division is wising up and bettering their teams to make the playoff push. The influx of better talent into the division makes this year's division champ a toss up. But all the pundits agree, it is Washington's to lose.

Carolina Hurricanes:

The Hurricanes have been in a position to make the playoffs down the final few games of the season far too many times than they cared for. If they had just beaten the Lightning at home in game 82 last season, they would have been there. Instead, it's been a long summer. Not much changed for the 'Canes as they were pretty quiet at the free agency market. But the changes they did make seem more like minor adjustments to a struggling Eric Staal who Carolina would like to see him back in the 100 point range for next season.

Who's in: Alex Ponikarovsky, Anthony Stewart and Tim Brent signed on board to add some depth on the offense. The 'Canes resigned Joni Pitkanen after failing to draw bigger names in the free agent market. Also add free agent defensman Tomas Kaberle and back up netminder Brian Boucher.

Who's out: Eric Cole couldn't reach a deal to stay in Carolina, which has been the best place for him after he briefly played for Edmonton. Corey Stillman was also allowed to walk. Joe Corvo was traded for a draft pick to the Boston Bruins.

The 'Canes really had hoped to beef up their defensive squad. But instead seemed to have been stuck with what they got. After trying for Kevin Bieksa and Christian Erhoff, Carolina had to go back to Pitkanen. While they have a solid four blue liners in Pitkanen, Tim Gleason, McBain and Kaberle, the depth chart drops sharply after that. Unless they have some phenom rookie defenseman in the pipeline, look for the 'Canes to struggle all season with defensive talent.

They are really looking for solid second seasons from rookies Jamie McBain and Jeff Skinner. Both entering their sophomore years, the 'Canes are hoping some of the add-ons over the summer help accustom Staal and the youngsters to make a push for the playoffs. Ponikarovsky should add some offensive spark to replace the speedy Cole. It does not look like the 'Canes will have trouble generating some offense.

In net, they are solid. Cam Ward continues to be a consistent bright spot for the Hurricanes. Add in a capable back up in Brian Boucher who could steal a few games in relief. The 'Canes were below average on the power play and penalty kill last season (they were 24th and 20th respectively in the league). Both will need to improve for them to even consider the playoffs. Especially since the 'Canes have spent more time than any other team on the power play.

Caps Notes:
  • Tomas Vokoun's reported new mask is here, courtesy of I Love Goalies!. Some are already drawing similarities to Varly's mask. One thing is for sure, there is no nickname on the chin.
  • Enforcers are getting some acknowledgement for all the depressing reasons. Matt Hendricks and D.J. King shared their thoughts about the recent tragedies over the summer to the WaPo.
  • Alex Ovechkin will be in town, a few days more than he is used to. He is making a special announcement next week at Kettler. Maybe we get to see his six pack as proof he is in shape? Never know.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

New Look Division - Jets

The Washington Capitals might have made the Southleast Division into one of the toughest divisions in the NHL. After winning the division title for the last 4 years (regular season eastern champs for the last two), the division is wising up and bettering their teams to make the playoff push. The influx of better talent into the division makes this year's division champ a toss up. But all the pundits agree, it is Washington's to lose.

Atlanta Thrashers, eh hem, Winnipeg Jets (version 2.0):

They left town seemingly in the dead of the night. Those Dizzy Birds left Atlanta almost like it was no big deal (since the NHL has gone out of it's way to keep hockey in Phoenix, why they just didn't make the effort to keep it in Atlanta bogs the mind). But not only did the Winnipeg Jets bump the Capitals up a spot on the alphabetical scale (29 now baby, Whooo!) but they made the overlandish promise to bring a winning team north with them. Silly Jets.

Who's in:
Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd re-signed with the Jets. Eric Fehr traded from the Capitals for a draft pick and a Matt Cooke wannabe (Danick Paquette). Add Randy Jones, Tanner Glass and the late Rick Rypien.

Who's out:
Eric Boulton (Devils), Radek Dvorak (Stars), Rob Schremp (Europe) and Anthony Stewart ('Canes).

The Jets look to capitalize on trades made as Thrashers. Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd were the two players they will need to make any kind of push for playoff aspirations. The Jets, however, did change the overall feel of their hockey club. They will have returning goaltenders Ondrej Pavelec and back up Chris Mason. A good core of defensive pairings with the like of Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom and some great talent up front with Nik Antropov, Bryan Little and up and coming phenom Evander Kane.

The Jets have a lot of Stanley Cup experience with the additions of Blackhawk free agents last year, but couldn't turn that into any kind of success. With a new coaching staff and new city, the organization hopes the change will spark some success. The Jets did not make any knee-jerk reactions to off season free agency and look to build off of previous trade dumps over the last couple of years.

Claude Noel makes his NHL head coaching debut and is challenged with making the team gel quickly. A veteran coach at the AHL level, Noel has had success on the AHL, ECHL and IHL levels. Familiar with the area, he coached the Manitoba Moose and did a brief stint behind the Columbus bench as interim coach after the Blue Jackets fired Ken Hitchcock.

The Jets not only have to contend with a tough, new look division but travel will be an issue for them as they must play in a division that is geographically not very convenient to them. It will be a tough test for a team in new surroundings. How understanding are those new fans going to be?

Caps Notes:
  • Semin-gate (and we aren't talking about blue dresses): It seems the Canadien media is more obsessed about the recent comments about Alex Semin's lack of desire from former teammates than Caps fans are. Sadly, Caps fans are all too familiar with the lazy attitude of the Russian winger (like the time he was caught smoking cigarettes between periods outside Verizon Center when he was on the injury list). Japer's has a wonderful article about it all that pretty much dulls the shock of the comments that were made. Just old news.
  • George McPhee made a trip up Calgary way to have a sit down with Mike Green. Nick Backstrom happened to be there too attending Green's charity event. The meeting was casual according to TSN and the tone was serious. TSN video of Green's off season preparedness.
  • Sad summer indeed, another great article about those we have lost this summer from Japer's Rink. Also bad news about Marc Savard in the Bruins' camp, looks like the crafty forward may be out for this season and maybe done with the sport all together. Tough one.