Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cry Me A River

To be fair, I only got a snipet of the topic du jour on Sirius XM NHL Homeice this morning. But from what I gathered, Micheal Buble made comments about not buying NHL products to boycott the current lockout.

The pundit remarked if fans stopped buying into the NHL, as in merchandise and other things, then we aren't really hurting the league for the lockout. Fans would just be hurting the little guy who makes the stuff. He was told as much by a person that wrote him a letter urging fans not to boycott merchandise sold by the NHL because it would put the little guy out of work.

My problem with the statement is the guy who wrote the letter should have sent it to the owners instead. The little guy has no future as long as the lockout looms for the NHL. But the fans didn't lockout players or failed to negotiate a deal, the owners and the players did. If you want me to support the little guy, put pressure where it is needed, not on fans but on your owners, players and the National Hockey League.

If a fan doesn't show interest on the league because they are not playing, can you fault them for not buying merchandise even just "to support the little guy"? I don't think merchandisers can whine to fans for wanting to boycott a league because they refuse to put a product on the ice for fans. Their beef lies with some one else.

I don't have a problem with fans who wish to boycott the leagues' merchandise. The lockout already has affected the little guy, but not by the fault of those who do not buy a jersey for Christmas this year. I feel for the little guy, I really do. But I'm not the one who cancelled the season.

Stepping off soap box.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Night For Hockey

The Metro bustled with hockey sweaters once more. A few Ovechkin Jerseys peppered the Gallery Place/Chinatown platforms, a few more Hershey Jerseys than normal rounded the rest. Fans gathered to catch a glimpse of professional hockey played once again in the District. Unfortunately, it was not the venomous Penguins come to town to take on the beloved home town Caps. Nor any team in the collective 30 teams of the National Hockey League made their presence tonight at the phone booth.

"It's hockey," A fan said to me as he waited in line for his first beer of the 2012-13 "so called" season at Verizon Center. "I can't run up to Hershey with my family like some can, so we are pretty hard pressed for some action on the ice around here."

It was an announced sell out crowd at the arena where the Capitals once played. Although, there seemed to be a few missing patrons in the stands who failed to show for the AHL Showcase game presented by GEICO. A game featuring the AHL affiliates of the Washington Capitals (Hershey Bears) and the Anaheim Ducks (Norfolk Admirals). Even though it was an ice full of professionals, it was different and somewhat distant from what Capitals fans were used to.

"There is no Ovechkin, no Backstrom," A fan quip to his friend as they walked the concourse between periods. "It is like hockey lite."

Fans were also distracted, checking smart phones through out the game not just to smirk at the snide tweets about the action on the ice, but to get the latest coming out of New York on the future of the League's season. Even as the game continued, the talks between the players and NHL executives blew up in just an hour over a miscommunication. The owners thought they had a yes or no on a proposal, the union thought they were still negotiating. The optimism of a full season quickly faded before the Bears and Admirals took the ice for the second period.

A bittersweet occasion as the Bears overtook the Admirals in a 2-1 victory. Even before the final horn sounded, many in the building knew of the talks blowing up in a hotel north of here. The air of disdain towards players and owners seemed to take away from the night's festivities. Fans wondered if they were ever going to be back to see their hometown heroes take to the ice again. In a building that couldn't hide its purpose, the home for the Washington Capitals, seemed even more empty as fans dispersed.

"I don't know if we will be back," A season ticket holder told me as her family and the crowd migrated out of the building. "What ever their differences are seems minute when compared to what my kids want to see, they want to see their team. They can't, and they don't know why."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Blah, Blah, Blah

I can not tell how many times the words "meeting again today" has flashed on my twitter feed just to have me roll my eyes and sigh heavily. SIGH. The NHL (now known as the NO Hockey League) is quickly becoming a parody upon itself. All the while we have seen jabs sent back and forth between the players union and the owners and, after a while, it just becomes white noise.

The league has probably killed the casual fan for a year or two and will lose more fans as the lockout drags on. While the hard core fans can only shake our heads as both sides claim us as a collective are for one side or the other.

It is the hardcore sides of the players union and owners that keep the boys off the ice which some have claimed are the wrong ones to be in talks in the first place. If the owners who can withstand a year (or two) with out the sport playing and the players who are dug in for that duration are the front liners in talks, I doubt the league will do much to get the ice back in the arenas.

I have heard of an idea to end the impasse a few times, both on twitter and talking with others disgruntled fans. Why not let the players and owners who want to get back to playing hockey do the mediations? It is a sound question and a solution may present itself faster than hearing the dreaded white noise of both sides "meeting again today".

In the end, the fans really don't care which side wins, because both sides are losing the longer the lockout continues. Maybe we should call it the NO Hockey, Losers!

Monday, October 08, 2012


No hockey you say? Nay, nay. ESPN has you covered. Because over the pond in the eastern block are a series of games in the Kontinental Hockey League (or KHL for short). A mostly Russian league that was supposed to keep local prospects from jumping the Atlantic for the NHL, has struck a deal with an American sports network, ESPN.

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 at 1 pm (mark it on your calendar) Alex Ovechkin and the Dynamo Moscow will take on Lev on ESPN 2 (originally all games were going to be on the online channel of ESPN 3, but looks like they will spare some time on the dos).

This will be the first time Ovechkin has skated live on any of the ESPN channels since the NHL made their deal with the then OLN network that would eventually become the NBC Sports network.

You will be at work you say, and can't watch. Well, they have you covered again with a re-air at 8 pm. If you really want to watch it online, they will broadcast on ESPN 3 as well.

From what I can gather, there will be English speaking play-by-play done by announcers in Connecticut watching the KHL feed in Russia. Not like ESPN has the budget to send anyone over there.

Future dates for KHL action include Sunday Oct. 14 DM vs. Amur - 9 am, Tuesday Oct. 16 DM vs. Sibir - 11:30 am, Thursday Oct. 18 SKA vs. Sibir - 11:45 am. All slated to be on the online channel ESPN 3. If you have a smart phone and cable, you can download the "Watch ESPN" App and get all the channels by signing up for free. You can also access it online at

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Just Can't Get Along

At midnight the NHL owners triggered a lock out of the players as a result of lack of a new collective bargaining agreement. The owners blame the players, the players blame the owners. The rest is silence. The NHL fans will go through their third player lockout since 94, their second in just seven years.

What is hair pulling about this lock out, it sort of just happened. No last minute effort to save the season, no midnight sessions to protect the league from another work stoppage. They sort of met, disagreed and left. The fans were left in the cold.

The collective response of the NHL fans is more of a "Get your stuff together, NHL."

It didn't take long for some players to land new homes. A slew of players have been assigned to the AHL while others are ready to sign their contracts to the KHL. What should be the early selection process for young guys making NHL squads in training camp will now be silent. No hockey, no training, nothing.

The owners are betting on another let down by the players and the players have stood their ground. Which means good bye 2012-2013 season (most likely). The NHL lost the casual fan tonight and as every day passes with no hockey they will lose more. If the season fails, I predict the NHL will have more than just a good PR to get fans back in line.

For the moment this is just frustrating and disheartening. The longer it drags on, the more the NHL just becomes a memory.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Brouwer Re-Upped

Troy Brouwer has been resigned by the Washington Capitals. What is interesting about this particular press release from the Caps has the breakdown of Brouwer's contract numbers when before it has been team policy not to discuss the details of the contract other than the length. Per Caps PR:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have re-signed forward Troy Brouwer to a three-year, $11 million contract extension, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. Brouwer will earn $3.6 million in 2013-14, $3.65 million in 2014-15 and $3.75 million in 2015-16.

“We are pleased to sign Troy Brouwer to a contract extension, said McPhee. “Troy is a physical and versatile power forward who can play both wings and who has averaged close to 20 goals in the past three seasons. He is a Stanley Cup winner and a great leader. We are thrilled that he will continue his career in Washington for many years to come.”

Brouwer, 27, collected 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) and 61 penalty minutes in 82 games with the Capitals last season. He finished the season ranked ninth in the NHL in hits (247) and fourth on Washington in goals scored. His 60 blocked shots ranked second among Capitals forwards and he was one of six Capitals players to appear in all 82 games. In 14 postseason contests, Brouwer recorded four points (two goals, two assists) and eight penalty minutes.

The 6’3”, 213-pound forward helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the 2010 Stanley Cup while tallying a career-high eight points (four goals, four assists) in 19 playoff contests.

During the 2009-10 campaign, Brouwer registered a career-high 22 goals and 40 points in 69 games with the Blackhawks. The Vancouver, British Columbia, native ranked third on the club with a career-high seven power-play goals despite ranking seventh in power-play ice time. In 320 career NHL games with Washington and Chicago, Brouwer has recorded 136 points (67 goals, 69 assists) and 222 penalty minutes.
Brouwer was originally drafted by Chicago in the seventh round (214th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Neuvirth Talked The Talk...

Now he has to walk the walk. Michal Neuvirth gave a buzz worthy interview for and translated by the lovely folks of RMNB, the young Caps goaltender has proven to be frank when giving interviews. Whether he is calling out his competition, or calling Alex Ovechkin a "has been" Neuvirth sets himself up this year as the kid that has to take job number one. If he doesn't than all of this fluff is just talk.

Don't get me wrong, confidence is a strong thing to have. But over confidence can give way to doubt when things go wrong. So far, Neuvirth hasn't show us he is ready to be a NHL number one. Outside the injury just weeks before the playoffs, maybe we would not have seen Braden Holtby as a job threat for the goaltending position. If Tomas Vokoun had stayed healthy down the stretch of the later part of the season, we probably wouldn't be talking about Holtby at all this past post season for the Capitals.

Neuvirth has the tools to be a good goaltender in the NHL. A great one? Well that remains to be seen. He is calm in the crease, squares to the shooter nicely and has the quickness to make up for mistakes. He is a benefit to his team in terms of what he does on the ice. If he is as frank to reporters as he is in the locker room, that could cause problems with friction off the ice.

Now that Neuvirth has said what he has said, now he has to back it up with his play. Show us why Neuvirth should be the number one goaltender for the Washington Capitals.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Hiatus Over

Family trips, the Olympics and even some procrastination on my part have finally come to an end. It is time to talk hockey. But just when things are warming up with some Ovechkin spotting at Kettler with new team mate Mike Ribeiro and the excitement of rookie camp on the horizon, it looks more like a lock out is looming more than pucks hitting the ice.

What is at stake is hundreds of million dollars at stake, especially for smaller market teams. The more someone tries to break it down, the more it sounds like a convoluted public relation war that is similar to full body presidential election with proposals, counter proposals and both sides claiming they are cooking the books. Honestly, if I wanted this game played I will go take in the United States Senate for an hour (if they aren't in a quorum call, then it's just looking at an empty room for an hour).

The basis of the problems comes down to the smaller markets struggling to survive with the current collective bargaining agreement (or widely known as the CBA). The owners won a salary cap with the last lockout in '05-'06. Remember when the Caps drafted the best player ever but couldn't play him? (But it might have been worth it since he stole Rookie of the Year honors from some kid in Pitt)

What was instituted was a salary cap that teams had to abide to that included a ceiling and a floor to give the league more parity. When the ceiling rose, so did the floor. The thinking was when the average league salaries rose, so did the cap window. But as richer teams were able to pay bigger contracts it rose the cap window, thus forcing the teams that were cash strapped to raise their salaries to make it to the league minimum.

Not to mention the crazy contract loop holes some teams with money used to lock up players being signed for 7, 8, 9, 10 years plus. Organizations that were struggling could barely make the league floor, now were forced to take players for longer and longer years for guaranteed money whether they brought in more fans or not. In essence, richer teams actually benefited from the cap window when they could hold their talent for many years for big dollars while poorer teams were a carousal of personnel unable to hold on to draft picks to big year contracts and guaranteed money.

What the league proposes is to attack player salaries, reduce the contract years to just 5. They reworked the RFA rules allowing teams to retain a player for ten years if they so choose. What it means the players would see a reduction in new contracts signed, could only sign for 5 years max, and would not be a unrestricted free agent until they have ten seasons under their belt.

What the union proposes is keep the cap as is, unhinging the cap to the average salaries, allow teams to trade for cash, and ask teams to find reductions in salary from trainers coaches and front offices instead of touching the players money. Both plans are laid out by here.

Some where in that is a compromise both sides can agree to, otherwise the only hockey we will be seeing is HD classics on the NHL network. Does that sound like fun? No, not really. What that common ground is, I am not sure. But despite as far apart the two sides are, both Gary Betteman and Donald Fehr seem to think their side will prevail and their will be a season to be played.

That leaves us with very little to talk about. Until a deal is reached or a compromise made, all we can do is sit and wait as fans. We have no say in the matter, other than if we choose to buy any more tickets. That is the frustrating part. A bunch of millionaires get to decide the fate of a game that we say is for everyone. All we can do is watch the drama show go on.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tim Hunter Joins Coaching Staff

An assistant coach for the Caps only Cup Final, the long time Ron Wilson assistant Tim Hunter will return to DC to right hand Adam Oates' staff.

Per Caps PR:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have named Tim Hunter the team’s assistant coach, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.

Hunter, 51, has coached 1,041 games in an assistant role during his 13-season NHL coaching career. The former Stanley Cup winner was an assistant coach under Ron Wilson in all 13 previous seasons, including five years behind the Washington bench (1997-2002). Hunter helped the Capitals reach the Stanley Cup final in 1998 and the team reached the postseason in three of his five seasons with Washington, compiling a record of 192-159-51-8 (.540 percentage). Hunter coached current Capitals head coach Adam Oates, associate goaltending coach Olie Kolzig and assistant coach Calle Johansson during his tenure in Washington.

The Calgary, Alberta, native has a career coaching record of 499-394-70-84 with Washington, San Jose (2002-2008) and Toronto (2008-2011).

As a player Hunter played 16 seasons (1981-1997) in the NHL for Calgary, Quebec, Vancouver and San Jose. He won a Stanley Cup in 1989 when he was a member of the Calgary Flames. In 815 career NHL games the 6’2”, 200-pound right wing tallied 138 points (62 goals, 76 assists) along with 3,146 penalty minutes. He ranks eighth in all-time career NHL penalty minutes and still holds the Flames’ all-time franchise record with 2,405 minutes in penalties. He was originally selected by the Atlanta Flames in the third round (54th overall) of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Calle Johansson Tapped As Assistant Coach

The Capitals announced today that former Cap Calle Johansson as assistant coach. It's the first personnel change made by new head coach Adam Oates. There was speculation that Scott Stevens would return to DC to aid Oates, but with his presence at New Jersey Devil's camp that rumor was disbanded. Per Caps' PR:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have named Calle Johansson the team’s assistant coach, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.

Johansson, 45, holds the record for the most games played as a Washington Capital, appearing in 983 games with Washington from 1989-2003. Johansson holds Washington records for points (474) and assists (361) by a defenseman and ranks third in goals (113) all-time. He was an alternate captain with Washington during the 1998-99, 1999-00 and 2002-03 seasons. Johansson along with current Capitals head coach Adam Oates and associate goaltending coach Olie Kolzig, played for the Capitals team that reached the 1998 Stanley Cup finals. He helped the Capitals reach the playoffs in 11 of his 15 seasons with Washington and holds franchise playoff records for games played (95) and points (54) by a defenseman.

The Goteberg, Sweden, native played in 1,109 career NHL games, collecting 535 points (119 goals, 416 assists) and 519 penalty minutes. Johansson was originally drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round (14th overall) of the 1985 NHL Entry Draft and was traded to Washington on March 7, 1989, with a second-round pick (Byron Dafoe) in the 1989 draft for Clint Malarchuk, Grant Ledyard and Washington’s sixth choice in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. The 5’11”, 203-pound blueliner played for Buffalo and Washington before retiring on August 7, 2003. Johansson worked briefly as a scout for the Capitals before coming out of retirement to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs at the end of the 2003-04 season. He appeared in eight regular-season games (collecting six assists) and four playoff games before retiring at the end of the season.

Johansson represented Sweden at numerous international tournaments, including the 1983 and 1984 (gold medal) European Junior Championships, the 1986 and 1987 (bronze medal) World Junior Championships, the 1991 Canada Cup, the 1991 (gold medal) and 1992 (gold medal) World Championships, the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Following his playing career, Johansson became a color commentator and provided analysis for Swedish television for both the Swedish Elite League (SEL) and the NHL. He was an assistant coach for Frolunda of the SEL during the 2006-07 season before returning to broadcasting.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Green In

As predicted, the Caps were able to come to an agreement with UFA Mike Green. Per Caps' PR:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have re-signed defenseman Mike Green to a three-year, $18.25 million contract extension, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. Green will earn $6 million in 2012-13 and 2013-14 and $6.25 million in 2014-15.

“We are pleased to re-sign Mike Green to a new contract,” said McPhee. “Mike is one of the best young defensemen in the National Hockey League and is just entering his prime. He will continue to be a key part of our team moving forward.”

Green, 26, recorded seven points (three goals, four assists) and was a plus-five in 32 games with the Capitals last season. He finished the regular season ranked third on Washington in time on ice per game, skating an average of 21:02 per contest. Green missed 47 games due to injury in 2011-12. The blueliner added two goals and two assists as well as a plus-five rating in 14 postseason games with the Capitals, ranking second in points among Washington defensemen and tied for second on the team in playoff plus/minus.

The Calgary, Alberta, native has collected 251 points (82 goals, 169 assists) and a plus-62 rating in 398 career NHL games, all with Washington. He is one of just two active defensemen (Erik Karlsson) in the league to have registered a 70-point season and is the only active defenseman to have recorded two seasons of 70 points or more. Since the 2007-08 season, Green ranks fourth among NHL blueliners in points (236), second in goals (79) and his 0.77 points per game lead the league. The 6’1”, 207-pound defenseman is a two-time member of the NHL First All-Star Team and is a two-time Norris Trophy runner up. He was named to his first NHL All-Star Game in 2010-11 and was a finalist in back-to-back years (2010 and 2011) for the NHL Foundation Player Award, which is given to the player who applies the core values of hockey – commitment, perseverance and teamwork – to enrich the lives of people in his community.

Green currently ranks seventh all-time in points by a Capitals defenseman and sixth in goals. His six overtime goals rank second all-time in Capitals history behind only Alex Ovechkin (12) and his plus-62 rating ranks tied for 12th. He is one of only three Capitals blueliners to have recorded 70 or more points in a single season (Larry Murphy, Kevin Hatcher and Scott Stevens) and one of just two defensemen to have scored 30 or more goals in a single campaign (Hatcher).

Green was originally drafted by Washington in the first round (29th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He won a Calder Cup championship with Hershey of the American Hockey League in 2006 and helped the team reach the finals the following year (2007). Green won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2008 World Championships, recording the most points by a defenseman (12) while being named to the tournament all-star team. Green was named to the NHL Young Stars roster in 2006-07 after being named to the AHL All-Rookie Team in 2005-06 while with Hershey. Green spent a little more than four seasons with the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League (WHL) and helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2003 U-18 World Junior Championships.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Green Out?

The Washington Post's Capitals Insider reporter Katie Carrera reported that Capitals' defenseman Mike Green declined the qualifying offer at the 5pm deadline Sunday. Per WaPo CI's:
Defenseman Mike Green declined the Capitals’ qualifying offer of a one-year contract worth $5 million. He had until 5 p.m. Sunday to accept the deal, as was the case with all restricted free agents considering qualifying offers.
Both sides can continue to negotiate and from the sound of it, George McPhee seems positive that Green will be a Cap next season. Both Green and Carlson were offered one year deals. The Capitals also have the right to retain the player by matching any contract given to them by any other team.

It is clear that Green is looking for a more long term contract, be it with the Capitals or else where. McPhee's offer is just a first step in the process, sort of a ante in poker. Now both sides can sit at the table and negotiate more time or more money or both.

While Green is probably worth the $5 million or so a year, his production has tailed off some in recent seasons due to mostly injuries. He had a career year in '08-'09 where he scored a jaw dropping 31 goals and had 73 points that season. That playoff year was the year of "they don't make my stick anymore" and he only contributed for 9 points (1g, 8a) and was a -5 in seven game series with the Rangers and the Penguins.

From that point on, the numbers drop. Just 19 goals with 75 games played in '09-'10 (but had 76 points, 3 better than the previous season),  8 goals with 49 games played in '10-'11, and just 3 goals and 7 points total in 32 games last season.

When the Capitals needed him the most, Green's performance in the playoffs was less then stellar after the '08-'09 post season. The first two years of his NHL playoff career, he amassed 16 points through 3 series with all of them going to a game seven (he was a combined -7). After that, he has only mustered 13 points in the last three post seasons, 5 series in total including scoring only 3 assists, zero goals against Montreal in '09-'10 and only registering one assist and was a -3 in three games against the Tampa Bay Lightning who swept the Capitals in '10-'11.

Whether it ranges from excuses on poor performance or fighting the injury bug, Green still banks on the magical season where he put up 31 goals and led all defensemen that season. But he has done little since to warrant a contract more than what he is making now.

What Mike Green brings to the Capitals (or has brought) is a genuine threat on the power play. A defenseman that is not afraid to pinch in from the blue line to get that killer shot. Great hands, and offensive minded, Green added a layer to a defensive squad that propelled the Capitals into the playoff picture in the first place. But with injuries mounting, and the lack of production in the post season, is he more a liability? Can the Capitals live with out Green?

There is no reason to panic that Green is gone for good. With time left to negotiate, McPhee has in many ways helped to build a team around him in many ways. If Green can stay in a good mental place, and stay healthy, there is no reason he can't make a run at 30 goals again. With a power play specialist as a head coach in Adam Oates, there is no need for Green to head to the door just yet.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Caps Sign First Rounder

Filip Forsberg made a good impression. So good in fact the Capitals have signed him to an entry level contract. GM George McPhee had said that the talented forward would spend another year in Sweden, but this contract may make his appearance in a Caps sweater a sooner rather than later. Per Caps PR:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have signed forward Filip Forsberg to a three-year, entry-level contract, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. Forsberg will earn $832,500 at the NHL level and $70,000 at the AHL level.

Forsberg, 17, was drafted by Washington in the first round (11th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft last month in Pittsburgh. He was listed as the top-ranked European skater heading into the draft according to NHL Central Scouting. Forsberg was the youngest player on Team Sweden at the 2012 World Junior Championships, helping his team capture their first World Junior gold medal since 1981 by recording one assist in six tournament games. The Ostervala, Sweden, native collected 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 43 games with Leksand in the second division of Sweden’s senior league in 2011-12. Forsberg also captained Sweden to a silver medal in the 2012 World Under-18 Junior Championships, registering five goals and two assists in six games while being named the tournament’s best forward.

The 6’2”, 181-pound center won a silver medal at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships, recording six points (four goals, two assists) in six games, and at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial collecting five points (four goals, one assist) in six games.

He is currently participating in his first Capitals Development Camp and is expected to be assigned to Leksand for the upcoming 2012-13 season.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wolski In

Caps sign Wojtek Wolski today. The deal is one year worth $600 K. Per Caps PR:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have signed left wing Wojtek Wolski to a one-year contract, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.

Wolski, 26, recorded 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 31 games with the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers in 2011-12. He was acquired by Florida on Feb. 25, 2012, from New York in exchange for defenseman Mike Vernace and a third-round selection in the 2013 NHL Draft. In addition Wolski appeared in six games with Connecticut of the American Hockey League (AHL), tallying three goals and two assists.

The 6’3”, 215-pound forward has collected 258 points (95 goals, 163 assists) and is a plus-16 in 424 career NHL games with Colorado, Phoenix, the New York Rangers and Florida. Wolski was originally drafted by Colorado in the first round (21st overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Four current Capitals were drafted in the first round of the 2004 draft (Alex Ovechkin, Wolski, Jeff Schultz and Mike Green) and Wolski ranks tied for sixth in scoring among his 2004 draft class. He registered career highs in goals (23), assists (42) points (65) and games played (80) and tallied four goals and one assist in seven playoff games during the 2009-10 season with Colorado and Phoenix. In 29 career playoff games Wolski has recorded eight goals and nine assists.

The Zabrze, Poland, native participated in the 2007 NHL YoungStars game with fellow Capitals Mike Green. He was named to the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) First All-Star Team in 2004 and in 2006 won the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s most outstanding player, as well as the William Hanley Trophy as the OHL’s most sportsmanlike player. He was also named to the OHL’s Second All-Star Team in

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wideman Out

Caps make a move on their first free agent this summer. Denis Wideman's rights have been traded to Calgary.

There was a possibility of Wideman leaving to test the market, I guess those talks broke down between GMGM and the only Capitals representative at the 2012 All Star Game. Per Caps' PR:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have acquired a fifth-round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Draft and defenseman Jordan Henry from the Calgary Flames in exchange for defenseman Dennis Wideman, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.

Henry, 26, collected 11 points (two goals, nine assists) and 97 penalty minutes in 68 games with Abbotsford and Chicago of the American Hockey League (AHL) last season.

Wideman recorded 46 points (11 goals, 35 assists) in 82 games with Washington last season. The Kitchener, Ontario, native was named to his first NHL All-Star Game last season and has tallied 251 points (67 goals, 184 assists) in 535 career NHL games with St. Louis, Boston, Florida and Washington.

Both players are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Caps Name Adam Oates Head Coach

News first broke by TSN's Darren Dreger, then confirmed by Caps sources. Per Caps PR:

"ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have named Adam Oates the team’s head coach, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.

“We are very pleased to name Adam Oates as the new head coach of the Washington Capitals,” said McPhee. “Adam was a highly intelligent player in the NHL for 19 seasons. He has been an assistant coach in our conference for the past three seasons and is prepared to lead our club as head coach.”

Oates, 49, becomes the 16th head coach in Washington Capitals history and will make his head coaching debut after three seasons as an assistant coach. Oates became an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2009-10 season before moving to New Jersey in 2010. He was behind the bench as an assistant for the Devils’ Stanley Cup playoff-run last season.

Oates played 19 seasons in the NHL from 1985-2004, appearing in 1,337 games and collecting 1,420 points (341 goals, 1,079 assists) with Detroit, St. Louis, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Anaheim and Edmonton. Only Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux averaged more assists per-game than Oates in the NHL history. During the 1990’s only Gretzky (662) recorded more assists than Oates (636).

The Weston, Ontario, native ranks sixth all-time in assists and 16th all-time in points in NHL history. Oates ranks 25th in NHL history in playoff points, having recorded 156 points (42 goals, 114 assists) in 163 career playoff games. The former center led or was tied for the league lead in assists three times in his career (1992-93, 2000-01 and 2001-02) and ranked in the top-10 in assists in 12 of his 19 seasons. Oates was named an NHL All-Star five times (1991-94 and 1997) and was a six-time Lady Bing finalist during his career (runner-up in four straight seasons).

Oates played in 387 games for the Capitals from 1996-2002, compiling 363 points (73 goals, 290 assists). He ranks 18th in scoring and 10th in assists among all players in the Capitals history. Wearing No. 77 for the Capitals, Oates was an alternate captain during the 1997-98 season before serving as the team’s captain from 1999-01 campaign.

Oates was originally signed as an un-drafted free agent by the Detroit Red Wings on June 28, 1985, after spending four seasons with R.P.I. of the NCAA. After stints in Detroit, St. Louis and Boston, he was traded to Washington by Boston with Bill Ranford and Rick Tocchet for Jim Carey, Anson Carter, Jason Allison and Washington's 3rd round choice (Lee Goren) in the 1997 Entry Draft, March 1, 1997. After playing parts of six seasons with the Capitals, including the team’s run to the 1998 Stanley Cup final, Oates was traded to Philadelphia by Washington for Maxime Ouellet and Philadelphia's 1st (later traded to Dallas - Dallas selected Martin Vagner), 2nd (Maxime Daigneault) and 3rd (Derek Krestanovich) round choices in the 2002 Entry Draft, March 19, 2002. Oates spent time with Philadelphia, Anaheim and Edmonton before his retirement on April 3, 2004.

Oates joined the Tampa Bay Lightning as an assistant coach for the 2009-10 season, helping the team go 34-36-12. He joined the New Jersey Devils staff the following season as the Devils went 38-39-5. Last season Oates helped the Devils finish with a record of 48-28-6 as New Jersey reached the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 2003."

Saturday, June 23, 2012


The Washington Capitals finished their seven rounds of pick heaven picking up two centermen, a center and left winger, 3 wingers, 3 defensemen and one goaltender. Among the picks are three Canadians, two Swedish players, a Russian goaltender and 4 from the US National Team Development Program. They picked up a prospect that was slated to go around 7th in many mock drafts and picked up a little muscle along the way. In all, it was a quiet but good draft for the Capitals.

In the first round the Caps picked 11th overall and they choose Filip Forsberg. A natural play maker, Forsberg was slated to go much earlier in many mock drafts, so consider him a steal for the Caps. They also picked some muscle in Thomas Wilson, a kid that can play and throw the punches.

"You can find guys that are tough, but if they can't play, what good are they?" said General Manager George McPhee of their 16th overall pick in Wilson. "This kid seems to be that rare combination these days of a big kid who's tough that can play. Worst-case scenario he can play on the fourth line. But we think if he develops properly he can be a third-line, second-line player."

The Caps did not have a pick in the second round after trading it to Dallas for Mike Ribeiro. The gave up a prospect in Cody Eakin for a skilled center man to fill out the middle for the Capitals.

"It seemed like when I was watching the playoffs we had some big, gritty forwards and I just wanted to get another skill guy in the middle of it," McPhee said of acquiring Ribeiro. "I think him makes us immediately better."

In the third round the Caps picked up Chandler Stephenson (77th overall). A left winger and a centerman, Stephenson played for the Regina Pats last season and was able to accumulate 42 points in 55 games despite missing 14 games with injury. He was named the Pats' 'Most Sportsmanlike Player'.

Thomas Di Pauli (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The next four picks for the Capitals featured all American players, all from the U-18 US National Team Development Program. The Caps had two picks in round four and took Thomas Di Pauli (100 overall) and Austin Wuthrich (107 overall) who played last year with Notre Dame. The fifth and sixth rounds, the Caps only had one pick which they took Conner Carrick (137 overall) and Riley Barber (167 overall) respectfully.

Barber's father, Don, was selected 120th overall in 1983 by Edmonton and went on to play in the NHL for Minnesota, Winnipeg, Quebec and San Jose between 1988-89 and 1991-92.

Finally, the Caps had three picks in the seventh round.  They chose Christian Djoos (195 overall), Jaynen Rissling (197 overall) and goaltender Sergei Kostenko (203 overall). Rissling comes from an NHL family. Per his Draft card:
His uncle, Gary, signed with Washington in 1978 before being traded to Pittsburgh in 1981 -- he played 221 games in the NHL, amassing 1,008 penalty minutes. His dad, Kelly, played in the Western Hockey League (Portland, Lethbridge) and International Hockey League.
Ross Mahoney, Caps' director of amateur scouting answered why the Capitals took so many players in the middle rounds from the USNTDP per
Ross Mahoney, the Caps' director of amateur scouting, had a simple reason for why the club targeted so many players from the USNTDP.
"They're winners," he said. "They won again [World Under-18 Championship gold medal]. Talking to the people in that program, they said it was the best group of kids they've ever had, and they've had some pretty good young men come through that program. … We think they're all good athletes and good players and they're winners."
For those drafted, the next step is developmental camp in August. The Caps will get a close look at those they drafted as well as see other prospect's progress over a year's time.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Getting Centered

The Capitals addressed their immediate concerns at the center position before the Draft in the evening. The Caps traded Cody Eakin and a second round pick (54th overall) to the Dallas Stars for Mike Ribeiro.

The Caps struggled with a second line center last year behind Nick Backstrom. They tried to fill the hole with Marcus Johannson, Mathieu Perreault, and even Brooks Laich at times. But the Caps finally land some proven talent in Ribeiro who has great speed and a quick release. He had 63 points in last year's campaign (18g, 45a). He has some playoff experience under his belt with the long playoff run in 2008 where he has 17 points in 18 games with the Stars.

The Caps give up prospect Cody Eakin. Eakin spent most of his time in Hershey, but was called up a few times. In my opinion, he is still a year or two away from being a mainstay in the NHL. His speed is deadly, but he needs more experience to use it effectively at the top level. When he finds his game, Eakin will be a solid offensive producer at the NHL level.

George McPhee's trade for Ribeiro also cost them a second round pick in this year's draft. Ribeiro has one year remaining in his 5 year contract and will count for $5 million to the salary cap for the Capitals.

This might quiet some talk of the Capitals trying to land Rick Nash. The Capitals will still have to fill a hole left by Alex Semin, as well as some grit in the loss of Mike Knuble. Jordan Staal was also rumored to be courted by the Capitals after he refused a 10 year contract with Pittsburgh, but he was traded to Carolina and will play with brother Eric.

Pick Two

They may not have a coach, but the Washington Capitals have two picks in the first round of the NHL Draft. Picks and 11 and 16 were Caps to choose and they picked up more offense and some size.

Picked 11th overall, Filip Forsberg, is a natural play maker. NHL director of European scouting describes Forsberg this way:
“A leader who shows by example -- I would compare him to Anaheim's Corey Perry a little bit. Has a nose for the net, and often scores the big goals. He's a creative playmaker, good skater with fine straight-ahead speed. He's a right-handed forward with an excellent shot and an effective two-way player with a great winning attitude. Filip's a solid puck carrier with very good puck-handling skills; mature, good size and physically strong. On top of that, he'll sacrifice himself to make the play.”
Don't get to excited, he is not related to NHL great Peter Forsberg, but Filip does model his game after him.

Pick 16 the Caps picked up a player that was rumored to be picked up by the Flyers. Thomas Wilson was selected for his toughness, size and his ability to put the puck in the net too. TSN analysts believe he will be the next Milan Lucic, but better looking. He is a gold medal winner with Team Canada in 2011 in Helsinki and he was voted "Best Body-Checker" in the OHL's 2012 coaches poll. He loves to hit, fight and help his team win. In 49 games played he registered 27 points and was a plus 17.

Consistent with class, the Pittsburgh fans in attendance freely booed the Capitals picks. The boos were not as loud as they were for the Flyers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pick 11 And 16

The Washington Capitals are heading into the unknown in a couple of areas. One is coaching, another is draft picks. The Caps have the 11th overall pick in this year's NHL Draft in Pittsburgh. They earned that pick from Colorado for Semyon Varlamov.

If you were wondering what kind of player the Caps could get at 11, let's take a trip down memory lane and look at some notable 11th overall picks in past NHL drafts.

2007 - Brandon Sutter
2005 - Anze Kopitar (recent Stanley Cup champ the LA Kings)
2003 - Jeff Carter (another King getting a ring)
1995 - Jarome Iginla
1994 - Jeff Friesen
1993 - Brendon Witt (Caps prospect that wanted no part of a rebuild, hmm)
1984 - Sylvain Cote (selected by Buffalo and Caps' stand out D-man)

An interesting group to say the least.

The Caps also have the 16th pick in the first round. Since 1980 the 16th overall pick has included the likes of R.J. Umberger (2001), Marcel Hossa (2000), goaltender Martin Biron (1995), Markus Naslund (1991) and former Caps players in prospect Jakub Klepis (2002, traded from Ottawa) and verteran Jamie Heward (1989).

This year's mock draft has the Capitals picking up Radek Faksa with the 11th pick. Faksa has been with Kitchener in the OHL. The mock draft also has the Caps picking up Sebastian Collberg with the 16th pick, a swedish winger who has played in the Swedish elite league.

The NHL Draft will be in Pittsburg this year June 22 - 23.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Caps Coachless

Dale Hunter has stepped down from head coaching duties for the Washington Capitals. A move confirmed by general manager George McPhee. Not even 48 hours after the Caps' game seven loss to the New York Rangers, Hunter decides to leave a team that reinvented itself for him and his way of winning. Failing to get to the third round of the Stanley Cups playoffs now for a fifth straight year, the Capitals are now charged with the duty of finding a suitable bench boss to get them into the Eastern Conference Finals.

Hunter told reporters "it's time to go back to my family and the family business." He is set to return to his London Knights, an OHL team that Hunter and his family are heavily invested in.

McPhee, as did many pundits and fans, was not surprised by Hunter's sudden change in employment.

"We loved everything about Dale," McPhee said of Hunter's short stint as coach. "We were delighted he could come in and spend six months with us. He really taught the club the 'how' of winning."

Hunter failed to get the hapless Caps to the Conference finals by losing game seven at Madison Square Garden. His style of defense first was bought in, for the most part, by the entire team. Show sacrifice and dedication to the team is what he preached, whether it was a big goal, a blocked shot or a sparkling save. He was able to deal with some massive egos in a locker room that seemed to lose its way.

When asked if there was any part of the job he didn't like, Hunter looked at the reporters and smiled. "I love you guys."

Now McPhee will not only tie up loose contracts, fill voids and add to his team, but now he has to find a head coach to take them back to the playoffs and push the team to a championship.

Other news and notes from the last media day at Kettler:
  • Jay Beagle had a broken foot, the injury that kept him out of the final two games of the Rangers' series. Beagle will have surgery to repair the foot. When GMGM was asked which foot, the left or right? His answer "One of those two."
  • McPhee doesn't expect Caps' prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov to join the team next year. He resigned with his KHL team amid worries of a failed CBA and his want to play in Sochi 2012.
  • Nick Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin are leaving today to join their respective countries in the World Championships. 
  • Michal Neuvirth suffered a hip flexor injury at the end of the regular season. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What Now?

The Washington Capitals struggled. They struggled where they were so powerful just two years ago. A lack of offense. You would think with a salary burden of just over $34 million in player salary just on forwards Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, Alex Semin, Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Jason Chimera. Little good it did them as the best they could do is 2.66 goals a game, and just over 2 goals a game average  the playoffs.

When Dale Hunter took over for the Capitals in November, he didn't give the offense free range like Bruce Boudreau had. Instead he took the stance that if the big guns weren't going to score then they better had been defensively sound in their own end. With the personnel he had to work with, it seemed a monumental task.

But it slipped them into the playoffs. That style helped the Caps pull up an unlikely upset of Boston, and nearly toppled the first place team in the East. They went toe to toe with the Eastern Conference two best teams and took them to the brink, one eliminated, the other eliminated them. But questions are still out there. Did general manager George McPhee flub getting a solid second line center? Could he have found better scoring when his team needed it the most?

Frankly, this team went from high expectations with their off season acquisitions, to a team in distress, to a team that barely made the playoffs, to being a goal or two shy of making it to the Conference Finals. It has been a rollercoaster ride for the team and its fans. But how can that change into a winning season, and getting the Capitals back to a Stanley Cup Contender.

Let's look at the possibilities of losing some names. Mike Knuble most likely will not be resigned. Alex Semin may not return, rumors still stirring he might join the KHL. Tomas Vokoun might jet now that the Capitals seemed set with two young warriors in net in Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth. Dennis Wideman (the only Capital that was at last year's all star game) most likely will walk.

Loose ends on the RFA front include Jay Beagle, Mathieu Perreault, Mike Green and John Carlson. All played an important part in the Caps' post season push, especially Beagle who was the hardest working player outside of Matt Hendricks for them.

The Capitals still need to find a solution for a second line center. McPhee failed to secure one in the off season, and even at the trade deadline. Even though his group exceeded expectations of a mostly failed season, they still came up short of the Conference Finals and hopes of a Cup contending team seem fleeting.

If those unrestricted free agents walk, the Caps lose a combined 214 points gained in the 11-12 regular season. That will be hard to replace if McPhee loses that talent with out bringing in some solid offense. If Hunter sticks around, then it will be offense that can succeed inside of that system. That might be the trickiest part of the off season for McPhee. If he is still around.

That Close, But That Far

Caps 1, Rangers 2 New York wins series 4-3
Game Summary - Event Summary 

(Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Exactly what plagued the Washington Capitals in game seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals is what plagued them all season long; lack of offense. It is probably why when Dale Hunter took over for the beleaguered Caps he went with a solid defensive style. But little good it did them in the biggest game of the season, where the Caps came up short in the post season. Again. With a loss to the New York Rangers 2-1.

It wasn't the best of starts for the Caps. They were forced on their heels early when the Rangers decided to use their speed early jumping on loose pucks and their forecheck was pressing the Caps defense and turning over pucks. It would lead to the first goal of the game when Carl Hagelin circled the net and found Cap killer Brad Richards open in the left circle. Richards slapped a shot that fooled young goaltender Braden Holtby making it 1-0 with the game just 1 minute and 32 seconds old.

Even though the goal happened early, the Rangers went to shut down mode. Still using their speed for some random forechecks, they mostly sat back and leaned on Henrik Lundqvist to come up big for them. And did he ever. When the Rangers faltered, his pad or glove or stick was there for the save. It frustrated the Capitals' talented forwards it played into the Rangers hands.

(Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
A flurry of offensive chances in the second period lead to some spectacular saves by Lundqvist, but that is all the Capitals could muster through two periods. It would actually take a Michael Del Zotto goal to get their offense going. After a lackluster change on the fly, the Caps were still in good defensive posture when Marion Gaborik put in a harmless shot on net, saved by Holtby. But Del Zotto would follow up the rebound untouched and put it past the 22 year old goaltender to make it 2-0.

Roman Hamrlik would have the answer just :38 seconds later. The Rangers sort of fell apart defensively as the Capitals made some good passes on a break up the ice. Brooks Laich found Hamrlik cutting into the slot and with Troy Brouwer parked in front, the chip shot found the back of the net. It cut the lead in half, but it would the Caps' high water mark in the 2012 post season.

The Caps tried to mount a late rally by pulling Holtby, but it just led to bumbling pucks and maybe one shot on net in the final seconds. The Rangers shut the Caps down offensively allowing them only 4 shots in the third period. No one is going to rally from behind with chances like that when they need it the most.

It was an incredibly tight series again for the Capitals. In fact, of the 14 games played, only one (a loss to the Rangers in game one 3-1) was decided by more than a goal. Live by the tight game, die by the tight game. The Caps collapse in game five could be the biggest reason they lost this series, but they were never out of it against the Rangers. It is hard to kill two kings in one post season.

Caps Notes:
  • The Caps have not won in this post season when they give up the first goal.
  • The Rangers are 5-0 in game sevens at MSG. Ruslan Fedotenko is now 6-0 in game sevens.
  • Jay Beagle missed his second straight game with a lower body injury. Jeff Halpern was again his replacement. 

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Let's Make It Seven

Capitals 2, Rangers 1 Series tied 3-3
Game Summary - Event Summary

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
The Capitals made history with winning four straight games in the playoffs after a loss. They did it to force a game seven against the New York Rangers back at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Alex Ovechkin scored on the power play and Jason Chimera scored the insurance goal they needed as Braden Holtby shut the door with 30 saves helping the Caps beat the Rangers 2-1.

"Every game, we’ve had a chance to win," said Chimera who had the game winning goal to complete the historic bounce back the Caps seem to have this post season. "That’s a big thing. It’s hard to be upset about a game when we’ve been in every game. We haven’t put ourselves out of it. And Holtby came back and played a good game for us."

Ovechkin made good on his promise to play much better than his game five performance where he was held shotless. He would score a scorcher on the first power play of the game when Anton Stralman took a tripping call just over a minute in the first period.

"You can see how we start the hockey game," Ovi said of the Caps' good start. "We get the puck deep, finish our checks and move our legs. [We] got a penalty and scored a goal."

Just 15 seconds later, with some keen passing, the Rangers were too spread out and Ovechkin was alone at the top the slot. Nick Backstrom fed him the puck and he beat Lundqvist with the one timer and it set the Verizon faithful in to a frenzy. Moving Ovechkin to the slot on the power play proved to be a wise move by Dale Hunter.

"It’s just one of those changes we make," Caps' bench boss said. "We thought that Ovi, with his big shot, could get a shot off. On the play, one of their players fell and really left an opening and a shot from there by Ovi doesn’t miss very often."

The Capitals' jump on the New York Rangers early made the Broadway Blueshirts look like they had jet lag through the first period. They badly out shot the Rangers through most of the first period and had the jump they seemed to have misplaced in game 5. New York did weather most of the storm and even had a few chances themselves as the period wound down thanks to a couple of penalties on the Caps by Brooks Laich and Roman Hamrlik. The Rangers would eventually out shoot the Caps 11 to 9 by the first period's end.

"I thought we regrouped in the first period," Ranger's head coach John Tortorella said to reporters. "It’s not the way we wanted to start. As we got going in the first period. I thought we regrouped."

The second Capitals goal was a bit flukey, but the Caps had worked hard to get that chance. Alex Semin played the puck behind the Rangers net and worked it around to the half boards right of Henrik Lundqvist. He turned to shot it on net, but it was blocked and the puck skittered to the other half boards where John Carlson quickly shot the loose puck on net. It went between a Ranger defender, off Nick Backstrom's foot and drifted from left to right in front of Lundqvist to an open Chimera. Chims just tapped the puck into the net giving him his fourth goal of these playoffs. 

The Caps would keep up their stingy defensive play in the second period, but Jeff Halpern (in the lineup as a replacement for last minute scratch Jay Beagle) missed a stick check and was called for the double minor giving the Rangers 4 minutes with the extra man advantage.

"It’s one of those accidental things again," Hunter said of the second double minor in as many games. "It starts with your goalie – [Holtby] was sound and penalty killers sacrificed, blocked shots, worked their tails off and got the job done."

It was the best PK the Caps had against New York this series as they held their foes to just three shots on net. The Caps, while gaining momentum from killing off all four minutes, could not score as Lundqvist seemed to have an answer for every shot after that.

More great penalty killing would have to come for the Capitals in the third period when Mike Green sent a puck flying over the glass for a delay of game call early in the frame. Troy Brouwer and Matt Hendricks, both brilliant for the Capitals on the Halpern double minor were equally as good killing off that chance for the Rangers. Brooks Laich and Carlson both even had shots on net shorthanded. The Caps went into shut down mode after that and their offensive production tailed off. Of the four shots total they had in the third period, two of them were off the penalty kill.

Holtby lived up to his hype of a rebounding goalie after a loss and he is now 6-0 in the playoffs following a loss. One save shy of a 31 shutout bid, he turned away the first 30 with some sound, solid netminding. When a Ranger shot hit him, Holtby played like he had puck Velcro on giving little or no rebounds for the Rangers to clean up in front of him. He was calm, square to the shooter. Stopping deflected pucks, screen shots and some difficult fluke shots that the Rangers threw at the 22 year old goaltender. 

The Rangers pressed their offensive muscle in the third and John Tortorella pulled his goaltender with well over two minutes left to play. The plan seemed to fizzle, but the Rangers were able to get a late goal to cut the Capitals' lead to 2-1. They crowded the net with two Blueshirts and the point shot had eyes as it deflected in off of Carlson's body, past Holtby to ruin his shutout bid.

"It felt like we were not really close until the last 20 seconds," Ranger netminder Lundqvist said. "We just have to go back home now and regroup and save all the energy we have left and play our best game of the playoffs here, at home."

The Caps force a game seven and get a second chance to get that important road win. This time to win the series. As long as they continue to move their feet and win the chases to loose pucks like they did tonight, they should be sitting pretty in yet another close tight game seven this post season.

Caps Notes:
  • Jay Beagle was a last minute scratch, he was half dressed before he got the news that he would sit out. His absence is due to an undisclosed injury. Jeff Halpern who took his spot was a -1, had one shot, and won 54% of his draws (7 of 13). It was his first game since March 23rd, his first playoff game with the Capitals since April 20, 2003 in a 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
  • Alex Ovechkin's goal now ties him with Peter Bondra for a franchise best 30 goals in the post season. He had one of the most entertaining non-goals when he brought the puck in the offensive zone and was forced to the ice by Ranger defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Ovi fell, twisted on the ice maintaining possession of the puck with his hand, moving it back to his stick and getting a shot on net while on his butt.
  • The Capitals blocked 24 shots to the Rangers 6. They are 2-0 this post season when facing elimination. 12 of the 13 games the Caps have played in these playoffs have been decided by one goal.
  • Backstrom now has three points in his last two games (1g, 2a).

Monday, May 07, 2012

6 Seconds From A Win

Capitals 2, Rangers 3 OT Rangers lead series 3-2
Game Summary - Event Summary

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) 
That close, just 6.6 from going home with a series lead. But the Washington Capitals took a late double minor that was cost them the game as the New York Rangers tie the game to send it to overtime, and used the second part of the double minor in the extra frame to turn the tables on the Caps and gave themselves the 3 games to 2 advantage as the it shifts back to Washington.

It is a late night, and I would love to write out an entire recap, but that ain't happening. So let's just hit the high and low parts.

- Brooks Laich and John Carlson got the Caps goals. Carlson's goal was scored early in the third on the power play and was the winning goal until Brad Richards tied the game with just over 6 seconds left in the game.

- Let's be truthful, the Capitals had no business being in this game by the way they played in the first period. Having said that, the fact that they kept the Rangers to one goal through the first two periods. The Capitals had a much better second and parts of the third period, but it wasn't good enough for the win.

- Alex Ovechkin was held in check for most of the game. He did get an assist on Brook Laich goal, but it was off of a broken play. Ovechkin and Alex Semin showed signs of some greatness, but made poor choices with the puck when their opportunities arose. Ovechkin had a huge shot block late in the third period when they still had the lead.

- Troy Brouwer had a heck of a game. He had two assists, a +1, won 67% of his face offs, and two shots blocked. He was everywhere tonight, it seemed.

- Braden Holtby was outstanding, and the Caps did not give him enough goal support tonight for him to earn the win. He knocked down 35 shots but couldn't stop the last two, Richards goal in the third and Marc Staal's shot in overtime. What is amazing is Holtby's knack for making the hard saves look like no big deal. When he makes some of the saves that are pin-point from a Ranger core that has trouble finding their shots getting through to the goaltender at all, it is almost demoralizing they way he calmly gloves it or deflects it away.

- Dale Hunter might be dealing with one tired group of hockey players. Their lack of digging deep and finishing out the game, just shy of 6 seconds of taking the series lead themselves, almost proves that this is a war of attrition. It might be time to infuse some fresh legs with players like Dmitry Orlov, Matthieu Perreault and Cody Eakin into the line up. But there is not shame running with the horses that have finished the race in the quarterfinals either.

- If you wanted to pick a goat for game five, look no further than Joel Ward. It was a break down in discipline as Ward took the double minor late in the game. There was no need to pitch fork Carl Hagelin's stick and draw blood. It was a call the Referees had to make and it put the Capitals in an unfortunate position, on their heels for basically a free for all with an extra man for the Rangers. That was a tough thing for Ward to go through. The team was quick to come to his rescue.

"It was an accident," Dale Hunter told reporters. "Those are the breaks of hockey. It accidentally came up. It's just a hockey play."

The positive out of all of this, the Capitals have a crack on home ice to knot the series up at 3 games a piece. Then it is a 50/50 game back at Madison Square Garden. It is certainly not the easy route to go for the Caps, but what have they done this year to make it easy on themselves? 

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Young Guns Strike Again

Capitals 3, Rangers 2 Series tied 2-2
Game Summary - Event Summary

The big guns started firing in this series. Goals by Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and Mike Green help to knot the series up at two games a piece with the New York Rangers with a 3-2 win in game four.

"Everybody has their roles and you’ve seen the guys blocking shots," Dale Hunter, Caps' head coach, told reporters on how his team won. "The big guns scored some big goals and the foot soldiers blocked shots. We played good defense."

Another tight game, another close score and the Washington Capitals feel right at home. The Caps started off with a great first period out shooting the Rangers 14 to 3. It would be a costly turnover by a rookie Chris Kreider as he tried to clear the zone. But his attempt was a picture perfect pass to a waiting Ovechkin who wasted no time shooting the puck on Ranger goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The shot fooled King Henry and bounced off his glove and into the net. 

At times both teams made some mental errors, call it exhaustion from a triple overtime a couple of days before, or a long grueling grind it out game both teams were playing. But the Rangers took advantage of a misplayed puck in front of Braden Holtby early in the second period as they pressed the Caps in their own zone. Ovi half heartedly went for a block, missed and Brooks Laich mishandled the puck in front of Holtby while Artem Anisimov found the loose puck on his stick alone, he pulled it to his forehand and beat a sprawling Caps net minder to knot the game at 1-1.

The Rangers seem to have the momentum for most of that first part of the second period. They even got a hooking call on Joel Ward near the half way mark of the second period. But the Capitals' penalty kill was able stem the Ranger tide. It would take a hit to change momentum back to the Capitals, well... a hit and a goal.

A shift or two after the penalty kill, Backstrom went into the corner. Sensing a hit coming from Anisimov, Backstrom held up and delivered a hit of his own, flooring the Ranger forward to the ice. He passed the puck behind the net and found a soft spot opposite side of the net as Jason Chimera turned and looked to center the puck. Chimmers saw Backstrom and threw a fantastic pass threw a maze of Ranger defenders and Backstrom shot it high blocker side to regain the Caps' lead.

The Caps were buzzing, but it was short lived when Ovechkin left his feet during a hit on Dan Girardi. It stifled the home team's momentum. A miscommunication between defenders Denis Wideman and Jeff Schultz did recover a dumped in puck. Anisimov beat both to the loose biscuit, passed it to an open Marion Gaborik in front of the net and the game was tied at two.

After both teams shared chances in the third period, Backstrom nearly scoring on Lundqvist five hole on a 2 on 0 and the Rangers quick transition game nearly got them a goal, both teams tightened the defensive bolts. It looked as if the game would go into overtime with both teams stifling up the neutral zone.

(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Carl Hagelin chopped John Carlson's stick from his hands with 6:15 left in the third period. The Caps power play would hit the ice for only the second time of the game. But they would make it count. Ryan Callahan tried to get the puck out for the Ranger penalty killers, but he took a mis-step and coughed up the puck to Wideman who shuffled the puck to an open Mike Green on the other point. Green, with his head up the whole way, blasted a shot through the shot blocker Ryan McDonagh and beat Lundqvist to give the Caps' their one goal lead back.

"Those two goals," Lundqvist said of the second and third goals scored by the Caps. "I didn’t see the puck so I was pretty much just guessing where it was going both the second and third. It’s unfortunate."

"Before he was injured a lot, we used to see that all the time," Backstrom said of Green's go ahead goal. "It’s great for him and it’s great to see him score a goal. It gives him confidence. Huge goal for us."

This time, they would keep that lead. The Capitals would bear down and tighten defensively blocking a flurry of shots late by the Ranger's point men. The Caps would finish the game out blocking the Rangers 26 to 7. Schultz himself gobbled up 9 shots and at one point in the second period, that was exactly half of the team's total.

Again, it was not a perfect game for the Capitals who were credited with 17 giveaways. At times the Caps looked dead tired against a Ranger forecheck that at times was really good. But the Capitals found away to over come their mistakes and the big guns have finally showed up. Alex Semin did not score, but he had 4 shots on net and some beauty opportunities on the power play. Matt Hendricks also had a solid game, no where near his performance in game three where he put on a hitting show, but he had a key block late in the game to preserve the lead. He also won all nine of his faceoffs.

The series is now tied at two games a piece. The way the Capitals are playing on the road, game 5 should be a winning pivotal game for them. Just like the Boston series, the Caps had an opportunity to take command of the series and did in game 5. 

Caps Notes:
  • Ovechkin scored his fourth goal of the postseason and his second in his last three games. It was the 29th goal of his playoff career and he now trails Peter Bondra by one goal for first all-time in Capitals playoff history. He now has 57 postseason points and ranks third all-time in Capitals history. 
  • Chimera assisted on Backstrom’s goal and now has five points (4 goals, 1 assist) in nine career playoff games against the Rangers.
  • Mike Knuble found himself crashing the net again and crashing into the opposing goaltender, but this time it was more his momentum and the Ranger defense forcing the Caps' forward into the net. The puck followed him into the crease, but after review the puck was no where close to being in the net.
  • The Rangers were 9-0-1 in afternoon games this season. Well... now 9-1-1.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

4 Hours, 34 Minutes Later...

Capitals 1, Rangers 2 3OT New York leads series 2-1
Game Summary - Event Summary

It would take three overtime periods, 95 combined shots, 105 combined hits, and the longest NHL game in nearly 41 years. Marion Gaborik would end the action with just 5:19 left in the third overtime gave the Rangers the series lead 2-1 and end the game with the same tally 2-1 over the Washington Capitals.

The Capitals came out with a fire in their belly in the first period. They were flying, out shooting the Rangers 13 to 10 and more chances on a New York team that was just weathering the storm. But the Capitals could not crack Henrik Lundqvist and fell behind in the second period when the Rangers got a power play. Ryan Callahan buried the loose puck in front as it bounced off of two Caps and caught Holtby out of position.

It did not take long for the Capitals to respond, John Carlson skated the puck into the Ranger zone and followed the bouncing puck until it settled on his stick. He wrist it past Lundqvist over his right blocker. But that was as much offense the Caps could muster. There was a keen chance for the Caps late in the second period when they had a three on one break. But Brooks Laich just ran out of room to get a quality shot off.

Alex Ovechkin nearly ended it when he hit the post. It would sound the horn and the crowd went nuts. But it was clear in the replay that the puck solidly hit the post. 

Matt Hendricks played his best player as a Washington Capital. He was a hitting machine, and nearly ended the game early in the first overtime with a thunderous hit on Ryan McDonagh then stole the puck and found Troy Brouwer in front of the net. But Brouwer's shot sailed high and wide of the top corner allowing the overtime period to carry on.

“It’s tough," Hendricks said of the emotional overtime game. "You invest a lot every night, no matter what, if it’s a 60-minute game or extended into overtime. When you extend into overtime you are investing more and more and you are putting everything you’ve got into it. Unfortunately, we didn’t win tonight, but we can’t let that bother us. We just need to get prepared for the next one.”

Hendricks deserved a better fate in this game, but he would end a -1, finished with a team high 11 hits, 6 shots on net, and was 71% in the face off dot. Not too shabby. He also had a great shot early in the second period, but the puck trickled wide behind Lundqvist.

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
The goaltending was spectacular on both ends. Holtby and Lundqvist faced a much different game than in games one and two. In the previous games, shots were hard to come by. They were grinding, clogged up games. Game three was in contrast, fast skating, open play and it seemed to favor the Washington Capitals for most of the game. Holtby would finish with 47 saves, his counterpart finished with 45 stops.

Alex Semin played a great game two, nearly scorning in the open moments of the game. He would get an assist on Carlson's goal. But as the game wore on, he seemed to disappear in the play.

As much as the Rangers would like to think they have a strangle hold on the series, it is just one game. New York takes the series lead, but the Capitals have been here before. Nearly parallel to the series with Boston, the Caps were able to split the first games in Boston and back in Washington. The Caps will look to do the same in two days when both teams meet on Saturday at Verizon Center for game four.

“It’s a loss. It’s no different than any other one," Holtby said. "A hard fought battle. We will be ready for the next game. It was a good game.”

Cap Notes:
  • It was the fourth time the Capital franchise they have reached triple overtime.
  • Visitors are 13-6 in overtimes this playoff season.
  • Both teams have opted out of practices tomorrow.
  • The Capitals killed off two penalties in overtime, a tripping call on Semin in the first overtime and a high stick call on Mike Green in triple overtime. The Rangers were not called for penalties in any of the overtime periods.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Hunter's Toolbox

If everyone has to talk about Alex Ovechkin's ice time in game two, then why not us? There is a method to head coach Dale Hunter's madness, even if the press corps can not seem to see it. The best analogy I could come up with is to put it in pure man terms and talk about tools.

No, not talking about Sean Avery. Tools, like in a tool box. Just like we wouldn't use a hammer on a bolt or use a wrench as a level, Hunter does not see any reason putting out Ovechkin when the situation does not warrant it. Per Wash Post Mike Wise:
“Dale, anybody who’s following our team, you see he’s coaching the situations,” said Mike Knuble, who scored the game’s first goal Monday night on a pretty tic-tac-toe play. “He’s playing certain guys. If we’re down a goal, he’s going to be our main guy. He’s going every other shift.

“If we’re up a goal, then Dale tends to lean on other guys. That’s the way it is. I guess they can talk about it this summer after the season and figure it out. For now it’s working and we’re going to run with it.”
Hunter will use Ovechkin when the situation best fits his need for Ovechkin. If the Caps are down a goal or two, Ovi gets more than enough ice time. But if the Capitals are ahead, Hunter will rely on his more defensive players to pick up the work load.
No one really seems to have an issue with it except the press. Both New York and Washington media are trying to figure it all out. It is not mite hockey where everyone gets even ice time and a chance to play, it is the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, and teams, coaches and players will do what they feel needs to be done to win. If that means putting a few talents on the bench a little longer, than that what it means. It's working for the Caps.

What Hunter has decided is to put match ups against conventional thought. It accomplishes two things for the Caps' bench boss. If the Capitals have the lead and on the road, it is a safer play to have your dependable defensive players on the ice when you have the last change. The Caps will defend that lead with the players who are defensively minded, and thus far it has worked. When the Rangers can react to whatever the Caps put on the ice, Hunter goes for safe rather than risk.

The second thing it accomplishes, his star offensive players are fresher later in the game/series. Ovechkin can wear himself out running around and hitting, which sort of worked against the Bruins. But against the Rangers, it is more important for him to be fresh as the game and series wears on.

Saving your offensive players until the end maybe the genius of the idea of keeping Ovi benched. If he is worn down from heavy minutes through the game, he doesn't have that extra jump, can't get his shot on point and turns the puck over. But a fresh Ovi can blow by tired legs on the other team's defense, catch the other team flat footed.

Another side perk, Hunter also keeps the Rangers from getting the match ups they ultimately wanted. Keeping their lines off kilter, Hunter can put Ovechkin on against a tired defensive pair, or create havoc with the opposition lineups. If he feels his team has strong momentum he can put him out there to jump on the other team's misfortunes.

Ovechkin didn't miss his power play time. He would scored just four seconds into a power play that proved to be the game winner. That is Hunter's strategy. Keep the other guys guessing. It apparently works for the media as well.

Caps Notes:
  • Caps have recalled Dany Sabourin, Cody Eakin and Sean Collins have been recalled by the Capitals now that the Hershey Bears have been eliminated from the Calder Cup playoffs.
  • Top Caps' prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has agreed to a two year deal to stay in the KHL. Many believe he is staying with his KHL team so he can play in the 2014 Winter Olympics since there is no deal at present for NHL players to participate.
  • The Capitals took the day off and offered an optional practice for players who have been healthy scratches and for the call ups to get some ice time.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Bounce Back

Capitals 3, Rangers 2 Series tied 1-1
Game Summary - Event Summary

Alex Ovechkin scored his third goal of the playoffs on the power play to even the series at one game a piece with the New York Rangers. Braden Holtby stopped 26 shots to get the game's first star and helped the Capitals to defeat the Rangers 3-2 and send the series back to Verizon Center all tied up.

Mike Knuble opened the scoring near the midway point of the first period when he tipped in a Joel Ward pass on a 3 on 2. Jason Chimera scored his third goal of these playoffs after Ranger netminder Henrik Lundqvist misjudged a dump in and Chimera beat him to it. He threw the puck back to the front of the net to an open Matt Hendricks, but the puck bounced around a bit before Chimera tipped the loose puck back toward the front of the net, it hit a Ranger defender's skate and went in for the 2-0 lead.

The Rangers would respond late in the first period when Brad Richards out muscled his way to the net and buried a Marion Gaborik pass to the slot with :42 seconds left. The Rangers would tie it in the third period on the power play when Micheal Del Zotto shot the puck from the point and it bounced off of John Carlson and then Ryan Callahan past Holtby. It set the stage for Ovechkin when the Rangers took not just one penalty, but two.

Brian Boyle, returning to the lineup for the Rangers, took the first penalty when he pulled down Mike Green on the half boards. The Caps were able to get some shots on net, but the Rangers were able to kill it off. But just :36 seconds later, Richards was nailed with an interference call on Carlson breaking into the zone. It would take Ovechkin all of four seconds on the second power play for him to shoot a sizzler past a sprawling Boyle and Lundqvist glove to give the Capitals the lead back. A lead they would keep for good.

Ovechkin, hounded by the MSG crowd each time the clock hit 8:00, was held to just one shot in game 1. Dale Hunter cut back on the forward's play time and the gimmick seemed to work. Ovi made the most of what little time he had to fire off seven shots in just 13:36 of ice time in game 2.

There was a little more jump in the Capitals play compared to game 1. It seemed they could not win the board game against the Ranger's speed. In game 2, the Caps were better able to deal with that pressure by bring help down from the forwards with the Rangers tried to set up behind the net. 

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Braden Holtby certainly made good on his promise to play better in game 2. He had some help with the defensive core blocking 24 shots in front of him. He made a few big stops including a stop on rookie Chris Kreider on a break away that led to the Chimera goal just seconds afterward.

The Caps' special teams finally got a power play goal, but they also gave up a goal on the PK.  While the power play was frustrated at times, Ovechkin's wrister seemed to catch everyone off guard. The Caps' PK was solid again, as it took a tipped shot, off of several different players for the Rangers to score with the man advantage.

Now in perfect position after splitting the games in New York, the Capitals have a chance to once again take the series lead on home ice. If they learned their lesson from the earlier round, the Caps need to jump on the Rangers early at home and keep up their tight checking style in the defensive zone. The mantra of this team is resiliency, which is nice early in the series. But it would be wise to put the pressure on the team from New York by taking the series lead.

Caps Notes:
  • Alex Ovechkin's third period goal is his career 5th game winning goal in the playoffs. Ovi also continues his stretch of not going consecutive games in a series with out a point. He was held pointless in game 7 against the Bruins and game 1 versus the Rangers.
  • Jason Chimera only has 6 career goals in the playoffs, three of which have come at Madison Square Garden. He has scored in three straight playoff games at MSG with the first goal the overtime series clinching goal in last year's playoffs.
  • Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle both have goals this post season, but these are the first assists the pair have in these playoffs.
  • Braden Holtby's parents were in attendance at MSG.

Minor Adjustments

The Washington Capitals would be the first to admit that speed did them in during game 1. Their defense seemed overwhelmed by the Rangers ability to follow in chipped pucks and get their forecheck well established. It led to the game's first and third goals for the Rangers and put the Caps into a one game hole in the series.

What Dale Hunter has been trying to instill in his boys is a sense of quickness to get pucks out of the defensive zone. Knowing what to do with the puck and quickly establish the break out and turn away picks from the defensive zone is what the Caps' coaching staff has been working on from day one. The Caps got away from that a little bit in game one. They allowed the Rangers' forwards to create havoc by gaining the zone with speed, getting to the puck and getting the play to the front of the net.

The Capitals worked on taking the boards away in their own zone against the Rangers, but risked the open space it created. It would serve the Caps better to let the Ranger outside shots go and concentrate on the front of the net, clearing pucks and bodies from in front of their goaltender.

Braden Holtby might have answered the question; is he human? Well he was in game 1. But if the defense makes the right adjustments, Holtby should be able to backstop the outside shots. While the young goaltender seemed hard on himself, he did play poorly in his 8th career playoff game. But the young netminder has and can be a lot sharper. Give him the lead, and things go more smoothly for the Caps in general.

As far as offense is concerned, the Caps seemed to have fallen into old habits of shooting too quickly. Especially on the Rangers who are the only NHL team to refine the practice of blocking shots. Caps players talked about quality, not quantity of the shots coming in on Henrik Lundqvist after game 1's loss. They have to get the shots through and create the havoc in front of Lundqvist at the same time.

One way of doing that is more to be more patient with the shot. If the point man can draw the Ranger defender into going down, you could create the odd man opportunity needed to get quality shots on net. Another way to get shots in is to create traffic further away from the crease. Tips from above the circle and in the high slot can create more chances to get the puck through. Also the better chance of giving the initial shot blocker something else to worry about behind him.

The Capitals' power play has to start showing up. Given four opportunities in game one where the Caps could have tied it and taken the lead, they failed to do so. Those chances become more and more rare as the game carries on. They must find was to use the Rangers over aggressive penalty kill to their advantage by maintaining zone presence and patience to wear down those penalty killers on the ice.

The adjustments are minor, but could sway the momentum back on the Caps side in this series.