Saturday, March 21, 2009
I had a hard time setting a good example for my kids Thursday night as we watched the ref wash out Alexander Semin's goal and send him off to the penalty box with yet another hooking penalty. The sportscasters made a point during the game of identifying Semin as having the second-highest penalty minute total on the team. At this point, one has to wonder: is this a case of the chicken or the egg? Meaning, does he get called for so many penalties because he commits so many infractions or because he has a reputation for being called for so many penalties? I tend to believe every time he hits the ice he's skating under a spotlight where the refs are concerned; they expect him to commit penalties so they watch him closer and are far less lenient in their interpretation of his actions than other players.
All of that is inconsequential to the play I referred to earlier. It happened in the first period of the game against Tampa Bay. Semin dug the puck out at the boards and passed it to Alex Ovechkin. He then skated back into traffic in front of the net and Ovi passed it back. A TB defender intercepted the pass but didn't have good control of the puck. Semin deftly lifted the guy's stick, and the Bolt reached out and grabbed Semin's stick, holding it long enough to try to gain control of the puck. As soon as he let go, Semin lowered his stick, snared the puck, and swiftly shot it into the net. Surrounded on three sides by TB defenders, Semin stumbled and ended up in a sitting position right in front of TB Goalie Mike McKenna, staring at the puck sitting squarely in the net. Goal! Or -- not, according to the linesman nearby. Semin glanced over at the ref, saw the hand in the air and knew there would have been a penalty coming, had he not just scored. And rightly so, against TB. I watched in amazement as the camera zeroed in on Alexander Semin's face, his eyes grew wide, he pointed to himself and said, "It's on me?" He couldn't believe it, and neither could I. I watched the play in slow motion a dozen times, and I have to say that was by far the most glaring bad call I've seen in the NHL.
The ensuing TB power play led to a goal within seconds. A game that should have been 2-0 instead was 1-1.
It wasn't the only time in the game the Caps were robbed of a goal, unfortunately. In the second period, Eric Fehr deposited a rebound from a Sergei Federov shot that completely crossed the red line into the goal, then was kicked back out by the goalie. The goalie was on the ground, and there were 2 other TB players in front of the net along with Fehr. The ref immediately called no-goal and didn't call for a review. Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau called a time out, and the refs took the opportunity to review the play. After several minutes, the no-goal call stood. Again, I watched this play in slo-mo many times, and the puck is clearly in the white. How the NHL reviewers could miss it is beyond me.
Both these events were overshadowed by Ovi's 50th goal and the subsequent and controversial celebration. Ovi is the first Capital ever to score 50 or more goals in three seasons. The man is all of 23 -- the sky is the limit for the number of records he will go on to set. Mike Green also scored two goals in the game; Michael Nylander and Matt Bradley each scored one.
The outcome was as desired: a win for the Caps. It wasn't really a satisfying victory, though, when you see two players working their hearts out for this team and losing two legitimate goals. My hope is they both continue doing exactly what they've been doing, and follow the advice I give my own kids: forget the bad calls, and play the best hockey you can.
Final score: Caps 5, Lightning 2 (W).
Thursday, March 19, 2009
In addition to goalie injuries, TB has also struggled to keep its blue line manned as well. The Lightning have now suited up 20 different defenseman in 72 games this season.
Although the stage is set for an easy Caps victory (is there such a thing?), especially coming off a gratifying shutout against the Panthers on Tuesday, no game should be taken for granted. TB's two top offensive lines are anchored by all-stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, both of whom are among the top 25 scorers in the NHL this season. And, the Caps have certainly lost their fair share of games this season against lesser opponents -- most recently, just three nights ago, when they were pounded by the Thrashers.
The Caps are in a very comfortable position going into the final ten games of the season. They hold a decisive 13-point lead in the Southeast Division over the Carolina Hurricanes, whom they'll visit on Saturday. Winning the division guarantees a playoff berth. Additionally, they are currently in third place in the Eastern Conference. A win tonight would move them into second (since New Jersey lost last night and doesn't play tonight), and would put them well within striking distance of first-place Boston, whom they currently trail by a mere 5 points. The remaining schedule favors the Caps as well, with the majority of their upcoming contests coming against Southeast rivals.
They're not locked in yet, though, and now is not the time to rest on past accomplishments. There is enough time left for other teams, such as Carolina, to display the same grit and determination that vaulted the Caps to a division win last year. This is the time to buckle down, stay healthy, and keep the focus on winning every game. Fans are hoping for another solid effort from the Caps tonight, and everyone is looking forward to Ovechkin's 50th goal, which will very likely be scored tonight at St. Pete Times Forum.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
On Monday night in Atlanta, the Thrashers came in looking to extend a five-game winning streak. They started the scoring early, and as Washington's frustrations grew, the Caps starting racking up penalties. The penalty kill unit was sloppy and disorganized, and Atlanta took advantage, scoring three times on the power play. With the Caps trailing 4-0, Coach Bruce Boudreau elected to pull starting goaltender Jose' Theodore and replace him with recent Hershey call-up Simeon Varlamov. Varly allowed the Thrashers to score one more, and the Thrashers held a 5-0 lead until late in the third. Eric Fehr finally ended Kari Lehtonen's shutout with less than two minutes left in the game, and the game ended in a 5-1 loss for the Caps.
The Capitals recorded an astounding 83 shots in the game. Fourteen were blocked, 19 missed the net, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 49 from finding the back of the net. The Caps offense lacked the energy and determination they usually display, and the defense just couldn't get their act together to clear the puck out of their zone. Altogether, it was an extremely disappointing game for the Caps and their fans. Final score: Caps 1, Thrashers 5 (L).
The good news from the game is that Defenseman Brian Pothier made his return after missing 14 months due to a concussion-related injury. Pothier recently completed a conditioning stint of 4 games with the Hershey Bears. He played Monday against Atlanta for Mike Green, who was sidelined with an undisclosed minor injury, and showed no signs of lasting effects. Pothier is a veteran blueliner whose services could be invaluable come playoff time.
In the last of their back-to-back outings this season, the Caps faced off against Florida at BankAtlantic Center Tuesday night. Florida is battling for a playoff spot, so everyone expected another tough game. What they got was, not so much.
Everything the Caps did wrong on Monday they corrected on Tuesday. Theo stopped the 19 shots he faced. The defense was strong and made few mistakes; the Panthers didn't even get a shot on net in the third period. The offense kept constant pressure on the Panthers with solid forechecking and backchecking throughout the game. The PKU successfully killed off eight minutes of short-handed play, and the first goal of the game came from Brooks Laich on a short-handed opportunity in the second period. Viktor Kozlov connected on a pass from Michael Nylander to put the Caps up 2-0 early in the third, and Green finished off Theo's shutout with an empty-netter off a pair of passes from the Amazing Alexes. Final score: 3-0 in favor of the Caps. It was Theo's second shutout of the season, and the 28th of his career.
Some interesting notes about the Caps top line, 8-19-28:
-- Alex Ovechkin's assist against Florida was the 400th point of his career. Only one active player has reached 400 faster than Ovi.
-- Ovi and Alexander Semin lead the NHL in shots on goal for the month of March. Including last night, Ovi has 55 and Semi has 42.
-- Semi and Nicklas Backstrom lead the NHL in takeaways, with 69 each. Semi leads the league for month of March with 19.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
On Saturday night at Verizon Center, the Caps looked like the team we saw the first half of the season -- the team who surrendered only one game out of 20 on home ice. Other teams were growing to dread a visit to DC, knowing how tough the Caps were to beat at home. Then, something went terribly wrong, and the Caps started losing at home -- first occasionally, then consistently. Before the road trip last week, the Caps lost four in a row in the phone booth.
Fans sitting in Verizon Center Saturday night hoped for a better outcome against the Hurricanes. Fortunately, they were rewarded with not only a win but an exciting game as well. The Canes went up 1-0 midway through the first period, then the Caps took over, scoring three in a row on goals from Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin, and Alexander Semin. Eric Staal of Carolina scored in the second to get the Canes back in it, only to see Nicklas Backstrom get the 2-goal lead back a few minutes later. Then, with just 7 seconds left in the second period, the Canes scored again, making it once again a one-goal game, and Caps fans held their breath as the third period got underway. The Hurricanes managed to tie it up in the third and the game headed into OT.
Goalies Cam Ward and Jose' Theodore were kept busy in OT. Ward faced more shots (6), but Jose' had to make the more spectacular saves. Neither goalie gave up a goal in OT, so it was off to the shootout. Viktor Kozlov, Semin and Ovi were the shooters for the Caps; Semin and Ovi each scored. Theo denied both of the Canes' attempts, and Washington came away with the win.
Alexander Semin had a goal and three assists in regulation, and the game-winner in the Shootout, so it was no surprise he was awarded First Star. Mike Green's goal brought his point total for the season to 60, joining the rest of DC's Young Guns in the 60+ point club this season.
Final Score: Caps 5, Hurricanes 4 (W).
Friday, March 13, 2009
Okay, on to bigger and better things. The Caps went on the road this week against Nashville and Philadelphia. Both games were very physical, both were low scoring affairs (final score of 2-1 for each in favor of DC), and both were just what the doctor ordered. The Caps ended a 4-game losing streak in Nashville with 41 shots on recently acquired Preds goalie Dan Ellis. The Preds effectively shut down the offensive powerhouse known as Alex Ovechkin, and held Alexander Semin to just an assist. The Caps came through with a big win, though, as Jose' Theodore came up big, holding Nashville scoreless after allowing a goal in the first minute of the game. The road wins continued in Philly, where the Caps sought to redeem themselves from their 7-1 trouncing there in December. This time, Ovi came through with a goal, along with Brooks Laich (the Caps' pseudo-captain in Chris Clark's absence). Theo was brilliant again, and the Caps' D was more impressive in these two games than we've seen in a long while.
We're loving the Caps these days as they show signs of maturing and readying themselves for the grueling play they'll face in the post-season. The real sign of what this team is made of will be apparent as they take on the 'Canes at home tomorrow and then set off on an extended road trip that will see them travelling through Buffalo, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay. Caps4Kids will be there and will try to get some great pix to share with you. GO CAPS!!!
Friday, March 6, 2009
The Caps were without MVP Alex Ovechkin, who received a foot injury during practice on Wednesday. Their troubles were further compounded when Defenseman Tom Poti left the ice just seconds after the the puck dropped, courtesy of his ongoing battle with a groin injury. Coach Bruce Boudreau was then forced to make line adjustments throughout 60 minutes of play, as he sent Center Sergei Federov out to play on the blue line most of the game. At one point, Eric Fehr saw some ice time on D as well. It was an interesting night.
For the first time this season, neither the Caps nor their opponent scored during the first two periods. The Caps had several quality scoring chances during the first 40 minutes, but they couldn't get anything past Gerber. In the final period, the Caps failed to clear the puck from their own zone and in the resulting scramble the Leafs finally put one in the net. Just minutes later they scored again, and for the third game in a row the Caps found themselves needing a heroic comeback to get back in the game. It wasn't to be, though, as the Leafs continued to hold the Caps scoreless until the final minute of the game when Alexander Semin scored with an extra skater on for DC. As the final seconds ticked away, the Caps tried desperately to tie the game, with no success. Final score: Caps 1, Leafs 2.
If there are any bright spots for the Caps right now, they are Semin and Federov. Semin is on a five-game scoring streak and is clearly the most determined player on the ice. His efforts are visible on every shift as he fights for the puck and moves it into the defender's zone. He had 7 shots on goal last night, 2 hits, and 3 takeaways in over 24 minutes of ice time. Federov has also stepped up his game, showing the type of leadership you'd expect from a veteran with 3 Stanley Cups on his resume'.
Other good news for the Caps: Nicklas Backstrom appears to be improving his faceoff win %, as he has been over 60% for three of the last five games. Backstrom also picked up an assist on the Semin goal, bringing his point total to 69, which ties his total from last season. Goalie Simeon Varlamov is expected to return this weekend as the Hershey Bears take on the Toronto Marlies, and Defenseman Brian Pothier will also play for Hershey as he begins a conditioning stint to see if he'll be able to return to the Capitals after a 14-month recovery from a concussion injury. Caps fans will keep their fingers crossed that Pothier's health is back to 100% for his well-being as much as for what he would bring to the team.
Next up: Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins pay another visit to Verizon Center this Sunday at 3 p.m. Expect another hard-hitting, highly physical game as the most heated rivalries in the NHL are once again on exhibition. Let's just hope Ovi is back in action by then.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Kolzig, a first round draft pick by the Capitals in 1989, spent 18 seasons in DC before heading off to Tampa Bay as a free agent in 2008. He started in net for the Lightning when they played in DC on November, losing to Brent Johnson and the Caps in a 4-2 decision.
Gerber is expected to start in goal tonight for the Leafs as primary goalie Vesa Toskala prepares for a little surgery of his own. Jose' Theodore is expected to get the start for the Caps tonight, after missing Tuesday's game against the Hurricanes due to illness.
Michael Nylander is expected to return to the Capitals' lineup tonight after being a healthy scratch four games in a row. No word on who will sit this one out instead.
LET'S GO CAPS!!!
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Way to go, Mike! A well-deserved honor!
Thursday, February 26, 2009
It was a strange game. The Caps had several short-handed scoring opportunities, but couldn't collect on any of them. In fact, the most distinctive sound heard in Verizon Center on Tuesday was the "ding" of the puck hitting the post and deflecting back onto the ice at least five times. Guys that appeared to have open shots couldn't find the net, and it turns out a two-goal lead wasn't sufficient to come away with a win.
The penalty minutes racked up quickly, as the refs seemed determined to call anything that bore any resemblance to an actual infraction. Both teams enjoyed 5-on-3 advantages at times during the game, but only Philly could capitalize. Overall, it was a much better outing for the Caps than when last they met the Flyers -- in Philadelphia on December 20, when they lost 7-1. It was no less a disappointment, however, as Philly is the only team in the Eastern Conference against which Washington has a losing record this season (1-2-0).
The Caps will face the Flyers once more in the regular season, on March 12 in Philadelphia.
Final score: Caps 2, Flyers 4.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Sergei Federov, Shaone Morrisonn, and Brooks Laich scored goals in the decisive 5-2 win over the Penguins yesterday. The Pens' interim coach Dan Bylsma pulled goalie Marc-Andre' Fleury after the Caps went up 4-2 in the second period and replaced him with Mathieu Garon.
The Caps penalty kill was a major factor in the win. The Pens managed only one goal in eight power play chances totalling over 14 minutes, including almost a minute of 5-on-3. The Caps picked up two power play goals in three opportunities.
Crosby had a few choice words for Ovi at the end of the second period, as Ovi returned to the bench. Words and shoves were exchanged, and Ovi sent Crosby off to the locker rooms with a wave.
The Caps are now 3-0 against Pittsburgh this season. The two teams will meet one more time this season, on March 8 in DC.
The Russians were the stars of this game: Federov was named First Star, Ovi was Second Star, and Third Star went to Semin.
Final score: Caps 5, Pens 2 (W).
Friday, February 20, 2009
It was not a good outing for Jose' Theodore as he faced his former teammates. He made a few great saves, and missed a few that seemed routine. The offense offered little to help Theo, with just one goal from Nicklas Backstrom.
Once again, the Caps yielded a win to a Western Conference foe. They're now 7-10-0 against Western teams, and 30-7-5 against Eastern Teams. The Caps will face the Penguins on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at Verizon Center in the NBC NHL Game of the Week.
Final score: Caps 1, Avalanche 4 (L).
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The Habs have struggled lately. Their power play has been anemic, converting only three goals in 26 opportunities in the last 7 games. Alex Kovalev, MVP of the All Star Game, wasn't allowed to make the road trip with the Canadiens, as the team hopes sitting out the games against Washington and Pittsburgh will help him break out of his current slump.
It was a very physical matchup, with the Canadiens delivering 20 hits and the Caps, 19. The Habs took advantage of the Caps' penalties to revive their power play, scoring three power play goals. The Caps put up three markers of their own, each one worthy of highlight reel. The first, by Alex Ovechkin, is the talk of the town, with a move only Ovi could pull off. The second, from Nicklas Backstrom, came off a beautiful give-and-go with Sergei Federov. The third, with just over two minutes left in the third, came courtesy of a David Steckel deflection off a shot from Tom Poti after Steckel won the face-off. Regulation ended with the score tied at 3-3, and both teams were held scoreless in overtime. Off to the shootout!
Fortunately for the Caps, Alexander Semin was back in this game and took the first puck in the shootout, scoring a goal on Carey Price. Backstrom followed and also scored. Jose' Theodore held the Habs scoreless in the shootout, leading to a Caps victory. Final score: Caps 4, Canadiens 3.
Next game: Capitals Vs. Colorado Avalanche on Friday, February 20 at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Ovi and Eric Fehr get some instructions on playing the Wii.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sunday's game against the Panthers looked quite different from Saturday's game against the Lightning. The Caps had less energy (understandable, given there were only 19 hours between the end of one road game and the start of the next). They also took a ton of penalties -- eight minors. Even so, the Caps held on for three periods to come away with a win.
The story of the game, as it is in so many, is Alex Ovechkin. He scored two goals on Tomas Vokoun and one empty-netter to record his eight career hat trick, and his second in two weeks. Fans could see his determination building throughout the game as he took eight shots on goal, scoring one in the first and two in the third. The team needed him to come through in this game, and he came through in a big way.
Mike Green's consecutive game goal streak ended on Sunday, but Eric Fehr's continues: he scored his fourth consecutive, and his sixth in seven games. Nicklas Backstrom had another two-point game, as he had assists on two of Ovi's goals.
The Caps are 13 points ahead of Florida in the Southeast Division.
The Boys in Red will enjoy a day off today with their fathers before getting back to business in DC. Their next game is at home on Wednesday, February 18 at 7:30 p.m. against the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal has lost five of its last six games, and 10 of the last 13.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Michal Neuvirth made his NHL debut in goal against the Lightning. With his dad watching from a suite above the ice, Neuvirth showed he's got what it takes to compete at this level. His glove was "Lightning" fast as he made 31 saves in the game, starting with a couple of saves in the first period against Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier. He allowed only one goal in three periods (which was actually deflected off the stick of teammate Staffan Kronwall).
Alexander Semin started the scoring for the Caps with a goal off a give-and-go with Nicklas Backstrom in the first. He went on to record two assists for a three point night, earning him a Second Star designation for the game. Semin now has points in 19 of his last 21 games. Semin's goal was followed by goals from Alex Ovechkin and Shaone Morrisonn (his second of the season).
As everyone expected, the night belonged to Mike Green. All eyes were on Green from the first puck drop to see if he would lay claim to the title of "most consecutive game goals by an NHL defenseman" and Green didn't disappoint. Following his power play goal in the second, the entire Washington team converged on the ice to congratulate their teammate and celebrate his achievement. Green also walked away with First Star of the game. Mike's father Dave Green was there to proudly watch as his son made history. If he scores again today, he'll tie the franchise record for consecutive game goals by players in any position, held jointly by Alan Haworth (1985-1986) and Mike Gartner (1986-1987).
Eric Fehr put up his fifth goal in six games. Fehr says he hasn't changed the way he plays; he's doing what he's always been doing, but the pucks are going in. To outside observers, since Chris Clark has been sidelined with a wrist injury, it looks like Fehr has stepped up his game and proven that he deserves his position on this team. Fehr led the team with six shots on goal last night.
Kronwall had two shots on goal, a hit, and a blocked shot in 12:46 of ice time in his debut with the Capitals.
The Caps are doing some of the things they know they have to do to play beyond the regular season. They took only three minor penalties last night and allowed no power play goals during six minutes of penalty killing. They improved their road record to a game over .500 (13-12-4) for the first time this season. And, much to the delight of their fans, they didn't play down to the level of their competition, as they've been known to do on several occasions this season.
Apparently there was a celebration in the locker room after the game involving shaving cream (instigated by Ovi, of course). The Caps didn't have too much time for celebrating, though; they had to head over to Sunrise, Florida to prepare for their 5:00 matchup with the Panthers. The Caps defeated the Panthers at home just eight days ago, 3-1.
Nex game: Caps vs. Panthers (away), on Sunday, February 15 at 5:00. GO CAPS!!!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The game had an eventful start, with fights involving Donald Brashear and Matt Bradley coming just minutes into the first period. Jay Beagle, who was called up from Hershey for the game, skated on the energy line with Brash and Brads. Beagle earned respect from his teammates, delivering three shots on goal, two hits and two takeaways in 7:41 of ice time.
The Rangers made a concerted effort to contain the offensive artillery of Alex Ovechkin, with two defenders covering him during most of the game. Ovi didn't make it easy for them, though; he delivered 13 hits in the game. He also had an assist on the first goal from Mike Green. Green tied an NHL record for most consecutive goals by a defenseman with his 20th of the season, and he went on to score a second goal in the game. Tomas Fleischman and Eric Fehr also recorded goals in regulation.
The Caps found themselves in penalty trouble once again in this game, logging five minors in the third period including a double-minor to Shaone Morrisonn. Jose' Theodore and the Caps' penalty kill unit successfully defended over nine minutes of short-handed play, however, leaving the score tied 4-4 at the end of regulation. No goals were scored in overtime, which led to a shootout. With the Rangers up by 1, Ovi put one in the net to force a fourth round. The Rangers' Ryan Callahan rang a shot off the crossbar which hit the crease and glided through the paint into the goal, which, unbeknownst to Theodore, constitutes a valid goal in the shootout. The Rangers were again up by 1. Brooks Laich was unable to connect on his ensuing opportunity; the Rangers won 5-4. The Caps came away with a point, and Mike Green was named Second Star of the Game.
The Caps are now in third place in the Eastern Conference, just a point behind the New Jersey Devils. They have the opportunity to gain four points this weekend as they play back-to-back games against Tampa Bay and Florida.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The Caps have won all three games they've played against the Rangers this season. If they win tonight in regulation, it would be the first time the Caps have ever taken all available points from their matchups with Rangers for a season.
Wingers Alexander Semin and Viktor Kozlov are both questionable for tonight's game, so the Caps have called up Hershey Bear Jay Beagle in case both have to sit the game out. Look for Jose' Theodore to start in net, backed by Michal Neuvirth. Backup goalie Brent Johnson had surgery to repair a hip injury yesterday; no word yet on the extent of his procedure or expected recovery.
Game time is 7:00 p.m.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Mike Green also got recognition recently in an article on Sports Illustrated.com. (Just ignore the error in the article stating that Mike scored the first goal in the game against the LA Kings, which was actually scored by LW Alexander Semin. Mike scored the second goal of that game.)
Lucky for Caps fans, he's going to be around Washington for a while. Congratulations again, Mike! (c) Photo by Sharon Taylor
Sunday, February 8, 2009
The Caps didn't look like the same team who hosted the LA Kings last Thursday. Other than scoring the first goal early in the game (Eric Fehr's tally just 33 seconds after the first puck drop), there were few similarities between the two contests, especially the defensive performance. There were fewer penalties, and the Caps finally ended a 13-game streak of allowing at least one goal during the penalty kill.
Mike Green continues to set the bar higher and higher for NHL defenseman. Last night, he scored not one but two goals, one on the power play and one empty-netter. He now has 19 goals, 14 power play goals, and 46 points on the season. He leads NHL defenseman in all three categories.
Fehr's goal was the third he's scored in four games (he now has six for the season). In his last five games, he had 20 shots. Prior to that, he had 58 total shots in 28 games.
With five minutes left in the game and the Caps leading by just one goal, Shaone Morrisonn put his teammates in a precarious position when he checked Panthers forward Cory Stillman into the boards from behind. Morrisonn was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct. The Caps were already on a penalty kill at the time, with Sergei Fedorov in the box for interference; now they had to defend a 5-on-3 for just over a minute and play the remainder of the game 5-on-4. The penalty kill unit came through big for the Caps, stopping seven shots during the final five minutes to preserve their lead. Green gave the Caps an insurance goal with just over a minute left when he sent the puck 168 feet into the empty net after the Panthers pulled Goalie Tomas Vokoun for the extra skater.
Jose' Theodore earned first star of the game for blocking 20 shots and allowing just one goal, and David Steckel's assist, 7-for-11 (64%) faceoff performance, and four blocked shots during the penalty kill earned him second star.
Final score: Caps 3, Panthers 1. The Caps will face the Panthers again in just a week when they travel to Florida to play the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina in back-to-back away games next weekend.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
Alexander Semin scored the first goal of the game just 15 seconds after the first drop of the puck, the fastest Washington has scored this season.
Alex Ovechkin scored the 200th goal of his NHL career in his 296th game. Only four players have done it faster.
Mike Green scored his fifth goal in five games, setting a club record for the most consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman.
Remarkable accomplishments all, but not enough to help the Caps overcome the Los Angeles Kings on a night when a team fighting to achieve a playoff berth in the Western conference appeared more determined to earn the win. Going into the third period, the Caps were down 4-2, and Ovi's 200th brought the Caps to within a goal of tying. With 1:33 left in regulation, the Kings scored an insurance goal. Brooks Laich's tip-in goal with 1:06 left again closed the gap to only a goal. The Caps took several face-offs in the Kings' zone in the last minute and fired shot after shot in an attempt to force the game into overtime, but Kings goalie Jonathon Quick continued to make spectacular saves on some of the best guys in the business to give his team the win. Final score: Kings 5, Capitals 4.
While Johnny recuperates, Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth will be called up from Hershey to fill in. General Manager George McPhee has indicated the Caps are not looking for anyone outside the Caps system to replace Johnny. Varlamov is out right now himself with a knee injury, but is expected to return soon. Neuvirth suited up on Thursday for the Kings game, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. He may even get a start sometime next weekend when the Caps have back-to-back games in Florida against the Lightning and the Panthers.
Best wishes for a successful procedure and speedy recovery, Johnny!
Thursday, February 5, 2009
All of this comes from a very busy guy: he ranks 10th in the NHL with average ice time per game of 25:33.
Those are amazing accomplishments, and many are starting to speculate as to how strong a candidate Green is to win the Norris Trophy.
In addition to his contributions to the team, Mike Green is also a great guy. He gives back to the community and his fans by providing tickets to deserving children and families of soldiers and low-income families through the Most Valuable Kids program.
You can read more about Mike Green "In The Spotlight" on NHL.com.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The Caps are back home tomorrow for a rare visit from the Los Angeles Kings, then Saturday the Florida Panthers will come to call at the Verizon Center. Despite having to deal with yet another round of injuries, fans should expect the Caps to play with the level of enthusiasm and energy appropriate for a team destined for the playoffs. They know the areas they need to improve to make it past the regular season, and they've proven they have what it takes to face off against the best teams in the NHL.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Another Caps player who made the trip, Viktor Kozlov, started the game but left after the first period with a "groin tweak." Not sure how serious the situation is yet. His absence left the Caps' bench short-handed for the remainder of the game and was obviously felt on the ice as Coach Bruce Boudreau juggled his lines to fend off the Devils, who were determind to keep their eight-game winning streak alive.
Let's just hope this isn't the start of another long run of injuries like the one the Caps suffered in November and December. Get well soon, guys!
Coach Boudreau also declined to identify the planned line combinations, so as not to give his opponent any advance information to work with, but he did say they would be different from last Sunday's game against Ottawa. I wouldn't expect any radical changes, though; moving C Nicklas Backstrom and LW/RW Alexander Semin to new lines and different combinations seemed to be pretty effective. It will be interesting to see if they stay that way.
Monday, February 2, 2009
So, what's up with Clark? Turns out he's been plagued by a wrist injury suffered in training camp that hasn't healed. Caps General Manager George McPhee announced today that Clark will have surgery on Thursday to repair the wrist, which will take Clark out for the rest of the regular season. There's a possibility he could be back if the Caps make it deep into the playoffs.
Coach Bruce Boudreau stands behind Clark retaining his role as captain when he's healthy and returns to active status. Caps fans wish Chris Clark a speedy recovery!
The Devils are riding an eight-game winning streak. They're 32-15-3 overall, just one point behind Washington in the Eastern Conference. They're 15-8-1 at home.
Devils Captain RW Jamie Langenbrunner is hot, hot, hot right now. He has three straight two-goal games. He was named the NHL's First Star of the Week for last week and of the Month for January. Here is what teammate C Travis Zajac had to say about his team captain after their overtime win against Pittsburgh on January 30: "He's playing with a lot of confidence right now and burying all his chances. He's working hard and playing hard and making smart plays. As a leader and the captain of this team that's what we expect from him and he's doing a great job."
Goalie Scott Clemmensen, who is the starting goaltender while Martin Brodeur recovers from elbow surgery, is 22-9-1, with a .920 Save % and 2.29 GAA. One of Clemmensen's wins came against the Caps in OT in New Jersey on November 15. The Caps played the Devils in back-to-back games that weekend, with the Caps getting the win in regulation at home on November 14.
The Devils have seven players who have recorded 10 or more goals this season, including Patrick Elias and All-Star Zach Parise. They have four solid offensive lines and three effective d-lines. RW Brendan Shanahan has recorded three goals in four games since returning to the Devils on January 10.
The Caps' record on the road currently stands at 11-12-3, and they are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. To get the win against the Devils, the Caps will need strong goaltending (the Devils have scored 30 goals during their 8-game winning streak) and an impressive offensive performance (NJ has allowed only 125 goals this season, the fifth-fewest in the NHL).
The game begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 3 and will be broadcast on Versus.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
- Both the Caps' goalies improved their records. Jose' Theodore got the win on Saturday against Detroit; Brent Johnson on Sunday against Ottawa.
- Alex Ovechkin proved once more why he is indeed the Great 8: he scored goals on Saturday, and earned his second hat trick of the season (and 7th in his career) on Sunday. He leads the NHL with 36 goals on the season. His next goal will be the 200th of his NHL career.
- Mike Green scored a goal in each game, had an assist on Saturday and three on Sunday, for a combined six points in two games.
- Niklas Backstrom, who was moved to the second line with Tomas Fleischman and Eric Fehr for these two games, had two assists in each game and an empty net goal on Sunday.
- Fehr had two of the best games he's had all season, taking 5 shots on Saturday and scoring a goal on Sunday.
- Sergei Fedorov had three assists on Sunday.
- Defenseman Tom Poti was back on the ice for the Caps after missing 15 games with a groin injury, and the blue line was much stronger than they were when he was out.
- The Power Play Unit was excellent on Sunday against the Senators. Just 3 seconds into their first pp of the game, the Caps won the faceoff and Green scored. Less than a minute later, 4 seconds into their second pp, the Caps again won the faceoff and this time Green passed to Ovi, who scored.
- Both games were sold out at Verizon Center, and the Caps treated over 18,000 fans each day to a reminder of why this team is leading the Southest Division. Their record is now 21-3-1 at home, second best in the NHL.
This week will be a busy one for the Caps as the they look to extend their 2-game winning streak. On Tuesday, they travel to New Jersey to face the Devils, who trail the Caps by just a point in the Eastern Conference. Then they come back home to face the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday and the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
They may not have agreed upon the game's outcome, but the players did agree on one thing: it was a fun event. They might have taken it a little too seriously (Coach Boudreau had to pull them aside at one point during the game and remind them to lighten up), but they had a great time, and so did the 200 or so club members and youth hockey players who were on hand to watch.
Today's practice is going to be a little different. Weather permitting, the Caps will play a scrimmage outside this afternoon. That's right, the Caps are going 3-on-3 with a little pond hockey at Chevy Chase Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Johnny and Theo are the team captains and drafted their own players. The rosters look like this:
Defense: Green, Poti, Pothier, Jurcina
Forwards: Brashear, Kozlov, Nylander, Backstrom, Fleischman, Fedorov
Defense: Erskine, Schultz, Morrisonn
Forwards: Laich, Gordon, Semin, Clark, Fehr, Steckel, Ovechkin, Bradley
This event is closed to the public but should be a lot of fun for the players. Tomorrow morning's 10:30 a.m. practice at Kettler is open to the public as usual.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Just seven seconds into the game, Washington went on the power play, courtesy of a high-sticking call against Marc Savard. The Bruins were successful in the penalty kill, but just as Savard stepped out of the box, Mike Green scored on a pass from Alexander Ovechkin to Alexander Semin to Green. The Bruins answered a few minutes later when a pass from Ovi was intercepted by Boston, leading to a goal by Shawn Thornton. Play continued with the score tied 1-1 through the first period. As the clock wound down, Tomas Fleischmann skated in toward goal and took a shot. He captured his own rebound and passed the puck to Michael Nylander, who tapped it in with just 20.7 seconds left in the first. The Caps were up 2-1.
As expected, the game turned into a display of defensive maneuvers. Jose Theodore and Tim Thomas were each called upon to make a number of impressive saves in the second period. With 5:48 left in the second, the Bruins were on a power play courtesy of a hooking call against Nylander when Savard scored his 17th goal of the season off a pass from Patrice Bergeron, who was back after missing 15 games following a concussion suffered in a game against Carolina on December 20. The game was tied 2-2.
Caps fans saw their worst fear materialize a few seconds later when Zdeno Chara hooked Alex Ovechkin as he skated full-speed into the offensive zone, causing Ovi to lose his balance and slam into the boards. His head and right shoulder seemed to bear the brunt of the impact. Ovi lay on the ice for several minutes afterward – an extremely unusual event for the NHL’s reigning MVP. Ovi headed off to the locker room and missed the remainder of the period to get checked out by the team’s trainer.
The good news for Caps fans was that Ovi was back for the third period, appearing none the worse for wear. Unfortunately, just a few seconds into the third Alexander Semin was hit in the throat by an out-of-control stick belonging to Chuck Kobasew. The Caps were unable to score on the ensuing power play, but Semin was able to return to the ice with no apparent injury.
Play continued through the third, with each team taking its share of shots but no goals scored. On to overtime! Bad news for the Caps, since they were hoping to gain two points on their Eastern Conference rival but now could only hope for one, at best. Didn’t turn out that way, though, as Niklas Backstrom’s shot in OT was denied by Tim Thomas. Heading back into the defensive zone, Backstrom was called for hooking and sent to the box. Boston scored on the power play, with a goal from David Krejci. Final score: 3-2, Bruins.
Boston now has 75 points on the season to Washington’s 64. The Caps’ next game will be at home against another powerhouse in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, on January 31.
Boston is the only team in the Eastern conference with more points than Washington. Ten points separate the first and second place teams. A win for the Caps tonight would close the gap to eight. But it's not going to be easy! Tim Thomas, goaltender for the Bruins, is very hot right now. His record for this season is 20-5-4, with a .934 save percentage (Sv%) and 2.09 goals against average (GAA). Jose Theodore, who will start in net tonight for the Caps, is 17-9-1, with a .898 Sv% and 2.81 GAA. The Bruins also have many other talented players, including Center Marc Savard and Defenseman Zdeno Chara, both of whom went to the All-Stars along with Thomas.
Both teams have been plagued by injuries this season, but several players are expected to return to the lineup tonight for both teams. Fans can probably expect another low-scoring game, with each team putting on a dazzling defensive show and both goalies called upon to make quite a few saves. Caps fans will be watching for the type of spectular goalscoring they've come to expect from Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and the rest of the Caps.
Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins will be broadcast on Versus at 7 p.m. tonight.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Coach Boudreau got the call he'd always dreamed about in November 2007: he was named interim coach of the Washington Capitals, who were in last place in the NHL at the time. A month later, the "interim" tag was dropped (meaning Boudreau could unpack his belongings -- the job of coach was officially his). Coach Boudreau lost no time in turning the Capitals' season around, leading them to a first place finish in the Southeast Division and a Stanley Cup playoff berth. For his outstanding accomplishments in the 2007-2008 season, Coach Boudreau received the Jack Adams Award.
Congratulations, Coach Boudreau!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
The fans were obviously impressed as well. Ovi received 42% of the votes (fans voted by text message), winning the Breakaway Challenge for the second year in a row. If you missed it, check out the video.
Fans familiar with Alex Ovechkin weren't surprised to see his personality on display in Montreal; in fact, they've grown accustomed to it. It's apparent Ovi not only understands how important fans are to the NHL, he thrives on their participation. He incorporates an unrivaled level of showmanship to his play. He frequently slams himself into the glass in celebration after scoring a goal. He waves his hands in the air to encourage the fans to cheer. Heck, he even likes getting booed, saying it pushes him harder. As long as the fans are engaged and having a good time, that's the way Ovi likes it.
Ovi demonstrates his awesome personality off the ice as well. In 2006, he started a program called Ovi's Crazy 8s. Each year Ovi purchases eight season tickets and donates them to the Most Valuable Kids program, which distributes them to soldiers and their families or to children in low-income or underserved households.
With his amazing talent and enthusiasm for the game, Ovi's future knows no bounds, and Capitals fans will surely enjoy watching it unfold before their eyes. Those lucky enough to see him play in person will certainly have many stories to tell future generations.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
It appears their personal rivalry may be put to rest this weekend during All-Star festivities. Washington Post Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir posted a picture of Ovi and Geno sharing what appears to be a warm handshake, and Ovi himself mentioned the pic in a recent Twitter update. He seems pleased to at least be making progress toward restoring relations with his former teammate. Now is a good time for the two NHL superstars to restore their friendship, as they'll likely be teammates again for their home country in the future.
Let's hope we'll only see professional rivalry between Ovi and Geno as they lead their teams through the second half of the 2009 NHL season.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Alex Ovechkin was selected to participate in the All-Stars, although he wasn't voted in by the fans (a huge surprise, since Ovi is so popular). Alexander Semin wasn't selected or voted in, despite having an amazing season in which he was named First Star for the month of October, and currently being second in the NHL in points per game and and third in goals per game. Semin missed 18 games this season due to a back injury while All-Star voting was taking place, which may explain why he wasn't selected.
The All-Star Game is an opportunity for the best players in the entire National Hockey League to face off against each other. Players who are fierce competitors during the rest of the season form two teams to see which Conference, Eastern or Western, can dominate the other. Players are selected to participate in the All-Star Game by fan voting. This year's game is being held on Sunday, January 25 at 6 p.m. EST at Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. This is the 57th playing of the All-Star Game.
The starting lineup for the All-Stars looks like this:
Sidney Crosby (C, Penguins) -- "Sid the Kid" received over 1.7 million votes, a new record. Unfortunately, he will not be able to play due to injury.
Evgeni Malkin (C, Penguins)
Alexei Kovalev (RW, Canadiens)
Andrei Markov (D, Canadiens)
Mike Komisarek (D, Canadiens)
Carey Price (G, Canadiens)
Patrick Kane (RW, Blackhawks)
Jonathon Toews (C, Blackhawks)
Ryan Getzlaf (C, Ducks)
Brian Campbell (D, Blackhawks)
Scott Niedermayer (D, Ducks)
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (G, Ducks)
Many other great players round out the complete roster. All teams in the NHL are represented by at least one player.
The game will be broadcast on the Versus television network. You'll also want to watch the Honda/NHL Superskills Challenge on Saturday, January 24 at 7 p.m. on Versus to see your favorite NHL stars showcase their talent.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
So, where is Ovi right now? In Montreal, preparing to represent the Caps in the All-Star game on Sunday. This is Ovi's third appearance in the All-Stars. He will also be defending his title in the Breakaway Challenge.
The Caps will be back in action on the road against Boston on Tuesday, January 27. The Caps defeated Boston 2-1 at Verizon Center on January 17 in what proved to be a tight defensive match-up, and their next meeting should be similar.