Saturday, March 21, 2009

Caps Down the Bolts Despite Bad Calls

I have three sons who play youth hockey. One of the things I try to drill into their heads after every game is, "Don't focus on the bad calls." I've explained to them that while the rules for fair play are clearly defined, referees are human like the rest of us and they must rely on their interpretation of events during fast action to ensure fair play for both teams, and it's unavoidable that occasionally they make mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes favor your team, sometimes they don't. Either way, players need to focus their attention on playing their best hockey, not second-guessing the refs.

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

Caps Visit Lightning

If there is a team the Capitals should be excited to see, it's the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Caps are a perfect 3-0 against the Bolts this season. In each of those three outings, the Caps have secured a nice lead for themselves in the first period, scoring three unanswered goals, each time against a different netminder. Tonight's matchup will offer the Caps an opportunity to pummel yet another goalie, as Olie Kolzig is no longer a Bolt and Mike Smith and Mike McKenna are both out with injury.

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

Caps Headed for the Big 1-0-0

The Caps appear well on their way to securing a 100+ point season. With 10 games left to play, they've already tied their 94 point total from last season. Three more wins will put them in triple digits. The last time they went over 100 was the 1999-2000 season, when they racked up 102 points and won the Southeast Division.

Capitals Play Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde

How can the same team play such different games against two teams from their own division only 24 hours apart? It was like watching a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde transformation.

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

SO Decides Contest with Canes

The Canes scored first. Then the Caps took control and grabbed a 2-goal lead. The Canes came back in the final period to tie it up. No scoring in OT, and it took a shootout to decide this one.

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

Gotta Love Them Caps!!

What a week it has been for the Washington Capitals! They finished up a long home stretch with a disappointing record: 3-5-1 (plus a road win against Boston). Prior to those 10 games, the Caps had enjoyed being known as one of the hardest teams to beat in their own barn. The final game of the home stretch, last Sunday against the Pens, went to overtime, where Sidney Crosby was the deciding factor in the shootout -- ouch!

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

Why Was Poti A "Now You See Me, Now You Don't" Last Night?

Here's an interesting tidbit from Japers' Rink, one of the premier Capitals bloggers. Why did Capitals Defenseman Tom Poti skate the first 7 seconds of the game last night, when he (probably) already knew he wouldn't be able to stay in the game? Why didn't Coach Bruce Boudreau just call up another D from Hershey prior to the start of the game to take Poti's place? Turns out there was a good reason: by playing in the game and then going on injured reserve status, Poti enables the Caps to make an emergency call-up to replace him. The reason that is important is that NHL teams are only allowed to make 4 call-ups after the trade deadline, but emergency call-ups don't count toward the 4.

Sounds like a wise move, but it sure would be nice to see Poti fully recovered from his nagging groin injury and be back in the game to stay. He's an important part of the Caps' defense, a great puck mover and capable of moving defenders away from the net.

Capitals 4 Kids did not know about the post-deadline call-up restriction. It's always fun to learn something new, especially about hockey. Thanks for the info, Japers'!

Gerber Impresses the Leafs as They Defeat the Capitals, 2-1

Toronto Goalie Martin Gerber was anxious to prove to his new team they made a good decision in picking him up off waivers. If he was nervous during his first game in a Leaf jersey, it didn't show. He stopped 37 shots from the Washington Capitals, and had a shutout for 59 of 60 minutes.

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

Leafs Pay the Caps a Visit, Minus One of Their Two New Goalies

The Capitals host the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Verizon Center. Toronto picked up two goalies this week: Martin Gerber, formerly an Ottawa Senator, off waivers; and former Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig, courtesy of a trade deal with Tampa Bay. Don't expect to see Olie in net at Verizon Center, though; he's still recovering from arm surgery. In fact, it's possible Olie may never see ice time in a Leaf jersey. He stated a while back that he may end up retiring if his recovery doesn't go as well as planned.

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

Congrats to Mike Green -- AGAIN!

Congratulations to Defenseman Mike Green on being selected the NHL's Second Star for the month of February. Mike set a new NHL record for defensemen by scoring goals in 8 consecutive games between Jan. 27 and Feb. 14. He was second in scoring among all players in the NHL for the month of February, racking up 20 points in 13 games. Mike currently leads all defensemen for the 2008-2009 season with 23 goals and 56 points, despite missing 13 games due to injury.

Way to go, Mike! A well-deserved honor!

No Trades for Caps

3:00 p.m. today was the deadline for NHL teams to trade players for the remainder of this season. The Caps elected not to make any last-minute trades. There had been rumors the Caps would try to get a veteran defenseman on the roster, such as Anaheim's Chris Pronger. Turns out the price was too high, so the Capitals' General Manager George McPhee decided not to pursue the trade.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Day in the Life of Greenie

DON'T MISS "A Day in the Life" on NHL Network tonight at 7 p.m. as they follow Mike Green around for a day. Known for breaking NHL records and sporting a distinctive faux-hawk hairstyle, Mike gives viewers a taste of what life is like for one of the NHL's leading defensemen. He scores two goals in the game, after Alex Ovechkin tries to take his head off during a little pre-game hot rodding through the parking garage. It's all in a day's work.

The One That Got Away

Caps Vs. Flyers, part 3: Verizon Center, February 24. The Caps scored early, thanks to Nicklas Backstrom's goal at just 1:48 in the first. The next tally came from Alex Ovechkin in the second, and the Caps' maintained their 2-0 lead halfway through the third. Then the Flyers took over, scoring four consecutive unanswered goals and stealing this game from the Caps.

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

Ovechkin Sends Penguins Packing With A Wave

Sid the Kid came to DC yesterday and had plenty to say. Throughout three periods of play at Verizon Center, Sidney Crosby tried to make his presence known with jabs -- verbal and physical. What he didn't do was bring his game. He had no goals and one assist in the game. Evgeni Malkin, NHL points leader and rival/friend of Alex Ovechkin, was also held to just one assist.

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

Disappointing Loss for Caps

It's hard to say exactly what went wrong for the Caps tonight against the Avalanche... except maybe everything. Too many penalties. Offense, defense, goaltending? Against the worst team in the Western Conference? Hellooooo?????

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).

Colorado Avalanche Visit Verizon Center Tonight

Jose' Theodore plays against his former teammates tonight as the Colorado Avalanche visit the Capitals at Verizon Center. Jose' signed a two-year deal with the Caps last July when he couldn't reach an agreement for a contract extension with the Avs. He goes into tonight's matchup with well-earned confidence, given the record for his last 20 starts of 14-4-1 with a 2.39 GAA and .915 Sv%.

The Caps have struggled at home against Western Conference opponents this season, with three of their four losses coming at the hands of teams from the West. The Caps will be looking to improve that stat and to extend their current three-game winning streak. The game starts at 7:00 and will be broadcast on Comcast SportNet.

GO CAPS!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Highlight Reel, Anyone?

Sometimes, a few moments of greatness in an anotherwise forgettable outing is what it takes to win a hockey game. Such was the case last night when the Canadiens came to Verizon Center.

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

Goalie Brent Johnson Recovering from Hip Surgery

Goalie Brent Johnson underwent hip surgery last week to repair an injury that's been plaguing him for quite a while. He revealed yesterday the damage was a bit more extensive than anticipated, but he's recovering nicely. He's not sure if he'll make it back in time for the playoffs, but he's anxious to get back to practice as soon as he's able. We're anxious to see you back and healthy too, Brent!

Welcome to F Street!

The line combination of #16 Eric Fehr-#91 Sergei Federov-#14 Tomas Fleischmann has been unofficially dubbed "F Street" by Brett Leonhardt, the Caps' website producer/backup-backup goalie.

Fehr has been fehr-ocious lately, serving up six goals and three assists in his last eight games. He's currently on a four-game goal streak. His recent contributions were recognized today in Ted's Take by owner Ted Leonsis and in an article by the Washington Post. Way to go, Eric! Keep it up!!!

...And a Few More Pics










Eric Fehr colors with 22-month-old Robby and signs an autograph for another young fan.





Matt Bradley tries out a racing game with a buddy.

More Pics from the Caps' Visit to CNMC


Ovi and Eric Fehr get some instructions on playing the Wii.




Ovi and Semin get a little post-practice workout on the Wii (above).




Dr. Bear does a little dance with a lovely young partner (left).
Matt Bradley tries out the Wii with some new friends (above), while David Steckel signs autographs for a few young fans (left).















Caps Visit Children's National Medical Center

The Caps brought smiles to kids’ faces yesterday as they paid a visit to the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, David Steckel, Matt Bradley, and Eric Fehr signed autographs, posed for pictures, and played video games with many of the patients at Children’s yesterday afternoon. It was a bright moment for children going through a difficult time, and a special memory they will always carry with them.

Children’s National Medical Center is a nationally-renowned hospital that provides the best medical care available for young patients using the latest technology. They have an ongoing relationship with the Washington Capitals in an effort to make staying in the hospital a little less daunting for kids. Last week, several of the players’ wives spent time at Children’s making valentines and crafts with patients.
It's hard to say who had more fun yesterday, the kids or the players. I'm pretty sure I know who won most of the games, though: the kids!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Michal Neuvirth's New Mask

Check out Michal Neuvirth's new mask.

Hats Off to Ovi, Again!

It's good to have the NHL MVP on your team. Really, really good.

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

Happy Valentine's Day from the Boys in Red

It was a sweet Valentine's Day for the Washington Capitals. They were in Tampa Bay for the second game of a three-game road trip, and since this is Mentor's Weekend, many of the players' fathers were along to spend time with their sons. And what a dazzling display the boys put on!

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

Tough Loss for Caps at MSG

The Rangers were desperate for a win when the Caps showed up at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. It took overtime and a shootout, but eventually, they got it.

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

Capitals Take On the Rangers at MSG

The Caps kick off a 3-game road trip tonight at Madison Square Garden, facing the New York Rangers. The Rangers are anxious to turn around their current 5-game losing streak. Their most recent defeat came at the hands of the New Jersey Devils, who dealt the Rangers a 3-0 shutout. The Rangers are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, and each game is critical at this point since each team in 4th-7th holds only a one point lead over the next team. The 8th place team is only two points back. Every win or loss moves these teams around in the standings, offering the possibility for losing a playoff berth.

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

It's Getting to Be A Habit: Green Named NHL's Third Star of the Week

Capitals Defenseman Mike Green was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week for the second week in a row. By now, it's easy to take Green's success for granted. But that would be a big mistake. Mike is only 23 years old; his career is just getting started. He works hard in every game, looking for opportunities to contribute on defense and offense. He logs 25:34 in average ice time per game, which is 9th in the NHL.

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

Panthers Came Looking for Points, Didn't Find Any

The Florida Panthers came to visit the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center last night, hoping to leave the building with two points in their quest to achieve a playoff berth. They left empty-handed.

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

Guys Working Hard, Having Fun at Practice

The Caps faced a tough loss against the LA Kings on Thursday, just their fourth of the season at Verizon Center. Afterward, they faced a tremendous amount of criticism of their play, from within and outside the team. Still, they showed up for practice Friday morning with the enthusiasm of a group of guys who love what they do. Judging by the smiles all around, the players had fun at practice. Hopefully, they will carry that positive attitude into the game against Florida on Saturday. (c) Sharon Taylor

Brooks Laich, suffering from a lower leg contusion incurred while blocking a shot in the Kings game, and Viktor Kozlov, suffering from a groin injury, did not practice, along with Chris Clark (who had surgery on his forearm yesterday) and Brent Johnson (who will have hip surgery soon). Karl Alzner has been recalled from Hershey and practiced with the team.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Notable Game Despite Not Getting the W

On a night that didn't end the way the Capitals wanted, nevertheless there were several notable achievements.

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.

Johnny to Have Hip Surgery

Capitals backup goalie Brent Johnson confirmed last night he will undergo hip surgery to resolve the problems he's dealt with all season, maybe as soon as early next week. He said the doctors won't be sure how extensive the procedure and recovery will be until they operate, but he expects to be out a minimum of a month and possibly ten weeks or longer.

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

Mike Green: the Best Offensive DMan in the NHL

Capitals Defenseman Mike Green is garnering a lot of attention these days, and rightly so. He's the leading NHL defenseman in goals (16), power-play goals (12) and points(42), despite missing 13 games this season due to injury. He has the fourth-highest point total on the Capitals team. He was named the Third Star of the Week by the NHL last week after racking up seven points in three games. He is currently on a four-game goal streak.

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.

Saturday is Kids' Day at Verizon Center

This Saturday, the first 5,000 kids entering the Verizon Center to see the Washington Capitals take on the Florida Panthers will take home a special souvenir: a Washington Capitals lunchbox. The retro metal box features images of Alex Ovechkin and other players. The coolest kids in school will be packing lunch in their new Capitals lunchboxes on Monday!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Caps Are Showing They Have What It Takes

Caps fans have been treated to some exciting hockey games since the All-Star Break. The Capitals have gone 3-0-1 in games which included the #1, #3, and #5 teams in the NHL. They most recently faced the New Jersey Devils, who came into Tuesday night's matchup riding an eight-game winning streak. The Caps scored two early power play goals, and went up 3-0 in the second. The Devils started a comeback by scoring on a 5-on-3 power play and, a few minutes later, a short-hander. That's as far as they would get, though, as the Caps went on to put the game away in the final minutes with another power-play goal and then an empty-netter.

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

Multi-Goal Game for Nyls

One of the great things to see in the game tonight was a multi-goal performance by Michael Nylander. All too often Nylander's contributions go unnoticed because they don't directly put points on the board. In fact, many Caps fans have been expecting to see Nyls traded soon. Tonight, he reminded everyone why he was brought to this team in the first place and was named First Star for his efforts. Congrats, and keep 'em coming, Nyls!

More Injury News

Just when everyone finally got healthy... the injury bug has bitten again. Turns out Chris Clark may not be the only player forced to resort to surgery. General Manager George McPhee announced prior to the game tonight that back-up goaltender Brent Johnson continues to suffer from a nagging hip injury and may need surgery. With Hershey's primary goaltender, Simeon Varlamov, also out injured, the Caps called up Hershey's backup goalie Michael Neuvirth to make the trip to New Jersey to back up Jose' Theodore.

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!

No Brads Tonight

Coach Bruce Boudreau has announced that Matt Bradley will be a healthy scratch tonight, for the sake of giving him a night off to rest. The move is a bit surprising, since New Jersey plays such a physical game and Brads is part of the energy line. He'll certainly be in fine form for the home games on Thursday and Saturday.

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.

GO CAPS!!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Caps Captain Off the Rink Indefinitely

Capitals Captain Chris Clark's season hasn't shaped up the way his team or his fans expected. He's contributed only one goal and five assists in 32 games. Clark only played 18 games last season, thanks to multiple injuries. He missed 14 games this season, and has been a healthy scratch on several occasions since returning in December.

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!

Mike Green Named NHL's Third Star of the Week

Congratulations to Mike Green on being named NHL's Third Star of the Week! Green scored three goals and four assists in three games. Way to go, Greenie!

Caps Head to NJ Tuesday

Here's a quick peek at what the Caps will face on Tuesday in New Jersey.

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

It's A Great Weekend to Be A Caps Fan

What a weekend for the Washington Capitals and their fans! Back-to-back day games, resulting in back-to-back wins for the Caps. Some highlights from the weekend:
  • 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

New Practice Time for Friday, January 30

Tomorrow's practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex has been rescheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m.

Team Theodore Wins DC Winter Classic Practice (They Think)

Team Theo, AKA the White Team, won the DC Winter Classic Practice today 11-10 at Chevy Chase Club. Or so they think. Team Johnny, AKA the Blue Team, thought they tied the game at the buzzer with a shot from Ovi off a pass from Semin. Coach Boudreau, in his capacity as referee/linesman, called the game for Team Theo.

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.

Caps Play Pond Hockey Today

The Washington Capitals have a great practice facility, Kettler Capitals Iceplex, located in Arlington, Virginia. The Caps practice at Kettler on most non-game days and have morning skate sessions there on home game days. The great part about Kettler for the fans is that practices and skate sessions are FREE and open to the public. Bleacher seats are provided, and fans get close-up views of their favorite hockey team. Caps practicing at Kettler. (c) Sharon Taylor

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:

Team Theodore
Goal: Theodore
Defense: Green, Poti, Pothier, Jurcina
Forwards: Brashear, Kozlov, Nylander, Backstrom, Fleischman, Fedorov

Team Johnson
Goal: Johnson
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

Ovi's Fine, According to the Coach

Ovi didn't skate in practice today, but Coach Bruce Boudreau assured everyone it was a planned day off, due to Ovi's participation in the All-Star activities. Coach Boudreau said Ovi was probably a little stiff from his crash into the boards last night, but he is not injured and should not miss any game time. Good news for Caps fans, as we were all holding our breath while Ovi was lying on the ice not moving.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Caps Come Away with a Point in Boston

The Caps faced off against the number one team in the Eastern Conference tonight, the Boston Bruins. Their last two match-ups, both at Verizon Center, ended in favor of the Caps. Tonight’s game was played at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston.

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.

Quest for the Cup: Part Two Starts Tonight

The second half of the season starts tonight in Boston for the Caps as they face the Bruins for the third time this season. The first two games, both in D.C., resulted in wins for Washington, most recently on January 17. But the Caps have been much better at home this season than they have been on the road. They know that to make the playoffs, they'll have to improve their record for away games, which currently stands at 11-12-2. Their record at home is the best in the Eastern Conference, at 19-3-1. Boston also has an excellent record at home: 17-3-2.

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

AHL All-Star Game

For a great chance to see some of the future stars of the NHL, catch the AHL All-Star Game tonight at 7 p.m. To find out where you can watch, check the broadcast schedule.

Way to Go, Gabby!

Congratulations to Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau on his induction into the AHL Hall of Fame today. Coach Boudreau played in the AHL from 1978-1992, racking up 316 goals (14th place in AHL history), 483 assists (11th place), and 799 points (also 11th) during his playing career. He then switched gears to coaching. From 1999-2007, he coached several AHL teams, leading the Hershey Bears to a Calder Cup Championship in 2006 and to the Finals in 2007.

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

Alex the Entertainer

Does anyone in the NHL have more fun on the ice than the Great 8? I think not. The man knows how to work an arena; just ask the crowd of 21,000+ at Bell Centre in Montreal last night. Never one to take himself (or anyone else, for that matter) too seriously, Ovi stole the show during the Breakaway Challenge with his antics. Midway through his allotted one minute, Ovi skated over to none other than Evgeni Malkin, donned sunglasses and a floppy hat, picked up a second stick and skated back to center. As he sailed down the ice toward the goal, he threw out his own stick and scored with a left shot. He seemed rather impressed with himself afterward.

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

Ovechkin and Malkin: Buddies Again?

Alexander Ovechkin (LW, Capitals) and Evgeni Malkin (C, Penguins) were friends, teammates and roommates during the 2006 Olympic Games. Recently, however, rumors have swirled around NHL circles that some type of altercation had occurred between the two Russians and they were no longer friends. Some fans have interpreted the fierce rivalry that takes place on the ice between two of the top players in the NHL whenever their teams meet as proof of their animosity. Ovi and Geno (as he is affectionately known around the Pens locker room) have each made comments on occasion that alluded to an ongoing air of hostility.

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

What If Someone Other Than Fans Chose All-Star Players?

For a different take on the NHL All-Star Game starting roster, take a look at the players Sports Illustrated would have chosen. It's interesting to see SI chose two Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, as starters for the Eastern Conference.

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.

NHL All-Star Game

So what's with all the buzz about the NHL All-Star Game?

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:

Eastern Conference

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)

Western Conference

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

Where are the Caps right now?

The Caps, with the exception of Alex Ovechkin, are on a well-deserved break. At the midpoint of the season, the Caps have their best record ever (30-15-3), which puts them in second place in the Eastern Conference behind the Boston Bruins.

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.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Welcome to Caps for Kids!

Welcome to a brand new blog for fans of the Washington Capitals who happen to be kids! The purpose of this blog is to help kids learn more about the amazing game of hockey, follow the progress of the most exciting team in the NHL, and get to know more about your favorite players.