Wednesday, December 31, 2008
"Brian Pothier is practicing with the team for the first time since suffering a devastating concussion last January. It was so unexpected, I did a double take when I saw him doing a two-on-one drill."
Pothier suffered a concussion last season courtesy of Milan Lucic, an injury that put his hockey career in jeopardy.
Pothier appeared in 38 games last season, scoring five goals, nine assists for a total of 14 points and was a +5.
I'm not expecting Pothier to be in the lineup anytime soon, but it's great news for Pothier, his family and the Capitals.
10. Quintin Laing
Laing's shot-blocking made him a fan favorite and was a small yet critical part of the Capitals' playoff run. Laing gave 110% every night he wore a Capitals sweater, and his efforts are being echoed in the 08-09 season by Tyler Sloan and other Hershey call-ups. When I think of players who sacrificed everything to help the Capitals make the playoffs, Laing is one of the first that comes to mind.
9. Sergei Fedorov
When GM George McPhee sent prospect Theo Ruth to Columbus for the aging Russian superstar, McPhee was hoping the old dog still had one good fight left in him. Not only did Fedorov have more than one good fight left, but his presence would transform fellow Russian Alexander Semin into a smart, mature player. Fedorov's leadership was a key part of the Capitals' playoff push and has helped mature a young team.
8. Brent Johnson
Talk about a team player, after spending the playoffs scratched and watching at home, Johnson has become one of the most important Capitals of 2008. When free-agent Jose Theodore failed to meet expectations at the beginning of the 08-09 season, Johnson rose to the occasion, providing solid goaltending through the month of November. Johnson's selflessness and heart make him one of the top Capitals of 2008.
7. George McPhee
When former coach Glen Hanlon was fired in 2007, many wondered if McPhee would soon follow. On the eve of 2009, McPhee still has his job and has assembled one of the best squads in Capitals history. McPhee's masterwork of 2008 was trading Theo Ruth for Sergei Fedorov and sending a second round draft pick to Montreal for Cristobal Huet. When the injury bug hit, McPhee displayed the organizational depth of the Capitals as four Hershey defensemen were dressed at the same time and helped contribute to Capitals' wins. The future looks bright, and Caps fans can send a few thanks to George McPhee for that.
6. Brooks Laich
Some players are born fan favorites, while others earn their fans. Brooks Laich not only earned his fans in 2008, but has become a key player for the Washington Capitals. When captain Chris Clark was injured in 2007, Laich rose to the occasion, scoring 21 goals and finishing with a career high of 37 points. Fans grew to love his heart-and-soul play as well as his quotes. How can you not love a guy who tells you, "When you want bread, go to the bakery; when you want goals, go to the net."
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The Capitals have 51 points in 38 games.
That's pretty darn good for a team whose top player slumped through October, didn't have solid goaltending until recently, hasn't fielded its opening day lineup since opening day, and at one point had four Hershey defensemen making up the defense lines.
Yeah, it really has been a roller coaster ride so far this season.
"There was less than a minute left in the game against Toronto when one of the other Washington Capitals found Alex Ovechkin, unguarded, with nothing but ice between him and an empty net.
Another score would be gravy. The Caps led 3 to 1, on two goals by Brooks Laich, and a nifty shot by Ovechkin at the close of the second period. Now, as the Capitals superstar turned toward the Toronto net, he could see Laich streaking down the other side of the rink, ready for the feed that would give him a hat trick.
Instead of passing, Ovechkin took the easy goal himself. He said after the game that he saw a blue Toronto jersey closing on Laich. If so, he has remarkable peripheral vision."
Being a superstar has its prerogatives, as well as its demands. The real greats in sports are selfish, driven, greedy. They want to score, and they know they are paid for spectacular performance. And the Laiches of the sporting world recognize that the Ovechkins are the meal tickets—that the fans paying exorbitant ticket prices do so to see Ovi perform."
Would I have loved to see Brooks get a hat-trick? Yes. Would I want Ovie to make a cross ice pass through a defenseman to do it? No. Ovechkin made the smart play and when you have an empty net, the smart play is better than the flashy play.
Here's some proof that when it comes to the empty net goal, you probably shouldn't screw around.
Ovie made the smart play and the "Laiches" of the world would agree.
Monday, December 29, 2008
All joking aside, how great would it be if someone showed up in a Red Jesus sweater. Hey, it's not like someone hasn't already shown up in a Brett Leonhardt sweater.
Tonight, the Capitals face the Buffalo Sabres, who are probably still a little sour about the last meeting between these two.
While the game was never out of reach for the Sabres, the slugs never controlled play. When it looked as if they might begin to take control, Alex Ovechkin went "super sonic" and unleashed a fury of his own.
Red Jesus and his acolytes are back on the road for a quick stop in Buffalo, hoping to steal a win in a building that hasn't given them many.
Washington Capitals (23-11-3, 1st in SE, 2nd in EC, last game 4-1 win over Toronto)
Buffalo Sabres (17-14-5, 3rd in NE, 8th in EC, last game 4-3 SO win over NYI)
The story so far...
I think it's about time people stopped the "Washington Ovechkins" joke. It was true in 2005, but not anymore. While Ovechkin is the cornerstone of the Capitals offense and the face of the team, he isn't the only one contributing on offense. With Brooks Laich's two-goal game against the Maple Leafs, the Capitals now have five 10-goal scorers this season. Mike Green sits at eight goals, and Viktor Kozlov at nine. By the end of the first week in the new year, the Capitals will likely have seven 10-goal scorers. You know who else has five 10-goal scorers this year? The San Jose Sharks. I heard they are kinda good, just first-place good. So what was that you were saying about the "Washington Ovechkins?"
WSH: Jose Theodore
It has to be Theo tonight. He's playing some great hockey, he's not letting in the softies and, best of all, he's been a big part of the Capitals' recent success. That's what we wanted when we signed him, and that's what the Capitals are getting now. Theo's controlling his rebounds, and I can't recall the last time we saw him bobble the puck like a hot potato. Theo is the key guy tonight. If the Capitals can get solid goaltending on the road, they will become a powerhouse. It's as simple as that.
BUF: Ryan Miller
We already are watching one goalie, why not another? Miller has been the backbone of this Sabres team this season. Sporting a 15-9-4 record with a 2.62 GAA, if Miller's game is on, then the same can probably be said of the Sabres as a team. Miller posted a shutout against the Capitals when they met on Nov. 1 and watched from the bench in last Friday's loss.
Running em' down
With his two-goal game against Toronto, Alex Ovechkin is now one goal away from leading the NHL in goals. Jeff Carter has 26 while Ovechkin and Buffalo's Thomas Vanek have 25.
Speaking of goals...
Alex Ovechkin is now tied for sixth in the goals-scored department for the Capitals all-time goal-scoring leaders. Ovechkin has 188, which is tied with Bobby Carpenter.
Ryan Miller is good in the net, but he's also pretty good in a fight club...a yo momma fight club.
Brooks Laich's future wife "Must Love Dogs"
I don't know how I've missed this video, being a big Brooks Laich fan, but here is the Brooks Laich edition of "Cribs." Not only do you see his house, but you get to see the recording space for his band, Baby Blue Sound Crew, featuring Mike Green.
LET'S GO CAPS!
Saturday, December 27, 2008
In spite of the zero column in the Cup category, the Capitals will be retiring Mike Gartner's No. 11 tonight. Gartner was the Capitals' first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 1979 NHL Draft.
You can find out more information about Mike Gartner here, and you can read more about the ceremony here. Also, to clear up any confusion, the Capitals will be rocking the white Sunday night, not the red. This is a throwback to Gartner's days when the Capitals wore white home jerseys.
Retirement ceremonies are a blessing and a curse. A blessing because they can rile up your fans and players, a curse because they delay the game, which might cause a few players to cool down.
The Capitals are surging, and Alex Ovechkin is itching to get back on the ice to dazzle with more highlight reel goals.
In the opposing corner, you have Toronto. The Maple Leafs were picked in most anaylsts' projections to be part of the "race for the first overall aka John Tavares" but have actually played quite well.
Can the Capitals keep their streak of impressive hockey alive? Will Toronto play spoiler to Mike Gartner's big night? Will Bruce Boudreau ever burp in front of cameras again?
Washington Capitals (22-11-3, 1st in SE, 2nd in EC, last game 3-2 win over Buffalo)
Toronto Maple Leafs (14-16-6, 4th in NE, 11th in EC, last game 4-1 loss to NYI)
The story so far...
What an incredible night for Bryan Helmer, earning the first star of Friday's game! Too bad he's back in Hershey, tough break. But that means that the Capitals are (hopefully) returning to normalcy. Mike Green and Jeff Schultz are set to play against the Maple Leafs Sunday night. If there is one player I've lamented the loss of, it's Mike Green. His ability to ignite the offense is a key cog in the Capitals success, and tonight the Capitals will need to make use of their returning legs to keep the streak going.
Players to watch
WSH: David Steckel
Steckel isn't the biggest name on the Capitals, nor is he a prolific goal scorer. Steckel plays a key role on defense, and he has played plus or even hockey in six straight games. He is also equal or better in 15 of his last 16 games. With the Capitals schedule getting crowded over the next week (Sun. vs. Tor, Tues. vs. Buf, Thurs. vs. TB, Sat. vs. NYR), players such as Steckel will need to continue to be solid, while trying to contribute to the scoreboard in anyway possible. Look for him to take out the trash and put it in the Toronto net.
TOR: Vesa Toskala
Here's a stat to think about. Toskala is 1-2-0 in his last four starts with a GAA of 6.16 goals. In that time span, he's only made 27 saves. If it's Toskala in net, that's all you really need to know about him tonight. If it's not Toskala, then keep this stat in mind: The Maple Leafs defense is averaging 3.8 goals a game in its last eight contests.
Reflecting on the last meeting...
The Capitals won their last meeting with the Maple Leafs 2-1 and Alexander Ovechkin was kept off the goal-scoring sheet in that game. Instead of just viewing the highlights of that game, let's watch Maple Leafs video blogger (and CK favorite) Steve Dangle talk about the game instead.
Getting to know you: Luke Schenn
Let's learn a little bit more about the future of the Maple Leafs' defense.
You always remember your first
Four of the Capitals defensive players scored their first NHL goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs: Shaone Morrisonn, Jeff Schultz, Mike Green and, most recently, Karl Alzner.
More history to celebrate
Alexander Ovechkin is only two goals away from sixth place on the Capitals all-time goal-scoring list. Bobby Carpenter is sixth at 188 goals. Imagine, retiring one number and then watching Ovechkin continue his quest to shatter every Capitals record he can.
It's all in your head
LET'S GO CAPS! Congrats Mike Gartner!
Friday, December 26, 2008
Sitting in Section 405 as Ovechkin charged down the ice, I told myself, "It's not gonna happen, he always gets tripped and it never goes in." It seemed as if time slowed down and the play happened in slow motion. Then the puck crossed the line, and the crowd erupted.
Probably the best goal I've ever witnessed in person.
The Capitals are 14-1-1 when Ovie scores. The Capitals home record is 14-1-1.
M-V-P indeed. Now to just chase down Malkin for the points lead.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
The World Junior Championship tournament starts Friday in Buffalo, N.Y., and Capitals prospect Stefan Della Rovere is already on the highlight reel. Also in the video is an incredible goal from possible first overall selection John Tavares.
Here's some more Della Rovere. He's 5-11 and quite the scrapper.
More information on the tournament can be read here.
The NHL Network will be broadcasting the USA vs. Germany at 3:30 P.M. Friday and Canada vs. Czech Republic at 7:30 P.M.
I imagine Varlamov's Christmas list was something like:
1. (MOST IMPORTANT SANTA!) Play for Capitals again
2. Stolichnaya Vodka
3. Rosetta Stone - English Edition
4. Play for Capitals again (I'm serious, Santa!)
5. A new cell phone to answer Ovie's calls!
All joking aside, it's unclear if Varlamov will actually suit up for any games over the weekend and, after the Capitals' heroic come-from-behind win, Theodore has earned the right to start Friday.
Right after the game Caps fans would love to forget, it seemed as if we were going to have another game we would love to forget. Now it's the game we won't stop talking about and, to thicken the plot even more, the Capitals are two points away from second best in the East.
The Capitals revisit the Sabres, the team who blanked them 5-0 on Nov. 1, and hope to right the wrongs of that game.
It's the day after Christmas and, with Capitals fans packing the house in the new Capitals gear Santa brought them, the Buffalo Sabres will likely be greeted by a loud, proud Red Army of fans.
Washington Capitals (21-11-3, 45 points, 1st in SE, 2nd in EC, last game 5-4 win over NYR)
Buffalo Sabres (16-13-5, 35 points, 3rd in NE, 8th in EC, last game 4-3 OT loss to Pittsburgh)
The story so far...
It's unclear exactly who will be back, who will start in net and which call-up will wear a sweater as of writing this pre-Cap. Tonight's game follows a statement win in which a depleted Capitals team overcame the odds to steal a win from an opponent who took the game away in the first period. Games such as the win against the Rangers can set the tone for the rest of the season, get cold players hot and ignite long streaks of winning. The Capitals need to take the momentum and emotion from Tuesday's win and come out hard and strong in the first period, something they haven't done in the past two games.
Players to watch
WSH: Alex Ovechkin + BUF: Thomas Vanek
Tonight's an easy matchup to keep your eyes on. The game features Alex Ovechkin, third-best goal scorer in the league (22) and Thomas Vanek, second-best goal scorer in the league (24). The last time these two met, Alex Ovechkin was in Russia and Thomas Vanek punished the Capitals with two goals. With the 5-0 loss lingering in the back of the Capitals minds, and Ovechkin itching to chase down goal-scoring leader Jeff Carter (26), I'm expecting a "dueling banjos" of a matchup, "any goal you can score, I can score better" type of night.
You make the call
While the Capitals might be surging after their dramatic win over New York, the Sabres are steaming over a questionable call in their last game against the Penguins. In overtime, Sidney Crosby deflected a shot into the net, but the goal may actually have been played with a high-stick. After minutes of deliberation in the war room in Toronto, the goal counted and the Sabres were handed a loss. After the game, an analyst on NHL Network said, "Different rules for different players." So it's your call now; here's the replay, you make the call.
Running and stumbling
The Sabres started the season hot, real hot, 6-0-2 hot. Then, in November, their fortunes began to change; they went 3-9-1. In December, they righted the ship and are now 5-3-2 in their last 10 games.
Getting to know you: Thomas Vanek
That "all-imporant" goal
The Capital have an .800 winning percentage when scoring first, while the Sabres only win .556 percent of the time when scoring first. The Capitals haven't scored the first goal in a matchup since their meeting with St. Louis.
The rookie and the sophomore
Some stat trends to keep your eye on tonight. Karl Alzner is a plus seven in his last 10 games in spite of Tuesday's and Saturday's matchups. Nicklas Backstrom is as hot as ever; he has three goals and 13 assists in his last eight games. This year, the NHL All-Star game will feature a new format for the "young stars" game. Instead of Western Conference rookies versus Eastern Conference rookies, it will now be rookies versus sophomores. We just may get to see Karl Alzner try to frustrate Nicklas Backstrom, or Backstrom make Alzner look silly come late January if they make the teams.
An interesting detail...
According to the Capitals game-day preview, Simeon Varlamov will be wearing No. 30 tonight. In his last appeance with the Capitals, he wore 40. Don't read too much into it, but Alzner started in Washington as No. 47 and now has his usual No. 27. Typo? Or small, insignificant sign that Varlamov is here for an extended stay?
One more time, please?
A highlight reel we can all enjoy...that is, when it's past the two-minute mark.
LET'S GO CAPS!
Featuring a unique format of "Team Jagr" vs. "Team Yashin", captained by said players, the KHL held fan balloting to determine the rosters.
The results are in and Team Jagr is the KHL's equivalent to the Tampa Bay Lightning regarding how many former Caps will be playing.
Without futher delay, I present
"GOALTENDERS: Robert Esche (SKA St. Petersburg) 32,712. Ray Emery (Atlant Mytishchi) 24,160. Rostislav Stana (Severstal Cherepovets) 3,500.
DEFENSEMEN: Ray Giroux (SKA) 28,548. Kevin Dallman (Barys Astana) 26,869. Ben Clymer (Dinamo Minsk) 24,161. Magnus Johansson (Atlant) 11,353. Karel Rachunek (Dinamo Moscow) 10,707. Mark Popovic (SKA) 9,426. Miroslav Blatak (Salavat Yulaev Ufa) 9,323. Rodrigo Lavins (Dinamo Riga) 6,275. Filip Novak (Dinamo Riga) 6,226. Joel Kwiatkowski (Severstal) 2,197.
FORWARDS: Pavel Brendl (Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod) 41,570. Tony Martensson (Ak Bars Kazan) 35,266. Jan Marek (Metallurg Magnitogorsk) 34,032. Oleg Antonenko (HK MVD Balashikha) 31,167. Alexei Kalyuzhny (Dinamo Moscow) 30,620. Nils Ekman (SKA) 18,159. Jaromir Jagr (Avangard Omsk) excluded from ballot. Marcel Hossa (Dinamo Riga) excl. Jakub Klepis (Avangard) excl."
It should also be noted that former Capital Andrei Nikolishin will be a member of "Team Yashin."
What an honor for these Caps and especially Joel Kwiatkowski, after all he was JP's "Cap of the Day," and now he's an All-Star. What a guy!
Calling it now. Team Yashin will destroy Team Jagr.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Grab your kids, your drink of preference, and allow me to entertain you with a Hockey-themed Christmas classic, The Sweater
"In the 1940s, in the rural village of Saint Justine, Quebec, listening to the hockey game on the radio was a Saturday night tradition... and so was rooting for the Montreal Canadiens. All the boys worshipped the star player, Maurice "Rocket" Richard, and proudly wore the number 9 emblazoned on their sweaters.
The boy in the story outgrows his hockey sweater, so his mother writes to "Mr. Eaton" for a new one. But instead of the coveted red, white and blue of Les Canadiens, the company sends a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey! Imagine the young player's chagrin when he shows up at the neighbourhood rink in the blue and white colours of the arch-enemy!"
Monday, December 22, 2008
With the injury plague returning for round two, the Capitals are going to be stretched thin and relying on some call-ups to help carry the load.
Our guess? Bourque, Mink, Osala or Aucoin could be returning for a brief stay. Help is on the way though, Schultz and Clark are scheduled to return by next week.
As if the injuries weren't enough, we now have the issue of goal tending. Brent Johnson is getting the start in net but after the Capitals 7-1 loss to the Flyers, I don't think either Theo of Johnny "earned" a start.
What do you do when you fall down? You get back up.
Washington Capitals (20-11-3, last game...never happened)
New York Rangers (22-12-2, 3-2 loss to San Jose)
The story so far...
Injuries and soft goaltending. That's been the story of the past two months and it doesn't seem to be getting better. The Capitals will need to light a fire under the pads of Johnson and Theodore while making the most of their call-ups. Last time the Capitals had numerous AHL-er's in the line-up, they managed .500 hockey. With some experience under their belt, one can hope they will only get better.
WSH: Brent Johnson
Johnson's streak of great hockey game to a sudden halt against the Flyers. After letting a softie by to put the Flyers ahead 1-0, Johnson collapsed, eventually being pulled in favor of Theodore in the third period. Think Johnson want's to repeat that performance? Johnson is 2-0 against the Rangers when he starts, and has a 1.89 save percentage. The last meeting between Johnson and the Rangers, a 3-1 win for the Caps where Johnson was named the first star.
NYR: Nikolai Zherdev
The Rangers leading point scorer hasn't been a pest to the Capitals in his career, but he is a primary source for the Rangers offense. He has seven points in his last five games, three of them goals. He is also on a team that has eight players with 10 or more assists, so that means the offense won't be confined to just any one player.
Games of importance
Carolina and Minnesota - The Caps hold a six point lead on the Canes.
Nashville and Florida - While the Panthers aren't likely to catch the Capitals anytime soon, they are a threat to the Canes.
Out of the mire
The last time Alex Ovechkin faced the Rangers this season, he was in the middle of a slump and had just returned from a short trip to Russia. Energized, and charging up the league leader boards, Ovechkin is usually good for some points against the Rangers. He has 13 points in 13 games against the Blueshirts, seven of those points are assits.
Re-living the trash
The Capitals survived against the Rangers thanks in part to some ugly goals. One even went to review as the net was knocked off it's moorings as the goal crossed the line. If the Capitals want to beat Henrik Lundqvist, they will need to go for the trashy goals.
Speaking of Lundqvist
Here's a nice interview with him. Worth a watch if you don't know anything about him.
Speaking of interviews
Have you seen the Sovetsky Sport article on Viktor Kozlov? It's definately worth a read, if you have 20 minutes to devote to it. Check it out here. The Russians seem to give the best interview this season.
When you think "Winter Classic" you think "McNuggets"
McDonalds is now the official "Quick service resturant" of the NHL. Great, so when will we see Happy Meals with NHL toys? For that matter, who would be the toys!
LET'S GO CAPS!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Capitals fans are world famous for "knee-jerk" reactions and negativity. A visit to the Capitals message board could generate enough rain to ruin any parade.
While fans might be arguing with each other over who is to blame, which goalie should be waived or what Hershey call-up isn't doing his part, here's a stat to think about.
The Capitals have allowed 102 goals so far this season. That's 20th in the league for goals allowed per game, 2.94. The league leader, Boston, is at 2.21 goals allowed per game. The best team in the league, the San Jose Sharks, allows 2.42 goals a game, and the defending Stanley Cup Champs (3rd overall in the NHL) allow 3.03 goals a game.
Now factor in that all of the Capitals blowouts have occurred on the road.
@ATL - 7
@BUF - 5
@SJS - 7
@NJ - 5
@PHI - 7
30% (31) of the goals allowed were scored in blowouts on the road.
So while it may be easy to get down on the team after a humiliating loss to a rival, keep in mind, aside from five horrific games, the Capitals have been a good team defensively.
The problem isn't with who's in net, who's called up or who's being "too cute." It's that the team as a whole just isn't performing on the road.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
The last time these two teams met, the Flyers sent the Capitals out of the playoffs in overtime. They then went on to the conference finals, where they failed to put away the Penguins.
A lot has changed since the Caps and Flyers last met. The Capitals are no longer a "Cinderella team" that is lucky to be a playoff contender. The Flyers retained their core roster despite losing players such as R.J. Umberger.
Is "Vengeance Now!" the theme for the Capitals locker room? Can the Flyers really be "Broad Street Bullies," when this guy is the face of your team? Will Alex Ovechkin try to punch anyone in their fig nuts?
All this and more when the Capitals take on the Flyers tomorrow afternoon!
Washington Capitals (20-10-3, last game 4-2 win over St. Louis)
Philadelphia Flyers (17-8-6, last game 5-2 loss to Montreal)
The story so far...
What did I just say about poor work ethic! Aw hell, at least we got the two points, but we may have lost much more. With Semin's back acting up again, who knows when this kid will be truly healthy. Green's hurt again, but it's not quite as serious as the Semin injury, and Schultz is on his way back. Just don't take Alzner from us! Re-injured but winning, the Capitals can't afford to get lazy against the Flyers. The Capitals love a challenge, and Saturday's game will be an indicator of how far the Capitals have come since that fateful Game 7.
WSH: Nicklas Backstrom
Backstrom just took the team lead for assists (24) and has continued to feed Ovechkin with great scoring opportunities. Let's not forget, Backstrom was stymied by the Flyers at the beginning of the playoffs, but turned on along with Semin near its end. Backstrom isn't a physical player by nature, and the Flyers love to rattle finesse guys with checks. A cool head along with his typical smooth passing will help lead the Capitals to victory.
PHI: Jeff Carter
He's the Flyers goal-scoring leader, although on a team with six 10-goal scorers he can't be singled out as the biggest threat on the ice. What will make Carter dangerous is his ability to open the game up for his teammates. With so much focus on Carter and his goal-scoring abilities, the Capitals will need to focus an equal amount of attention to players such as Simon Gagne and Mike Richards. Carter leads the Flyers in shots and goals but stands at just +1.
Games of importance
Carolina vs. Boston - If the Caps win and Canes lose, the Capitals take a commanding 10-point lead in the Southeast. A loss for the Caps and a win for the Canes, and we go back to square one.
New York Rangers vs. San Jose - The Caps are slowly but surely reeling in the Rangers for second in the Eastern Conference. The Sharks are still unbeaten at home and the Rangers are mad as hell about losing Mats Sundin to the Canucks.
Goalie Simeon Varlamov was sent back to Hershey today as Jose Theodore is healthy enough to play again. While this isn't the most popular move among Capitals fans, it's the right move. Tarik El Bashir reports that GMGM Boudreau wanted Varlamov to learn to play on a nightly basis, but that his stint in Washington was a successful one. The Bears have three games this weekend and if Varlamov really believes the AHL talent is inferior to the former Russian Super League talent, then he'll have no problem closing the door, right Simeon? Theodore won't get the start, but last season Theodore's play was kicked up a notch after losing the starting job in Colorado. With Johnson and Varlamov having just led the Caps on a win streak despite lazy play, Theo should either be motivated to return or desperate to see ice time to prove himself. Expect a different Theo in the coming games.
Dirty Jobs with Boyd Gordon
How 'bout them third and fourth lines? The Capitals scored some ugly goals against the Blues, earning praise (and a thinly veiled jab at the top lines) from Coach Bruce Boudreau. The Capitals top line has been cuter than My Little Pony recently, and with cupcake opponents such as the Islanders and Blues out of the way, Backstrom and Ovechkin may not get to enjoy that style of play against coming opponents. While it's great to see a beautiful Ovechkin goal from a behind-the-back pass, the Caps will live and die by the trash goals. To avoid becoming a one-dimensional (and one-line) team, the Caps will need to crash the net, and let grinders such as Gordon, Bradley and Laich muck it up.
Simon Gagne's season has been nothing short of great. After missing most of last season to injury, Gagne now has 16 goals and 21 assists in 2008. He is also tied in for first in plus/minus at +20 in the NHL.
Mike Richards for MVP
Well, at least it's not your typical political-styled ASG commercial
No spearing tonight!
Flyers star/spearing expert Danny Briere is on injured reserve with a strained groin. Relive the Ovechkin/Briere rivalry here.
Stat of importance
I can't remember the exact date, but CSN flashed it during the game last night. The Capitals have not lost a game when Alexander Ovechkin scores a powerplay goal since December of 2007. Wow.
Johnny on the spot
Brent Johnson will get the start in net against the Flyers. While Johnson was not a part of the playoff series (he watched from the press box), he hasn't put up great numbers against the Flyers. He's 2-6 with a 4.54 GAA in his career against the Flyers. But this is a different Caps team and a much different Brent Johnson. Johnson will likely eclipse his games-played amount from 2007 by the end of December (19) and so far this season has a .920 save percentage. With Theo watching from the bench, and a crucial two points on the line, the Caps will rely on Johnson to carry the team through a tough matchup with the Flyers.
LET'S GO CAPS!
Funny stuff from Sid the Kid.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The Capitals were lucky to get two points Tuesday night. They weren't so lucky when Bruce Boudreau made the next day's practice mandatory. It's safe to say the Capitals might be showing a little more, um, work ethic, tonight.
The Blues are a team that has been filled with ups and downs. The Blues lost star blue-liner Erik Johnson to a freak golf cart accident, but then started the season hot. When Sarah Palin came to drop the puck, the rug laid out for her inadvertently injured goalie Manny Legace. Since then the Blues have fallen to the bottom of the Central Division.
Washington Capitals (19-10-3, last game 5-4 OT win over NYI)
St. Louis Blues (12-15-3, last game 6-3 loss to Calgary)
The story so far...
You know who was the best Cap on the ice against the Isles? Brendan Witt: He was a -5. Thanks Witter! Other than that, the Capitals fell asleep, look disinterested and played a poor third period. Fortunately Ovie saved the day in overtime. Think the Capitals want to have mandatory practice after a win again? Look for a solid Capitals effort with production from the bottom tier lines.
WSH: Michael Nylander
The lines are jumbling again. That means Nylander might see Alexander Semin back on his line, or he will be grinding it out with Brooks Laich. Whether or not the S.O.B. line stays together, Nylander will have his opportunities. Fans were growing frustrated with Nylander's "pass first, pass again, pass some more, get in the slot, pass again, oh I'll shoot now" play but a GWG against the Canadiens has silenced those critics...for now. Nylander is constantly finding himself in the right place at the right time, but if he makes the right play is the real question. With the possibility of having a true sniper on his line, Nylander could be a major player when the Blues take their shutdown units off the ice. Even without the Semin presence, doesn't it always seem like Nylander is creating scoring opportunities? Now if he'd just shoot.
STL: Keith Tkachuk
He's averaging about a point-per-game against the Capitals in his career, and he's also the Blues' second leading scorer (21 points). Here's what makes him interesting: He's a -6. Usually your top point scorers are positive ratings, which leads us to believe that while Tkachuk is a threat he is also a liability. It should be noted, though, that Tkachuk has been hot as of late; he has 20 points in his last 29 games this season.
These guys are banged up, too
Goaltender Manny Legace is out.
Defenseman Eric Brewer is day-to-day.
Defenseman Erik Johnson is out.
Defenseman Jay McKee is out.
Center Andy McDonald is out.
Center T.J. Oshie is out.
Left wing Paul Kariya is out.
Left wing D.J. King is out.
The Capitals are notorious for letting their goaltenders get run over by opposing players. Won't somebody (cough Brashear) do something? Well anyway, I told you to keep your eyes on Keith Tkachuk, and here's one more reason. He's a tough S.O.B. himself and isn't afraid of a little contact. We might see worlds collide if Ovie and Tkachuk are caught with their heads down in center ice. Anyway, here's come classic Tkachuk checking.
No rest for the weary
This is the Blues' ninth game in 16 days. St. Louis is on a four-game losing streak coming into tonight's game.
Top power play units
Tonight does feature some of the best special teams units in the NHL, offensively. The Capitals remain the sixth best power play in the league, but the Blues sit behind them at seventh.
The Blues are getting into an unhealthy habit, giving up early goals in bunches. In their last loss against the Calgary Flames, the Blues went down 3-0 before scoring. That was the second time in the last three games they had fallen behind 3-0 to an opponent.
Putting the Pain in Palin
As mentioned early, Sarah Palin visited the Blues earlier this season to drop the puck. In return, the carpet laid out for her injured goalie Manny Legace. This incident further promoted the "Palin curse." Another Palin curse incident: Palin visited the Flyers for opening night, and the Flyers were the last team to win a game in regulation at the start of the season. Relive the Legace injury here.
LET'S GO CAPS!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Divide the season into 10 8-game blocks (plus two "bonus" games); score 10 points per block for 100 points and a trip to the playoffs.
4th 8: 6-2-0, 12 pts.
Injured stars return, sparking a four-game winning streak.
3rd 8: 3-4-1, 7 pts.
Grueling road trip produces enough injured Caps players to form an All-Star team.
2nd 8: 6-1-1, 13 pts.
Semin sizzling, Ovechkin-Backstrom getting hotter, and two, count 'em, two No. 1 goalies ... got our 10, plus 3 for the "bank."
1st 8: 4-3-1, 9 pts.
Injury-scrambled lines and a Backstrom-Ovechkin "dead zone" ... coming up 1 point short isn't too bad an effort.
TillyCaps Fan for CK
The Islanders are becoming a punchline amongst the Atlantic Division. The Penguins handed the Isles a slice of "ass-kicking-pie" with a 9-2 win, and currently the Isles are keeping pace with the Tampa Bay Lightning for a lottery pick.
The Isles have yet to win a game in December, while the Capitals have yet to lose a game when Alexander Semin has been in the lineup recently (8-0-0). The Caps have been red-hot and Semin's magic hands (and handshakes) lead the charge.
Will the Isles end their slump with a win at home over the Caps? Can the Capitals avoid more injuries, keep the hands hot and continue to pull away in the Southeast?
Let's get to it.
Washington Capitals (18-10-3, last game 2-1 win over Montreal)
New York Islanders (10-18-2, last game 3-1 loss to Colombus)
The story so far...
The Capitals got the boost they needed when Alexander Semin, Tom Poti, Sergei Fedorov and Mike Green returned to the lineup. Riding a three-game win streak, the Capitals have firmly cemented themselves atop the Southeast Division. Boudreau's eyes now turn to the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. Seeking to reach the top of the East, the Caps will need to win the games they're supposed to win and dig deep on the road.
WSH: Milan Jurcina
Juice isn't the same defenseman he was 10 games ago. Since his pairing with Karl Alzner, Jurcina has transformed from a delay-of-game-committing stiff to one-part of the Capitals' best defensive pairing. On top of that, he's picked up a few goals, including the game-winner in Toronto. The Islanders present a unique situation. This is a team the Capitals should beat, but, the way you lose to those teams is lazy play. Jurcina knows a thing or two about lazy play (delay-of-game) and tonight is a great game to "come out" and be a dominate defender, not a sloppy one.
NYI: Doug Weight
Sitting at four points shy of 1,000 career points, Weight won't get another chance to reach the milestone at home until the 23rd. Great players tend to have great games when nearing a milestone, and Weight is no exception. If the Capitals get lazy, or flat out don't show up to play, Weight will be the man to punish them. You can't count the Islanders out and with Weight so close to a historic mark the Caps need to frustrate him early so he can't get rolling.
Games of Importance
Montreal at Carolina - Sitting eight points behind the Caps, Paul Maurice and the Canes need every point they can get. Good thing the Capitals left Montreal fuming after Nylander's fluke-tastic goal.
Speaking of flukes...
The Islanders have had some rotten luck as of late. Although that's not to say they haven't had any this season.
Going with the hot hand
Brent Johnson will get the start in goal with Varlamov backing him up. While I personally think Varlamov deserves one more start, allowing more time for Theo and Johnny to heal, the decision is not a total surprise. Johnson recorded his first win against the Islanders earlier this month posting a .931 save percentage. Johnson's play has sparked a debate over at Japer's Rink about who is the team's MVP so far. The Kremlin's MVP of the season? None other than Alex Semin.
Here's a stat to munch on. The Capitals have only 10 players in the negatives in terms of plus-minus. Four of those players are call-ups. One of them is tied for third in goals scored on the team (Flash). While there are seven players sitting at even, the stat does show that the team as a whole is playing well, not just the S.O.B. line.
Aside for the Capitals running on a three-game win streak, they also have only allowed one goal in each of those past three meetings. The Capitals allowed only one goal to Toronto, bringing the monthly total one-goal games to four. In the seven games so far this December, the Caps have only allowed 12 goals.
The Caps power play remains red hot, as the Capitals have been shooting with 33% efficiency. The Caps have scored on six of the 18 power plays given over the last four games. Couple that with the fact that the Caps penalty kill hasn't given up a goal since Dec. 6 against Toronto, and you've got some extra-special teams.
P.S.A on Intermission
Following in the style of Brendan Witt's "How to check," comes this P.S.A from Islanders defenseman Bruno Gervais on what to do doing intermission.
I know what to do...Text Capitals to 81812 10 times during both intermissions!
The Tampa Bay Lightning are. The Bolts are currently seeking legal action after former coach Barry Melrose said "I hope [the Lightning] don't win anymore games this year." This turn of events begs the question, what will movie-producer/Tampa co-owner Oren Koules win first? An Oscar or a Stanley Cup? Our money is on a Razzie.
LET'S GO CAPS!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
A secret hand-shake.
I love the part when Semin has to remind Ovie "It's with the OTHER hand omi-gosh! How could you like totally forget!"
A comic-book style Ovie slams into the board, turns around and rips open his chest revealing a machine body and his toothless grin. At the Senators game I was treated to the Mike "Hulk" Green comic celebration. Greenie scores and then gets all "Hulk mad," tearing off his shirt, huffing and puffing with an enraged look on his mug.
It's quality stuff.
The animations got me thinking, who else deserves one, or better yet, why not give everyone a neat superhero moniker.
So let's get to work shall we? I'll name a few and if you can think anything better, comment below!
Brooks "Iron-Man" Laich
Alexander "Bullseye" Semin
Tomas "Flash" Fleischmann
Ovechkin was so happy with Varlamov's performance, he celebrated by shoving a shaving cream pie in his face. When the media entered the dressing room, Varlamov was sitting in his stall, wiping it out of his eyes.
"It was his first game, first win," Ovechkin explained.
Varlamov wasn't the only shaving cream victim tonight. Donald Brashear nailed Fedorov with a pie for his 39th birthday.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Case in point: The Caps are undefeated when their Web editor suits up as a goalie.
Further proof: One Caps roster move this season involved picking up a player who was standing with his gear in a parking lot in the middle of nowhere; another, yesterday's, involved getting a player off an AHL team bus somewhere in Texas.
And now the strangeness continues:
Tonight, the Caps play the NHL Eastern Conference All Stars in a regular season game in Montreal.
That's right. The Boys in Red face starting (unless we do something about it: Rock the Vote!) Eastern Conference All Star goalie Carey Price of Montreal; starting Eastern Conference All Star defensemen Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek, both of Montreal; and Montreal forwards Alexei Kovalev, Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay, who hold positions three, four and five in All Star voting for forward.
Seems a bit unfair, doesn't it? And us stuck with only Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green.
Think the Caps might want to cast an All Star vote of their own on Hockey Night in Canada tonight?
TillyCapsFan for CK
Friday, December 12, 2008
The team's web editor, Brett Leonhardt, suits up as a back up, then prospect Simeon Varlamov suits up as a back up, and then the Capitals pound the Senators to a 5-1 win.
The Caps haven't been very good in back-to-back games, especially when the latter is on the road. After the game Mike Green promised a winning effort, but did he just jinx us for a loss?
Time for a pre-cap.
Washington Capitals (17-10-3, last game 5-1 win over Ottawa)
Montreal Canadiens (16-7-5, last game 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay)
The story so far...
A red hot power play, a roster that is returning to normalcy, two Russians who love to score, a Swede and Russian with sick play-making skills and a back-up goalie that is hotter than hell. Oh I'm just talking about the Capitals. The Caps dominated the Sens but back-to-back games have not favored the rockin' red. On top of that, a rookie goalie may have to make his first career start in the biggest hockey city on the planet. Recipe for disaster or a blue-print for glory?
WSH: Viktor Kozlov
I'm feeling some Viktor Koz-love for tonight's game. The only Russian player left off the score sheet, Kozlov displayed some pretty sick moves, but wasn't able to convert them into goals. Montreal hasn't had a taste of the "S.O.B." line yet, and likely will put their top defensive corp on them. Talk about a window of oppurtunity, while Kozlov may be on a line with Michael "Circles" Nylander, the chance to sneak some goals in while the top Canadien blue-liners rest should be pretty high. In his career against Montreal, Kozlov has 13 goals and 12 assists.
MTL: Andrei Markov
I have a theory that when Ovie visits a team with a high-profile Russian, the game tends to get a bit crazy. So it should be no surprise that Markov might be called upon to check his comrades. Markov doesn't have particullarly stellar numbers when facing the Caps, only 11 assists in 26 games, but he is a blue line presence that will be looking to put the "S.O.B" line in it's place.
My reaction to the Leonhardt sweater
I must admit, seeing Leonhardt on the ice at first scared the holy hell out of me. I had no clue who he was or what had happened to Jose. I didn't check any of the blogs before I left for the game so it took me completely by surprise. When I learned what had happened I told my father and we laughed at the situation. I felt like at any moment Boudreau might point to a fan and say "lace em up kid!"
Kinda like this....
Movin' on up
The Capitals are now the fifth ranked power play in the league. The Canadiens are the 28th ranked power play. The Caps penalty kill moved to 23rd after last night's game while the Canadiens sit at 12th. The Capitals converted on three of seven power plays last night. While Capitals fans at Verizon Center raged over missed calls, the Senators ended up taking more penalties than the Capitals.
The last time Karl Alzner was a negative on the score sheet? December 2nd against the Florida Panthers. The Alzner/Jurcina pairing was once again solid playing mistake-free defense. With Schultz and Erskine injured and not likely to return soon, Caps fans can get comfortable with Alzner on the blue line. So yes Billy Caps fan, you can go ahead and order that red Alzner sweater.
Getting to know you
On Frozen Blog sat down with the Capitals latest call-up this summer for a little discussion. Check out the two videos here and get to know Mr. Varlamov.
The face of victory
A great indicator of how well a team is playing is the face-offs won stat. The Capitals currently rank seventh winning 52% of their face-offs. The top ten teams leading in face-offs only consists of one team with a snowball's chance in hell of making the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Lightning.
Quite an entrance...
Former injured reserve dwellers, Sergei Fedorov, Mike Green, Alex Semin and Tom Poti earned a point in the 5-1 blasting of the Senators.
Matt Bradley scored his 100th career point against the Senators. He assisted Brooks Laich's second period, game-winning-goal.
LET'S GO CAPS!
If you are watching the game at home, TEXT Ovie (or Ovechkin) to 81812 or vote online at NHL.com.
Try to vote at least 10 times tonight.
If you are at the game you have no excuse (unless you don't have a phone or unlimited texting) because mites on ice only last 10 minutes and then it's 10 minutes of the zamboni....
Don't have unlimited texting? Want to do it online? This website will send text messages free of charge. Just put the info in and you're good to go!
If you can muster enough psychological strength, support our reluctant Penguin allies and vote for one of their
Love you too Pens fans. :)
The Capitals poached the roaring Bruins and now turn their sights on the Ottawa Senators.
The Capitals swept the Sens in their season series last year, but this season they lost the first meeting 2-1 in November.
With Semin, Poti and possibly Fedorov back in the line-up, the Capitals are beginning to get back to full-strength.
Will the Capitals suffer any more injuries? Are the Senators trying to exact revenge for last season's bouts? Will Semin trip over himself signaling a return to normalcy?
Pre-cap time bayyy-beee.
Washington Capitals (16-10-3, last game 3-1 win over Boston)
Ottawa Senators (10-11-5, last game 2-0 loss to Chicago)
The story so far...
Semin, Poti, Fedorov and possibly Green are back. If that isn't a story enough for you, then you have Johnson's incredible play as of late coupled with the Capitals power play clicking. If the Capitals can avoid injuries, get consistant play from BOTH goalies and continue to pummel foes with the power play, the Caps could pull away with the division like they were supposed to early this week. Carolina dropped a 5-1 lead over the Flyers last night, losing in the shootout, so with a win tonight, the Capitals can move to a seven point lead.
WSH: Brent Johnson
Oh boy, here we go. The term "goalie controversy," is common vernacular among Caps fans again after Johnson stone-walled the Bruins , Maple Leafs and Islanders in his last three starts. Nothing gets the wheels of controversy started like great saves and despite aggravating a hip injury, Johnson did just that. Johnny has a career mark of 4-1-1 against the Sens, with a 1.89 GAA. With back-to-back game this weekend, one could wonder if we might see a motivated Jose in net Saturday night trying to dispel any rumors.
OTT: Daniel Alfredsson
What's it all about Alfie? Well 2 assists in the last meeting between these teams appearantly. Alfie is the corner stone of the Sens offense, leading the team in plus minus and assists. When your lined up with Dany Heatley, it's safe to say the defense will have it's hands full. Alfie has 29 goals and 24 assists in 44 games with the Capitals.
Goalie Controversy part 2
Theo's last five: 1-3 L to Car, 3-5 L to Fla, 3-0 W over Mon, 5-3 W over Atl, 3-4 L to Min
Johnny's last five: 3-1 W over Bos, 2-1 W over Tor, 5-2 W over NYI, 0-3 L to Col, 2-7 L to SJ
I'm not sure at this point if you want to call it a controversy, obviously Johnson is playing well and recently has been the better of the two. This weekend will be the true litmus test of if there is any "controversy," as Johnson will start against the Sens and Theo will try to re-produce his shutout against the Canadiens.
Speaking of Canadiens
No Habs No! Senators fans are awarding a cash bounty to anyone who defeats the Montreal Canadiens. The player who scores the game winning goal receives a dollar and a written letter courtesy of the Sens army. Check it out here and scroll down to see Tomas Fleischmann's letter!
It's all part of the grind
Brooks Laich hasn't scored much these days. Not to worry, he's still as awesome as ever according to this piece from the Washington Times Laich had a career year last season and earned the admiration of fans for his heart and soul play. Tonight would be a great night to see the team annointed "ladies man," light the lamp (or is it biscuit in the basket?).
[Insert special teams header here]
It's a battle of giants as the Capitals now 6th ranked power play meets the Senators 4th ranked penalty kill. It will also feature the Capitals 23rd ranked pk against the Sens 17th ranked pp.
It doesn't get old
Hilarious video of the Sens playoff opening speech. 100 points to anyone who spots the lines he's reading from!
Re-living the 65 goal season
The Senators played a big part in Ovie's season, as Ovechkin scored six goals against the Sens last season. Four of those goals came in one game, let's re-live it shall we?
Punching the time-card
Rookie Karl Alzner has skated 20 mins or more in seven of his eight games on the big club. He has a goal and three assists to show for it, and his pairing with Jurcina has been one of the more solid lines during the injury plague. Sometimes it's all about finding the right players to work together and in Alzner/Jurcina's case, it's looking good. Ted if you're reading, never send Alzner down again. Please?
LET'S GO CAPS!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Simply follow those directions. That will download all the programs you need to vote automatically, BUT, that is the script for Montreal Canadiens players!
So here's what you need to do.
After installing Grease Monkey, in your FireFox tabs click TOOLS, scroll down to GREASEMONKEY and click on MANAGE USER SCRIPTS. On the left hand side of the program should be the Auto Voter script.
You need to edit that script so it will vote for Caps players! But how?
Click on the script and hit EDIT. It will ask you to use a word processor of your choice. Let's use Notepad.
Here's where you typically find NOTEPAD:
C:\Documents and Settings\Owner\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories
Open the script with NOTEPAD. Delete all the text and replace with this below. After you have done that, just load up http://ca.fanballoting.nhl.com/vote and go do whatever, you're voting. Oh and you can have as many windows as you want voting at any time.
// @name NHL All-stars Voter
// @namespace nhl
//@description This script votes for all Montreal Canadiens players.
// @include http://ca.fanballoting.nhl.com/vote
var players = Array('8471214','8470120','8469639','8473991','8471242','8462161');
for (var i = 7; i <>
var id = "player_"+str(i);
document.getElementById(id).value = players[i-7];
// Firefox, Opera 8.0+, Safari
// Internet Explorer
alert ("Your browser does not support
var post = "player_1=&player_2=&player_3=&player_4=&player_5=&player_6=&player_7=8471214&player_8=8470120&player_9=8469639&player_10=8473991&player_11=8471242&player_12=8462161";
var build = document.getElementsByName('form_build_id').value;
var token = document.getElementsByName('form_token').value;
var form = document.getElementsByName('form_id').value;
var x = Math.round(Math.random()*270);
var y = Math.round(Math.random()*34);
var rest = "&vote_button.x="+x+"&vote_button.y="+y;
rest += "&form_build_id="+build;
rest += "&form_token="+token;
rest += "&form_id="+form;
post += rest;
-----------------end of script, don't copy this-------------
For the record, all I did was modify the original script, which the Pens fans did. The Habs fans actually programmed it, but the Pens fans and now myself, just modified it. It was pretty simple and didn't require any programming or anything, just copy and pasting six numbers in the right places.
I can't say I condone leaving your computer on all night to vote 10000000 million times, but more or less I did this to show how easy it was to rig it to vote for the Caps. So if you're one of those types who wants to vote for AO ten billion times, have at it.
Thanks Habs fans for making this for us! Love Pens and Caps.