Saturday, January 31, 2009
CK: Welcome to our 2009 pre-Super Bowl Capitals game Pre-Cap! I'll be your host, and we have a special guest joining us today, Mr. John Madden.
Madden: Thanks for having me! You know the last time I went to a hockey game a boxing match broke out! BOOM!
CK: Um yes, very funny, John, we've never heard that one before. Anyway, today's game features the Washington Capitals (31-15-4, first in SE, third in EC) vs. the Ottawa Senators (17-23-7, fifth in NE, 13th in EC).
Madden: Yeah, you got some real tough guys there, and when you have real tough guys you get a real tough game. Those guys are about as tough as tough-actin' Tinactin!
CK: Uhhh, right. The Capitals have just come off an inspiring win over the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings, and are now entering a grueling week of hockey. On top of that, today's game is another afternoon game, and the ice quality may be in question. The Georgetown Hoyas had a basketball game after the hockey game on Saturday, and you know how good that is for the ice.
Madden: Oh yeah, well, in football, you want a crappy field because that's where legendary games are made and, if the ice is as crappy as you say it will be, I expect this to be a legendary game.
CK: *facepalm* The Senators, on the other hand, are latest team to fall victim to Columbus' rookie goalie sensation Steve Mason as they were blanked for a 1-0 loss in their last game. The Senators feature high -ctane scorers in Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, but outside of their first line there isn't much going for them these days. The Senators have only three players in double digits for goals -- Heatley, Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, which coincidentally, is their first line.
Madden: Yeah, with stats like that they are either going to score or not score.
CK: ....you're absolutely right, John...(sips whiskey)... Anyway, the Capitals were propelled to victory over the Red Wings by Alex Ovechkin, who now leads the league in goals with 33. On top of that, Jose Theodore had another impressive game, giving up only one even-strength goal. He is over .900% in his last 13 starts and has been making the acrobatic saves he is known for.
Madden: Jose Theodore looks like Jose Theodore.
CK: Yes, it's not like he put a mask on or anything, John. On top of Theodore's play and Ovechkin's goals, the Capitals played a complete game against the Red Wings, something they didn't do when they last played the Senators before the All-Star break. It also seems as if the Capitals' high-scoring habits are returning. The Red Wings game was the first time the Capitals scored more than two goals since their 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the middle of January.
Madden: Well, when your'e talking about a Bruce Boudreau offense you're usually talking about offense, and the team that scores the most points is usually going to win the game.
*Gunshots and loud thumps are heard*
CK: Anyway, here's your traditional pre-Cap videos. In the fashion of being a football analyst, we are calling for the Arizona Cardinals to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers by 10. Have a great Super Bowl Sunday.
The Last Meeting...
The Dany Heatley Book, I'm not kidding.
I hear it's required reading for Canadian 3rd graders...
Well that's it for today's Pre-Cap. Sorry about the mishap yesterday!
LET'S GO CAPS!
Friday, January 30, 2009
vs. Detroit Red Wings (31-10-7, first in CEN, second in WC, last game 4-2 loss to Dallas)
Just what the Capitals need to break out of this mini-slump, a date with the defending Stanley Cup champions. Oh, did I mention that this is an afternoon game, too? Well, at least they are playing in Detroit, where the ice will be goo...what? They are in D.C., and they play the following day in the afternoon again?
Joking aside though, this game marks the start of a "Bataan Death March" of hockey for the Capitals. Five games in eight days, including a game against the surging Devils and a pair of back-to-backs this weekend.
I wonder if this will ever be at Verizon Center
Of course not everyone agrees with Octopi throwing...
Editor's note: I apologize for the length of the pre-Cap. I've had some computer issues and wanted to put a few items up before my computer locked up again.
LET'S GO CAPS!
While the Penguins are an incredibly talented team, it was helpful that their first-round contest was a cupcake opponent, rather than, say, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Now the Capitals are somewhat in the same position the Penguins were in. While they may not be able to chase down the Bruins (we believe!), the question that will need to be asked at the end of the season is, do we want to be second or third?
The teams are ranked in current playoff order and the two bubble teams were added for a "what if?" scenario.
So would you want to be the third-place team and potentially face a tougher opponent or the second seed potentially facing a team that surged into the playoffs?
In the midst of all that "we have to chase down Boston!" talk, we forgot that the New Jersey Devils are nipping at our heels.
What's even more interesting is that the Florida Panthers have climbed into the playoff picture and sit 10 points behind the Capitals. The next team in line? The Carolina Hurricanes. Three teams from the Southeast division this postseason is not a far-fetched idea.
With the Red Wings on Saturday, and then a grueling four games in seven days to start February, the Capitals can't afford to get lazy, that is unless they want to piss away the lead they built in the Southeast.
The next week of hockey is going to be a rapid-fire test that will either put the Capitals back in the hunt for first place or leave them defending the Southeast slot until April.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Anyway, if you were looking for a reason to care about this weekend's Super Bowl other than the commercials, just bandwagon on the Cardinals. I mean, they are wearing red after all, right?
"The only player not on the ice this morning other than Alex Ovechkin, who is taking the skate off, is rookie defenseman Karl Alzner. This likely means that he will be sent back down to Hershey today."
While I welcome the return of Tom Poti to the lineup, I feel that we have been spoiled by Alzner. We got to see a glimpse of our defensive future and, if this young man is to lead it, it's looking very promising.
Gustafsson of On Frozen Blog has brought this news tidbit concerning former Cap Olie Kolzig to my attention.
The St. Pete Times has the story.
Lightning backup Olie Kolzig will have surgery on Saturday to repair a ruptured distal biceps tendon in his left forearm. The surgery will be performed in Washington by orthopedist Ben Shaffer, a Capitals team physician who treated Kolzig when he played in Washington. Lightning head trainer Tommy Mulligan said Kolzig will be out three to four months. Unless Tampa Bay makes the playoffs, his season is over. It is unclear how this will affect the 17-year veteran's career. Kolzig spoke during Wednesday's practice and said he will not make any decisions about his future until the summer. He admitted, however, "In my mind, there's a lot of doubt for my future as far as hockey goes."
I can't fathom an Olie Kolzig comeback next season, with his lackluster stats and now injury worries. Despite his recent spat with the team and poor play, I always envisioned his exit from the NHL coming after lifting the Cup with the Capitals.
Here are his stats through the 2008-2009 season.
Here's to hoping he'll be okay.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Hey, if weathermen can predict snow (like they did here in Richmond) and still have jobs when they're wrong, then we can use sites like this to entertain our "what if" questions.
What's even more interesting is the Caps are listed with a 35% chance of reaching the conference and a 17% chance of reaching the finals.
Of course tonight's game pits the Caps against the Bruins, who according to this site have a 17% chance of being the Stanley Cup champs.
At 2-0 on the season against the Bruins, do you really believe that the difference between the Capitals' and Bruins' Stanley Cup dream is a whole 10%?
It was just another statement win in a season full of statement wins. The Capitals trail the Bruins by 10 points for the conference lead, yet with a win tonight could hold a 3-0 record in the season series. That's plenty of ammo for fans who might want to claim the Capitals are the true "beasts of the East."
Now the Capitals have the last half of the season to chase down the Bruins, and they'll do it with some familiar faces who have been missing from the lineup. In fact, the last time these two teams played, both were dogged by the injury bug and both teams were without key players in their lineups (Milan Lucic, Tom Poti).
Will the Capitals be able to return to work without a vacation hangover? Will Zdeno Chara put a 105.4 MPH slapshot past Jose Theodore? What's the over/under on an Ovechkin funny-hat wearing?
Washington Capitals (30-15-3, first in SE, second in EC, last game 3-2 loss to Ottawa)
vs. Bahston Bruins (34-8-5, first in NE, first in EC, last game 4-3 win over Toronto)
Here's a fun stat that showcases the effectiveness of Bruce Boudreau's coaching. Since the last All-Star Break in 2008, the Capitals have earned 106 points in 80 games (50-24-6). That's just one point shy of the Capitals' best season ever in 1985-86 when they went 50-23-7 for 107 points.
Your guess is as good as mine
The return of injured players for the Capitals spells some problems for Karl Alzner, the rookie who has not only earned a slot on the team, but improved those around him. From the Capitals Web site we are given a vague hint at what is going on...
"The Caps may have one of two injured blueliners (Tom Poti and Shaone Morrisonn) back in the lineup for Tuesday’s game in Boston."
ShaMo and Poti can't both be in the lineup if Alzner is to stay and both practiced fully with the team on Monday, so it's anyone's guess what is actually going to happen. I imagine one will not play, and a roster move will be made by Saturday's game against the Red Wings if Alzner is here to stay. We'll know more as the day goes on.
Flashes of Brilliance
Keep your eye on Tomas Fleischmann tonight; he's easily the "unsung" hero of the season thus far and in his last 10 games has five goals. With Ovechkin and Semin likely to be kept in check by the Bruins' top defensive lines, Fleischmann might be the guy who the Caps can rely on to deliver.
Back to the injuries...
With the return of Tom Poti and Shoane Morrisonn, the Capitals will have only one player on IR, the only player they had on IR to start the season, Brian Pothier. Thank God the injury bug is seemingly over.
Here's a video of some ridiculed moments in Tim Thomas' career. It seems like "Yakkity Sax" is the go-to song for YouTube goalie embarrassment. Thank you for that, Benny Hill.
LET'S GO CAPS!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
"I'm not sure who's going to win, but I'll tell you one thing: Whatever Ovechkin did last year, it's not going to make him win [this year]."- Alex Kovalev before the Breakaway Challenge.
"His routine was like the worst game of Mortal Kombat ever: the same move over and over again, with no finisher." - PuckDaddy on Alex Kovalev's half-assed Breakaway Challenge attempt.
"As for Kovalev's dismissal of Alex's antics by saying that he won a fashion show, not a skills contest, Ovechkin smiled and replied: "Of course! I love fashion!" - Slava Malamund's story from Caps Insider
"Ovechkin's just trying to have a good time, but I can't help but think he's made a mockery of the event." - Erin Brown, CBS
So what did we learn?
Alex Kovalev losing because his legions of fans could only vote once = Delicious Habs tears
Wearing a hat and glasses in a trick shot competition = Mockery of event...
Fans auto-voting a player who isn't deserving of a starting role = Not a mockery of an event...
Anyone up for trying to get the crowd to sport sunglasses and an outback hat for Saturday's (nearly) soldout contest against the Red Wings?
What better way to welcome home our Breakaway Challenge hero than with an homage to his hilarious trick shot?
Fans, bloggers and casual readers who are just passing by, I ask you to promote this movement.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Let's do a little recap of the event.
The event got off to a shaky start when some terrible pop-singer pweformed, garnering a collective "meh" from the crowd. Just a note for future halftime entertainers, when you have to say "c'mon make some noise!" twice, you should just take the check and go home.
Next came the NHL's "artistic" portion of the pregame entertainment featuring a spinning organ meshed with pop music. The organ part was creepy and the organist looked like an understudy from "Phantom of the Opera." So what did we learn? Mixing classic organ themes such as "Hava Nagila" with pop-rock and a spinning floor results in EPIC FAIL.
The Fastest Skater competition was what you would expect it to be, but frankly I found it to be one of the lesser events on the night. Maybe it was seeing a video of Mike Gartner and Peter Bondra face off in the 90s that made me miss the "dueling" format.
I could probably write a whole blog post about the Breakaway Challenge, but I'll keep it short. Martin St. Louis had the best trick shot hands down while Ovechkin had the wackiest shot. I guess we learned that skill is lesser to a bucket hat with tacky sunglasses.
For the record, the color commentators noticed that Ovechkin had pulled out his cell phone after the BAC and thought he was voting. He was actually posting on Twitter, leaving this message for all to see.
"Did ya like it?"
Moving along we now reach the low point of the night, possibly lower than the spinning organ of fail.
The YoungStars game sucked. I'm glad that Nicklas Backstrom didn't take part in that 18 minute snoozefest. The YoungStars game needs some serious re-tooling. Maybe next year they should do Rookies vs. Seniors. I mean wouldn't it be fun to see Mats Sundin, Claude Lemieux, Sergei Fedorov and Brenden Shanahan take on a crop of youngsters?
The Accuracy Competition was like the Fastest Skater, entertaining but nothing too special. The Hardest Shot saw Zdeno Chara beat Al Iafrate's record as he blasted home a 105.4 MPH shot. The Shootout Elimination Challenge was fun for the first few shooters, but it seemed like a cheap way to tell the players "exit stage left."
All-in-all, it was a great night even if some of the events lacked the excitement of the Breakaway Challenge. The players were having fun, and that's how you sell a game, showing your top players enjoying themselves.
It was a great sight to see players texting their votes for the Breakaway Challenge and erupting in laughter when Ovechkin donned his shades. Then there was Malkin and other players signing jerseys that were thrown over the glass and playing to the crowd.
The players' jovial attitude radiated with the fans and created an event that will be remembered for being fun. Let's hope this continues into the actual All-Star Game.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Ovechkin put out this thinly veiled call for help on his Twitter account.
"On my way to Montreal - can’t believe the number of people on this. Hope I get this many votes in the skills challenge."
in fact, he's not optimistic...
"How I'd rank the breakaway challenge guys: Kovalev, Kane, Getzlaf, St Louis, me ."
Here's the plan.
We don't want to become a mindless horde of voters who obey Ovechkin like he's Big Brother, so I implore you to vote for the player who impresses you the most.
Enjoy the event over your favorite beverage, but if Ovechkin does in fact have the sickest moves out there, get on your phone and vote!
Thursday, January 22, 2009
In 1976, the ABA decided to showcase the slam dunk in its very own competition. At that time, the NCAA had just recently allowed the "dunk" in its game while professional players had been using the dunk as an efficient power move that overwhelmed defenders.
The ABA took notice of the dunk's popularity and put it in the spotlight.
I've embedded the very first dunk competition for your enjoyment below.
The competition boiled down to a collection of players experimenting with the competition, but ultimately holding back. That was until Julius Erving, or Dr. J, set the bar for future dunk competitions. Dr. J soared from the free throw line to the hoop, slamming the ball ferociously to the roar of the crowd.
Today, the dunk competition is the event to watch at the NBA's All-Star event. Players want to be part of the lineage that Dr. J began, and fans can't wait to see what tricks the players have up their sleeves.
Players have added chairs, stickers, kicks, anything you can think of to elevate their dunk to "legendary" status.
Now fast-forward to 2008. The NHL introduces the Breakaway Challenge, a trick shot competition focused around the NHL's most exciting play, the breakaway.
Much like the ABA's first dunk competition, players were unsure of what they should do. Many fiddled around with common tricks, one player dropped to his knees, but for the most part it was not the exciting event many thought.
That was until Alex Ovechkin, much like Dr. J., set the bar for what the competition would become. Bouncing the puck off his stick, Ovechkin spun in a circle before trying to bat the puck home.
It was a unique display of puck control, skill and showmanship that the previous attempts lacked. Players tapped their sticks, fans cheered and soon the move became another YouTube highlight for The Great Eight.
Now the Breakaway Challenge is the marquee event of the SuperSkills competition. Fans and players are excited to see what Ovechkin will attempt, and his competitors are itching for the chance to one-up the reigning champ.
Alex Ovechkin may not win the Breakaway Challenge this year, but if the event is here to stay, he will be remembered as its pioneer.
Ovechkin vs. the text-messaging hordes of Montreal and Pittsburgh.
Saturday, Alex Ovechkin will be given the opportunity to defend his crown as "King of the Trick Shot." Alex Kovalev, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Kane are planning regicide, an attempt to remove Ovechkin with inferior tricks.
The NHL, insistent on letting the fans speak their mind, will determine the winner by text-message voting.
We saw the horrible atrocities that were committed when we stood by and didn't vote. The rest of the NHL watched while Pittsburgh and Montreal annexed starting slot after starting slot.
Red Army, your mission is to vote for Alex Ovechkin this weekend during the Breakaway Challenge. To the rest of the NHL that is not represented in the Breakway Challenge, I implore you to join us.
If you are still sour about the whole text-message voting system, just remember...
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
- Edmund BrukeRock the red and rock the vote.
Note: The voting is one vote per phone, meaning we won't have to deal with 400,000 votes from the same phone like we did with the lineups.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Karl Alzner, Daren Machesney and Bryan Helmer are headed back to Chocolate-town.
Alzner's return is either:
A) To get some games in during the All-Star break with the Bears. The Bears have a game Wednesday night and then back-to-back games before the AHL's All-Star break this weekend.
B) The signal of the return of Tom Poti. With Poti back in the lineup, the Capitals can no longer afford the services of Karl Alzner unless a trade is made.
Alzner's run has been great, but Caps fans have long been fearing this day. The return of Poti is something fans can cheer about though. He's had plenty of time to rest and now has nearly a week to heal even more. If he is not in the lineup against Boston next week, I'd be very suprised.
Thanks for the games, Karl. Here's to seeing you in Washington sooner rather than later.
"I am grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in the YoungStars Game last year. This year I felt like it made more sense for me to give someone else that opportunity and use this time to rest and prepare for the second half of the season with the Washington Capitals. I can assure Caps fans that I’m not injured and will be ready to go Tuesday in Boston."
Good for Backstrom. The YoungStars game is not a marquee event this year, and there is some truth in what Backstrom says.
Last year, it was Western Rookies vs. Eastern Rookies. Now, it's Rookies vs. Sophomores. I think the NHL is making a critical error. Instead of having a platform to showcase the best rookies from each conference, they now have a game that is just a handful of rookies and guys we've already seen.
I'd rather the YoungStars game be filled with all-rookie squads so that fans can become familiar with some of these new names. It seems like with each draft since the lockout rookies have made bigger splashes in the NHL than years before. Instead of having a whole draft class in the AHL, we have numerous rookies who are playing on a nightly basis for their main clubs.
Perhaps the NHL would consider putting an NHL squad of rookies against an AHL squad of rookies for the YoungStars game. Makes sense. Players like Oskar Osala who are tearing up in the AHL won't crack the NHL rosters for at least a year, why not give the world a sneak peak at the them?
As much as I'd love to see Backstrom play in an All-Star game event, I think the game he deserves to be in is the real All-Star game, not some circus sideshow.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The stats clearly show that Ovechkin is an asset to his team and is a key cog in any Capitals victory. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals, is in the top 10 for hits and, once again, leads in shots, but what is most impressive is his goal totals in the last five minutes of play.
15 of Ovechkin's 31 goals this season have come in the last five minutes of play.
That's right, nearly HALF of Ovechkin's goals this season have come in the last five minutes of play.
Did I just blow your mind? But wait, there's more!
Consider this, since his rookie season in the NHL, Ovechkin's late-game goal totals have increased each year. In 05-06, he had 13 goals in the last five minutes. In 06-07, he had 16. In 07-08, he had 20, and now 15 at the halfway mark of the 08-09 campaign.
That's 32% of his 194 career goals.
When the Caps are looking for a game winner, put away or go-ahead goal, Ovechkin is the man who delivers, consistently.
So when choosing the award for the league's M.V.P, do you look solely at total points scored, or the quality and value of the points scored?
Keeping things in perspective: 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.
6th 8: 4-4-0, 8 pts. Three-game losing streak broken by big wins over Pittsburgh, Boston.
5th 8: 7-1-0, 14 pts. Six-game win streak, seven of last eight, 13 of last 15 -- fastest start in team history. Fifty-five points total at the halfway point of the blocks.
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.
Monday, January 19, 2009
The Caps carry a win into this game but, keep in mind, the overtime win versus the Islanders could easily have been a regulation loss, and not because the Isles were the better team. The Capitals almost beat the Capitals yesterday with lazy play and a general lack of interest until the game was suddenly tied.
Ottawa isn't a stellar team this season, but that doesn't mean they should looked past. The Sens do sport some superstar talent in Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson. In fact, that's their first line so you can surmise who the Capitals will need to shut down for success in Ottawa.
Washington Capitals (30-14-3, first in SE, second in EC, last game 2-1 OT win over NYI)
Ottawa Senators (15-21-7, fifth in NE, 13th in EC, last game 5-4 OT loss to Montreal)
A thorn in the Sens' side
Alex Ovechkin is probably one of the Senators' least favorite players. He torched the Sens for four goals in one game last year and in his career has 12 goals in 14 games. In his last game against Ottawa, he netted two goals. Think he'll want to pad that goal-scoring lead?
The Capitals, 11-11-2 on the road, can achieve mediocrity on the road with a win.
In case you missed it
Alex Ovechkin now leads the NHL in goals with 31. Tonight's game against the Senators will be the first game this season where Ovie does not share the lead with any player.
We should do this
The Senators held their team skills challenge recently; read about it here. Wouldn't it be great if the Caps did something like this?
Senators Cribs with Dany Heatley
Dany Heatley...sings...on the ice...
I love when players get mic'd up, and this video of Dany Heatley is easily one of the best if only for his rendition of the Killers' "Mr. Brightside."
LET'S GO CAPS!
After a little bit of Web-scouring, I came across this interview with Johnson about his work in the video game world, his Shatner impression and the world of gaming.
Hey it's not hockey-related, but it is Capitals-related so enjoy.
Some thoughts and notes on the game:
Alex Ovechkin had yet another two-goal night in the great state of New York.
The Caps won't beat Ottawa if they bring this effort with them.
The Caps have been outscored 8-4 in matinee games, including this one. The Caps can thank the Flyers for that stat.
Jose Theodore looked like a fish flopping on a dry deck at times, but he deserved a shutout. A few questionable stick calls and a delay of game penalty crushed that dream.
The Caps may be weening themselves off Karl Alzner; his time on ice was 16:15. Mike Green led the ice time with 25:15.
The only Caps player with a losing faceoff average? Brooks Laich; he was 4-11.
This was the Isles' first point of the 2009 half of the season.
I'll have a pre-Cap for the Ottawa game up later!
Sunday, January 18, 2009
After a three-game losing streak, the Caps have put together a pair of "statement" wins back-to-back. Now the Caps face to teams that are likely to be lottery pick contenders and have the opportunity to break .500 on the road. After this set of back-to-back games, the Caps will take a hard-earned break for the All-Star game.
The Islanders and the year 2009 aren't getting along. Sporting an 0-7 record since Jan. 1, 2009, the Isles are the front runners for the "John Tavares sweepstakes." That's not to say that the Isles are playing bad hockey though; in their past seven games, they've run up against the Bruins, Devils, Flames, Rangers and Sharks.
Washington Capitals (29-14-3, first in SE, second in EC, last game 2-1 win over Boston)
vs. New York Islanders (12-29-4, fifth in ATL, 15th in EC, last game 3-1 loss to New Jersey)
The longer he's off the scoresheet, the more dangerous he gets
If there is one stat that Alex Ovechkin can use to prove why he's the best player in the NHL today, it's his point totals in the third period. Twenty-nne of Ovechkin's 57 points have come in the third period, 15 of them goals. Fourteen of his goals this season have come in the last five minutes of play. If that's not what an MVP is supposed to do, then please correct me.
More Ovie stats to think about
So far this season, Ovechkin has had only two multigoal games on the road. Both have come against New York-based teams: two goals against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and two against the Isles at Nassau Coliseum.
Head-scratcher of a stat
Usually when you score the first goal, your team should be in command to set the tone of the game. Teams such as the Caps, Sharks and Red Wings boast a plus .800 win percentage when scoring first. Now look at the Islanders: They have a .400 win percentage when scoring first in games. A frustrating stat that the Islanders hope to correct in the future.
What's in a scratch?
The Capitals this season and last had no trouble winning big games without the services of Chris Clark. For both the Penguins and Bruins games, Clark watched from the press box as the team won both of those matches. It will be interesting to see what happens with Clark. Is he being scratched for poor play? Is a trade in the works? Resting him for the long run? Who knows. If the Caps are looking to trade Clark, scratching him will only decrease his value, but then again what good is he if he's in the press box? Expect Clark to return to the lineup sometime during this road trip and try to earn his place back on the ice.
Stick-ology with Brooks Laich
Learn how players choose a lucky stick from a man who has no trouble scoring (hi-five for innuendo!)
The last meeting
LET'S GO CAPS!
Just a few moments away from the NHL's first game on NBC this season and the novelty of a conference championship football game in ARIZONA, I decided to enter my "what if" machine.
With trade rumors buzzing, and the deadline looming in less than 45 days, one can only wonder what roster moves the Capitals may make to help boost the team through the playoffs. What I've compiled is a few of the players I would like to see wearing Capitals red in the future in a feature I'm calling
"Players we'd love to see in red* (*if they were willing to take a pay cut or we made some moves)
This is Part I of a three-part series that I plan to post for three Sundays in a row.
D - Anton Volchenkov
Current team: Ottawa Senators
Current salary: $2,200,000, UFA in 2010.
If there is one position that Caps fans have lamented the lack of, it's defense, more specifically, defensive defensemen.
The Capitals do have a rising star in Karl Alzner and Tom Poti has quickly become the Caps best defensive player, but the truth is you can never have too many sound defensemen. That's where Volchenkov comes in. He's a true-blue stay-at-home guy with a knack for blocking shots, a physical player who doesn't shy away from hits or taking one for the team.
This season he has two goals, one assist and is a negative 13 through 31 games played. It's not the best numbers in the world, but that's more or less the result of Volchenkov playing on a Senators team that has gone from Stanley Cup contender to sub-.500 play in the past three years.
If you want to see the "real" Volchenkov, just look at his 2006-2007 numbers. One goal, 18 assists and a plus 37.
His defensive skills are more than enticing, but what I think might be a dealmaker is his nationality. A native of Moscow, he'd be joining a Capitals team that is filled to the brim with Russian talent.
Chances of wearing red? It's possible, but I wouldn't count on it. He's not too expensive, and his contract is coming to an end next season. With the Sens recent troubles, Volchenkov may want to move to greener pastures, but you have to think that Ottawa is going to have a hard time parting with him and will give him a worthy offer sheet.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Well here is some footage of the game which will be available in February via Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.
Caps buzz is in the air. It's on Pardon the Interruption, it's on Around the Horn, it's all over SportsCenter, and with a victory over Boston it will likely be forgotten until the next time the Capitals play the Penguins. Crazy how that works right?
Anyway, tonight the Capitals play host to the Big Bad Bruins who sit atop the Eastern Conference with 70 points. While the Bruins are not out-of-reach, it's going to take a herculean effort to chase them down, but the silver lining is every point earned pads the Caps lead in the Southeast. So no matter how you feel about the Caps chances of taking the top slot, these are two points that are more than worth winning...not that any two points aren't worth winning.
The Capitals "Red Army" will welcome their heroes home with a sellout crowd this Saturday, and after the Pittsburgh victory, it's likely to be one of the loudest games of the season. With a tough opponent in Boston, it's going to be a brusing good time.
Washington Capitals (28-14-3, first in SE, second in EC, last game 6-3 triumph over Pittsburgh)
Bahston Bruins (33-7-4, first in NE, first in EC, last game 2-1 win over NYI)
Stories to keep an eye on
Some interesting storylines to follow tonight. Will team captain Chris Clark be scratched again? Boudreau may have been sending a message or is it possible a trade in the works with Florida? Ovechkin hates playing against Zdeno Chara, will the lanky defender have his with Ovechkin? The Capitals goaltending has dipped back to "decent/okay" territory, who gets the start and what will they do with it?
Straight out of Slapshot
That's the Boston Bruins record against the Southeast Division. Guess who that "one" is. That's right, the Capitals, who beat the Bruins 3-1 in December.
Text messaging, when will the NHL learn?
Great news! Well not really, but the NHL Breakaway Challenge featuring Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby will be determined by fan voting via text messaging. So basically Pens fans will likely vote Crosby the winner even if his trick shot is falling to a knee and being escorted off the ice with three minutes left to play.
Tim Thomas doesn't take s*** from anyone
Montreal and Boston, an original six rivalry good for heated battles and highlight reel plays. Boston goalie Tim Thomas added this gem to the highlight reel as he mauls Canadiens forward Andrei Kostitsyn. Oh what I would give for a goalie who would do this sort of thing.
Montreal fans do get thier cumupins though, in the form of YouTube embarassment.
LET'S GO CAPS!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Top Chef Season 4 contestant Spike Mendelsohn let Mike Green, Donald Brashear and Eric Fehr enter the kitchen of his D.C. restaurant, Good Stuff Eatery, and have a cook-off.
Brash wins style points for eating while cooking, and having a super-serious face on at all times. Gotta love a guy who wears a Super Mario Bros. shirt, calls his burger the "Simple Donny Burger," and can beat your face in.
Kornheiser goes the safe route while Wilbon goes nuts and promises to punch people who think Crosby is better than Ovechkin.
So what did we learn?
Ovechkin is akin to Tim Tebow and Sidney Crosby plays "point guard."
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The Capitals victory over the Penguins was not a personal victory for Ovechkin and Semin, but rather a victory for the entire Capitals organization.
Sure there were a few hits between Ovechkin and Malkin as well as some taunting of the benches, but we've come to expect that from every Caps/Pens matchup.
If anything, this game represents a stunning change in this rivalry, a change where the Capitals are the bullies and the Pens the bullied. A flip-flop of years past.
The Caps went down 1-0 and spent the majority of the game going back-and-forth with the Pens. It was the prototypical Caps-Pens matchup: the Caps would get rolling, only to have to fight back.
That changed in the third period when Alex Ovechkin exploded in a Hulk-like fit of rage, netting two goals and an assist. Let's not forget that Backstrom had a huge night too, earning a quiet three assists and a plus-three on the night.
The Capitals were the better team that night, just like they were on Oct. 16, and they weren't about to let subplots defer them from their goal, two points.
In the past, the Capitals would have lost this game in a shootout, overtime, or by simply giving up, say, four goals in the third period. That all is changing as it seems the Caps are delivering those soul-sucking defeats that they are accustomed to.
The Caps victory in October? A blown three-goal lead Pittsburgh held. That sounds a lot like the Caps of 2005-2006. The Penguins aren't necessarily turning into the Capitals of years past, but rather getting a taste of their own medicine. What goes around comes around.
While the optimism is high in Capital-land, the reality is the Caps are still "in-the-hole" against the Penguins during the Ovechkin-era. They sport a 3-10 record with Crosby/Ovechkin in the lineups, but the Caps of three years ago that blew game-after-game are not the Caps of today.
The Caps may not be the best team every time they meet the Penguins, but they certainly sent a message last night.
I write this as Woody Paige on Around the Horn just won the day by claiming Sidney Crosby is the best player in the NHL and is "more real, more sellable, more fun." Obviously Paige didn't watch last night's game. Moron. Oh and now Tony Kornheiser wants the Winter Classic on the Reflecting Pool...
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Jersey Foul - (jûr'ze - foul) Wearing the name of a player/person on a sweater he never wore, putting fictional characters on a jersey, or misspellings or numerical errors.
First up, we have the Brett Leonhardt jersey. The Capitals Web editor suited up for one game but never saw any ice time. Talk about "stretching" your 15 minutes of fame. Oh man, that was bad. For the record, this is not the only Leonhardt sweater out there. During the Christmas break, I counted five of them at Verizon Center.
Next, we have a group of jerseys courtesy of Puck Daddy and the DC Sports Bog. A Palin jersey and an Ovechkin sweater on the 70s Caps uniform? Ugh. A Crosby Sucks jersey; what, are we in high school? Well, since we already have a Palin jersey, it's not like some idiot is going to go and do an Obama jersey too...
*facepalm* I don't what's worse, this jersey or the millions of trinkets with Obama's face on them that the street vendors in D.C. are selling.
"Superbad" was a funny movie, but I'm not sure if I should be laughing or lumping this next to the Obama jersey.
Despite all of the Jersey Fouls we've explored today, at least we know how to spell our players' names right. The Pittsburgh Public School system failed this guy.
Assists to PuckDaddy, EmptyNetters and DC Sports Bog.
"What's so special about [Crosby]? I don't see anything special there." - Alexander Semin
"We'll stick up [for Malkin], like you would for any teammate..." - Sidney Crosby
Tonight's matchup between the Penguins and Capitals will likely be more than a routine meeting between the teams. While there is an incredible amount of back-story heading into this game thanks to Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, it also could be a turning point for both clubs.
The Capitals have dropped three games in a row now, a number that ties the season high for consecutive losses. Coming off a 5-2 loss to the Oilers, the Capitals need to bounce back from a poor effort where they reverted to bad habits. The Penguins on the other hand are in crisis. The reigning Eastern Conference champs currently sit in 10th place, out of the playoffs, and are 3-7 in their last 10. Pens fans are calling for the firing of Coach Micheal Therrien, and fans are growing restless with the team's under-performance.
Washington Capitals (27-14-3, first in SE, second in EC, last game 5-2 loss to Edmonton)
Pittsburgh Penguins (21-19-4, fourth in ATL, 10th in EC, last game 4-2 win over Philadelphia)
Players to watch
WSH: Nicklas Backstrom
He's the main pivot for the Capitals powerplay and, given their recent struggles, he will need to win offensive zone faceoffs if the Caps want to see success. Backstrom could be the sleeper here, with so much focus on Ovechkin and Semin; don't be suprised if you see Backstrom have a big day on the scoresheet.
PIT: Jordan Staal
Having just signed a four-year, $16-million contract, Staal will be looked upon to show why he deserves the pay raise. Staal's 24 points make him the fifth best on the Penguins and, like Backstrom, je might be ignored in light of all the Crosby and Malkin hoopla. Staal could be in line for a big night as well if the Capitals focus too much attention on the Penguins' dynamic duo.
The last meeting
The Hart trophy candidates in one game
Another story to keep an eye on is that the top three forwards in the NHL are all on the ice tonight. All three are staking a claim as to why they should be the NHL's MVP (Hart Trophy) winner. At the halfway mark, Alex Ovechkin is the predicted winner per the NHL.
Stat of the day
In the Penguins' last 10 games, they have only scored three power play goals on 42 chances. The Caps have given up eight powerplay goals on 38 shorthanded situations in their last 10 games.
Tale of the tape
In the highly unlikely event that some of the marquee players should face off in fights, here's who we think you should put your money on.
Semin vs. Crosby - Crosby is no stranger to a fight these days, but he is a stranger to a fair fight. Crosby is at his best when a teammate is holding an opponent down with his rear-end exposed or when jumping a player at the faceoff circle. Semin on the other hand is a wild-man whose slapping fits of rage can come at anytime. Considering that Semin plays wing, not center, Crosby will not be able to jump Semin at the faceoff circle. Advantage Semin
LET'S GO CAPS!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
With the Washington Redskins' season complete and the Wizards as bad as they are, it's only natural that the Capitals will be the benefactors of being the only team in D.C. worth watching. So it is our pleasure to offer this F.A.Q. about the Capitals' most storied rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
New fans, get out your pencils and notebooks; it's time to learn why we hate the Penguins.
Where did it all begin?
Some say it was when the Capitals were part of the Patrick Division, others during the playoffs, but they are both right.
What's this about a "Patrick Division?"
Starting in 1983, the Caps were divisional rivals with the Flyers, Pens, Devils, Islanders and Rangers. After the 1992-1993 season, the NHL divisions were changed based on locality and the Patrick Division became the Atlantic Division but the teams remained the same until 1997.
So why are the Caps no longer in the Atlantic Division?
In 1997-1998, some idiot thought Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida would make a better division with the Caps, hence there is now the Southeast Division.
Golly, that's a pretty dumb idea! What's this you said about the playoffs?
The Capitals have appeared in the playoffs 19 times since their birth in 1974 and have faced the Penguins seven times in the postseason. Their only series victory over the Penguins was in 1994 in the quarterfinals, a series they won 4-2.
1-6 against the Pens in the playoffs? What happened?
The Caps blew a few 3-1 series leads and had to deal with the likes of Mario Lemiuex and Jaromir Jagr. 'Nuff said.
Why are the Penguins still relevant now? I thought we should hate the Flyers?
Well, you should "hate" the Flyers, but the Penguins have the longest playoff history with the Capitals. The Flyers have only faced the Capitals in the postseason four times, and the series between the two teams sits at 2-2. Truth be told, the Islanders have the second-longest playoff history (six meetings in postseason) with the Capitals but are not considered a heated rival by most.
I'm feeling the hate. What's this I hear about Pens fans taking over stadiums?
There's no lying. Penguins fans hate living in Pittsburgh, that's why they all flock to other locales and live there instead! Seasons ago, it was not uncommon for Caps fans to be outnumbered by Pens fans. With the increased amount of season tickets sold and the buzz around the team, it is unclear if the Pens will have as large a following as they have had. A credit to Pittsburgh fans is that it is not only Verizon Center they invade, but Pittsburgh fans seem to invade the stadiums for every major sport Pittsburgh is involved in.
Are Pens fans a bunch of drunken idiots?
Some are, but some Caps fans are too. In my experience, I've always had nice Pens fans who didn't mind a good chat about the game and were respectable to those around them. It is not uncommon to see a fight breakout in the 400 levels between opposing fans, but I've seen more incidents with Flyers fans than I ever have with Pittsburgh fans.
Which players should I be booing?
It is only natural that you should boo Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. While many think the rivalry is between Crosby and Ovechkin, it is actually Ovechkin vs. Malkin. A new battle has emerged in Semin vs. Crosby after Alex Semin's interview with Puck Daddy.
What is this whooping sound I am hearing?
That's because former Capital Sergei Gonchar is holding the puck. It's generally used to taunt former Capitals that fans have lost respect for. It started with former Capital Larry Murphy. Some fans support whooping, others wish it would die.
The Pens fans around me are chanting "Let's Go Pens!" What do I do?
Chant Let's Go Caps! For some reason people think that chanting "Penguins suck" is a deterrent. Truth be told, silencing an opposing team's fans with support for your team will likely shut them up faster than acknowledging they are in the stands.
Do Caps fans and Penguins fans agree on anything?
The two teams hold a mutual hate for the Flyers, and some Pens fans dislike former Cap/Pen Jaromir Jagr but that's about it.
The Capitals won! What should I do?
The Capitals lost and I'm mad as hell. What should I do?
Go to the Capitals Message Board, create an account and complain.
That's why the standings make this Oilers team look worse than it is. Sitting at 11th in the Western Conference, the Oilers come into this game 6-4 in their last 10. The Oilers don't sport a lineup of superstar talents you know on a first-name basis, but they do have a collection of players worth looking out for in Eric Cole, Sheldon Souray and Ales Hemsky.
After a serving of humble-pie from the Blue Jackets and then fumbling away a point in Montreal, the last thing the Capitals can do is look past the Oilers in anticipation of their bout with Pittsburgh.
Edmonton Oilers (20-18-3 43 pts, fifth in NW, 11th in WC, last game 2-1 win over St. Louis)
The Achilles Heel
For the Oilers, it's been their penalty kill. Currently ranked 28th with a 74.9% average, the Capitals will need to exploit this mismatch if they want to win. This could be an issue for Edmonton, which averages 15.5 penalty minutes a game and will likely give the Capitals plenty of oppurtunities to ignite their power play.
The Capitals have the luxury of being one of the best teams in terms of first period scoring. With 44 goals, they sit at fourth in the NHL, they dip down with 39 total goals in the second period, and 51 total goals in the third. Now look at the Edmonton Oilers' stats. Twenty-eight totals goals in the first period, 46 total goals in the second and 36 total goals in the third. For the Oilers, the challenge will be to not let the Capitals run away with the game early but, for the Capitals, that's the name of their game.
No play for Jose?
As of writing this, the starting goalies have not been announced. With Pittsburgh looming on Wednesday, it's safe to say whoever starts against the Oilers will likely not start against the Penguins. Jose Theodore may want to skip a date with the Oilers; his career marksagainst them is 5-9 with a 3.69 GAA.
Not so photogenic
The camera doesn't love the Oilers and Ales Hemsky apparently.
This is why you shouldn't teach your kids how to video-blog
This child's perspective on the Oilers is innocent, unique and, most of all, obnoxious. Children really are our future.
LET'S GO CAPS!
Sunday, January 11, 2009
While the Southeast Division hasn't provided many intense rivalries, it does have some of the best talent in the NHL. Despite mediocre play and poor records, the Southeast is home to Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Eric Staal, Ilya Kovalchuk, and teams that, if rebuilt correctly, will house some of the best young talent in the NHL.
The Capitals are the benefactors of being a powerful team in a powerless division, but even that is beginning to change. Florida and Carolina are vying for playoff positions, slots that might very well match them with the Capitals in the first round.
Another stat worth noting is that two of the last five Stanley Cup winners were from the Southeast (Tampa 03-04, Carolina 05-06). Two years before the Tampa Bay Cup win, Carolina lost in the Stanley Cup finals to Detroit.
Another thing to think about: If the Capitals were in any other division in the NHL, do you think they would have been able to go on their incredible late-season run last year? Imagine if the Capitals' last few games were not Tampa, Carolina and Florida but against Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the New York Rangers. Think the Caps would have had that late-season run against those teams?
The Southeast Division may not be the most exciting division in hockey today, but it is loaded with superstar talent that has produced championship-caliber teams.
Let's win a Cup before we start "crying" for tougher competition in our division. As I see it, in a few years, the Southeast can be just as competitive as the Atlantic Division.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Thanks to Japers for the assist.
Washington Capitals (27-12-3, first in SE, second in EC, last game 3-0 loss to Steve Mason)
Montreal Canadiens (24-10-6, second in NE, fourth in EC, last game 6-2 win over Toronto)
The last time...
The Capitals and Jose Theodore blanked Montreal 3-0 and then fell to Columbus the very next day 3-0. Kinda strange how the Blue Jackets just beat us 3-0 again and now we face the Montreal Canadiens the next day.
Nicklas Backstrom will be on the sophmores team but Karl Alzner will not be on the rookie team. I can understand this as he hasn't played the entire season and he plays a stay-at-home style of defense. Not really the type of play people want to see in a ASG. Either way, still a snub.
And for your latest suspension
During the Habs vs. Maple Leafs game, Mikhail Grabvoski gets three games for pushing an official.
LET'S GO CAPS
Friday, January 9, 2009
Rather than argue for a legitimate All-Star game, instead, we should have the biggest gimmick on ice: a true spectacle worthy of watching if only just to say, "Yeah, I saw that crap and hated it."
So, without futher delay, "How to make the ASG the biggest gimmick on ice."
Team Ovechkin vs. Team Crosby
We know who the biggest stars in the NHL are, so why not copy the KHL's format and have them each captain a team? Both players command large fan bases who would love to see them go head-to-head with the very best the NHL has to offer.
Fan voting for EVERY player
OK, so we have the two captains; now we need players. Well, the NHL seems to think this fan voting thing is a great idea, so let's run with it. The fans will choose every player in the game, only they won't pick who plays with who...
The All-Star Game draft
During the Winter Classic, Ovechkin and Crosby will choose their team, fantasy draft style, during the intermission. In all honesty, I'd love to see what teams the two of them would build given the chance to play fantasy GM for a day. Anyway, we are so close to turning this into crap-tacular entertainment.
A three-point line and each period ends with a shootout for a "bonus goal"
Oh man, we're going off the deep end now. Goals scored from the blue line are worth three goals, and after each period the players engage in a shootout for a "bonus goal" that will count for one regulation goal. I hope Gary Bettman isn't reading this.
MVP of the game gets an extra game at home for his team in the playoffs.
I think that is pretty self-explanatory. If Ovechkin were to win the ASG MVP, he would get the Capitals five home games instead of four for every series they are in the playoffs. It's not like any other league uses home-field advantage as a reward for their All-Star game...
Well there you have it. The crappiest gimmick on ice.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
While spirits are high in Washington, if you're in need of a "downer" consider this: The Blue Jackets are one of two teams that have shut out the Caps this season. That shutout came after Jose Theodore shut out his former team, the Montreal Canadiens.
The hockey gods giveth, and the hockey gods taketh away.
Washington Capitals (27-11-3, first in SE, second in EC, last game 2-1 SO win over Philadephia)
Columbus Blue Jackets (18-18-4, third in CEN, 11th in WC, last game 3-0 loss to Detroit)
Not feelin' your pain
The last time the Capitals faced the Blue Jackets they were in the middle of a freak wave of injuries. Now it's the Blue Jackets who are missing personnel coming into the game. The Blue Jackets just placed goalie Pascal Leclaire on IR and have another five players on the IR as well. Even their star player, Rick Nash, is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
The wrong goalie's injured!
While losing Pascal Leclaire to the IR is a blow to the Blue Jackets' depth, they do have the best goaltender in the NHL, and he's a rookie. Steve Mason has the league lead in goals allowed and save percentage at age 20. He won't be appearing in the NHL All-Star game later this month, but will likely play in the Young Stars game.
Carry the flag? No thanks, I'd rather watch hockey
Probably one of the worst intro videos I have ever seen. Oh wait, I take that back.
In their last five games, the Blue Jackets have only converted on two of their 19 power play chances. In their last two games, the BJs have allowed 6 power play goals on 13 chances. In their Jan. 3 bout with St. Louis, the BJs allowed a short-handed goal. I guess that would explain why the Blue Jackets are dead last in power play conversions with a 10.2% mark.
Puck Possession and Tough Customers
Here's your stat of the day: The Blue Jackets have the third fewest giveaways in the NHL (214). The Caps lead the league in giveaways (502). Another interesting stat to ponder is that the Blue Jackets are fifth in the NHL with 952 hits; 453 of those came on the road.
Yakkity Sax + Swedish Goalie diving = YouTube hilarity
Not related to the game, but too entertaining to pass up.
If you're still mad about the ASG selections
Round the sphere
Jaromir Jagr is rumored to return to the NHL...Jarkko Ruutu has a league mandated timeout in the corner after biting a player...Washington, D.C., is snub city and the Caps blogosphere is mad as hell...Caps prospect John Carlson gets to play with top NHL prospect John Tavares...Push the linesman and salute your fans, that's how they do it in Toronto.
LET'S GO CAPS!