Friday, February 27, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Bruins

Washington Capitals (39-18-5, first in SE, second in EC)
vs.
Boston Bruins (42-12-8, first in NE, first in EC)

With each game played, the NHL playoff picture begins to take shape as the top slots are close to secure, and the teams on the outside looking in are left behind. The Capitals are in no danger of missing the playoffs, but what position they will start at is still up for grabs for the moment.

The Capitals need to treat this game against the Bruins as a must win. The situation is simple; win and keep within reasonable distance of the Bruins or lose and spend the month of March fending off the New Jersey Devils.

While the task at hand is great, the Capitals have overcome enormous last-minute challenges before. At the end of February last year, the Capitals were tasked with playing flawless hockey in order to secure a playoff spot. This year, they will need to play flawless hockey if they want to be the top team in the East, guaranteeing a matchup with the eighth and final playoff team.

The Boston Bruins won't be an easy team to chase down. The Bruins' remaning schedule features nine opponents who are not in playoff contention and games against Northeast Division foes in Buffalo and Montreal. The Bruins record when playing divisional opponents? 13-3-2.

Boston's success has come on the shoulders of goalie Tim Thomas. Thomas, a possible Vezina candidate, has a 2.01 GAA through 40 games. He has 27 wins and four shutouts this season. Couple that with an offense that has produced four 20-goal scorers and you're looking at a team poised for a Stanley Cup run.

The Capitals were able to win two points from Atlanta, but if anything was learned from Tuesday night's loss to the Flyers it's that they can't ease up when in control of the game.

Boston and Philadelphia are faintly similar; they are physical teams that use their aggressiveness to create opportunities. If the Bruins batter the Capitals off of their game plan, then the red faithful might want to adjust the rear-view mirror and keep a close eye on the Devils, not the Bruins.

LETS GO CAPS!

Roll with "Neuvy" or make a deal?

There are four days left before the NHL's trade deadline, and GM's across the league are contemplating whether they should sell for the future or buy for a Cup run now.

Capital's General Manager George McPhee has remained tight-lipped about the team's plans on March 4, but with a rookie goaltender replacing the injured Brent Johnson many wonder if a new netminder should be sought out at the deadline.

This weekend features the second-to-last set of back-to-back games for the Capitals. While Saturday's game against the Bruins is in the "must win" category, the bout with the Panthers could very well be the nail in the Southeast Division coffin for the Panthers and Hurricanes.

Jose Theodore is likely to start against the Bruins, but if the Capitals want an answer to the question "should we trade for a veteran backup goalie?" it could be answered Sunday. The game might as well be a "must win," and with the trade deadline looming is there a better litmus test for Michal Neuvirth than a divisional game that all but clinches the division?

So, do you start Neuvirth Sunday and decide to seek a veteran goalie based on his performance? Or do you go ahead and find an affordable backup, regardless of who starts Sunday?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Thrashers

I can't tell what's worse,
the actual jersey or the team in those awkward suits.


Washington Capitals (38-18-5 - first in SE - second in EC)
vs.
Atlanta Thrashers (22-33-6 - last in SE - 14th in EC)

Before the Capitals' abysmal effort against the Avalanche, Bruce Boudreau scolded a journalist for suggesting that the Capitals "play down" to opponents.

Here's his chance to redeem himself.

The Thrashers are second-to-last in the NHL, but bear in mind the gap between the Thrashers and the last place Islanders is eight points.

The source of the Thrashers' troubles comes in their lack of defense. Only nine Thrashers players have a positive plus-minus rating, and only three of those players have played more than 50 games.

With poor defense usually comes poor goaltending, and the Thrashers' three net-minders combine for a collective 3.44 goals allowed average. While the goalies may be shellacked by opponents, the Thrashers have a potent enough offense to stay competitive if they find themselves playing from behind. In their last five games, the Thrashers have scored 23 goals, which includes a 8-4 shootout with Anaheim which they won..

At the head of the Thrashers offense are two Russians, one of them named Kozlov! Ilya Kovalchuk was the subject of numerous trade rumors until the Thrashers named him the team captain. It's easy to see why he's their leader: he has 31 goals and 64 points on the season. Behind him is the "other" Kozlov in the league. Vyacheslav Kozlov has 18 goals and 34 assists for 54 points this season.

The Capitals seemingly blew their bout with the Flyers. After a strong start and domination in the first period, the Capitals began unraveling as the Flyers took control of the game and forced the Caps to play Flyers hockey. This simply can't happen if the Capitals want to go deep in the playoffs, but for now it's all about jockeying for posistion.

Boston is still within reach of the Capitals, but come the middle of March the Capitals might find themselves fighting to keep second place from the New Jersey Devils. If the Caps want to contend for the first place spot with Boston, they simply can't lose the games they are supposed to win. With all due respect to the Thrashers, the Capitals should win this one.

Isn't that what we said on Oct. 10 though?

LETS GO CAPS!

Gang Green that you won't mind having...

Hey kids!

Do you love Mike Green? Do you want to "represent" with some "threads" of your own?

Then you'll love the Gang Green T-shirt!


The Facebook Group "Gang Green - Official Mike Green Fan Club" and the Caps Road Crew have teamed up to sell a shirt for the offensive-defenseman lover in us all. You can buy one here.

It also sounds like there is a sale on the shirts; check it out if you're dying to have one.

"So Sherri from the caps road crew made shirts for us. there is a sale until FRIDAY FEBRUARY 27th!!! Follow the details below:

The site we use to produce our tees has extended their sale through Friday of this week, February 27th. Remember to use the discount code 3PFBDAY for 30% off purchases over $25 when checking out at the CRC store available via our home page.
Many fans took advantage of the opportunity to score some gear last week and we're thrilled that our vendor has extended the sale for an additional week."

Mean Joe Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos

Perhaps today's most pathetic adorable news item concerning the Great Eight comes from Tampa Bay.

The Puck Update has the story.

The Lightning's rookie forward Steven Stamkos has a "diary" where he posts about his transition from Juniors to the NHL.

In his most recent entry, Stamkos talked about how he's starting a collection of NHL sticks. So far he has obtained Vincent Lecavalier's, Evgeni Malkin's, Drew Doughty's and Luke Schenn's sticks.

One stick has remained elusive to Stamkos: Alex Ovechkin's.

In the post, he writes:

"I asked for [Alex] Ovechkin’s at the All-Star event but I didn’t get a chance to get it. Hopefully he still remembers me before the end of his career."

This sounds like the saddest version of the "Mean Joe Green" Super Bowl ad. If I were an advertiser looking for an idea for a Stanley Cup ad (those exist? right?), what better than a hockey version of the commercial?

Here's the original:


Now just replace Mean Joe with Ovechkin, and the clothes on the child with a Stamkos jersey. No Coke should be exchanged; the child should ask for his stick. Ovechkin would deny the child this, and then "Stamkos" would mutter. "Well-well-well maybe if you still remember me by the time you retire."

Tear-jerking gold.

Lagging Economy Suspends Hockey in Richmond

Hockey and Richmond, Va., may not sound like the merriest of combinations, but in a city where NASCAR and wrestling are key attractions, a minor league team was able to garner a small but loyal following.

That may be coming to an end, at least for the 2009-2010 season. The Richmond Renegades, a member of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), will suspend hockey operations after the 2009 season concludes.

"“This has been an extremely trying year for everybody financially,” stated Harvie. “We have our loyal fans and sponsors who continue to support hockey but unfortunately there are not enough of them to begin to pay the cost of operating a team. The economy has driven a spike into the heart of the leisure time market and fans have very hard choices to make with their money. Despite having an exciting team currently in second place, fans simply cannot afford to come to games on a regular basis. It used to be fans would come at least once a week and now they’re lucky if they can afford to come once a month.”

The Renegades are just one of many businesses in the Richmond area that have succumbbed to the economy. The most notable of those businesses is Circuit City, which is near the end of its liquidation sales.

“The Richmond economy is what has forced us to step back and take a break. There have been an abnormally high number of companies and government agencies in Richmond who have run into financial problems. Every day we read about one more Richmond company in trouble. That has caused a ripple effect throughout the entire business community. As I have stated before, when our fans have to choose between buying health insurance, gas or hockey tickets, the choice is obvious.”

The Renegades have long been a staple in Richmond since their formation in 1971. They also have some ties to the Washington Capitals. Former Capital Rod Langway once played for the Renegades when current play-by-play announcer Craig Laughlin was a co-owner in 1995. Langway was also an assistant coach for the Renegades in 1997.

The Renegades started as an AHL team, known as the Robins, and went through various name and league changes throughout their existence. In 1976, the team became a member of the SHL and was known as the Wildcats. In 1979, they became the Rifles and members of the EHL. In 1991, the team adopted the Renegades moniker and joined the ECHL. In the 1994-1995 season, they won the ECHL's Championship, the Kelly Cup. In 2006, the Renegades joined the SPHL, where they currently play now.

While the Renegades' future is uncertain at the moment, there is a chance that the team might be able to take to the ice next season if there is an ownership change. Loyal fans will be pleased to know that there is a potential buyer in talks with the team.

“This gentleman is very financially set and has an excellent sports and marketing background. He would be a great fit for the Renegades and the fans,” noted Harvie. “We have spoken and will continue to discuss his possible involvement with the Renegades and should that happen it would mean that the team would not need to suspend at the end of the season; something that would excite everybody. I will keep you posted on the progress of these meetings and conversations.”

For more about the Renegades franchise check out these Web sites.
Gadesfan.com
Richmond Renegades History

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Flyers

Even bitter rivals can agree on some things

Washington Capitals - 38-17-5 - first in SE, second in EC
vs.
Philadelphia Flyers 31-17-9 - second in ATL, fourth in EC

The points don't get any bigger than this for the Flyers. Win and get two points, keeping them within distance of the New Jersey Devils, or lose and jockey for position among the pack of playoff teams.

While the Capitals steamrolled the Penguins Sunday, the Flyers were left with the bitter taste of defeat at the hands of Sidney Crosby and a flubbed play by goalie Martin Biron. The troubles don't stop there, though. Flyers goal scorer Jeff Carter is in the midst of a five-game goal-scoring drought.

The Flyers are still without main offensive threat Danny Briere. He's slated to return this Friday, but the Flyers have seemingly fared well enough without him. With three players with over 50 points, and Scott Hartnell and Joffrey Lupul poised to break into the 50s, the Capitals will have their hands full with a skilled, yet tough Flyers team.

For the Caps, it's time to focus yet again. Coming off a big win over a bitter rival has their heads in the clouds, and a lazy performance against the Flyers will remind us of a certain 7-1 loss earlier in the year if they don't stay focused.

While the Flyers need two points to chase the Devils, the Capitals also need these two points to chase down the Bruins. The Bruins have slipped with two losses in a row, and the Capitals will want to take advantage of this opportunity. The Capitals are only seven points behind Boston, and the Bruins face the Panthers tonight.

After Sunday's emotional win, it shouldn't be hard for the Caps to "get up" for another rivalry game, but with the Flyers seething over how they lost to the Pens, who better than the Caps to unleash some frustration on?

Yeah, Biron's pissed about this one


LETS GO CAPS!

Cooley and the Caps

First off, assist to Caps News Network for leading me to the Chris Cooley blog...

Redskins tight end Chris Cooley has been awfully chummy with the Capitals stars as of late. He's frequently attending games, he was hanging out with them at the UWC event last Saturday, and he and his brother Tanner are even becoming hockey bloggers...kind of.

Here's the Cooleys' take on the 8 vs 87 battle.

"Sidney Crosby is good at talking s***, Alex Ovechkin is good at hockey. I didn't realize this until yesterday when I thought that I was going to see two of the greats in the NHL. I saw one who is great and he was wearing a red jersey. The other one, I saw him cry like a 7 year old who got beat up by the school yard bully. Maybe he's mad that Ovechkin has 20 more goals than him. Or maybe because his team won't make the postseason. Either way, Sidney wasn't holding in his frustration..."

I'm no Redskins fan by any stretch of the imagination, but Chris Cooley, I'll make an exception for you.

Glad to have you rockin' the red.

Ovie and Cooley...Ted, get your marketing team on this...NOW.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Alex Ovechkin has no class"

According to Penguins post-game show host Bob Grove, Alex Ovechkin is a classless player.

He's absolutely right...

Alex Ovechkin could never...


be as classy as Sidney...


Sorry, Bob Grove, but all I hear is wah-wah-wah. Sounds like someone you know, right?

5-2

UPDATE: Let's see who starts "the argument" between Ovie and Crosby...


So who was classless? Or are Pens fans just trying to justify a loss when they desperately need every point they can get? Keep passing the Kool-Aid, guys...

Capitals Captions: Penguins Edition


"I'm telling!"

Have at it, folks...

5-2



The Caps played as a team and walked away the better team.

Two hard-fought points from a bitter rival.



The Capitals outright had their way with the Penguins at times. The game was a mirror image of past Capitals and Pens games. Instead of the Caps being bullied, it was the Pens. Instead of Olie Kozlig being pulled from the net, it was Fleury. Instead of the Pens getting some BS goal, it was Brooks Laich.

The game was full of moments for the Pens that should be part of a YouTube video with the Benny Hill theme playing in the background.


The best thing about being Sidney Crosby isn't embellishing after the play, it's showing everyone on national TV that I did.

If only we could find the video of Ovechkin putting his arm around Crosby, whispering something into his ear, and then Sid the Kid going nuts like Ovechkin was going to steal his Nintendo DS.

It was nice to see the Penguins show their dark side on national television, while Ovechkin and the Capitals stole the spotlight.

At the end of the game, Sidney Crosby skated off the ice with about the saddest look on his face I've ever seen.

Boo-f'ing-hoo

"[Washington] is not going to be a hockey town"

Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon recently appeared on Sports Talk 980 for an interview, and he had a few things to say about the Capitals and a D.C. Hockeytown.

"It's not going to be a hockey town. It can rally around the Capitals because of the great star. This is a star town -- you have to be a star in Washington. We don't have many. The biggest star we've got hasn't played in two years - Gilbert [Arenas]. So if Ovechkin can take over that and keep scoring goals and jumping into the glass and being the showman that the NHL needs and lacks, then this will become an Ovechkin town and a Capitals town for a minute. It will not become a hockey town, but that's okay."

While many will not agree with Wilbon's comments, he does have a point.

Washington has had a star-less sports sky outside of the Capitals. With Gilbert Arenas sidelined, the Nationals without a superstar and the Redskins roster full of aging free agents, the Capitals have taken center stage with their home-grown talent.

If the Capitals want to reach the "hockey town" fever pitch, it's going to require more than one superstar on the team. The Capitals are looking at having four: Green, Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom, but now it's up to the community to embrace them.

Of course one scenario to think about would be this. If you're not convinced that Washington is currently "Ovechkin-town," then step into our "what if?" machine for a second.

Imagine if the Capitals didn't win the first overall pick in 2004 and instead drafted Evgeni Malkin or Cam Barker.

I think it's safe to say that we'd possibly be looking at a very different hockey climate in the area.
Can Washington become a "hockey town?" Sure, but it's going to require year after year of winning and more than one personality that fans will embrace just as they have with Ovechkin.

I hope Michael Wilbon is wrong, but he is right and he's not insulting the Capitals. Washington is currently "Ovechkin-town," and that's not a bad thing.

assist to CMB poster NeutralZoner

Varlamov talks about fighting

Assist to TuvanHillbilly for translating a SovSport interview with Simeon Varlamov for all of us in the blogosphere to enjoy...

Simeon Varlamov will beat you with his bear-fists.

We also noticed that there are a lot of fights in the AHL.

“Russian fans are not used to this. Here, they make a show out of the fights. Every team has a tough guy, and he follows a code and only fights with other tough guys and not with ordinary players.

I don’t think that this tradition needs to be abolished. I know that some American fans come to the games just to see their favorite fighter. Here in Hershey we generally have two tough guys on the team.

They told me that last year at Hershey they had a five-on-five brawl. And the goalkeepers didn’t stand by the sidelines doing nothing. If I get thrown into a situation like that, then I’ll have to uphold the tradition. What -- I should just let them beat me up? I’d drop the hammer on a goalie if he started it first. Let him find out how Russian guys fight, laughs Varlamov."

Well, Simeon, we already know how a certain Russian on the Capitals fights, so unless you're going to be as effective as Ivan Drago, maybe you need some lessons...

Hey, just trying to save you from an embarrassing YouTube bongo solo.

That's a new view on the Semin fight I haven't seen yet, and personally, I think it captures the bongo moves better than the CSN video does.

Anyway, Simeon think about that fight...and then think about contacting these people.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Penguins

Dorcs: Now in Sidney Crosby yellow and Alex Ovechkin red!

Washington Capitals - 37-17-5 - First in SE, Second in EC
vs. Pittsburgh Penguins - 29-25-6 - Fourth in ATL, 10th in EC

Isn't it funny how history repeats itself?

The last time the Capitals faced the Penguins, they had just played a "stinker" of a game against a Western Conference foe. Looking past the Edmonton Oilers, the Capitals were berated by Coach Boudreau for a poor performance in front of the home crowd. After a punishment practice and calling out the team for "not giving their best," the Caps orchestrated a 6-3 win in Pittsburgh two days later.

Now the Capitals face the Penguins after a similar situation. Turning in what is easily the third worst game of the year (first goes to the Flyers 7-1 loss and second to the Buffalo 5-0 loss) against yet at another Western Conference team.

A few more poor efforts by the Caps and Coach Boudreau will have a punishment drill named after him ala Herb Brooks' "Herbies."

The Capitals are known for bouncing back after bad losses, and hopefully the trend holds true today.

While the storyline of the January meeting of the Caps and Pens was "Semin vs. Crosby, Ovechkin vs. Malkin," that has been brushed aside as the marquee players are seemingly friendly to each other.

The story now is how the Capitals and Penguins have literally reversed roles in the span of a year.

In 2008, the Capitals had a new head coach that was called up from the AHL team and were clawing to stay alive in the playoff race. The Penguins, on the other hand, were cruising to a Atlantic Division title and Evgeni Malkin was the spearhead of the Pens' success.

Now the Capitals are cruising to a Southeast Division title with Alex Ovechkin leading the charge again. It's the Pens, the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals runner-ups, who are hoping to stay relevant in late March, and they're doing it with a new coach from Wilkes-Barre Scranton, Dan Bylsma.

The Capitals lead the series 2-0, but that's not to say the Penguins haven't been a formidable opponent. Both games required that the Capitals come from behind, and both games were on the road. Given that this is the first game at the Verizon Center of the teams' four games, it's going to be interesting to see how red the crowd is.

The Penguins may be troubled as of late and their postseason future is in their hands, making them a determined and dangerous team. If the Capitals can't "get up" for this game, then the Penguins will likely run away with it. Just because they've struggled as of late doesn't mean they can't be a gigantic thorn in the Capitals butt, like they always are.

Sid the Kid makes dreams come true
Aww shucks, you can only "hate" a guy so much. The Penguins granted a special wish for a terminal child and it's one of the coolest sports-related "make a wish" stories out there. Check it out.

Coming in strong
The Penguins just defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 in a tough physical game. That game was at 1 p.m. Saturday, so while it's easy to say "oh they will be tired," remember that this is a set of two games against hated rivals. If the Caps take the Pens for granted...let's not think about that.

Our commercials rock, the Pens commercials...just plain suck.
For the past two seasons the Capitals commercials and promo videos feature hip, trendy "rock stars." The Penguins decided that a song about coming home sung by what could be your grandfather was a better idea. This is why we are not friends, we just don't see eye to eye on hockey or rock n' roll.


Dan Bylsma vs. Brendan Shanahan
Interim Pens coach Dan Bylsma had an NHL career of his own as a member of the Mighty Ducks. While his playing days are over, he did have a fight partner who's now in the Atlantic Division as a New Jersey Devil, trying to keep him out of the playoffs, Brendan Shanahan. Check out his fight with him.


LETS GO CAPS!

Coincidence or Destiny?

Here's the Capitals' selection of Alexander Ovechkin in the 2004 NHL Draft



Did you notice the kid sitting behind Ovechkin to the top left when he stood up to hug his parents?

Watch again.

That's Mike Green, the Capitals 29th selection in the first round, and his family.

So do you think Green knew that he was sitting in the vicinity of a teammate or was he on pins and needles wondering when he'd get selected?


Hayden of the Capitals Message Board gets the assist for alerting me to this.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Unleash the Furry: Mascot Hockey at the Phonebooth

You know it's been a bad game when we're foregoing a recap of the Capitals game and instead writing about the other atrocity that graced the ice that night: the second-period-intermission mascot game.

The game featured Slapshot of the Capitals, G-Wiz of the Wizards, Screech of the Nationals, Jack the Georgetown Hoya, Thrash of the Atlanta Thrashers, Swoop of the Philadelphia Eagles, The Baltimore Oriole, Poe of the Baltimore Ravens, Coco of the Hershey Bears and some cross between Mr. Met and a bull.

The game was like passing a car crash on I-95. Your mind was telling you to ignore it, but you just couldn't peel your eyes off the body of an Oriole slipping and falling over and over again.

Each character had a persona they embodied. Swoop was a typical Flyers fan, causing a ruckus in the Verizon Center. Slapshot took on the role of Ovechkin, and Screech played the kid who is always picked last when deciding teams on the playground.

You can see in Slapshot's eyes that, despite the "family friendly" nature of the game, the bitter Philly/D.C. rivalry was still burning inside of him.

G-Wiz watched in horror as Thrash did everyone a favor and decked the Man-Bull, putting him out of the game. Nothing of value was lost.

Slapshot charged the net and scored with a re-creation of an Ovechkin "trip and score special." G-Wiz and the Hoya did their best impressions of Montreal Canadien defenders.

Perhaps the most shocking moment came when the Georgetown Hoya pulled a "Danny Briere" on Coco, spearing him for no reason at all. It wasn't the only lowlight of Coco's night...

Coco played in net for most of the game, but he slipped and fell, allowing Thrash to score a soft goal. Later, he had a chance to clear the puck, but whiffed and fell on his face again. It's safe to say that Coco is not NHL-ready.

Some game notes:
  • The six children sitting behind me were disappointed with the game. I blame G-Wiz.
  • The score was 1-1, but somehow Slapshot was credited with a "game-winning goal." I smell a fix...
  • Why is the Nationals mascot so damn fat? He looks more like a dirty dish towel than an eagle.
  • Poe from the Baltimore Ravens probably gives children nightmares.
  • For a b-ball mascot, the Hoya was pretty good on the ice.
  • What the hell is G-Wiz?
  • What were the teams again? I just know they tried to play off a Southeast Division "rivalry" between Slapshot and Thrash. It was pretty tame, just like any Southeast Division "rivalry."
  • If you're going to do a mascot game, then do it right. This needed a bench-clearing brawl, the Racing Presidents from Nationals games and The Chicken.

Canadiens Players in Legal Trouble?

Per Sportsnet.ca

According to sources, French newspaper La Presse in Montreal will have a story in Friday's edition which will reportedly name some Montreal Canadiens who could be in legal trouble.

Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn have reportedly been linked to a suspected member of organized crime recently arrested under the police operation Axe.

According to La Presse, 38-year-old Mangiola Pasquale made a number of services available to the two young players at bars, including girls and luxury cars.

During the investigation, police allegedly recorded secret phone conversations between the Kostitsyns and Pasquale, referred to as a big friend of the brothers.

Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail reported Friday that Alexei Kovalev is expected to rejoin the Canadiens at practice Friday. The forward was told to stay home during the Habs two-game road trip Tuesday by general manager Bob Gainey.

Happy 100th Birthday Montreal!

Wonder how big of a story this will become and if anything will actually come of it. Consider that in Montreal, hockey players are treated the way we treat movie stars in America. This story could spiral out of control over the next few days.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No Habs No: Alex Semin

If you haven't seen it yet, the Sens Army Blog is sending a letter and one dollar to every player who scores a game-winning-goal against the Montreal Canadiens. Here is Alexander Semin's letter. Semin joins an exclusive club that features Capitals Michael Nylander and Tomas Fleischmann.

Be sure to check out the No Habs No! campaign over at Sens Army Blog.

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Avalanche

Best back of goalie helmet ever or best back of goalie helmet ever?

Washington Capitals - 37-16-5 - first in SE, second in EC
vs. Colorado Avalanche - 27-30-1 - last in NE, tied-last in WC

All eyes are on this game. There's only one question on thousands of hockey fans' minds.

What will Ovechkin do next?

While Ovechkin's antics will likely be the main storyline of this East-meets-West clash, what might get lost in the Ovie hub-bub is that this is Jose Theodore's big night.

Jose had a shaky exit from the Avalanche in 2008. After starting off poorly in the 07-08 season and nearly losing his starting job to backup Peter Budaj, Theodore redeemed himself with a strong second half of the season and postseason.

What happened after the season ended and the Avs went for some "r-and-r" goes something like this. Jose wanted to stay, but the Avs didn't feel he was worth as much as he wanted. When Huet left for Chicago, Jose swooped in and landed the starting job here. Turns out the difference between Washington and Colorado was one million bucks.

Do you think the Avalanche would mind that extra one million at this point?

The Avs are tied for last in the Western Conference, but keep in mind, the gap between last and eighth is only seven points. Peter Dubaj, Jose's successor, has lost three straight, allowing 10 goals in those games. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw backup Andrew Raycroft guarding the net; he's on a two-game win streak and the Avs will likely play the hot hand.

Of course, if the Capitals fall victim to bad habits, like playing "down" to their opponent, they'll likely skate off the ice as losers. This is an Avalanche team that is balancing on the thin line of "playoff contender" and "lottery pick," so you can expect the Avs to claw and scratch for every point they can possibly get, no matter how good their opponent is.

But they'll have to do it without Paul Stastny. The 23-year-old center was a highlight for the Avalanche this season, but injuries have kept him off the ice since Dec. 23. With only 34 games played, Stansty is ranked fourth on the team in points. No single player is carrying the load for the Avs, but that's also the reason they have one of the worst goals-for totals (159). For even more perspective on the Avalanches' scoring woes, consider this; Alex Ovechkin has double the amount of goals that the Avs goals leader Milan Hedjuk has (21).

This isn't just a revenge game for Jose Theodore, it's also one for...Brian Willsie. You remember him right? He makes his return to Verizon Center tonight, and it will his first game against his former team.

All kidding aside, the Capitals need smart, disciplined play (looking at you, penalty kill), and they'll want to use the emotional energy from Jose's big night to add a W to the record.

Not the Paul we were looking for...
We searched Paul Stastny on YouTube. Only videos of Paul Stanley from KISS came up. We figured we'd roll with it, especially since one of them was hockey themed.

Why didn't we get one...
Is this the year they regret not signing Theodore? Yup.

LETS GO CAPS!

Jose Theodore: From hated to loved?

Was there a more hated Capital midway through October than Jose Theodore?

The Capitals' key offseason acquisition started his career as a Cap with the rockiest of starts, letting in four goals in the season opener against the Thrashers, getting pulled in the second period and then the next night letting in the first shot he faced against the Blackhawks.


The night after the season opener, the Capitals defeated the Blackhawks (Oct 11, 2008), but fans didn't give credit to Theodore, who actually had a solid second and third period.

Ted Leonsis posted this on his blog following the game.
"My mailbox was full of some angry emails this morning - some sent 45 seconds into the game last night - concerning our performance...I literally have emails demanding that we waive our goaltender; that we fire our coach; that we fire our general manager; that I sell the team…all after two games in."

Fast forward to Feb. 19. The Capitals currently sit 11 points out of the top slot in the East, and they've been able to stay within reasonable distance of the Bruins thanks to the play of, guess who, Jose Theodore.

The man who was hated so much at the start, is now ninth among NHL goalies for wins. His save percentage sits at .901, a definite improvement over the sub .870 numbers he had. His GAA has dropped to 2.78, a vast improvement over the 3.00+ numbers he had going into December. Jose is also tied for second for points by goalies (3).

Simply put, since his "born again" performance against the Rangers on Dec. 23, Theodore has been one of the NHL's best goaltenders. The most even strength goals he's allowed since that game? Four, to the Rangers in their last meeting.

Jose is making key saves, and he's no longer the target of the fans' ire; that belongs to the PK unit now.

To further illustrate how well Theodore is playing, consider these stats. Jose has had six "even strength shutouts" since Dec. 23. He's only had four games where he's allowed two or more goals at even strength since Dec. 23 as well.

What a great story for a man who went from "most hated" to the best goaltender nobody is talking about.

So do you think Colorado misses him?

"The Goal" vs. "The Sequel"

Will the time-tested myth that a sequel is never as good as the original be upheld? It's time for a showdown, Ovie style.

"The Goal" scored in Glendale, Arizona, 1/15/2006

vs.

"The Sequel" scored in Washington, 2/18/2009



Game Situation
Alex Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game ("The Sequel"), igniting the Capitals offense in the first period. Just a few minutes later, Nicklas Backstrom scored to put the Capitals up 2-1 on the Habs. In Phoenix, "The Goal" was just icing on the cake, as the Capitals were in the process of blowing out the Coyotes, although it did help tip the scales in the Rookie of the Year race.
Advantage: "The Sequel"

Play development
Alex Ovechkin entered the Coyotes zone one-on-one with a defender before tripping and falling to his back. He managed to wrap his stick around the puck and narrowly avoids hitting the pipe, scoring "The Goal." While that was pretty amazing, it was also, dare we say, lucky. "The Sequel" looked more controlled, as Ovechkin passes to himself off the boards, turns 180, and beats a defender before falling to his knees. "The Goal," caught us by surprise, but "The Sequel" might be hockey's equivalent of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling.
Advantage: "The Sequel"

Overall "coolness"
Hands down this goes to "The Goal." There is nothing like scoring from your back while you're falling and, while "The Sequel" could be accidentally recreated, "The Goal," will probably never happen again in our lifetime.
Advantage: "The Goal"

Post-goal celebration
"The Sequel" was scored at home, sending the crowd into a raucous "M.V.P" chant. Ovie gets style points for raising the roof and blowing kisses while passing Canadiens goalie Carey Price on his knees, but nothing beats what happened after "The Goal." On the way to the bench, Ovechkin blows a kiss to none other than the Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
Advantage: "The Goal"

Timelessness
This one remains to be seen as "The Sequel" is only a day old now, and "The Goal" has been part of hockey lore for more than three years. Regardless, both will be classics that will be replayed over and over and over again.
Draw

Difficulty
Both are amazing feats of hockey sense and skill, but we have to give this to "The Goal." As we said earlier, "The Sequel" could be replicated and in fact a similar goal was scored on Dec. 26, 2008, against the Buffalo Sabres. Ovie's one-man play is pretty impressive for obvious reasons, but it's doubtful that anyone will ever score while falling to their back and shooting the puck blindly in the next 100 years.
Advantage and winner: "The Goal"

CK's Salute to Brooks Laich

I don't know how it got by us, but the Feb. 18 meeting of the Caps and Habs marked Brooks Laich's five-year anniversary of becoming a Capital. Even Brooks himself wasn't aware of the anniversary, so I suppose we're in the clear on this one.

During the 03-04 season, the Capitals were engaged in their massive fire sale. One by on,e fan favorites were shipped off to new locales in return for prospects and draft picks. As the roster went from familiar faces to "who the hell is this guy," there was one player nobody wanted to lose.

Peter Bondra.

On Feb. 18, 2004, the Capitals traded Peter Bondra to the Ottawa Senators for prospect Brooks Laich.

After 961 games and 14 years of service, the man known as "Bonzai" was no longer a Capital. He left the Capitals as the franchise leader in points (825), goals (472), power play goals (137) and game-winning goals (73).

Brooks Laich came to the Capitals with only one game of NHL experience with the Sens. While it's unfair to say he had to "fill Bondra's shoes," he certainly had a lot to live up to. While Brooks won't eclipse Bondra's scoring numbers, we can safely say that no. 21 was worth losing no. 12 for.

Brooks was a member of the Hershey Bears Calder Cup team and quickly became a third- and fourth-line fixture on the Capitals roster during the regular season.

Here's Brooks' minor-league stats.

And his NHL numbers as of Feb. 17, 2009.

To sum up Brook's playing style, he is best described as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. He's probably never going to score more than 40 goals in a single season, but that doesn't mean he isn't capable of scoring clutch goals. Laich is a heart-and-soul player, someone who gives 110% no matter what situation the team is in.

It is that sort of play that has turned him into a fan favorite amongst the Capitals faithful. If you walk around the Verizon Center, you'll likely see quite a few No. 21 sweaters amongst the sea of No. 8s. Brooks also currently holds one of the longest-running jokes on the Capitals Message Board, a parody of the Chuck Norris facts.

Here's to five great years that have flown by, and here's to many, many more in Capitals red.

Just a few classic Laich moments to re-live.
Brooks Laich, ladies man.


Brooks Laich, puck magnet


We can't find his first goal on YouTube, but here's his sickest shootout goal

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

THE GOAL 2: This time at home!



Simply amazing and, to make it even better, he did it in front of the home crowd. It's pretty mind-blowing: He passes into the boards, spins 180, receives his own pass and then storms to the net like a freight train. As he hits the ice, Price puts the pads together, but he is too late. Ovie celebrates as he slides past the net on his rear, blowing kisses while the crowd roars "M.V.P."

But we probably shouldn't be impressed by his "fall down and score" antics anymore. I mean, he already scored that way this season against Buffalo.



You know, I'll never get tired of watching those, or the original. For good measure, here's The Goal 1.



I wonder if in 20 years Alex Ovechkin's "Top 10 Goals" will be a compilation of him falling down in various ways and places on the ice and managing to score despite the improbable odds of the puck actually going in.

M.V.P. indeed.

Warning: Mullet may cloud judgment

ESPN's Barry Melrose had this to say about Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby...

Mark from Toronto asked, "Settle it once and for all, Crosby or Ovie?"

Melrose's reply?

"Ovechkin's been a better player this year, though Crosby was better last year. We're not going to settle it for the next 10 years. Crosby may be the more complete player, but the way Ovechkin is playing right now, you have to give the edge to him."

Ovie 2008: 82 games, 65 goals, 47 assists, 112 points total.
Crosby 2008: 53 games, 24 goals, 48 assists, 72 points total.

"What was that Barry? I was too busy counting my trophies... leading my team to the best season in club history being theNo. 1 contender for MVP again..." - Alex Ovechkin.

Should the Capitals explore a trade for Kovalev?

Sergei Fedorov was aging. His point totals were plummeting, his value decreasing, and it was beginning to look like his playing days were over. At 39 years old, nobody would blame Fedorov for hanging up the skates and retiring. He is a living legend, one of hockey's paragons who has been idolized for years, but in Columbus Fedorov just wasn't the player he used to be.


The Fedorov situation is slightly similar to the current Alex Kovalev hoopla. Kovalev, one of the league's premier Russian forwards, is slumping, badly. He's been asked to sit out, and Montreal GM Bob Gainey seems to think that the Canadiens can win without his services.

At 35, Kovalev still has a few years left in his playing career, but if the past 48 hours are any indication, they may not be in Montreal. Kovalev is a UFA this summer, and if the Canadiens truly feel they are better off without him, then it's likely that come March 4 he'll be gone.


Despite Fedorov's dip in production, he was able to bring veteran leadership to the Capitals when he joined them in March 2008. His impact was best seen on fellow Russian Alex Semin, who seemingly overnight transformed into a mature player. Fedorov has spent much of the 2008-09 season injured, but he has 20 points in 30 games, which isn't so bad considering his injury woes. He's also been the cornerstone of the emerging "F-Street" line.

Kovalev is definitely another "role model" player who, like Fedorov, the younger players might learn about postseason play from. Alex Kovalev is an expert on the subject of postseason play. He has 112 games of playoff experience, accumulating 95 points and has his name on the Stanley Cup. Last season with the Canadiens, he had 11 points in 12 playoff games.

Fedorov won't be around forever, he may not even be around next year. Perhaps the Capitals should line up Kovalev to take his place in the event of retirement over the summer or after next season.

With Russian talent in the pipeline such as Viktor Dovgan, Simeon Varlamov and a wealth of young players who looked up to Kovalev when he was their age, it never hurts to have veteran leadership to guide them.

So, the question is should the Capitals consider trading for Kovalev for a deep Cup run now and what would you be willing to sacrifice?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pre-Cap: Capitals vs. Habs

Washington Capitals (36-16-5, first in SE, third in EC)
vs.
Montreal Canadiens (30-21-6, second in NE, fifth in EC)

HOCKEY PARTY TONIGHT!
HOCKEY PARTY TONIGHT!
We're gonna have a hockey party tonight!
Alright!
We've got nothing better to do!
Than smoke some cigs, and have a couple of brews!


Oh man, I never imagined I'd ever be riffing off Black Flag's "TV Party" in a pre-Cap, but I just did thanks to the Montreal Canadiens.

In case you haven't seen it, some major Canadiens players had photos of a trip to Mexico
leaked onto the Internet, and it's causing a bit of an uproar in Montreal. It's pretty much a nonstory; NHL players have lives and partying needs they want to fulfill. So long as they don't shoot themselves in the leg, it's nothing more than an embarrassing post on PuckDaddy.

Speaking of road trips, the Capitals have just finished a successful one in Florida (no word on embarrassing photos...yet) leaving the Sunshine State with four points, giving them a commanding lead in the Southeast and keeping them neck-in-neck with the Devils in the race for second place. The sky's the limit for the Capitals, who are on track to break attendance records and have players breaking NHL records.

In Montreal, it seems the Habs are headed for "Implosionville," possibly joining the 07-08 Ottawa Senators as a team that started hot and finished cold. The Habs are 1-8 on the road since the middle of January and have gone 9-12 since the start of 2009.

This will be the Habs' 6,000th game in franchise history, and they'll do it without Alex Kovalev, who has been asked to sit out a few games to "rest." Kovalev has been highly ineffective (for a player of his caliber) this year for the Habs, with only 39 points in 57 games. The Habs will also be without Russian youngster Sergei Kostitsyn, who has been sent to the Habs' AHL club due a lack of production.

Will the Capitals give the Sen's Army Blog a reason to write another hilarious "No Habs No" letter? Or will the Canadiens right the ship, and turn their 100th season into something to celebrate?

Random Links...
Learn everything you could want to know about the Caps/Habs "rivalry" here...

LETS GO CAPS!

House of Pain would be proud...

Dallas Superfan Zman has released a new music video for our...um...viewing pleasure?

Zman gets all early 90s white-boy rap on us, donning shades and weaving rap rhymes with a soulful R&B hook.

Capitals related? Not really.
Hilarious? Absolutely.



Keep on rockin' Z, er um, rapping, I suppose.

If you can't survive the whole video, be sure to fast forward to around 3:45 when Zman's cinematography gives us a panoramic view of his kitchen.

To his credit, he's got the whole "white-boy rap music video" feel down. I mean, check out similarities with House of Pain's "Jump Around."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Neuvy's New Mask

The Story of the SOB Line

I'm not trying to say that Capitals Kremlin is the home of the S-O-B line moniker, but Ted Leonsis is looking for its origins.

Ted, we started using the name on Nov. 12, 2008. I happen to think that it also was bred from the Capitals Message Boards.

On Nov. 13, this discussion of naming the line occurred. Many people had the same idea, that coaches say "Son of a B****" after every goal they score.

Other candidates were "the B-O-S line", as in BOSS, the "MVP line," and "the Awesome Line" -- but common sense prevailed!

The name came after the Capitals shellacked the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 on Nov. 12. In that game, Alex Semin had two goals and three assists, Alex Ovechkin had a goal and two assists and Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and three assists and broke a 20-game goal-scoring drought.

The line had been together for a few games before their dominance over the Canes on Nov. 12, but was not as productive as their Nov. 12 coming-out party.

If we are to use Tarik El-Bashir's blog, Capitals Insider, as a guide, he has the line forming on Nov. 8 for a match against the New York Rangers.

Before the SOB line's first formation, Ovechkin was paired with numerous line mates. Boudreau ran Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov, then Ovechkin-Backstrom-Fedorov and finally Ovechkin-Fedorov-Semin.

Michal Neuvirth: Facebook celebrity

It has to have been a whirlwind 48 hours for the young Czech goaltender, Michal Neuvirth. Friday, Neuvirth was just another prospect called up to fill a role. By Sunday morning, he was a hero with a highlight reel save on Vincent Lecavalier, one of the NHL's best forwards.

While it's uncertain if Neuvirth will play more than one more game as a Capital this season, he has already spawned a group of fans through the Internet.

On the social networking site Facebook, Neuvirth's profile has been flooded with well-wishers, fans and even photographs of his performance. His friend count jumps by the dozens every few hours. Michal Neuvirth is a Facebook celebrity, for the moment at least.

"Great Game last night way to go Michal "The Cobra" Neuvirth. That glove of yours is the best I have ever seen," wrote a fan from Washington, D.C.

Many comments of the same nature follow, some in English and some in Czech. Through Facebook, a worldwide community of hockey fans was able to praise their newfound hero. Neuvirth didn't ignore his new fans; in a message he wrote "thanks to all of u."

Michal's rise in Facebook popularity actually represents a new era of fan-to-player relations. In the past, a fan's contact with a player would be minimal. You might catch them after practice, after a game, or maybe at an autograph-signing session. Chances were that you would only hear about the player's personality through television, newspaper and magazine interviews.

Now with Facebook, fans can search for their favorite player and if their profile is public or they are willing to accept them as friends, get a glimpse of their off-ice life.

Neuvirth has photos of him vacationing with his Czech friends, is a member of several Facebook groups such as "The current music at Red Wings games sucks! Here's a list of better songs!" and "Petition to Get Rid of "is" from Facebook Status Update!" and has a widget showing the countries he has visited.

Neuvirth is not the first NHL player to make use of Facebook. Nicklas Backstrom is a member, Toronto Maple Leafs defender Luke Schenn is too, and Mike Green was at one time. For obvious reasons, many of these player's profiles are private, or simply unsearchable. Some have even had to delete them.

The networking site has also brewed some controversy over player photos. A photo of Columbus Blue Jackets defender Mike Commodore in his underwear rolling in money emerged from the Web site, and current KHL goalie Ray Emery uploaded a photo of Ottawa Senators star Daniel Alfredsson in a dress on his profile.

Fortunately for Caps fans, Neuvirth has made responsible use of his profile, but it is only a matter of time before this rare chance of fan interaction is no longer available.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Red Tape: Capitals and Panthers, Pens fire Therrien, and the Czech Cobra

Some critics consider the Florida Panthers a "smoke and mirrors" team, one that isn't nearly as good as its record suggests. As the Capitals found out, that's not true as the Panthers proved to be more than a worthy opponent, but were unable to contain Alex Ovechkin, who broke the 40-goal mark for the fourth consecutive season.

The Capitals found early success in the game, dominating the Panthers to take a 1-0 lead in the first period. The second period looked to be more of the same as Eric Fehr notched his sixth goal in eight games just 30 seconds into the second period.

The Capitals domination would soon come to a close as numerous penalties gave the Panthers more than enough chances to get back in the game. When Michael Frolik scored for the Panthers in the middle of the second, the Panthers were able to build some momentum which lead to a power play goal early in the third courtesy of Nathan Horton.

The third period might have been a preview of a possible Capitals and Panthers round one playoff tilt: energetic, fast-paced and full of great goaltending. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the clocked ticked closer and closer to "Ovie time," aka the last five minutes of the game. With 2:31 left in regulation, Alex Ovechkin ripped a shot past Tomas Vokoun. He would then put the game away with his third goal of the night, an empty netter with seconds left to play.

The Capitals walked away with four key points, and the Panthers fell short of setting a franchise record of six consecutive wins at home.

  • Alex Semin's assist on Ovechkin's first goal gave him 50 points on the year. The Capitals are the first team in the NHL this season with four 50-point scorers (stat provided by NHL.com)
  • Jose Theodore was given the game's third star, and he couldn't be more deserving.
  • Eric Fehr continues to "make the most" of his playing time; he has six goals in eight games.
  • In case you were wondering, the Capitals had eight penalties to the Panthers' three. And yet again, the Capitals managed to get not one, but two, delay-of-game penalties, courtesy of Nicklas Backstrom and Sergei Fedorov.
  • Mike Green's goal-scoring streak has come to an end, but his offensive play was still top notch. Green had four shots and was a plus one on the night.
Pens fire Michel Therrien
This should be a pretty interesting weekend of hockey. First, the Capitals face the Avalanche, which will pit Jose Theodore against his former team, and then the Capitals will face the Penguins, who now have a new head coach.

Dan Byslma, the coach of Pens AHL affliate Wilkes-Barre Scranton, has been named the interim head coach. The Penguins have been downright awful as of late. They've managed a 1-7 record on the road dating to Jan. 1.

With the Capitals on the fast track to success, and the Penguins grasping at straws to stay in the Stanley Cup playoff race, I'm interested to see how loud and proud the Pittsburgh horde will be on Sunday.

For a completely uncensored look at the Pens' coaching struggles, be sure to check out The PensBlog.

Michal Neuvith nickname suggestion time...
Alright, just hours after Simeon Varlamov's NHL debut, the Russian netminder was dubbed "The Iron Curtain" and "Wall-amov."

Considering that Michal Neuvirth's debut was just as successful and just as impressive, we here at CK are officially opening the "Michal Neuvirth nickname debate"

We're considering this one: The Czech Cobra. His sick glove saves are as fast and deadly as a snake.

Ted, I feel for you

If you haven't checked out this gem of a post on Ted's Take, please do.

Here's some "advice" Ted received from a fan:
“We are in a playoff race now with Florida and what do you guys do? Bring family members on a road trip? You are running a circus. This is serious business Ted. You are too nice of a guy. These guys need to be focused and determined and you really don’t know how to run a championship caliber operation.”

In response to what some of these idiots fans are saying.


Believe it or not, but Mike Green and Alex Oveckin are not trained seals for your enjoyment, but rather professional hockey players with families and lives outside of the rink. It's nice to see the Caps bring the fathers in to cheer them on. If anything, the presence of the fathers was not counter-productive but inspiring.

I'm sure Ted already knows, but the Caps are an elite organization and their commitment to winning and family values is just one of the reasons to love this team.
 
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