capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Alumni Dale Hunter New Head Coach

Photo courtesy of
‘Hunter and Gartner Banners’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’
Early this morning the Caps dropped a major post-holiday bombshell. (Not that we didn’t see it coming.) Former Caps captain Dale Hunter has been announced as the team’s new head coach, replacing Bruce Boudreau. The change comes on the heels of a horrific November for the team, including a 5-1 loss to an overly injured Buffalo Sabres team. (A game we didn’t recap because it was that bad.)

Hunter played 19 seasons in the NHL, appearing in 1,407 games and tallying 1,020 points (323 goals). He is one of only four players to have their numbers retired by the Capitals. The new coach, recently of the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League, will make his bench debut tomorrow night as the Caps host the St. Louis Blues.

Under his guidance, the Knights won their first Memorial Cup Championship in 2004-05. Hunter is the fastest head coach in OHL history to record 300 and 400 career bench wins; he also possesses the highest winning percentage in league history with a record of 451-189-23-24 (.691) in his 11 seasons with the team.

We wish the new coach well in jump-starting the Caps back to their winning ways; he definitely has his work cut out for him.

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Continue Slide in Loss to Jets

Photo courtesy of
‘Boudreau Does Not Like the Call’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’

Winnipeg Jets winger Evander Kane scored twice against Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth and shut down captain Alexander Ovechkin en route to a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals in Manitoba, Canada.

The good:

  • Alexander Semin scored the lone Caps tally early in the first period.

…and that’s about it.

The bad:

  • The Caps blew a 59 second 5-on-3 power play in the second period that could have turned things around after the Jets’ scoring spurt that saw three goals in just under five minutes.
  • Ovechkin had five shots on the night but remained scoreless for the third consecutive game. His current season tally of 7 goals, 14 points is a career low after 17 total games.
  • The third period was insipid.

The quote:
“The best way to slow it down is to score a goal,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “The best way to stop a crowd from cheering is to not making stupid mistakes in your own zone and giving them opportunities to score.”

Sports Fix, The Features

We are louder: Caps usher Rangers out of the playoffs in Game 5

Photo courtesy of
‘Washington Capitals home opener 2009 – 8′
courtesy of ‘Garyisajoke’

Karl Alzner got a tweet this morning from a Rangers fan forecasting a repeat of history and certain Caps demise.

So, Josh Bennett (@JoshBenn80), how are you feeling right about now?

For the first time in the Bruce Boudreau era, the Caps have close out a playoff series in less than seven games. Did anyone think that was possible?

It happened

Washington took care of business against the Rangers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Playoffs quarterfinals 3-1 to take the series four games to one. The Caps now await the winners of the Buffalo/Philadelphia, Boston/Montreal series’ or the Tampa Bay/Pittsburgh series to see who they play next.

If Buffalo (the No. 7 seed) upsets the Flyers, then the Caps get the Sabres in the semifinals. If Philly comes back and wins, the Caps could play any team from the No. 6 Canadiens (currently tied at two games apiece heading into Game 5 in Boston Saturday night), No.5 Lightning or No. 4 Pittsburgh. Really, whatever is the lowest seed heading into the next round and the Sabres, with a three games to two advantage, look like they could be it.

“There is going to be a little bit of relief. I mean, we are completely different team this year and the whole circumstance is different,” Alzner said. “It is nice to get a round out of the way because I got a tweet, I think this morning, saying something about ‘are you guys ready to choke again and lose.’ I was like, ‘hopefully we will show you’ and now that that is done I am pretty happy about that.”

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Sports Fix, The Features

Good Sasha: Caps prove they can take the Rangers in Game 1

Photo courtesy of
‘Alex and Alex’
courtesy of ‘jakarachuonyo’

Quit holding your breath.

That is what playoff hockey does to NHL fans. Without realizing it, they are sitting on the edge of their seats, swearing at the refs, yelling at the ice, screaming at their TVs.

Then, overtime comes and it is so intense that it seems like they have completely lost their senses.

The Caps did not lose their senses on Wednesday night, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Rangers. They could have, it would have been very easy to say ‘Henrik Lundqvist is a freaking monster, we are completely snake bitten, it is all happening over again.’

Washington held strong and were rewarded, taking the game 2-1 for a one game to none series lead as Alexander Semin scored for the first time in 15 playoff contests, racing a rocket from the slot to the back of the net in overtime.

“I think we were a little flappable,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We weren’t getting anywhere and it wasn’t until that last 10 minutes where we said on the bench ‘OK, let’s start sending the defensemen, taking more chances and going after it.’”

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Sports Fix, The Features

What will it take for the Caps to win the Cup?

Photo courtesy of
’2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Logo’
courtesy of ‘jpowers65′

Are you ready to rock?

The 2010-11 Washington Capitals regular season was just a long exercise in patience. It was never supposed to be a definitive statement of what the Caps are or where the franchise stands in the pantheon of almost-great NHL hockey teams.

If anything, it was an exercise in patience, humility, endurance, creative problem solving and transformation. The Caps were like a caterpillar that turned into a butterfly.

Washington started off the season a high-octane offense-first juggernaut – flying, big scoring, finesse and fragile. This was the version of the Caps that the fans had come to know and love and be continually frustrated by in the playoffs. Up until the last weekend of November, the MVP of the Caps was probably Alexander Semin. If you even thought of Semin as the MVP of this team now, they would laugh you out of the Green Turtle. Then there were the larval stages, December through most of March, where the Caps suffered through the changes of playing a different style of hockey, relying less on scoring (and scoring a lot less), integrating new players from outside the organization and folding in the prospects to the already young base of Alexander Ovechkin, Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green.

The Caps learned to play good defense. Not just the defensemen, but the entire team has gotten better on the back check, they are still aggressive on the forecheck if a bit tempered, and have the ability to trap and keep shots coming from the wings as opposed to the slot. It has not been a perfect transition – the inner offensive juggernaut wants to be free – but it has been effective enough where Washington was able to rally out of its doldrums, find some of it old offense and emerge the butterfly as the Eastern Conference top seed heading into the playoffs. The spinning wheels of waiting for the second season, the real season, are finished.

Now it is time to fly.

What do the Caps need to do to succeed in the chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup? Here are five items that will be important for Washington to get over its frustration and make a run deep into spring.

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The Daily Feed

Caps finish home schedule strong, anticipate playoffs

Photo courtesy of
‘The Gentleman’
courtesy of ‘Brian Isemann’

It is a Wednesday night in April. Washington, D.C. was about 65 degrees in the afternoon with a bit of a chill breeze coming from the water. The townsfolk are buzzing about cherry blossoms and how utterly bad the Nationals are going to be.

For years in D.C., this was not a time to be talking about hockey.

But, there is this red machine is like a fire in the middle of the city. People flock to it for the experience, for the cheers and the hits and the hope to see Alex Ovechkin light a lamp, hear a foghorn sound. For 101 straight regular season games, Verizon Center has been packed to the rafters with manic fans, unleashing fury and clamoring for chicken wings.

It was no different this Wednesday.

And their team didn’t disappoint.

The Caps were sloppy against the Panthers, but they certainly were the better team, claiming a 5-2 victory to finish off their home schedule (25-8-8) of the regular season. Washington is now a win away from claiming its second straight Eastern Conference regular season title and having home ice through a theoretical playoff run.

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capitals hockey, Sports Fix, The Daily Feed

Ovechkin’s OT winner sends Caps to the top of the East

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‘ovi en fuego…’
courtesy of ‘choofly’

Alexander Ovechkin scored the game-winning goal with 1:41 remaining in overtime to give the Washington Capitals a 5-4 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres in a weird and wild game Saturday night at the Verizon Center. The win moved the Caps to the top of the Eastern Conference by one point over the idle Philadelphia Flyers, though Philadelphia does have a game in hand.

However thrilling the win was to the 18,398 fans who made up the 100th consecutive sellout crowd for a Capitals home game, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was in a less-than-celebratory mood at his postgame press conference.

“I’m concerned with the process of how we played,” Boudreau said, “I thought it was way too close to looking like last year.” Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Capitals look good against Blackhawks, still more work to be done

Photo courtesy of
‘IMG_2530.jpg’
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

Everybody around the Capitals are starting to get a little bit antsy. Washington is a point back for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, it has won eight straight games and doing so in gritty style. The trade acquisitions are paying off and it does not seem to matter who is in goal, Washington is pulling out victories.

The Caps themselves do not seem to be antsy. If anything, a good adjective to describe them would be focused. Focused describes the surrounding media and fan base also, all looking towards the ice and seeing a team that is playing well and asking ‘what is it going to mean in the playoffs?’

Sunday’s 4-3 overtime matinee win against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks was a showcase game. It was the NBC Game Of The Week and had a little bit of a “what-if” surrounding it. What if the Caps had not gotten run by the Canadiens in the first round? What if they were able to grind through and make it through the Eastern Conference to play in the Finals? What if the faced this same Chicago team last June for it all?

One thing is for certain … it would have been fun to watch.

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The Daily Feed

Capitals gone streaking: Seven in a row as Holtby withstands Hurricanes

Photo courtesy of
‘IMG_6630.jpg’
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

Things are really starting to go the Capitals way.

Seven wins in a row. A fresh young goaltender riding a hot streak. A string of victories in one goal games. And now they have retaken second place in the Eastern Conference within striking distance of the Flyers for the top spot heading into the playoffs.

Where has this team been most of the year?

Washington was good in the fall. They were mediocre in November, January and a good portion of February. They were terrible in December. Yet, with a scrappy, opportunistic 2-1 win over the Hurricanes on Friday, Washington controls its destiny in the Southeast Division and is within a game of where everybody thought they would be when the season got rolling in October.

On the top.

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The Daily Feed

Rangers demoralize the Caps … again

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‘IMG_2006.jpg’
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

It has been a while since the fans at Verizon Center have seen a good show.

Well, that is if you weren’t at Lady Gaga Thursday night.

More specifically, Capitals fans have not seen a good show at Verizon in quite some time. Before the 6-0 shelling at the hands of the Rangers on Friday, the Capitals had lost their previous two home games by a combined score of 6-1 to the Kings and Sharks. The team then went on the road for much of the month of February, cruising the West Coast, New York and Pennsylvania for five games with varying results before returning home to lay an egg against New York.

The last time the red-clad denizens of Verizon Center got to celebrate a win was against rival Pittsburgh Feb. 6. A home win over the Penguins, because they are so hated in D.C., makes everything all right, doesn’t it?

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The Daily Feed

Capitals grind away Panthers, win 3-2

Photo courtesy of
‘IMG_6428.jpg’
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

The Capitals are not playing pretty hockey.

But, when it comes to end results, it has been effective hockey.

The first period against the Panthers on Saturday night at Verizon Center was atrocious. Washington played a cute but ultimately inefficient style of hockey for the first 20 minutes before grinding through the final two periods to seal a 3-2 victory over Florida.

For most of the night actually, the Capitals were almost laughably bad. Drop passes turned into self-zone clears. Back passes turned into partial Panther breaks and rushes. Giveaways were rampant (12 on the night against the Panthers three) and play was overall sloppy. It was not one of the beautiful games.

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capitals hockey, Sports Fix, The Features

Caps Overcome Rain, Penguins in Winter Classic

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In a Winter Classic between the NHL’s top two greatest players, neither had a hand in the game that unfolded before the 68,111 people at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field or the national audience viewing on NBC. The Capitals, who grabbed two points in a tight Eastern Conference race with a 3-1 win, saw Eric Fehr and Semyon Varlamov show up as the heroes for the evening.

Despite the uncooperative weather, the Caps managed to even the score from the last time the two teams met. The game, originally scheduled to start at 1 pm, had been moved to 8 pm due to a rainy cold front that rolled through the area. As the game unfolded, light rain fell in spots, making the ice less than optimal but still playable; it didn’t hinder either team from plowing full force into the other.

Bottom line, however, was that no one left the game last night unsatisfied. The Winter Classic, much hyped over the last month, lived up to its billing for fans, coaches, and players of both teams. “It was one of the best experiences of my life,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. “I can’t imagine football players play every game like this. It’s unbelievable. It’s the kind of thing you want to do all the time, go out and play like this.” Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Lose Tight Game to Pens in Shootout

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It wasn’t everything the Caps wanted for Christmas, but it came pretty close.

The Washington Capitals lost in the shootout last night to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. Drama filled? This game had it in spades. You’d think a game like that would be a great centerpiece for a sports reality show or something… Maybe HBO Sports could get on that?

Despite the 3-2 loss, the Caps have a lot to be pleased about. Going into tonight, the Caps were on a two game win streak after a brutal eight game tailspin. The wins came against Ottawa and New Jersey, not exactly tough challenges for the Caps to overcome. Last night’s game against the rival Penguins was a true test of grit, and the Caps passed with flying colors. No fan should be hanging their head this Christmas.

“We’re back. We’re back to the style of hockey we can play,” said defenseman Karl Alzner. “That was one of the questions that [was] going around. Hopefully, we silenced a few of them. We had a low scoring game and we played solid for 60-minutes. It was a grade-A effort from our team. That’s what we like to see.”

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Sports Fix, The Features

Washington buried by Avalanche; Caps lose fifth straight


‘DSC_9186′
courtesy of ‘bhrome’

There were a few snow flakes in D.C. on Friday, the first of the season and a reminder that Father Winter is just starting his yearly torment.

On Saturday, Washington was hit by an Avalanche.

The Capitals dropped their fifth straight game on Saturday, losing 3-2 to Colorado before the 78th consecutive sellout at Verizon Center.

To be fair to the Caps, they actually played pretty well.

Washington outshot the Avalanche 42-26. Hits were tied at 25 each. The Caps had a solid 13 takeaways. In the third period, attempting to climb out of a 3-1 hole, they dominated the Avalanche zone, forcing Colorado’s young team to hold on for dear life in the last ten minutes of the game, barely squeaking away as the Capitals repeatedly banged on netminder Craig Anderson’s door.

It was a solid effort.

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capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Flyers Edge Caps in Shootout

Photo courtesy of
‘Green Gets Powed #1′
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’

For only the second time this season, the Capitals lost their second straight game with a 5-4 shootout loss to the visiting Philadelphia Flyers. The loss was a tough one, though the Caps fought hard in the third to send the game into overtime.

Rookie Marcus Johnasson opened the scoring in the first period, notching his second of the season. The goal came after the Caps had put their first three shots off the crossbar and goal posts. The theme of the first half of the game was missed chances by the Caps, including a couple of failed breakaways by Alexander Ovechkin. “I thought all game we had good chances,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I was worried after the first period when it was only 1-0 because we didn’t get rewarded for having three 2-on-1s, two breakaways – those are the kind of times that you put teams away and when you let them hang around something usually happens.” Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Outlast Thrashers 6-4

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‘IMG_0709.jpg’
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

Playing their third game in four days (and fifth in eight), the Caps managed to hold off an equally tired Atlanta team last night 6-4 with a ripping shot from John Erskine with just under seven minutes remaining. It was Erskine’s second goal in four games; previously, he’s had seven goals in 336 career games. There was some joking in the locker room that the sudden burst of offense from the defenseman of late was from the new mustache. “Yeah, the ‘stache has been good luck this month,” he joked. “I talked to the wife and I might be keeping it for a while.”

“He’s let a couple of really good shots go this year. He’s finding the mark,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “He’s a big strong guy and when he gets it all he can score. Good for him. He played real hard.”

Erskine and the rest of the Caps defense stepped up on the offense in the third period, finally shutting down a resurging Thrashers team that took advantage of another lackluster Caps second period. The Caps came out strong in the first with team captain Alexander Ovechkin notching his 10th goal of the season after Thrashers goalie Chris Mason bobbled the slapper and deflected it into the net behind him. Mike Green then took advantage of a penalty to Atlanta’s Ben Eager, slamming home a slap shot near the point on the power play. The Caps finished the first period strong and it looked as if the Caps were on their way to blowing out the visitors. Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Backstrom, Ovie Sink Isles

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‘DSC_7711′
courtesy of ‘bhrome’

The two biggest questions the Caps had going into last night’s contest with the New York Islanders were: “When is Nicklas Backstrom going to score?” and “Is the power play ever going to be effective?”

Both questions were answered with less than four minutes remaining in regulation; Backstrom’s deflection of an Alexander Ovechkin slap shot on the power play proved to be the game winner in a 2-1 win for the Caps.

Granted, Backstrom got an assist on Ovechkin’s second period goal, but you could tell he wanted more. Having been demoted to the second line at the start of the game, swapping places with Tomas Fleischmann, Backstrom was put back on the first line at the start of the second, and that’s when things began to click. “I thought they needed a break,” Coach Bruce Boudreau explained after the game. “And by the start of the second period, I thought they’d had a long enough break.” The strategy seemed to work. “Once (Backstrom) got the assist I just knew he was going to get more, because he never stops at just one once he gets a little bit of a roll going.”

The Caps came into the game having converted only 1 of their last 13 power play attempts. The Islanders gave the Caps plenty of chances to redeem themselves; it was the last power play opportunity that produced Backstrom’s game winner. The team now sits at converting 2 for 17, a dismal 11%, compared to last year’s league-dominating 25%.

Things looked a bit rocky at the start. The Caps were sluggish and let the Islanders dominate in their end. Even an early fight by new winger DJ King failed to provide much spark. King took on Trevor Gillies in the corner less than three minutes into the game in a rousing fight. It was an rousing introduction for the fiesty winger to the Verizon Center crowd, despite his eventual takedown by Gillies. Continue reading

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Ryan Zimmerman Plays The Jazz Kazoo

Ryan Zimmerman (aka Zimmersapien) loves baseball. He apparently also loves kazoos, berets and jazz.

The Zimm also spends his weekends dancing with Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. No word on if Zimmerman will be teaming up with Ron Burgundy and his “yazz” flute.

capitals hockey, Sports Fix, The Features

An Open Letter to the Washington Capitals

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Dear Ted, George, Bruce, and Alex:

I know right now you’re dealing with a lot of crap from pretty much every corner because of Wednesday’s loss. So I just wanted to toss in two words you may not have heard much over the last 48 hours:

Thank you.

Those two words are pretty well drowned out right now, given that in true DC fashion, everyone’s getting busy on offering their opinions on what went wrong and what you guys need to do to fix things. And don’t misunderstand me – I have my opinions on the matter as well, but now’s not really the time to list them. I really just wanted to take a moment during all of the hubbub and let you know how I feel as things settle down. They’re simple words, but they need said.

THANK. YOU. Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Ovie, Caps Denied Game 1

Photo courtesy of
‘Alex Ovechkin’
courtesy of ‘brianmka’

Nobody said it would be easy.

The Montreal Canadiens did what they set out to do last night in a capacity-filled Verizon Center – steal a win in the Washington Capitals home building. Oh, and they shut down some guy named Ovechkin, too.

Tomas Plekanec silenced the crowd just over 13 minutes into the first overtime, corralling a bobbling puck and sending it end-for-end over Caps goalie Jose Theodore’s left shoulder. “We were screwing around with [the puck] instead of taking it back and setting it up and coming out,” said Coach Bruce Boudreau after the game. “They came up and our defense was caught in transition so they backed up so Plekanec got a chance to walk into the top of the circle and he had a perfect shot.”

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