If you watched the horror show in Philadelphia last night, you know the Caps just looked bad. As in, start-of-the-season bad. The team floated the “we were tired” balloon as an excuse, as the game was their third in five days.
It’s an excuse that would hold more weight if the Caps were firing on all cylinders from the start and deep in the playoff race. But they’re in catch-up mode and in danger of missing out on this year’s Cup run. “Being tired” just doesn’t cut it at this point.
Most interesting, however, was NBC Sports commentator Mike Milbury’s diatribe about Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. I’ll caveat by saying I’m not a huge Milbury fan for innumerable reasons. But considering the Caps woes right now, including Ovie’s less-than-stellar stats for this point in the season…I think Milbury has a point buried in his overemotional pontification.
Are the Caps in danger of tanking out this season if Ovie can’t get it together?
The Wizards finished their season with six straight wins, D.C. United is 2nd in the Eastern Conference after a hot start, the Redskins have drafted Robert Griffin III to be their next quarterback, the Capitals won a pivotal Game 7 against Boston to advance to the next round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and lastly, the Nationals have started their season 14-5 and have the best pitching staff in the National League and possibly all of baseball.
Late today, the Nationals announced that Ryan Zimmerman would be joining Brad Lidge, Michael Morse, Drew Storen and Chien-Ming Wang on the DL, and that Bryce Harper would make his major league debut tomorrow night at Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles. So far, Harper’s not lighting up the AAA league quite as he had with the lower levels of the minor leagues, but it’s hard to deny the talent of the youngest member of the elite athletes club of Washington.
Can Harper make a difference at the Major League level? That depends on the Bryce Harper we get. This is one of those wonderful moments where a team has decided, “Alright, screw it, let’s give the kid a chance.” There’s no guarantee that Harper’s ready, though the expectations for him are nothing short of towering. Will he have a Strasburg moment tomorrow night in Dodger Stadium? Can he bring some offense to left field, where the Nationals have struggled to put anything in the offense column?
DC sports fans have been waiting for answers to these pressing questions since the summer of 2010 when the Nationals took Harper with the top pick of the draft. Will he be the next Ken Griffey Jr., or will he be the next Todd Van Poppel? It all starts tomorrow night at 9:10pm. Don’t miss it.
A beat-up Capitals squad hit Nashville last night and stumbled out with a 3-1 loss to the Predators. Don’t let the score fool you; the game remained scoreless for over 55 minutes. Early in the third, Troy Brouwer wristed a perfectly-placed cross-ice pass from Marcus Johansson past Preds goalie Pekka Rinne and the game looked like it would finally break open in the Caps favor. Thirty seconds later, Martin Erat solved Tomas Vokun and it went downhill from there. Colin Wilson’s game-winning goal came with less than 30 seconds on the clock, and Shea Weber’s empty netter five seconds later was the nail sealing the coffin.
Tomas Vokoun was stellar for most of the evening. Stopping 28 of 30 shots, he was in top form with some specatular saves.
The Caps second line (Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich, Alexander Semin) accounted for 14 of the Caps 40 shots.
Marcus Johansson and Cody Eakin continue to shine on the third line.
The power play went 0-for-3; the team has the 7th-best power play in the league.
The Caps are now 1-3-1 in their last 5 and 3-5-1 since their red-hot start.
The team dominated through two solid periods but once Brouwer’s goal tallied in, it seemed like there was a complete shift in tone. Erat’s tying goal came when the Caps thought there was an offsides but with no whistle, the Predators played on. As a result, Erat scored. The Caps never seemed to recover from that momentary lapse and the Preds made the most of it.
“I think guys are as upset as I’ve seen,” said Mike Knuble. “That was frustrating. We really battled to get that lead. They tied it right away, but the least we should have done was force overtime.”
Whenever the Capitals take on the Penguins, the game is always an intense roller-coaster ride from start to finish. Last night’s contest in Pittsburgh was no different. The Caps squeaked out a 3-2 overtime win despite being dominated much of the game.
Forwards Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Knuble both posted their first goals of the season. Both players seem to come alive whenever this rivalry is in play. It seems this always-intense rivalry finally got Ovechkin’s motor running. The captain had one goal on three shots and collected five hits and a +1 on the evening.
Goalie Tomas Vokoun showed a much better side of himself, stopping 39 of 41 shots. He kept the Caps in the game in the first and third periods while the rest of the team lagged.
The Caps penalty kill shut down four of five Penguin power plays.
The lone power play for the Caps came in overtime. Dennis Wideman cracked in a nice Nicklas Backstrom pass from the slot. The goal is Wideman’s second of the year. Continue reading →
After a wild 7-6 victory in Anaheim and the reappearance of Alexander Semin to the goal category on Wednesday, it looked as if the spark had returned to the Washington Capitals. The Caps moved on in their West Coast tour with a stop last night in San Jose to face the struggling Sharks.
Both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom knocked in tallies last night; Ovechkin ended with a goal and an assist for another solid game. “Ovi looks like the old Ovi now,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “I hadn’t been able to say that but in recent games he has been, so let’s hope he continues. The energy he’s playing with, he’s coming back hard and he’s not staying upright and his shifts were short. And all those things encompass a good leader. That’s what he was doing.”
After the game tied up at one apiece after the first period – both goals coming in the last three minutes – it was a slow, tight defensive grind by both teams going into the third. The Caps had jump, something lacking in recent weeks, but the Shark’s blue line did not allow a lot of scoring chances. “We are holding a lot of teams to two goals,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “That is allowing us to have a chance to win games.” Continue reading →
Last year at this time, DC was buried under Snowmaggedon. The Caps lit the region with a hard-fought win over the Penguins as everyone prepped for the Super Bowl. This year, it’s deja-vu…sorta.
The Caps came into this afternoon’s contest on a mission to establish themselves and their game plan. After their dominating win over Tampa on Friday, it was imperative the Caps continue their new-found momentum as the Pittsburgh Penguins visited the Verizon Center.
Pittsburgh, however, arrived missing two of their marquee players. Sidney Crosby was currently out of the lineup due to lingering concussion symptoms from a Jan 5 game against Tampa Bay, and Evgeni Malkin was out, awaiting a second opinion on his torn MCL/ACL in his right knee. (Malkin may be out for the season at this point.) Continue reading →
The Capitals went into Sunday afternoon’s tilt with Ottawa hoping to awake their offense and leave behind their struggles against the Senators they way they broke their losing streak against the squad back in December. They got their wish in the third period, scoring three goals on the Senators and playing strong enough defense to pickup a pair of points.
The Capitals bounced back from their tough loss to Pittsburgh before the holidays with a 3-2 win over division rival Carolina. And more importantly, Alexander Ovechkin put an end to his goal-scoring drought after Mike Green corralled a wildly bouncing puck and sent it through the crowd. The puck deflected off a Carolina player to Ovechkin, who snapped it in behind Cam Ward. The goal, which proved to be the game winner, was his 13th of the season.
Mathieu Perreault continued to impress last night, wristing in a great Alexander Semin no-look pass that slide in front of the net, giving the Caps a 1-0 lead in the first period. David Steckel broke the 1-1 tie in the second after a great pick by Ovechkin as the Hurricanes were bringing the puck into center ice. Despite Tuomo Ruutu’s quick tip-in to start the third period, the Caps held on to grab their third win in four games.
“Our division’s pretty tough, so any game within the division, coming out with two points is huge for us,” Steckel said. “Especially a game after two days off. We wanted to come out and make sure we’re doing the right things and keep kind of the ball we’ve got rolling. I know we lost last game, but it’s indicative of the way we’re playing. If we keep playing like this, good things are going to happen.”
The Caps face the Montreal Canadiens in DC on Tuesday before packing up for the Winter Classic.
Sunday night’s early evening game against the Flyers was full of opportunities for the Capitals to assert their dominance, but it was Philly that struck first. Nikolay Zherdev scored onthe breakaway against Braden Holtby in his first NHL start. Holtby would block 23 of 25 and earn the second star tonight, including three beautiful back-to-back-to-back saves against a Flyers onslaught in the third period.
Eric Fehr and Alexander Semin would chalk up regulation goals in the first and the second for the Capitals, in an offensive performance that was mostly lackluster. The Caps would pepper Bobrovsky with 39 shots, striking just three times tonight. Worse were the missed connections from the Caps offense, which just couldn’t connect on the cross tonight, and had a number of difficulties clearing the puck.
The best chance for the Caps to finish off the Flyers came with 3:55 remaining in the third. Chris Pronger got booked on a double-minor for high-sticking, as he swatted defenseman Dave Steckel in the nose. The physical game was almost entirely in Philly’s corner tonight, with the Flyers outhitting the Caps 30-17, and that’s what got them into the situation that cost them the game. The Caps started overtime playing 5 on 3, and just 29 seconds into the period, Mike Green beat rookie minder Bobrovsky high on a laser shot to claim the victory.
This past Tuesday night at the Verizon Center, the Reston Raiders (from none other than Reston, VA) took park in the “Mites on Ice” inter-squad scrimmage during a Caps game intermission. While “Mites on Ice” is regular entertainment at Caps and other NHL games, the Raiders’ goal celebration was completely new.
Apparently, in trying to psyche the kiddies up for the game, Caps staffers suggested the players do never-before-seen celebrations, like a snow angel. Then someone mentioned a game puck and the kids magically inferred that whoever was first to do an snow angel after a goal would get the puck. So every kid was hyper-focused on being the first to flop to the ice and flap their arms and legs after the goal. One kid was so aggressive he even did a face down snow angel. Fortunately, the Caps rock and each player received a puck for their celebration efforts.
Now the only question left is whether Ovechkin will pull out the snow angel after his next goal. I’d love to see that.
Just to update a note we had in yesterday’s preview – the Capitals have placed goalie Semyon Varlamov on injured reserve for an undisclosed injury. Speculation is that he’s being hindered by a nagging groin pull, but nothing has been confirmed. Varlamov can be recalled from IR at any time and is expected to travel with the team to Atlanta for the season opener tomorrow.
The move, coincidentally, drops the Capitals’ roster to the league-mandated 23 man limit. Rookie Michal Neuvirth is expected to start tomorrow and will most likely dress for Saturday’s home opener against New Jersey. Recently signed Dany Sabourin will be Neuvirth’s backup.
Varlamov hasn’t played since the Sept 22 preseason game, though he did participate in skating practice yesterday.
Tomorrow is the start of the 2010-11 NHL regular season, pretty much the only sport that matters in my household. Around the DC area, the Washington Capitals are becoming – if not already – the number two sports franchise, and with good reason: unlike many of the other pro teams in the area, the Caps have been consistent winners the last several years.
Today’s date, actually, should probably be declared a local holiday. Why? Well, five years ago on October 5, some rookie with the number 8 on his sweater hit the Verizon Center ice in the season opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Forty seconds into the game, Alexander Ovechkin – the rookie in question – hit defenseman Radoslav Suchy so hard against the glass that one of the supports broke loose and hit the ice. A portent of things to come? If so, Ovechkin had two more signs to stamp his arrival to the NHL that night – his first two goals of his career, one of them a great one-timer from Jeff Halpern. At the end of that game, there was no doubt: Ovechkin – and the Capitals – had arrived at the next level.
It’s been an Ovechkin-fueled rocket ship ride for the Capitals since, with no sign of stopping.
There might be some movement on the ice in Capitals land.
Multiple sources have indicated that forward Eric Belanger has a one-year deal that is waiting to be signed by a team, but that he’s been told to not announce where he’s actually going. The deal is rumored to be just over the $1.75 million he made last season with the Capitals. Belanger told Le Soleil yesterday that he can’t say because the team working to sign him is also working on a trade.
It’s very likely the Caps are indeed resigning Belanger, who had 15 goals and 41 points across 77 games last season, but are trying to complete a deal that might bring in another defenseman. The Globe and Mail speculates the Caps may actually be shopping around Tomas Fleishmann, who just signed a one-year deal with the team last month.
What is known is that the Caps are not in trade discussions with Toronto regarding available Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle. And of course, this is all purely informed speculation – nothing’s set in stone until GM George McPhee pulls the trigger – but it’s something for Cap fans to think about as we creep towards the start of the new season.
The Caps pulled off a quiet trade yesterday afternoon, acquiring winger D.J. King from the St. Louis Blues and parting with prospect Stefan Della Rovere in the process. King’s a big winger at 6’3″ and 230 lbs and racked up 185 penalty minutes over 101 games with the Blues. A prolific goal scorer he is not (only 4 goals and 9 points in his NHL career), but brings some heft and grit to the Cap’s forward lines – provided he remains healthy. He only played in 13 games the last two seasons due to injuries (dislocated shoulder, broken finger). King remains under contract through the 2011-12 season.
The Blues get Della Rovere, who spent most of his last four seasons playing in the Ontario Hockey League where he racked up 65 goals and 138 points across 230 games.
The NHL announced its Hall of Fame inductees yesterday and former Capitals player Dino Ciccarelli will be the fifth Capitals player inducted into the NHL’s shrine of hockey history. Ciccarelli joins women hockey players Cammi Granato and Angela James in the player category.
Ciccarelli played four seasons with the Caps, from March 1989 when he joined the team near the trade deadline thru 1992. During his Caps career, Ciccarelli knocked in 112 goals and 209 points across 223 career games. All four seasons with the team, Ciccarelli and the Caps made the playoffs where Dino was among the top two playoff goal or point scorers every year. “This is a tremendous honor that I will cherish for the rest of my life,” Ciccarelli told ESPN. “I really appreciate the support of my coaches, the fans and mostly importantly my family throughout my 19-year career.” Dino’s 19 year NHL career was with four other teams after the Caps: the Minnesota North Stars, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Florida. Over his career, he recorded 608 goals and 592 assists in 1,232 games.
With the inclusion of Ciccarelli, the Capitals now have five members of the Hall who played on the team, joining Mike Gartner, Rod Langway, Larry Murphy, and Scott Stevens.
The Washington Capitals hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins last night and for all the noise, excitement, and skill on display on and off the ice, one would think it was the NHL playoffs already.
The Caps won 4-3 in the shootout on Mike Knuble’s fake-out during sudden death. Knuble was a surprise to see come off the bench, as he’s been 0-4 ever since the shootout started in 2005. “I couldn’t believe Bruce was doing it to me,” Knuble said when asked about Coach Bruce Boudreau’s choice. “I didn’t play in overtime at all, so I thought my night was over. I told him when I got off the ice, ‘I don’t like you when you do that. Don’t do that stuff to me.’”
Knuble had a solid night during regulation, tipping in the first goal of the game at the start of the second period. The Penguins’ Maxime Talbot evened-up a little over a minute later, and the Penguins entered the dreaded third period up 2-1. Before last night, the Caps have outscored the Pens 14-1 in the third over the last two years. Alexander Semin and Eric Fehr continued the Caps’ domination and seemed to have the game well in hand until Jordan Staal flipped in the tying goal at 16:54.
The win has given the Caps 108 points on the season, tying the franchise record they set last year. With nine games to go, it’s a sure thing to see that record fall. Especially when six of the last nine are at home – the Caps own the NHL’s best home record at 27-4-4. Next up is a road game versus division rival Carolina tonight at 7 pm, then back home on Sunday against the struggling Calgary Flames at 3 pm. Both games are carried on the Comcast Sports Network.
We’re just passed the halfway point of the 2009-10 hockey campaign for the Washington Capitals. Successful? In many ways, absolutely. Joining me on the breakdown is Adam Proteau, writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com, who kindly offered up some of his own analysis of the Caps season so far.
Overall, impressive. The Caps have hit 50 points faster than any other incarnation of the team before and are definitely on pace – barring a complete and total Jagr-esque breakdown – to end in one of the top four playoff seeds.
“They’re looking like a complete, versatile, dynamic team very early on in the year,” says Adam. “I thought it would take them longer into the season to fully assimilate Seymon Varlamov and some new veterans and function as an effective unit of a championship caliber, but I think they’re there already.”
I know, not a huge surprise, these guys. They’ll be joined by several other NHL and KHL stars, including former Caps players Sergei Fedorov (now with Metallurg Magnitogorsk) and Viktor Kozlov (with Salavat Ufa).
It’s an interesting roster, with 9 players on the 23-man squad coming from Russia’s own Kontinental Hockey League. One wonders if the Russians are playing a bit of sports politics by trying to puff up the KHL, rather than build the best team possible. (Keep in mind, however, that the final-final roster won’t be announced until February 15.)
Still, it’s a team with massive firepower and will be highly entertaining to watch. Just like Caps hockey…
Caps star winger Alex Ovechkin is now considered “week to week” with an undisclosed upper-body injury, possibly sustained during a scrum with either Jason Chimera or a tangle-up with Raffi Torres during Sunday’s loss to Columbus. Although Coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters yesterday that Ovie hadn’t had an MRI, the team did reverse that statement in an article today on ESPN.com.
You’ll recall that John Buccigross expressed concern about the Caps offensive capabilities if Ovechkin is hurt. Through Sunday, Ovie led the NHL in goals (14) and points (23) but could lose at least three games this week and possibly more, which will drastically tamp down Washington’s offense. The next closest goal scorer on the team is Alexander Semin, with 7 tallies; Nicklas Backstrom has 18 points but only 4 goals. In order to keep their momentum going, they’re going to have to step up. Fortunately, Tomas Fleischman’s back in the lineup to help.
Ovechkin’s a hard-charging and highly energetic player, having only missed two games to injury prior to this season. Better for the Caps to face their schedule without their top forward now, rather than deep in the season. Hopefully, the team is up to the test.