capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Making Moves on NHL Trade Deadline

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‘IMG_6434.jpg’
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

UPDATE 3:00 pm: Looks like Jason Arnott is indeed coming to Washington. Preliminary reports have Arnott coming in, and Dave Steckel going out, along with a 2nd round draft pick. We’ll have a complete rundown of these two trades and what it may mean for the Caps tomorrow.

Today’s NHL Trade Deadline day and as in year’s past, I’m glued to various hockey sources for trade news. Many suspected the Caps to be busy, and it looks like they’ve busted out a trade today. We’ll update as news hits, and look for a feature tomorrow with an in-depth recap of today’s moves.

As of 11:50, Mike Vogel broke the news that Washington has traded with division rival Florida, sending minor leaguer Jake Hauswirth and their 2011 third-round pick in exchange for defenseman Dennis Wideman. The puck-moving d-man has 9 goals and 33 points this season, but also sports a whopping minus-26.

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Caps Finish Road Trip with 1-0 Shutout of Pittsburgh

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‘Washington Capitals’
courtesy of ‘a digital cure’

The Caps topped off their latest 5 game road trip with a hard-fought 1-0 victory in Pittsburgh. The game capped off a wild cross-country journey that saw the Caps bring in 6 points out of a possible 10. And for many, it also brought about a rebirth of sorts of Alex Ovechkin. He got the lone tally with a 45 foot blast during a second period power play that proved to be all the Caps needed to hold off a struggling and injured Penguins team. The goal was Ovechkin’s third in the last four games; he’s got 6 points total over the same stretch, and has 9 goals (17 points) over his last 15. Slump? Over.

“That is what he does, and this is what he wasn’t doing in the first 45-50 games,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “He wasn’t getting his shot off. I didn’t even see it (the goal) in the replay at all. He has been playing like that for the last two weeks and being a real leader.”

The Caps’ win also marked an odd trivia point for the team that won’t likely be repeated by anyone in the NHL any time soon. In the Caps’ last three visits to Pittsburgh, they’ve beat the Pens in three different venues: the Civic (Mellon) Arena with a 6-3 win on April 6; the 3-1 Winter Class victory at Heinz Field on January 1; and last night’s shutout in the new Consol Energy Center. The game was also Michal Neuvirth’s second shutout in 15 days, both against the Penguins.
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Caps Fall to Sharks 3-2

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‘Missed hit’
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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

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Coyotes Trip Capitals 3-2

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‘Bryzgalov Makes a Save’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’

One shot in the final 8 minutes, down one goal? Last year this would have been unheard of. This year, it’s becoming the staple of most Capitals’ games, and it does not bode well at all.

The Caps surrendered 3 goals on 18 shots last night to a Phoenix team looking for positioning in the tight Western Conference playoff race. Though the Caps did pepper Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with 31 shots – 11 between Alex Ovechkin and Mathieu Perrault – the Caps just couldn’t get it done. The power play was a dismal 0-5 on the night as well. Michal Neuvirth stopped only 15 of the shots he faced and the Caps just looked absolutely flat on the ice.

Special teams has been a focus during practice, but the Caps still drag along a goose egg over their last 15 chances. It’s not that they’re not shooting; last night’s contest saw 13 shots on their first four chances. “We were moving it around and we looked like a power play,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “I thought for sure we were going to score a couple of goals on it. Sometimes, it’s not meant to be.” Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Turn Back Clock, Strike Lightning

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‘Backstrom’
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Tuning in the Caps/Lightning contest last night was like watching a game from last season. The Capitals’ top line dominated, the team was ready offensively, goaltending was solid, and it felt like it was 2010 all over again.

The Caps dropped Southeast Division rival Tampa Bay by a 5-2 score, putting 5 goals behind Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, who has previously stoned the Caps – twice. Nicklas Backstrom potted two goals and four points, captain Alex Ovechkin contributed a power play goal (his first since Oct 30) and three assists, and linemate Jason Chimera finished it off with an empty netter. The result was a happy one for Caps fans, who let out a collective sigh of relief across the DC area.

Whether the team that showed up last night in Tampa is the one returning home this weekend remains to be seen, however. The Caps face a battered Penguins team on Sunday during a Super Bowl appetizer match-up; game time is 12:30 on NBC.

The Caps’ penalty kill streak was ended at 27 when Brett Clark tipped a puck in behind Semyon Varlamov with only 7 seconds left in a Matt Hendricks penalty. But it was the last score the Lightning would get on the night.

The Caps are now only three points behind Tampa in the division.

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Capitals Re-Sign Alex Semin

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‘IMG_6868.jpg’
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

According to a team press release, the Washington Capitals have re-signed mercurial, talented, and currently injured winger Alex Semin to a one year deal valued at $6.7 million dollars. Currently in his sixth year with the Caps and the NHL, Semin is struggling through injuries after coming off his first 40-goal season and career high of 84 points. He has not played in the team’s last nine games.

Semin is tied for the league lead with three hat tricks this year, coming in a 35-day spurt between Oct 23 and Nov 26. For the first two months of this season, he ranked second in goals (18) and fifth in points (30). He already ranks 11th in Caps history in goals (166) and 19th in points (335).

The Russian winger’s new contract extends his time with the Capitals through the 2011-12 season and gives him a raise of $700,000 from his last contract, tying him with Nicklas Backstrom for second highest paid player on the team.  Even with this extension, according to capgeek.com, the Capitals still have over $13 million dollars of cap space left to sign 9 players who will be free agents after this season. This signing, however, may not have been without some drama.  Via Twitter, Washington Post writer Tarik El-Bashir reports that the Capitals offered Semin a multi-year deal, but the winger and his agent declined the offer in favor of the shorter deal they accepted.  The team did not mention if the deal contained a no-trade or no-movement clause. It’s very plausible the multi-year deal was rejected due to the fact that the CBA is slated to be re-addressed and possibly re-structured at the end of the 2011-2012 season.

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Pavelec, Thrashers Deny Capitals

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‘Pavelec Stops Fehr’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’

One would think that Ovechkin’s hat trick against Toronto the other night was the spark that would re-ignite the Capitals offense. Last night’s game against the Thrashers was eagerly anticipated by many with expectations of seeing the old Caps offense of the early season just explode right before the weekend All Star break.

Alas, no. The Caps lost to a streaky Atlanta team 1-0, with Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec shutting the Caps down once again. Quite a difference for the Atlanta netminder, who started the season by fainting to the ice in the first period against the Caps. With the win, the Thrashers take the season series with a 4-1-1 record against the Capitals.

It’s not without effort on the Caps part, however. They have been trying like crazy to make something work; witness the onslaught against hapless Toronto. But the offense just isn’t clicking in the right way and goals aren’t coming in the bunches everyone is used to seeing over the last three years. The Caps threw 36 shots on Pavelec last night; Ovechkin accounted for 8 and Brooks Laich for 7. The Caps have scored more than three goals only once in the last 15 games.

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capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Flyers Hold Off Caps 3-2

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‘bring on the caps’
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Last night’s game in Philadelphia started out in what seems to be typical Caps fashion this season: get behind by a couple goals, then remember there’s a game going on, play the comeback card, and hope for the best.

It’s a very risky strategy (if you want to spin it that way) and the problem is, doesn’t always work. Especially against teams like the Flyers, who currently sit atop the Eastern Conference. After last night’s 3-2 overtime win, the Flyers are now 8 points ahead of the once-leading Capitals.

Jeff Carter scored 91 seconds in on a wrap-around goal to put the Flyers up 1-0. Claude Giroux wristed one in the second, and the Flyers were looking pretty dominant. And suddenly, the Caps were in the final frame in a very familiar position: behind.
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capitals hockey, Sports Fix, The Features

Halfway There: Capitals Midseason Review

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At the beginning of the season, many fans of the Caps pretty much wanted to fast-forward to mid-April and get going with the playoffs. Going into this year’s campaign, the Caps looked pretty good on paper and were predicted to be yet again runaway winners of the Southeast Division and one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference.

Now? Well, it’s not all doom and gloom – but reality has definitely sunk in.

The Caps currently sit second in the Southeast Division, one point behind the current leader, Tampa Bay. And two points behind the Caps? The surprisingly strong Atlanta Thrashers. This year’s division race will not be a repeat of last year, when the Caps had sealed their division title before the Ides of March with a thirty point cushion. It will come down to the wire again, much like 2007-08, when the Caps wrested the title from the Carolina Hurricanes on the last game of the season.

When comparing the first half of this season to the last two, the Caps are virtually in the same spot. Currently sitting with 52 points this year, it’s only three points less than last season and five points less than two years back. True, it is “less than,” which annoys many fans to no end. But considering the adversity and issues the team has had to deal with so far, the fact that they’re not less than 10 or 15 points back is something to take a bit of pride in. Or is it?

Let’s break the team down so far and see what we can see. Continue reading

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Road to the Winter Classic (Part II)

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The 2011 Winter Classic has come and gone, showcasing the best of the league in one very unique experience.

And what an experience it was.

As I’d mentioned in Part I, I was in quite a state before the game. A mix of both my fanboyism for my beloved Penguins and my more observational respect for the Capitals, the team of my home city, the entire experience was shaping up to be one of personal epic proportions.

My entire experience was not mine alone, however. I had several participants in my weekend drama, making it one of the most convoluted and awesome events I’ve ever attended. Continue reading

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

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Road to the Winter Classic (Part I)

Goin' to the Winter Classic!
‘Goin’ to the Winter Classic!’
courtesy of ‘bhrome’

“Hey, you interested in tickets to the Winter Classic?”

It was a question I never actually thought I’d hear. Sure, the answer was a no-brainer – of course my wife and I wanted to go to this year’s outdoor matchup between our favored Penguins and our hometown Capitals. Need more be said?

Since that simple back-and-forth flurry of emails with my friend back in August, I’ve been on pins and needles in anticipation for the game coming up this Saturday at Heinz Field in our old stomping grounds of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Long-time readers here obviously know of my acute love of hockey in general and the Penguins in particular. Through the last few years, I’ve developed a grudgingly healthy respect of the Washington Capitals as well and it hasn’t hurt being able to cover the team for this site over the last year, either. Attending the 2011 Winter Classic, however, goes beyond a simple hockey game or even the intense rivalry between the two teams. It’s a chance to enjoy hockey in its nearly purest form – outside on ice – and the fact it includes the two teams of my adult sports fan life is simply a bonus.

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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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capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Bears/Caps Beat Devils, 5-1

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‘Gordon Celebrates His First NHL Goal’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’
It took a couple of minor league call-ups to get the Caps out of their scoring funk. Andrew Gordon and Jay Beagle, brought up from the AHL Hershey Bears on December 15, scored the first two goals for the Caps, and Washington went on to beat the New Jersey Devils 5-1 last night at Verizon Center.

There were two desperate teams on the ice to start the game. The Caps came into this game to try to string together a couple of wins and leave the eight-game skid behind them. The Devils needed to make up for the 7-1 loss in Atlanta on Saturday and their awful 1-7 record in December.

The new-found discipline of strong forechecking and playing deep in the offensive zone paid dividends as the Caps had a number of good scoring chances early in the game. Gordon lit the lamp first for the Caps, recording his first NHL goal with a strong push to the net as Marcus Johansson chased down a loose puck and whipped a perfect pass to the crease. Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Washington Slide Ends Against Sens

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Okay Caps fans, you may now exhale.

Thanks to Mathieu Perreault and a herculean second period effort, the Caps finally killed the streak monkey on their backs, defeating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 yesterday at Scotiabank Place.

Perreault opened and closed the Caps’ second period surge, scoring 34 seconds into the second frame. Eric Fehr backhanded the puck in less than a minute later, putting the Caps back into the game. They were down 2-0 coming into the period. Perreault then wristed in the game winner five minutes later.

The team survived a last-minute flurry by the Senators and then, as the game ended, they mobbed the ice and goalie Michal Neuvirth, who managed to knock away 24 shots on the night. “We felt like we won a championship,” said Perreault. “We needed that win so much for our confidence and just for the team. That was a huge win for us.” The two-goal effort was Perreault’s second multi-goal game since his recall from Hershey.

The Caps not only knocked out the streak that has netted only 11 goals in their 0-6-2 stretch, but also reclaimed the lead in the Southeast Division from Atlanta. The Thrashers used the Caps’ misfiring to gain ground and slipped ahead after the Caps lost to Boston on Saturday. The division race, once thought to be a runaway Caps win, is now neck-and-neck, with the Caps, Thrashers, and Lightning all one point from each other.

The streak’s end probably came at the best time possible. The Caps face a tanking New Jersey team tomorrow and then the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday for a quick home stand before the holidays.

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Fall to Ducks in OT

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‘Brooks Laich’
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For about 30 minutes of hockey, it looked like the Caps might break out of their slump. But it turned into another night of missed opportunities, and Caps dropped their seventh game in a row to the visiting Anaheim Ducks, 2-1 in overtime. Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was too much for the Caps as he made a defensive play to save a certain goal in the first period and then scored the game winner in OT.

After a tentative start for both teams, the Caps pressed to find an advantage. In the 15th minute, Nicklas Backstrom buzzed in from center ice. Matt Bradley and Brooks Laich crashed the slot in front of Ducks’ goalie Jonas Hiller. Backstrom circled the net and found John Carlson sneaking down from the point. Carlson shanked the shot, but Hiller had already committed. Laich took a backhand whack at the rebound and found the back of the net. It was exactly the kind of goal the Caps needed: bodies in front of the net, a broken play and a lucky bounce leading to a goal. The Caps were earning their bounces by making things happen. A few minutes later Laich slipped another one past Hiller only to have Getzlaf sweep it off the goal line. “We had the puck most of the night,” said Laich. “We were the ones with the chances.” Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Panthers Maul Capitals 3-0

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‘Vokoun Keeps the Puck Out’
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The Florida Panthers came to town last night with a losing record but a hot goalie. The latter proved to be the difference. Florida netminder Tomas Vokoun turned away all 36 shots to earn a shutout on the way to a 3-0 victory over the listless Caps last night at Verizon Center. The Caps dropped their fourth straight contest, going 0-8 on the power play. It was the first time the Panthers had won a game in regulation in nearly three weeks.

Washington dominated play in the first period, outshooting Florida 18-6. The Caps had five straight power plays in the first period – including nearly two minutes of 5-on-3 action – but were unable to slip one past Vokoun. As well as Vokoun played, however, the Capitals’ power play lacked energy, with players content to pass the puck around the perimeter and very little presence in front of the net. The best opportunity came when Alex Ovechkin took a shot from 30 feet and beat Vokoun cleanly on the glove side, only to watch the puck bounce harmlessly off the post. Failing to take advantage of opportunities doomed the Caps. “We had, I think, 20 minutes of power play” said Ovechkin. “We didn’t play how we have to play. We played so casual and you can see the results.” Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Blow Lead, Lose to Leafs in Shootout

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It was almost a picture-perfect ending. Call-up Mathieu Perreault was having the game of his relatively short career as a Cap, the team was up 4-1 going into the third, and it looked as if the Caps were about to wipe out the bad taste of losing to the Thrashers and Stars over the last few days.

Then it all fell apart.

A three-goal third shifted the momentum to the Leafs and the pressure built as the clock ticked down. Goals by Tim Brent and Clarke MacArthur came in the last 2:30, dismantling a well-constructed lead by the home team. “Washington got a little sloppy toward the end,” Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “I think they thought the game was over but we kept on playing and took advantage of some of their miscues in their end.”

Goalie Michal Neuvirth staved off the Leafs in overtime and both he and the Leafs’ Jonas Gustavsson stood strong in the shootout, coming down to Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski, who snapped a backhand shot behind Neuvirth. Last night’s shootout win was the second in a row for the Leafs.

For much of the game, it looked to be the Mathieu Perreault show. Deflecting in a point shot from defenseman Tom Poti, who himself notched three assists on the night, Perreault was a bundle of energy on the ice from end to end. His second goal came as he skated in alone near the left circle and took in a tight Brooks Laich pass, pulled and hesitated just long enough to force Gustavsson to commit, then ripped it past the Leafs’ goalie. Any time Perreault touched the puck in the third period and beyond, the crowd got excited, expecting to celebrate yet another hat trick. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
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Semin Strikes Again; Caps Zap Lightning, 6-0

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courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
Alexander Semin owns the Tampa Bay Lightning. At the Verizon Center last night, Semin scored his second hat trick in as many games against the Lightning this season. It was Semin’s third hat trick of the year, and the Caps went on to crush the Lightning 6-0.

The Capitals’ defensive corps also had an outstanding game, even with Mike Green out of the lineup. Three defensemen – John Carlson, John Erskine and Tom Poti – scored for the Caps. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, the NHL scoring leader, was held off the score sheet for only the fourth time this season. “We pay a little more attention to him,” said Erskine. “Especially on the power play. We try to take him away a little, and it seemed to work tonight.” Tampa Bay mustered only 17 shots in the game.

The Caps got off to a quick start scoring just three minutes into the game. Marcus Johansson won an offensive zone faceoff back to Carlson who one-timed it over the shoulder of Tampa Bay netminder Mike Smith for a 1-0 lead. Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Flyers Edge Caps in Shootout

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‘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