capitals hockey, Sports Fix

Ovie Scores in OT as Caps Come Back to Defeat Islanders 3-2

Photo courtesy of clydeorama

Ovechkin Fist Pump
courtesy of clydeorama

Alex Ovechkin played a terrible game last night. His passes weren’t connecting, he was often out of position, and he turned over the puck repeatedly. He shot wide to the left. He shot wide to the right. But when the game – and perhaps the season – was on the line in overtime, Ovie scored a spectacular goal to win the game and vault Washington back into a playoff spot.

Troy Brouwer set up the overtime heroics by scoring twice in the last four minutes of regulation to lead the come-from-behind victory. New York netminder Evgeni Nabokov was a brick wall through 56 minutes of the game, turning away the first 30 shots he faced. But Brouwer took an aggressive approach, taking his body to the net and scoring both goals from within a few feet of the goal line. Continue reading

capitals hockey, Sports Fix, The Daily Feed

Caps Top Predators, 4-1

Photo courtesy of bridgetds
Mike Knuble has played 1,000 NHL games.
courtesy of bridgetds

The Capitals honored 39-year-old Mike Knuble last night for playing in 1,000 NHL games, then went out and earned a hard fought 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators before a festive crowd at Verizon Center last night. Riding goals from marquee players Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin along with some timely saves by goalie Michal Neuvirth, the Caps played as complete a game as we have seen under new coach Dale Hunter. Continue reading

capitals hockey

Stars Shine, Caps Fall 5-2

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Neuvirth Makes a Save On a Tricky Puck
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’

They typically only face each other once a season, so a match-up between the Dallas Stars and the Washington Capitals is not one of the marquee rivalries in the NHL. Not like the salad days of the great Redskins and Cowboys teams over in the NFL. But coming into last night’s game, these two teams sported the best records in the league. Unfortunately, what promised to be fireworks turned to fizzle as the the Caps came undone in the third period. The Stars simply out-worked the Caps en route to a 5-2 victory in Washington. Continue reading

Sports Fix, The Features

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

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‘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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capitals hockey, Sports Fix

Caps Top Rangers in Game 2

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Marcus Johannson digs in for a faceoff against Brandon Dubinsky of the Rangers.
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

Is playoff hockey awesome, or what?

The Capitals went toe-to-toe with the New York Rangers in an intense physical game, scored two quick goals in the second period, then locked down the defense to hang on for the 2-0 victory and a 2-0 lead in the series. Michal Neuvirth made 22 saves to earn his first NHL post-season shutout in front of a lively and appreciative crowd last night at the Verizon Center.

The Rangers showed more fire and hustle in the first period, outshooting the Caps 13-7, outhitting by a margin of 18-11, and generally dominating puck possession. The bodies were flying, and more then one player took the short trip down the corridor to the locker room for repair, only to be back on the bench for the next shift. Continue reading

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 top Blue Jackets, suffer on the blue line

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courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

The Caps want to start tuning up for the playoffs. After grinding out an 4-3 overtime victory against the Blue Jackets on Thursday at Verizon Center, they have 101 points, eight points more than the Lightning in the division with four to play (six for Tampa).

Washington trails the Flyers by a point for the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference and home ice through to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Presidents’ Cup is out of reach as the Canucks have it all but mathematically wrapped up. So, the Caps are more or less looking at a No. 2 seed heading into the playoffs with a possible No. 1 and it is time to fine tune the program so as to vanquish the ghosts of playoffs past.

Or so you would think.

Bob McKenzie, one of the elite reporters in all of hockey, tweeted during the Caps game on Thursday that defenseman Dennis Wideman was in the hospital with a hematoma on his leg that developed after an awkward hit from Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu on Tuesday.

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capitals hockey

Caps Dump Flyers, Look Ahead to Playoffs as Ovechkin Rests

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Mike Knuble scored his 20th goal of the season against the Flyers.
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

Boy it’s fun to win in Philadelphia.

In an entertaining battle of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, the Capitals outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers last night to win 5-4 in a shootout in Philadelphia and clinch a spot in the playoffs. In their first game this season without scoring leader Alex Ovechkin, the Caps took advantage of their early chances to jump out to a 3-0 lead after just 22 minutes.

When Philadelphia changed goalies, the momentum swung the other way as the Flyers out-hustled and out-muscled the Caps to score four unanswered goals. “Our biggest problem in the second period was turning the puck over,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “The first period, we didn’t have any turnovers. We got it out, we got it deep. In the second and third period they were putting more pressure on us but we were turning the puck over.”

With five minutes left in the game, the Caps looked thoroughly beaten. But Mike Knuble, who had a dominating night with a goal and two assists, set up Marcus Johansson for a one-timer to force overtime. After a scoreless overtime, Alexander Semin scored the game winner in the shootout to seal the deal. Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Rangers demoralize the Caps … again

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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

Sharks beat Caps on a day in February

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

Oh, the potential headlines seem so dramatic.

“Sharks take a bite out of the nation’s Capitals”

“San Jose proves to the NHL that Caps are not contenders”

“Silicon Valley switches the circuits of D.C.’s hockey team”

By now you should realize that the Caps lost to the Sharks, 2-0 at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night. Anti Niemi got the win for San Jose with 25 saves. Michal Neuvirth took the loss, making 34 stops.

Really, it was some classic February hockey. A hot team on a momentum gaining road trip coming to visit a smug team feeling good about itself because it just blew through its two primary rivals over the weekend and thinks that it can go toe-to-toe with anybody. The smug team comes out flat, can never gain traction on the ice and all efforts come in vain as things eventually start to unravel in the third period. The postgame interviews are short and redundant and everybody goes home to bed to wake up for practice the next morning.

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capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Vote Your Favorite Caps Player to the NHL All-Star Game

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courtesy of ‘bhrome’

Fan voting for the NHL All-Star game this year opened yesterday. Three Caps players are on the list for fans to select from: Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Ovechkin, and Mike Green. Shockingly, Alexander Semin is missing from the list, a mistake of great proportions. Semin currently ranks second in the league in goals (13) and fourth in points (23) and leads the Caps in goals scored. He was also named one of the NHL’s three stars of last week. It’s a little puzzling, considering there are other less-than-stellar players on the ballot this year. (We’re looking at you, Ilya Kovalchuk…)

This year’s All-Star game will have a different format, featuring an “All-Star Fantasy Draft” where the captains for each side will select from a pool of players chosen by fan balloting and the NHL. Captains will be chosen by the final group of 42 players selected for the All-Star game. (Even odds it’ll be “Ovechkin vs. Crosby.” I’m just sayin’.)

Another notable Caps name missing from the fan ballot is rookie netminder Michal Neuvirth. Tied for the league lead in wins (11), Neuvirth has posted a respectable 2.60 GAA and .910 Save Percentage through 16 games played. Hopefully the league will wise up and allot one of the All-Star slots to the Caps’ latest standout – provided he remains healthy and on top of his game. But it wouldn’t hurt if Caps fans started a write-in campaign to get Neuvirth some votes…

So what say we start a write-in campaign for Alexander Semin?

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Alexander Semin Bottles Lightning, Caps Win 6-3

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courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
Alexander Semin scored a hat trick and added two assists as the Caps downed the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3 last night at Verizon Center. Semin scored all three of his goals in the third period to break open a close game. It was a battle of high-scoring players as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Semin faced off against the equally potent Tampa Bay trio of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and league scoring leader Steven Stamkos. The super stars shone through as five of the six players tallied two or more points in the game.

Lecavalier opened the game by ringing a shot off the post behind Michal Neuvirth in the first minute of the game to set the tempo. Tampa Bay out shot and out hustled the Caps in the first period, getting many more quality scoring chances. Tampa Bay finally broke through when the fourth line capitalized on an odd-man rush. Teddy Purcell punched in a juicy rebound on a sharp angle shot by Sean Bergenheim. It was the 12th time in 16 games that the Caps have given up the first goal; the Caps have been outscored 17-7 in the first period this season. “The first period wasn’t so good,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “We didn’t work hard enough. We have to find a way to start games better.”

On the other hand, the Caps have outscored opponents 17-2 in the second period in the past six games. Two minutes into the middle frame, Tom Poti notched his first goal of the season, picking up a rebound and lifting a backhand shot into an open net to even the score. It was Poti’s first game after missing eight games due to injury. Two minutes later, Mike Knuble put the Caps in front 2-1, reaching back from behind the net to tap in a loose puck on the edge of the crease. Continue reading

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Trim Leafs in Shootout

photo courtesy of packpuckpics

The Caps beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 last night at the Verizon Center in a thriller that saw three lead changes, spectacular goaltending, and a shootout victory for the home team. The teams traded three-goal bursts in the second and third periods as the momentum swung back and forth over 65 minutes. The Caps prevailed in the shootout on goals by Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin and two saves by Michal Neuvirth to earn two points in the standings.

Semin’s full range of talent and fury were on display last night. The speedy winger ended the evening as the first star of the game, but also spent four minutes in the box for needless penalties. He assisted on the Caps’ first goal, scored a power play goal late in regulation to tie the game, then blasted a point blank slapshot shot past Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson in the shootout to seal the win and make up for his two offensive zone penalties. “He was actually sick tonight and we didn’t know if he would be scratched or not until after warm up,” said Boudreau. “But he wanted to play and so he did.”

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capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps to Play 9 Home Games in November

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Alexander Semin

courtesy of ‘Jessica Whittle Photography’

The Caps enter the scond month of the season with reason to be optimistic. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth earned Rookie of the Month honors for leading the Caps to seven victories while posting a 2.15 goals against average in October. The Caps looked like the Caps we know and love Saturday night in Calgary, uncorking three straight power-play goals en route to a 7-2 victory over the Flames. It was the second time this season the Caps had scored seven goals in a game.

If the Caps can shake off some shaggy defense work and find some secondary scoring, we can expect another exciting season atop the standings. Coach Bruce Boudreau is expected to keep Alexander Semin on the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for a few games, so look for the boys in red to keep lighting the red lamp at Verizon Center.

November promises to be jackpot for hockey fans in DC. Starting tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Caps play nine home games at the phone booth this month. Here is the rest of the schedule for November:

Fri Nov 5 – Bruins
Sun Nov 7 – Flyers
Thu Nov 11 – Lightning
Sun Nov 14 – Thrashers
Wed Nov 17 – Sabres
Sat Nov 20 – Flyers
Fri Nov 26 – Lightning
Sun Nov 28 – Hurricanes

So put on your Red and prepare to Rock the Red in the nation’s hockey capital!

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Neuvie Blanks ‘Canes

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courtesy of ‘bhrome’
Michal Neuvirth earned his first NHL shutout as the Caps downed division rivals Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 to start a three-game road trip. Neuvirth made 29 saves, including a spectacular cross-crease glove save to rob Carolina catain Eric Staal on an apparent open net, as he improved his record to 6-2.

It wasn’t pretty hockey, but the Caps demonstrated that they can play aggressive on the boards and at both ends of the rink as they put together perhaps their best effort of the season. Coach Bruce Boudreau made a statement by starting the game with his fourth line of Matt Bradley, David Steckel and Matt Hendricks. The Caps strategy of cycling four lines and playing shorter shifts paid off as the fourth line produced the first goal of the game half way through the first period. Good hustle and scrappy play around the net by Bradley and Steckel allowed John Erskine to take an open shot from the point. Steckel made a quick pass off the rebound even as he was falling to the ice and Matt Hendricks was able to poke it past Carolina goalie Cam Ward for a 1-0 lead.

That goal was the only difference for the next 41 minutes as Neuvirth and Ward dueled with great saves at both ends of the ice. The Caps negated a couple of second period power plays with penalties of their own. Finally the first line broke open the game with Nicklas Backstrom putting back a rebound off a Mike Knuble shot with eight minutes remaining in the contest. Backstrom added an empty-netter to seal the victory and record his third goal of the season.

“I thought that was easily our most complete game by everybody.” said Boudreau after the game. “You got contributions from the fourth line and the penalty killing. The goaltender was great. Everybody did a good job.”

The Caps play tonight in Minnesota against the Wild, and will face the Calgary flames in Calgary on Saturday night.

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Bruins Drop Caps 3-1

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courtesy of ‘bhrome’

The Boston Bruins capitalized on some early opportunities and held on to the lead in front of stellar play by goalie Tim Thomas to defeat the Caps 3-1 last night at the Verizon Center. It was the Caps first lost at home this season. Goalie Semyon Varlamov came off the bench to replace a dizzy Michal Neuvirth halfway through the first period. Alex Ovechkin was held to no points for the first time this season by Boston’s tight defense.

The Capitals started the game with some jump in their legs, getting several quality scoring chances in the first and generally dictating the pace of the game. Only some exceptional saves by Bruins goalie Tim Thomas kept the Caps off the scoreboard. Even an early fight between Matt Hendricks and Greg Campbell went in the Caps favor. But the Caps’ trend of allowing odd-man breaks continued to hurt when Milan Lucic sprung Nathan Horton and David Krejci on a two-on-one break with with Krejci converting to give the Bruins the lead. It was the fourth time in six games that the opposing team has scored first on the Caps. Two minutes later, Lucic put back a rebound on a shot by Johnny Boychuk to go up 2-0 with just seven shots on goal.

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capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Backstrom, Ovie Sink Isles

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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

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Extend Neuvirth’s Contract

Photo courtesy of
‘Michal Neuvirth’
courtesy of ‘M. Janicki’

Goalie Michal Neuvirth received a two-year contract extension today, according to the Washington Capitals. Financial details are not yet known.

The two-time Calder Cup-winning goaltender went 9-4-0 in 17 games last season, posting a 2.75 GAA and a .914 save percentage. He was drafted in the second round of the 2006 Entry Draft by the Caps and has been instrumental in the success of the Caps’ AHL affiliate in Hershey.

Neuvirth is expected to be with the Caps full time this season as Semyon Varlamov’s backup.