courtesy of photopete
Shake the rust off, it’s time for hockey!
The Caps opened the shortened 2013 campaign with a 6-3 loss in Tampa Bay last night. The game was close through two periods. Three unanswered goals by the Bolts sunk a Caps team that looked shaky, slow, and a bit rusty.
Not exactly a stirring debut for new coach Adam Oates. But the stuttering start is somewhat expected, as teams had less than a week in an abbreviated camp. Forming a cohesive spirit with new faces and a new bench boss at the drop of the puck isn’t easy.
Bright spots were two goals from Joel Ward and one from newcomer Wojtek Wolski that tied the game in the second. “You always hope to contribute, for sure,” Ward said. “You’re not going to go out there and say I’m going to score five or anything, but you try to finish your opportunities if you can. I was fortunate to get a couple.”
Another moment that many Caps fans enjoyed was watching defensemen Tom Poti play in his first NHL game since January 2011. Poti got a point in his return. Earlier in the week, Caps senior writer Mike Vogel tweeted that if Poti was able to get back on the ice, he’s a sure-fit for this year’s Masterton Trophy, awarded to a player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. Poti’s battled several physical issues, including a lingering groin injury, for the last two years.
Next up is the Caps home opener on Tuesday against Winnipeg.
Ovechkin Takes To The Ice
courtesy of clydeorama
For the second time in five games, Alex Ovechkin scored in overtime to cap a comeback victory as the Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 last night at Verizon Center. The win kept the Capitals’ fragile playoff hopes alive.
After a fiery speech by head coach Dale Hunter following a lackluster second period, the Capitals played the third period with urgency, grit and determination. Marcus Johansson tied the game at 2-2 with four minutes remaining in the game to force overtime. Continue reading
Brouwer Skates Over Blue Line
courtesy of clydeorama
The Caps rode two early power play goals and a hat trick by Troy Brouwer to a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night at Verizon Center. Tampa Bay stormed back in the third period to draw within a goal twice. With the goalie on the bench for an extra forward, the Lightening pressed to the very end, scoring with 10 second remaining in the game, and nearly tieing the game as the final buzzer sounded. Continue reading
‘Ovechkin Tosses First Star Puck to Crowd’
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’
A group of reporters huddled around a television in the press room at Verizon Center on Sunday night after the Capitals had lost Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Playoffs semifinals 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime. Deadlines momentarily forgotten, the drama of the night swirled up in wonder and emotion that has nothing to do with hockey.
Osama Bin Laden Is Dead.
Normally this would be the spot where I lay on the analytics. The logic of how the Caps have let two games at Verizon Center slip away after dominating much of the play only to come up short handed and staring the end of their season in the face. But, hockey is a game played by grown men. In the grand scheme of things, it is almost a trivial pursuit.
At the same time, it is anything but.
‘Rock the Red’
courtesy of ‘theqspeaks’
There was something missing at Verizon Center on Friday night. It just did not feel right, neither with the fans in the stands or the Caps on the ice. All evening felt like one of those awkward dates where you end up holding hands because that is what you are supposed to do, not because that is what you want to do.
And the Caps lost. The Lightning played solid and steady for most of the game, did not panic when Washington scored two goals and dominated for a 25 minute stretch through the second period and used a little luck to beat the Caps 4-2 to take a one game to none lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“You can’t play river hockey and I am looking at this saying this isn’t the way we play. It was reverting back to an older day,” said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.
It was like Verizon Center was asleep. The fans were loud when they were supposed to be loud, cheered when prompted, joined the chants when it was appropriate. About 15 minutes before Game 1 puck drop I found myself standing in the press box saying “this is a 7 o’clock start, right?” The stands were only about 40% full. It eventually filled out and the pre-game was very loud but once the lights came back on, the crowd zoned out. They played with their thunder-sticks and cowbells because it was what they are supposed to do.
I mean, who are these people?
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
In the NHL the rule is that the warmer it gets, the harder the competition becomes.
It is not just a matter of increased skill from the opponent. There is no doubt that the Tampa Bay Lightning have a lot more talent than the New York Rangers, but with increased intensity and stress, teams resort to all sorts of desperate measures.
To beat the Lightning and move on to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in the Bruce Boudreau era, the Caps are going to have to learn to cope.
Take a look at the other playoff series that have just been completed. In the Eastern Conference, every team except the Caps that moved on had to come from behind in the series. The Flyers had to figure out All-World goaltender Ryan Miller and their own shortcomings in net. They played to their strengths, kept the high-energy forecheck on the Sabres and eventually Buffalo wilted because their strength – defensive traps in front of Miller – could not cope. Boston lost the first to game, at home no less, to Montreal because the Canadiens took a lead in each game and went into a 1-4 zone and started using their bodies as rubber scotch guards. The Bruins knew they had the talent to get to Habs’ netminder Carey Price, played physical but in control and took out their arch-nemesis in a dramatic seven games.
courtesy of ‘Dan4th’
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.
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
The Capitals and Lightning battled for first place in the Southeast Division on Tuesday. Just about halfway through the season and both teams had 51 points and compare well to each other in prominent statistical categories. After Tuesday is there any doubt that Tampa Bay and Washington will battle for the division all the way down to the last week of the regular season?
It was Tampa that would triumph on Tuesday, taking home a 1-0 victory on a Martin St. Louis goal 2:54 into overtime at Verizon Center. The teams played a scoreless three periods, matching each other surge for surge, penalty for penalty, shot for shot. It was not playoff hockey but it was as close to the feel of postseason play that opponents can get in the first week of January.
“Half way through the game you could tell that it was one of those games that might be going to overtime,” St. Louis said. “The whole game both teams had their surges. Both goalies were tremendous and we needed extra time and we just, you know, got a bounce and made something with it.”
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