capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Milbury Blasts Ovechkin During Caps Loss to Flyers

Photo courtesy of BrianMKA
Alex Ovechkin
courtesy of BrianMKA

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?

My magic 8-ball says “Signs point to yes.”

capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Collapse in Loss to Jets

Photo courtesy of clydeorama

Alex Ovechkin spotted the Caps to a 3 goal lead.
courtesy of clydeorama

It was a tale of two games: it the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of swiftness, it was the age of slacking off, it was the epoch of crisp passes on the tape, it was the epoch of sloppy clearing attempts, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, – in short, the third period was so far unlike the first period, that some of its noisiest fans insisted on the game being received in the superlative degree of comparison only. And they booed lustily.

With all apologies to Charles Dickens, thus was the Caps game last night. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first 25 minutes of hockey, the Caps utterly and completely fell apart, lost the lead – and eventually the game in overtime – to the Winnipeg Jets, 4-3. It was a demoralizing loss to a team immediately behind Washington in the standings. Two spectacular, highlight-worthy goals by Alex Ovechkin were for naught.

“This is a tough pill to swallow right now,” said Matt Hendricks after the game. “We had all the momentum going our way, then the next thing you know we lose in overtime.” Continue reading

capitals hockey, Sports Fix, The Daily Feed

Caps Top Bolts in OT

Photo courtesy of clydeorama

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

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 Fall to Jets in Shootout, 3-2

Photo courtesy of photopete
Capital’s coach Dale Hunter
courtesy of photopete

Like many sports, hockey is a game of momentum and lucky bounces. As Caps’ coach Dale Hunter likes to say, “That’s hockey.” The Winnipeg Jets got a few lucky breaks last night to beat the Caps 3-2 before a sellout crowd at Verizon Center.

Ii was a wild ending. Four power play goals in the span of eight minutes late in the third period left the two teams tied at the end of regulation. After an inconclusive overtime, the Jets won the game in the shootout.

The Caps came out aggressively in the first period, peppering Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec with 12 shots on goal to the Jets 4. The Caps had another 13 shots that either missed the net or were blocked. Even though both teams play a “trap” style of defense, it was wide open hockey with fast rushes in both directions. It seemed like the clock had been turned back to the run-and-gun Caps of the best of the Boudreau years. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to me it was a lovely sight. Continue reading

capitals hockey, Sports Fix

Caps Blank Panthers, 4-0

Photo courtesy of clydeorama
Tomas Vokoun Makes a Pad Save
courtesy of clydeorama

The Caps scored early and often and rode a hot goaltender to a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers last night at Verizon Center. With the win, the Caps vaulted past the Panthers into first place in the Southeast Division and a spot in the playoffs. Alex Ovechkin scored twice and Tomas Vokoun stopped 42 shots for his fourth shutout of the season.

The fans were barely in their seats when the Caps lit the red light for an early lead. Jason Chimera dug the puck out of the corner and fed a pass to Matthieu Perreault who slid the puck under Panthers’ goalie Scott Clemmensen just 13 seconds into the game. Continue reading

Sports Fix

Sports Fix Special: A Day for Wicked Pixels

Photo courtesy of philliefan99
one way FAIL
courtesy of philliefan99

Boy, what a morning.

First up was Alex Ovechkin, who today opted out of the All-Star Game, citing a lack of passion brought on by a 3-game suspension for an off-his-feet hit on the Penguins Zbynek Michalek during Sunday’s game. I can understand his frustration with the league for a 3-game suspension when Michalek was cleared of a similar hit in the exact same game. It can be hard to be a professional hockey player. That is also why he’s paid $9.5M on average per season. As Don Draper says, “That’s what the money is for!” I suppose that he’ll instead be chilling in his new house in McLean, valued at $4.2M.

In acting the petulant teenager, Ovechkin hurts the fans and the league, when he’s really just angry that his team can’t seem to feed him the puck up close to the net. Look, Ovi, I know you’re having a rough go of it right now, but the answer here is to buckle down and do more not do less, especially in the face of criticism. There’s a lot of concern out there for the team’s work ethic, and that there’s no combined leadership on the ice. By opting out and saying that you’re just not feeling it, well, I have to wonder – have you felt it at all this season? I know you’re hitting like crazy, and your game against Pittsburgh this week saw you with 3 points, but I’m not seeing the leader that I was hoping for.

The Capitals, in standing by their star, are at least giving him an “honorable” out, and given the lack of discipline for Michalek, that seems to be at least justified in part. In doing so, aren’t the Capitals doing more to hurt the hockey capital’s enthusiasm for the sport as a whole? I had thought that this was an organization dedicated toward hockey as a whole, but this latest set of actions seem to belie that isn’t the case always.

And now on to the firing of Flip Saunders, first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.  The Wizards have started the year at a lovely 2-15, including a 20-point loss in Philly last night, a game in which they trailed by 30 at the half, which is something I was pretty sure was only possible when a JV team plays the varsity at DeMatha. Sadly, it’s not likely that the elevation of assistant Randy Wittman to the head coach, even temporarily, is going to change the slide of the Wizards – not that they can slide much further down the charts.

I can’t remember a more terrible day for Monumental Sports in the new era, and though it feels like piling on, the state of DC sports is fairly deplorable, given the Redskins’ back to back 6-10 seasons, the Wizards seemingly-perpetual last place position, and the Capitals struggles amid an abundance of talented players. How terrible is it that a .500 season from the Nationals seems to be the brightest spot in the DC Sports world right now?

So yes, Uncle Ted, this is a day for wicked pixels, but it’s hard to dodge these as just being the words of some pajama-clad bloggers when it’s the whole of the sports media with their head in their hands wondering what could possibly be going on.

Sports Fix

Capitals douse Flames, grab 3-1 win

Photo courtesy of bhrome
courtesy of bhrome

On the coldest night of the winter so far, Mike Green returned to the ice at Verizon Center warm Caps fans’ heart, as the Caps defeated the Flames, 3-1. Though he was not his usual sterling self throughout the game, with a little over 15 minutes of playing time, Green was back in action in the Red on Tuesday night in front of a a packed house happy to see him.

The Capitals struck early, with a power play goal in just the second minute of the night off a beautiful one-timer by Ovechkin, fed by Marcus Johansson, on a well-executed 2-on-1 after some strong neutral zone play.  The neutral zone would be the focus of the first period, with the Caps transforming gradually into the Dale Hunter-lead team that fights hard in the neutral zone to maintain control of the game through the middle part of the ice. For the most part they’d succeed in pushing for possession battles outside of their own end.  Ovechkin said post game, “Everybody’s buying into everything and working very hard. That’s the most important thing. No one is taking it easy.”

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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, The Daily Feed

Caps Top Pens 3-2 in OT

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courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

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.

The good:

  • 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
Sports Fix, The Features

A Little Brains, Heart and Nerve: Say Goodnight, Washington Capitals

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courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

I could wile away the hours,
Conferrin’ with the flowers,
Consultin’ with the rain,
And my head I’d be scratchin,’
While my thoughts were busy hatchin’ …

The Bruce Boudreau Era is done.

Make no mistake about it. Heading into the postseason the question was not so much about how far the Caps would go but more about how they performed once they got out of the first round. “Does Boudreau lose his job if the Caps do not make it to the Stanley Cup Finals” was an unfair question. The Stanley Cup is perhaps the hardest trophy to win in all of American sports, outside of the horse racing Triple Crown.

Washington just needed to play respectably, up to its potential and level of talent. No choking, no dramatic series losses after being up big. From the Eastern Conference semifinals on, if the Caps played well but got beat, that would have been an acceptable outcome.

That is not what happened.

Getting swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning was simply appalling. There is no excuse for it. It looked like Washington had found a way to win in the playoffs after the New York series. They were motivated, they played tight defensively, were opportunistic when they needed to be and, most importantly, they looked like they were focused and playing together. Sheer talent and determination should have been enough to get them through the semifinals.

A very good friend of mine, Erin, said that the Caps would be swept. She is an evil genius. Most pundits picked Washington to win anywhere between five and seven games. Myself, I thought Washington could eke it out in seven. I was not going to be one of those writers who dismissed the Lightning as too young or too raw. Tampa has a superbly talented hockey team not to be underestimated.

What I did was overestimate the Washington Capitals.

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Sports Fix, The Features

Caps Dropped By Bolts In Overtime of Game 2

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‘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.

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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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Sports Fix, The Features

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

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

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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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capitals hockey, The Daily Feed

Caps Blank Oilers, 5-0

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Holtby Save on Shorthanded Cogliano Breakaway
courtesy of ‘clydeorama’
The Capitals’ season-long retooling project took a strong step forward last night as an offensive explosion propelled the Caps to a 5-0 win and a shutout for rookie goalie Braden Holtby against the Edmonton Oilers at Verizon Center. The Caps rediscovered the wonders of the power play scoring two goals on the man advantage in the second period. Alex Ovechkin lead the fireworks with two goals and an assist, as Eric Fehr returned from an injury to add two more lamp-lighters.

The retooling effort that got underway in earnest in mid-November has aimed to play a style more suited to success in the post-season. This has included playing “responsible” hockey with a focus on defensive assignments and middle zone traps. After two years of ever-increasing offense firepower under coach Bruce Boudreau, the change has felt more like shock therapy. Continue reading

Sports Fix

The chain gang: Where did the Caps’ offense go?

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courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

A year ago, the Capitals were the high-flying, big scoring red machine that cut through the Eastern Conference regular season like scissors making a paper snowflake. They led the league in scoring with 313 goals and were buoyed by the best top line in the game in Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin.

This year has not been so kind.

The difference is striking, on the ice and by the numbers. Washington’s struggles on the ice have been well chronicles and denizens of the Verizon Center hope they have been remedied with the additions of another puck moving defenseman (Dennis Wideman) and a bona fide second line center (Jason Arnott) brought to D.C. at the trade deadline.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Last year the Caps scored 3.82 goals per game, more than half a goal higher than second place Vancouver at 3.27. The top line of Ovie, Backstrom and Semin tallied 3.93 points (goals and assists) per game. The top eight scorers on the team averaged 7.86 points per game. An amazing seven Caps scored more than 50 points with six of them above 20 goals.

Where has the production gone?

And why?
Continue reading

The Daily Feed

Caps caught napping again in loss to Kings

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courtesy of ‘bridgetds’

The message after the game was loud and clear in the Capitals dressing room on Saturday afternoon.

It is time to wake up.

“It is like we are waiting for something. I don’t know. Waiting for something,” forward Mike Knuble said. “We are entering the toughest part of our season right here and it is going to be a real indicator if we are going to be a serious contender or not, quite honestly.”

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