Capitals Record: 10-4 Last Two Weeks: Place: 5-1 First in the Southeast, 20 points
A four-game winning streak. A trio of capable young goalies. Undefeated in Overtime. That’s not a bad first month of the season for the Capitals. Perfect? No, they’ve made some mistakes, but they’ve had a pretty good start, and that’s all that Coach Bruce Boudreau needs right now to keep things moving.
The Caps are still trying to find their offensive groove, and some of the lines are working better than others. They’ll be testing things out against the NY Rangers on Tuesday night at the Garden, then back to DC for Thursday night’s match with Tampa Bay. They bounce around a bit for the next two weeks, with games here and away against Buffalo and Atlanta. Continue reading →
It’s Monday morning, and there’s a water cooler to talk at, but the Redskins are off this week. “Crap!” I can hear you thinking, “with no Redskins, I know that Darryl from Accounting is going to talk about the Wizards,” or “Roger from Marketing wants to talk about the Capitals!” Fear not, DC, we have your talking points regardless:
Hockey: It’s not just for breakfast anymore
Okay, relax. Hockey’s easy. Talk about how disappointed you are that the Caps haven’t put their offense all together yet. If they grill you, citing a few blowouts, ask about where Ovechkin’s mojo is. They might get defensive, yes, but you can say that you’re still happy with the top of the Southeast with last night’s overtime win. You’ll be fine. I promise. And get out to Verizon Center, that’s a pretty fun and fan-friendly atmosphere.
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.
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.”
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!
Two nights after beating the Caps in Washington, the Bruins handed the Caps a second straight defeat last night in Boston, 4-1. While the Caps unleashed even more shots on Tim Thomas than Tuesday night, the Boston goalie was brilliant and the Bruins physically dominated the Caps all over the ice. It seemed that the only team that learned any lessons from Tuesday night was the Bruins as they demolished Washington’s perfect record on the penalty kill, scoring three power play goals on four chances.
Two bright spots for the Caps were the play of rookie Marcus Johansson, who was promoted to the second line and responded with his best game of the season. Semyon Varlamov made his first start of the season and showed why the Caps have a promising future with two young netminders.
The Caps once again had many quality chances in the offensive zone, especially early in the game, but Thomas played lights-out good, making 38 saves for the game. The Bruins scored a power play goal in the last minute of the first period when Patrice Bergeron found Michael Ryder open at the side of the crease, and he knocked it past Varlamov for a 1-0 lead.
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.
The Washington Capitals finally showed up for their game against the Nashville Predators near the end of the second period. Outplayed for a good portion of the game, the Caps finally got goals from Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischman to tie it up in the third and force overtime.
Alexander Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty less than two minutes into OT; with Preds defenseman Ryan Suter in the box, Ovie hammered a slap shot near the blue line that Brooks Laich redirected into the net behind Anders Lindback. And just like that, the Caps netted their fourth win in a row and gave Nashville their first loss on the season.
“They outplayed us so badly in the first 27 or 28 minutes of the game,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “You look up and you see that you’re only down a goal or two goals, you’ve still got a chance. Every time we play these guys is like this. They’re so fast. The fastest team, easily that we’ve seen.” Continue reading →
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 →
We all know about the Sports Illustrated cover curse. And we know the story of the Madden NFL cover curse. But is the worst curse of all just being part of the Washington sports scene? That’s what ESPN claims, saying, “A star-destroying black hole of unimaginable proportions, the Washington curse goes beyond sports, touching everything from reality TV (worst seasons ever for “The Real World,” “Top Chef” and “The Real Housewives”) to politics (the reputation of any popular pol who stays in town long enough).” Ouch. But does the DC area really have a sports curse?
The Washington Capitals made an emphatic statement in their home opener tonight at the Verizon Center: “This is our house.” After unfurling pennants for last year’s Southeast Division Championship and the President’s Trophy, the Caps soundly beat the New Jersey Devils 7-2 in front of a boisterous sell out crowd.
The Caps bounced back from two early deficits to dominate the Devils in every facet of the game. Scoring short handed, on the power play, and even on a rare penalty shot, the Caps demonstrated their fearsome goal scoring talent, chasing veteran netminder Martin Brodeur after 40 minutes.
The Caps generated momentum early in the first period, keeping most of the action in the New Jersey end of the ice. But two early defensive lapses in the Washington zone resulted in two first period goals for New Jersey. Rookie defenseman John Carlson started the Caps scoring when he intercepted a pass during a line change and scored with a rising wrist shot from just inside the blue line.
On the field, things have been up and down. Last week, the Nationals got swept at home by the lowly Cubs, but managed to take three out of four from a Cardinals squad that is very much in contention in the Central to conclude the homestand. For a team that’s been fairly lifeless in the past month, maybe the Strasburg news is a reminder that no one man makes a club. In the next two weeks, the Nats will play the majority of their games against NL East rivals, save one trip to Pittsburgh next weekend.
While it’s been confirmed since May, the reality of the 2011 NHL Winter Classic finally began to set in today. The league’s press conference today didn’t reveal much information beyond the logos and some remarks by various officials (mostly from Pittsburgh), but it did serve as a nice bit of hockey news in the heated wastland of summer.
The Caps had a few officials in attendance, including Team President Dick Patrick and Caps players Dave Steckel and Mike Knuble. Most of the press questions revolved around the recent history between the Penguins and Capitals and the hyper focus on the Crosby/Ovechkin matchup. “It takes a team effort to win the game,” said Steckel during one brief interview. “There are outstanding performances by them [Crosby and Ovechkin], but ultimately it comes down to all the guys on the team to succeed.” Continue reading →
The NHL 2010 Entry Draft occurred in Los Angeles over the last three days and after seven rounds, the Caps exited this year’s draft with five new prospects. Selected by the team are Evgeny Kuznetsov (Russia), Stanislav Galiev (Russia), Philipp Grubauer (Germany), Caleb Herbert (U.S.), and Samuel Carrier (Canada). The five selected picks cover the range of ice positions, from center to goalie, and will be entering an already well-stocked prospect larder. GM George McPhee has gotten a great handle on building the team’s future depth, in large part due to the experienced Capitals’ scouting squads.
Last night at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, the Washington Capitals did not come away empty-handed. Both winger Alex Ovechkin and goalie Jose Theodore (who won’t be back this year) nabbed individual awards, with Ovie also being elected to his fifth-straight First Team All Star honor.
Theodore won the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy, which honors the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. Theodore, who lost his son Chace last year to respiratory complications, created the “Saves for Kids” charity to benefit the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s National Medical Center in DC. “Obviously, it was a tough year emotionally, but I’m really proud of the way I handled myself,” Theodore told NHL.com. “Then winning this award just brings back some tough memories or good memories, it depends, but it’s tough. With all the support I had, it was just fun to see people around me that cared for that.” He presented a check for $35,000 to Children’s at the beginning of May after pledging money for each save, win, and shutout he made during the season. The donation also included matching donations and support from the Capitals organization and fans.
Ovechkin led off the awards ceremony, winning the Ted Lindsay Award (formerly the Lester B. Pearson Award) as the players’ MVP for the third straight season. However, Ovie didn’t collect his third Hart trophy (the NHL MVP) as expected; that honor went to Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin.
Mike Green was a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy (outstanding defenseman) but lost to Chicago Blackhawks Duncan Keith.
According to one of my sources, the NHL will be announcing two outdoor games for the 2010-2011 NHL season. And yes, it looks like the Capitals will be part of the festivities. Rumored to be a participant since last summer, the Washington Capitals will be facing the Pittsburgh Penguins this coming New Year’s Day at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field. (The other game is an all-Canadian affair between the Canadiens and Flames in Calgary, sometime in February.)
Honey, I know what I want for Christmas this year!
Some upbeat news for Caps fans today from the NHL offices: team captain Alex Ovechkin has been named as one of the finalists for the Hart Trophy. The Hart is given to the league’s MVP, as voted by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. The award is given to the player who was determined as the most valuable to his team during the regular season.
Good thing the voting was already completed for this one before the playoffs began.
The other two finalists this year are Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks.
Ovechkin has won the award the last two years; if he wins his third in a row, he’ll be the first to do so since Wayne Gretzky won eight straight from 1980 to 1987. Ovie notched 50 goals for the third straight season and led the Capitals’ charge into the postseason after being named captain in January.
The Hart will be awarded at the NHL Awards Ceremony on June 23 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As I exited the Verizon Center this evening, I saw a few things that spoke to what I had just witnessed. Dejected Caps fans covered their Ovechkin jerseys with jackets and pull overs. I walked past a sign showing a basset hound with its ears held out straight; “SURPRISED?” it asked. Frankly, yes. Surprised, shocked, slightly embarrassed; the Caps, the best team in the NHL, had just been defeated by a number eight seed in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. How did it happen? I’m sure there a dozen perspectives. Mine is that the Caps never quite figured out how to get inside the Canadien’s defense and play the net. Continue reading →
In his morning press conference today, Boudreau blasted the media for making stuff up and creating drama where there is none. “Before I go further, I don’t have a problem answering any questions, but get it right – that’s all I ask of you,” Boudreau said. He was referencing erroneous reports that Nicklas Backstrom had been injured (he’s been bedridden with an illness) and that star forward Alex Ovechkin had beaned goalie Jose Theodore with a hard practice shot (it was actually Dave Steckel’s shot that gave Theodore a stinger). The mainstream media has also been making a big deal over Boudreau’s comments comparing Theodore’s record over the last 20 games to New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur and Buffalo’s Ryan Miller. “Don’t try to create the controversy if it’s not there. If we say the controversy it is there, but don’t try to create it by making [crap] up, or stuff up OK? That’s all I ask.”
Interestingly, it’s been the mainstream media overblowing the reports from practices, not area bloggers. While the frenetic obsession of the Montreal reporters is legendary in hockey circles, it’s sad that our local press isn’t much better.
Well, at least a few of us “second stringers” know better. Watch for my recap of tonight’s game tomorrow morning.
After what seemed like weeks of waiting – ever since the Olympics were over, really – the Washington Capitals finally enter the NHL postseason. First opponent in the opening salvos of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals?
The Montreal Canadiens.
The Caps desperately want to get the right skate forward this year; after last year’s rough start dropping the first two games at home against the Rangers, it’s something the team is aching to move past. And by all accounts from various team sources the last couple of days, they’re not only aware of it, they’re chomping at the bit to roll.
Despite the Habs’ recent struggles, however, the Caps cannot enter the series tomorrow taking Montreal for granted. True, the Habs enter the postseason after only notching three wins in their final 11 games. And true, forward Michael Cammalleri hasn’t been nearly as effective in his first nine games after knee surgery, nor has the netminder situation been anything spectacular. No team enters the NHL’s “second season” not wanting the prize at the end of the two-month campaign.
Let’s not kid around – both of these teams want the Stanley Cup. Montreal, to start its next century off right after last year’s dismal failure to celebrate their 100 years in style. Washington, to finally grab the golden ring of hockey that has been oh-so-close only a handful of times in its young (relative to Montreal) hockey existence.
So let’s look over the keys to Round One, starting here in the District on Thursday at 7 p.m.