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 →
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 →
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!
‘DSC_7615’ 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.
F is for family-friendly hockey fun on F Street in front of Verizon Center this afternoon from 3-7pm. Even if you don’t have tickets for tonight’s Caps game against the Atlanta Thrashers, come on down for the Capitals’ Street Festival where you can try your hand at hockey action.
There will a variety of activities for hockey fans of all ages, including:
Slap Shot Challenge – Take a shot at the hockey goal, and a radar gun will record your top speed. Hockey Accuracy Challenge – Shoot pucks and hit as many white light targets as you can before the buzzer sounds. Call the Play – Experience what it’s like to be a sportscaster and record play-by-play commentary on your favorite Capitals plays. Hockey Rink Photo Booth – Get a picture of yourself in the middle of the hockey action with this staged booth using green screen technology. Zamboni Photo Zone – Sit in the driver’s seat of the ice resurfacing machine.
There will also be fan appearances by rookie John Wall of the Wizards; Caps owner Ted Leonsis; Marissa Coleman of the Mystics; and of course Slapshot, the Capitals’ mascot.
Capital One Bank is hosting this event. Any Capital One customer will receive complimentary food vouchers for the nearby Green Turtle restaurant.
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 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.
The Caps opened up their 2010-11 campaign last night in Atlanta. With high expectations for the team by many, the Caps were looking to jump out of the gate to redeem themselves from last season’s playoff collapse.
With only six shots in the first period, it wasn’t exactly a well-oiled Caps machine that hit the ice. Showing signs of struggle all through the evening, especially in their own zone, the Caps ultimately skated to a 4-2 loss to the new and improved Thrashers.
The evening started out rough as Atlanta’s starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec collapsed, unconscious, to the ice just over two minutes in. Pavelec was taken off the ice on a stretcher and regained consciousness later in the evening at a nearby hospital. (According to the Thrashers this morning, no serious health problems have been detected and Pavelec remains under observation.)
The Caps unveiled their uniforms for the NHL New Years Day Winter Classic today at the Caps Convention at the DC Convention Center. In keeping with the theme of embracing the past even as they push for greater glory, the Capitals’ Winter Classic jersey hearkens back to the original red, white and blue away jersey with the six stars above the original logo, with red and blue horizontal bands at the waist. In a nod to the elder statesmen, former captains Yvon Labre and Rod Langway took the stage ahead of current captain Alex Ovechkin in modeling the Winter Classic jersey.
Indeed, the past was present today, and the several thousand season ticket holders and red-clad fans showed their appreciation. At least 16 former players, including fan favorites Mike Gartner, Peter Bondra and Olie Kolzig were in the house, bringing together 35 years of hockey history. Addressing a large audience of Caps fans, Ted Leonsis said he is looking for generational excellence out of the current team. The team’s new slogan “Building America’s Hockey Capital” and Leonsis’s focus on bringing the Stanley Cup to Washington shows an ambition beyond selling out the Verizon Center every night. Let the games begin!
Here is some more good news for the future: Leonsis mentioned that with Monumental Sports now owning the Verizon Center the ice surface (and the ambient air) will be kept colder, addressing the perennial player complaint of soft ice. So put on your sweaters and get ready for fast ice at the home opener next Saturday night.
In case you were unaware, (former) Caps center Eric Belanger signed a one-year contract with the Phoenix Coyotes yesterday. Sources at ESPN indicated the deal is worth about $750,000. Belanger played 24 games for the Caps last season after being snagged from the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline.
What’s news today, however, is the fact that apparently Belanger has been lashing out at Caps management for reneging on a verbal contract. (The Caps have said they never had a contract agreement with the former center.) Belanger had apparently taken the Caps at their word at the end of July, when they (apparently) deferred putting the deal down on paper due to a possible trade in the works that could affect his contract. “We had a verbal agreement over seven weeks ago, and they said it would take about a week to make a trade. It wasn’t a question of if we were making it, it as a question of when you’re gonna be signed, because they didn’t want to lose any leverage on the trade, and we all know the story after that. I’m no lawyer guy, but the line has been crossed, and now I’m looking ahead. I have a great opportunity in Phoenix, and I want to play good for that organization. I feel wanted by them in Phoenix.”
Belanger became a fan favorite after he did some self-service dental cleaning during Game 5 of the series against Montreal. He’d taken a stick to his mouth from Canadiens defensman Marc-Andre Bergeron, losing eight teeth. He still played another 10 minutes that night, despite serious emergency dental work to trim some exposed roots.
Fresh off a career high season, Eric Fehr has extended his stay with the Caps after signing off on a two-year deal worth $4.4 million yesterday afternoon. Fehr had 21 goals and 39 points in 69 games with the Caps last season, even though he averaged less than 13 minutes of ice time a game. Out of all the 20+ goal scorers in the NHL, Fehr had the lowest on-ice average.
Plagued with injuries during the early portion of his career – he was the Caps’ first-rounder in the 2003 Entry Draft – Fehr finally came into his own last season, shrugging off surgery on both shoulders and a major back injury. Having been an offensive force despite the low ice time, his return to the Caps offense should elicit a great sigh of relief for the Rock the Red nation. Fehr had a solid playoff performance last year, with 3 goals and 4 points in the seven game series with Montreal.
The Caps announced today they’ve signed defenseman Jeff Schultz to a four-year deal worth $11 million. Keeping Schultz with the club was important for the team’s blue line; Schultz had recently filed for arbitration along with Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr.
Schultz skated in 73 games last season and led the NHL with an eye-popping +50 rating, a team record for a single season and the first d-man in the NHL to lead in plus/minus since 2005-6. He also racked up a career-high 20 assists on 23 points and averaged just under 20 minutes of ice time a game. “I’m not going to be one of those guys who rushes the puck from end-to-end,” Schultz admitted to Caps writer Mike Vogel. “It’s my job to get it up to the forwards as quick as possible and get it out of our zone with as much ease as possible. If I can make a simple play instead of forcing it, it helps myself and it helps the team.”
The signing is the third by the Caps since July 1, the start of the NHL’s Free Agent signing period. The team signed veteran AHL goalie Dany Sabourin on Saturday and yesterday closed a one-year deal with forward Boyd Gordon. Gordon, the Caps 2002 Entry Draft first-round choice, has played 303 games for the team and recorded 24 goals and 76 points during his Caps career. Last year, Gordon spent a good portion of the season on the injury list, playing in only 36 games and registering 4 goals and 10 points.
The NHL announced its Hall of Fame inductees yesterday and former Capitals player Dino Ciccarelli will be the fifth Capitals player inducted into the NHL’s shrine of hockey history. Ciccarelli joins women hockey players Cammi Granato and Angela James in the player category.
Ciccarelli played four seasons with the Caps, from March 1989 when he joined the team near the trade deadline thru 1992. During his Caps career, Ciccarelli knocked in 112 goals and 209 points across 223 career games. All four seasons with the team, Ciccarelli and the Caps made the playoffs where Dino was among the top two playoff goal or point scorers every year. “This is a tremendous honor that I will cherish for the rest of my life,” Ciccarelli told ESPN. “I really appreciate the support of my coaches, the fans and mostly importantly my family throughout my 19-year career.” Dino’s 19 year NHL career was with four other teams after the Caps: the Minnesota North Stars, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Florida. Over his career, he recorded 608 goals and 592 assists in 1,232 games.
With the inclusion of Ciccarelli, the Capitals now have five members of the Hall who played on the team, joining Mike Gartner, Rod Langway, Larry Murphy, and Scott Stevens.
I know right now you’re dealing with a lot of crap from pretty much every corner because of Wednesday’s loss. So I just wanted to toss in two words you may not have heard much over the last 48 hours:
Those two words are pretty well drowned out right now, given that in true DC fashion, everyone’s getting busy on offering their opinions on what went wrong and what you guys need to do to fix things. And don’t misunderstand me – I have my opinions on the matter as well, but now’s not really the time to list them. I really just wanted to take a moment during all of the hubbub and let you know how I feel as things settle down. They’re simple words, but they need said.
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 →
The Montreal Canadiens did what they set out to do last night in a capacity-filled Verizon Center – steal a win in the Washington Capitals home building. Oh, and they shut down some guy named Ovechkin, too.
Tomas Plekanec silenced the crowd just over 13 minutes into the first overtime, corralling a bobbling puck and sending it end-for-end over Caps goalie Jose Theodore’s left shoulder. “We were screwing around with [the puck] instead of taking it back and setting it up and coming out,” said Coach Bruce Boudreau after the game. “They came up and our defense was caught in transition so they backed up so Plekanec got a chance to walk into the top of the circle and he had a perfect shot.”
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.