Newly acquired goaltender Tomas Vokoun was rock solid against his former team, leading the Caps to a 3-0 shutout (his first of the season) over the visiting, division rival Florida Panthers behind goals from Marcuss Johansson and Alex Semin in front of a large weeknight Verizon Center crowd. The Caps remain undefeated, moving to 5-0 on the season, their best regular season start in team history. Continue reading →
Mike Green reclaimed his “Game Over” moniker and sent the rebound of a Dennis Wideman shot from the point trickling into the net as the Washington Capitals defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime in front of a raucous Verizon Center crowd, the 107th consecutive sellout. The Capitals almost held on to win in regulation, but Jussi Jokinen scored for the Hurricanes with just over a minute remaining and their goalie, Brian Boucher, pulled in favor of the extra attacker.
After a wild 7-6 victory in Anaheim and the reappearance of Alexander Semin to the goal category on Wednesday, it looked as if the spark had returned to the Washington Capitals. The Caps moved on in their West Coast tour with a stop last night in San Jose to face the struggling Sharks.
Both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom knocked in tallies last night; Ovechkin ended with a goal and an assist for another solid game. “Ovi looks like the old Ovi now,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “I hadn’t been able to say that but in recent games he has been, so let’s hope he continues. The energy he’s playing with, he’s coming back hard and he’s not staying upright and his shifts were short. And all those things encompass a good leader. That’s what he was doing.”
After the game tied up at one apiece after the first period – both goals coming in the last three minutes – it was a slow, tight defensive grind by both teams going into the third. The Caps had jump, something lacking in recent weeks, but the Shark’s blue line did not allow a lot of scoring chances. “We are holding a lot of teams to two goals,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “That is allowing us to have a chance to win games.” Continue reading →
At the beginning of the season, many fans of the Caps pretty much wanted to fast-forward to mid-April and get going with the playoffs. Going into this year’s campaign, the Caps looked pretty good on paper and were predicted to be yet again runaway winners of the Southeast Division and one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference.
Now? Well, it’s not all doom and gloom – but reality has definitely sunk in.
The Caps currently sit second in the Southeast Division, one point behind the current leader, Tampa Bay. And two points behind the Caps? The surprisingly strong Atlanta Thrashers. This year’s division race will not be a repeat of last year, when the Caps had sealed their division title before the Ides of March with a thirty point cushion. It will come down to the wire again, much like 2007-08, when the Caps wrested the title from the Carolina Hurricanes on the last game of the season.
When comparing the first half of this season to the last two, the Caps are virtually in the same spot. Currently sitting with 52 points this year, it’s only three points less than last season and five points less than two years back. True, it is “less than,” which annoys many fans to no end. But considering the adversity and issues the team has had to deal with so far, the fact that they’re not less than 10 or 15 points back is something to take a bit of pride in. Or is it?
Fresh off their shellacking of New Jersey on Saturday, the Caps were looking to extend their success last night against Ottawa. The Senators were looking for some redemption after being pasted by Toronto and in search of their first point on the season. A point they got, but the Senators left the Verizon Center winless, thanks to the overtime heroics of one Alex Ovechkin.
With a great fake, Ovechkin slammed a low shot home past Pascal Leclaire with only 31 seconds remaining in overtime, giving the Caps their second win in a row and on the season. The goal capped a high intensity game that by rights, Ottawa could’ve won.
“Only Alex can play like he did and still score the overtime goal and be the hero,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “That’s what superstars do. That’s why he’s out there in the last minute – because he can win you a game at any chance.”
Tomorrow is the start of the 2010-11 NHL regular season, pretty much the only sport that matters in my household. Around the DC area, the Washington Capitals are becoming – if not already – the number two sports franchise, and with good reason: unlike many of the other pro teams in the area, the Caps have been consistent winners the last several years.
Today’s date, actually, should probably be declared a local holiday. Why? Well, five years ago on October 5, some rookie with the number 8 on his sweater hit the Verizon Center ice in the season opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Forty seconds into the game, Alexander Ovechkin – the rookie in question – hit defenseman Radoslav Suchy so hard against the glass that one of the supports broke loose and hit the ice. A portent of things to come? If so, Ovechkin had two more signs to stamp his arrival to the NHL that night – his first two goals of his career, one of them a great one-timer from Jeff Halpern. At the end of that game, there was no doubt: Ovechkin – and the Capitals – had arrived at the next level.
It’s been an Ovechkin-fueled rocket ship ride for the Capitals since, with no sign of stopping.
A healthy scratch in Monday’s loss against the Stars, Tomas Fleischmann made quite the impact when he returned to the lineup in last night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Banging home a ripping shot from the right circle in overtime, Flash scored the game-winner and brought the Caps within one game of clinching the Southeast Division.
The Caps had quite the list of scratches for last night’s contest, no thanks to the very full roster of talent now on hand as team prepares for the playoffs. Boudreau has been rotating players through the scratch list in a delicate juggling act to work in new players and keep the team as rested as possible for the playoff run a little over five weeks from now. “I don’t like doing it but as long as we can, we’ll keep rotating guys in and out of the lineup to keep them fresh and sharp,” commented Boudreau after the 4-3 OT win. “The players don’t like it, but they understand it. They know what the common goal is, so they’re doing it for the common goal.”
Jose Theodore knocked away 28 shots against a struggling Hurricane team that showed some fight in fits and starts. Defenseman Mike Green had two power play goals, increasing his season total (and league lead for defenseman) to 17. Alex Ovechkin added two assists in his points race and Alexander Semin opened the scoring with his 31st of the season on a great backhand shot, fed by Brendan Morrison.
It was a reunion of sorts on the ice as well; former Caps defenseman Brian Pothier was on the ice for the Canes, and former Canes Joe Corvo and Scott Walker suited up for the Caps. The players were exchanged in a last-minute trade deadline rush only a week ago.
The Capitals can clinch the Southeast Division with either a loss by Atlanta tonight or garnering a point in Friday’s home contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
For Caps fans, everything. Think of these next two weeks as less an NHL break and more of an intermission show that has the makings of an epic Game 7 Stanley Cup Final every night during the playoff round. The Capitals have five players in the tournament, scattered across three national teams. And depending on how they do and where they place, the Caps may have quite the motivator when these players return the first week in March.
Tomas Fleischmann: Czech Republic (CZE) In the middle of a breakthrough season with 17 goals and 41 points through 48 games, “Flash” will most likely end up on the second line working with the likes of Martin Havlat, Tomas Plekanec, or Jaromir Jagr. However, with several capable forwards on the Czech team this year, Fleischmann will have no problems slipping into a groove on any of the scoring lines. The Czech team is not expected to medal this Olympics, but if goalie Tomas Vokoun stands on his head and gets into a zone, they have a good shot at a medal upset. Continue reading →
Congratulations to the Washington Capitals for setting a franchise record last night! With their 4-1 whipping of the Boston Bruins, the Caps are sitting on an amazing 11 game win streak, stemming back from Ovechkin’s anointing as team captain.
It wasn’t a sure thing until the third period, however. Both teams fought a solid game through two periods, and the 1-1 score going into the last 20 minutes reflected it. But, as seems to be standard Caps operating procedure lately, around five minutes in the Caps just exploded. Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin made Boston’s Matt Hunwick pay on a turnover to gain the Caps’ first lead of the game. Boyd Gordon dropped in his second of the season and then Ovie capped it with an empty netter. Mike Knuble continued his strong play of late with the tying goal early in the second period.
The Caps are sitting pretty at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 10 point lead over New Jersey and face the New York Rangers tomorrow at Madison Square Garden.
Settling into one’s seat last night at the Verizon Center, one would wonder what roller coaster the Washington Capitals had planned next? Visiting the seven-game-streaking Caps were the Anaheim Ducks on a six game road trip. The Caps, fresh off a 7-2 blowout of the New York Islanders on Tuesday where seemingly everyone grabbed a point except captain Alex Ovechkin, were looking to lengthen their 19 point lead in the Southeast Conference and remain atop the East as the NHL drove towards the Olympic break.
Ovie had to have felt left out of the fun on Long Island and let it show early by burying the puck only 36 seconds into the game. A solid twelve minute run through the first period saw the Caps dominating in the Duck’s zone, racking up a 13-3 shots on goal advantage before Anaheim’s offense settled down. The Caps ended the period with a season-high matching 19 shots on goal, peppering Jean-Sebastien Giguere in spurts during his first game back in over two weeks.
The game settled down in the second; both Giguere and Michal Neuvirth had some terrific saves as both teams hammered into the zones. Dan Sexton managed to finally get one past Neuvirth and it looked as if the game would settle into a classic low-scoring goalie duel. But everything flipped in the span of less than three minutes as the third period unfolded.
I know, not a huge surprise, these guys. They’ll be joined by several other NHL and KHL stars, including former Caps players Sergei Fedorov (now with Metallurg Magnitogorsk) and Viktor Kozlov (with Salavat Ufa).
It’s an interesting roster, with 9 players on the 23-man squad coming from Russia’s own Kontinental Hockey League. One wonders if the Russians are playing a bit of sports politics by trying to puff up the KHL, rather than build the best team possible. (Keep in mind, however, that the final-final roster won’t be announced until February 15.)
Still, it’s a team with massive firepower and will be highly entertaining to watch. Just like Caps hockey…
The Caps pulled out a thriller last night over the Islanders without their top winger, taking the game to 11 rounds of shootout madness before Chris Clark tagged the twine and the win. The goal capped a massive comeback from a 3-1 deficit.
Semin, Fleischmann and Fehr all knocked in goals on the night (Semin had two) and Semyon Varlamov carried the team through after Jose Theodore let in three goals on five shots in the first period. Semin’s first goal actually tied the team record (set by Gaetan Duchesne in 1987) for the fastest goal at the start of a game, only 8 seconds in.
The Caps have won three games in a row now without Ovechkin; Boudreau has indicated that the Great Eight’s recovery is going better than expected and the team could possibly see Ovie back as early as this weekend. The Caps play the Minnesota Wild here at home on Friday and are off to New Jersey on Saturday.
Ok DC, ready for a real sport, now that the Redskins have imploded, the United tanked and the Nats…well, they’re the Nats. Anyway, are you ready for some hockey?
The Washington Capitals open up their season tomorrow night in Boston against the Bruins, the first step in their 2009-10 quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Last season saw the Caps suffer the most ignominious of falls, crashing in a critical Game 7 against the eventual Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Even more galling to Caps fans was the fact that the Caps led that series 2-0 before running out of gas.
Will this year be any better?
While I’m sure a few of you actually care what I think about the Caps this year, most people I’ve talked with casually about hockey are skeptical of my Capitals analysis, considering I’m a Penguins fan at heart. Never mind the fact that last year, I was only two wins off predicting their season record and correctly predicted their playoff exit. So rather than take flak again this year, I turned to ESPN’s John Buccigross for his invaluable insight. (And for the record, Bucci picked the Flyers to win the Cup this year. That’s right, Philly. But we won’t hold that against him.)
So Wednesday night saw the end of what could arguably be the best Caps season in recent history. Despite the letdown of Game 7, Caps fans – diehards and bandwagoners alike – can walk away with heads held high.
Should I remind you why?
1. Alexander Ovechkin. Every year, he gets better. From his exuberant celebrations (Don Cherry be damned) to his wide, gap-toothed smile, to his on- and off-ice passion, he is Mr. Caps Hockey. Does he still have more to learn? Honestly, yes. But he’s young, he’s talented, and he’s willing. It’s only going to get better from here, so settle in and enjoy the ride.
In case you were wondering, Alex Ovechkin is finally back on track with the Capitals. The Russian star and city favorite knocked in a power play goal and added three assists in last night’s 6-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks, bringing his points total to 14 on the season.
It’s about time. Alexander Semin is starting to cool a little after his red-hot start and was absent for the second game in a row, nursing an “undisclosed upper-body injury” (oh, come on!). Having the Caps captain superstar slip back into gear after such a rocky October has to be relieving to many Caps fans as well as Coach Boudreau.
Next game is tonight against the LA Kings, continuing the Caps’ West Coast swing.