Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Caps Win, Clinch 4th consectutive Southeast Division Championship & Alex Ovechkin get his 300th career NHL Goal.

Congratulations Washington Capitals! 2010/2011 Southeast Division Champions! 

Been a while since I posted. I know, I'm not the greatest blogger but hey, sometimes life just gets in the way.  Anyway, It took a shootout to do it, but the Washington Capitals clinched their 4th consecutive Southeast Division Championship by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs by 3-2 in the shootout. Mike Knuble got the shootout game winner for the Caps. Standings as of Tonight's games.

GP-80 PTS-105 ROW-42
GP-80 PTS-99 ROW-38
GP-79 PTS-87 ROW-33
GP-78 PTS-78 ROW-28
GP -79 PTS-70 ROW-25

ROW -  total number of regulation plus overtime wins

The Caps also moved into first place in the NHL's Eastern Conference with Philadelphia's loss to the Ottawa Senators tonight, in Ottawa. In tonight's game, Alexander Ovechkin got his 300th NHL goal: 

Congratulations Washington Capitals! 2010/2011 Southeast Division Champions!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Caps lose 3-2 in OT in Buffalo

 Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images
I have to apologise, I was hiking in the back country of West Virginia on the high peaks today. Staying at Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center and we did not get the game up here. We tracked on line, and listened to the OT. Caps get caught in a line change and Buffalo capitalises and wins their first game on home ice. The Caps winning streak is stopped at 6 games.  At least the Caps got a point out of it. I kind of had a bad feeling about this when I saw that the Caps scored first. I mean, that is not like the Caps. In fact I said to David, when we looked at the score and saw the Caps scored first, that... "were going to lose". And we did.  I wish I could bring you more coverage, but alas we are on a weekend getaway amongst the Red Spruce trees, White Tailed Deer, and Black Bears in the highland wilderness of the beautiful West Virginia.  Left: Ex Cap Mike Grier and Steve Montador celebrate Buffalo's goal in the second period.  Oh well, at least the Caps got a point.  Good Night from the beautiful Canaan Valley Resort, Davis, West Virginia.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hats Off To Semin! Caps Win 6th Straight, Zap Bolts: Capitals 6-3 Lightning

The Washington Capitals did exactly what they needed to do last night, win a divisional game in regulation. This was the Caps 6th straight victory and they have propelled themselves to the top of the Southeast Division, and the NHL with a 12-4-0 record, and now lead the Southeast division by 6 points, and the NHL by just 2.

As usual, the Capitals came out with a somewhat off first period, appearing to yield the edge in play to the Lightning, and once again allowing the opposing team to score first. It is becoming such a regular occurrence, that it almost appears to be built into their game plan: come out flat, give up the first goal or two, let the other team get a little comfortable, then lower the boom. I'm still not sold on this though, especially against such a potent team as the Tampa Bay Lightning with Rocket Richard winning, and current NHL goal scoring leader Steven Stamkos. Last night, this game could have easily been been two or 3-0 in the Bolts favor in the first period had it not been for Michael Neuvirth's best friends, the goal posts. Neuvirth did have a hand in it as well though, stopping 38 shots last night. This was the first of 6 games between the two teams this season, in what is sure to become a heated battle for the division title this year, and for years to come as both clubs are continuing to improve while the rest of the division remains average or below.

Photo by Clyde Caplan, clydeorama.com
The big story from Verizon Center last night however was not Stamkos, or even Alex Ovechkin, it was once again Alexander Semin who turned in his 5th career hat trick, 2nd in 9 games, and scored 5 points on the night, good for earning the NHL's #1 star for the night. 4 of his 5 hat tricks have come against Southeast Division teams. Semin is scoring at a torrid pace and is now with 7 goals, 6 assists in his last 6 games, and is in second place for the Richard trophy so far this season behind only Stamkos with 12 goals, 9 assists, for 21 points. Stamkos has 14 goals, and 26 points. Here are all 3 of Semin's goals.

photo: Nick Wass /AP
However the show was not to begin for the Caps until the second period, as Washington was shut out for the first 20 minutes of play last night. The Caps came out in the second with what appeared to be quite a bit more energy, and finally started to push back, get some chances, and dominate the play in stretches. As has been often the case the Caps also got some offence from the defence last night as well. Defencemen Tom Poti in his first game back from a long 11 game injury hiatus opened the scoring with nice backhand shot on a rebound from a shot Alex Semin from the opposite side. Mike Knuble got the Caps second tally with a great effort while standing virtually BEHIND the Bolts net. The Caps came down the ice on a 2 on 4, and somehow Brooks Laich ended up in front of the Tampa net almost alone. Steven Stamkos bothered Laich enough that he did not get a full shot off and it slithered just wide of a half empty net, but somehow, Knuble while moving from side to side behind the the goal line, and net, AND, being bothered by Pavel Kubina, got his stick on it and got it to go in the net.

photo: Nick Wass /AP
However it was the big 3 that really racked up the points last night combining for 12 total, with Semin's 5 points, Backstorm's 4, and Ovechkin's 3.The third period was the Caps, and Alexander Semins show. Semin got all 3 of his goals in the final frame, and it was 3/4ths of the Caps output for the period.  To the Lightning's credit, they never fully folded, coming back to tie the game twice. The caps were also good on the special teams again last night allowing only 1 power play goal in 5 Lightning chances, while scoring 1 power play goal themselves in the two chances they were given. The Caps improved power play is now ranked 7th in the NHL, while the PK has moved up to 12th.  Also of note last night was Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier, who did not return to the game for the third period and was a non factor in last nights game. It was announced after the game that Lecavalier had suffered a non displaced fracture in his right hand, and will be sidelined for 3-4 weeks. As usual, here is Bruce Boudreau's post game presser:

Hopefully all of this can continue for the Caps over what is going to be a busy weekend for them when they come up against two lesser teams. First up is the struggling Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo on Saturday night who have not won a game on their home ice yet this season, then its back home to Verizon Center for another Southeast Division tilt against the third place Atlanta Thrashers Sunday afternoon. The Caps play the Sabres twice in the next 5 days. With the way the Caps are playing of late, there really is no reason this winning streak cannot extend to 9 games, however the Caps must be ready, especially for Buffalo as they are likely going to be hungry to give the hometown crowd its first taste of victory at HSBC Arena.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Laich It Laich That! Caps Win 5th Straight in NYC: Capitals 5-3 Rangers

photo credit - Frank Franklin II - AP
In spite of the Capitals making a regular habit of giving up the first goal to the opposition, the Caps keep on rolling, this time beating the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden to take the NHL standings lead with 22 points. The Caps once again played a very solid game, but the nagging sloppy defencive play continues. Lately it always seems like its going to be a long night for the Caps, as they have given up the first goal 11 of the first 15 games played so far this season. Fortunately for the Caps it has not really mattered to much when it comes to wins vs losses. You almost get the feeling now that when the Caps give up the first goal, the "ahhh, we got em right where we want em!" I would almost even say that at times the Caps appear to play better, late in the game when they are down, or the game is tied. It certainly has appeared that way more often than not. While it doesn't necessarily feel as good as getting a lead in a game and keeping it for good, perhaps there is something to be said for being able to handle adversity and overcome it. I'm definitely liking that aspect.

photo credit - Nick Laham - Getty Images
Tonight the Caps relinquished the lead to the Rangers 3 different times in the game, finally pulling level for good mid way through the second period. The first period was a penalty filled affair with each team getting a power play tally and the Caps killing off an extended 5 on 3. There were a total of 28 minutes in penalties handed out to both teams, including a fighting major each to unlikely combatants Mike Green and Brandon Dubinsky for this nifty little bout, which we're going to call basically even, maybe the slight edge to Green:

Tonight the Caps got goals from where they have not been getting them of late, with Brooks Laich getting two, along with 1 each from Mike Knuble, who scored his first goal since Opening night, John Erskine, and Matt Hendricks. Both Alexander Semin and Green's 4 game goal scoring streaks came to and end tonight, but they were not held off the score sheet as Semin logged an assist and Green got 2 helpers. Alex Ovechkin also got on the scoring docket with an assist as well.

photo credit - Nick Laham - Getty Images
Somehow, even with the glaring defencive lapses, the Capitals are managing to find the offence they need night after night to keep putting 2 points on the board in the standings.  Michael Neuvirth made his first appearance since being yanked 2 games ago in the Caps 5-3 win at home Vs Boston after yielding 3 goals in just under 7 minutes, two of them less than 1 minute apart. Neuvirth once again got the W for the Caps, stopping 25 of 28 Rangers shots tonight.  Next up is another MUST WIN game when division rival, and the team you, the readers here voted as the biggest threat to the Caps in the southeast division this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning visits Verizon Center on Thursday night.

Caps Swat Flyers 3-2 In Overtime

 I,ve been pressed for time to update the blog the last couple days so this will be short and sweet. The Washington Capitals improved to 7-1 on Verizon Center Ice  on Saturday night with 3-2 overtime victory over long time rival and nemesis the Philadelphia Flyers. This was Capitals rookie goaltender Braden Holtby's first career NHL start in goal and he turned in a 23 save effort to get the job done for Washington. Holtby had gotten his first
photo credit - Luis M. Alverez / AP
 career NHL win the game prior against the Boston Bruins after coming on in relief of Michael Neuvirth in the third period of that contest. While the Caps once again allowed the opposition to score first, they never allowed the Flyers more than a one goal lead as they had the answer for each of their goals. The teams would trade markers in both the first and second period, playing to a scoreless tie in the third period in spite of having a two man advantage late in the game, one of which would carry over to the extra frame creating a rare 5 on 4 power play to start the overtime period. The Caps played a very solid game against the Flyers and the shot clock was indicative of the play for most of the game with Washington holding the large edge 39-25 for the game.  The Caps largely stayed out of penalty trouble, only giving up two power play opportunities to the visitors, and allowing no goals while shorthanded.  The Caps appeared to have the edge in play for large stretches of the first and second period, but couldn't break the game open. Philadelphia came at the Caps hard in the third intent on really testing the Caps rookie netminder, but could not solve him for the lead.  Philadelphia gave the Caps 5 power play opportunities on the evening with the Caps only scoring on two of them, but it was the one that carried over into overtime which would prove to be the most important. Just 29 seconds into the overtime there was a scramble around the Flyers net that started with Mike Knuble getting a close in chance. The Caps came away with the puck and got it to Mike green who was waiting all alone at the point. Green walked in to the top of the right wing circle and unleashed a slapshot that found its way to the back of the net, giving the Capitals the overtime win. The Caps got their other goals from Eric Fehr, and Alexander Semin. Both Semin and Green have goals in 4 straight games, and Alexander Ovechkin has 4 goals and 6 assists in 6 straight games. The Capitals power play has improved to 20%, going from 25th in the NHL, to 10th in about 1 weeks time. Great improvement Caps! Let's hope all of these good trends continue.

Here is Bruce Boudreaus's post game presser:

Which team is the Capitals biggest threat in the Southeast division this season?