Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Still No Back To Back Losses Under Boudreau - Capitals 4 | 3 Blue Jackets


Sometimes small tweaks can shake things up just enough. Tonight, Bruce Boudreau and the Washington Capitals with thier newly re-tooled 1st line, visited the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first time since 2003. Of note, Washington Capitals superstar, Alexander Ovechkin opened his NHL Scoring career back then against this very same club, scoring his first NHL Goal, (he scored 2 that night) in a 3-2 Capitals victory.

The Caps and Boudreau were hoping that inserting Eric Fehr into the 1st line with Ovechkin and Backstrom, and moving Kozlov down to center the second line, would generate more offence from parts of the linup other than Ovechkin and the 1st line. While Fehr did not factor into the scoring, the Caps did recive help from 2 different players tonight. Ovechkin had 2 goals, including the game winning overtime tally. Tom Poti, and Alexander Semin both had the other Caps scores. So alittle more production from places other than the first line. Progress, not perfection.

The Caps also showed some heart and character in overcoming some adversity tonight. The Caps were scored on short handed, when they had a two man advantage. The Caps have not given up a tow man advantage short handed goal since 1991 in a game VS the Philadelphia Flyers, which the Caps ended up winning 6-3. As luck would have it tonight, the Caps overcame that. The Caps also had to overcome a gift of a goal, with the assist going to referee Bill McCreary. McCreary failed to get out of the way when the Columbus rush turned up ice, and slammed into Capitals defender Shaone Morrisonn, leaving Rick Nash to skate in all alone on Brent Johnson for the easy score.

That took the air out of the Caps sails, but the Caps were not done just yet. They showed heart and character tonight, and tied the score back up on a hard shot from Tom Poti, which had to be reviewed because it went in and out of the net so fast, that play just continued as as if there was no score. The red light was never turned on, but upon the next stoppage in play the Caps called for the play to be reviewed. Sure enough, the puck went deep into the net and ringed around the metal back bar along the top so fast, it was barely visible with the naked eye. The score would remain tied through the rest of regulation.

Once again, in overtime our hero Alexander Ovechkin netted the game winner at 2:28 of the sudden death overtime period. Tom Poti also picked up an assist on that goal. These are the types of games that show just what a team is made of. Both teams faced some adversity tonight. Columbus lost thier starting netminder Pascal LeClaire late in the 2nd period after a collision in his crease. He suffered a neck injury and did not return, leaving back up goaltender Frederik Norrena to man the pipes the rest of the game. LeClaire's injury was not considered to be serious, however he will not travel with the Blue Jackets Wednesday when they leave for Phoneix and San Jose. Tonight it was the Caps who were the club that showed the character and heart in overcoming thier adversities, to pull out an important win with just 28 games remaining in the season.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ovechkin Honoured as NHL's #1 Star for January, Caps And The Goose Egg Sandwich.

Washington Capitals superstar, Alexander Ovechkin was named the NHL's #1 star for the month of January. For the month, Ovechkin posted a league leading 22 points ( 13 goals, 9 assist) in 13 games played, and recorded a +9 rating. Rounding out the 3 stars for January were J.P. Dumont of the Nashville Predators as the #2 star, and Cristobal Huet of the Montreal Canadiens as the #3 star. Congratulations Alexander Ovechkin!

So what do goose eggs have to do with the Capitals you ask? Well, lets start back once again at last thanksgiving. Before tonights game VS the Columbus Blue Jackets, at Nation Wide Arena in Columbus, OH, the Caps have not lost back to back games since that time, which was when head coach Bruce Boudreau took over as bench boss. The numbers that Caps have put up since that time are in this blog's previous post, and they are fairly impressive. However, lately it seems the Caps have had a penchant for not showing up, and laying a big fat goose egg on the ice. In other words, they have been shut out, and it has been twice in thier last 3 games. They were shut out 1 week ago today in Montreal during the first game of a home and home series with the Canadiens, 4-0. Washington, and largely Ovechkin took care of business on the return leg at Verizon Center, winning that 2nd match up in 3 days, 5-4 in overtime, to finish out the month of January in fine fashion. Once again however, the Capitals decided not to show up, and laid yet another goose egg, this time at home, against division rival, and the Kovalchuk-less, Atlanta Thrashers, 2-0. The Thrashers are now tied for 1st place in the southeast division with that victory. A potential 4 point night for the Capitals in the SE division standings, wasted. At least the fans decided to show up for a change, with an announced crowd of 17,205. Not the kind of performance you want to put on with one of your larger crowds in attendance for the season.

Disturbing to the coach, and the fans, has been the Caps lack of scoring from anyone not named Alexander Ovechkin, or the 1st line. (Ovechkin, Kozlov, Backstrom) The Caps have been by and large a 1 dimensional, one line team, and that isn't going to get you too far. Just when the "P" word (playoffs) was just starting to maybe have some real signifigance in Washington once again, the Caps are forced to regroup, and take a long hard look at getting more of thier players involved in the offencive production. This prompted the Caps to recall Eric Fehr from thier AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. Fehr will be placed on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom, while Kozlov will be moved to center the 2nd line. As I settle in to watch the Caps play the Blue Jackets tonight, if this change will help or hurt, remains to be seen. More after the game...

Thursday, January 31, 2008

January Success :: 9-4-0 :: Ovechkin (4 goals) /Capitals 5 - 4 Canadiens - OT

What an exciting night it was for me! I was forced to flip back and forth between the season premier of my favorite TV show, LOST, and the Caps game. I got plenty lucky as the station breaks during LOST, seemed to some how magically line up with perfect timing with play in the Caps game. It was just too hard to choose, and I was rewarded for managing to miss almost none of either. What an entertaining night it was, for hockey, and on LOST! Our man of the hour tonight? Once again, Alexander Ovechkin!

As luck or fate would have it, with the first hockey post since the restart of this blog, the Washington Capitals finish the month of January just as they began it, with a win. Back on new years day, the Caps handily beat the powerful Ottawa Senators , 6-3. Tonight, the Caps came out on top of a very hard fought, and entertaining hockey game, beating the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 in overtime at Verizon Center, with once again, Alexander Ovechkin coming up bigtime with a 5 point night. (4 goals, 1 assist) Hey, maybe my restarting this blog has brought the Caps alittle more luck!

The Montreal Canadiens certainly came to play, and would not just roll over and allow the Caps to win this one without a serious fight. The Habs fought back from being down 3-0, and 4-2, tying the game up with just 33 seconds left, after pulling Cristobal Huet for an extra attacker in the final minute. The Caps outshot the Habs 38-21, and controled the play for long stretches, keeping the Habs pinned deep in thier own zone at times. But it was Alexander Ovechkin who largely, single handedly took control of this game, and the Caps fortunes tonight. Ovechkin leads the NHL, now in goals, with 43, and has 27 assists for also a league leading 70 points.

After a rocky first third of the season, the Caps have rocketed to within 3 points of first place in the south east division, going 18-9-4 since thanks giving. It does appear that things are finally coming together for the Caps, as they have been playing some fantastic hockey of late. Things on the squad seem to be finally clicking and coming together. Yes, more improvments need to be made, but the Caps appear to be beginning to finally devlop as a "team". The chemistry is slowly, but surely coming for them. They have played well enough to position themselves in a place that has us all thining a playoff appearance just might not be out of the cards this season. There is still alot of hockey to be played, but things sure are looking up for now. Here's hoping the February will bring a continuation of the success the Caps have enjoyed since late November.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Behind The Goal Line Returns

We're BACK!
I initially started this blog back in December of 2006, which were trying times for the Caps, and thier fans. I am a lifelong, and avid Capitals fan, and had attended my first game in 1977 at Capital Centre. The Caps are the sole reason I became interested in ice hockey, and played it for most of my life from age 9, until just a few short years ago. At the time I started this blog, I was a current season ticket holder, residing in section 408, row A for the 06/07 season. Prior to that, I was in 408 C, and 410 H. I had been a season ticket holder with my father from the 1982 season, until 1992, when my father became irritated at rising ticket prices, and general direction of the NHL and player salaries at that time. Being 21 years old back then, I could not afford to get my own season tickets. I still attended as many games as I could on a per game purchase basis. Of course, I always sat in the cheap seats. Finally, in 1999, I was once again in a position to afford my own season tickets, and purchased 2 seats. I maintained those seats up until the end of the 2007 season, when I too cancelled my season tickets, for multiple reasons.

The NHL lockout had a profound affect on the NHL, and the fans. One thing I found that it did, was to show me that I did not "need" to have hockey season tickets. The NHL all but disappeared from the sports radar, and the world contiuned on. I found myself not missing it quite as much as I thought I might. Once the NHL resumed play, I once again had my season tickets, however I found myself questioning the direction of the NHL, and the Caps. At that time, the Capitals were a mess, largely comprised of AHL level players, and two bona-fide superstar players, who were seemingly toiling away on a team that was going no where fast.

The team was struggling, once again on the road to finishing dead last in the NHL, or close to it. The attendance numbers were dwindling, as more and more long time fans decided it wasnt worth thier investment to continue w/ thier season tickets, all the while ticket prices continued to rise, and it appeared that ownwership was not comitted to improving the club, and giving thier 2 super star players the tools they needed to help them succeed in making strides in moving foward. About the only time Verizon Center had decent attendance numbers for hockey, was when some opposing teams would come to town, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffal Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. On those occasions, Verizon Center transformed into the visiting team's home areana away from home.

After sitting through, and standing by the Caps through all of the ups and downs of 30 years supporting the Caps, I reached a breaking point. More on that in a minute. Just some of what all of us caps fans witnessed / endured over the years follows: From the player scandals, ALMOST relocation, finally beating the Flyers in the playoffs on Dale Hunter's magical game 7 overtime goal, winnging the Eastern Conference Championship in 1998 and the subsequent 1st Capitals Stanley Cup Finals appearance, to the move into downtown Washington, the ownership and uniform change, the Jagr years and thier subsequent failure, the dismanteling of the Caps just before the NHL lockout, winning the NHL Draft Lotter and obtaining the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and using that pick on Alexander Ovechkin.

The breaking point, at least for me, was March 8, 2006 when the Caps played the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center. I was not in my usual seats in 408 A that night, I was down in section 114, row K. As the arena began to fill, it seemed like 2/3rds of the gear being worn, was by black and gold clad Penguins fans. I would venture a guess that about 75% of the fans in attendance that night were Pens fans. Most of those in the lower level sure were, and I counted roughly 10 Caps fans in my entire section. I was surrounded by Pens fans, and felt as if I was watching the game at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. Something in me that night broke. It was not just the simple fact the Pens fans all but took over Verizon Center, for that was just a symptom of much deeper, and larger problems facing the Capitals and thier fans. It was that night, that I decided I was not renewing my season tickets for 2007 / 2008 season, and that was the last Capitals game I attended for the 06/07 season. I gave the rest of my tickets away. After a 30 year rolloer coaster ride, I guess I had just finally had enough. Im still a big fan, I still watch most games on TV, and I have been to about 7 home games this year. Weather or not I will renew my season tickets once more, remains to be seen. I need to see marked improvment in the Caps, and alittle more comittment from the ownership to spend the money to bring in the calibre players the Capitals need to continue to improve and move to the next levels. They have made some strides, but there is still a long way to go.

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