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,
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:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Meltdown Avoided, Third Time's The Charm: Caps 5 - 3 Bruins

Photo Credit: Nick Wass / AP
For the most part the Washington Capitals played a very solid game last night. Outplaying the Boston Bruins in the first period, but coming away with nothing to show for it. It seemed like it was going to be another night of frustration for the Caps as they just could not solve Boston goaltender Tim Thomas, even with a two man advantage and outshooting Boston 8-3. The period would come to an end scoreless.  The second period would prove to be  much the same. Washington had the decided edge in play, and in shots, and finally would break the game open, not only scoring first, but scoring 3 goals while keeping Boston off the board all together to take a 3 to 0 lead into the second intermission. The Caps opened the scoring early in the period, scoring just 59 seconds in and would keep the pressure on for the remainder of the period getting goals from Tyler Sloan, Mike Green, and Alexander Semin.  Semin's goal was a particularly brilliant play catching the Boston defence off guard while they were on the power play by breaking up a pass at the Washington line and springing himself and Mike Green for a 2 on 1 break. The two had a nifty give and go exchange deep in the Boston zone and Semin whipped  the return pass from Green past Tim Thomas for the shorthanded goal to make the lead 3-0.

Photo by Clyde Caplan,
The Caps and their fans were feeling good going into the third period having chased Boston's top man between the pipes in favor of backup goaltender Tuuka Rask. However the 3-0 lead the Caps had built going into the third period would soon disappear and it looked like Washington was on its way to another monumental meltdown. This was the 2nd straight game the Caps would blow a multiple goal lead allowing Boston to score twice on the power play in less than a minute. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau had seen enough and used his time out to attempt to settle things down, but it appeared it was not going to do any good. though as just under 6 minutes later Boston come back to tie the game at 3 all, and chase the Caps NHL Rookie of the month goaltender Michael Neuvirth. This the second straight game that the Caps would allow the opposition to score 3 straight however The Caps 3 goals in the 2nd proved to be enough, where as the previous game against Toronto the lead was only two. Only this time the Caps would have the answer in regulation.  Enter defencemen John Carlson who at 13:25 of the final period would put the Caps back in the lead for good, scoring what would become the game winner with a blast past the Boston backup. Boston decided to lift their goaltender for the final minute and a half or so of the game but could not get much going. Boston became trapped in their own end with defencemen ending up playing goalie but that could not keep the Caps from scoring as Alex Ovechkin would eventually find the empty net at 19:-08, putting the game away for good. The Caps outshot the Bruins a whopping 39 to 18 for the game.  All I have to say is *PHEW*!   A great two first periods all but completely undone in the third by some lazy penalties and possibly some overconfidence, but the Caps were able to pull this one out. The Caps are now 6-1 on home ice, and have finally solved Tim Thomas and beaten the Bruins for the first time in 3 tries. Here are Bruce Boudreau's thoughts after the near meltdown turned win:

Friday, November 5, 2010

The B's Are Back In Town! The B's Are Back In Town! | Caps Look For First Win Against Bruins In Third Meeting

GAME 13: Caps VS Bruins
WHEN: 11/05/2010 - 7PM EDT 
WHERE: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
RADIO: Caps Radio 1500 AM  <-- click to listen live

8-4-0 (16pts)


7-2-0 (14pts)

The Capitals will be looking for a way to solve Boston Goaltender Tim Thomas tonight when the Boston Bruins pay thier 2nd visit to Verizon Center in what will be the two teams 3rd meeting in 13 games. The Caps are winless against Boston in 2 games this season having been outscored a combined 7-2, scoring only once in each contest while Tim Thomas has stopped a combined 73 shots. Thomas has gone 7-0-0 so far this season and leads the NHL with a 0.72 GAA, allowing just 5 goals to date.  The Capitals are going to have to find a way to put pucks past Thomas, its that simple. Alex Ovechkin is going to have to find space to create, and will likely have to deal once again with Bostons top defencemen Zdeno Chara attempting to shut him down for the entire game. The Caps must also be better defencively if they are going to stop Boston's top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton, have combined for 29 points in nine games. Having Mike Green back for this game against them should be of some help at both ends of the ice. The Capitals are going to have to want this game, and play like it's a playoff game if they want to stay ahead of Boston in the Eastern Conference standings.  If they come out and play a game like that did on Wednesday against the Maple Leafs, they are probably going to have big problems getting a point, let alone winning the game outright, making for a long night for them, and the red clad Verizon Center faithful.

Both Defencemen Tyler Sloan, and Marcus Johansson will be available to play tonight. We'll see which one will get the jersey for tonight's game. The Caps also reassigned defenceman Brian Fahey to the AHL's Hershey Bears as Sloan will likely take his place. Tom Poti will not play this weekend. NHL Rookie Of The Month for October, Michael Neuvirth should get the start between the pipes for Washington.

Caps Vs Bruins pregame interviews:

Michael Neuvirth Named NHL Rookie Of The Month

 Washington Capitals 22 year old goaltender from the Czech Republic, Michael Neuvirth has been named the NHL's Rookie Of The Month for the month of October, 2010, to add to back to back AHL Calder Cup Championships he already has under his belt with Caps AHL Affiliate Hershey Bears. Nicklas Backstrom  was the last Capital to take this honor back in December of 2007. Neuvirth is only the 3rd Capitals goaltender to win the honor in franchise history and first in 15 years, joining Jim Carey who won it in March 1995, and Bob Mason who won it way back in December of 1984.

Neuvirth took the honor  by earning 7 wins, with only 3 losses, a 2.15 GAA (goals against average), and a .926 save percentage in that span. He has allowed two or fewer goals in 8 of his last 9 games. Neuvirth is tied for first in the NHL in wins with Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, and places 8th in both GAA and save percentage. Neuvirth has played the majority of the Capitals games this season while Semyon Varlamov has been recovering from a persistent groin injury. He has been particularly stingy with not leaving juicy rebounds for opponents to pick off and attempt a score, and is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Many of the goals that have been scored on him have been either deflections, or very poor defencive play in front of him, and have not been because of poor play in the net. If Neuvirth can keep up this level of play, and Varlamov can recover and return to his great form, the Capitals should be very tough to beat between the pipes for the remainder of the season.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Time, Inconsistent Caps Find A Way. Caps 5-4 Maple Leafs (SO)

             photo credit: Susan Walsh - AP
The inconsistency that has haunted the Washington Capitals of late again made an appearance at Verizon Center last night. This time however, the Capitals found a way to over come that and came away from their game with the Toronto Maple Leafs with the full 2 standings points. This pulls the Capitals into a tie for the Southeast Division lead with Tampa Bay, and a 3 way tie for the league lead in points in the NHL with Tampa and  the Los Angeles Kings of the Western Conference. The Caps could not put together a solid 60 minutes of good hockey again last night, allowing the opposition to score first for the 9th time in 12 games. They also allowed Toronto to come back from a two goal deficit in the third period to take the lead. The Capitals played fairly well in the first in spite of allowing the early goal, and had a great second period, outscoring their visitors 3-0 and looking like they had this one in hand. The penalty killing also held off 4 Leafs power plays, and the Caps were outshooting the Leafs 20-12 until about the 18:00 mark of the 2nd. But, there was the problem; it was only the second period. The Capitals came out flat in the third, and Toronto took advantage,  exploding for 3 goals in just a 3:03 span to come from down 3-1 at the start of the frame to take a 4-3 lead by the 7:17 mark.

photo credit: Susan Walsh - AP
It looked the another Capitals let down was going to cost them another game, and another 2 points. However the Capitals power play has begun to improve, and that continued last night scoring twice in 3 chances getting two timely goals. The first was Washington's first goal of the game from Mike Green, and the second was just as timely by Alexander Semin at 4:14 of the third period to tie the game up, and ultimately for overtime. At least this time the Caps did not give away a point to a divisional rival. It is worth noting that after being absent for much of the season, the Caps power play seems to have finally found its grove and has now converted on 5 of 8 chances in the last 2 games. We hope that trend continues as the Caps are going to need it to come away from games like tonight's game with the full 2 points. In spite of having the man advantage for 2 of the 5 minutes of the over time period, the Caps could not finish off the Leafs in the extra stanza. What they could not get done in the over time period however, the Caps finished off in the shootout. Michael Neuvirth held off both Toronto shooters, while both Alex Ovechkin and Semin found the twin behind Maple Leafs net minder Jonas Gustavsson to give the Caps the shootout win in front of another sellout crowd at the Phone Booth.  The Capitals also got goals from Jason Chimera and Tomas Fleischmann. While victory is sweet, it will be short lived as the Capitals play host to the Boston Bruins on Friday night. As always, Caps bench boss Bruce Boudreau had plenty of thoughts on last nights performance, so here is his post game presser:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sleeping Giant Awakens: Caps Turn Saddledome Into House Of Horrors For Flames: Caps 7-2 Flames

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh
Even after tinkering with the lines and reuniting the the high powered scoring trio of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin, it once again, it looked like it was going to be a long night for the Washington Capitals and us Caps fans late last night. The Caps took on the Calgary Flames in a game that went well past midnight local time and it appeared as if it may not even be worth staying up so late to watch. Again the Caps allowed the first goal to the opposition, another early goal, this time only 44 seconds into the game, and were down 2-0 by the time the game was barely 11 minutes old. In the first period the Caps once again looked sloppy and lazy, and were lucky to find themselves down by only 2-1 by the end of the first period. Michael Neuvirth, as he very often has been, was once again the reason the Capitals still had a chance to win this game. Even though the Caps lone first period goal came from Nicklas Backstrom on the power play, the same old nagging questions kept entering into many peoples minds about the power play, the top line, Ovechkin, what was wrong..etc. They just seemed off. Not like the Capitals we had come to know over the past few seasons, especially last season.

The Caps came out to start the second period, and looked a bit more energized, composed, and skated with more of a purpose in their step. At just 1:54 the Caps would get a another chance to put the power play to work when the Flames took a bad penalty for too many men on the ice. Just 16 seconds later, the Caps would get the opportunity of the night. They finally took full advantage. Alexander Ovechkin exploded for two goals in just 12 seconds to put the Caps in the lead for the night. The Caps went on to explode for a whopping total of 6 goals in the second period, 7 unanswered in the game, effectively ending the game by the time the horn sounded after the first 40 minutes of play leading by a 7-2 margin which would hold to be the final score. Mike Green and Matt Bradley also scored a mere 13 seconds apart at 10:28 and 10:41 to really break the game wide open. Although Bradley's goal was more of a gift, since he actually didn't score the goal. Calgary defencemen Cory Sarich attempted to clear the puck from high in the slot, but in stead whipped a wrist shot into his own net. It was clear at this point that things were coming apart at the seems for the Flames.  The final Caps goal, and goal of the night came at 18:23 of the period with the Caps shorthanded. David Steckel was held, and hauled down on a breakaway by Flames defencemen Mark Giordano. The offcial raised his arm to make the call and after Steckel had slid  on his stomach almost into the goal, pointed to center ice signaling a penalty shot. It was David Steckel's first career penalty shot and he nailed it. All of the sudden, the Caps once again looked like the offencive juggernaut of last season that we all knew and loved. The Caps got goals from:
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh

  • Nicklas Backstrom - 1 goal, 3 assists, 4pts.
  • Alex Ovechkin - 2 goals,  1 assist, 3 pts
  • Mike Green - 1 goal, 2 assists, 3pts
  • Matt Bradley - 1 goal, 1pt
  • Alexander Semin 1 goal, 1pt
  • David Steckel - 1 goal, 1pt

The Caps power play finally seemed to be clicking, scoring on 3 of 6 chances. They just seemed to be doing everything right, where up until the end of the first period last night the seemed to be doing not much of anything right. Perhaps it was that Boudreau opted for a team meeting to show them just how ugly of a game they had in Minnesota, or perhaps he let the team have it in the locker room between periods. Whatever it was, the Caps need to show the NHL more of it this year. This is only the third game this season where the Caps have won by more than one goal, and only the second where the Caps have scored 4 or more. That said, it was a dramatic improvement, and one that we hope will finally continue. The injury riddled Caps will get a much needed and deserved 3 day rest as they are off until next Wednesday night when the finally return home to Verizon Center to take on their second straight Canadian foe, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For now, I'll leave you with Bruce Boudreau's post game presser for last night:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Caps Stampede West Into Calgary

GAME 11: Caps @ Flames
WHEN: 10/30/2010 - 10:00PM EDT 
WHERE: Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

6-4-0 (12pts)

6-4-0 (12pts)

                                                                                     Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images North America                           
The Washington Capitals head into Calgary tonight looking to come away from this road trip with 4 of a possible 6 points. If they are going to accomplish that, then I hope they learned from their session with coach Bruce Boudreau this morning. Boudreau opted for a team meeting this morning, instead of a grueling, run em ragged practice. Perhaps this was the better option as the Caps were forced to sit and watch the horrible mess that was the 2-1 loss in Minnesota on Thursday night, while having all of their laziness and glaring mistakes pointed out to them. I had hoped that Boudreau  would choose this option, because honestly, I really wanted the Caps to have to sit through watching what we were forced to watch on Thursday, as well as a few other games this season. I even said as much in my previous post. My thought is perhaps if they finally saw how BAD they really looked, that it might make something inside their heads click, or a light bulb go off that would make them feel like "hey you know, this isn't us, this isn't Caps hockey at all, and we really need to step things up and make some positive changes." At least that is my hope anyway.

"It's a tough call. I mean I'm thinking, okay, should we go out there and give them a no-pucks shellacking? Would that be better than [focusing on Saturday's game]? Or if you do that, and some guys have got injuries and they're not allowed to participate; is it worse because then you've got three fourths of the team out there?...Or do you just watch video and make some threats? We chose to at least watch some video and go over last night's game, and hopefully they get the idea of what I'm talking about." - Bruce Boudreau
  • You can have a look at Boudreau's post team meeting comments here
  • And, you can watch Boudreau's post Minnesota game presser here.

The lack of consistency has been rather glaring, as I alluded to in this previous post. So if the Capitals are going to continue with the theme of Halloween, well I sure hope they decide to put on their winning costumes for this game tonight. Tonight is going to be a bigger challenge as they face a flames team that is equal to them in terms of the standings, and have an identical record.  Right now, it seems to be all about achieving some form of consistency. The one player who HAS been very consistent to date is goaltender Michael Neuvirth. He will start in goal again tonight. There really isn't anything else I can add here or that is any different so I will leave the rest to the pros in the form of the Caps morning skate / pregame for you to watch.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Caps Drop A Sleeper In St. Paul - Caps 1 - 2 Wild

photo credit - Jim Mone / AP
The Washington Capitals must be getting ready for Halloween by practicing their best impression of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Or so it seemed when they showed up (or didn't) to take on the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy center last night.  Micheal Neuvirth, who turned in a perfect performance last night in Raleigh, NC, once again had a great game tonight, and was probably the only reason this game was not a blow out. This was another goaltenders duel as both Neuvirth and Wild goaltender Nicklas Backstrom both turned in great performances for their respective clubs. The guys in front of him however, well the difference was night and day. Last night they looked energized and like they had a purpose. Tonight, like they were sleepwalking through much of the game.

The Capitals looked tired, sloppy, even lazy at times, taking dumb penalties, making lazy passes which led to several golden scoring chances for the Wild, and once again not finding the back of the net. Mustering only 17 shots on goal didn't help matters either. The Caps continue to give away power play chances like Halloween candy, allowing the Wild 5 chances tonight. It proved too much. While the PK has been pretty good, its not quite good enough to repeatedly tempt fate, and also factored into them at least not getting any standings points tonight, and possibly even a win. Once again, the power play was held scoreless, and has only connected on 4 of 38 opportunities. That leaves them at just 10.5% on the man advantage over the first 10 games, and thats good for only 25th in the NHL. The Caps also again gave up the early lead to the opposition thanks in large part to very poor and lazy defencive play of Jeff Schultz and John Carlson which directly resulted in the Wild's first goal. I think the majority of the blame for that one has to fall on Carlson though. Have a look and let me know what you think here:

Things would not change much for most of the night and the Capitals come away still winless all time at Xcel Energy center. Maybe its that the Caps NEED to play in front of a loud crowd to help wake them up on the road at times. The crowd in St. Paul is usually more like what you might find at a Funeral. There were 17,352 there tonight, but for about 58 and 1/2 minutes of the game, it sounded like it was empty. At any rate, all of this made for a very forgettable game, but one the Caps are going to have to use to learn from if they are to see the err of their ways. Almost every aspect of the Caps game is going to have to drastically improve, but especially the ones I find myself mentioning over and over, night after night, if the Caps are going to even think about repeating any of the great accomplishments of last season. There were at least a couple of bright spots once again however. Alex Ovechkin finally found the net scoring his first goal in 5 games with just about 1 minute to go in regulation, but it was too little too late. The other was of course Neuvirth, who has given the Caps at least the CHANCE to win almost every night he has been in goal, including tonight. At least the Caps will have a day off to rest, think, and prepare for the Calgary Flames in Calgary this Saturday night.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

After Stellar Start, Road Trip Continues Out West

WHEN: 10/28/2010 - 8:00PM EDT 
WHERE: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN
 RADIO: 1500 & 820AM
6-3-0 (12pts)

3-3-2 (8pts)

Apologize for the late start and the fact that this is only going to be a very quick and dirty pregame.

First and foremost, Congratulations to Caps goaltender Michael Neuvirth for earning the NHL's 2nd star of the day for his perfect, 29 save effort and 1st career shutout in Carolina yesterday evening against the Hurricanes.  Neuvirth has continued his string of very strong performances and is now creating some conversation about exactly who is going to end up with the #1 position between the pipes this season.  So far so good for Neuvirth to this point. Let's hope this continues, and when Varlamov does come back, we have TWO star goaltenders to create the kind of problem every team would probably envy.  Neuvirth looks to get the start once again this evening in Minnesota.

Eventually, the Capitals first line is going to have to come through and start scoring with some regularity. While they are contributing some to the offence, They have been fairly quiet of late, at least until last night. Finally the first line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble which had been held scoreless for four games, finally broke through with a total of 5 points night. 2 goals from Backstrom, 2 assists from Knuble, and 1 helper for Ovechkin. Hopefully that is only the beginning. The Washington Post reported they were a combined minus-7 rating heading into this game and were plus-21 after the same time frame last year. Scoring often will go a long way in helping the top trio in this department.  We know they can do it and last night we saw flashes of it, but so far this year they just have not quite looked like the offencive power house they did last season. That said, the over all effort of the Caps as a whole last night was fairly consistent. If the Capitals can continue and/ or build upon the good game last night, they should be in fairly good shape on this road trip.

The Wild look to start Caps Backstrom's Finnish namesake Nicklas Backstrom in goal this evening once again. The Wild are looking to snap a two game losing streak which could make them a bit more of a challenge than the Hurricanes were last night. Of course we're hoping that losing streak extends to 3 games after our Caps visit St. Paul tonight.

I'm leaving you with the Caps morning skate report filed this morning by Mike Vogel.

Starting Off The Road Trip Right : Caps 3 - 0 Hurricanes

photo credit - Gerry Broome - AP
Finally, the Capitals don't give up any points to a southeast division rival as they skated into RBC center tonight and came away with a 3-0 victory, spoiling the Carolina Hurricanes home opener in their second "must win" game in a row, and first of 3 games away from Verizon Center. Nicklas Backstrom scored twice in the third period (finally) after starting the season with just 4 points in the first 8 games and Michel Neuvirth put up a fantastic brick wall performance to earn his first career NHL Shutout. Neuvirth stopped all 29 Hurricanes shots in the stellar effort. The Capitals penalty killing also returned to perfect form killing off all 5 Carolina power play chances. The Caps even scored the final late goal short handed, albeit into an empty Hurricanes goal, after Carolina had pulled their goaltender, Cam Ward, to have a 6 on 4 power play advantage in a final desperate attempt to level the score. Matt Hendricks got the scoring going in the first period with his first ever goal as a Capital, as the 4th line really stepped up tonight, especially in the first period. The Caps also won a game by more than 1 goal for the first time in 4 games. It is worth noting that while the Caps did score three, this was quite a goaltenders duel as Carolina net minder Cam Ward stopped 30 shots in the losing effort, and also made a few highlight reel saves of his own.
                                                                                                                   photo credit - Gerry Broome - AP

The Capitals looked good in the first, and finally were the team to get on the scoreboard first. The energy level appeared to be up and they just looked a bit more sharp and ready to play, especially the 4th line as I mentioned. It was one of the better 1st periods for the Caps so far this season. Perhaps it was the return of Matt Bradley to the line up, along with Mike Green playing a full game. Although, Green still looked like he might not be quite 100% just yet. Thing's aren't perfect no, but the do seem to be improving. Now if only Alex Ovechkin can start finding the back of the net more for the Caps then things should begin to really go their way. Ovechkin was held goalless for the 5th straight game, but did manage to register an assist on Backstrom's first goal of the night. The defence was better tonight, and that is part of the reason the Caps got the win, but still if it were not for the outstanding play of Neuvirth between the pipes, the Caps might be looking at an entirely different box score. The Caps however will not get any time to savor the shutout win, as they immediately head out to Minnesota for a date with the Wild tomorrow night.

The big story of the night though has to be Michael Neuvirth. After a couple of key saves in the first period, Neuvirth's confidence seemed to grow and it showed in his play between the pipes. Neuvirth also left little in the way of rebounds for the Hurricanes to take advantage of in his perfect game tonight. The gem save of the night came mid way through the second period when he stone cold robbed Carolina's Eric Staal from almost point blank range, flashing the glove and snatching the puck out of mid air. I'm leaving you tonight with two videos. First a look at Neuvirth's highlight reel save here:

Finally, the full game highlights here:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

ROAD TRIP! ! ! - Wind, Creatures, and Fire - All On Ice

     4-3-0 (8pts)
WHEN: 10/27/2010 - 7:00PM EDT
WHERE: RBC Center, Raleigh, NC
RADIO: 1500 & 820AM
The Washington Capitals roll into Raleigh tonight looking to spoil their home opener by downgrading the Hurricanes to a tropical breeze and skate away with 2 much needed points. This is the 2nd straight "must win" southeast division game. The Caps can't afford to give away anymore points within the division. On Saturday they won in overtime VS the Atlanta Thrashers, and while a win is a win, they did give away a precious point within the division. This is a trend that must not continue if the Caps hope to win their 4th straight division title. There will be no rest for the  already injury riddled and weary Caps the next couple of days as this is also the first of 2 games in 2 days for the Caps as they head to Minnesota to take on the Wild Thursday night.

I discussed the Caps current injury woes in this previous BTGL post, but here are a few more notes for tonight's game:

  • Sent down to Hershey - Dany Sabourin & Jay Beagle
  • Called up - Braden Holtby & Brian Fahey
  • Tom Poti - Will not play tonight.
  • Matt Bradley - Should be ready to join the lineup.
  • If  - Bradley gets re inserted, Poti could go on 7 day IR and can't return until Saturday.
  • Matthieu Perreault - should play tonight...
  • Thus placing- Either Marcus Johansson or Boyd Gordon in the same boat as Poti. My money is on Johansson going to the IR.
  • Mike Green -  Will play, weather its a full game or not will be determined likely during the game.
  • Michael Neuvirth - Will most likely start tonight.
The bottom line: Yes the Capitals are dealing with a fair amount of injuries, especially on defence. Still, there is no reason why they should struggle to win games against the likes of Atlanta, Nashville, Ottawa, nor Carolina, especially with all of the offencive firepower the Capitals have. So far this season, the offencive juggernaut that is the Capitals has failed to show up in all but 1 game. The Caps should be (and are) a team that is suited to high scoring offencive games and should not be having the problems they have been of late in finding the back of the net. It's time for this team to show the league just why they won the President's Trophy last season, and just how dangerous they really are, and there is no time like the present to get that started.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

UGLY, but... The Caps Do It Again; Hurting Leads To Another Call To Hershey

A win that was not pretty, and a point given away to a southeast division rival, made for a nail biting night at Verizon Center on Saturday as the Capitals beat the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3 in overtime. While the game did have its bright spots it was still the exact same kind of "win" I had mentioned in this previous post. While they did get the "W", the devil is in the details.

Once again the Caps came out flat in the 1st period. They were out shot 13-4 in the first frame, and gave up their 4th straight power play goal, allowed the opposition to gain the lead first for the 5th straight game, 6th over all, and were shut out in the first period for the 5th time this season. So it seems so far, the Caps are having major problems getting going in the first period. Fortunately for them (and us their fans) they have, thus far, been able to climb out of those holes to win more often than not. However it still is a fairly unsettling. If this trend continues, it is going to cost them some games, probably more than last season. Games that were won last year that were close, may end up either being losses, or at least going to overtime, giving away more points. Something to watch going forward I think.

The Caps are also still hurting. Out with injuries (or still resting from one) for this game were:

Today the Caps announced that they have called up 29 year old veteran AHL blue liner Brian Fahey, (pictured left) presumably to take Poti's place on at least part of the upcoming road trip. Fahey played in his first NHL game on October 16th, when the Caps beat the Nashville Predators in Overtime 3-2 in Nashville. Just joining the Hershey Bears this season, he so far has 1 goal, 1 assist and 10 penalty minutes in 4 games played.

Now, on to the bright spots, since there were a few. The Caps won, and are now 3-0 in overtime games so far this season. Alexander Semin saved the Caps this game with his 4th career hat trick. Matthieu Perreault, who was called up from the AHL Hershey Bears for this game, along with Jay Beagle, had a direct hand in two of Semin's 3 goals, and ended up being a +3 for the game. Michael Neuvirth was back between the pipes for DC and had another solid game for his 5th win of the season. Injured defecemen Mike Green came back and did play, albeit for only 5:39, and all of that was on the power play. Even though he did not factor into the scoring at least he was back, even if not at 100%. Hopefully this 3 day break will give him the chance to get back to top form.

Hats fly as Semin completes his hat trick aginst the Thrashers.
The hero of the night turned out to be Tomas Fleischmann who scored the game winner at 1:37 of over time, collecting a rebound from Eric Fehr's shot while seemingly tied up.

While the two standings points and the victory are great, the Capitals are still seeming to do things the hard way, all the while giving up valuable standings points to their opponents. This time to a division rival. Hopefully a few more bodies will be healthy and things will get even better for the next divisional game which is Wednesday night Raleigh. That game also starts a 3 game road trip which sees the Caps travel out west to visit the Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames to close out the month of October. Something tells me they are going to have to perform a little better if they want to come away with all 6 of those possible standings points.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Post game / Semin.

I've always bitched about the fact that Semin never bothered to learn English. It still pisses me off. That said....

More tomorrow.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We won the game. Post coming tomrrow.

Yeah, we won. We rocked the red and cheered our asses off, and we pulled this one out. We should NOT have had to pull out it. Yes the officials made some bad calls including the Mike Green disallowed goal. So what? We did it, but, we should not have had to do it that way against the ATL. Period. Here are a few photos from our seats to enjoy...

Yeah, we won. We rocked the red and cheered our asses off, and we pulled this one out. Thank you Semin for the hattrick! Love you, but you gotta do more.

We should have been better. This should have been a 'no problem' win. It was not. My writeup will be tomorrow. Green coming back sparingly was a big plus. BUT...the devil is in the details my friend. It should not have taken what it did against ATLANTA! No links in this because I just got home, and I am going to bed. See you all tomorrow. Thank you for reading! Please, comment!
Esp if you disagree!

Special shout out to Sam and William. You were both ON YOUR GAME tonight! Love you guys!
LET'S GO CAPS! Sorry for any and all mistakes, we just got home, and we had been drinking quite alot tonight. Go figure, its the caps! The drive us to it don't they?

Second Southeast Showdown


It's been a very busy morning here in Del Ray on game day, so this post is going to be quick and dirty. After what has been a forgettable week for the Washington Capitals, they are looking to right themselves tonight in only their second divisional match up so far this young NHL season. The Atlanta Thrashers (3-4-0) fly into Verizon Center tonight looking to keep the Cap's winless in divisional play. The Caps fell to the Thrashers in Atlanta in their season opener, and only division game thus far. Tonight's game isn't just important for getting back on track and back into the win column, the Caps now trail the division leading, and NHL leading Tampa Bay Lightning (5-1-1) by 3 points in the standings. All games count, but points taken away from division rivals and added to the Caps totals are even more important, even this early in the season. If the Caps are going to go for the division title for a 4th straight season, all divisional games are a MUST WIN. Many times we have seen where standing points given away early on in the season have come back to haunt a team at the spring that is in the hunt for either a playoff spot, or a division championship.

Matt Bradley is still out and is day to day. Marcus Johansson and D.J. King will not play tonight, and Mike Green will be a game time decision. The Capitals called up both Jay Beagle and Mathieu Perreault from the Hershey Bears for tonight's game. They were on the ice for the morning skate, and presumably will play this evening. Here is Caps365's Mike Vogel's video report from the morning skate:

I have to say, I for one hope that Green is ready to come back and plays tonight. I know many Caps fans rag on Green, and complain about him, or just do not care much for him but I think he is a KEY PIECE that is missing right now. Sure, he has his faults, but the bottom line is he is big, he is physical, he does play decent D, and, he puts the puck in the net regularly. When I hear people complain about Green's defencive work, all I can think to myself is this: I would take Green over Sergei Gonchar ANY DAY, PERIOD! Perhaps its just me, but I seemed to have noticed that Alex Ovechkin has seemed to play more defence lately in Green's absence, and has struggled to find the twine of late. Perhaps getting Green healthy and back in the starting lineup is what this Caps team needs right now to get themselves and their anemic power play jump started. I think this will free up Ovechkin some, and will allow him to focus just a bit more on what he has done best since his arrival here, and that is score goals. The added goals from Green, especially on the power play should help out considerably as well. I'm rocking my red and heading out to Verizon Center here shortly so enjoy the game tonight and LET'S GO CAPS ! ! !

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