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 ! ! !

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Calling Out From The Top

Last year at this juncture of the young NHL season, the Washington Capitals were 3-2-2 after 7 games. This year they are slightly better after 7, at 4-3-0. Ah, but simple wins and losses do not tell the full story, as they rarely do. Belying these better numbers, are some rather troubling statistics if you dig a bit deeper. This year, after 7 games, the Capitals have:
  • Two regulation wins
  • Scored first once
  • Scored more than two goals in regulation once
  • No leads after one period
  • One lead going into the third period
  • Have scored a paltry 4 power play goals in 30 opportunities (13.3%) good for pedestrian 17th in the NHL.
So, if it seems like the Capitals have struggled, even when they have won games, you are not alone in noticing this. These seemingly small little facts, coupled with some rather visible on ice struggles have caught the eye of not only us the fans, but the Capitals biggest, most important fan, owner Ted Leonsis, as well.

Today on his blog, Ted's Take, the Caps top boss called out the team, and deservedly so. Simply put, he has said what many of us have been thinking for most of this week.

"It isn't them, its us. We aren’t a very good team right now. We have a lot of work to do in practice. We have to heal up as we seem to lose a player in every game to injury that jumbles up the lines. We are what our record says we are and right now, we are just an average NHL team."

These are just a few of the very candid thoughts Leonsis had on the current state of our beloved Caps today. You can click the link to his blog above to read the rest. The Caps are missing the services of several key players, not the least of which is top defenceman Mike Green. However for a team with the supposed depth the Caps are touted to have, this should not be too big of a hurdle to overcome. Suffice it to say, that all eyes will be watching very closely when the Atlanta Thrashers, the team that handed Washington its first loss of the season and an 0-1-0 start, come calling to Verizon Center on Saturday night.

After handing 2 straight wins and 4 standings points over to the Boston Bruins it will be interesting to see if the Capitals can get things together and will have revenge on their minds. You can find the box score for the debacle in bean town here, as well as the Washington Post and Capitals own postmortems here, and here respectively, and here is Bruce Boudreau's post game presser:

It should be noted that there has been one very bright spot thus far this season, and that is the Capitals penalty killing. At least it was until last night. Going into last nights game the Capitals were a perfect 24 for 24 (100%) on the PK. That all came crashing down last night, allowing goals on all 3 Bruins power play chances. Let's hope that was just a fluke because if the PK starts to struggle, the Caps are in some real trouble.

That said, this bad stretch is not the end of the world, but could it be an indication of things to come? Perhaps the Caps are not as strong as they were last season? What do you think? Can we handle the injuries and still play like the 2010 presidents trophy winners? Or should they possibly look into bolstering the blue line, or perhaps add a slightly less soft scorer? Or, are the Caps just simply snake bitten right now? Unable to find virtually open nets or capitalize on rather glaring mistakes of the opposing teams goaltender or defence? Let me know what YOU think. The comments are open. Let the fun begin.

BTGL Returns

After a full year off from the Blogging community as it relates to the Washington Capitals, I have decided to revive this blog. Oddly enough, There seems to still be a decent following here.

It has been a busy year for me, and a lot has gone one. While I have gone into semi retirement, it seems I have stayed every bit as busy. Having completed my Virginia Master Gardener certification through the Virginia Cooperative Extension, taken two scouting trips to Florida for a potential move there, moved twice, and continuing to be a very active Master Gardner volunteer in the communities of Arlington and Alexandria VA, I have not had much time to devote to writing about the team I love most, even though I still watch almost every single game.

I made a promise to myself while attending the Caps training camp this season that I would make an effort to write here at least once per week, for the 2010/2011 season, so here I am.

After a fantastic 2009/2010 season winning the Presidents trophy for the first time in franchise history for the NHL's best regular season record, the Capitals set season franchise records for: most points in a season (121), most wins (54), fewest (including over time losses) losses (22), winning their 3rd straight, 5 overall South East division championship, and 6th over all divisional championships. They also sold out Verizon Center for every single home game of the season, all but forcing them to introduce standing room only tickets. Ah, the Capitals playoff hopes seemed very promising indeed. The feeling around Verizon Center and Washington was that this could possibly, finally be our year. Many fans, including myself were hoping, if not almost expecting the Capitals to push deep into the post season.

Alas, this IS the Washington Capitals we are talking about. True to Capitals form the Capitals continued to take a page from their great history in the late 1890s, and could not shed the old ghosts of playoffs past, which came to call on them. The old "Choking Dogs" curse as it now seems it is, still has a firm grip on the Capitals.

The Capitals faced the #8 seed Montreal Canadiens in the opening round last spring, in what looked to be a fairly lopsided match up in the Caps favor. However, the Habs came into the phone booth and silenced the stunned sold out solid red crowd of Caps fans with a 3-2 overtime victory, planting the seeds of doubt in the minds of Caps fans everywhere. The Capitals would come back to win the next three straight, taking a 3-1 series lead. The series seemed to be all but assured to go the Caps way. Not so, as the ghosts of choking dogs past would have it. The Canadiens came back to win the next two games to force a deciding game 7 do be played on Verizon Center ice in front of the raucous red rocking Capitals faithful. If at any time in the Caps franchise history they were going to prove they were for real, and had shed the "Choking Dogs" moniker, surely, this was it. Having the best team the Caps have ever had put on the ice since they came to Washington in 1974, this HAD to be it. RIGHT?

Once again, the unthinkable, yet now oh-so-believable happened. The Capitals, after taking a 3 games to 1 series lead, LOST game 7 at home, 2-1 sending the sold out standing room only red clad crowd of Caps fans home, stunned and many in tears. An emotional train wreck. It's funny, because as much as I had hoped beyond all hope this would not happen, I had a gut feeling that it once again would. I even mentioned it to my partner in crime. The Capitals are definitely one of the KINGS of the monumental playoff failures in the NHL, and they just could not get out from under that. Having watched them do this many times in the past, I was neither shocked nor stunned. Just sad, and pretty numb. I have said this many times before, and I will say it again here now: Being a life long Washington Capitals Fan, is almost like being an abused spouse. They hurt you time after time, year after year, then make up for it some, give you hope that things will change for the better, only to do it all over again in some way, shape or form. Caps fans are addicts, we just have to keep trying it, hoping that each dose will be as good as the first, and the next high will take us higher than that, all the while knowing the fate we will probably ultimately endure. We know pain and suffering. Perhaps some of us subliminally like it? Who knows. But one thing is for sure, after all the pain and suffering we have endured in 35 seasons of Capitals Hockey, we keep coming back. For all of the newer Caps fans out there, This is nothing new, this is what it has always been like. Constantly sold out, raucous crowds packing the old Capital Centre in Landover, MD, filled with hope, and at times having immense joy, only to ultimately be let down, crushed. The only difference was back then, we all wore white and did the "whiteout" thing.

Yet, somehow we still believe. We're STILL HERE, and as I said, we keep coming back. I guess there is something to be said for loyalty huh? I suppose we can take solace in the fact we are not alone. We have something in common with Chicago Cubs fans. There are still a few NHL teams out there that are as old, or older than the Caps who have never won the Stanley Cup either. I guess those fans could possibly feel our pain too?

So here we are again, going into the 2010/2011 NHL season, same hopes, same dreams, same fears. Uncle Ted, and the Caps will surely come through, and take us to the promised land! Won't he? I for one, still believe. Ahhh to be a Caps fan... Hope springs eternal doesn't it?

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