Saturday, December 30, 2006

Flu Fells the Caps

As if injuries weren't enough of a problem for the Caps, 8 guys sat out last night with the flu. 3 that played - Clarkie, Pothier & Mike Green - might be out with the flu tonight in the game against the New York Rangers. Even still, the Caps managed to play a competitive game against a division leading New Jersey Devils. Caps lost 4-3 in the end. Goal scorers included Semin, Laich & the young blue liner from the Hershey Bears, Lawrence Nycholat who scored his first NHL goal and then added an assist to his point total. He looked good out there. The Caps have been playing several Hershey players to be able to put a team on the ice. So, even though it was a loss and the Caps are rapidly losing ground in the standings, they made a good effort in adverse conditions and that is promising.

My New Year's wish for the Caps - no more bad luck, bad injuries or illness in 2007! 2006 is getting to be a bit ridiculous let's review...
  1. Jamie Heward gets sliced in the face by a skate requiring major surgery. Upon returning to the ice, he gets smacked in the chin with a puck requiring additional stitches.
  2. Shaone Morrison gets mono.
  3. 8 guys get the flu at once during a brutally difficult part of the Caps schedule while 4 other guys are out.
  4. Chris Clarke takes a puck in the mouth and shatters his palate.
  5. Richard Zednik comes off an injury, starts putting up points and gets taken out of the game with a groin injury that requires surgery.
  6. Matt Bradley injures his hand fighting and is out indefinitely.


Let's go Caps!

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Caps Lose Again to Montreal

I guess the most amazing thing about this game even though the final score was Caps 1, Montreal 4 is that the Caps outshot Montreal 31-26. Montreal's net minder Cristobal Huet had a stellar night against the Caps obviously. With a seriously depleted blue line, the shot total is still something to feel good about since the Caps have been outshot more than any other team in the league this year.

Alexander Semin got the Caps lone goal with Ovie & Zubie assisting. And, Donald Brashear got the best of an instigating Aaron Downey. He beat the crap out of him.

Hanlon has been playing with the line combos and played Semin, Ovie & Zubie on the top line. I don't like having the two top goal scorers on the same line. From mentally reviewing this season so far, I think the Caps play better when they have two threatening lines. And, with the players on the team we have now, I think Beech & Pettinger play best with Semin because where the hell has Pettinger been lately? He was on a tear for a while and he's going through a serious drought right now.

Shaone Morrison is on his way back after battling mono for the past month. The guy has been averaging 20+ minutes playing hockey with mono? Wow...that's pretty amazing.

Briere the NHL decided it's not going to fine Briere for the spearing injury with intent to harm on Ovie and Evan Grossman, a columnist on asks in his New Year's resolution list for Ovie to be nicer to the Sabres. Go to hell dude!

The Caps head to the New Jersey Devils tonight for another rough matchup after losing to them 4-1 last week.

Let's go Caps!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Caps lost 6-3 against Buffalo last night and never recovered from a Buffalo barrage of goals that started with the opening faceoff. Brent Johnson got pulled before the 1st period was halfway done when the score was 4-0. Two more goals in the first period made it 6-0. Considering Buffalo only netted 1 goal on 8 power play tries, the Caps are lucky the final score wasn't worse. Kris Beech, Ovie & Chris Clark scored for the Caps with Clark's goal being a short-hander early in the 3rd but it wasn't enough.

Considering how banged up the Capitals are right now, I'm not surprised by the game's outcome. Buffalo was also pumped after the Caps scored 7 goals against them in a win on Dec 2nd. Buffalo's coach, Lindy Rough said that his team was "embarrassed" by their performance at that game. Combine that with Ovie's nasty hit on Briere that Briere is still complaining about (he hurts every day - but somehow has never missed a shift!) and Buffalo was up for the game.

During the game, Buffalo booed Ovie every time he had the puck. No surprise there, but I'm thrilled that he got to put a goal into their net and then goaded the crowd by holding his hand behind his ear to tell the crowd their booing wasn't loud enough. Booing is not going to stop Ovechkin. Prior to Ovie's goal in the 1st period, Briere decided to get a little revenge on Ovie and speared him in his manhood with apparent intent to injure. Surprise, surprise, he didn't even get a penalty. After Ovie picked himself up off of the ice, he apparently had words with Briere along the lines of something like this, "You want some of this and I'll be more than happy to oblige" (okay, Ovie's English isn't that good, but you get the point) and Briere skated away.

So, is this battle over now? I seriously doubt it, but the All Star game will be interesting if Ovie, Sid the Kid and Briere skate together for the East. And, Caps fan have hated Buffalo & their fans as they've invaded Verizon Center & USAir arena for years. Now, Buffalo & their fans hate the Caps because of Ovie. Good.

Meanwhile, Montreal visits Verizon Center tonight and the Caps still aren't healthy.

Let's go Caps!

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

2 Points from Toronto, but Buffalo is Tonight

The Caps are still really banged up and Erskine, Muir & Bradley are out indefinitely. This stinks with them precariously hanging onto 8th place in the Eastern conference and the ongoing brutal schedule they have over the next week and a half. But, at least, the Caps came away with 2-points from Toronto and Ovie, Semin & Zubie all got goals and assists in the effort. Olie, was once again stellar and made 35 saves on 37 shots.

Tonight, the Caps head to Buffalo and after the December 2nd game with Ovie's ejection for his hit on Briere this could be a nasty game. I hope it isn't and I hope the Caps can find a way to beat them while playing with a short-handed team.

Let's go Caps!

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Caps Lackluster Play Nets a Loss

The Caps played horribly Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lighting in a game they really needed to win. Olie made a comment in the Washington Post on Wednesday that they were overconfident. Overconfident playing without Erskine and Brashear? If there's one thing this young & developing team can't be, it's overconfident. Just because they've won some big games against leading teams like Buffalo & Dallas doesn't mean they can discount a team that was 7 points behind before the game. Now, they're only 5 points behind and the Caps are back in 3rd behind Carolina.

Now that I've got my ranting out, I'll highlight a few good points about the game. Ovie made another beautiful goal to answer Tampa Bay after they went up 2-0. Heward got one in during the 2nd (Jamie, nice to have you back) and Beech and Muir made it interesting in the 3rd to bring the game to 5-4. But, it was too late. At least, they attempted a comeback and maybe it's because they were being booed at Verizon Center. The Caps can play better than that as they've shown many times this I understand the frustration of the fans, I'm frustrated when they play that way.

In other Caps news, the team is banged up right now. From Tarik's blog, Clark, Brashear, Bradley, Muir and Erskine didn't practice today. Yipes. It's tough to be dealing with injuries with the Caps upcoming brutal schedule. New Jersey comes here on Friday. The Caps head to Toronto on Saturday. This is the start of a 10-day period where they play 3 series of back-to-back games with only 3 days off. The next four games are Buffalo (I dread that game), the Canadiens, Devils again and then the Rangers.

Please, show me some hard work Caps. It's about the playoffs and I want you to be there, particularly, sine everyone in the media said you wouldn't make it.

Let's go Caps!

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Moving on Up

The Caps beat the Flyers 4-1 on Saturday night after battling for a win against the division leader, Atlanta the night before. This makes their record 7-1-1 after going through a 6 game losing streak and puts them in 2nd place in the Southeast Division. I have to repeat that, the Caps are in 2nd place. No one in the sports media had any belief that the Caps would contend for the playoffs this year. It's still very early in the season, but I can't help but believe this young, gritty team will fight their way into the playoffs and I'll be there cheering them on. I salivate at the idea that players like Ovie and Semin will play even harder in the playoffs. Just imagine that for a second! As it stands today, Ovie is the NHL goal scoring leader since the beginning of last season with 73 goals.

Against the Flyers, it was the other half of the Russian scoring duo, Alexander Semin that netted two goals and an assist in the game. Ovie and Zubie got the other two goals for the Caps.

On the defensive side, John Erskine left the game after a puck hit him in the foot, but it's apparently not a serious injury. A lot of fans don't think Erskine is all that good, but I think he's been playing well for the Caps in his role as a pure defenseman and I do believe he's helped Eminger to be more comfortable on the blue line so I hope he's back in the lineup soon.

Tarik El-Bashir who covers the Caps for the Washington Post answered questions from fans in an online chat this week. Some loves Boyd Gordon. I have to say I've been very impressed with his play this year, particularly, on special teams. The final chat comment is about Tarik's recent "talk" with Alexander Semin which is entertaining. Here's the transcript.

Tampa Bay comes to Verizon Center tonight. Let's go Caps!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ovie's Hat Trick Lifts Caps Over Atlanta

The Caps needed this game badly after that disgusting loss to Pittsburgh and Ovie won it for them. He's such a competitor and in games like last night against the Thrashers he shows it by tying the game with 31 seconds remaining in regulation, stealing the puck off the faceoff from the defenseman and blasting the puck past Lehtonen to win the game 6 seconds into overtime. Wow. I'm happy the Caps proved they can beat Lehtonen - this was the first time - since they have to play Atlanta 8 times a year.

Onto stats trivia - from the fan boards - the player who stands 4th on the 10-shot game list in his 2nd season is Alex Ovechkin behind only a Caps favorite, Peter Bondra, and also Jaromir Jagr (a Caps disaster) and Paul Kariya. Interesting. From the announcers last night - in his approximately 18-months of playing in the NHL, no one has scored more goals that Ovie.

My only concern about last night game is that t he overall offense - other than Ovie - seemed to be very lackluster. But, that small concern aside (it was only 1 game), I can't tell you how happy the standings made me this morning. The Caps are in 2nd place in the Southeast for today. Yeah.

The Flyers head to Verizon Center tonight. I'll be cruising around the Potomac tasting wine but I'm hoping for 2 more standings points.

Let's go Caps!

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Blown 4-0 Lead Against Pittsburgh

The Caps lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins after going up by 4 goals. To say I'm disappointed is the understatement of the century. What is about the Pittsburgh Penguins? Is the curse of the Penguins destined to follow the Caps forever? The anonymous poster on my prior blog entry makes the point that the Penguins really shouldn't be our focus as much as our division rivals and that's true, but I can't help it. I hate Pittsburgh more than I hate our division rivals because Pittsburgh has been the nemisis of the Caps forever... And, when the Caps do make the playoffs they will inevitably have to face Pittsburgh. I hope they learn how to beat them. This new team isn't doing any better than the old Capitals did against Pittsburgh.

The speculation on the fan boards about that game ranged from Olie has a mental issue with Pittsburgh (not sure I buy that, but it's a theory) to Hanlon played the top line players too long in the first period and they got tired. Who knows what happened, but it is a fact that the Caps have had great difficulty playing effective hockey for an entire 60 minutes this year. They seem to fall apart in at least 1 period per game.

The one positive to the game....Ovie finally got a goal on the shootout for the first time this season. Yeah.

Let's hope they shake it off and come out strong against division rival, Atlanta tomorrow night. How many fights will there be this time around?

Let's go Caps!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Another Win in Philly

The Caps beat Philly 5-3 at their place again for the 2nd time in a row this season after enduring a 0-15-1 record on Philly ice prior to this year. The Caps got 3 points from Ovie and goals from Clark, Muir, Laich and Pettinger and 33 saves from Brent Johnson for a solid performance. This was a game the Caps needed to win against a Forsberg-less Philly team and it means the Caps easily shrugged off their loss to the league leading Anaheim Ducks the prior night which is encouraging news.

This has to be the best article from that I've read about the Caps this year in the Sports media. It gives a lot of credit to the hard work and grit this group of players is showing almost every night this season so far. I love the title, "Who Let the Caps Out?".

So, tonight Sid the Kid comes to town with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ovie, rightly wants this game to be about the Caps playing the Pens according to this article in the Washington Post, not Sidney Crosby v. Alex Ovechkin, but the NHL is enjoying marketing its two young stars so the Caps get a nationally televised game tonight. I'm with Ovie, I just want the Caps to beat the hated Penguins and as a long time Caps fans, there are way more reasons to hate Pittsburgh than division rivals Atlanta or Carolina, soooo.....let's go Caps!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Duck, Duck, Goosed but Olie Gets Media Love

The Caps came out sluggish against the league leading Anaheim Ducks and the Ducks didn't need much time to go up 2-0. It pretty much went downhill from there and Jeff & I stopped watching when the score turned 5-0. Semin got 1 goal on an Ovie assist after we stopped watching, but the game was over before then.

In the recent winning streak, the Caps have come out strong and taken the early lead against good teams and that helped them stay in the game. Last night, the Ducks were prepared and the Caps looked flat.

It was nice to see that the print version of the Washington Post on Friday gave the Caps an above the fold story with pictures on Olie "There's No Stopping Kolzig" . I realize the Caps aren't this town's most popular sports team by a long shot, but I hope more prominent stories like this will get people interested in hockey. There's some exciting things happening on the ice.

The Caps go to Philly tonight so let's hope they come out strong. They should win this game. The Flyers are without Forsberg.

Let's go Caps!

Friday, December 08, 2006

4 Games in a Row

It’s always nice to follow a 6-game losing streak with an awesome 4-game winning streak against some very good hockey teams – first their division rival Tampa Bay, then Dallas, then Eastern Conference leader Buffalo and Wednesday night, the Caps put away the red hot Ottawa Senators 6-2. The Caps have scored 22 goals to their opponents 11 in those 4 games. For any long time Caps fans, this 4-game win streak with 22 goals is nothing short of a miracle. No, not that “Miracle” although I’ll get back to that topic! The Caps did what needed to be done when playing against teams that had to play back-to-back games and then travel to Verizon Center. They came out hard, created a lead early and never looked back.

This team is coming together and finding its chemistry. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still holes in the team – there are – or that the Caps are going to be Stanley Cup contenders – that’s highly doubtful, but then again nobody thought the US could beat the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics except Herb Brooks. His coaching approach was all about teamwork and chemistry and that’s where the Caps are going.

The Caps are spreading around the offense, too. In the Senators game, the Caps got goals from Bradley (a beautiful wrist shot), Clarkie (two of them), Semin, Pettinger and Laich and Ovie & Zubie each had 3 assists. Olie got his 4th win in a row and he continues to play great and made 35 saves against Ottawa.

The puck drops in a little over an hour as the league leading Anaheim Mighty Ducks, with 44 points, come to Verizon Center. I have no doubt top d-men Pronger & Niedermayer will be all over Ovie tonight so I hope to see goals from lots of other players.

Let’s go Caps!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Wild Game Against Buffalo

The Caps won 7-4 against one of the top teams in the NHL this season, the Buffalo Sabres. The Caps got goals from Pettinger (2 for him), Clark, Clymer, Muir, Erskine and a beautiful goal by Ovie as he stole the puck from Afinogenov and used his speed to fly down and beat Ryan Miller with a shot over the goaltender's glove.

Buffalo replaced their goalie Ryan Miller with Martin Biron in the first period. Dallas did the same thing in the prior game, sitting goalie Mike Smith for Marty Turco. That doesn't happen to the Caps often. Are these teams thinking these will be easy wins against the Caps?

In the 2nd period of the Buffalo game, Ovie got ejected for a late hit on Briere as he was trying to get off the ice which started fights all over the ice and major penalties for both teams. The hit sent him crashing into the boards head first. Many people - sports writers, Buffalo Coach Lindy Rough, players etc were calling for Ovie to be suspended for the dirty play. I understand that the NHL can't allow dirty hits to happen, but I think intent plays into it, too, and Ovie has never been a dirty player even though he made a bad mistake on this one. Briere returned to play on the next shift so he's wasn't injured. As of today, the league is fining him $1,000 and he doesn't face suspension so I hope this issue is over. But, I totally agree with Rough when he says that if Ovie were the one hit, the Caps organization and fans would be accept. He's right and I see his point. I have no doubt that Ovie has learned his lesson.

In other Caps news, defenseman Jamie Heward suffered a setback during his surgery to fix his face after being slashed by Mike Modano's skate. There was apparently some cartilage and nerve damage that caused a 45-minute operation to take 5-hours. Best wishes to Jamie for a speedy recovery.

The Caps turn their focus to Ottawa coming to town tomorrow.

Let's go Caps!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Satisfying Win Against Dallas

I turned on the game and the Caps were up 4-1 against Dallas on Thursday night. I couldn't believe it. In typical superstitious fan mode, I'm beginning to wonder whether I should ever watch the 1st and 2nd periods if the Caps are going to keep scoring 4 goals. They came out hard against a tired Dallas team that had played 3 games in 4 nights on the road. The Caps took advantage of that situation and got goals from Semin, Clark, Pettinger & Zednik so they spread the offense around again which is great. I'm glad to see Zednik continues to pick up his game.

But, in the 3rd period, the Caps played "protect the lead, conservative hockey" and the lead dwindled to 4-3. Boyd Gordon continues to play well on special teams and won some key faceoffs late in the 3rd to help the Caps win the game. "Protect the lead" hockey reminds me of "prevent defense" in football and I hate them both. I can remember the Redskins blowing leads with prevent defense.

Ovie had some stick trouble last night and missed another penalty shot opportunity. Is he getting mental about shootouts and penalty shots or did the stick problems contribute? It'll come back to him, I'm sure. Speaking of Ovie, he started an online space to interact with fans more. He says on the site that he's hoping to improve his English.

The worst part of the game was Jamie Heward getting slashed in the face by Mike Modano's skate. It came up high and Jamie couldn't stop in time. The picture is enough to make you nauseous. If you haven't seen it and want to, it's here at the Washington Post. The good news, also found in the article, is that Jamie is doing better than expected and there wasn't any muscle or nerve damage. Glad to hear it Jamie and here's to a speedy recovery. We want you back out on the ice, but please try the visor. Heward doesn't know whether or not he can get used to wearing a visor.

The Caps continue playing against a tough team, Buffalo tonight. They have 42 points compared to the Caps 26. I don't have high expectations for this game, but I'd like to see the Caps come out hard and skate well and if possible play 60 minutes of sound hockey. I'm tired of having heart attacks in the 3rd period when the Caps start blowing a lead.

Let's go Caps!