Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why Olie is my all time favorite Cap...

While impatiently waiting for this highly anticipated Capitals season to start, I thought I'd write about Olie the goalie. Here's why he's my favorite all time Cap:

  • Olie's been a Capital longer than anyone else on the team today and understands, as well as long-time fans, the pain of the ups/downs this franchise has suffered since the high point of the '97-'98 Stanley Cup championship series appearance.
  • He breaks his sticks often in the pursuit of perfection (which I can relate to although I tend to break computer equipment...not good). Tarik El-Bashir's blog last week mentioned that Olie has already broken 3 sticks in training camp this year.

  • Olie's inspired goaltending was a key reason the Caps made it to their only Stanley Cup final appearance. During these playoffs, he became only the 10th goalie in NHL history to record 4 shutouts in 1 postseason.

  • He won the Vezina trophy in 2000 and made the NHL All-Start first team that year, as well.

  • Olie came to town early last year and this year to get as many Caps on the ice skating as early as possible. He's a great leader for this team (along with Clarkie) and mentor for the younger players.
  • He'll stick up for his team and has been known to fight the other team's goalie, even when that goalie also served as the best man at his wedding (Byron DaFoe, Boston Bruins).
  • Olie won the King Clancy Trophy in 2006 for his on and off ice leadership qualities, including his extensive work with autism through his two foundations, Carson Kolzig Foundation and Athletes Against Autism.
  • His nickname, given to him by fans of his minor league team, is Godzilla.

Here's to an awesome season Godzilla.

Let's go Caps!

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Caps "Fan Fest" Day at Training Camp

A good crowd cheered the Caps at Kettler for the opening day of training camp. I caught the drills and scrimmage on the Caps rink. Here's what I liked:

  • Michael Nylander skated impressively and looked like he was in great shape. He played with passion out there on Friday and I'm thrilled to have him back in Washington.

  • Ovie skated with Viktor Kozlov here and there and they looked comfortable together, probably because they trained together this summer. At 6'5, Kozlov towers over everyone so he's easy to see on the ice. Kozlov took a puck in the face Friday, but was back on the ice during practice on Saturday so he's okay.

  • On the blueliner side, Tom Poti played with Milan Jurcina during the scrimmage. I thought they played well together but I still expect to see Mo & Jurcina matched up during the regular season (then again, who knows....).

  • I enjoyed seeing the hockey trophys with the names of Capitals on them...the Calder, Vezina, Lady Bing and Norris trophies were in town.
  • The enthusiasm from Chris Clark & Ted Leonsis for the upcoming season during their town hall session. Ted's declared more than once publicly the "rebuild is over" and with the new players I also have high hopes for the season. During that session, Ted also assured the crowd that Ovie isn't going anywhere and his contract extension will get done.

One final note from Friday. Believe it or not, the Caps had a Penguins fan at Kettler. The guy sitting next to me took a day of vacation from work to see training camp hockey and he doesn't even root for the Caps! That's hockey devotion. He asked me if I thought Glen Hanlon was the right coach to make the Caps contenders. I think Hanlon still has a lot to prove in the NHL but he also hasn't had the talent to work with. He has the tools he needs this year so let's see what he does with them. I enjoyed talking hockey even with a Penguins fan...maybe he'll become a Caps fan this year.

It's almost Oct 5th. Let's go Caps!

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Caps are in town & hockey's coming's been a long summer of intense anticipation for this year's hockey season for many Caps fans, myself included. I can't wait to see how the lines shake out with the new additions to the Caps, Nylander, Kozlov and, of course, the rookie center, Niklas Backstrom. The final defensive pairings are going to be just as interesting with some strong candidates fighting for a spot on the team. I'm hoping that rookie blueliner Karl Alzner wins one of those spots.

Alzner played fantastic hockey during the recent Canadian-Russian Super Series and so did Josh Godfrey who is another Capitals prospect. That series was a recreation of an earlier series in the 1970s between the best junior players from Canada & Russia. During this year's series, Alzner was the MVP of Game 1 and became the leader of the team for the rest of the series which Canada won 7 games to 0. In this NHL blog for the series, writer Brad Holland talks about Alzner's diving save in game 1 and also mentions how Godfrey's 100 mph slap shot had the Russians ducking for cover. In his wrapup blog, Holland says, "Imagine both Godfrey and Ovechkin set up for one-timers with Karl Alzner and Nicklas Backstrom sending them passes? Washington has a bright future, indeed." I can happily imagine that.

Simeon Varlamov, the goalie prospect who impressed me so much during the Caps rookie camp in July, struggled in goal during the Super Series although he kept the Russians in the game during Game 6. The Russian defense didn't help Varlamov out either during this series so I still have high hopes for him. As expected, he's playing in Russia this season.

And in Alex Ovechkin news, he's also back in town after intensive training in Russia this summer and feels better prepared this year than last to get back on the ice. In fact, Ovie stopped in Montreal on his way back to Washington and declared in this Montreal Gazette article that he wants to be the best player in the NHL this year. Go Ovie!

Caps' owner Ted Leonsis has declared the "rebuild over" and expects the team to make the playoffs this year. Good, so do I. Here's a link to the article.

Tomorrow is Fan Fest day at Kettler, featuring practices, player autographs and a town hall session with Ted Leonsis and Captain Chris Clark. I plan to be there so I'll keep you posted.

The puck drops in 22 days. Let's go Caps!

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