Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Caps eke out 2 points against Predators

The Caps, amazingly enough, sit at the top of the SE division at this early moment in time during the long hockey season. They played an ugly game last night, other than the 1st period, against the Nashville Predators, but came away with two points on a shootout.

I actually got to see the game since I went unlike several thousands of other fans who had to listen to it on the radio because Versus had exclusive rights to hockey in that time slot last night. Instead, they featured the Philadelphia Flyers 7-0 thrashing of the Atlanta Thrashers. Great job NHL...way to interest people in hockey!

And if anyone thinks the Caps didn't miss Alex Ovechkin (he's in Russia with his ailing grandfather) because he's not scoring, think again. His presence, hard work and physical play was sorely missed last night.

What I liked:

  • Alexander Semin continues to play like a beast and he sits atop the league leader board in points and goals with 16 and 8 respectively. He was awarded 1st star of the game last night, rightfully so. He set up David Steckel on a beautiful short-handed goal and he made another spectacular goal off a feed from Nicklas Backstrom (one of his rare nice plays so far this year and in listening to Nicky post game he knows he needs to play better).
  • David Steckel played with a lot of hustle last night, throwing his body around and making the short-handed goal. He was awarded the 2nd star last night.
  • Viktor Kozlov scored his first goal of the season. I've come to appreciate the quietly effective things Kozlov brings to the Caps game because they missed him when he was out with an injury.
  • The first period where the Caps played with energy and had 19 shots on goal compared to the Predators 4.

What I didn't like:

  • The 2nd and 3rd periods where the Caps had 10 shots on goal and couldn't get the puck of their defensive zone. They played lackluster again. The crowd wasn't even that into the game. What happened to the Caps team that played with such energy last year? I realize it was a unique circumstance trying to go from last to first, but geesh, will the real Washington Capitals please show up and play 60 minutes of hockey?
  • The defense played horribly last night. I yelled Mike Green's name in frustration several times, but it wasn't just him. Shaone Morrisonn played just as bad. Tom Poti please come back soon.
  • Does referee Paul Devorsky hate the Washington Capitals? It sure seems like it.

Next up...the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday in Buffalo.

Let's go Caps!

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Semin helps Caps get 2 points from Dallas in OT

Since I was enjoying a Halloween party while the game was on, my perspective on this one is based on what I read.  It didn't sound like the Caps played a pretty game, at all, but 2 points in the standings is 2 points and this Caps fan is happy that they got that.  

Sergei Fedorov scored twice to become the leading Russian goal scorer in the NHL, Tomas Fleischman scored twice, the AHLer Tyler Sloan scored his first NHL goal and, thankfully, Alexander Semin scored the game winner in overtime to make it 6-5. 

The defense played terrible according to Coach Boudreau. There's a shocker.  The Caps blue line has been the weakest link since the season started.  I was hoping one more year of maturity for some of the younger players might improve the defense, but this team is desperately missing injured Tom Poti.  Mike Green and Shaone Morrisonn were on the ice for 3 Dallas goals so they're not getting the job done.  Milan Jurcina and Jeff Schultz/John Erskine were on the ice for the other 2 goals.

I'm not sure where the Caps energy has disappeared to, but I hope they find it before they dig themselves a hole.  They've played 1 complete game out of 8 total and that was against the Vancouver Canucks. It's a long season, but come on Caps, let's wake up and play like you did last year. 

What are the problems?
  • Ovie's lack of scoring?  Of course that's going to have an impact, but others need to step it up besides Semin and Fedorov.
  • Backstrom's slow start?  Chris Clark's slow start? (I'm not going to bash Clarkie as he's been out for a long time recovering from that groin injury so it'll be a while before he gets his game back.)
  • Trying to figure out how to mesh Michael Nylander's fancier style of play with the Caps uglier, but get it done style of play from last year?
  • Tom Poti's injury?  And, while we're on the blue line, way too many ugly defensive mistakes?  Yes, that one is a given.
I'm not sure what the issue is, I just hope they get it together.

Tomorrow night, the Nashville Predators visit the phone booth.  I'll miss watching Alex Ovechkin as he's home with his sick grandfather.   I hope your grandfather is okay Ovie.

Let's go Caps!

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Paging the Washington Capitals

The Capitals played yet another lackluster game against the Phoenix Coyotes and lost 2-1. I couldn't even bear to watch the rest of the game after Phoenix went up 2-1. I thought perhaps if I acted like a superstitious hockey player or a superstitious fan, in this case, and turned the tv off they might pull out a win or Ovie might score. Alas, no such luck.

Where did the Capitals that made an amazing run to the SE Division title go? This team is not playing with heart and it shows.

The only bright spot from that minder Jose Theodore looked solid in goal again. He made some pretty spectacular saves but he gets rewarded with another loss.

The Caps face the Dallas Stars and net minder Marty Turco on Saturday. Let's hope they show up.

Let's go Caps!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Caps don't show up and they lose 2-1 to Calgary

Wow, what an ugly game the Caps played last night against the Calgary Flames. What happened to the team that showed such heart last spring during the run to the SE division title? They're asleep right now considering the only good 60 minutes of hockey they've played this season was against Vancouver.

What I liked:

  • Pretty much nothing except Jose Theodore played better than he's played so far, stopping 26 of 28 shots. He didn't let one in on the first shot or during the first period and he made some nice saves.
  • Tyler Sloan, called up from Hershey, played physical on defense and had a monster open ice hit that turned into the 9-minute power play that was an utter debacle.

What I hated:

  • Everything else....
  • A power play that can't produce a goal even with 7 minutes of 5 on 4 during a 9 minute power play. Pathetic doesn't even begin to describe the Caps power play.
  • Alex Ovechkin on the penalty kill
  • Alex Ovechkin not scoring
  • Mike Green's lack of defense and penalties
  • John Erskine's bone headed plays
  • Chris Clark's play overall this season
  • Nicklas Backstom's play overall this season
  • Shaone Morrisonn clearing the puck right into Jarome Iginla's stick for a goal on the penalty kill
  • Tom Poti not being on the ice. Some fans say Poti isn't that good, but I would kill to have him back sooner rather than later. He's steady on the blue line and the Caps need that.
  • 10 penalties
  • I could go on, but it comes down to a complete lack of team effort!

I hope Coach Boudreau lights a fire under these guys because they need it.

Next up, the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday.

Let's go Caps!

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Brodeur & NJ get the win in a lackluster game

The Caps lost to the New Jersey Devils in a shootout, 4-3, last night at the phone booth. The Caps led 2-1 until the Devils netted two to go up 3-2 within a couple of minutes halfway through the third period. The Caps tied it up at 14:49. Even the near sell out crowd yelling "unleash the fury" in unison in the 3rd didn't stir up the Caps enough to pull out a win. To be fair, Martin Brodeur, one of the elite net minders in the NHL, who is 9 games away from breaking Patrick Roy's record for most wins, kept the Devils in the game and stymied the Caps potent offensive.

What I liked:
  • Alexander Semin continued his unbelievable play and is showing off his flashy puck handling and goal making skills to everyone in the NHL. He got goals #5 and #6 for the season and was awarded the 2nd star of the game.
  • Mike Green scored on the power play yet again. He also made, at least, ones good defensive move, particularly, blocking a shot late in the game that would have been a goal.
  • Sergei Fedorov is still awesome wherever he plays. He and Semin are playing +6 hockey.
  • Matt Bradley puts 150% effort into every shift he takes on the ice. I love that guy.
  • Shaone Morrisonn is quietly turning into a very good blue liner. I noticed him making several great defensive plays last night and he's using his body effectively.
  • Brent Johnson played a solid game in net for the Caps making 34 saves on 37 shots.
What I didn't like:

  • The Caps power play makes me want to scream. They've got a slew of offensive threats but they don't convert on those opportunities nearly enough. They scored once last night on 8 tries. To be successful in the NHL and go deep into the playoff, teams have to score on power plays.
  • Alex Ovechkin is still struggling and couldn't keep the puck on his stick. He took 6 shots for zero goals although he got 1 point on Mike Green's power play goal. Jeff, my other half, and I vote for taking Ovie off the penalty kill for the time being. Ovie needs to focus on playing his game not the PK.
  • I believe part of Ovie's struggles are also a result of Nicklas Backstrom and Chris Clark not playing as well as they can. Clarkie is still shaking off the rust and Backstrom is doing the little things right but isn't generating the offensive he's capable of producing. The ankle injury that kept him out of most of training camp may be to blame.
  • Passing...the Caps keep making these cross ice passes that end up in giveaways far too often. Their passing, in general, looks horrible.
  • John Erskine made one decent outlet pass and then tossed the puck up into the offensive zone on that same play. Every other time I saw him he could barely move the puck a foot on a pass. It was ridiculous.
  • Jeff Schultz continues to frustrate me and was on ice for two goals against.
  • The Caps desperately miss blue liner Tom Poti and I hope he's not out long.
Next up, a West Coast road trip starting with the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.

Let's go Caps!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cardiac Caps Survive the Penguins

The cardiac Caps are back. After an irritating two periods of hockey, the Caps showed up to play but by then they were behind 3-0. Amazingly, they answered back with 4 goals in that period and won the game at Mellon Arena. That hasn't happened very often lately.

What I liked:
  • Mike Green's open ice hip check on Evgeni Malkin rocked.
  • Boyd Gordon's game winning goal. It didn't light the lamp so play continued for another couple of minutes before the refs reviewed that play.
  • Matt Bradley, taking one for the team in an ugly fight which he lost by a mile, and coming back to play after numerous stitches.
  • Alexander Semin and Michael Nylander continue to be money in the bank (or goals in the net) for the Caps and were awarded 1st and 3rd star, respectively.
  • Tomas Fleishman had a 2 point night. Good, keep it coming.
  • Sergei Fedorov playing defense.

What I didn't like:

  • Alex Ovechkin hitting more than focusing on playing his game. He's struggling so far this year even if he's playing +3 hockey. I have no doubt he'll figure it out.
  • Nicklas Backstrom also struggling and not helping Ovie as a result.
  • Chris Clark is still working the rust off after his long-term injury so he's been invisible.
  • The ridiculous goal that Jose Theodore let in between the post and his pads. At least, he didn't let Sidney Crosby's first shot go in.

Next up, New Jersey Devils on Saturday. I'll be there rocking the red.

Let's go Caps!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Caps finally beat Luongo

After 10 tries, the Capitals put on an offensive display last night at the phone booth and beat Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks, 5-1. Luongo has been a nemesis in goal for the Caps dating back to the days he played with the Florida Panthers.

Alexander Semin, playing with more fire than I've ever seen out of him, started the scoring with a beauty and added his 2nd goal in the second period. Mike Green scored his 3rd goal on the power play. He's becoming the Caps offensive threat on the power play and since the power play still isn't producing, 1 for 4 tries last night, it's good to have Greenie scoring. In fact, the Caps struggled to get settled in their first power play and the puck was done in their own end for almost 3/4s of that power play.

Milan Jurcina played well last night, too (did I just say that?) and scored a even strength goal in the 2nd period off a rocket of a shot. Michael Nylander had a 3 point night, 2 assists and his 1 goal coming on a penalty shot after a Canuck threw a stick that was laying on the ice into Nyls when he had the puck.

Coach Boudreau mixed up the lines for last night's match, put Sergei Fedorov on defense and Brent Johnson in net against the Canucks and it worked really well. The Brooks Laich-Nylander-Semin line was money in the bank. Boyd Gordon won the key faceoffs in his first appearance this season and made a sweet pass to Semin that resulted in Semin knocking over Luongo with his shot. That one didn't go in, but it will still fun to watch.

The one person I haven't mentioned is Alex Ovechkin. He was held scoreless last night, but boy did he make the Canucks pay for hanging all over him with some awesome hits. This also shows that the Caps finally have more offensive weapons and that's what they need to get deeper in the playoffs. Teams will always focus their defense on Ovie and if the Caps can make them pay for that with scoring from other areas, they'll win.

The most amazing statistic of the night. The Caps had 35 shots and the Canucks had 10. One of the Versus announcers called the Caps play last night "Red Wing esque" and I have to agree with him. They played the puck possession game and dominated.

Finally, congratulations to Brent Johnson who got his 100th NHL career win. He didn't have to work too hard for it, but I doubt he minded that at all.

Up Thursday night with Jose Theodore in net....the Pittsburgh Penguins. I always felt like the Penguins were in Olie Kolzig's head so maybe Theo can break that. Caps you just need to "Play your game." -Herb Brooks

Let's go Caps!

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Caps overcome a slow start to beat Blackhawks 4-2

After celebrating the raising of the SE Division Champion banner, it only took 26 seconds for the hometown crowd to collectively gasp as the Chicago Blackhawks potted their first goal past Jose Theodore.  Their second goal came at 11:41 in the first period and I have no doubt that many fans and the team thought what in the world did the Capitals get when they signed Jose Theodore.  To be somewhat fair to Theodore, the entire Capitals team looked as sluggish in that first period as they did on Friday night in Atlanta.

Finally, Matt Bradley scored at 13:26 in the first period and hope returned.  The grinders, including David Steckel and Donald Brashear played better hockey than the rest of the team, particularly, in the first period of this game and against Atlanta.  Coach Boudreau rewarded that line, rightly so, with more ice time than usual.  David Steckel impressed me last night, and on Friday, as he seemed to be everywhere making his presence felt so he deserved the 3rd star of the game.  Donald Brashear showed bursts of speed on occasion to disrupt a play that I didn't realize he had in him.  

During the second period, Theodore settled down, made some good saves and the Caps started playing their game overall.  Alex Ovechkin scored his first goal of the season at 5:07 in the second to the delight of the crowd.  And, once the crowd serenaded the team with "unleash the fury", Brooks Laich netted the game winner off a rebound from Alexander Semin and Ovie scored his 2nd goal, a beauty, with less than two minutes left to seal the win.  

Other observations:
  • Tomas Fleischman seems to be a different player out there this year, playing with more aggression and better puck handling, even though it hasn't converted into points yet.  The shot he blocked in the 3rd where he then got up and deflected the puck off that same shooter was a great play. But, Japers Rink talks about his poor statistics along with those of his current line mates, Chris Clark and Michael Nylander.  That trio has been on the ice for a lot of goals against the Caps.  It sounds like that line combo may need to be changed.
  • Nicklas Backstrom has been nearly invisible in both games.  Is this a sophomore slump or what is going on with him? 
  • Jeff Schultz scares me every time he's on the ice.  And, I'm not the only one as the fans sitting next to me felt the same way.  He's been on the ice for 5 goals against the Caps in his first two games and is playing -1 hockey.  When is that guy going to learn how to use his 6'6 body and play with some aggression?
  • John Erskine played a good game last night.  He's relentlessly bashed by the Caps faithful as being too slow and out of position all the time and he frequently lives up to that reputation, but not last night.  He showed real effort out there and it paid off in a good game for him.
The most important thing is that the Caps won and came away with 2 points.  Vancouver comes to the phone booth tomorrow which means so does the net minder Roberto Luongo with his 10 game winning streak against the Capitals.

Let's go Caps!

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An ugly start to a season with high expectations

I said in an earlier post that Jose Theodore was the big unknown going into this season for the Caps and I've never been a fan of his after watching him in Colorado.  Many Caps fans on the message boards wanted those of us who weren't optimistic to give him a chance.  Well, in his chance last night against the Atlanta Thrashers, Theodore got pulled after letting in 4 goals. Then, Brent Johnson looked strong for a short while until he let in 3 more goals that led to a 7-4 loss for the Capitals. Ladies & gentlemen, it's going to be a looooong season.

The good parts of the game - 

  • Mike Green's two goals during a 4 minute power play. He had a 3 point night and looks good.
  • Alexander Semin looked awesome, playing with some grit like he did in the playoffs, and getting 1 goal and 2 assists.
The bad parts of the game - goal tending, goal tending, goal tending and just about everything else.

Yes, I'm a seriously depressed Caps fan this morning and I can only hope they play better tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Let's go Cap!  

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Ovie did not EDGE Crosby for the Calder Trophy

Every time I see this quote it makes me scream.  And, this came from

Since when did winning 124 first place votes of 129 available votes qualify as 'edging' out Crosby for the Calder Trophy.  Yes, I'm a biased Caps fan, but as other media have quoted, "Ovie beat Crosby in a landslide for that vote" dammit.  Get your facts right.  It's as bad as the Bush administration pushing the fact that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11 so hard that people still believe it. 

Let's go Caps!

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Final Cuts and Preseason Recap

In sad, but certainly not unexpected news, the Caps waived Quintin Lang today.   He is a fan favorite who played his guts out every single shift and blocked so many shots with his body it hurt to watch.  He will never be a star hockey player but there is a lot to be said for a humble athlete that pours his heart and soul into every minute of his playing time.  There are so many prima donna professional athletes today that don't give their all and they're paid a lot more than Lang ever has been.  Thank you for that Quintin and good luck as I hope some other team gives you a chance!

The Caps also sent winger Chris Bourque and blue liner Karl Alzner to Hershey.  Bourque had a great preseason and played like he belonged full time with the big club.  But it was a numbers game and the Caps had to get below the salary cap by opening night.  Bourque didn't have to clear waivers to get sent to Hershey so that didn't work in his favor either.

I also think that playing more minutes every night in Hershey will be good for Karl Alzner's development.  He played well in the preseason and seemed to get better with each game (listening to the games on the radio when I couldn't get the Internet feed to stream correctly makes it tough to assess player performance too deeply) but there is no need to rush the Caps top 2007 draft pick.  

Now, turning to the Caps preseason games.  They ended with a 5-1-1 record and their last game against Boston was by far the worst game they played.  It was a 5-4 loss in a shootout, but the score doesn't begin to reflect how sloppy they played that game.  Prior to that, the Caps played a lot of high energy games with Coach Boudreau mixing up the lines, playing  Sergei Fedorov on defense and Alex Ovechkin on penalty kills, until he got hammered with a puck to his leg, certainly kept things interesting.

My highlights:
  • The Caps have some impressive young prospects that will be playing in the NHL within the next couple of years and a couple of them made it to the Caps camp and stayed with the big club through part of preseason.  18-year old defenseman John Carlson impressed fans from rookie development camp in July through his preseason appearances as he played well enough to stay with the big club for quite a while.  He'll develop under Dale Hunter's juniors team in London.  I'm not the only fan that will look forward to his return next summer.
  • Center Jay Beagle, a checking line grinder, played for Hershey last year and will return there this year.  He's a high energy player and fans loved him for getting the best of agitator Steve Downie from the Flyers at Downie's request to drop the gloves. 
  • Sergei Fedorov plays defense almost as well as he plays center.  He'll be the Caps 7th defenseman after notching 2 secondary assists on outlet passes and playing +3 hockey against the Flyers.  I have to pinch myself to remember that it's The Sergei Fedorov that is now playing for the Caps.  He's absolutely amazing even at the age of 39.
  • Alex Ovechkin is his normal self only he looks leaner and stronger so watch out opponents.  Ovie came out for his preseason debut against Carolina hitting every thing in sight (I had the pleasure of watching that game!).  He netted more than a point per preseason game he played, including two short-handed goals on the PK.  I don't want Alex on the PK as the shot he took to his leg shows how dangerous that is, but I have no doubt he'd play all 60 minutes if coach would let him.
  • Captain Chris Clark returned after a long recovery from a groin injury.  He understandably looked tentative at first but by the end of preseason he looked like his old self - crashing the net, potting rebounds and defending his teammates.  Welcome back Clarkie!  
  • Jose Theodore, the Caps net minder, is the big unknown for the Caps going into the season.  He didn't have a stellar game against Boston, but he also made 40 out of 44 saves. And, the Caps played a lousy game or they wouldn't have allowed 44 shots.  I'm not a fan of Theodore after watching his streaky play with the Colorado Avalanche, but he was the best option the Caps had after Cristobal Huet turned down GMGM's offer and Olie Kolzig left.  I hope Theodore rises to the occasion of an energetic young team that has a lot of potential.  But, the Caps also have some impressive prospects at goalie, as Simeon Varlomov played like a beast in his preseason outing against Carolina and Michal Neuvirth played well during his outings after getting over his nervousness.   The future looks bright indeed.
The opening game for the Caps starts Friday night against the Atlanta Thrashers and Saturday they raise the SE Division Champs banner at the phone booth.  Ahhhh, I can't wait to be there, but they need to win Friday night's game first.

Let's go Caps!

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