Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cap vanquish a demon at Buffalo with 4-2 win

Being a Caps fan, I hate the Buffalo Sabres almost as much as I hate the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers.  The Caps don't win very often in the Sabres barn, only twice in nine games, so Tuesday's win was sweet indeed.  Jose Theodore also broke a five game losing streak in that building, according to Tarik.  

The highlights:
  • The Caps had the most beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play in the first period that ended with Brooks Laich dumping in the puck for the power play goal.  Those types of plays remind me of the Detroit Red Wings with their slick passing ability.
  • Chris Bourque scored his first NHL goal off a rebound blasted from David Steckel's stick.  That line of Bourque, Steckel and Eric Fehr played really well together.  After Buffalo scored their first goal in the 3rd period, Coach Boudreau sent that line out and they played a monster shift keeping the puck in the offensive zone and quieting the crowd after Buffalo scored.  I liked this line together and, apparently, Bourdreau used it often in Hershey.
  • Nicklas Backstrom, first star of the game, is turning into an awesome hockey player who is just 21 years old.  He had a goal on the power play in the 2nd period from another pretty tape to tape passing play and an assist on Laich's power play goal.  On another play, I saw Backstrom crunched against the boards in the defensive zone between two Buffalo players and he still managed to get the puck out of the zone.  Backstrom is now #10 on the leader board in points and #5 in assists.  Not bad for a player who is not even near his prime.
  • Jose Theodore gets his 4th win in a row and looked solid in net.  This is what the Caps pay him $4.5M for so I'm glad to see he's finally starting to play like he deserves it.  I enjoyed watching him send the puck Thomas Vanek shot his way down the ice with his stick.  He also made a great save on Ales Kotalik which caused Craig Laughlin to observe that he was "doing snow angels in the paint."
  • Viktor Kozlov continues to be quietly effective and had two assists and was awarded the 2nd star of the game.
  • Boyd Gordon also continues to play well.  His short-handed empty net goal from deep in the defensive zone put the game away.  
  • Mike Green's stick handling skills appear Semin-esque to me at times.  He's really gone to another level on that.  He also made some smart plays on the early power play to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
  • The Caps have won 4 of their last 5 on the road which is huge because their road record stunk it up earlier this season.  They need to keep it up.
The lowlights:
  • Caps didn't play with as much energy in the second period and this is maddening to me. They go up 2-0 and then sit back a bit.  This team has to play with intensity the entire game.  They ended that second period with an inexcusable too many men on the ice penalty, too.  Ugh.
  • Craig Laughlin mentioning a possible 'shutout' for Jose Theodore right before Buffalo scores.  Please, please, please don't ever mention the shutout again Craig.  Caps fans are superstitious and it seems like ever time you bring up the shutout the opponent scores.
The Tampa Bay Lightning head to the phone booth tonight. 

Let's go Caps!

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Caps beat Maple Leafs 4-1 on Mike Gartner night

The Washington Capitals started last night by raising Mike Gartner's  banner to the rafters and retiring #11.  Gartner is a hall of fame hockey player that ranks second in goals, assists and points in Caps history, at least, so far! It was great to see the old Caps in the phone booth, Rod Langway and Yvon Labre among them.

Gartner joined Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin in the booth later and I loved his description of Alex Ovechkin who is sure to join Gartner in the records books if his career continues on its current trajectory.  Gartner described Ovie as "the hungriest hockey player I've ever seen."  What an apt description and it was on display last night when Ovie scored with 10 seconds left in the 2nd period to give the Caps the lead after hitting the post on a shot right before that goal.

The highlights:
  • Brooks Laich, 1st star of the night, scored two goals by "going to the net" and throwing the garbage in, one from his own rebound, past Toronto's goalie Vessa Toskala. According to Tarik's report, Laich asked Coach Boudreau what he needed to do to get his scoring touch back and Boudreau told him to simplify his game and quit trying to be cute (a problem for too many Caps at times this year).  Brooksie got the well-deserved hard hat.
  • Alex Ovechkin, 2nd star of the game, scored two goals, including an empty netter that many fans felt he should have passed to Laich for the hat trick, but there was a defenseman in the way. He also played +2 hockey.
  • Jose Theodore, 3rd star of the game, won his 3rd in a row even after letting in the first goal of the game at 14:23 in the first.  He stopped 23 shots.  Theodore is playing with more confidence, but inconsistency has been his curse in the past so I hope his plays stays strong.  Caps need that if they're going to make any noise in the playoffs this year.
  • Chris Clark mixed it up on the ice.  He's playing better than he did with a forearm stress fracture (no surprise there) and I like seeing his grit back on the ice.  The Capitals don't have very many physical hockey players and it showed against the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs last year.  Now, I'd like Clarkie to score.
  • Mike Green and Jeff Schultz returned to the lineup and played +2 hockey.
  • Karl Alzner and Milan Jurcina continued playing well as a defensive pairing and played +1 hockey. 
The lowlights:
  • Matt Bradley crashing into the boards head first with a sickening sound.  He walked off the ice, totally dazed, as if he didn't know who he was.  Brads is supposedly okay, but I'll wait until I see him on the ice before I believe that.  He's a huge leader on this team and he'll do anything for these guys as evidenced by his continual beatings at the hands of other heavy weights in the league when Brads wants to take one for his team.
A great hockey blog read with predictions for 2009 is here.  I love this quote in the January section, "With nine regulars out of the lineup, the Capitals go undefeated during the month of January."  This team has been awesome in the face of an amazing number of injuries.

Caps visit the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night.  Let's go Caps!

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ovechkin scoooooores and Caps win 3-2 over Sabres

Alex Ovechkin scored another highlight reel goal midway through the 3rd period from an outlet pass that hit his stick from the AHL journeyman blue liner Bryan Helmer.  Ovie blasted past two Buffalo defenders, dangled around the third and shot the puck to the back of the net while sliding on the ice on his stomach after losing his edge.  It's one of those goals that make Caps fans jump up and down with joy and, also, misbelief because Ovie is a Cap.   Many fans, including myself, frequently believe the Caps are cursed.  When you look at this season's injury report, you'll understand why and that's just this season.  But, the Caps have Alex Ovechkin and the opportunity to see him play hockey 82+ times during the year is a precious gift that keeps on giving.   

The highlights:
  • The Caps, 14-1-0 at the phone booth, beat the Buffalo Sabres.  This isn't something they do very often and I hate Buffalo as much as I hate Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
  • Jose Theodore looked solid in net saving 22 of 24 shots and not letting one get past him until the 3rd period.  That's two wins in a row for Theodore.
  • Bryan Helmer had 2 assists, played +2 hockey and was awarded the 1st star of the night. Not bad for a 36-year old that hasn't played all that many NHL games.
  • Viktor Kozlov scored the first goal via Nicklas Backstrom (24 assists in 24 games) and Bryan Helmer.  The top line is picking up where it left off last season after a slow start from Backstrom and Ovie and Kozlov's injury.
  • Donald Brashear, 2nd star of the game, and Chris Clark led the team in hits with 4 for each of them.
  • The call-ups from the Hershey Bears keep on winning with the Caps and I can't ask for anything more than that as the Caps sit in 2nd place in the Eastern conference (tied with the Rangers) with 47 points.
The lowlights:
  • Hmmm, I'm so happy the Caps beat the Sabres I'll skip the lowlights for today.
The Toronto Maple Leafs come to the phone booth and Mike Gartner gets his jersey retired.

Let's go Caps!

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy holidays come to Caps early

I missed the game on Tuesday much to my distress since it was clearly one of the most exciting games of the season.  Oh, well, the holidays do get in the way of hockey sometimes and may again tonight since I'm heading out of town to visit my family.  

It's pretty unbelievable that the Caps overcome a 4-0 lead by the New York Rangers to win in overtime on Shaone Morrison's first goal of the season.  The cardiac Caps persevere and get 2 points again.

For tonight's game against the Buffalo Sabres, the Caps have recalled goalie Simeon Varlamov, in addition to, other Hershey Bears to fill out the injury depleted line up yet again.  Caps fans would like to see Varlamov in net again, but I suspect Jose Theodore will get the start tonight.  I hope the Rangers game gave him some much needed confidence.

Let's go Caps!

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Caps got obliterated by Flyers 7-1

It's painful even thinking about this game much less writing about it. Long-time Caps fans hate the Philadelphia Flyers and that other Pennsylvania team more than most other teams because the history is long and, at times, painful like last year. Last year is when Philly ended the Caps improbable run on an overtime goal by Joffrey Lupul in game 7.

And, it was Joffrey Lupul who started the scoring for Philadelphia on Saturday in the blood bath that ensued. The Caps could not get the puck past goalie Antero Niittymaki if their lives depended on it. They set a team road record with 25 shots on net in the first period. None of those lit the lamp.

The only highlight of that game was watching Donald Brashear pound Riley Cote into the ground again. I'm not sure why Cote keeps torturing himself and he did it twice in this game, but fine. Let Donald get the best of you. It's the only thing Caps fans enjoyed about that agme.

And, thank you, Brooks Laich for scoring the lone Capitals goal.

Everything else was a lowlight:
  • The defense.
  • Tom Poti left the game with a tweaked groin again. The Caps need him in the lineup badly.
  • Alex Ovechkin had 12 shots on goal, but who cares if none of them go in.
  • The goaltending. Brent Johnson let in softies and got the Caps behind 3-0 on a short-handed goal near the end of the 2nd period. For some reason, Coach Boudreau thought he should pull Johnson and bring in Jose Theodore cold after being off about a week for an injury. So, Theodore then lets in 4 goals on 15 shots. Ugh. I really don't think that did much to boost his confidence.
  • The Caps lost it mentally by the 3rd period after not getting any goals and no longer played with energy.

Let's hope the Caps shake this one off and move on. They play at the New York Rangers tomorrow night.

Let's go Caps!

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Caps survive the Blues and get 2 points in 4-2 win

The Caps, once again, played down to their competition and could have easily lost this game to a beat up team. They lost something more important though and that was Alexander Semin and Mike Green to injury although Green says he'll play against Philly tomorrow. Semin got cross checked in the back and crumpled against the boards and no call was made by the refs against the St. Louis Blues just against the Caps for abuse of the officials. Per Tarik's blog, Coach Boudreau mouthed off so that's why the penalty was called, but I couldn't see him from where I sat.

In the Caps blogosphere, many fans were wishing for serious retribution against that cross check coming from someone other than Alex Ovechkin who did stir it up right after the hit on Semin as he was angry. Ovie and Donald Brashear kept throwing Blues into the boards the rest of the game, but the Donald didn't drop the gloves much to dismay of many fans. The Caps have had some problems with letting other teams abuse their players...see last year's playoff series when the Philadelphia Flyers kept running their netminder Cristobal Huet so it is an issue. However, in this case, I side with those who also remember when Donald Brashear lost it against the Boston Bruins last year and the ensuing penalties cost the Caps the game. They didn't need that last night. If they were up 5-0 as they should have been, then fine, let Donald throw down. Otherwise, take the two points and move on.

The highlights:

  • Viktor Kozlov, first star of the game, scored 2 goals and had 1 assist. He played a good game.
  • Simeon Varlamov, second star of the game (that's 2 stars in his two starts), looked strong in net again, particularly when he robbed Keith Tkachuk on a breakaway late in the 3rd to keep the game at 4-2. Varlamov, now reassigned to Hershey, stopped 61 of 64 shots in his 2 wins for a .953 save percentage. The fans, myself included, are in love with this kid and his shifty eyes that track the puck and stalk skaters. I can't wait to see him in net on a full-time basis for the Caps.
  • Alex Ovechkin's shot 13 seconds into the power play that started the 3rd blasted past the goaltender and put the Caps up 4-2. He had 5 hits, most on the team again and got the third star of the game.
  • The grinders were all +1. Boyd Gordon, often underappreciated for his defensive forward play, played an awesome game last night with a 57% faceoff win and he assisted on Kozlov's first goal. David Steckel played much better than he has been, but his faceoff % was only 31% (yikes).
  • Tomas Fleischmann made his career record 11th goal in December, hmmm not bad at all. He was wide open waiting for Eric Fehr and Steckel to get it to him and they did.
  • Milan Jurinca, also had a good +1 game with 6 blocked shots and 3 hits while using his body to throw some Blues around, and Karl Alzner was the only +2 player for the Caps. These two are playing terrific defense together.
  • The rocking and packed phone booth for a Thursday night game against a West Coast team. Washingtonians are beginning to appreciate the team that's winning in this town. To all of you new hockey fans, welcome aboard to the greatest game around.

The lowlights:

  • Atrocious playing on the power play. The Caps couldn't keep the puck in the offensive zone. They played much better on the power play with the Hershey call ups because they were keeping it simple. Hmm, maybe time to go back to that game play.
  • Caps playing too cute again. They should have controlled this game and they didn't.
  • Michael Nylander...where in the world did your game go to? He's frustrating on the ice and I want to keep yelling "shoot the puck" into his ear while he's circling around aimlessly. He had 3 giveaways, a team high for the game.
  • The injury to Semin. He is guilty of playing too cute a lot, particularly with Ovie, but this team is far better off with him than without him.
  • The Caps need to stop playing down to their level of competition. The Blues are beat up badly and sit in last place in the Western conference. Consistently good teams, see the Detroit Red Wings, attack weaker teams because winning two points in this league on any given night is tough.
  • Varlamov made a rookie mistake in the 3rd by playing the puck outside the trapezoid which resulted in a late 3rd period play. It happens, but luckily the Caps overcame it.

The Caps visit the Broad Street Bullies tomorrow for an afternoon game. There's never been a lot of love lost between the Caps and Philadelphia Flyers so it should be an intense game.

Let's go Caps!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Caps lay a stinker of a game, but manage to beat Isles

Alex Ovechkin, 1st star of the game, scored in overtime with 11 seconds left to beat the New York Islanders, a team beat up as badly as the Caps and currently sitting in 14th place in the East without a win in December. If the Caps showed up for the 3rd period, they might have won a little easier.

Ovie's game winning goal came after he was denied on a earlier shot in overtime that everyone thought went in but caromed out of the side of the net. We Caps fans are used to seeing Alex's determination to win and it's a difficult thing to stop sometimes as it was for the rookie netminder Joey MacDonald tonight.

The Caps have to remember that, yes, they have talent, but they need to play for the full sixty minutes to win games consistently in this league. That will be especially useful during the playoffs, assuming the Caps are there and I don't dare to assume that in mid-December.

The highlights:
  • Boyd Gordon with the first goal sliding under the toe skate of MacDonald after a big battle behind the net. He displayed hard work and good effort on that play.
  • Mike Green effectively bringing the puck into the offensive zone, a skill sorely missed while he was out. Greenie had a good game defensively and laid out Ben Walter on a breakaway at center ice. That is not something you see Green doing very often.
  • Brooks Laich got the softest goal of the game to put the Caps up 2-0 right after the end of the power play courtesy of former Capital, Brendan Witt. MacDonald should have stopped it, but hey, I'm not complaining. Witt tried to play like he was hurt by Semin but the refs didn't buy it. This is the same Witt that didn't want to stick around for the Caps "rebuild" and, fair enough, but now he's stuck with a rebuilding Islanders team. Life's a bitch, huh?
  • Karl Alzner, 3rd star of the game, played solid defense again and continued to help his partner, Milan Jurcina look better. According to Tarik's blog the other day, Alzner challenged Jurcina to shoot in practice and he shattered two panes of plexiglass with his powerful shot. He showed us tonight how nice that shot looks from the right point near the blue line when he rocketed one past the goalie after a pass from Alzner. Caps have to find a way to keep Alzner in Washington. He makes Jurcina play better and they're a strong defensive pairing for the Caps together.
  • Brent Johnson made some terrific saves from the 39 shots thrown at him, one in which he managed to get the puck underneath him after a scrum in front of the net. I guarantee you the Isles thought they scored on that one at first.
  • Matt Bradley rarely wins a fight and didn't tonight with Tim Jackman although he landed a couple of good punches. He'll thrown down with anyone and, for that, his heart is amazing even though I can't stand seeing him get beat up.
  • Alex Ovechkin's goal on a sick back-handed pass from Alexander Semin in front of the net to hit Ovie with a wide open spot on the left side of the net was a thing of beauty. The Ovie, Nicklas Backstrom, Semin line continues to produce points.
Okay, way too many highlights for a bad performance from the Caps.

The lowlights:
  • The entire third period of hockey. The Caps had 5 shots on goal and ZERO scoring chances compared to 17 shots by the Islanders. The Islanders scored 2 goals to tie the game at 4-4 the last coming from the Caps killer, Jon Sim. He scores against the Caps a lot (7 points in 7 games two years ago - can't find the stats from last year...odd)
  • The Doug Weight power play goal on the Sean Collins penalty deflected off of Tom Poti's stick and snuck under Brent Johnson. Yuck. And, the Isles got chippy after that. The Caps still had 18 shots on goal in the second.
  • Richard Park's goal, the 2nd power play score by the Isles, came when David Steckel didn't have his stick.
  • David Steckel didn't play a good game. I'm not sure where he disappeared to when Mike Green made a great pass from behind the night that would have been a goal if Steckel was positioned better. And, it looked like the game tying goal from the Islanders happened while Steckel was screening Brent Johnson. He was on the ice for 3 of the 4 goals scored by the Islanders.
  • The Islanders got physical in the second half of the 2nd period and during the 3rd. They threw the Caps around a bit.
  • The Caps played sloppy, lazy hockey against this team as was my fear from prior to the game. Coach Boudreau needs to whack them over the head
The St. Louis Blues come to the phone booth on Thursday. They're at 15th place in the West, but the Caps are playing at home where they tend to be more motivated. I'm looking forward to being there.

Let's go Caps!

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Varlamov gets 1st star in his first win over the Habs

The rookie netminder Simeon Varlamov earned the first star of the game for his stellar performance in Montreal against the Canadiens making 32 stops on 33 shots to make sure the Caps won this 2-1 game.  Not the easiest place to make your debut for sure, but Varlamov appeared calm and survived 8 power play attempts, including a 4 minute high sticking penalty on Alex Ovechkin.  The Caps defense helped him out which is nice.  Regardless, that's an impressive performance for a raw talent, but still developing goalie who's only played 13 games in the AHL and 1 preseason game for the Caps on the smaller North American ice sheet.  

I had to watch this game on my laptop as I was out of town so it was tough for me to fully appreciate Varlamov's performance on such a small screen.  But, I'm thrilled for him and excited to be a Caps fan knowing he's most likely the future goalie and will be for a long time. 

The other amazing news from last night is that Michael Nylander actually scored a goal.  I couldn't believe he actually shot the puck, but he was standing right in front of the night so, thank you, Michael.  It was the game winning goal.

The bad news Sergei Fedorov and Tyler Sloan left the game with injuries.  Nicklas Backstrom also left but with a migraine as reported by Tarik today in the Washington Post.

Since it was impossible for me to discern the highlights and lowlights by watching the game on a laptop, I'll skip that for this post.

Caps play at the New York Islanders on Tuesday.  It'll be nice if they can put together two road wins in a row.

Let's go Caps!

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Yeah, baby, Caps beat Senators 5-1

So, that's what happens when the Caps are healthy.  They beat the Ottawa Senators 5-1.  They got Mike Green and Sergei Fedorov back tonight and it showed as those two got the 2nd and 3rd stars of the game.  Feds and Greenie both had 3 point nights.

In the weird news of the day, the Caps had to dress their website producer, Brett Leonhardt as the backup goalie after Jose Theodore got injured in practice.  He's played Division III hockey and sometimes fills in for the Caps at practice, but tonight he got his 15 minutes of fame. Simeon Varlamov rushed to the airport from Houston where the Bears were playing and got to the phone booth during the first period game to take his place on the bench.  I'd like to see Varlamov tomorrow, but I don't want to see him killed by the Habs either so my guess is Johnson will play.

Brent Johnson got the first star of the game, deservedly so, as he stopped 32 of 33 shots on Ottawa.  He looked terrific again.

The SOB line continued to dominate with Alexander Semin getting 1 goal, Alex Ovechkin getting two and Nicklas Backstrom getting 3 assists.  I like the SOB line.

Does anybody want to play this team healthy?  I doubt it.

They play the Habs tomorrow night.

Let's go Caps.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Caps beat top Eastern ranked Bruins 3-1

The Caps played a hard fought game against the Boston Bruins tonight and came out on top. They won it with the help of stellar goaltending from Brent Johnson.  It's nice when the Caps netminder steals a game for them versus me feeling like they won't win if Jose Theodore is in net.  Johnson was awarded the first star of the game and got a standing ovation at the phone booth in the 2nd for his acrobatics in denying Blake Wheeler's shot on goal. 

The highlights:

  • Alexander Semin and Tom Poti returned to the ice to the joy of Caps fans and provided much needed help.
  • The SOB line (Alexander SeminAlex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom), as it's affectionately known on the Caps message board, looked great together again.  They were credited with Ovie's empty netter to seal the game and Backstrom made the perfectly positioned tip in from Ovie's shot to beat Boston netminder Manny Fernadez on the first goal.
  • The game within the game as Al Koken mentioned was Boston defender Zdeno Chara versus Alex Ovechkin.  The two apparently have loads of mutual respect for each other and they always battle hard when playing each other.  According to Koken, Chara switches sides to play against Ovie and tonight, at one point, Ovie switched sides with Semin to get away from Chara.  My favorite moment, the two of them wrestling and Ovie gets Chara down to the ice and makes a between the leg shot on goal while Chara scrambled to get back up.  Awesome to watch.
  • Alexandre Giroux, 2nd star of the game, netted his first NHL goal of the season, the game winner.  It was a nice play set up by Michael Nylander who then passed to Tom Poti who tossed it to Viktor Kozlov who sent it to Giroux.  Giroux missed a penalty shot (I'm not really sure why the referees called a penalty shot was called, but whatever).  He played a good game and has a good shot.
  • Tom Poti nettled Marc Savard trash talking with him all night.  It was so nice having him back.
  • Karl Alzner continued playing strong with Milan Jurcina who came up with a monster hit on Philip Kessel which may have saved a wraparound goal.  Sean Collins also playing with a lot of heart, like he wants to stay in D.C.  He did have an untimely hooking call in the 3rd period, but he also laid his body out in front of David Krecji's shot on goal.
  • For fans who question what Boyd Gordon brings to the Caps, it's his very effective play as a defensive forward which he showcased against Boston.  He stopped a goal in the 2nd and turned around and blasted one on net.  Okay, it didn't go in, but all in all, I saw him in the right places at the right times a lot.
The lowlights:
  • With less than one minute in the second period, Tyler Sloan muffed the puck, Tom Poti didn't cover Milan Lucic on the ensuing 2 on 1 and the Bruins scored.  Ugh.  Sloan had a rough night.  The Caps were slacking off a bit in the second and it showed with that goal right.
  • That is all...
Oskar Osala, the much touted Hershey Bear winger and rookie of the year in the Finnish Elite League last year made his NHL debut.  He looked nervous in the first period, but played pretty well in the second period.  I hope to see him again.

Caps play the Ottawa Senators on Friday.

Let's go Caps!

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Caps lose 3-1 to 'Canes

Caps lost the 2nd game they played in under 24-hours with a flight from Toronto to Raleigh, NC in between. I didn't get to see the game but from what I've read goalie Jose Theodore didn't play well enough to steal a game for the Caps even though he was rested. He's still playing in front of an amateur defense, too, but that excuse doesn't go very far for a veteran netminder. Theodore's currently ranked 41st in stats with a .888 save % and a 3.08 GAA. In other words, the Caps won't be playing long in the post season (assuming they make it) with him in net unless he finds his game.

In the rare good news department, Sami Lepisto got sent back to Hershey after another rough performance against the Canes which means either Tom Poti or Mike Green will be available for the game against the Boston Bruins on Wed. It's about time Caps get one of their injured players back.

The game against the Boston Bruins is going to be tough for the Caps. The Bruins are tearing up the East with an 18-4-4 record. I'm not looking forward to seeing Milan Lucic, the hard hitting defender that took out Brian Pothier indefinitely with his hit, play against an injury depleted Capitals team. My best hope for the game is that Caps don't suffer any more injuries.

Let's go Caps!

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Caps hang on for 2-1 win against Maple Leafs

Caps got good enough defense from their Hershey players, including yesterday's call up Sean Collins, to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs last night.  And, it was the defense that provided the offense with rookie Karl Alzner netting his first goal and Milan Jurcina finding the back of the net with his blast of a shot 1 minute after Toronto tied the game in the 3rd period.

Even though both the Caps and the Maple Leafs are known more for their offense than their defense, this was a defensive and goal tending battle.  Caps goalie, Brent Johnson, and Leafs goalie, Vesa Toskala both played stellar in net.

The highlights:
  • Karl Alzner, 2nd star of the game, with a goal, an assist and a nice play during the penalty kill on a poke check that he sent around the net to Jurcina.
  • Alex Ovechkin, first star of the game, took out the Leafs strong rookie blue liner, Luke Schenn, on one of his many hits.  Ovie almost had another highlight reel goal that he shot while sliding down the ice on his stomach after being hit.  He buzzed around all night spinning around defenders with the puck and making life miserable for anyone within hitting distance.  If he's hurt (a subject of much speculation on the Caps message boards), he didn't show it last night. 
  • Brent Johnson played solid in net making 19 of 20 saves.  He snuffed Jason Blake's shot on a power play in the 2nd period.
  • The Caps finally win another road game, their first since November 19th against the Ducks and only their 5th this season.
The lowlights:

  • Eric Fehr left the game writhing in pain after he hit the glass hard and he didn't come back.  There isn't an adequate to accurately describe the absurdity of this injury situation.
The Caps played a tired team last night and survived with their Hershey defense.  In two hours they play the Carolina Hurricanes so I hope the defense does as well as last night.  I really hate 5:00 games since I'm not going to be home.  Alexandre Giroux, leading goal scorer for the AHL down in Hershey joins the Caps tonight.

Let's go Caps!

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Caps beat the Islanders 5-2

The Caps showed up to play last night and they definitely showed up to shoot with 46 shots on net against Islander netminder Joey MacDonald and one empty netter. The Caps still played sloppy after their second goal for a while and they were called for 9 penalties (the refs were blowing the whistle a lot) so the Islanders managed to tie the game up 2-2 at 13:38 in the 2nd period. But, in this game, the Caps persevered and added 3 more goals in the 3rd to get the win.

The highlights:
  • Alex Ovechkin's first power play goal, a wrist shot, blasted past goalie MacDonald. He left the ice after that and Caps fans were in agony until he returned to the bench. The Caps season would be toast if Ovie got injured for any length of time while Semin is still out. Overall, Ovie had a 3 point night and made an incredibly unselfish play to pass the puck to Nicklas Backstrom on the empty netter goal. For those hockey fans who say Ovie is a selfish puck hog, think again.
  • Rookie Karl Alzer, second star of the game, made the most brilliant play of the night that resulted in the game winning goal by Donald Brashear, third star of the game. Knowing that he wouldn't get the puck past the defenders into the net, he banked the puck off the back wall and it fell at Brashear's feet right in front of the net. Brashear knocked it in for his first goal of the season. It was an ugly goal, but as Brooks Laich says, "...if you want goals, you have to go to the net." The Caps listened to Brooksie last night.
  • In the "going to the net" garbage goal category, Eric Fehr netted the fourth goal of the night tossing a backhander over the goalie during a power play off of a deflection from Brooks Laich and Ovie.
  • Viktor Kozlov got the first star of the night and scored first off of a deflected puck in front of the net via Bryan Helmer and Sami Lepisto. Kozlov played well all night. I've come to appreciate his puck handling skills, his shooting skills and his play along the boards. He's definitely missed when he's out.
  • Brent Johnson played a solid game in net and stopped 27 shots to get his first career win against the New York Islanders.
  • The Eric Fehr, Boyd Gordon and Tomas Fleischmann line looked good last night, buzzing around the net and playing hard against the boards. Gordon seems to have stepped it up a notch from earlier in the season.
  • Sami Lepisto's offense and power play quarterbacking work was much better than his overall defense. He desperately wanted a goal as he kept shooting. 3 of his shots resulted in good scoring chances.
  • Overall though, the Hershey Bear defenders played pretty well last night. Karl Alzner looked much better on defense than in Tuesday's game against Florida and Bryan Helmer played well.

The lowlights:

  • Penalties. I know the refs had their whistles out last night and the Islanders dove a couple of times, but the Caps need to stay out of the penalty box, particularly, with their very young and inexperienced defense playing right now.
  • The 2nd goal of the game. Sami Lepisto batted the puck out of the air and didn't catch it behind the net and then got hung out to dry by his teammates as he couldn't beat back a 4-1 charge by the Islanders that resulted in Trent Hunter's goal. Hey Caps, ever heard of back checking?
  • Michael Nylander continues to drive me crazy. He can't seem to find his playmaking groove that he had before he was injured. I've also said it before, but he doesn't seem to fit with Coach Boudreau's system.
  • David Steckel is struggling in the past couple of games. Not sure what's going on there, but I see him making mistakes more than I see him making good plays.

The weirdlights:

  • A goal cannot be scored off of a referee. The Islanders almost got a go ahead goal that was deflected off a referee and slid past a moving Brent Johnson. Well, it's not allowed. How often do you see that happen?
The Caps go back on the road and the road hasn't been very friendly to them this season so far. First up, Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow night.
Let's go Caps!

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Caps look ugly and lose to the Panthers 5-3

What an ugly boring excuse for a hockey game.  The Florida Panthers are now in 3rd place in the Southeast Division after getting two points from the Capitals.  They are a team that beats the Caps often even when they're languishing at the bottom of the SE.

The Caps showed zero energy last night.  I don't care that they're, battered, bruised and playing with an AHL defense, they should still play like the professional hockey players they're paid to be.   This team is starting to tick me off.  I'll give them the injuries, but not the energy level, particularly, considering those call ups should be playing with extra energy or they might not be here too long.

The highlights:
  • Hmm, can't really think of any.  Okay, one, Nicklas Backstrom netted the first goal and got an assist later.  He also was awarded the first star of the game.   It is delightful to watch his vision on the ice sometimes.  Last night was one of those nights.
The lowlights:
  • The AHL defense again.  The Caps are severely missing Mike Green's ability to get the puck out of the defensive zone.
  • Karl Alzner played his worst night with the big club.
  • David Steckel scored for Florida off of Alzner's skate.
  • The Caps spent way too much time in the defensive zone because they were incapable of clearing the puck across the blue line.
  • Jose Theodore didn't play well enough to keep the Caps in the game.  To give him slight credit, the defense in front of him stunk up the phone booth.  But, once again, he gave up three goals.  Last night that happened before the mid-mark of the game.
  • The offense didn't do much better and trying to make it up in the last 7 minutes of the game isn't going to get the job done. 
Ugh, ugh, ugh.

I hope to see something different tomorrow night when the New York Islanders visit.

Let's go Caps!

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