Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Caps need to learn how to pass again

In a 3-2 loss in overtime to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, the Caps demonstrated some awful passing and I'll call out Alex Ovechkin on that since his cross ice pass in front of Jose Theodore's net led to the Bruins first goal.  The Caps seem to continually make these really bad cross ice passes that end up being taken away by the opposition and it's starting to tick me off. Stop. It. Please.  Carry the puck up instead of turning it over.

Other random thoughts:
  • Tomas Fleischman had a strong game.  He cleared the puck out of the zone very effectively during the penalty kill and also set up Michael Nylander on the Caps second goal even with a Bruin tying up his skates with his stick.  
  • The Caps penalty kill, other than Flash's stellar play, is painful to watch.  Tom Poti please come back soon.  He should be back on Saturday against Detroit.
  • The first power play for the Caps ended with a pretty goal by Mike Green from Alexander Semin and Ovechkin after seemingly endless passing by the Caps.
  • I still don't understand what people see in Jeff Schultz other than he's 22 and can still develop.  He didn't play well in that game.  I watched him flub a couple of passes that ended up with the Caps losing the puck in the offensive zone.
  • Jose Theodore had another strong game in net.  How many times have I said that now?  After his earlier rough patch as a Capital when Brent Johnson was vying for the #1 job, I never thought I'd say that.  I hope he keeps up his consistent play of late.
  • Watching Alex Ovechkin lying motionless on the ice after crashing into the boards when Zdeno Chara hooked him made my heart stop.  Thankfully, he seems to be okay as he participated in the team scrimmage today.

Caps get a visit from the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday at the ridiculous time of 12:30 pm. I not much into going to hockey games that early but it is what it is.

Let's go Caps!

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Caps lose to Senators 3-2

I asked the Caps to bring their "A" game to Ottawa (see yesterday's blog post) and they failed to do that. In fact, they played about as bad as they did yesterday against the Islanders only the Senators came away with two points and the Caps got a big fat zero points.

The game had the same feel to it as the game at the New York Islanders. Lackluster, uninspired hockey for two out of three periods. The Caps actually put up a fight in the second as Sergei Fedorov and David Steckel scored. Then they let up when the game was still tied.

The PK units played horribly as the Senators scored all three of their goals on the power play, courtesy of Danny Heatley for two of them and Brendan Bell for the other. That one was the result of Alexander Semin committing a bone headed tripping penalty with under three minutes left in the game.

Jose Theodore, once again, deserves praise for his play in net because he was the best Cap on the ice again. The three goals scored against him were not easy saves.

The Caps get to rest during the upcoming All-Star break games this weekend, with the exception of Alex Ovechkin. Then, it's time for the second half of the season so I hope they come back from the break inspired.

Let's go Caps!

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Caps beat Isles 2-1 in an afternoon snoozer

Great teams, like the Detroit Red Wings, usually dominate cellar dwelling teams but not these Washington Capitals.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled the Caps managed to get two points courtesy of Alex Ovechkin's goals, but they really need to learn how to bring the same effort to every game.  It shouldn't matter where that opponent happens to be in the standings. The coach and the players say the same thing after each lackluster effort against a weaker team, but the message is not getting through and it's an important one.  Playing with a consistent level of effort is how teams advance through the grueling second season in hockey, the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Great players carry their teams on their back, at times, and so it was with the Great 8's heroic efforts today to put the puck into the net.  He was supported by the Russians, Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov, on the overtime goal and by Brooks Laich (he worked hard out there today) and Mike Green on his power play goal early in the first.  Ovie got another well deserved first star of the game.

The third star of the game went to Jose Theodore.  He played another strong game stopping 27 of 28 shots and surviving some unbelievable flurries of swirling Islanders and one crazy power play where the Islanders had some good short-handed chances.

The Caps owe thanks to three Islanders, in particular, for this win:
  • Jon Sim, the Capital killer, did not score.
  • Brendan Witt, the former Cap that didn't want to stay for the rebuild, made both those penalties where Ovie scored on the power play. 
  • If Yann Danis, the 3rd string goalie for the Islanders, was just a little bit better the Caps might not have gotten two points.  He was pretty good, even though he hasn't won a game for the Isles yet, and he stonewalled several Caps.  In fact, Fedorov was visibly frustrated when one of his shots didn't get past the young netminder.
The Caps owe thanks to the hockey gods that:
  • Their back-to-back penalties didn't end up with the Islanders scoring two goals.
  • Their inability to clear the defensive zone didn't kill them.
The Caps head to Ottawa for a back-to-back inaugural special against the Senators.

Bring your "A" game Caps (like you did against Boston on Saturday).

Let's go Caps!

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Caps beat Boston in a close 2-1 match

I'm watching the replay tonight instead of watching the game live as I was out to dinner with friends last night. I'm glad I had the opportunity to watch the replay so I could see why everyone thought John Erskine had a great game.  Erskine doesn't get a star very often and is usually the subject of intense invective from the fans on a frequent basis. Alexander Semin got the first star of the game with his beautiful game winning goal that shocked one of the league leading NHL net minders, Tim Thomas.

Random comments since I didn't see the original game:

  • John Erskine clearing the crease! Yes, that is what the Caps need on defense.  Last season in the playoffs, the Flyers kept running Cristobal Huet and it was irritating.  I'm still not convinced Erskine is worth his new $1.5M contract, but damn he's looked good since he's been back from having a concussion.
  • Alexander Semin's blast of a shot right past Thomas after making a couple of Boston defenders look silly was fun to watch.  Semin has some sick moves.
  • Karl Alzner clearing the puck out of the zone on that final Erskine penalty kill helped the Caps out tremendously.
  • Was Alex Ovechkin's hit on Dennis Wideman a kneeing?  I honestly can't tell after watching the replay?  The Boston announcers called it a hip check, but who knows.  Ovie's a big guy and when he throws that weight around at the speed he goes it's a tough cal
So, tomorrow Caps fans get treated to a 2:00 pm special against the New York Islanders on a day that is not a holiday for everyone including the other hockey fan that lives in my house. Yes, we're highly annoyed.  

Let's go Caps!

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Caps fans don't care to vote AO to all star b.s.

I am a Washington Capitals fan and have been since 1974 although the seriousness of my fandom has gone up and down over the years. Caps fans haven't had much to root for in many years.

My Caps fandom went into overdrive the year that the Caps acquired Alexander Ovechkin, the greatest hockey player in the NHL last year and one that I feel privileged to watch night after night.   There has never been a generational athlete like him in Washington sports.

I refused to vote in that all star voting charade because:
  • The Habs fan were using computer generated scripts to make sure their players got voted in as starters for the 100th anniversary of their hockey club.  The NHL supposedly fixed this (yeah right) by discounting those votes.  
  • And many other hockey fans sat at their computers voting time and time again for their favorite players.  I have better things to do than sit at my computer all day than voting in this joke of an all star game.
I am not the only Caps fan that feels that way and there are plenty of them that didn't vote. It wasn't because they didn't care enough to vote Ovie into the lineup.  Many of us regard the All Star game with utter disdain because it's a farce of a popularity contest and means nothing in relation to who are the best players in the NHL.  I can only hope the NHL is embarrassed by the fact that the reigning Most Valuable Player isn't in the starting lineup as a top 5 "All Star".

Here's my advice to those in charge at the NHL - change the process so it has some semblance of credibility if you want a real All Star game.

Let's go Caps!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A satisfying 6-3 win in Pittsburgh follows an ugly loss

After an utter debacle of a game in the form of a 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, the Washington Capitals come back to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in Mellon Arena stopping a 3-game losing game.  The only person worth talking about during the Edmonton game was John Erskine who looked highly motivated to be back in the game after missing six weeks due to a concussion. He played even hockey and was credited with 7 hits...and I was worried he might be tentative.  The rest of the team played lackluster hockey and forgot the lesson "crash the net" instead of broadcasting your goals to the goalie before you shoot them from 20 feet out.

The Pittsburgh game was a refreshing change of pace from what the Caps have shown on the ice during this losing streak.  But, I have to go on a mini tangent before talking about the highlights and the lowlights.  Can the media please stop blowing Alexander Semin's comments about Sydney Crosby completely out of context?  Why is it so hard to realize it's Crosby's style of play that Semin doesn't care for as he described liking how Patrick Kane played instead?  The only thing the media coverage accomplished was to have the Pittsburgh fan's boo Semin every time he got the puck so he played harder.  Maybe I should thank the media because I'm a Caps fan, but I'm really tired of this over sensationalism of any news story.

The highlights:
  • They beat Pittsburgh at Mellon Arena.  That's always a highlight.
  • Alex Ovechkin broke his 4 game scoring drought in stellar fashion getting 2 goals and 1 assist.  He jawed early and often with Evgeni Malkin and Sydney Crosby delivering some good hits and also getting hit by Malkin.  Ovie caused Malkin to get an offsides late in the 3rd period.  He also caused Matt Cooke to go off for a retaliation penalty after he pushed Ovie for hitting Crosby against the boards with a clean hit. Ovie gets booed every time he touches the puck in Pittsburgh and I think it fires him up.  He got the first star of the game.
  • The Pittsburgh fans also booed Alexander Semin every time he touched the puck so he played with fire, too.  His goal, a beauty set up by a pass across the front of the net from Sergei Fedorov, went in on the right side of the net past Marc Andre-Fleury.
  • 2nd star of the game went to Nicklas Backstrom who got 3 assists.
  • Tomas Fleischmann netted his 15th goal in an Ovechkin-esque way sliding on his stomach and poking the puck into goal with his stick.  
The lowlights:
  • The Caps power play, 2 for 6, last night looks pathetic a lot lately.  They can't keep the puck in the offensive zone.
  • Odd man rushes - they had way too many of them last night and are lucky Pittsburgh players didn't convert on them more often.
The Caps play the dominating Boston Bruins on Saturday.  Caps did beat them in December which means the Bruins will be stoked to play a good game.

Let's go Caps!

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Caps lose to Habs 5-4 with 22 seconds left

With 22 seconds left in a game, it's tough to swallow a loss that doesn't even make it to overtime to, at least, give the Caps 1 point. Sigh. Caps fans are spoiled, too, and two losses in a row stinks especially with a tough stretch of games coming up (Boston twice, Penguins and Detroit to name a few) over the next few weeks. They haven't lost two in a row since that horrible West coast road trip back before Thanksgiving. Oh, well, the Caps get a little dose of reality.

I didn't get to watch the game too closely as I was at a party (with a couple of other Capital fans) so I'll skip the highlights and lowlights for today. It was nice to see Alexander Semin find his scoring touch again as he got 2 goals and the 3rd star of the game. Michael Nylander scored one of the flukiest goals I've ever seen with a redirected puck from Alex Ovechkin hitting his skate and going into the net. Tomas Fleischmann also found the back of the net on a pretty pass from Matt Bradley.

The defense and goaltending, on the other hand, were atrocious. Poor Milan Jurcina and Karl Alzner both failed on the play that ended in the game winning goal for Montreal. Alzner didn't clear the puck out of the zone, Jurcina lost the puck in his skates and didn't check Kostitsyn so he scored and Brent Johnson didn't make a save when he absolutely had to. Johnson hasn't looked as good as he did prior to getting injured. Let's hope it's not a trend.

The Caps face the Edmonton Oilers at the phone booth tomorrow night. I hope they're motivated.

Let's go Caps!

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lackluster Caps lose 3-0 to Blue Jackets

Steve Mason, the rookie net minder for the Columbus Blue Jackets and league leader in GAA and save percentage blanked the Capitals last night in a 3-0 lost just like he did in their prior meeting.   He was awarded the first star of the game and stopped 45 shots.  It felt like watching the Caps ineffectively throwing a million shots at Scott Nittymaki against the Flyers in their 7-1 loss.

The Caps need to figure out a way to get the puck past strong goalies.  Last night, the Caps couldn't get a rebound or garbage goal because there was never anyone in position to capitalize on a rebound or to crash the net.  

The highlights:

  • I thought David Steckel had a  good night. He hit well, used his body effectively and won 67% of his faceoffs.  He did have 2 giveaways but overall I noticed him a lot and in a good way.
  • Mike Green played 31:50 of even hockey with 4 takeaways and also had an effective game.
  • And, that's about it for the highlights.
The lowlights:

  • The line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin played totally ineffective hockey and were too cute, at times.  Coach Boudreau replaced Semin with Viktor Kozlov on that line later in the game, thankfully. 
  • Ovie gave his all on a couple of really strong shots on net, but Mason was too good. 
  • Alexander Semin looked overall horrible last night.  For whatever reason, he seems to have forgotten how to shoot the puck.  I expect him to get his game on track, but last night was a stinker.
  • The defense struggled all night, including top rookie, Karl Alzner, and Milan Jurcina. Jurcina's bobbled pass play resulted in R.J. Umberger's first goal.
  • It was nice to see Sergei Fedorov and Tomas Fleischmann on the ice again, but neither contributed much although Fleischmann had 3 takeaways.  It's clear the lines need to regain their chemistry with the additions of the returning players.
The Caps headed to Montreal last night for a rematch against the Habs.  If the Caps win, Bruce Boudreau coaches the joke that is known as the NHL All-star game.  If they lose, Guy Carbonneau goes.  I only care about the the Caps getting 2 points so...

Let's go Caps!

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Caps survive shootout to get 2 points against Philly

The Caps beat the Flyers in a shootout, a rare enough occurrence over the past 3 years (7-17 record), but they're 2-2 this year.  Jose Theodore saved the day on this one stopping Flyers Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.  Viktor Kozlov's pretty back and forth with the puck and the shot that went past Marty Biron sealed the win.  

I had a reader wondering if it's difficult for me to give kudos to Theodore since I didn't like him when he played in Colorado and didn't want him on the Caps (not that GMGM had any choice at the time). The answer to that is no.  I want him to be successful because he's a Cap now and if he's solid the Caps have a much better chance at winning when he's in net, particularly, in front of a still developing blue-line.

The Caps still seem to make Marty Biron look like a perennial Vezina winner.  And, they certainly didn't own that game by a long shot.  The Flyers give them trouble for whatever reason and I hate that.

The highlights:
  • 1st star Jose Theodore received a standing ovation for standing on his head and blocking Sbisa Luca's shot.  He survived another intense barrage of shots in the first and survived some strong chances during the Flyers 4 power power plays. It was his best game as a Cap.
  • 2nd star Viktor Kozlov had an assist on the Backstrom goal and was money on the shootout like he frequently is.
  • The Nicklas Backstrom goal off the back of the net swing around pass by Alexander Semin 15 seconds into the power play rocked.  The Caps do better when they lead first.
  • Milan Jurcina looks so much better this season than last.  It's fun to watch him throw his body around.  Last night, I enjoyed watching his 3 hits and 2 takeaways in 21:05 while he chased people down and out muscled them.  Great game Milan.
  • Shaone Morrisonn had one of his better game this season, too.  He played angry and I liked that, particularly, when he pushed Scott Hartnell out of the crease.  He was credited with 3 hits.
  • Karl Alzner continued his smart play, except for one - see below in lowlights, clearing Flyers out of the crease.  He had 1 hit, 1 takeaway but 2 giveaways in 21:59 of play.
  • Chris Clark continue to agitate until Alex Ovechkin almost took his head off trying to hit Jeff Carter.  Ovie, geez, please don't kill your captain. 
  • The Caps are 18-1-1 at home. 
The lowlights:
  • Marty Biron stood on his head under a hailstorm of shots from the line of Eric Fehr, Chris Clark and David Steckel.  Fehr needs to pot one in and soon. 
  • I love Alex Ovechkin and feel privileged to watch him night in and night out, but he's horrible on the shootout and missed again last night.  I'm not sure why Coach Boudreau continues to put him in as a shooter.
  • Michael Nylander couldn't get a Semin rebound over the sliding defenseman Ossi Vaanenen.  Nylander, 3 giveaways, also got an untimely hooking penalty that gave Brandon Coburn the opportunity to tie the score early in the 3rd period and Karl Alzner missed his coverage on that play.
  • Jeff Schultz  played even hockey but had 3 giveaways and seemed incapable, at times, of keeping the puck in the offensive zone.  Although I did see him clear the puck out of the zone on the power play.
A rare visit to the phone booth by the Columbus Blue Jackets is set for Friday.  I'm looking forward to it, but was hoping to see Rick Nash and he's apparently day-to-day.  He kills my EA hockey team so I'd like to see him person.  

Let's go Caps!

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Caps beat Ranger 2-1 and Semin fights

The Caps played a close defensive game against the New York Rangers at the phone booth on Saturday and came away with 2 points courtesy of Alex Ovechkin's short-handed game winning goal at 19:28 in the 2nd period.  And, it a beauty as he faked out Rangers defenseman Wade Redden and then used him as a screen to shoot the puck past goalie Steven Valiquette who filled in for a sick Richard Lundqvist.

The biggest highlight of the game was Alexander Semin fighting Marc Staal.  Right before the fight, Semin got pushed into the net and got chippy with Staal giving him what looked like a face wash.  Staal proceeded to take off Semin's jersey as it wasn't tied down like it's supposed to be. He said, read more in Tarik's blog, that he tripped over Semin's equipment and fell to the ice. Semin then proceeded to slap on him until the referees stopped him.  He got a game misconduct for not having his jersey strapped down.

That fight was, without a doubt, the most hysterical fight I've ever seen in hockey and I've been watching hockey for a long time.  To give Semin credit he didn't back down from the defender Staal and he got the better of him.  Still, he should leave the fighting to Donald Brashear or learn how to fight from Brash. 

The highlights:
  • The Semin fight was highlight #1.
  • Ovie's short-handed goal and overall play earned him another first star of the game.  He played 27:23 with 1 point, 9 shots on goal, 1 takeaway, 3 hits and 2:15 of short-handed play.  The funniest Ovie moment of the game came right after one of his missed shots on goals.  They put him on the Jumbotron as he was mouthing "mother fucker".  Clearly, he like using English swear words.
  • David Steckel, second star of the game, had 1 assist on Ovie's goal, 3 shots, 2 takeaways and a 70% faceoff win percentage. 
  • Jose Theodore faced 22 shots and only let in 1.  He's on a streak of effective goaltending.
  • Alexander Semin's pass right across the front of the net onto Mike Green's tape was pretty and Green capitalized on it for his 10th goal of the season and the first of that game.  Green played +1 hockey for 24:21.
  • The defense overall played an effective game as the Rangers only got 1 goal compared to going down 4-0 at Madison Square Garden a couple of weeks ago before coming back to win that game.
  • Chris Clark continued agitating on the ice and, boy, do the Caps need that now and, particularly, in the playoffs.
The lowlights:

  • Having to put up with New York Rangers fans where I sat.  They weren't too obnoxious and their chants were overcome by Caps fans chants of "Rangers suck", but I'll be happier when there are no visiting fans at Caps games.  That won't happen, but I like to dream.
The Philadelphia Flyers visit the phone booth tomorrow night where the Caps are 17-1-1. Let's hope they can get some revenge for the 7-1 debacle in Philly on 12/20.  That is the Caps only loss in 12 games.

Let's go Caps!

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Caps win a sloppy 7-4 game against Lightning

The Caps played a sloppy game last night and came away with 2 points against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Brent Johnson, in net for the Caps, probably wishes he had 1 or 2 of those goals back and I can guarantee you that Mike Smith, the Lightning's goalie, wishes he had several of the Caps goals back, particularly, the one where he was out of the net and Boyd Gordon took advantage of the puck that landed on his stick right in front of the empty net.

The highlights:
  • The Caps got seven goals from seven different players.  That's some nice secondary scoring by the 3rd and 4th line players and the defense.
  • Sean Collins played a stint in the ECHL last year and last night he potted his first NHL goal on a pass from Alex Ovechkin.  It dribbled past Mike Smith.
  • David Steckel got the 2nd goal of the first period off a beautiful pass from Matt Bradley.  The puck landed perfectly on his stick and he shoved into the net.  Bradley was awarded the first star of the game for an overall inspired performance.  Brads scored the 4th goal in the second period.
  • Boyd Gordon is playing great hockey.  His between the legs pass back to Bradley made the 4th goal happen.  And, he also quickly capitalized on Mike Smith's mistake to get the 5th goal of the game in the 3rd period.
  • Chris Clark appears to be back in good form. He's such an agitator out there and he finally scored for the first time since November 2007.  Clarkie got the 2nd star of the game.
  • Mike Green, in addition to, getting his 9th goal of the season from a perfectly placed pass by Ovie, played good defense last night.  He played +2 hockey although he did have 5 giveaways.  Ouch.  Regardless, he stopped a Steve Stamkos goal and twice made great plays knocking pucks off Lightning sticks on players streaking towards Johnson.  The second time was against Adam Hall and the refs awarded him a penalty shot on a bogus call.  Luckily, Johnson made the save.
  • Alex Ovechkin got the 7th goal of the game by using Steve Eminger as a screen.  He had two assists and one goal for the night.
The lowlights:
  • Alex Ovechkin's hit on Jamie Heward had him out motionless on the ice for several minutes.  Apparently, Heward has a concussion and is going to be okay.  I like Heward. After viewing the hit several times, it appears to be an unfortunate accident where Jamie was in an awkward position with his head down when Ovie hit him.  Of course, there are hockey fans all over the place looking for Ovie to be suspended, but I hope that doesn't happen.  The Lightning didn't retaliate against Ovie so they didn't think that hit was that bad either.  
  • After going up 3-0 in the first, the Caps, once again, played a bad second period. The Lightning scored 2 goals within the first 2:37 of the second period.  On the second one, Michael Nylander spun around and lost the puck.  Ryan Malone capitalized on that one.  
  • Apparently, Brent Johnson thought icing was being called and Sean Collins let up on the play that ended with Vincent LeCavalier getting the 3rd Lightning goal from Vaclav Propsal to end the second period at 4-3.  
  • The Caps still need to play with intensity for 60 minutes, but I'm happy with the two points and the 10 wins in 11 games.
The New York Rangers visit the phone booth tomorrow night and I'm looking forward to going to that game. They'll be ready for revenge after the Caps beat them 5-4 at Madison Square Garden. Caps are 4 points ahead of the Rangers in the Eastern conference.  Let's make it 6 points.

Let's go Caps!

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