Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays are two ways to send along good wishes and cover just about everybody’s religious beliefs. For the Christians it’s “Merry Christmas,” for the Jews it’s “Happy Hanukkah,” and for Hockey Fans it’s “Ovechkin Scores!”
The Caps won all three of their games this Christmas week, some in more dramatic fashion than others. The Caps climbed back to a 10-point lead in the Southeast and climbed to second place in the Eastern Conference.
Alex Semin is still out due to injury, and now so is Brent Johnson, but the Caps did get see the return of Chris Clark, Mike Green, and Jeff Schultz.
This week started off in Madison Square Garden where the Caps squared off against the New York Rangers in a game that Smokin’ Al Koken dubbed the “Miracle on 34th Street.”
12/23/08 @ New York Rangers vs. The Four Goal Deficit – Shaone Morrison may have been celebrating his 26th birthday, but it quickly looked like that was going to be all the celebrating the Caps were going to get to do on this Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Jose Theodore gave up three goals before the game was even 12 minutes old, Brent Johnson came in for the last half of the first period but was not healthy enough to finish the game. Theodore returned in the second and gave up a fourth goal and the Rangers looked to be on their way to a rout of the Washington Capitals.
I’ll admit; I was tempted to change the channel. I’m sure many Caps fans did. Then it happened; it was just a small spark touched off by Alex Ovechkin who had had just about enough of all this scoring by the Rangers. Alex tallied just over the halfway mark of the game (12:38 in the second) and like fire through a dry Christmas tree the Caps burned through the Rangers for three goals in the third, tying the game at four-apiece.
I am the Alex and the Omega – Alex Ovechkin rallied his troops by getting the Caps first goal of the night. He also scored the game tying goal which propelled the teams into overtime.
Go Shaone, it’s your birthday… – You couldn’t script a better ending to this game than to have the birthday boy score the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Caps their first win at MSG since 2004. Shaone Morrison, who wears 26 for the Caps was celebrating his 26th birthday and had not scored a goal since February 26th.
12/26/08 vs. Buffalo – Verizon Center was packed on this Friday after Christmas to watch the Washington Capitals welcome the Buffalo Sabres. The Caps faithful did not leave disappointed.
The Caps would go on to win by a score of 3-2, and it’s no surprise that Alex Ovechkin was again the difference-maker.
Another one for the highlight reel – Have you ever seen those “stupid videos” where someone catches a shark? They have the shark laying on the deck and it looks dead…until they reach their hand into it’s mouth. That’s what this goal reminded me of.
Ovechkin takes the puck from his own zone, skates past Toni Lydman in neutral ice, passes the puck between the legs of Henrik Tallinder, and fires off the wrist shot as he loses his balance and slides into the net-minder.
If you haven’t seen the goal, you can check it out here.( http://capitals.nhl.tv/team/console.jsp?hlg=20082009,2,509&event=WSH443 ) It’s the kind of goal legends are made of.
Go cry on someone else’s shoulder, wouldya? – Anyone that watches the Caps knows that they rarely get away with much as far as penalties are concerned. Their opponents however seem to have the luxury of not getting called for anything. I will cite the Alex Semin injury as a prime example. Semin is cross-checked, the ref is standing right there, but doesn’t make a call. When questioned about the “no-call” he claims Semin was simply “taking a dive.” When he’s challenged on that, he doles out a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct versus the Caps.
So, when Derek Roy (center for the Buffalo Sabres) says things like “There were a lot of calls that could have gone our way, but they didn’t, and I don’t know why. Ovechkin gets a little hook on him and it’s a penalty. I don’t know if it’s just our team, but sometimes the elite players seem to get more leeway than the other players.” I don’t have a lot of sympathy for him.
I guess Mr. Roy forgot that he was guilty of a hand pass right before Thomas Vanek’s power play goal (13:47 in the 3rd), an infraction that would have nullified the tally if detected and properly called.
12/28/08 vs. Toronto – On the night when the Caps honored Mike Gartner by retiring his number, the Caps players all came out for warm-ups in white #11 jerseys. During the actual game, the Caps wore their white “away” jerseys even though they were skating on home ice.
Even though the Caps were out shooting the Leafs, and were clearly playing better hockey, the score at the end of the first period was 1-0 in favor of the Leafs. The Caps knew that if they just kept the pressure up it would pay off, and it did. Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin both scored two goals apiece to give the Caps a 4-1 victory over their former coach Ron Wilson and his Maple Leafs.
I Laich it a lot – Brooks Laich was a 20 goal scorer last season. He has already reached 10 goals this year (24 games ahead of his pace from last season). He earned his third “Hard Hat” honor from his teammates last night for his workman-like performance versus the Leafs.
More Good News – The Caps got healthier still as they saw the return of Mike Green and Jeff Schultz for this game. With the Caps doing so well, it’s hard to remember how banged up they are. They still have seven players on their injury list including Semin, Federov, Poti, Erskine, Pothier, Fleischmann and Johnson!
Beware the Phonebooth – The Caps are an amazing 15-1-1 at home. They have the best home-ice record in the Eastern Conference, and the second best home-ice record in the league (only behind the San Jose Sharks who are 18-0-2).
The Wrap-up – It was a heckuva week for Alex Ovechkin as he scored five goals in three games. It was also a good week for Jose Theodore. After giving up a combined seven goals between the third period versus the Flyers, and the first period versus the Rangers, Theo only allowed 4 goals in the subsequent eight periods. To give you an idea, in those aforementioned two periods (Philly and N.Y.), Theo had a save percentage of 0.700. In the eight periods since, he has a save percentage of 0.941.
Coming Up – The Caps wrap up 2008 with a rematch versus the Sabres, and start the New Year at home versus the Lightning and the Rangers. For those of you with the careful eye, the Caps are in fact facing two of the three opponents they faced last week. Obviously, Buffalo is going to feel like they have something to prove, since they feel like they got the short end of the penalty stick last week, but New York is coming to Verizon knowing that they cannot take the Caps for granted…even with a four-goal lead.
Washington must be driving the Vegas bookies crazy as you can never predict what they are going to do. If I had to pick, I’d say the Caps win against Buffalo on the road, and the Rangers at home, but drop the game against Tampa for no other reason than that’s the game they were supposed to win.
It’s the one thing you can say about the Caps…they are never boring.