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  • Caps Recap 10/5/09

    It’s Monday, it’s a new Hockey season, that means it’s time to break out the Caps Recap!

    The Caps had two games last week facing the Northeast Division Champion Boston Bruins in their season opener followed up by the familiar face of Ron Wilson and his Toronto Maple Leafs in their home opener. The Caps came out of the gate swinging scoring 10 goals in their first two games. Alex Ovechkin having three goals in his first two games is hardly a surprise, but for him to be tied with Brooks Laich certainly may raise some eyebrows.

    The race for the cup starts here, so lets get to some recapping! Read the rest of this entry »

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    Caps Continue To Impress

    Turning point…

    Alex Ovechkin scored just over a minute into the game. While the Toronto Maple Leafs may have had 59 minutes to get back into the game – they never did. The Capitals were able to capitalize on the home crowd energy right from the start, and their three unanswered first period goals were the difference in the 6-4 win. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Caps Recap 2/23/09

    On the face of things, the Capitals record of 2-1-0 for the week seems pretty good. However, when you consider that the Caps one loss came at the hand of their weakest opponent for the week, it really makes for some head scratching.


    Any other time you might see a line-up involving the Canadiens, Avalanche and Penguins as a tough stretch of opponents. Not only were they slumping, but they were playing the Caps in Chinatown, where the Caps have only lost four times this season.


    Colorado was the only team the Caps faced this week that had lost more games than they’d won (28-31-1), yet Colorado looked like the team bound for the playoffs while the Caps skated around like they were still looking for the answer. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Caps Recap 2/16/09

    It’s not easy to outshine a player such as Alex Ovechkin; but for this past weekend, Mike Green managed to do just that. Even though Green’s scoring run ended with eight games, he set a new league record for consecutive games with a goal scored by a defenseman. His eight game goal scoring streak was the longest such consecutive streak since the ’98-’99 season when Miroslav Satan and Teemu Selanne both had eight game runs.


    Ovechkin may be knocking off records held by previous Caps left and right, but Green’s achievement is one that even the Great-Eight doesn’t have yet. Green’s eight game goal scoring streak is the longest by a Capital since ’86-’87 when Mike Gartner went on a nine-game goal-scoring run. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Caps Recap 2/2/09

    The Washington Capitals came out of the All-Star break to face two of the top teams in the league in the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Redwings. They also had a match-up against the Ottawa Senators who had beaten them in their two previous meetings.


    The Caps returned to form as they went 2-0-1 last week, netting 5 out of a possible 6 points.


    The Caps are still where we left them prior to the All-Star break ranked 1st in the Southeast division (now with a 13-point lead), ranked 2nd in the Eastern Conference (now with only a 1-point lead), and still ranked fourth overall in the league (also with only a 1-point lead).


    The team nipping at their heels in the conference, and the league is the Caps next opponent; the New Jersey Devils. The Devils will be the Caps third opponent in four days.


    Let’s get to some recapping.


    1/27/09 – @ Boston – In a game that seemed like a chess match, these two heavyweights of the Eastern conference squared off for the second time in 11 days. The Caps had won their previous meeting at Verizon Center by a score of 2-1. This game started with the Caps leading 2-1 after the first period. The Bruins were able to tie the game up in the second period, and goaltending expedition by Jose Theodore and Tim Thomas in the third period carried the game into overtime with both teams tied at two. In the end, a costly penalty put the Capitals 23rd ranked penalty killers into a 4-on-3 situation and lead to the Bruins game winning goal.


    Losing in the worst way – The Bruins game winner in overtime came when Shaone Morrison attempted to disrupt a pass in front of the net, and had the puck ricochet off his skate past Theodore. This is the second time I’ve seen this happen to Morrison this season. Morrison was in good position; it was just an unlucky bounce.


    1/31/09 – vs. Detroit – The Washington Capitals have turned Verizon Center into the place that no one wants to play. Their sell-out crowds at Verizon have only seen four Capitals losses this season. Even the defending Stanley Cup Champion Redwings couldn’t overcome the Red-Out at Verizon as they fell 4-2 to their ungracious hosts.


    Call ‘em out, Bruce – After watching the Redwings tie the game near the end of the second period, thanks to a bone-headed and unnecessary penalty by Alex Semin, Coach Boudreau had some choice words for his two superstars Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s response was immediate as he came out and scored two goals in the third period to give the Capitals the 4-2 win over Detroit.


    How many Caps can you fit into one penalty box? – To show you how much the NHL loves their dramatic finishes, I’ll need to paint you a bit of a picture. The Caps are up by two goals. Detroit has pulled their goalie with two minutes left to get the extra attacker and are skating 6-on-5. Victor Kozlov is given a questionable hooking penalty giving the Redwings a 6-on-4 advantage.


    The refs weren’t finished yet; 13 seconds later, Brooks Laich has the puck hit high on the glass and bounce over, but the refs call him for delay of game. Laich takes a seat next to Kozlov; Detroit replaces their goalie and now skate 5-on-3 with a minute-and-a-half left to go. The refs still weren’t done. Tom Poti, while clearing the puck, hit an attacker’s stick and the puck flew up over the glass. He was forced to stand in the box with Kozlov and Laich with a little less than a minute to go, knowing that the Redwings could be on the power-play for both the game tying, and game winning goals.


    Detroit failed to score, but I gotta tell you, a game where your team is leading by two goals with less than two minutes to go, should not be so nerve racking!


    2/1/09 – vs. Ottawa – It had been less than 24 hours since the Caps wrapped up their game versus the Bruins. During that time, the ice had been converted to a basketball court for the Wizards, and returned to an ice surface for the Capitals as they prepared to face Ottawa. This was the Caps fourth meeting with the Senators, and Ottawa had won the previous two matchups. Ottawa scored the game’s first goal, early in the first period, but it would be the last time they would lead in the game. Washington poured it on getting four straight goals before Ottawa was able to score their second. By the end of the second period, the Caps had a comfortable four-goal lead, and Alex Ovechkin had scored a hat trick. Ottawa was able to score two more goals in the third, but it was really too little, too late. The Caps went on to win 7-4.


    Five Goals in 24-hours – Alex’s two goal performance in the third period versus Detroit, plus his hat trick in the first and second periods versus Ottawa gave him a grand total of 36 goals for the season. I would be willing to bet if you asked people who hadn’t seen the game versus Ottawa to guess who had the hat trick in that game, they would all guess Ovechkin first.


    The Wrap up – Getting 5-out-of-6 points, considering the competition last week, is a great job by the Caps. They faced two of the top three teams last week and got three points for their efforts. A casual observer may see the Caps lose to some teams that they shouldn’t, but the more trained eye will notice that the Caps seem to play their best when they are facing the best.


    Looking forward – The Caps start this week tomorrow night in New Jersey as they try and fend off the Devils. The Caps need a win over New Jersey to keep their position in the conference standings. After that they get to come back home to welcome the Kings, and the Panthers. The Caps are the healthiest they’ve been since November but need to be careful this week. As noted in the wrap-up, the Caps are notorious for losing to teams they should beat, and L.A and Florida certainly fit that description.

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    Caps Recap 1/20/09

    I want to start off by apologizing for the tardiness of my blog/article. As you know yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. day, but it was also my birthday, so I took the day off.


    Ordinarily I would tell you about the three games from last week, but I watched yesterday’s matinee game versus the Islanders, and feel compelled to discuss it here as well.


    Whenever people use the word “elevate” they typically mean “to raise up,” but as we all know, an “elevator” goes in both directions. It would seem to be this type of “elevator action” that seems to best describe the way the Capitals play their opponents.


    I present you with the last two games the Capitals played; versus Boston, and then versus the New York Islanders. The Boston Bruins are tied for first in the league. The New York Islanders are currently the league’s worst team. The Bruins currently have 71 points, the Islanders have 29.


    The Capitals faced both teams within three days, and beat both teams by the same score of 2-1. Now for those who only look at the score, you might dismiss a win as a win, but for those of us who watched the games, we know that they were completely different Capitals teams that faced those two opponents.


    For everything the Capitals did right in pulling out a win versus the Bruins, they looked absolutely awful versus the Islanders. In the Bruins game, the Capitals played well enough to be (slightly) better than the best the league has to offer, but then they turned around and played almost as bad as the worst the league had to offer.


    Now don’t get me wrong. I love a Caps win, and it made for a much more pleasant birthday than the one Coach Boudreau had last week, but you hate to see a team than is legitimately fourth in the league, second in their conference and first in their division allow themselves to be carried into overtime by a team that they should have dominated in every category.


    As we go into the All-Star break, the Capitals have only one more opponent, and they face them tonight in Ottawa. Here’s how the Caps have done since last week.


    A rough start – The Capitals started off last week facing the weakest of their three opponents (for that week) in the Edmonton Oilers and lost their third straight game. Washington outshot Edmonton 36-23, but still lost by a score of 5-2. It certainly didn’t help their cause by giving the Oilers a three goal lead that they would never relinquish.


    Way to recover – The media did their best to hype up some animosity between Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malken. The Penguins whimpered and whined about Ovechkin taking “cheap shots” on their star playmakers, but ultimately lost the eighth of their last ten games as they fell to the Caps 6-3.


    The difference between opponents – By contrast, the Boston Bruins had nothing but good things to say about Alex Ovechkin prior to their game versus the Capitals. I guess it’s different when you’ve won eight of your last ten; you don’t have to find someone to blame for losing. The Bruins did lose to the Caps 2-1 in a game that kept you on the edge of your seat. Boston scored first in what can best be described as a chess match between the two heavyweight opponents, but would only hold their lead for :70 seconds as Mike Green scored one for the good guys.


    Maybe if I were really drunk – The Caps knocked off the Islanders, but they did it ugly. Really ugly. The Caps looked like they might just roll over the Isles, when Alex Ovechkin hit the back of the net on the one-timer, but after that it seemed like the Caps just played sloppy. It was Alex Ovechkin who flipped the puck up over the glass on the Penalty kill that gave New York their two-man advantage and lead to the game-tying goal in the third, but he would atone for that miscue by scoring on the power-play in a game that should never have gone into overtime.


    The Wrap up – After going on a three game losing skid, the Caps have now won their last three games. They still have not lost four-in-a-row under Coach Boudreau. They have retained all of the same positions from last week (4th in the league, 2nd in the East, 1st in the Southeast) but have gained 3-points on Boston (cutting their lead in the East to 8-points) and have gained in the Southeast now holding a 13 point lead over Florida who has overtaken Carolina by one point.


    Coming up – The Caps face Ottawa tonight and that will be the last game prior to the All-Star Break. If the Caps win tonight, they have a chance to gain another two points off of Boston when they face them immediately after the All-Star game next week.


    They will need all the points they can get tonight as they might find points a little more scarce next week when they face the Bruins, Red Wings, and Rangers.


    Tonight’s game versus Ottawa will be nationally televised on Versus, and should be a good one for the Caps, but they will certainly need to step up their game from the way they played yesterday.

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    Caps Recap 1/5/09

    Happy New Year to all, and especially so for fans of what has rapidly become Washington’s favorite sports franchises; the Washington Capitals.


    The Caps had a great week last week going 3-0-0 against their opponents, gaining six valuable points, improving their hold on second place in the Eastern Conference by  5 points, and proving their team has what it takes to be a playoff contender with great repeat performances against Buffalo and the New York Rangers.


    The Caps are now on a six game winning streak and have won 11 of their last 12. Their current season record is now 26-11-3 and their home record is a spectacular 17-1-1. The Caps 26-11-3 record qualifies as the best in team history after 40 games (previous best: 25-11-4 in the ’85-’86 season).


    The Caps did see the return of Brent Johnson, Donald Brashear and Alex Semin this week but can still attribute a lot of their recent winning ways to the great goaltending of Jose Theodore and the continued playmaking abilities of one Alex Ovechkin. The Great 8 has now scored a goal in eight consecutive home games.


    Before we get to the recapping I would like to take a moment to say “WTF??!!” to the NHL All-Star balloting process. How in the word do Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malken get 1.2 million votes a piece and the reigning league MVP and number two scorer in the league not get even half a million?


    Really NHL? You seem to get some many other things right (centralized replay on questionable goals, uniformed web-sites for each team, great statistical access for even the casual fan); how do you screw up the NHL equivalent of the NFL Pro-Bowl by giving fans the only say in the balloting process?


    Sure Alex is in the game, but snubbing him from the starting line for four Canadiens and two Penguins only shows the farce of fan balloting.


    I’m not through with you on this, NHL. Let’s get to some recapping.


    12/30/08 @ Buffalo – The Caps travelled to Buffalo to face the Sabres for the second time in four days. Buffalo had a history of not being a gracious host to Washington, but the Caps managed to pull out a win for only the third time in the past 10 visits.


    Look who’s scoring now – After scoring a spectacular goal on Buffalo in their previous match-up, Alex Ovechkin didn’t notch so much as an assist in this one. If you were to look strictly at the score-card you might think he didn’t play at all. Washington’s four goals came from Brooks Laich (his 11th of the season), Chris Bourque (the first of his career), Nicklas Backstrom (on the power-play) and Boyd Gordon (on the empty net).


    That’s Ruff – Sabres’ Coach Lindy Ruff had this to say after the game: “If Jochen Hecht and Derek Roy and those kinds of guys aren’t our best players, you don’t have any chance of winning. We’ll take them out of the lineup. Some of them will come out, and that’s not an idle threat, either. You still have to put the work in, and I don’t think we did.” Yeah, he was a little upset.


    1/1/09 vs. Tampa Bay – The Caps welcomed back Brent Johnson from the injured list and helped him win by outscoring Tampa at every turn. The Caps jumped out to a three goal lead in the first period, but saw that lead diminish in the second when the Lightning scored two goals. On two occasions the Caps responded to a Lightning goal within 15 seconds with a goal of their own and went on to win by a final score of 7-4.


    Who hasn’t scored yet? – The Caps saw more goals from players not known for their scoring prowess. Sean Collins scored his first ever NHL goal, and Captain Chris Clark scored his first of the season, but the Caps also saw goals from David Steckel, Matt Bradley, and Boyd Gordon (the other goals came compliments of Mike Green, and some guy named Alex—I think he’s in the All Star game)


    Century milestones – Coach Boudreau was coaching his 100th game and got a win; Mike Green was playing in his 200th career game and scored a goal.


    1/3/09 vs. New York Rangers – In their previous meeting the Rangers jumped out to a four goal lead, only to see the Caps come back and beat them in overtime 5-4. This time the Caps were on their own home ice, and you had to imagine the Rangers were looking for payback. Jose Theodore showed that he still had the confidence that the Rangers had given him for Christmas as he stopped 30 of 31 shots to help the Caps to a 2-1 victory.


    Thank god he’s better with a stick than he is with his hands – Alex Semin was involved in the first fight of his NHL career and I laughed so hard I had to watch it three times. Do you remember the scene from “A Christmas Story” where Ralphie beats up on the bully?


    That’s what this looked like as Semin took Marc Staal down to the ice and began flailing on him with both hands. Kinda like you’d imagine someone beating on bongo drums. Semin was ultimately given a Game Misconduct (which is the equivalent of an ejection), not for the ferocity of the fight (which I think even Staal laughed at a little bit) but because he didn’t have his jersey properly tied down.


    The Wrap-Up – You can’t be unhappy with how the Caps are playing. They have given up 14 goals in their last six games, but have outscored their opponents by a margin of 25-14 during that period. They are seeing more scoring from their supporting players as well as their star talent. They still have looked a little confused at times on the back-check, and occasionally in transition through neutral ice, but when they get into the attacking zone, they are taking shots.


    Boudreau’s offense is high pressure as it calls for players to look for the shot first, and cycle if the shot isn’t there. This wears down defenders and eventually the net-minder. They have shown two styles of offensive creation where the attacker will hold up at the point, and look for the open man, or they will dump the puck in and play the forecheck to try and get the cycle going in the corner. These styles have both proven hard to defend against, especially with the Caps style of intuitive passing that put’s the puck where the attacker is going to be, not where he currently is.


    Coming up – The Caps have three games this week, but it isn’t going to be easy. Thankfully two of the games will be at Verizon where the Caps play extremely well, but they also play back to back games Friday and Saturday night with one opponent at home and another on the road.


    Their first opponent comes tomorrow night at Verizon against Philadelphia, who is currently tied for third in the Eastern Conference; The Caps started their six game winning streak after a 7-1 loss in Philly.


    Next the Caps welcome the Blue Jackets on Friday who are one of the only two teams to have shut the Caps out this year when they beat ‘em 3-0 back in November. The important stat here is that Columbus is 11-6-1 at home (where they were when they beat the Caps), but 7-11-3 on the road. Meanwhile the Caps are currently 17-1-1 at Verizon, so this should be a good game.


    Less than 24 hours after the Columbus game the Caps travel to Montreal where they face the other team tied for third in the Eastern Conference; the Canadiens. The Caps won their last meeting with the Canadiens back on December 13 (2-1). The similarities are curious as the Caps played them in Montreal, also less than 24 hours after playing another team.


    This week will be a good test of where the Caps are at as they seem to be playing strong but still have room for some slight improvement.

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    Caps Recap 12/22/08

    It must be Monday, time for another Caps Recap.


    The Washington Capitals played only three games last week and went 2-1-0, giving them a record of 20-11-3 for the season. They are currently leading the Southeast division by six points, and are tied for third in the Eastern Conference.


    The Caps saw the return of Jose Theodore, but lost Alex Semin to the injury list this week. Let’s get to the games.


    @ The Islanders, 12/16/08 – The Caps jumped out to an early lead in this one, and were leading 4-2 at the end of the second period only to watch their lead dissolve in the third as New York tied the game with 2:13 left in regulation. Alex Ovechkin saved the game with 10.7 seconds left until the shootout when he ripped a shot from the top of the face-off circles past Joey MacDonald for the game winner.


    It was a good run – Tuesday’s game vs. the Islanders was the first time in four games that the Caps allowed more than a single goal by their opponent.


    Setting the bar high early – In only his fourth year, Alex Ovechkin has toppled a franchise record for most career overtime goals. His sixth career overtime goal came on Tuesday night and put him ahead of Peter Bondra and Kelly Miller for the franchise record.


    Vs. St. Louis, 12/18/08 – The Blues came into Verizon Center as the only team never to have faced the Bruce Boudreau-led Capitals. The Caps earned their 20th win of the season making them the fifth team in the league to reach 20 wins this season.


    If you look closely, you can tell he’s a rookie – If it weren’t for the plain white hockey mask, you’d be hard pressed to believe that Simeon Varlamov was a rookie goaltender as he stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced. He made several highlight reel saves and always seemed to be in good position. His only real flaw of the night was when he forgot about the trapezoid rule and received a delay-of-game penalty.


    Insult to injury – It was bad enough that the refs didn’t call a tripping penalty when Alex Semin first got knocked down, but then they didn’t call the cross-check he took right to his lower back.  The official was standing right there watching the event happen. Alex Semin lay contorting on the ice and did not return to the game. When the official explained to Coach Boudreau that he thought Semin was “milking it” Coach Boudreau most likely said what any of us would have.


    I’m not privy to what was actually said, but I can imagine it was profane. Apparently the official’s feelings were hurt, so he called a bench minor for “abuse of an official.”


    Note: Alex must really be selling his injury as he has yet to return from it. Hope the official is feeling better after his verbal thrashing.


    Yeah, well our web-producer is just as tall as you are – Ben Bishop entered the game as the league’s tallest goaltender. If that seems familiar, it’s because he was mentioned last week when web-producer Brett Leonhardt was called in to play bench-warming goalie for one period last week. Bishop is currently listed as the tallest goalie in NHL history at 6’7″.


    It just don’t seem right – Simeon Varlamov played two games in his fill in role with Washington and won them both. Thursday night he beat the St. Louis Blues, Friday morning he was sent back down the Hershey.


    @ Philadelphia, 12/20/08 – In a rare 1 o’clock game the Capitals were whipped 7-1 by the Flyers. Brent Johnson started the game and kept the Caps in it, down 3-0 at the end of the second. The real story of this game was the spectacular play of Flyers net minder Antero Nittymaki. The Caps added pressure early, matching a franchise record for most shots on goal in a single period with 25. By the end of the second period the Caps had peppered Nittymaki with 39 shots and had nothing to show for it. Jose Theodore stepped in to start the third period, and things went from bad to worse as he allowed the Flyers to score four more goals.


    Coulda, woulda, shoulda – The Caps made a few spectacular plays and were just beat by Nittymaki. On the rare occasion they did get one past Nittymaki, it would ring off the post. The Caps had at least two quality chances ripped from them by spectacular goalie-play as the score should have been 3-1 at the end of the first.


    The Wrap-up – Saturday’s game was hard to watch, especially in the third when the Caps really seemed to fall apart. Brooks Laich saved them the indignity of a shut-out with his third period tally, but this game really exposed a weakness in Jose Theodore. You never like to say that one player can be a difference maker, but I truly believe this team suffered a lot without the creativity that Alex Semin brings to the ice.

       The Caps were firing shots from everywhere (48 total), and that kind of pressure is usually rewarded, but what they really needed was the nimble moves that Semin brings in to help get the goaltender out of position.

       Semin may not score as much as Alex Ovechkin, but his real strength is in driving defenders, and subsequently, net minders crazy with his curl and drag capabilities, his quick back-hand, and his accurate passing.

       Pulling Brent Johnson may have been an attempt to ignite the team, but it appears to have backfired as the Caps looked like they had had all of the energy sucked out of them in the third period. The Caps had 25 shots in the first period, yet only nine in the third. Meanwhile, Johnson only faced 13 shots in the first two periods, while Theodore was peppered with 15 in the third. The Caps felt hopeless, and the Flyers took the momentum and ran with it.


    Coming up – It doesn’t get any easier for the Caps this week. They face off tomorrow night against the Rangers (currently second place in the Eastern conference) and round out their week with the Sabres and Leafs. Two of their three games are at home (where the Caps are still 13-1-1).


    This Sunday’s game at Verizon, the Caps will honor Mike Gartner as they retire his jersey in a pregame ceremony. Gartner, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame who ranks second in Capitals history in goals (397), assists (392) and points (789), will become the fourth player in Capitals history to have his number retired. Yvon Labre’s No. 7 was retired on Nov. 7, 1981, Rod Langway’s No. 5 was retired on Nov. 26, 1997, and Dale Hunter’s No. 32 was retired on March 11, 2000.


    Every fan in attendance will receive a commemorative Mike Gartner jersey pin, sponsored by Comcast SportsNet, upon entrance into the game, along with a special No. 11 signs to pay tribute to Gartner. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats early for the ceremony, which will start promptly at 7 p.m. The ceremony and the game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet and will be available in high definition.


    Former Washington Capitals Greg Adams, Bob Carpenter, Bob Gould, Alan Hangsleben, Wes Jarvis, Labre, Langway, Craig Laughlin, Dennis Maruk, Paul Mulvey, Larry Murphy, Errol Rausse, Gary Rissling and Scott Stevens as well as former broadcaster Ron Weber will be in attendance to help share in this special night. Some of Gartner’s former teammates will be around the concourse before the game meeting fans and signing autographs and they will be introduced during the first intermission.


    Prior to the ceremony, the current Capitals will wear special white retro jerseys during pregame warmups. Each jersey will have No. 11 on them along with the current player’s name. The jerseys will be autographed by Gartner and each player and will be available at a silent auction during the game with a portion of the proceeds going to World Vision. World Vision, Gartner’s charity of choice, is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.


    The Caps will wear white jerseys during the game – as Gartner’s Capitals teams did at the Cap Centre – while Toronto will wear dark jerseys.

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    Caps Recap 12/15/08

    The Washington Capitals had a great week last week; let’s get to some recapping!


    First off, they went 3-0 this week against their three Northeastern Division opponents. One of those three was the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins.  The Capitals also started to get healthy as they welcomed back four of their starters in Alex Semin, Tom Poti, Mike Green, and Sergei Federov.


    The Caps extended their point lead in the Southeastern Division to 8 points with 39. Florida and Carolina are the closest division rivals with 31 points apiece.


    The Caps also showed their depth doesn’t just extend to Hershey; it goes all the way into their administrative offices.


    Vs. Boston 12/10/08 – The Boston Bruins skated into Verizon Center carrying the most impressive record in the Eastern Conference. The Caps meanwhile came limping in with a mind-boggling 10-players on the injured list. That number dropped to eight just before game-time as Alex Semin and Tom Poti were both cleared to return from their injuries. The difference was night and day.


    Alex Who? – Alexandre Giroux! In only his second NHL game, Alex not only notched his first NHL goal, but it was the GWG (game-winning-goal). With Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin also tallying on the score-sheet, that leaves three guys named Alex for teams to worry about when they play the Caps. How would you pluralize “Alex”? Alexes? Alexen?


    Believe me now? – I’ve always been a fan of Brent Johnson; largely because he and I share the same last name. I have a custom-made jersey from back when they wore the black home jerseys. Johnson earned his third straight win while facing one of the highest scoring teams in the league by stopping 33-of-34 shots against him. By the end of the night Johnson had stopped and 79 of 83 shots, and had a .952 save percentage and a 1.33 Goals Against Average in his last three games.


    Vs. Ottawa 12/12/08 – The Ottawa Senators came into Verizon Center dead last in the Northeastern Division. As the first of two back-to-back games, this had all the makings of a “trap game” as the Capitals had to fly immediately to Montreal after the game. While the Caps were able to welcome back Mike Green and Sergei Federov, they lost Jose Theodore that morning during practice.


    The Caps went to Plan B and called on Michael Neuvirth, but he was too far away to make it in time for game time.


    The Caps went to Plan C and called on Simeon Varlamov, but even he wasn’t going to be able to make it in time for the start of the game.


    Brent Johnson had taken some nasty hits in his matchup versus Boston, so putting him in there with no one to back him up was more than just a risky proposition; the Caps needed a new plan.


    Plan 9 from Outer Space – web producer Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt probably didn’t expect his NHL debut to ever come knocking on his door. A goalie in college, Brett now spent his days amassing video content for the Washington Capitals official website. At 6’7″, Brett is hard to miss in the locker-room, so when George McPhee came looking, I’m sure he was easy to find.


    The Greatest Player to Never Play – Brett had stepped in and fielded a few shots with the Caps during practice before, but I’m sure he never thought he’d see the day when he’d skate out onto the Ice during an actual NHL game. Even though no one was unhappy with Brent Johnson’s performance, I think secretly, everyone wanted to see the 26 year-old from Neumann College get at least a few minutes of game time.


    At least Brett got a standing ovation from the crowd at Verizon, and his 15-minutes in the spotlight.


    My bad – I have to apologize to Brent Johnson the next time I see him. The Caps had built a 5-0 lead and had only five minutes left in regulation. In my excitement I said to my wife “Now all Johnny needs is the shut-out.”


    Yeah, I know. With 2:23 left in regulation the Senators finally scored. I jinxed him. Johnny had identical stats on this game as he did versus Boston, stopping 33-of-34 shots. This gave him his fourth consecutive win and brought his four game totals to 112 of 117 shots stopped, for a 0.957 save percentage, and a 1.25 GAA. Johnny was given the first star of the night.


    @ Montreal 12/13/08 – I must confess that I wasn’t able to watch this game due to family obligations. I kept up with it by regularly checking my phone for updates. I got word that Varlamov was going to get the start in net, and was a little disappointed that I wasn’t going to get to see his NHL debut.


    Varlamov was the first NHL Player I had ever interviewed, when I met him at the Rookie Game versus Philadelphia. In my first ever report for THN I talked about how good he looked out on the ice, so it was nice to see that my early judgment call was vindicated as Varlamov stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced to help the Caps win a close one versus Montreal by a score of 2-1.


    Varlamov’s NHL debut got him a win, and the game’s first star honor.


    Coming Up – The Caps have three games this week, starting tomorrow night in New York on the nationally televised Versus Network when they face the 10-18-2 Islanders. Thursday they come back home to face the 16-7-6 Flyers, and then Saturday they’re off to St. Louis (that’s Saint Lewis, not San Lew-EE as some players like to be called) where they’ll face the 12-14-3 Blues in a rare one o’clock game (noon, local time).


    The Caps now have more potential injury woes as Tyler Sloan, Sergei Federov and Nicklas Backstrom are all listed as “status pending” by the Capitals as of this morning. The Caps will be looking to extend their three game winning streak, but losing Nicklas Backstrom will make that a considerable challenge.


    I guess we’ll see come Tuesday!

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    Caps sting B’s 3-1

    I sat down for last night’s game confident that the Caps were going to lose to the highest scoring monster in the Eastern Conference. The Caps came limping into Verizon with 10 players on their injury list, and have been playing up and down hockey recently. Contrarily, Boston, tied for second place in the league, and currently leading the Eastern Conference with a record of 19-4-4, was looking like a well-oiled machine with scoring threats on all of their lines. I believe their coach could probably score if he were allowed on the ice.


    I got an e-mail from the Caps late yesterday saying they were sending Sami Lepisto, Keith Acoin, and Bryan Helmer back down to Hershey, and that they had recalled Oskar Osala. By my superior math skills that left two spot open; maybe someone was coming back from the injury list!


    Imagine my glee when I found out those two players were Alex Semin and Tom Poti!


    The Caps are a different team without the stick-handling acrobatics of Alex Semin, and with the return of Tom Poti the Caps now only have three defensemen on the injured list (John Erskine, Brian Pothier, and Mike Green).  Poti’s presence may have been considerably more noticeable, but it was Semin who helped come up with the play that put the Bruins away for the night.


    From PK to PP to Goal! – The Caps came out strong versus the Bruins, and in fact looked like they were on the power-play for the first 0:41 seconds of the game. Then they got hit for a minor penalty that sent them short-handed when Shaone Morrison got nicked for high sticking. The Caps got their shot with the extra attacker two-minutes later as Stephane Yalle was called for interference 1:36 seconds into their power-play.


    Alex Ovechkin would make them pay.


    One for you, one for me – Last week vs. the Islanders, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom broke free on a two on one with the empty net. Alex unselfishly passed the puck over to Nicklas and let him score the goal. Tonight, Nicklas returned the favor.


    Alex took his shot from the point and his shot most likely would have hit the leg-pad of Manny Fernandez if not for the slight redirect of Nicklas Backstrom who got just enough of the puck to redirect it between Fernandez’s skate and the goal post to put the Caps up 1-0


    Starting in Net for the Washington Capitals; Gumby! – Brent Johnson’s night looked like it was going to end early and on a high note. Johnny stared down a quick two on one with P.J. Axelsson and Chuck Kobasew flying right at him. Axelsson fired the wrist shot from the left, and was stopped; the rebound bounced right to Kobasew. Johnson dropped into the splits and made a spectacular save against Kobasew.


    It all happened so fast that Kobasew couldn’t avoid Johnson as he skated into Johnson’s outstretched right leg.


    I figured Johnson was at least done for the night, if not for the season, but he finally got up, shook it off and continued.


    Easy as 1, 2, 3 – Alexandre Giroux scored his first NHL goal, in the second period of his second game wearing the number 33. His goal gave the Caps a 2-0 advantage.


    A little luck, a lot of skill, but no “love” for Johnny – Brent Johnson was having one of the greatest nights I had seen as he continued to make highlight-reel saves. Johnny looked like he might pull off a shut-out (0 is called “love in tennis for those not as quick on the uptake) as he stopped 23 shots in the first two periods, but the 24th was too hot to handle.


    With 0:35 seconds left in the second period, Phil Kessel got a lucky bounce of the boards on the right side and went straight for Johnson, he passed it across to Milan Lucic who slapped the puck home from the left.


    The Backbreak(away)er – With a little over a minute to go, the Bruins pulled their goalie to get the extra attacker with the Caps up 2-1. Alex Semin fished the puck loose from the boards in front of the players’ bench, passed it over to Ovechkin who shot into the attacking zone on the break-away. In a scene that had to look like it was in slow-motion for Bruins fans Alex skated deep into the attacking zone, and lazily lobbed the puck into the empty-net.


    Game over.


    Interesting tidbit #1 – Everyone named Alex (Semin, Ovechkin and Giroux) got a point in last night’s game. Giroux had a goal, Semin picked up an assist, and Ovechkin had a goal and an assist.


    Maybe they were just sleepy – After calling four penalties in the first period, the refs stayed off their whistles the rest of the night. They did give the Caps a penalty shot, but made up for it by calling Sean Collins for hooking in the third period.


    As if he didn’t have enough gear to lug around – After his spectacular performance, Brent Johnson was given the Caps Hardhat (an honor bestowed upon the player by his teammates for being the hardest worker on the team). Johnny went on to stop 33 of 34 shots on the night, and 79 of the past 83 shots he’s faced in his last three games. Johnny’s on a three game winning streak with a .952 save percentage and a 1.33 Goals Against Average in those games.


    His record for the season is now 8-4-2 with a .918 and a 2.47 GAA.

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