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  • Capital Observations 11/17/08

    The Capitals started off this past week welcoming back longtime goaltender Olie Kolzig, now with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Monday night at Verizon Center. The match-up featured Kolzig versus his former back-up Brent Johnson. The strangest part for me was hearing Caps announcer Joe Beninati say things like “great save by Kolzig” and having to remind myself that it wasn’t a good thing anymore.

    Goaltenders typically work very closely with their defensemen, so it should be little surprise if those defensemen know where a goalie is weakest. To prove that point the Capitals first two goals came from Kolzig’s former blue-liners Tom Poti and Mike Green.

    The Caps also saw the end of a nine-game scoring drought for Alex Ovechkin, the longest of his career.

    The Caps polished off the Lightning 4-2.

    The Caps next game came Wednesday on the road versus division rival Carolina. Both teams were tied for the division lead at 18-points. The winner would claim sole possession of the Southeast division.

    This was the second meeting between these two clubs within the past seven days. The Caps had won that previous meeting by a final score of 3-2, now they were facing Carolina, in Carolina. This time the Caps left no question as to who was in charge, winning 5-1.

    The Caps saw goals from all of their “young guns” as all five goals were scored by Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, and Green (1, 2, 1, and 1 respectively). Alex Semin had a hand in all five goals.

    Brent Johnson’s night ended early after a hip injury sent him to the locker room late in the first period and brought out Jose Theodore for the second. Theodore went on to stop 13 shots over the next two periods and finally began to look like the starter the Capitals had picked him to be.

    Johnson, who had gone 3-0-1 in his four starts, was given credit for the win versus Carolina where he had stopped 14 shots in the first period alone.

    The Caps final two games of the week came Friday and Saturday night in a home and home series versus New Jersey. The Capitals started the series at home where they have not lost in regulation this season. The Caps had gone 6-0-1 at home when the Devils came to town, and improved that record to 7-0-1 by the end of the night.

    Brent Johnson, listed as day-to-day with the hip injury, watched from the bench as Jose Theodore put on a performance that may have cemented him back into the starting position as he stopped 32 of 33 shots to help the Capitals to a 3-1 victory.

    Alex Semin left the game in the second period after taking an uncalled high stick to the face, and Alex Ovechkin scored his third goal in three games on a last second empty netter.

    The Caps certainly looked to be the more dominant team Friday night, and were given the morning off before Saturday night’s rematch in New Jersey.

    Even with the break, the Caps looked tired Saturday night. Alex Semin did not play, and the Caps seemed to miss his playmaking ability on the stick-handle. The Caps did not fore-check very well and seemed to struggle getting into the attacking zone.

    Things didn’t seem much better in their own zone as the Caps seemed to have trouble clearing allowing the Devils to set up several shooting galleries versus Theodore, who had a better night than his six-goals-against would seem to imply.

    Things really began to look scary for the Caps when Theodore was slow to get up after taking a hit from Jamie Langenbrunner early in the second period. Brent Johnson, who was not listed on the injury report for Saturday’s game, did not exactly look anxious to head out to the ice in relief of Theodore. After a few minutes, Theodore seemed to shake-it-off and managed to finish the game.

    Even with the Devils seeming to dominate the game, the Caps managed to tie the game on a last second (literally at 19:59) wrist shot by Alex Ovechkin from point-blank range which carried the game into overtime.

    The Capitals went on to lose in the shoot-out giving them a 3-0-1 record for the week. The Caps increased their points standing from 16 to 23 last week and now have a three point lead over second-place Carolina in the Southeast Division.

    The Caps have now gone 5-0-2 in their last seven games and have not lost in regulation since they fell to the Sabres in a 0-5 shutout on November 1st. The Caps have now won 10 games this season, with five wins apiece for both of their goaltenders.

    The Capitals have looked real strong this past week, with the exception of Saturday night. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have both seemed to have finally found their games. Ovie has now scored a goal in each of the Caps last four games and has 5 goals and 5 assists in that same time-frame. Nicklas Backstrom has tallied 2 goals and 9 assists in the last four games after getting no goals and 5 assists for the first 13 games.

    The Caps spend this week on the west coast with all three games starting after 10pm here on the east coast. The Capitals tour of the Western Conference pits them against two division leaders in the San Jose Sharks (currently leading the Pacific Division 15-3-1) and Minnesota Wild (currently leading the Northwest Division 10-4-1)

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    Capital Observations 11/10/08

    The Washington Capitals have had an interesting start this season to say the least.

    After saying good-bye to long-time net-minder Olie Kolzig, and losing the hot hand of Huet to free agency the Caps went out and found Jose Theodore and named him the team’s new starting goal-tender. Three games ago, the Caps decided to give Theodore a break and put in Brent Johnson, and haven’t looked back.

    Brent Johnson is 2-0-1 since relieving Theodore and has a .953 save percentage in these last three games. He has also been named a star in each of the last three games, and has been named one of the NHL stars of the week for the week ending Nov. 9th.

    Johnson has played five games this season and is 3-0-2 with a 1.75 GAA (goals against average for the lay-person) and an overall save percentage of .942.

    In contrast; Cristobal Huet had an overall save percentage of .936 in his games with the Capitals last year. Huet’s current save percentage with his new team, Chicago, is .916.

    Coach Boudreau has said that he is staying with Johnson because he has the “hot hand” right now, but Theodore is still the team’s “official” starter, but you have to think that if Johnny continues this trend, things may change.

    Tonight’s match-up versus Tampa Bay will be interesting as Olie Kolzig makes his way onto the ice. Kolzig has played in three games for Tampa Bay and is 1-1-1 with a .925 save percentage. Kolzig, who played nearly 20 years with the Washington Capitals, will face off against his former reliever in Brent Johnson at the other end of the ice.

    The next piece of trivia for the Capitals so far has to do with a guy named Alex.

    When people think of the Washington Capitals, they immediately think of the League MVP, Alex Ovechkin. However, Alex Semin appears to have figured out where Alex Ovechkin was keeping his mojo, and has stolen it.

    Ovechkin, who scored 65 goals last season (69 goals through 89 games including the playoffs), has not registered a goal since he scored two in the second game of the season. Ovechkin has not scored a goal in the past 9 games he’s played, marking a record for the longest stretch of games without a goal in his career.

    Meanwhile, Alex Semin, who battled through injuries, missed nearly 20 games, and scored 26 goals in 63 games last year has already scored 11 goals in 13 games so far this year.

    Semin tied a club record with Dale Hunter for the most points scored in October with 16. By comparison, Hunter had 1 goal and 15 assists back in October of 1991, while Semin had 8 goals and 8 assists in October ‘08. You would assume with that many 8’s, there’d be an Ovechkin in there somewhere.

    And last but not least I want to talk about the fans! Last Year, Verizon was not considered a tough venue for road teams as the Caps got off to a 2-7-0 start, but Washington has seen it highest attendance numbers since 1998 and it is showing itself out on the ice. The Capitals have not lost in regulation at home this year and are 11-0-1 (dating back to last season) when fans are rocking the red.

    It will be interesting to see how the fans tonight respond to the return of long-time fan-favorite Kolzig. In my interviews with the players from earlier this year, there seemed to be no ill-will towards Olie, but we will see how that translates when the Caps are crashing the net.

    Will the fans applaud his return? Will they heckle him with the same chants they used to use to serenade him? We will find out tonight at 7pm.

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