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  • Flyers @ Capitals: 01-17-2010


    The Flyers come to downtown D.C. today having won four of its last five games, with their only loss in that span coming as a 4-0 shutout on Thursday against the team the Capitals defeated handily the night after to the tune of 6-1, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Today’s matchup will mark the fourth and final contest between these two teams during the regular season. In the previous three contest, the Capitals have scored 17 points, which was padded due to an 8-2 Capitals victory in Wachovia Center on Dec. 5th.

    The Caps have won 10 out of the last 15 contest against the Flyers since the 2006-2007 season began.

    1st Period Overview:

    Despite thousands of empty seats, presumably due to the NFL’s Divisional playoff games, the energy filling the Verizon Center matches that of a full house.

    The period can be summed up as a chess match for both teams, with each team going tit-for-tat with two goals apiece. The Flyers struck first with a Jeff Carter goal but the Capitals retaliated with a quick goal from former Flyer Mike Knuble. The chess match continued when Flyers left winger James Van Riemsdyk put the Flyers up 2-1. That lead didn’t last long when Brooks Laich scored his 12th goal of the season and evened the contest out at 2-2 with 6:32 left in the opening period.

    It has been a very entertaining matchup so far in a game featuring two local rivals. Considering the fans of both teams feeding off of each other’s energy, it only looks to become more enticing as the day goes on.

    Goals: PHI – 2 WAS – 2
    Shots: PHI – 9 WAS – 8
    Blocked Shots: PHI – 9 WAS – 6
    Faceoffs Won: PHI – 10 – WAS – 11

    2nd Period Overview:

    Defense was the name of the game in the second period, with the only score coming seven minutes in.

    Both the Capitals and the Flyers had just returned their fifth men on the ice following a 4-on-4 stretch with Washington’s Tyler Sloan and Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell in their respective penalty boxes when Jeff Carter gave the Caps a 5-on-4 advantage by holding Sloan shortly after he left the box. Just seven seconds after Carter’s penalty, Alexander Semin gave the Caps a 3-2 lead with his 20th goal on the year.

    The Capitals tightened up their defense, helping keep traffic away from Jose Theodore when he wasn’t making clutch saves. Washington was able to clear the puck at the right times and also increased their physicality, making their presence known to the Flyers on their own as opposed to just responding to the hits that Philadelphia was giving them.

    Goals: PHI – 0 WAS – 1
    Shots: PHI – 12 WAS – 9
    Blocked Shots: PHI – 6 WAS – 6
    Faceoffs Won: PHI – 10 – WAS – 13

    3rd Period Overview (most of it):

    Brooks Laich scored his second goal of the night on a beautiful backhanded shot to give the Caps a 4-2 lead 4:56 into the final period, giving the team much-needed momentum to close out the Flyers.

    The score remains 4-2 with five minutes remaining.

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    Montreal Canadiens @ Washington Capitals 01-05-2010


    Ovechkin named Captain before Capitals play first home game of the decade.

    For the first home game of the new year, the Washington Capitals are looking to avenge a dreadful two-game trip to the West Coast that saw them lose their respected matchups by a combined score of 7-3. The Caps had their work cut out for them, facing two of the of the top teams in the Western Conference in the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. The road trip proved that there is plenty of work to do if they truly want to make a Stanley Cup run. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Carolina Hurricanes @ Washington Capitals 12-11-2009


    Verizon Center Before The Game

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    By The Numbers: Caps 4, Sharks 1


    Here is a look at some of the more interesting numbers and statistics from the Washington Capitals 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks: Read the rest of this entry »

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    Caps Dominate Sharks, End Slide


    Turning Point…
    Alexander Ovechkin’s two goals less than thirty seconds apart early in the second period.

    It Was Over When…

    Matt Bradley stretched the Caps lead to 4-1 early in the third. Read the rest of this entry »

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    What is in a Name?


    While traversing the web today reading up on the Washington Capitals, I stumbled across a piece by Chris Needham on NBCWashington.com. The article was mainly a response to a blog written by our friends at OnFrozenBlog.com, regarding the possibility that the Caps’ current top line of Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin could be one of the greatest of all time. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Maple Leafs @ Washington Capitals 10/03/09


    1st period Overview:

    The Capitals opened up the season against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night where they left off the 2008-2009 season with a 4-1 victory. Their fire didn’t stop during their home opener tonight against the Maple Leafs as reigning back-to-back NHL MVP Alexander Ovechkin ignited the raucous Verizon Center crowd with his third goal of the season just 1:17 into the contest. Chants of MVP quickly ensued from the home fans. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Steckel Is The Key For Cardiac Caps


    With all of the incredible talent on both teams in this Caps/Pens series, perhaps the most important this far is the Washington Capitals David Steckel. Coming into this series, you’d have thought that Ovechkin and Crosby were playing one-on-one. Then of course, there were those two Russian guys, Semin and Malkin. That being said, the measuring stick for the Caps has been in the hand of #39.

    Steckel’s main contribution is in the face-off circle. He has been spectacular on face-offs, winning 63.5% in this series. That’s 54 wins in 85 chances. Not too shabby.

    David Steckel is also a key cog in Washington’s penalty killing unit. His size and long arms make him a real asset when down a man. He uses his reach to cover a lot of ice, poke checking, blocking passing lanes and shots, which is why his 4:02 of shorthanded ice time is third in the league for the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Those are both great contributions to the team, but in this series, its been his offense that has been the difference. Steckel has scrored three times and the Capitals are 3-0 in those games.

    The 6’5″, 225-lb Winsconsonite started off the scoring for the Caps in this series, 13:10 into Game 1. The Capitals went on to beat the Pens 3-2.

    In game 2, it really did seem like it was Ovie vs. Sid, with both players recording a hat trick. The Caps won 4-3. The difference: David Steckel, playing tough in front of the net gobbled up a Tyler Sloan shot that bounced off of Kris Letang right onto his stick, and slammed it through Marc-Andre Fleury’s five hole.

    Then of course, came the game winner in game 6 to eevn the series and force a deciding game 7 on home ice for the Capitals. Steckel could have won game 5 in overtime, but fanned on the shot missing an open net. Then he took a penalty that led to the Penguins third goal in game 6. Being the big-game player he is, he begged his teammates to give him a shot and they did. He repayed them ten-fold.

    The Caps had the face-off to the left of Marc-Andre Fleury in the offensive zone, and who better to work it than David Steckel, who was 10 of 14 in game 6 to that point. Stecks won the face-off to Brooks Laich and drove to the net. Laich, from his knees, passed the puck to Matt Bradley against the boards who passed it back to Laich for the one-timer. Steckel put his stick out and deflected the Laich’s shot in midair, past a butterflied Fleury for the game winner.

    So yes, Simeon Varlamov will need to stand on his head again. Semin and Kozlov will need to play the same inspired hockey they played at Mellon Arena on Monday night. And, of course, Ovie will need to be Ovie, but the difference will be David Steckel.

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    Varlamov Dazzling in Defeat


    In a game with few bright spots for Washington Capitals fan, Simeon Varlamov continued to shine.

    Varly faced 42 shots on the night – many of them quality chances – and turned away all but 3. The Caps were outplayed and outworked most of the night, but the outstanding young Russian kept the Caps in the game, allowing them to force overtime, and ultimately, put themselves in position to steal a win.

    History was not on their side last night. The Capitals have pulled out to a 2-0 lead in a best of seven series five times in franchise history. All five times, the Caps have gone on to lose game 3, and in all but one, they have gone on to lose the series. Notably, the series they did win, they won in 5 games en route to the Stanley Cup finals.

    As for last night’s game, the scoring got started early for the Caps. Mike Green dumped the puck into the Penguins zone to facilitate a line change. Alex Ovechkin drove in on the forecheck as Pens netminder Marc-Andre Fleury left the crease to corral the puck, dropping his stick in the process. Somehow, the puck bounced off the boards out in front of the net, directly in front of a charging Ovechkin. Ovie had the whole goal to shoot at, and didn’t miss on a diving shot, past a diving Fleury.

    Initially, it seemed to stun the Penguins, and Washington’s offense began to press, culminating in a wrap-around attempt by Nicklas Backstrom that slid across the crease past a wide-open net. From that point forward, the Penguins dominated the game, with the formula used in the regular season by teams like the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets to beat the Caps: an ultra-aggressive forecheck and relentless physicality. If not for the Caps’ 21-year-old netminder, this game could easily have been a blow-out.

    The entire second period looked as if the Capitals were on the penalty kill. The Pens seemed to have possession of the puck for 70% of the period. When the Caps did get possession, they were lucky to get it out of their own zone, let alone create quality chances.

    On top of the offensive woes, the Caps couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. It seemed every time Evgeni Malkin touched the puck, the Caps were called for a penalty. The Penguins had six straight power plays, and again, Varlamov was there to save the day, stopping point blank shots, making diving saves and frustrating the fired up Pens at every turn. His magic ran out in the sixth, after Alexander Semin was called for hooking, as Evgeni Malkin, who dominated the Capitals all evening, finally found the back of the net.

    The Capitals finally got their chance with the man advantage for the second time with just under two minutes to play in the third period, and boy did they take advantage. Caps sophomore Nicklas Backstrom made up for his earlier miss with a goal off the back of Fleury, and just like that, the Caps found themselves tied at 2, in a game that could easily have been 6-1 at that point.

    The Caps came to life, and had several quality chances in the last two minutes of regulation, and in overtime, Ovechkin had two quality chances within seconds of each other, but fanned on one and lost the puck on the other.

    Unfortunately for Simeon, at 11:23 of the first OT, he made a stop on a full-court pass that just missed a driving Malkin, and the ensuing face-off was his undoing. In a play eerily similar to the one Ovechkin scored his second goal of game 2, Sidney Crosby beat David Steckel on the face off for only the third time all evening. The puck trickled back to Mark Eaton, who sent a cross-ice pass to the waiting Kris Letang. Letang, who had fanned on two quality chances of his own in OT, nailed this one. The puck careened off of defenseman Shaonne Morrisson over the glove of Varlamov, off the cross bar and in to end game 3.

    As mentioned before, the Capitals have had little success in series in which they hold a 2-0 lead, but as the history of this post-season has shown, the Caps are routinely re-writing their history. Hopefully the boys in red, white and blue will come back for game 4 a little more fired up and continue to distinguish themselves from previous Caps teams, en route to the finals. For now though, they need to focus on game 4.

    There’s a pretty good chance that Bruce Boudreau is telling his team that at this very moment. That, and telling George McPhee to sign Varlamov for a long, long time.

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    Clark: “It Feels Like a Rock Concert Out There.”


    Washington Capitals fans weren’t just Rocking the Red, they were rocking the Verizon Center. During a TV timeout with 5:56 left to play in the third period, the Caps gameday staff played “Unleash the Fury,” a video that got the already roucous crowd whipped up into a frenzy.

    At that point, the decibal level in the Verizon Center was deafening. In the arena, you could feel that something was going to happen for the Caps. When Sergei Federov, certainly no stranger to the playoff hero role, scored the game winning goal (and first of the series), the decibal level soared even higher, and remained there until well after the final horn blew.

    Feds believed the energy from the crowd helped will the team to victory: “It was a great atmosphere all around. I’m sure any player who plays in an atmosphere like that would enjoy it and work hard and play hard… It really was an amazing experience.”

    Bruce Boudreau agreed.

    “The last five minutes after we scored,they never sat down, they never stopped cheering. If you look at the energy we had just in checking. The people brought that out. They wouldn’t let us not continue skating,”  Boudreau said, adding, ” it was really a thing to watch.”

    Of course, going into the third period, it was an experience few thought would come to pass. For the first two periods, the Capitals were out-played and out-hustled. If not for the continued dominating play by the barely 21-year-old Simeon Varlamov, this game could easily have been 3-0  after five and a half minutes. 

    In the first period, the normally gifted Washington offense had only managed two shots on the Rangers Henrik Lunqvuist. Luckily, one of them went in after deflecting off two Rangers defenders.

    The second period was more of the same. It almost felt like the Caps were on penalty kill the entire period. Washington managed nine more shots on goal, but Lunqvuist looked to be back in form for this pivotal game 7.  The most telling stat of the second period was time of possession. While this isn’t an officially kept statistic, Mike Green mentioned in the locker room after the game that he felt like the Caps only had the puck for 2 of the 20 minutes in the period.

    After the second period ended, there was a weird vibe in the air. Some thought that this series was set to end like last year’s opening round defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. Still others thought that the Caps were lucky to be tied at 1, and that the third period was the Caps period, so anything could and would happen. Most though, believed the Capitals would prevail.

    Whatever the vibe in the building, the vibe in the locker room was much like the last. In his post-game presser, Coach Bruce Boudreau, when asked what was said between the dreadful second period and the fateful third, quipped:  “One of the messages was ’20 more minutes.’ How hard is that to work as hard as you can for one of the best feelings you’re ever going to have.”

    Besides the motivation, the Coaching staff went to work, as well, trying to solve the dominating play the Rangers brought to the rink.

    “We were used to them being a more passive team and they were very aggressive, in your face,” the Caps head coach stated. “We had to change what we were doing and I’m not that sharp. I took me two periods to figure it out.”

    Whatever was said or done, it paid off. The Caps came out in the third playing like themselves. The passing was crisp, the effort was phenomenal and the results were there. Everyone in the building began to feel like a Russian was going to send the Rangers packing. Of course, everyone assumed that Russian would be Ovechkin or Semin.

    Enter Sergei Federov. As Feds skated down the right side, pulling up to look for the trailer on the play for a pass, he noticed several things. First, Wayne Redden was playing way off, quite possibly because the ever-threatening Ovechkin was on the left side of the net. Second, there was no trailer on the play. Third, the top-shelf glove side of Lunqvuist, perhaps the outstanding goalies only weakness, was beakoning him. He let the shot go, kept a longer follow-through to get the shot up, and watched as the puck soared into the net for the eventual game winner with just under five minutes to go in the third.

    Fellow teammate and countryman Alex Ovechkin was the first on the scene leaping onto the 39-year-old’s back, squeezing him hard and slamming him into the boards.  Since Federov was the Red Wing that ended the Caps Stanley Cup hopes oh so many moons ago, perhaps this game seven winner will reverse the fortunes of this young, exciting team in their current pursuit.  

    Regardless of kharma and the existential side of the meaning of this goal, Federov has brought something the Capitals haven’t experienced since that 1998 run to the Cup finals and never since the best owner in Washington sports bought this team: a playoff series win.

    While many thought Ovie would play the role of hero, Boudreau was not as surprised. “Experience sometimes pays off. He knew what he had to do and… when to do it,” the Capitals coach said. “That’s what makes him one of the greatest players ever.”

    Washington Capitals fans everywhere sure think so.

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