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 Washingtoncaps.com 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.