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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 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.

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    Panthers Devour Caps 5-3


    My mother always told me “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Unfortunately, Mom probably didn’t realize I’d take up sports-writing as a hobby, and that part of sports-writing is that you have to say some not nice things. Especially when your team goes out and plays a game like the one the Caps played tonight.

     

    I know she’ll be reading this, so, sorry Mom…in advance.

     

    A quick shout out – Before I get to the game stuff, which you really probably already know about anyway, and probably aren’t in any big rush to hear about yet, I’d like to thank John and Winnie, two die-hard season ticket holders that kept me entertained prior to tonight’s game.

     

    If you happen to have the chance to meet them at the Green Turtle at Verizon Center, buy them a beer, they are good company.

     

    Does this make my butt look big? – At the beginning of the game, the camera-person found the fan with the “rally horn” and he was displayed on the scoreboard doing what he does best; blowing his horn to the familiar “LET’S-GO-CAPS” cheer.

     

    Unfortunately, the camera person must not have noticed the rather large woman who was bent over her seat right next to him until after her butt was taking up most of the scoreboard. To their credit they tried to stay with the “rally horn” fan, and tried to pan over as much as they could to spare the crowd as much of the unintentional mooning as possible, but there was no escaping it.

     

    I wonder if anyone told her.

     

    The phantom goal – Alex Ovechkin is so gifted he can will the puck into the net without ever touching it. The Caps goal in the first period was officially credited to Nicklas Backstrom, but it sure looked like Ovie had given the Caps a 1-0 lead on the power play.

     

    Apparently what happened was that Nick’s shot hit a defender’s skate and went in. Alex had wound up to get the one-timer to the left of the net, and did in fact swing, so it made it look like he had scored. Gotta give those scoring officials credit, they have the sharp eye!

     

    Wait; there’s two more periods? – At the end of the first period the Caps looked to be pretty fairly in control of the game. They had a 1-0 lead, and were leading in shots 8-4. Two of Florida’s four shots came near the end of the period on the power-play.

     

    See if I ever say anything nice about you again! – Jose Theodore was coming off a shutout performance, and seemed to be handling his rebounds well. Just as I finished making a note about how he’s starting to look good he gave up his first goal of the night.

     

    See if I ever say anything nice about you again; Part Deux! – After his first couple of games, it’s hard to remember that Karl Alzner is a rookie. He certainly looked like it tonight. He was caught out of position early in the first period, but was saved by the quick stick of Sami Lepisto. Early in the second period he over-skated Ville Peltonen who stopped short, used Alzner as a screen and beat Jose Theodore for the Panthers first goal of the night.

     

    Later in the second period he had the misfortune of being in the way of David Steckel’s break-out pass and had the puck ricochet off his skate to beat Theodore 5-hole.

     

    What’s the fastest way to kill a penalty? – Score on yourself! They’ll never expect that and you get your guy out of the penalty box quicker! Alzner’s (ahem) goal was a PPG that was credited to Jay Bouwmeester, and a little less than five minutes later, Shaone Morrison was in the crease with Theodore when Bryan McCabe snapped off his wrister.

     

    The puck actually bounced off Morrison and into the net.

     

    I haven’t heard the Boo-Birds of winter in a while – As the second period wound to a close the boo-birds let their dissatisfaction be known. There weren’t very many of them, but in the absence of anything worth cheering about, their voices were heard.

     

    I guess when you’re 9-0-1 at home; you aren’t going to hear much in the way of dissatisfaction.

     

    Where’d everybody go? – By the start of the third period, less than half the 16,792 fans who had attended tonight’s game had left. Those that stayed made sure they pointed out whatever it was that the Caps were doing wrong.

     

    Several times throughout the third period, the scoreboard operators tried to get the fans back into the game with their “MAKE SOME NOISE” graphics and “The Good Ol’ Hockey Game” song, but fans of a team that is losing 4-1 were having a hard time figuring out what they wanted to make noise about, and certainly were in no mood to sing.

     

    No Excuses – This was the first time I’ve had the chance to sit in on a press conference with Couch Boudreau after a Caps loss. He neither made, nor would accept any excuses for the way the Caps played tonight. When asked about the goals that bounced in off of his own players he replied with “Yeah, but didn’t our first goal go in off one of their guys? At least the goal we got was shot by one of our guys.”

     

    When asked about his team looking lethargic he agreed “Yeah, they did. Quite frankly it was the least energy that I think we’ve had all year. I talked about how we needed to have a lot of energy tonight because their team was coming off a big win in New York, and they’d be ready to play us. I don’t know what it was. I have no idea. I mean, maybe we had too many days off.”

     

    When asked about Theodore’s performance giving up four goals on 16 shots he said “He was like the rest of the team. The biggest problem is when the goalie is like the rest of the team, he stands out like a sore thumb, but he probably wasn’t any worse than the rest of our players.”

     

    When asked about the apparent inexperience on the blue-line he said “I dunno, we talk about inexperience at this level, but I mean it’s the common sense plays they’ve been doing since they were thirteen years old that were the ones, and it wasn’t just the inexperienced guys that were makin’ ‘em.”

     

    I wouldn’t describe Coach Boudreau as seething, but I tell you this much…

     

    …I wouldn’t want to be a Washington Capital that had to report to practice in the morning!

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    Capital Observations 12/1/08


    The Washington Capitals started last week off with the last of their five-game road swing in a 3-4 loss to Minnesota. They brought in some much needed help on Wednesday and kept their record of no regulation losses at home in tact by winning the next two at Verizon. They then ended their week with a shutout loss in Columbus.

     

    @ Minnesota, Monday 11/24 – The Caps loss to Minnesota last Monday was not nearly as close as the score would imply. The Caps looked dog tired and beat up for most of the game before finally turning it back on for the last six minutes of the game, while Minnesota was already enjoying a 4-0 lead.

     

    Matt Bradley started the Caps’ comeback with 5:17 seconds left in the game when he scored off the backhand on a feed by Eric Fehr. Alex Ovechkin added to his point scoring streak when he fired his trademark slap shot from the point, but the goal everyone was waiting for happened 2:09 later when Caps’ center Nicklas Backstrom beat Wild goalie Nicklas Backstrom on the power play to bring the Caps to within a goal of overtime with 1:53 left to play.

     

    Unfortunately the Caps would come up just a little short.

     

    Clutter-what?! – The Wild’s first two goals of the night were scored by Cal Clutterbuck. All I could think of whenever they said his name on TV (which was often because everyone seemed to enjoy saying it) was that old SNL sketch for celebrity jeopardy when Sean Connery shouted “Buck-Futter!” for no particular reason.

     

    The Perfect-Timing Award goes to… – James Sheppard of Minnesota. While his family was being interviewed from the stands, and talking about how many thousands of miles they had driven to see their son’s first NHL game, James Sheppard opened up on a two-on-one and scored his first NHL goal.

     

    Boudreau after 82 games – Monday night’s game marked Boudreau’s 82nd game as the team’s bench boss. His 82 game record? 48-24-10.

     

    The Caps returned home Tuesday and were given the day off from practice, but Wednesday morning brought in the fresh troops in Chris Bourque, Karl Alzner, Sami Lepisto, and Graham Mink.

     

    Vs. Atlanta, Wednesday 11/26 – The Caps new legs may not have made a lot of noise on the scoreboard (with Sami Lepisto registering the only point on the assist) but their impact was clearly apparent. After allowing 30-plus shots per game in each of their last five games Jose Theodore faced a meager 18 shots. Meanwhile Ondrej Pavelec was peppered with 33 shots at the other end of the ice. Alex Ovechkin got his career 6th hat trick less than a minute into the second period as the Caps looked to be totally in control of Atlanta the entire game winning 5-3.

     

    Most impressive goal of the night – had to be Eric Fehr on the three-on-one breakaway. Fehr passed the puck to Fleischmann, who passed to Nylander, who passed it right back to Fehr who put the puck in the net.

     

    An old friend for dinner – This marked the third straight year the Caps had faced Atlanta on the day before Thanksgiving. The Thrashers had won the previous two Thanksgiving-eve match-ups by scores of 4-2 and 5-1 respectively.

     

    Some new friends for dinner – Three Washington Capitals players – Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Brooks Laich – spent Thanksgiving Day with more than 400 underprivileged children and their families as part of the Miracle on Seventh Street at District ChopHouse & Brewery in Washington, D.C.. The Caps players joined volunteers from organizations throughout the city to help out at this event. The Capitals have participated in Miracle on Seventh Street all six years that it has taken place. Backstrom, Green and Laich signed autographs, served food and spent time with the families.

     

    Vs. Montreal, Friday 11/28 – The Caps came back Friday night and beat the Montreal Canadiens with their first shutout victory since Cristobal Huet blanked the Florida Panthers in South Florida on March 29, 2008. It was Washington’s first shutout at home in more than a year, since Olie Kolzig blanked the Carolina Hurricanes in Washington’s 2007-08 home opener on Oct. 6, 2007.

     

    The Caps scored midway through the first period when Tomas Fleischmann scored his ninth goal of the year. Fleischmann should have been given a goal and an assist on this play. Fleischmann, who had positioned himself on the right of the net, intercepted a pass from behind the net. He passed the puck to a waiting Michael Nylander who was on the left side of the net, which drew Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak off the post. Nylander passed the puck immediately back to Fleischmann who popped it in the net.

     

    The Caps would cling to their one goal lead throughout the second period until Alex Ovechkin and David Steckel scored the Caps second and third goals in the third.

     

    For Ovechkin, it would be his 13th goal in 10 games. For Theodore it would be his first win against his former team, and his first shutout as a Washington Capital. Theodore earned his shutout facing 28 total shots.

     

    Fastest to 50 – Friday night’s victory over Montreal gave Coach Boudreau his 50th career victory as the Capitals’ bench boss. His 50 wins in 84 games erases a team mark that has stood since Jim Schoenfeld reached 50 in 98 games.

     

    Smitty reaches a milestone – Head trainer for the Capitals, Greg Smith marked his 1,000th career game Friday night.

     

    @ Columbus, Saturday 11/29 – The Caps finished their week with a disappointing shutout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, thus ending Ovechkin’s point scoring streak at 10 games.

     

    The Caps went 2-2-0 this past week, and hold the lead in the Southeast by three points.

     

    November’s first star – Alex Ovechkin, having broken out of his October scoring slump scored 13 goals and 25-points to be named the NHL’s first star of November.

     

    The Caps went 8-5-2 in November after going 5-3-1 in October. The Capitals have still not lost in regulation at home (9-0-1) and are setting new attendance records. Friday night’s sellout crowd of 18,277 was their second straight sellout at home, and their fourth of the season. The Capitals average attendance after 10 games is now 17,862. That’s a 29.1% increase over the attendance from last year (13,389) and a franchise record for average attendance after 10 games.

     

    The Caps have four games coming up this week. The first is this tomorrow at Verizon, and is blacked out from TV coverage.

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    Caps Give Johnny 100th Career Win


    The Washington Capitals welcomed the Vancouver Canucks to Verizon Center tonight by dubbing tonight “Canadian Heritage Night.” That was about the extent of the warmth of their welcome. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Blackhawks Downed in DC


    The Capitals, after losing to Atlanta 7-4 just the night before, bounced back against Chicago tonight with a come-from-behind 4-2 victory.

    The Caps faithful certainly “rocked the red” proudly tonight, as the streets of Chinatown were abuzz with hope, and flowing with red jerseys and t-shirts. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Bears sink Admirals in preseason opener


    In a game that featured plenty of punching power in the early moments, including a pair of fights within the first two minutes of play, the Hershey Bears sailed by the Norfolk Admirals on the strength of four power play goals on Sunday at Giant Center, by a final score of 5-4. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Capitals talk Olie and Ovie


    So, last Thursday (9/18/09) was my first assignment with the Washington Capitals this year, and my first ever beat assignment for, well, anybody.

    First off, I was going to have to find the Kettler Iceplex; then I needed to find the Caps’ office to receive my press credential. This was a little easier than I had figured, so I wound up at the Caps’ office at 12:15 for a 3 o’clock game. Everyone was out to lunch, so I was going to have to wait and come back for my credential. This gave me ample time to talk to some of the fans who showed up and were waiting around to pick up their tickets for the game. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Former Caps Coach Named To New Post


    Former Washington Capitals Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has been named Assistant Coach of the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. Cassidy, 43, will be lending his extensive coaching expertise to former Capital Rob Murray, 41, who is embarking on his first professional head coaching venture. Read the rest of this entry »

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