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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 1/12/09

    It was a rough week for the Washington Capitals who went 1-2 on their three opponents. The Caps suffered only their second regulation loss at home and saw their seven-game winning streak come to an end.


    I’m going to do things a little differently for this week’s recapping by giving you the good and the bad.


    That’s good! – No Fly Zone – After the 7-1 thrashing the Caps had taken from the Flyers in their last meeting the Caps played a much more solid game of hockey this time. It quickly became apparent that the Caps were stressing defense this time around. After three periods, and the overtime the shots on goal were 34 apiece, and the score was still locked at 1-all. It was Victor Kozlov that scored the only goal in the shootout that sent the hated Flyers home with an OTL.


    That’s Bad – Love for Ovie – Alex Ovechkin had scored a goal in each of the previous nine home games prior to the Flyers game where he did not notch so much as an assist.


    That’s Good! – The All-Star Nod – Alex Ovechkin was officially named to the Eastern Conference All Star team this week. It was more of a formality as most knew he was going to be in last week, even if he was snubbed from the starting line-up.


    That’s Bad – 8 is not enough – Ovie was the only Capital to get an All-Star invite, even with the great play of Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green this season. It’s still amazing to me that the Canadiens get four players in the starting line-up while they are ranked fourth in the Eastern Conference, and the Caps are lucky to get the League MVP on the team while they are ranked second only to Boston.


    That’s Good! – Record shatters Record for Best Record – The Caps 27-11-3 and 57 points qualify for the best first half of a season in Caps’ history.


    That’s Bad – What’s worse than getting a tie for your birthday? – Getting a loss. The Caps got blanked 3-0 on the 54th anniversary of their bench boss’ birth when they faced Columbus at Verizon Center last week. I know you can’t get ties in the NHL anymore, but an OTL would have been better than a loss. Hopefully they do better when they play on my birthday on the 19th.


    That’s Good! – Healthy Returns – The Caps saw the return of Thomas Fleischmann and Sergei Federov this past Friday. Fleischmann apparently had the flu, and Federov was listed as injured for so long that he probably forgot why he listed as injured in the first place. I know I did. Was it something to do with his ankle?


    That’s Bad – Check that net for shrink wrap – The Caps may have been shut out versus Columbus but it certainly wasn’t for lack of effort. Washington poured the shots on goal, and outshot Columbus 45-23. They had at least four shots ring off the post but nothing seemed to bounce the Caps way.


    That’s Good! – The Capitals bounced back from their 3-0 loss by hanging four goals on their next opponent; The Montreal Canadiens.


    That’s Bad – Unfortunately the Canadiens scored five. The Caps entered the third period with a 2-1 lead, but let the Canadiens score four goals in the third while only scoring two themselves. The game appeared to be headed to Overtime, but that chance slipped away with 00:21 seconds left in regulation.


    That’s Good! – A pattern of Hope? – The Caps have been shut out three times this season. They have lost the next game after each shutout, but have gone on to win six of the next seven after that.


    That’s Bad – Unfortunately the Caps face the Bruins (twice) and Redwings as three of their next seven opponents. Boston is currently ranked second in the league standings followed by the Detroit Redwings at third, and Capitals at fourth.


    That’s Bad – Part Two – Who’s this friggin’ Guy? – The Caps only had to register a point to send their Coach Bruce Boudreau to the All-Star game as an assistant coach for the Eastern Conference. Montreal had to win to send their coach Guy (pronounced “Ghee”) Carbonneau. Bruce is going to watch the game at home with the rest of us; While Montreal gets yet another All-Star nod.


    Funny how the All-Star game is being played in Montreal; The Montreal Canadiens already have four starters for the All-Star game even though they are the fourth place team in the conference. The game that decides which coach gets the nod is decided in Montreal. The Canadiens are given two 5-on-3 power-plays after the Caps get the go-ahead goal in the second period and convert for two goals to start the third period….


    …I’m calling shenanigans!


    The Wrap up – Even though the Caps lost their last two games, they really didn’t play all that bad. There were a few times where a guy might be out of position, and a couple of times where guys bumped into each other, but some of that is to be expected when you shuffle up the line combinations as the Caps did when they got Fleischmann and Federov back.


    I’m not quite ready to hit the panic button just yet. Yes the Caps lost two in a row, but nobody wins them all. They are still in good shape and none of their rankings slid (they are still first in their division, second in their conference and fourth in the league). Their opponents did get to catch up on them a little though so they will need to get back on the winning track to keep their conference and league rankings in place. Otherwise, they are in no real danger in the Southeast as they still hold a 10-point lead there.


    Coming up – The Caps start their week off tomorrow at Verizon Center when they welcome in the 21st ranked Edmonton Oilers. Immediately after that they head up to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to face a Penguins team that has lost eight of their last ten games. They finish their week on Saturday by welcoming the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins to Verizon Center.


    Final Thought – The Capitals are one superstar goalie away from being the best team in the league. It’s hard to say anything bad about the work that Johnson and Theodore have been doing as of late, but I’m not ready to consider them “franchise goaltenders” just yet. My blood boils when I consider the burn left by Cristobal Huet as he spurned the Caps for Chicago. The thoughts of what could’ve been will really drive you crazy.


    The fact that Johnson and Theodore are playing so “on the bubble” makes it difficult to say the Caps should bring Varlamov up from the AHL for good, because he is still technically an unknown. So unless Caps GM George McPhee has any other magic tricks up his sleeve that can pull in a guy like Steve Mason or Roberto Luongo, I don’t think the Caps are true cup contenders this year.


    This doesn’t mean that they won’t be fun to watch in the meantime, and you never know when it comes to George McPhee, we’ve seen him pull rabbits out of hats before.

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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 12/29/08

    Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays are two ways to send along good wishes and cover just about everybody’s religious beliefs. For the Christians it’s “Merry Christmas,” for the Jews it’s “Happy Hanukkah,” and for Hockey Fans it’s “Ovechkin Scores!”


    The Caps won all three of their games this Christmas week, some in more dramatic fashion than others. The Caps climbed back to a 10-point lead in the Southeast and climbed to second place in the Eastern Conference.


    Alex Semin is still out due to injury, and now so is Brent Johnson, but the Caps did get see the return of Chris Clark, Mike Green, and Jeff Schultz.


    This week started off in Madison Square Garden where the Caps squared off against the New York Rangers in a game that Smokin’ Al Koken dubbed the “Miracle on 34th Street.”


    12/23/08 @ New York Rangers vs. The Four Goal Deficit - Shaone Morrison may have been celebrating his 26th birthday, but it quickly looked like that was going to be all the celebrating the Caps were going to get to do on this Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.


    Jose Theodore gave up three goals before the game was even 12 minutes old, Brent Johnson came in for the last half of the first period but was not healthy enough to finish the game. Theodore returned in the second and gave up a fourth goal and the Rangers looked to be on their way to a rout of the Washington Capitals.


    I’ll admit; I was tempted to change the channel. I’m sure many Caps fans did. Then it happened; it was just a small spark touched off by Alex Ovechkin who had had just about enough of all this scoring by the Rangers. Alex tallied just over the halfway mark of the game (12:38 in the second) and like fire through a dry Christmas tree the Caps burned through the Rangers for three goals in the third, tying the game at four-apiece.


    I am the Alex and the Omega – Alex Ovechkin rallied his troops by getting the Caps first goal of the night. He also scored the game tying goal which propelled the teams into overtime.


    Go Shaone, it’s your birthday… – You couldn’t script a better ending to this game than to have the birthday boy score the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Caps their first win at MSG since 2004. Shaone Morrison, who wears 26 for the Caps was celebrating his 26th birthday and had not scored a goal since February 26th.


    12/26/08 vs. BuffaloVerizon Center was packed on this Friday after Christmas to watch the Washington Capitals welcome the Buffalo Sabres. The Caps faithful did not leave disappointed.


    The Caps would go on to win by a score of 3-2, and it’s no surprise that Alex Ovechkin was again the difference-maker.


    Another one for the highlight reel – Have you ever seen those “stupid videos” where someone catches a shark? They have the shark laying on the deck and it looks dead…until they reach their hand into it’s mouth. That’s what this goal reminded me of.


    Ovechkin takes the puck from his own zone, skates past Toni Lydman in neutral ice, passes the puck between the legs of Henrik Tallinder, and fires off the wrist shot as he loses his balance and slides into the net-minder.


    If you haven’t seen the goal, you can check it out here.(,2,509&event=WSH443 ) It’s the kind of goal legends are made of.


    Go cry on someone else’s shoulder, wouldya? – Anyone that watches the Caps knows that they rarely get away with much as far as penalties are concerned. Their opponents however seem to have the luxury of not getting called for anything. I will cite the Alex Semin injury as a prime example. Semin is cross-checked, the ref is standing right there, but doesn’t make a call. When questioned about the “no-call” he claims Semin was simply “taking a dive.” When he’s challenged on that, he doles out a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct versus the Caps.


    So, when Derek Roy (center for the Buffalo Sabres) says things like “There were a lot of calls that could have gone our way, but they didn’t, and I don’t know why. Ovechkin gets a little hook on him and it’s a penalty. I don’t know if it’s just our team, but sometimes the elite players seem to get more leeway than the other players.” I don’t have a lot of sympathy for him.


    I guess Mr. Roy forgot that he was guilty of a hand pass right before Thomas Vanek’s power play goal (13:47 in the 3rd), an infraction that would have nullified the tally if detected and properly called.


    12/28/08 vs. TorontoOn the night when the Caps honored Mike Gartner by retiring his number, the Caps players all came out for warm-ups in white #11 jerseys. During the actual game, the Caps wore their white “away” jerseys even though they were skating on home ice.


    Even though the Caps were out shooting the Leafs, and were clearly playing better hockey, the score at the end of the first period was 1-0 in favor of the Leafs.  The Caps knew that if they just kept the pressure up it would pay off, and it did. Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin both scored two goals apiece to give the Caps a 4-1 victory over their former coach Ron Wilson and his Maple Leafs.


    I Laich it a lot – Brooks Laich was a 20 goal scorer last season. He has already reached 10 goals this year (24 games ahead of his pace from last season). He earned his third “Hard Hat” honor from his teammates last night for his workman-like performance versus the Leafs.


    More Good News – The Caps got healthier still as they saw the return of Mike Green and Jeff Schultz for this game. With the Caps doing so well, it’s hard to remember how banged up they are. They still have seven players on their injury list including Semin, Federov, Poti, Erskine, Pothier, Fleischmann and Johnson!


    Beware the Phonebooth – The Caps are an amazing 15-1-1 at home. They have the best home-ice record in the Eastern Conference, and the second best home-ice record in the league (only behind the San Jose Sharks who are 18-0-2).


    The Wrap-upIt was a heckuva week for Alex Ovechkin as he scored five goals in three games. It was also a good week for Jose Theodore. After giving up a combined seven goals between the third period versus the Flyers, and the first period versus the Rangers, Theo only allowed 4 goals in the subsequent eight periods. To give you an idea, in those aforementioned two periods (Philly and N.Y.), Theo had a save percentage of 0.700. In the eight periods since, he has a save percentage of 0.941.


    Coming UpThe Caps wrap up 2008 with a rematch versus the Sabres, and start the New Year at home versus the Lightning and the Rangers. For those of you with the careful eye, the Caps are in fact facing two of the three opponents they faced last week. Obviously, Buffalo is going to feel like they have something to prove, since they feel like they got the short end of the penalty stick last week, but New York is coming to Verizon knowing that they cannot take the Caps for granted…even with a four-goal lead.


    Washington must be driving the Vegas bookies crazy as you can never predict what they are going to do. If I had to pick, I’d say the Caps win against Buffalo on the road, and the Rangers at home, but drop the game against Tampa for no other reason than that’s the game they were supposed to win.


    It’s the one thing you can say about the Caps…they are never boring.

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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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