Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Caps can't close out the Hurricanes

Well the Washington Capitals were finally back home after a two week road trip to play the Hurricanes. Also to add to the excitement Jason Arnott and Alex Ovechkin returned to the lineup. However in the end it just wasn't enough for the Caps to prevail in a shootout.

No goals were scored in the first period by either team due to the elite goal tending. Carolina did not take long to strike in the second when Jussi Jokinen netted a power play goal. Alex Semin answered swiftly on the scoreboard roofing goalie Cam Ward to tie the contest. On the following power play chance for the Caps, the Hurricanes had a short handed chance turn into a penalty shot. Semyon Varlamov denied Chad Larose with a poke check on the attempt.

After Varly's save the Capitals were on the offensive. Marcus Johansson was the next one on the stat sheet making it 2-1. He took a pass from Semin and deked his way through the defense eventually slotting it passed Ward. Varly's strong play in the first two periods unfortunately didn't carry over to the third. He gave up the tying goal to Jeff Skinner early on in the third when it squeezed through his pads. This turned out to be costly for the Caps and I'm sure Varly would like that chance back. He ended the game with 25 saves while Cam Ward racked up 41.

The game would go to over time where Carolina played back on their heels for the majority of the five minutes. Alex Ovechkin was denied many times by Cam Ward after he dazzled through the defense with line mate Nicklas Backstrom. It then went to a shootout and the Capitals were stonewalled losing 2-0. It was a tough loss in the Verizon Center, but it was Arnott and Ovi's first game back. The team will get back to normal by Thursday vs. Blue Jackets. Tune in on Thursday at 7:30 to watch the Caps get back on track. There are five games remaining in the regular season Rock the Red.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cap's Canadian Weekend

The Capitals had an alright weekend in Canada leaving the country up north with a win and loss. It started off with a depressing shutout to the Ottawa Senators 2-0. The Caps had numerous chances on Friday night but just couldn't beat goalie Craig Anderson. Without Alex Ovechkin, Jason Arnott, and many others Washington was bound to lose a game on this road trip. Semyon Varlamov returned from a long absence because of injury to make 21 saves in the losing effort. Varly held his own except for the second goal that went 5-hole that sealed the loss.

On Saturday Caps headed down the street to Montreal and played a much better game all around. Rookie goaltender Braden Holtby was called up once again to start for the Caps because Michal Neuvirth was sick. Braden did it again when he shutout the Habs for his sixth straight win and second shutout of the season. It is amazing how confident this youngster is between the pipes, and he is only improving each contest.

Nicklas Backstrom had the primary assist in both goal on Saturday, the first one to Marco Sturm. It was Sturm's first goal since joining the Caps and definitely took some pressure off #18. Alex Semin sealed the deal in the third period when he tipped in a perfect pass from Nicky B. All three defensive lines played great to assist Hotlby with the shutout.

The Caps will now head back home for the first time in two weeks for a match up vs. the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. They will have three home games in a row in the next week. It was said the Arnott and Ovi could return to the lineup by the end of the week. Can't wait for that! We are only two weeks away from the playoffs starting and the Capitals are taking a turn for the better each week. Keep the faith and as always Rock the Red!

Three Stars for the Weekend
1. Nicklas Backstrom
2. Braden Holtby
3. Marco Sturm

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Caps take the Flyers in a shootout

The Capitals clinched a playoff berth tonight in Philly but it wasn’t exactly easy. In one of the most thrilling games of the season, anyone watching would agree that it felt like playoff atmosphere was in the air. On a side note it was hard watching the game without Alex Ovechkin on the ice. Return soon Ovi.
The scoring started out early when Nicklas Backstrom beat Bobrovsky on a wrister that he probably should’ve saved. It was Nicky B’s 18th goal of the season. Mike Knuble has been showing his veteran leadership lately and it continued tonight when he lit the lamp in the first period making it 2-0. After the 1st period the Caps seemed to be well on their way to an easy win.
The Capitals made it 3-0 on the power play early in the second with Dennis Wideman’s first goal as a Cap. After that the Flyers rookie goaltender was pulled and Brian Boucher was replaced him. Something awoke in the Philadelphia players after the goalie switch because they were on the offensive for the remainder of the game. Kris Versteeg and Claude Giroux didn’t waste any time in the second drawing closer to the lead. By the end of the second period the score was 3-2 Washington with the Flyers carrying the momentum.
Philly outworked the Capitals to the point of Danny Briere taking the lead 4-3 with only five minutes remaining in the game. Every Washington fan including myself thought there was little chance of a Caps comeback. Marcus Johansson the stellar rookie defied the odds when he beat Boucher with a onetime slapper. MoJo continues to impress me and play better each night. He had one goal, one assist, and a +2 ice rating. Johansson’s goal would tie the game and send it to OT.
Overtime was action packed with scoring chances but neither team could strike in the five extra minutes. Last time the Caps and Flyers faced off in a shootout earlier this year Danny Briere won it for Philly. All three of Capitals shooters beat Boucher for a 3-2 shootout win. Matt Hendricks, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin were the shooters that all capitalized. I would have to say Matty H had the best goal when he undressed and embarrassed the Flyers goalie. He continues to impress me.
This was a huge win for the Caps without Alex Ovechkin and other big contributors. We now trail Philadelphia by one point but have played two more games than them. Let’s see if Washington can eventually retake first place for their second Eastern Conference title in two years. The Capitals will now head to Canada for games on Friday and Saturday nights. They will face the Ottawa Senators on Friday and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. Tune in this weekend. Rock the Red!
Player of the Game: Mike Knuble (1 goal, 2 assists, +2)
Stat of the Game: +6, 6 points, game-tying goal (MoJo/Knuble/Chimera line)
Unsung Hero: Matt Hendricks

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Latest Caps News

The Caps will take on the only team standing between them and first place tonight. Philly has only won four of their last ten games, while the Caps have won nine of their last ten. The Flyers haven won the last two contests of the season leading the series 2-1, with this being the last meeting.

Despite the Capitals winning nine of their last ten, injuries have flared up in Washington the past few weeks. Nicklas Backstrom recently missed five games but has returned from his finger injury. Jason Arnott was announced to be out week to week with an undisclosed injury last week. He isn't expected to return until April. Mike Green is still on LTIR and can return March 25th at the soonest, but it doesn’t look like he will be that lucky. Continuing the list defenseman Tom Poti has missed most of the year and there is no timetable for his return. Eric Fehr was out nearly two months with an upper body injury, returned back to the lineup and is now hurt again. He and John Erskine who is out with an illness are both questionable for tonight's game in Philadelphia.

Last but not least on the injury list is the Cap's captain and leader Alexander Ovechkin. It was stated yesterday that Ovi would be out 7-10 days with an undisclosed ailment. Bruce Boudreau claimed that it was not a serious injury and that they were just trying to rest him for the playoffs. However he was asked if this was a playoff game would he play. Bruce responded probably not. I am not worried, but not having #8 in the lineup is never a good feeling. Hopefully he will return before the playoffs, so he doesn't come in cold turkey.

Let's pray that Ovi will be fine and that all of these injuries cleanup before the playoffs begin. On the plus side the Capitals are playing great hockey missing a lot their of pieces to the puzzle. It will be a sight to see when everyone suits up for game one of the playoffs with hopefully everyone in good health. Keep the faith Caps fans and as always Rock the Red!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Neuvy blanks the Devils

Well it was a homecoming Friday night for defenseman John Carlson in Jersey. With the Devils needing to pretty much win out to make the playoffs the Caps knew it would be no easy task leaving town with a win. A fresh face was back in the lineup for the Caps after missing five games, it was Nicklas Backstrom.
Washington despite a slow start they would get the scoring going with a very unfamiliar face lighting the lamp. Jeff Schultz was the first to beat Martin Brodeur. Schultz? It was his first goal in 82 games. He was assisted by Mike Knuble and Dennis Wideman. Knuble was just getting started on the stat sheet.
The Capitals couldn’t get many shots on net for some reason. After the first period they had only logged 8 shots. Despite this, the shot selection was what put the Caps up one more goal deep in the second. A beautiful goal by Knuble was setup with 2 great passes from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson. The Caps would go in to the locker room at the end of the second with a 2-0 lead and just 8 shots on goal.
Mike Knuble would put the nail in the coffin in the final period capping off his great night. Ovi found him on a nice stretch pass leaving Knuble open for the shot. Michal Neuvirth recorded his fourth shutout of the season with 33 saves last night. He now leads all rookies in the shutouts category. Alex Ovechkin, Marcus Johansson, and Mike Knuble seem to be really clicking as a line. Ovi and Mojo lead the team with a +3 ice rating and Ovi had two assists. John Carlson in his homecoming also had two assists with a +2 ice rating.
Overall it was a great all around game played by the Capitals in New Jersey despite having 12 shots on goal. Washington is still trying to get healthy for the playoffs with a few weeks remaining. They now have a three day break before they take on the first place Flyers on Tuesday. A lot will be riding on this game. Tune in to Versus on Tuesday for the first place showdown.
Player of the Game: Michal Neuvirth (33 save shutout)
Stat of the Game: 2 goals, 1 assist (Mike Knuble)
Unsung Hero: John Carlson

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Caps streak ends at 10 to the Wings

The Caps suffered a tough streak ending loss lat night in Hockey Town. Henrik Zetterberg's two goals were too much for Washington  and Michal Neuvirth. Zetterberg was the first to strike in the contest but he was quickly answered by a John Carlson missile. It was his first goal in 26 games and his 6th goal of the season.

The Red Wings would take the lead shortly after when Valtteri Filppula tipped one through the legs of Neuvy. Alex Ovechkin would tie it up with a beautiful wrister that was his 29th goal of the season. In the end Zetterberg would finish the Caps winning streak with a power play goal in the third period. Truthfully, Neuvy should have saved it, but it was a tough break.

This was the second game of Washington's 6 game road trip. They will face off in New Jersey on Friday to play the late surging Devils. The Devil's record is very deceiving because they have been playing some enthusiastic hockey lately trying to make a run fr the playoffs. Hopefully the Capitals will shake off these injuries before the playoffs. Nicklas Backtrom should be back in the lineup for Friday. Erskine and Fehr are day to day. Arnott was reported week to week and will return in early April at the latest. We can't win every game Caps but it was good to see how strong of team we have begun since the trade deadline. Tune in Friday to watch the Caps start a new streak. Rock the Red!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Caps vs. Hurricanes Preview

The Capitals will play the second game of their three game home stand tonight vs. the Hurricanes. In this Southeast division matchup the Caps will try and extend their winning streak to seven games. Defense has been key in this six game stretch only allowing eight goals. Washington is now ranked 4th in the league in GAA with 2.38.

Another positive attribute that we can acknowledge was the rare glimpse of a functional power play last game going 2 for 5. Eric Fehr in his first game back scored one of his two goals on the extra man. Alex Ovechkin had their other tally which to much surprise was his first power play goal in the Verizon Center this season.

Carolina has been struggling since they hosted All Srar Weekend winning only 6 of 17 games. They currently are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference tied with the Buffalo Sabres. However the Sabres have the tiebreaker so they temporarily sit in a playoff spot.

Braden Holtby will get his second straight start tonight for the Caps. Mike Green will not return until March 22nd at the soonest because he was place on LTIR on February 25th. Tom Poti and Jay Beagle were seen skating at practice but there is no word when they will be back in the lineup. Nicklas Backstrom is expected to miss one to two more games because of his finger. The puck drops at 7: keep the streak alive Caps fans! Rock the Red!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Caps steamroll Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers arrived in Washington with the worst record in the NHL with 54 points. Nicklas Backstrom wasn’t in the lineup for the first time in his career, but that didn’t stop the Caps from having a goal fiesta as I predicted.
The story of the night was the power play for the first time in a while. On the second extra man opportunity of the night Jason Arnott fed Alex Ovechkin for an easy tap in to make it 1-0. Five minutes later it was the return of Eric Fehr that brought the second power play goal of the night. Both of the extra man tallies were in the second period. The two power play goals in one game ended a 43 game drought of not scoring more than one pp goal in a game.
Early in the third period Marcus Johansson and Ovi connected on one of the prettiest goals I’ve seen this season. They exchanged passes back and forth until The Great 8 undressed Khabibulin for his second goal of the night and his 27th of the season. Whoever said Johansson and Ovi didn’t have chemistry didn’t know what they were talking about.
This scoring exhibition had only just begun as The Carpenters used to say. Eric Fehr wasn’t finished making his mark when he logged his second goal of the night making it 4-0. This goal happened when Khabibulin was caught out of his net and Jason Chimera unselfishly found Fehr for the tap in. The final goal of the night just seemed routine for this sniper for his play as of late. Yes you guessed it Caps fans ALEX SEMIN! Marco Sturm picked up his first point in a red sweater when he sealed the contest with a pass to Semin for goal number five.
Braden Holtby made 22 saves and recorded his first career NHL shutout. I can’t say how impressed I am by the composure of this youngster in the crease. Washington is in trouble because they have three outstanding goaltenders. That is a good problem to have if you are George McPhee. Alex Ovechkin also picked up his 600th point in his three point performance tonight. This win makes it a six game winning streak which ties their season high. The Caps will take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday in DC to continue their streak. Puck drops at 7. Rock the Red!
Player of the Game: Alex Ovechkin (2 goals, 1 assist)
Stat of the Game: 1st NHL shutout (Braden Holtby)
Unsung Hero: Eric Fehr

Latest news leading up to Edmonton game

Nicklas Backstrom will be sitting out his first NHL game for the first time in his career tonight vs. the Edmonton Oilers. He left game with a finger injury late in the second period of the game vs. the Lightning. This ends his consecutive game streak at 313.

In other news Braden Holtby is expected to start tonight's game, but Michal Neuvirth is expected to be fine to back him up after seeing doctors yesterday. Semyon Varlamov is still day to day and might return next week. Eric Fehr is expected to be in the lineup tonight for the first time since January 14th. Tom Poti, Tyler Sloan, Jay Beagle, and D.J. King were also seen skated late at practice today, so the lineups for tonight are still up in the air.

Finally the predicted center tonight are Jason Arnott, Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, and Boyd Gordon. There was no news of recalling center Mathieu Perreault from Hershey. Caps are only allowed four recalls after the trade deadline and Nicky B being hurt doesn't present an emergency call up to George McPhee. The puck drops at 7 tonight. I still expect the Caps to still score ample goals. Rock the Red!

Who's Hot, Who's Not

-Alexander Semin- The young Russian has proven himself in the last five games that just happens to be a five game winning streak for the Caps. He has had the game winning point (2 goals, 1 assist)in three of the last five games. Most importantly Semin sniped the tying goal in the final minutes vs. the Lightning which lead to a shootout win for the Capitals. We pray Semin can keep the consistency come playoff time.
-Michal Neuvirth- Neuvy has stepped up as our number one goaltender since the injury of Varly. He set the Caps record for rookie goalie wins in the past week with 22. Winning four of his last five and logging a 1.60 GAA Neuvy's been the key to success in Washington. With his save percentage being in the high 90's in the past five it's no wonder the Caps are winning games scoring only two or three goals.

-Truthfully there is nobody who stands out to me. Yes I could probably pick someone, but all of the Caps are playing well over this five game winning streak. The Capitals are playing there most consistent hockey since the acquisitions of Marco Sturm, Dennis Wideman, and Jason Arnott. We finally are ready for the much anticipated playoff run, so noone is in the stink this week!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Holtby stonewalls Lightning in shootout

With one thing at stake on Monday night in Tampa the Capitals knew they had to come through with a win. However things didn’t get off to a good start when the first shot by the Lightning struck Michal Neuvirth straight in the mask taking it off his head. He would remain in goal for the remainder of the first. Braden Holtby would come in as the replacement at the start of the second period.
Before the first was over Tampa Bay was first on the scoreboard when Martin St. Louis wristed a shot that was deflected by Sean Bergenheim passed Neuvy. This happened on Washington’s second penalty kill of the night just four seconds in. The Capitals failed on all four of their power play chances including a 4 on 3 in overtime.
There was no scoring in the second period but many shots and hits. Each team logged the most shots on goal in the second period with Tampa outshooting the Caps 14-10. This shot fiesta featured the skills of Braden Holtby who came in cold turkey and made many spectacular saves.
The Capitals didn’t tickle the twine until late in the third period by none other than Alex Semin. Dennis Wideman found Semin and he did the rest when he sniped Dwayne Roloson for the tying goal. Alex Ovechkin also assisted on the goal. Ovi now has an assist in each of his last 5 games.
This took the game to overtime for the second straight night. As stated earlier the Capitals had the best opportunities on a 4 on 3 but, simply couldn’t best Roloson. The buzzer sounded at the end of overtime and many Caps fans were worried remembering Holtby being outmatched in his last shootout. He answered the critics behind their televisions by stopping all three of the Lightning’s shots. Alex Ovechkin would score the game winning shootout goal when he roofed the goaltender and popped his bottle off the top of the net. Ovi poppin bottles!!!!!!!!
This was a monumental win for the Capitals and proved too many that they are a legit contender for Lord Stanley. Braden Holtby is the third string goalie and he looked like he could be playing with any goaltender in the league. Not to mention the 21 year old has given up only three goals in his last four games, winning three of those contests. The missing pieces are here Washington fans as I keep saying each day. Tampa Bay now trails the Caps by 3 points with playing one less game.
The Caps will head back to DC and have an optional practice tomorrow at Kettler Iceplex. They will then take on the Edmonton Oilers of the Western Conference on Wednesday night. The Oilers are currently the worst team in the West and will be playing the Philadelphia Flyers the night before so the Caps should have no problem handing them a beating for their sixth straight win. There is no exact timetable on either Mike Green or Eric Fehr’s return but it should not be long before we see them back out on the ice. Tune in Wednesday night at 7. Rock the Red!
Player of the Game: Braden Holtby (21 saves, 0 goals allowed)

Stat of the Game: Shootout win (Caps first since Nov. 28th)

Unsung Hero: Dennis Wideman

Monday, March 7, 2011

Caps coast by the Panthers in OT

Many fans like myself thought this game vs. the Panthers last night was going to be a cake walk. However it took an Alex Semin OT slapper to steal this game. I felt that the refs took control of this game late into the contest giving the Pathers ample power play chances.

Florida started off the scoring when Bill Thomas finished off a 2 on 1. Alex Ovechkin didn't take much time in finding Nick Backstrom for the tying goal. Nicky B beat Clemmensen with a one time slapper between the circles. Matt Hendricks would fight Florida's McArdle in a quick noneventful fight.

In the second period the Caps took their first lead of the game when Boyd Gordon scored his 2nd goal of the season off a John Carlson rebound. The Capitals then started to coast through the second and third period killing penalties one after another.

Then late in the third period the Caps took two penalties and were suddenly in the midst of killing a 5 on 3. David Booth did not waste any time in making it even for the Panthers. The Caps eventually killed the other penalty an the game went to over time. Alex Semin and Marcus Johansson skated down the ice passing back and forth ending in a Semin missile that went 5-hole.

This 3-2 victory gave the Caps their fourth straight victory. Michal Neuvirth cannot be given enough credit for his consistent play as of late. He stopped 32 of 34 shots and kept the Caps in the game. This win put the Capitals in the lead of the Southeast division for the first time in a while. Washington will continue their road trip tonight in Tampa for a very crucial matchup. The Caps can gain a 3 point lead with a win so tune in tonight at 7. Rock the Red!

Player of the Game: Boyd Gordon (1 goal, PK play)

Stat of the Game: 32 saves (Michal Neuvirth)

Unsung Hero: Matt Hendricks

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Caps vs. Panthers Preview

Caps take on the Florida Panthers this afternoon in which I’m predicting to be a goal bonanza. Washington is coming off a 3-2 victory over the Blues Thursday. That game ended with a beautiful goal by the newly acquired Jason Arnott. Talk about making an early impact; he’s had two crucial points in the last two wins.
The Capitals will play their next two games in Florida. They will play the Panthers in Miami tonight and in Tampa tomorrow night. Both games are crucial because Tampa lost last night opening the Southeast lead to the Caps. If they win tonight and beat the Lightning tomorrow they will have control of the Southeast division. It’s about damn time CAPS!
Needless to say I am ecstatic about this new team the Caps have been playing with. When we get back Eric Fehr and Mike Green this team has scary potential for the Cup. I’m not jumping to conclusions but I like the line combinations and the new look of the Washington Capitals. Tune into tonight at 5 for the drop of the puck. Rock the Red!
In Ovi We Trust.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Caps vs. Blues Preview

The Caps will take on the St. Louis Blues tonight at the Verizon Center for the second game in three days with the new star studded cast. All three acquisitions showed promise at each position on Tuesday vs. the Islanders. Marco Sturm showed his speed on the wing when he almost scored in his first game on a breakaway. Jason Arnott proved his veteran qualities at center when he assisted on the tying goal in the final minute of the game. Dennis Wideman showed his endurance and toughness leading the Caps with 26:44 time on the ice.
Washington played the Blues earlier in the season and prevailed with a 4-1 victory. St. Louis will be without the stellar play of goalie Jaroslav Halak because he has been out with a hand injury. We will see if the Capitals can extend their winning streak to three games. The Caps haven’t won three games straight since they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Winter Classic which was the last win of a three game winning streak.
This new group of Capitals had another day to get acclimated with each other on Wednesday, so they should have more chemistry tonight vs. the Blues. I like the new line combinations that Bruce Boudreau had the other night, and they might stay the same. Sturm was put with Ovi and Nicky B who can bring out the best in any player with their talent. Arnott centered well for Semin and Laich, finding both of them for numerous scoring chances. Wideman piloted a defense that was without their leader Mike Green.
In other Caps news, they have signed Dmitri Orlov to a three-year entry level deal. He is a very promising 19 year old prospect for the Caps that has recently been playing for the Hershey Bears. Orlov also helped Russia take gold in the World Junior Championships, logging 9 points in 7 games. He was also named to the All-star team for the tournament along with fellow Washington prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Tune in tonight to see the Caps extend their winning streak. Puck drops at 7. Rock the Red.
In Ovi We Trust.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ovi lifts team passed the Isles in OT

Last night the Cap's new acquisitions put on their red sweaters for the first time. The Caps faced off vs. the Islanders for the fourth time this season. Early on both Jason Arnott and Marco Sturm had scoring chances for the Caps. In the first period the Capitals looked as if they had a new identity getting lots of pucks to the net.

The game was scoreless after the first but the Isles would tally the first goal when Matt Moulson beat Michal Neuvirth on a one timer. Each team failed on all power play chances throughout the game. The Caps looked flat in the second period and didn't look very functional on the PP.

The Caps had many golden opportunities in the first fifteen minutes of the third but couldn't capitalize. Alex Semin and John Carlson both missed wide open nets that could of tied the contest.Finally in the last minute of the game new center Jason Arnott found Brooks laich with a beautiful pass tying the game. What a debut play for Arnott! The Verizon Center suddenly had a new atmosphere leading into over time.

Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom were the third forward pairing to take the ice in extra time and would be the last. The next play would be the decider for the Capitals. Ovi took the puck, undressed two defenders and beat the Isalnder goalie on a backhand for and epic Oviesque ending to the game. The real Ovi is back and here to stay. It was by far his best goal of the year. With that goal he now leads the NHL with 9 game winning goals. He also picked up he 300th career assist on the Arnott goal.

The Caps out shot the Islanders 40 to 29 in this contest. Neuvy played another stellar game saving 28 of the 29 shots. All three of the new Caps got plenty of playing time and will only get better over time.The Capitals play the St. Louis Blues on Thursday at home in their next game. I personally cannot wait for this newly assembled team to start playing like a Stanley Cup contender that they are. The puck drops at 7. Rock the Red!

Player of the Game: Alex Ovechkin (1 goal, 1 assist)
Stat of the Game: 28 saves and 1 GAA (Michal Neuvirth)
Unsung Hero: Jason Arnott