Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Caps can't hold early lead, suffers 3-2 loss

The Capitals had their best start to a game all season Tuesday night, leading the Senators 2-0. Unfortunately they wouldn’t reach the scoreboard the rest of the game and would fall 3-2 late in the third. Oates' system does seem to be finally working, but playing a full 60 minutes seems to be a reoccurring problem. Troy Brouwer and Matt Hendricks tickled the twine in the first each for their second goal of the season.
In the third period, Michal Neuvirth gave up a weak goal near side to Milan Michalek to tie the game 2-2. Late in the third, Joel Ward would take a penalty that was a controversial high sticking call. The NHL rules state that it is not a high stick if it occurs during a follow through of playing the puck. This penalty would be the deciding factor in the game with Sergei Gonchar putting the dagger in the Caps on the extra man.
Neuvy didn’t play his best game even though the game winner was a deflection that he couldn’t control. Washington went into a defensive shell in the third period trying to defend their one goal lead, which could be why they were kept off the scoreboard. Mike Green and John Carlson led Washington once again in ice time and each had an even ice rating. Green also led the team with five shots on goal.
The most irritating thing about this game is the line combinations of the Capitals. Adam Oates is new to this team, but in the beginning of the year he stated he was going to do anything in his power to make Alex Ovechkin succeed on the ice. I’m not suggesting Ovechkin’s stats are more important than the team winning, but his success definitely reflects the team winning or not. I’m referring to putting Ovi on a line with Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb. This will simply not bring any positives to the Great Eight. Hopefully on Thursday we see Troy Brouwer and Nicklas Backstrom at his side because that line seems to have some chemistry from last season.
The Caps are definitely very close to reaching their full potential, and with a few tweaks I believe we will see the Ovi and Caps of old. If I am Oates I definitely keep the line of Chimera, Ribeiro, and Ward together because they are having evident success. We will see in Toronto come Thursday if he has a change of heart. Keep the faith Caps fans!
Player of the Game: John Erskine (1 assist, 8 hits)
Mr. Irrelevant: Matthieu Perreault
Unsung Hero: Wojtek Wolski

Monday, January 28, 2013

Who's Hot, Who's Not

-          Joel Ward: The Caps are five games into the season and the team leader in goals is none other than Joel Ward. We are finally seeing the player we signed from Nashville two years ago. He leads the team with three goals and has five points total. Adam Oates has given him some power play time and he has already proven to be successful with one power play goal. His forward line with Mike Ribeiro and Jason Chimera has seen great offensive results early in the season.
-          Mike Ribeiro: This Caps newcomer leads the team in points through five games with one goal and five assists. Even though the Capitals have only one win he continually makes things happen in the offensive zone with his line mates Chimera and Ward. He has been very productive on the power play, logging four of his six points on the extra man. It is safe to say the Capitals have finally found their second line center.
-          John Carlson: The Capitals defense has had their share of problems to start the season and Carlson has been the cause for a lot of them. For starters, he has been on the ice for 13 of the 19 goals against this season. Carlson seems to be experiencing some positioning problems with the new system. He is second among defenseman with ice time, so we need him to start playing like the American hero we all know. The time to earn that six year, $23.8 million contract is now!!!!  

Oates' first win

All it took for the Caps to prevail for their first win was Alex Ovechkin to end his scoring drought. He would do that in the third period off a one timer on the power play. Ovi’s first goal would end up being the deciding factor against the Sabres making the final score 3-2. Ovechkin played his best game yet logging five shots, three hits, and his first goal.
The other Washington goals were scored by Joel Ward and John Erskine. Joel Ward scored his third goal of the season to tie up the game early 1-1. The forward line of Ward, Ribeiro, and Chimera were all +2 with two points each. They seem to complement each other well with Ribeiro’s skill, Joel Ward’s fore-checking, and Jason Chimera’s speed. I like the look of them as a second line and I hope that Oates will keep them together.
The Ovechkin, Beagle, and Crabb line if you ask me is a lost cause. I understand for one game to reward Beagle and Crabb of their skating. Now even after the win against the Sabres Oates is saying that he will keep that line together. I don’t understand that after Brouwer and Backstrom accompanied Ovi for a successful forward line for half the game yesterday. The defense look improved but John Carlson was once again at the fault of a fast break goal which opened up the scoring by Tyler Ennis. Mike Green picked up his second assist on the Ovechkin game winner and also led all players in time on the ice again.
Michal Neuvirth had another great game saving 22 of 24 shots. He held the Caps’ lead well, making some big saves late in the third period. The Caps only took two penalties throughout the game and killed both of them. This was the first game of the season where they didn’t allow a PP goal. The Capitals however went 1 for 3 on the PP. Mike Ribeiro had one of the assists on Ovechkin’s power play goal. He had two assists in the game and now has six points on the season, making him the leader of the Capitals.
The Caps seem to be finally learning their system and I hope it continues on Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators. Michal Neuvirth has already been named starter for the game. It seems we will see the Ovechkin, Crabb, and Beagle line which I willing to bet will not stand for the entire game. This Washington team has the talent and once the system is learned we will see the Caps of old winning many games consecutively. Keep the faith Caps fans!
Player of the Game: Joel Ward (1 goal, 1 assist)
Stat of the Game: Alex Ovechkin’s first goal!!!!
Unsung Hero: Mike Green

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Despite comeback, Caps lose in OT

On Friday night the Capitals suffered a tough defeat to the Devils, but not without earning their first point of the year. The Caps fought respectively from behind, trailing 2-0 at the end of the second period. Washington would have five power play chances in the third period. They would first capitalize with a 5 on 3 when Joel Ward found Mike Ribeiro for his first goal. Five minutes later Mike Green would tie the game with a shot from the point. In the end, it was Ilya Kovalchuk that ended the Caps comeback after Alex Ovechkin turned the puck over in the offensive zone.
The most important aspect of the game for the Caps was no doubt Michal Neuvirth. He saved 32 of 35 shots and had more than a few spectacular saves to keep the Caps in the game. Neuvy stood on his head when he was left out to dry on several breakaways. It is nice to finally see some positives from the crease and Neuvy has proved himself for the time being.
Mike Green played his best game of the season, logging a goal and assist. He also led all skaters with 31:10 of ice time. Despite an ill-advised penalty taken in OT, Greener was the best player out there for Washington. John Carlson looked lost again with a -2 ice rating. We’ve seen Carlson play as an elite defenseman before in this league, he needs to do some soul searching and find the #74 we all know and love.
Carlson is not the only one we’re missing out on the ice, and yes I’m talking about Alex Ovechkin. He was back at left wing tonight but with a strange combination of line mates with Joey Crabb and Jay Beagle. Nothing is wrong with those two, but if you’re trying to get your superstar captain out of his slump that isn’t the answer. Adam Oates said he was rewarding Beagle and Crabb for playing well the last couple games. Ovi was on the ice for the game winning goal, where he toe-picked in the offensive zone turning the puck over for the Devils rush.
The positive outlook would be that we are seeing improvements in the Caps each day. We need our star players to continue to step up for us like Mike Green did today despite the loss. Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin need to discover their roles in Oates’ new system and fast. The Caps will practice tomorrow back home, and face the Buffalo Sabres at the Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon. Keep the faith Caps fans!
Player of the Game: Mike Green (1 goal, 1 assist)
Stat of the Game: 32 saves (Michal Neuvirth)
Mr. Irrelevant: Alex Ovechkin
Unsung Hero: Joel Ward

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Caps look for answers, fall to Habs

Another abysmal second period from the Capitals leaves them 0-3 on the year. What’s wrong? Once again it starts with the stupid penalties taken which lead to two quick goals by Montreal. Alex Ovechkin takes a dumb interference call which was shortly followed by an ill-advised delay of game by Troy Brouwer. The Habs would score once during the 5 on 3, and after Matt Hendricks was called for goalie interference would make it 2-0. The Caps are 11 for 18 on the penalty kill this season which is unacceptable. At the end of the second period the score was 4-0 Habs.  John Carlson and Karl Alzner had their share of problems tonight, and were out on the ice for every Montreal goal. This pair used to be the bread and butter of our defense and now seem to be second guessing themselves in their positioning.
The Capitals were 0 for 4 on the PP tonight, making them 2 for 12 on the year. They need to develop more traffic in front of the net and shoot more. Alex Ovechkin was held pointless once again and is still goalless at the right wing position. How long will Oates keep Ovi at RW? We shall see. The only Cap to score was newcomer Joey Crabb who scored off a nice pass from Jason Chimera late in the third period. Jay Beagle, Tom Poti, Chimera were the only Caps with +1 ratings. Beagle played another hard-fought game logging his first point of the season, assisting on Crabb’s goal. Matt Hendricks dropped gloves with Brandon Prust for his third fight of the season. At this rate look for Hendy to join the MMA by the end of the season. Keep up the good work #26.
Michal Neuvirth only saved 18 of 22 in his first start, but didn’t receive much help from the rest of the team. Washington doesn’t have any time to feel sorry for themselves with the New Jersey Devils on the schedule for tomorrow night. Yes, a new system takes time to learn, but it’s the little things that the Caps aren’t doing that are killing them. They have given up many goals due to not clearing the puck on the PK. Adam Oates needs to find some consistency with his forward lines because there is no opportunity for chemistry. The first line has to start clicking for this team to have success and Oates has to stick with a third guy to accompany Backstrom and Ovi. Last but not least, stop taking stupid penalties! Hopefully we will see a change tomorrow and expect to see Braden Holtby in the nets.
Player of the Game: Joey Crabb (only goal)
Stat of the Game: The Capitals are the only Eastern Conference team without a point
Co-Mr. Irrelevant: John Carlson and Karl Alzner
Unsung Hero: Matt Hendricks

Gameday Lineup vs. Montreal Canadiens

These are the projected lineups for tonight’s game. These lines were practicing together at KCI this morning. As you can see the only line to stay together was the third forward line, perhaps because they’ve had the most success. Marcus Johansson has moved from the first to the fourth line because he is still in Adam Oates’ doghouse for not skating versus Winnipeg Jets. Newcomer, Wojtek Wolski, has moved up to the first line to prove himself which should be a good line combo. Finally, Matt Hendricks has moved to the second line for his impressive performance the other night. Well Deserved! The defensive lines were kept the same.


1st Line:  Wojtek Wolski  -  Nicklas Backstrom  -  Alex Ovechkin

2nd Line:  Matt Hendricks  -  Mike Ribeiro  -  Troy Brouwer

3rd Line:  Jason Chimera  -  Jay Beagle  -  Joel Ward

4th Line:  Marcus Johansson  -  Matthieu Perreault  -  Joey Crabb


1st D:  Karl Alzner  -  John Carlson

2nd D:  Tom Poti  -  Mike Green

3rd D:  Roman Hamrlik  -  Tomas Kundratek

Goalie:  Michal Neuvirth

Healthy Scratches

Forwards: Eric Fehr
Defense: Jeff Schultz, John Erskine

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Caps still adapting to Oates' new system

The Washington Capitals are 0-2 to start the shortened season under a new coach. The players will take a week or two to get used to Adam Oates’ new system. Last night the Caps looked clueless at some points, especially on the penalty kill. In the first two games the Caps PK has only killed 61.5% of power plays. This team cannot continue to take this many penalties, already giving up five power play goals. Newcomers, Mike Ribeiro and Joey Crabb both took penalties for chirping at the referees late in the game. Ribeiro’s penalty also resulted in a 10 minute misconduct. He didn’t seem to like getting high-sticked in the face that went unnoticed earlier in the game. Marcus Johansson last night was the worst Caps player on the ice because he was simply not skating. Mojo was removed from the top line and was benched for the majority of the third period. He has to improve his game or we could see him getting healthy scratched in the future.
Some fans might be panicking, but with a new coach, new system, and some new players, the Washington Capitals will only get better with time. It took time for Adam Oates to have effect on the New Jersey Devils the last couple years, but helped them to the Stanley Cup, with that being said, the Caps have scored a power play goal in consecutive games and seem to be working the puck pretty well in the 1-3-1 formation. Despite the penalties, Mike Ribeiro leads the team in points with three assists in two games. Alex Ovechkin is noticeably taking some time to adapt to his new position at right wing. He looks a little lost, but I saw improvement from the first game last night with him picking up his first point of the year. Other than Mike Green, Ovi played more minutes than anyone on the team and logged four shots and one assist.
Braden Holtby seems to be, “fighting the puck” as Coach Adam Oates said, referring to him looking uncomfortable in net in the first two contests of the year. He has allowed 10 goals in two games which could be the reason Michal Neuvirth will start on Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens. Holtby has an 86% save percentage this season and is in need of some help defensively to improve his confidence. Look for Holtby to start Friday vs. New Jersey Devils because of the back to back games.
The most impressive players on the ice last night for Washington were Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle. Beagle has earned his spot on the third line this year with Joel Ward and Jason Chimera. Last night he didn’t get on the score sheet, but his fore-checking and physical play was impressive. He also was robbed of a goal by an Ondrej Pavelec glove save in the third period. Matt Hendricks had himself a memorable night in the loss, logging his first goal of the season and dropping the mitts not once but twice. He scored on a deflection after Backstrom and Ovechkin strung together beautiful touch passes. Hendy is always a pleasure to watch and last night proved why he is a vital piece to the Washington Capitals’ puzzle.

Player of the Game: Matt Hendricks (goal, 2 fights)

Mr. Irrelevant: Marcus Johansson

Unsung Hero: Jay Beagle