Thursday, February 28, 2013

Flyers roll over Caps

Last night’s game defined the inconsistency that exists among this Washington Capitals team this year. They came out extremely sluggish and gave up two quick goals, one being 23 seconds in by Claude Giroux. After the 2-0 deficit in the 1st period you had a sense that the Caps weren’t going to get out of this hole. The night before the Caps played their most complete game of the season against Carolina and they decided to follow that with a miserable 1st period to destroy any momentum from the shutout win.

The 2nd period was no better, letting up two more goals and extinguishing any chance of a comeback. After Max Talbot scored the 4th goal of the game Braden Holtby was pulled from the game allowing 4 goals on 18 shots. In defense of Holtby’s consistent play as of late, 3 of the 4 goals he could do nothing about. Philipp Grubauer then entered the game for his 1st ever NHL appearance between the pipes. He didn’t change the outcome of the 4-1 loss, but he did serve as the lone positive in the game stopping all 14 shots he faced. It was definitely a special night for the 21 year old even with how the game ended and I congratulate him on his efforts.

Joel Ward scored his 6th goal of the season for Washington in the final minutes spoiling Ilya Bryzgalov’s shutout. The Caps couldn’t seem to find the net on the PP which is a rarity in the last 10 games. The special teams in this game was very poor, killing 1 of 3 penalties and going 0 for 3 on the PP. Alex Ovechkin led the team with 6 shots, but could not capitalize on any of them. Ovechkin didn’t play his best game and missed a one on one with Bryzgalov late in the game when he tried to go forehand backhand as opposed to just wristing it. Mike Ribeiro had a rare bad game logging a -2 ice rating and picking up his familiar unsportsmanlike conduct towards the end of the game. Jason Chimera………well it’s safe to say he didn’t score and keeps proving himself unworthy of a top line position. Brooks Laich needs to get back in the lineup to solidify our top 6.

The defensive pair of Tom Poti and Tomas Kundratek played a very respectable game being the only Caps blue-liners with a positive plus-minus. Poti also logged an assist on the Joel Ward goal in the 3rd period. However Karl Alzner and Mike Green were on the ice for both even strength goals and had -2 ice ratings. That defensive pair led the Caps in ice time, both playing over 21 minutes. In the 4-1 loss I was expecting a fight to occur for the sake of a momentum change for the Caps, but it never came. The closest encounter came at an unfortunate moment when Mathieu Perreault left the ice after a cheap hit from Harry Zolnierczyk. He received a game misconduct for the hit to the knee in the last minute of the game. Perreault has been playing well lately, so we all hope he isn’t sidelined because of this jackass.

With 29 games left in the season the Caps don’t have time for inconsistency. They have a great opportunity to seize the Southeast division lead sitting only two games back. Every divisional matchup down the stretch will be important for Washington, especially with the Winnipeg Jets coming up on Saturday. They currently hold a 3-way share of the division lead with 19 points; the Caps have 15 points. I would expect Braden Holtby to start with the two day break, but with how Grubauer played yesterday who knows what Adam Oates will do. The puck drops at 3 on Saturday in Winnipeg. Keep the Faith. Rock the Red. Unleash the Fury.

Player of the Game: Joel Ward (1 goal, +1)

Stat of the Game: 14 saves on 14 shots (Philipp Grubauer)

Mr. Irrelevant: Karl Alzner

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Caps shutout Canes

A little over 24 hours after the Braden Holtby and John Erskine had their contracts extended two years they helped the Capitals shutout the Carolina Hurricane 3-0. John Erskine scored his 2nd goal of the year just 31 seconds into the 2nd period to give the Caps a 2-0 lead over the Canes. Erskine also logged a +2 ice rating tonight and now leads the all Caps’ D-men in plus-minus. Braden Holtby picked up his 2nd shutout of the 5th of his young career. He had 33 saves in the game with the most notable one against Alex Semin on a shorthanded breakaway. Holtby is 5-2 with a 2.00 GAA, and .937 SV% in his seven game start streak.
Nicklas Backstrom seems to be coming out of his slump with each game; he had a goal and assist in the win. He the 1st goal of the game on the PP with two nice passes from Mike Ribeiro and Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals have scored a PP goal in 9 of the last 10 games which is why they are currently 2nd in the NHL in that category. The Caps only took 2 penalties in the game and were able to kill both of them. They need to continue to stay out of the box in games to come because there is room for improvement in the PK. If the Caps can stay disciplined they will have a hard time losing because of the recent improvements in goal tending and scoring. The Caps were also able to hold Alex Semin scoreless in his return to Washington; he had an -1 ice rating.
The Capitals gave Cam Ward and the Canes everything they had, logging 40 shots which is the most they’ve had this season. Jason Chimera led the team with 7 shots, but seems to be snake bitten still unable to score his 1st goal of the season. John Carlson had 6 shots on net and scored the final goal of the game off a rebound for his 2nd goal of the season. Carlson was supporting his new hair cut after getting rid of all the flow and it seemed to pay off with a goal, assist, and +2 ice rating. He also led the team in ice time once again with 22:30. Eric Fehr continues to play well; even without scoring he too had a +2 ice rating. He is well deserving of the RW position on that 2nd line.
Alex Ovechkin didn’t have a shot on goal, but still played a solid game, and logged an assist. It was the first time The Great Eight hasn’t logged a shot since the 2nd round of the playoffs last year against the Rangers. It is not the game we expected Ovechkin to have after his hat trick Saturday, but the win is the most important thing in the captain’s mind. Ovechkin and Ribeiro seemed to focus on their play making abilities trying to end Chimera’s drought because Ribeiro also didn’t log a shot in the contest. If Chimera doesn’t tickle the twine soon, Adam Oates will probably move him from the top line because he has stated before that the LW position on the top line has to perform when you’re playing with the super stars.
Washington has less than 24 hours to rest with the Philadelphia Flyers waiting tomorrow. They will take a train overnight and probably will hold an optional skate tomorrow morning. While the Philadelphia Flyers have not had a successful season so far, but they have a lot of talent with the return of Scott Hartnell, and the recent acquisition of Simon Gagne. The Caps prevailed over the Flyers in their 1st match up this season 3-2 . We will see if Zac Rinaldo or another Flyer will take a run at John Erskine for the elbow he delivered to Wayne Simmonds in the last game. I would welcome the challenger with how Erskine has been playing as of late. Adam Oates hasn't named a starting goaltender yet, but I wouldn't doubt to see Holtby between the pipes again. The puck drops at 7:30 in the Wells Fargo Center. Keep the Faith. Rock the Red. Unleash the Fury.
Player of the Game: Braden Holtby (33 saves, SO)
Stat of the Game: PP goals in 9 of 10 games
Unsung Heroes: John Erskine and John Carlson

Monday, February 25, 2013

Caps ink Holtby and Erskine

George McPhee announced earlier today that the Washington Capitals have signed Braden Holtby and John Erskine to two year contract extensions. Despite the season the Capitals are having both Erskine and Holtby have proved their worth in the shortened season.
Braden Holtby
Braden Holtby was inked to a 2 year, $3.7 million contract. He is now 23 years old and this contract stands as an extension off his rookie contract. Holtby’s has played the last six games for the Caps and has picked up four wins for the team. He has a made a statement in the past few games which is no doubt why GMGM decided to make the deal this early in the season. Michal Neuvirth is also a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but with his play this season who knows if they will trade him or resign him. The Caps now have at least one young goaltender that they have trust in.
Holtby has many attributes in his arsenal which makes him so valuable to this Washington team. He has a very quick glove and is one of the most talented puck-handling goalies in the league. Adam Oates has acknowledged those abilities this year, implementing a system where Holtby is encouraged to come out to move the puck around for breakouts. We all remember the power play goal that Troy Brouwer scored this year after Braden Holtby sprung him with a long saucer pass. Holtby had the lone assist on that play and posted a shutout against the Florida Panthers in that game.  
Braden Holtby’s save percentage and goals against average do not show how well he has played this year. He has improved a lot since the first few game of the season and both stats are climbing with each game. We all know that Holtby can make this team better with proof from last year’s playoff when his name was called because of the injury suffered by Tomas Vokoun. He played in all fourteen games between the pipes with a record of 7-7. Holtby logged a very respectable .935 save percentage and 1.95 goals against average. He played like a seasoned veteran in his first playoff appearance after only playing seven regular season games with the Caps. He is our goalie of the future and we are glad to have him for another two years.
John Erskine
John Erskine was also signed to a two year contract extension for $3.925 million contract. Erskine is 32 years old and is currently in his seventh season with the Capitals. Erskine has faced some diversity over the past few seasons dealing with three different coaches and their styles of play. Last season was his least favorite one of his career and  he was noticeably upset only playing in 28 games under Dale Hunter. He clearly didn’t fit Hunter’s system, but he came into this season with optimism and has been in the lineup the majority of games under Adam Oates.
Erskine brings a lot to the table for Washington and isn’t afraid to drop the mitts to fire up his team. He has 71 career fights in the NHL and one this season against known tough guy George Parros. In case you didn’t catch it, he won the fight and started the momentum for the 5-0 win over the Panthers. Erskine was suspended for the first time in his career this season when he elbowed Flyers’ forward, Wayne Simmonds, causing a concussion. He was suspended three games which is the only thing to keep him out of the lineup despite some early season scratches.
Erskine has always been a well-admired player in Washington because of his toughness and toothless smile. He is the only defenseman on the team that is physical on a nightly basis and he leads all Caps D-men in hits this season. He and Mike Green are the only two blue-liners that have a positive plus-minus for the Caps this season. Erskine is a fan favorite and deserves this contract. Now that he is locked up for the next two seasons he will be the next Caps jersey that I buy. We are lucky to have Erskine as our “tough guy”, and to the next player who indulges in fisticuffs with him, may God have mercy on your soul.  

Ovechkin's Hat trick takes down New Jersey

On Saturday afternoon all of Caps nation experienced something that we have not seen in a long time. Alex Ovechkin logged his first hat trick since January 22, 2011. It looked like The Great Eight from the past that we all know and hope is here to stay. He scored two of his three goals in the third period to seal the deal on the Devils 5-1. Troy Brouwer and Eric Fehr would add the other tallies in the third period. Eric Fehr would score his fourth goal of the season shorthanded which was the Caps first one of the year.
The Capitals would go two for three on the power play making them currently second in the league with a 28.8%. The PK also saw great success killing all three of the penalties. Braden Holtby proved consistent again in his sixth straight game saving 21 of 22 shots. He also stopped a penalty shot from Steve Bernier in the second period that definitely built some momentum for the red sweaters. The only goal allowed was a Ilya Kovalchuk wrist shot that hit off the post and beat Holtby.
The Caps played their best third period of the year logging four of their five goals. Alex Ovechkin played his best game of the year on Saturday logging four points. His three goals and one assist is what this team needs to get back on their feet. He logged seven shots and played his season low 16:40 minutes in the game. I keep saying that with the amount of shots he is getting and playing with Mike Ribeiro the goals will eventually come. Well they definitely came Saturday and we finally saw Ovi excel at his new position. Each game we have seen progression from Ovi at the right wing and his second goal against the devils was bold proof of his transformation. He entered the zone from the right side, dangled a little, and shot it between the defenseman’s legs to beat Johan Hedberg. My first response was, “That’s vintage Ovi”!!! Ovi now has eight goals and 14 points on the season.
All the Caps players played well in this contest making it a very important team win. Yes, Ovi had his first hat trick in two years, but that game meant a lot more to this struggling team. They saw their captain that is capable of anything succeed and lead the team to a victory. Mike Ribeiro continues to play exceptional and Ovi is benefitting from that as well as the rest of the team. Troy Brouwer scored his eighth goal of the year on the PP from a beautiful pass from Ovi. Boruwer and Ovi are now tied for the team lead in goals. Nicklas Backstrom also continues to improve his game even though we don’t see it on the stat sheet every game. Backstrom logged one assist in the game for his 12th of the season.  
It was a great defensive game played by the Caps, allowing only one goal on 22 shots. Mike Green missed his third consecutive game, but he will return tomorrow night against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Capitals are always a better team with him the lineup because of his offensive presence and puck moving abilities. Look for Tom Poti to be a healthy scratch because of Green’s return. George McPhee also revealed that the Caps will probably call up a forward from the Hershey Bears soon because of the injuries to Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson. Stay tuned to see who it will be. Keep the Faith. Rock the Red. Unleash the Fury.
Player of the Game: Alex Ovechkin (3 goals, 1 assist)
Stat of the Game: Ovi’s 1st hat trick in 2 years
Unsung Hero: Braden Holtby

Friday, February 22, 2013

Penalties punish the Caps

The Capitals let one slip away from them last night in the third penalty because of penalties. The guys in red sweaters held a 2-1 lead entering the third period, but the referees would soon change that. Six penalties in the third period would give the Devils plenty of opportunities to tie the game and then take the lead. With a couple of 5 on 3 chances Ilya Kovalchuk would take the lead from the Caps late in the third period. Washington would be unable to draw even in the remaining minutes falling to New Jersey 3-2.
The Caps only goals were scored on the power play by Mike Ribeiro and Mathieu Perreault. They would convert on two of their four chances. The PP continues to succeed while the PK has started to improve. The Capitals were able to kill five of the six penalties despite the frequency of them in the third period. Braden Holtby aided Washington’s performance saving 34 of 37 shots. He continues to face well over 30 shots in the game, but this time it was because of the penalty parade once again.
Alex Ovechkin didn’t play a bad game despite his -2 ice rating. He created many chances for the Caps and had several good breakouts which lead to power plays. I keep hearing that the goals will come for Ovi and with the scoring chances he has been getting lately from the right wing position I have to believe that. Ovi lead the team with four shots and was second in ice time playing nearly 23 minutes.
The penalties were definitely the main reason for the loss, but the most meaningful goal in the game was the shorthanded goal given up to Patrik Elias in the second period. The Caps were careless with the puck in their own zone and the Devils made them pay for it. Even though the Caps were able capitalize later on that power play with Ribeiro’s goal, a short-handed goal can be very demoralizing to a team.
I thought that John Carlson played a decent game replacing all the minutes that Mike Green usually plays despite his turnover that lead to the shorty. He was the only player that logged over 30 minutes in the contest. Mike Green’s presence is still greatly missed and he is expected to return on Saturday against the Devils. Troy Brouwer and Nicklas Backstrom were the past Washington forwards on the ice logging a total of three assists. That offensive pairing is clearly working and should pay off in the long run.
The Capitals are digging themselves a bigger hole with each careless loss they suffer. Adam Oates needs to find some discipline and Alex Ovechkin needs to find the stat sheet fast. He currently has five goals and ten points in 16 games and the Caps need their Captain to lead the way. Holtby has finally found some consistency in his game and the PP is booming. It’s time to build off the positives, stop feeling sorry for each other and start getting the W. Keep the Faith. Rock the Red. Unleash the Fury.
Player of the Game: Troy Brouwer (2 assists)
Stat of the Game: 34 saves on 37 shots (Braden Holtby)
Mr. Irrelevant: Jason Chimera

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Caps look to bounce back against the Devils

The Caps are now 15 games into the season and currently sit at rock bottom of the Eastern Conference. Washington will face off against the New Jersey Devils tonight coming off their longest break of the season of four days. The Caps have a 4-6 record in their last ten games and are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Rangers on Sunday. The next two contests will feature the Devils in a home and home stand at the Verizon Center. The Capitals next three games will be in Washington. New Jersey is not an easy opponent currently ranking second in the Eastern Conference.

The goalie matchup in tonight’s game will be Braden Holtby vs. Martin Brodeur. Most of the Devil’s success can be credited to the play of Brodeur between the pipes. The 40 year old has seven of the nine team wins with respectable numbers on the season. Holtby has been no slouch winning three of his four consecutive starts for the Caps. He has logged a .922 save percentage in those four games and was arguably the best player for Washington in the loss to New York on Sunday. We are starting to see the Holtby that showed up last spring for the playoffs.

Many people believe the fault of this abysmal season lies with the struggles of Alex Ovechkin. The Great Eight has only five goals and ten points in 15 games. He is off to his worst start in his career, but the blame could be put on the switch to right wing. Adam Oates continues to preach that it takes time to adjust and it will pay off in the long run as it did for Ilya Kovalchuk. There is some evidence pointing towards Ovi getting more chances on the right side as he is currently fifth in the league in shots with 64. He is also paired with Mike Ribeiro who is nothing short of a magician with the puck. He will continue to get the scoring chances, but the question is will he start capitalizing.

The Capitals continue to suffer from injuries with the list now including the team’s best defenseman, Mike Green. Green remains questionable, while Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich remain out of the lineup for tonight’s game. Mike Green currently leads all Caps defensemen in points (7), plus-minus (plus-3) and average ice time (26:33). He is a monumental loss to the Caps blue-liners and that was easily recognized on Sunday in his absence. Brooks Laich’s injury seems to be lingering each week with no certain time table for return. His offensive and defensive presence is missed on a nightly basis. He is a top six forward with incredible penalty killing abilities. I don’t think people realize that he lead all NHL forwards last season in blocked shots.

The Capitals play seven of their next ten at the Verizon Center and it starts tonight against the Devils. The Caps have played well the past four games and need to keep building off that. Adam Oates will face his old team for the second and third time in the next three days. The first contest was a 3-2 OT loss earlier in the season. The forward and defense lines appear to be the same as Sunday’s game, pending on Mike Green’s return. The puck drops at 7 PM. Keep the Faith. Rock the Red. Unleash the Fury.



Monday, February 18, 2013

Weekend Recap

The Caps had a very up and two weekend with their last two games of their three game road trip. It started on Thursday when the Caps would hold on to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in a competitive divisional matchup. Eric Fehr and his line mates Mathieu Perreault and Joel Ward would be the talk of the night logging a combined six points in the game. Fehr scored two goals in the contest and his hard work is starting to cement him in the lineup each night. The Caps withstood a late third period comeback from the Bolts with the aid of Braden Holtby stopping 27 of 30 shots. In the win over Tampa Bay Troy Brouwer scored his seventh goal of the season on the power play. It was the sixth consecutive game the Caps scored on the extra man.   
Last night in New York the Caps would not have the same luck against the Rangers. The Capitals didn’t waste time to hit the scoreboard when John Carlson hammered a slap shot past Henrik Lundqvist one minute into the game. However, Washington would not reach the scoreboard again which would result in a 2-1 loss to the Rangers ending the Caps three game winning streak.
The story of this game was the PP and the PK. The Caps went 0 for 4 on the PP and killed 4 of 5 penalties. This team with its injuries cannot afford to take five penalties in a game and expect to win. Penalties not only kill team endurance, but they also keep Alex Ovechkin off the ice for two minutes each time. I do believe the referees have been very soft in this shortened season with calls, but the Caps have to adapt to that.
One positive that the Caps can take away from this game is the play of Braden Holtby in net. Holtby had 38 saves on 40 shots and made several spectacular saves that prevented the game from being far from close. Both goals that were scored in this game were completely out of his capabilities to stop. He is starting to step into that #1 goalie position each night which is what the Caps are in dire need of for this season. The goals will come on offense, but Holtby needs to keep bringing his A game.
The Caps have a three day break with their next two games being vs. the New Jersey Devils on Thursday and Saturday. The Caps have their biggest break of the season, but they have a lot of work to do to prepare for these upcoming games. Mike Green is day to day with a lower body injury and the Caps hope this little break will bring him back in the lineup. His puck moving abilities, power play presence, and defensive positioning are all key components to the Caps winning. I’d expect Braden Holtby to get the start once again on Thursday. Keep the faith. Rock the Red.
Player of the Weekend: Eric Fehr (2 goals)
Stat of the Weekend: 65 saves on 70 shots (Braden Holtby)
Unsung Hero: Mathieu Perreault

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Caps Comeback

The Caps looked to be destined for another loss with 13 minutes left in the third period trailing 5-3 to the Panthers. They would find a late stretch of momentum that started with Eric Fehr’s first goal of the season. Minutes later, Ovechkin would even the score just four seconds into the power play. It was the second game in a row Ovechkin has scored after a faceoff win, just like old times. After that Mathieu Perreault would take a high sticking penalty, but the Caps would keep momentum killing it off at the beginning of over time. It was only 13 seconds after the penalty expired when Nicklas Backstrom sauced a pass past the defense and found Troy Brouwer for the winning breakaway.
Braden Holtby saved 27 of 32, but most of the goals were deflections that were out of his control. The defense had a couple breakdowns that need to be fixed in games to come. The most important part of the game was the PP and the PK which the Capitals continue to improve on. Washington capitalized on 2 of 2 power plays and killed off all five penalties in the contest with Florida. The Caps now have the fourth best power play in the league with a 25.5%. Last night was the fifth straight game the Caps have logged a PP goal.
Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro proved to be the best players on the ice once again as they should be. Ovi and Ribz continued their point streaks to five games each recording multi-point games last night. Ovechkin scored for the third straight game for his fifth goal of the season. He and Ribeiro also combined for two beautiful passes that lead to the Matt Hendricks goal in the second period. These two are the real deal and seem to have cemented themselves on the same line for the time being. Hendricks replaced Chimera on the top line and Chimmy only played five minutes and had a -3 ice rating. The search continues for their third line mate!
As I said some of the Caps defenseman struggled throughout the game. Kundratek, Schultz, and Erskine all experiences -2 ice ratings. However the pairing of Karl Alzner and Mike Green seems to be paying off. Both the defenders had a +2 ice rating logging a point each. Alzner scored his first goal in 87 games with a rocket slapper from the point.
This was the first time in a while where the Caps have made a comeback like this in a high scoring game. You do not like to see your team give up five goals, but this comeback looks to be another important milestone for this team on the rise. The entire team seems to be on board for the purpose of this season after the player’s meeting which occurred before the last game. I admit that that with seven minutes to play I expected defeat, but they proved me wrong for the first time this season. The Caps have to take this one game at a time with Tampa Bay next on the schedule come Thursday.      
Player of the Game: Nicklas Backstrom (2 assists, +1)
Stat of the Game: 5 combined points (Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro)
Unsung Hero(es): Karl Alzner and Mike Green   

Monday, February 11, 2013

Who's Hot, Who's Not

-          Mike Ribeiro: Ribeiro has been the only upside of this season for the Capitals and this is why he makes his 2nd straight appearance in the “hot” column. He has logged six points during his current four game point streak. He has scored a point in 9 of the 12 games this season. Ribz continues to make the players around him better including Alex Ovechkin. They have both elevated their games since being paired together and the Caps will only benefit from their chemistry.
-          Alex Ovechkin: The Great Eight finally seems to be finding his scoring ways again. He is also on a four game point streak since being paired with Ribeiro. Ribeiro’s company has aided Ovechkin with him logging 27 shots in the last five games. Ovi is showing promise at right wing and the goals will come in the future. The Captain has to continue at this and lead by example if the Caps are to escape rock bottom.
-          Tomas Kundratek: This young defenseman has shown some struggle in his vacation from the Hershey Bears. Kundratek has a -4 ice rating in the past six games, yet he plays the least amount of time as defenseman. He has shown some promise recording two assists in his last three games, but suffers from bad positioning and nerves. Kundratek must shake the cobwebs off and step into his role on this team. With the injuries suffered by Jack Hillen and Tom Poti he will remain in the red sweater for the near future.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


The Washington Capitals for the first time this season played a full 60 minutes and the score proved it. They steamrolled the Florida Panthers 5-0 for their third win of the season. It was truly a team effort and everyone played a role in this monumental win that could mark the turn of the season for this Caps team. Adam Oates system finally seems to be taking place and it was obviously seen through the fore check and pressure that lasted all three periods. The event in this game that started it all involved John Erskine who was fresh off his suspension. Erskine dropped the gloves with well-known tough guy George Parros and pounded his face a couple times to pump up the home crowd at the Verizon Center.
Troy Brouwer started the scoring with a deflection goal off a John Carlson shot from the point. That lucky bounce was just the push that Washington needed to get going and never look back. In the second period, on the first power play, Braden Holtby hit Troy Brouwer on a long saucer pass that he would capitalize on with a howitzer that went top shelf. This play couldn’t have been prettier between the extra sauce on that pass and the high cheese that beat Jose Theodore.
Joel Ward, Alex Ovechkin, and Mathieu Perreault would all score to put many nails in the coffin. Braden Holtby logged 27 saves in his fourth career shutout. Holtby had several big saves in this contest and will hopefully step into the spot as a #1 goalie. This team needs a goalie that can carry us through games on some nights and make the saves that are expected. I’ve heard the Roberto Luongo rumors, but we cannot rely on that now. Braden Holtby has probably earned himself the start in Florida on Tuesday.
Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro continue to gain chemistry with each shift together and the stats are starting to prove that. Ovi has a four game point streak with goals in the last two games. Ribz also has a four game point streak, logging six points in that span. Both of these streaks began the second game these two were paired together. Coincidence? I think not! The only thing that isn’t consistent is the left wing position on that line that seems to change every other game. Jason Chimera took the role last night for the first time and played well, assisting on the Ovechkin goal. We will see if that line sticks, but regardless I look forward to the future damage that Ovi and Ribz will do.
This game had to make every Caps game smile and we even saw Adam Oates with a big smile after Brouwer’s first goal. For the past couple weeks the coaching staff and team has said that they were looking for that one game that would change it all and the Caps of old would be back. Now I’m not saying that everything is good now and we have no worries, but this could be the confidence boost that the Capitals needed. Every Caps player was searching for a glimpse of positivity and they got it Saturday night. They have to take this win and build off it one game at a time. I truly believe that this season can be turned around with the personnel we have supporting red sweaters. Keep the faith. Rock the Red. Unleash the Fury.
Player of the Game: Braden Holtby (27 saves, SO)
Stat of the Game: Troy Brouwer (2 goals, +1)
Unsung Hero: John Erskine

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pens steamroll Caps

Last night left the Washington Capitals and their fans praying for a miracle. Each game we look for positives and hope for change, but last night was the epitome of dreadful. The Caps played their best period of the year in the first leading 1-0. I don’t know what happen in the locker room, but the second period was the worst period of the year for the Caps, trailing 5-1 after two.
The Capitals went through both goalies after Michal Neuvirth let in a marshmallow shot from Pascal Dupuis. Braden Holtby came in right after that and allowed three goals in during the remaining seven minutes of the second period. Adam Oates is clearly at a goalie dilemma because neither of the two are deserving of the #1 title. One of the two will have to realize this team needs a goalie to step up and start carrying this team.
The Caps’ penalty kill in this game was hard to watch and killed 1 of the 4 penalties. I don’t want to point out any particular player, but the entire team right now suffers from positioning problems during the penalty kill. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had a field day in the second, each logging a goal and two assists. The Penguins proved that they are one of the top teams in the NHL this year and exploited all the weaknesses the Capitals are dealing with.
Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro were the only Capitals that played respectable games. They each logged a goal and assist in the contest. Ovechkin had seven shots on goal and recorded his third power play goal of the season. If there were any positives in this game it involved the first line or power play which includes Ovi and Ribeiro.
The Caps now sit in dead last of the league with a record of 2-8-1. The chances of the Capitals making the playoffs are fading away with each loss. I’ve yet to see any confidence in this team and they need to stop feeling sorry for themselves and just play hockey. I’m aware that the new system took time in New Jersey and it eventually worked for them. Well if all the Caps are on board to recognize this, we can make something out of this season. Build off the power play and start playing smart hockey.
Their next game will be home tomorrow against the Florida Panthers. John Erskine will be back in the lineup with his suspension ending which is one positive. Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro seem to have something special going on with their line, so expect that scoring to continue. Only God knows who will be between the pipes for Washington tomorrow night. I will not lose faith just yet Caps fans. Rock the Red!
Player of the Game: Alex Ovechkin (1 goal, 1 assist, 7 shots)
Stat of the Game: 0 for 3 in 2nd period (Caps PK)
Mr. Irrelevant: Karl Alzner

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Caps search for answers against the Pens

The Capitals must find some consistency soon in this shortened season. Coming off a 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, they continue to have scoring problems. In the first ten games the Caps have yet to score more than three goals in a game. This puts a lot more pressure on the goaltending which has been adequate as of late behind Michal Neuvirth. The Caps are improving on the PP and PK despite their losing record. On Tuesday they converted on 2 of 3 power plays and were perfect on the penalty kill.

Tonight the Caps take on the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second time this week. They are currently second in the Eastern Conference and are currently on a four game winning streak. If Washington is to end this they have to start finding the net, namely Alex Ovechkin. He is having the worst start to his career logging only two goals in 10 games. The only Caps player that is consistently scoring is new edition, Mike Ribeiro who is proven valuable with three goals and eight assists on the year. Since Ribeiro has been paired with Ovechkin he is averaging over five shots a game which is an improvement. The way he is moving the puck one has to think Ovi is on the brink of a breakthrough.

In Washington’s last 10 visits to Pittsburgh they are 9-0-1. Their last regulation loss to the Pens was February 18, 2007, so let’s hope tonight extends that streak. Nicklas Backstrom is currently on a five game point streak despite talk of his recent struggles. He has logged 1 goal and five assists in the past five games. Michal Neuvirth will be the starter in goal again tonight against the Pens. Neuvy stats have not been where we want them to be with a .893 save percentage and 2.99 GAA. Marc Andre-Fleury will be between the pipes for the Pens.

Adam Oates and his team have to start answering the problems within this struggling team. The media and fan base seem to already doubt the new coach and his system. At some point we have to trust a coach to take us where we desire, which ultimately is a shot at Lord Stanley. There have also been some trade rumors the past few days with talk of GMGM contacting other teams. We will see what happens, but as of now let’s focus on getting that third win and something we can build on. For the people who think Ovi is going to get traded, start riding the short bus because it is simply not an option. Prediction: Ovi will score tonight and the Caps will pull out a win. Keep the Faith! Rock the Red! Unleash the Fury!!!!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Weekend Recap

Well the Capitals had an up and down weekend starting with a big win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday. The Caps would play their best third period all year scoring two goals and holding on to a 3-2 lead for their second win of the season. Nicklas Backstrom played his best game of the year logging his first goal of the season and an assist. Nicky was by far the best player on the ice Friday and the only one with a +2 ice rating. Braden Holtby got his first win of the year, saving 19 of 21 shots.
John Erskine elbowed Wayne Simmonds in the first period and it went unnoticed by the referees but not the league. Simmonds didn’t return to the game and Erskine was issued a three game suspension the next day by Brendan Shannahan and the league. Matt Hendricks and Zac Rinaldo would both get game misconducts shortly after the elbow because of a staged fight where Hendy got all he could handle in his fourth fight of the season. Other than that the only negative in that game was Tomas Kundratek who had a -1 ice rating and looked lost many points throughout the game. He also took an ill-advised delay of game penalty late in the game.
For some reason the Caps didn’t use the momentum come Sunday because they were embarrassed by the Pittsburgh Penguins. They were simply outmatched by a better team in the Pens. Braden Holtby had an abysmal day saving only 20 of 26 shots. Holtby allowed some soft goals which took the Caps out of the game in the end. Chris Kunitz scored four goals on the Caps making the final 6-3. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby were too much to handle logging a combined five assists in the game. One positive was Mike Ribeiro who continues to impress even with the loss. He logged a goal and assist in the defeat making his point total 10 for the season.
Washington is definitely improving each night, but they have to find some consistency in their games. It is good to finally see some lines coming together under the Oates system. Alex Ovechkin was with Mike Ribeiro for the second game in a row and they were the only two with a +1 ice rating in the loss. The penalty kill is still struggling, killing only four of the six chances this weekend. The biggest problem this year could be the low production of Alex Ovechkin, but the last two games we have seen big improvement. Even though he didn’t score in these two games, he did log 12 shots. His new line with Ribeiro and Wolski may be the concrete first line that the Capitals need down the stretch. Backstrom also showed some glimpses of his playmaking abilities, so maybe things will start to come together.
The Caps schedule doesn’t get any easier with the Maple Leafs coming to Washington tomorrow and the Penguins again Thursday. We shall see which goalie will start tomorrow night, but I bet it will be Michal Neuvirth. John Erskine is sadly out two more games which means Tom Poti will probably get the start again. The leaders have to start being leaders or this team will continue to suffer. The Caps are 2-6-1 and the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Keep the faith Caps fans. Rock the Red!!!!
Player of the Weekend: Nicklas Backstrom (1 goal, 2 assists, +2)
Stat of the Weekend: 12 shots, 0 goals (Alex Ovechkin)
Unsung Hero: Mike Green

Friday, February 1, 2013

Caps can't play 60 minutes, Leafs prevail

The Capitals’ Canadian road trip ended last night with their second consecutive loss. It was also the second time this week they’ve conceded a third period lead. Last night the Caps led the Maple Leafs very early with a goal by Joel Ward two minutes in, for his fourth of the season. After two periods the Caps would hold a 2-1 lead thanks to Alex Ovechkin’s power play goal.
Washington killed 7 of 8 penalties in the first two periods, the only goal coming off a rebound that James van Riemsdyk cleaned up. The Caps would go scoreless in the third once again and give up two goals to lose 3-2 to Toronto. It could’ve been much worse considering the penalty fiesta that occurred, but the even strength play wouldn't suffice.
Despite the loss, Mike Ribeiro continued to exemplify his talents logging two assists. His assist to Joel Ward was quite impressive when he spun the defenseman and slotted a pass through the middle. Ribeiro now has seven assists on the year and seems to be making everyone around him a better player. There is no surprise in this with the obvious evidence being Joel Ward’s success.
Michal Neuvirth played another commendable game recording 37 saves. Although the tying goal he conceded was weak, he kept the Caps in the game with other saves throughout the game. Braden Holtby is expected to make his first start in six games tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers because of the back to back games. Holtby didn’t play horribly in his first two starts, but he didn’t receive much help with the Caps still adapting to the new system.
The major concern of this game was the eight penalties the Caps committed in the first 40 minutes. Yes they only allowed one goal from it, but it definitely took a toll on Washington’s stamina in the third period. The Capitals must start playing a full 60 minutes if they want to escape this abysmal start to the season. Their record stands at 1-5-1 and they are the only Eastern Conference team with only one win.
Adam Oates has to realize that the line combination disaster that he has created must end before the weekend. Alex Ovechkin is still one of the best players in the world and he cannot be paired with Jay Beagle and Joey Crabb. I have nothing against the two, but their time is better served on the third or fourth line. This line that Oates threw together has had zero success at even strength which is where the Caps need the most improvement. The last four games Oates has waited until the Caps are trailing in the third period to put Ovi with Ribeiro or Nicklas Backstrom. It is time to put him with a playmaker and start winning games Oates!!!
Player of the Game: Mike Ribeiro (2 assists, +1)
Stat of the Game: 7 of 8 on the PK
Mr. Irrelevant: Tomas Kundratek