Thursday, January 31, 2008

Caps Split Home & Home With Habs, Move to 9th in Eastern Conference

Well the Caps beat the Montreal Canadeans 5-4 in overtime tonight. Alex Ovechkin scored 4 of the 5 goals here at the Verizon Center. I missed the game as I spent some time with collegues at ICx Technologies, listening in on a review of some upcoming marketing plans and enjoying a team building dinner so I can't really comment on the game other than to note the obvious - Mr. Ovechkin isn't slowing down any since he signed his big contract - he now has 43 goals and 70 points for the season and is, at least for now the league's leading goal scorer and the overall points leader. Here's an interesting note - the Caps have not lost back to back games in regulation since Bruce Boudreau took over the coaching duties from Glen Hanlon on Thanksgiving. In other words the Caps have not gone two games in a row without getting at least one standings point for 10 1/2 weeks. They went 9-4-0 (0.692) during the month of January. That's pretty good hockey - "don'tcha think?" - I surely do. In the standings, tonight's games put them one point ahead of the NY Islanders and three points behind the NY Rangers (who are in the eighth and final playoff spot) in the Conference standings, but the Caps have a game in hand on the Rangers. Tonight's games also left the Caps three points behind the SE Division leading Carolina Hurricanes, but the Caps have two games in hand on the 'Canes.

The Caps next game is at home in the Phone Booth against the Atlanta Thrashers. Atlanta is three points behind the Thrashers in the standings. The Caps are 2-1-1 versus the Thrashers so far this season. The Thrashers are 11-13-2 on the road so far this season and 3-4-3 in their last 10 games. The Caps are 15-11-1 at home so fa this season and 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. Additionally, the Thrashers will be playing without their sharpshooter Iyla Kovalchuk, who has a knee injury, but the Thrashers still have offenive punch in Marian Hossa, Scott Perrin and Mark Recchi so they can't be taken lightly. That said I suspect Peerless will forecast a Caps vicotry and I too an hopeful. LETS GO CAPS!!!!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Musings on a Chilly Sunday

The Caps are 8-3 so far this month (January) and now everyone is talking playoffs. From what I can see they are on the right track but talking about the playoffs is premature. The Caps have 32 regular season games to go, 16 home games and 16 away games. The schedule includes a stretch of 6 straight away games between March 18th and March 29th. They finish the season with three straight home games against Southeast Division rivals, in fact the last 6 games of the season will be against SE division opponents. There are no guarantees, except if the Caps keep playing like they have since Thanksgiving, it'll be fun to watch. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!

In politics, the presidential primaries, have been a lot like the Caps season or maybe it's more like the NCAA football season. No clear front runners - at least not for long. If anyone had predicted that coming out of Super Tuesday, it'll be far more likely the Republican nomination would be clearer than the Democratic nominee, even around Thanksgiving would anything have happened except laughter? I doubt it. At the time the Republicans had seven (8) "serious candidates" and five (6) (Guiliani, Huckebee, McCain, Paul, Romney, and Thompson) who have/had hardcore base constituencies and relatively solid funding. On the Democratic side, while in November there were also eight (8) "serious candidates", conventional wisdom was that only three (3) or four (4) of them (Clinton, Edwards, Obama, and Richardson) had the drive, constituency and funding to go the distance.

It now appears entirely possible that after Tuesday's Florida primary where the Republicans will be a neck in neck horse race between Romney and McCain, despite a last ditch effort by Gulliani to save his campaign, McCain could be a clear front runner. Senator McCain has also surged nationally in polls of Republicans, a situation that bodes well for him going into "Super Tuesday" - February 5th -with it's many "winner take all" states. If Senator McCain can show well in or better yet win in Florida (a tough thing given he is neck and neck with Governor Romney and fighting for many of the same votes that Mayor Guilliani is courting) he will go into Super Tuesday well poised. If after Florida, Mayor Gulliani decides that his likely third place showing isn't good enough to continue, a clear possibility given the state of his campaign's dwindling cash on hand going into Super Tuesday and the precipitous erosion of his national support may drive him to retire from the field, support for McCain is likely to swell. For that reason it appears on the Republican side, Super Tuesday will likely be a battle between Romney and McCain, with Congressman Paul's hardcore 5-7% staying true to the paragon of true constitutionalism.

Although, clearly Governor Huckebee is a Super Tuesday wild card, particularly in states with conservative Republican bases like Utah, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Tennessee, and Georgia. Further complicating things, for the Republicans, are the "winner take all states" Florida this Tuesday (a winner take all by Congressional District) and New York, Missouri, Arizona, New Jersey, Utah, Connecticut, Montana, and Delaware on Super Tuesday. It seems based on the polls that Huckebee would need a couple of major upsets to stay relevant in the race. Between now and February 6th, four hundred and twenty (420) delegates will be designated in winner take all primaries on the Republican side of the battle for the presidency. After Super Tuesday the only other states with winner take all republican primaries are: Virginia (63 delegates on 2/12) and Vermont (17 delegates on 3/4). Given the current polls it's hard to see Guliani going far without winning a significant amount of delegates in California, regardless of whether he wins Florida or not, but a win in Florida, though unlikely at present, would likely propel him to capture New York's 101 winner take all delegates; however at present Guiliani trails McCain in the polls even there in his home state. The way things are going it's hard to see how the Republicans won't have a clearer picture than the Democrats, or at least a two candidate race, after the dust from Super Tuesday clears.

On the other hand, if the Democratic primaries continue the way they've been going the Clinton - Obama battle could go all the way to the convention. Perhaps that's why John Edwards stays in the race, is he looking to be the "king-maker"?

Well Tuesday evening will be really interesting, the Caps return to action in Montreal against the Canadeans and I can watch the primary results come in from Florida. What could be better than hockey from it's largest cathedral the sport has - the Bell Center home of the 24 time Stanley Cup Champion Canadeans and election results the great State of Florida - home of the "hanging chad"?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Last Night's 2-1 Win Over the Leafs

I went to last night's game versus the Leaf's with my friend Pat from work (ICx Technologies). Pat's a New Hampshire boy and a hockey fan too. We had a blast from our dinner of "dollar dogs" through watching the great game as the Caps and Leafs "duked it out" through three closely played periods of hockey.

This is a late post and I'd have to say DMG, JP and CapsChick all have drawn a good bead on this one, so I'll digress a little about a couple of things in the current NHL era I like and a couple I'm not wild about.

Things I like in the current era:
- "No Red Line",
- No "Icing the Puck" Against the Boards,
- Dollar Dog Night,
- Slower Whistles When the Goalie Ices the Puck,
- Ovechkin, Datsuyk and the other Russians who Skate, Hustle, Score AND Hit/Check HARD.

Things I'm Really, Really Not Wild About
- The Mandatory Delay of Game Penalty,
- Calling Boarding Penalties When Someone Makes a Solid, Good, Hard Check,
- "The Trap",
- The Instigator Rule,
- "The Trap",
- Giving an extra two minutes to a player with a visor who fights, especially when he didn't start the fight,
- "The Trap"
- The idea that high scoring game draws more fans,
- "The Trap".

Yes after the last two night's games against the Maple Leafs, I'd like to say Thank You Bruce Boudreau for changing the style of play the Caps use and "trapping" less. The past two games really exemplified why I don't like "The Trap": 1) it's no fun to watch; 2) the team that plays the best doesn't always win (re: Wednesday Night in Toronto); 3) it doesn't necessarily make average players better/isn't necessarily more forgiving (re: the stats of the Caps' grinders since the coaching change). On the other hand, best of all you don't have to play it to win - (re: the Caps record since the coaching change). Gary Bettman if you really want to draw more fans, outlaw the trap just like you can't play zone defense in the NBA; pro hockey teams/players shouldn't play the trap.

A couple of kudos on the game. Last night's game was fun to watch, but the Caps ought to be glad most of them have a few days off, they are clearly playing tired. Last night's first star was Brent Johnson - "Johnnie" play superbly and deserved the first star. He faced 32 shots and stopped 31 of them, including some spectacular saves from all angles from super glove save grabs to break up plays to thwarting some breakaways. The first goal - Brooks Laich's goal, was a super team effort and while I never saw the tip, Laich may deserve the goal just for getting in front of an Ovechkin slapshot. The maturity and two way play Alex Ovechkin shows every game this season is stupendous. In many cases his hustle to a backcheck or his play making is as spectacular as his goals. His involvement in both of last night's scores are reflective of that great work ethic and team spirit. Ovie is now all about playing to win, not about Ovie and it's as contagious as Quintin Laing's hustle and great play and Donald Brashear's great locker room leadership. Speaking of "Brash" the Caps resigned him yesterday as well. I think that's another good move by Caps management.

My last thought - the Caps have gotten back into the playoff fray with a streak during which the Caps have played 10-3-2 in the last 15 games. To make the playoffs the Caps will have to continue to play with the steadiness of purpose, and indeed near abandon they have since Thanksgiving. It's way too early to count any of their Southeast Division rivals out of things, and it's way too early to figure that it will take less than 88-92 points to make the playoffs. That means the Caps need to continue to play the same level of hockey - 0.655 (17-8-4) they have under Coach Boudreau. Indeed to finish clearly in the playoffs (92 points) they need to play 0.640 hockey for their remaining 32 games. Each win makes it easier now and it's not an impossible thing to imagine before their recent 10-3-2 tear but it's way too early to resign yourself to not getting your money's worth from your April Country Club minimums (not that I'm the CC type at all). My point is everyone needs to just keep their head down and hope for the best. Keep rooting for the Caps, watching the attendance improve, etc. The Caps themselves need to continue enjoy playing hard and winning and everything will work out. Confidence is fine; overconfidence is always unwelcome, and not useful and at this time still entirely unjustified.

Next week - Home & Home vs the Montreal Canadeans. The Caps are 7-3-0 for the last 10 and the Habs are 7-2-1 going into the All Star Break. Next weeks games should be good ones and I can't wait till next Thursday to see the Caps work to continue to improve what could be a great overall season record. LETS GO CAPS!!!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Recap Caps @ Toronto Maple Leafs 1/23/2008

The Caps two game road trip concluded tonight in Toronto, the Maple Leafs have a new General Manager, earlier this week they replaced John Ferguson with Cliff Fletcher - a "new" old face. Fletcher is 72 years old and in the Hockey Hall of Fame in the founders category. A former President, COO & GM of the Leafs, Toronto signed Fletcher to a 19 month contract while they sort out what they want to do with their hockey operations management.

The last time these two teams played was October 29th in Toronto and the Caps beat the Leafs 7-1 during a period when the Glen Hanlon era team was not doing well. Tonight's game was nothing like that, for whatever reason the energy level of both teams seemed muted. In a relatively slow paced game the Caps never led, Toronto scored early Chad Kilger had a tip in from the low slot at 7:12 of the first and the Caps didn't answer until AO scored on on a nice 26 foot wrister at 2:27 into the second period. The Maple Leafs returned the favor at 18:44 of the second shortly after Antropov steamrolled the Caps Defense and Olie Kolzig. I'm still not sure how there was no goaltender interference call but I'd rather the game be called like it was tonight rather than how the last (Caps-Pens) game was called. At the end of 2 periods it was 2-1 Maple Leafs. The Leafs played hard throughout the third period and definitely worked for the win, however at 13:07 Alexander Semin scored off a pretty sweet feed from Dave Steckel and it looked like the Caps might pull this one out. As the rest of the period proceeded it was clear the Leafs were pressing (double shifting Mats Sundin, etc.) but for the most part it seemed like it was going to be the Caps night. Then at 19:30 Alexander Steen made a break and took a nice shot that Olie Kolzig stopped with a kick save that sent the rebound out to Mats Sundin who netted the game winner. Olie made some very good stops tonight but the Leafs worked hard to clog the low slot and succeeded pretty well. All three goals came from shots on the left side of the low slot. For the most part even though I was disappointed that Olie didn't smother the rebound on the last goal, the Caps weren't playing for overtime at that point, they were still playing for the win in regulation and to a large degree the bounce to Sundin was as much luck as a goal scorer knowing where to be. The game did have some highlights, John Erskine had a great game and made the highlight reels with one of the sweetest open ice checks this year - by anyone. Steve Eminger had a solid game as Jeff Schultz was a healthy scratch and got some rest. The Caps outshot the Leafs 32-24 and did a pretty good job of clogging the low slot too but couldn't get the goals. Opposing teams have definately been watching films and are clearly no longer even thinking about letting either Mike Green or Nicklas Backstrom skate around any freer than they let Ovechkin or Semin skate. The Caps have to figure out a way to make that work for them, in the Penguins game, Victor Kozlov did so but tonight nobody seemed able to do that. Ovechkin was the strongest player on the ice for the Caps and Sundin was clearly the backbone of the Leafs. There was some talk of a trade for Sundin, something I can't understand, he's the backbone of the Leafs and has a no trade clause.

Tomorrow's game at the Verizon Center is the back end of this home and home series and hopefully both teams will have higher energy levels in the Caps last game before the All Star break and we'll see a return to some more secondary scoring. The loss tonight stopped the Caps win streak at four (4) games; tomorrow night the Caps will be working to start a new winning streak. Let's Go Caps!!!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Caps - Pens 1/21/2008 Wrap-Up and Running Commentary

Summary & Wrap Up

Final Score: CAPS 6, PENS 5 F/SO - A "2 Point Night"

This was a very exciting game for the Versus National TV audiance and in the end both Caps and Pens fans should be happy, though us Caps Fans will be a little happier since our team walked away with two points to the Penguins one. Both team's lineups had some major key players out with injuries - the Caps played without the following 1st level players: Star Center Michael Nylander; Defenseman Brian Pothier; Right Wing & Team Captain Chris Clark; and Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn. Pittsburgh, despite being 10-1-2 in its last 13 games, is so depleted by injuries that nearly one-third of its current roster began the season in the minors. Forwards Chris Minard and Jonathan Filewich made their NHL debuts Monday. The Penguins played without: Superstar Center Sidney Crosby, Goalie Marc Andre Fleury, Right Wing Colby Armstrong, Center Ryan Stone and Center Tyler Kennedy.

Much of the early hype centered on this game being a battle of the Russians focused on Alexander Ovechkin of the Caps vs. Evgini Malkin of the Pens. No one could of guessed how right that hype would be - not only did Malkin and Ovechkin put on a battle of "anything you can do, I can do better" on the ice while they often went head to head but Ovechkin's Russian teammates Alexander Semin and Vicktor Kozlov and Malkin's Russian teammate, elder statesman Sergei Gonchar all figured significantly in the play and outcome of the game; as did the play of Goalie Olie Kolzig, Defenseman Mike Green and Rookie phenom Center Nicklas Backstrom for the Caps and Goalie Ty Conklin, Left Wing Ryan Malone, Veteran Right Wing Peter Sykora and Centers Jordan Staal and Maxime Talbot for the Pens.

The game was fast paced and high flying; overall ten (10) goals were scored in regulation and none were "cheap goals". For all my griping the Caps didn't allow that many shots at all nor did they allow many in the low slot,though it seemed like Olie was screened more than he should have been, and the Penguins scored on three (3) of four (4) shots/tip ins they made in the low slot and one (1) of two shots from the high slot. For Olaf Kolzig, Dany Sabourin, and Ty Conklin it wasn't a fun night to be them but neither Olie or Conklin got rattled, and to be honest I don't think Sabourin was rattled though after Ovie's second goal Michel Therrien was. I'm sure dmg will find fault with some of Olie's efforts since his SV% was only 66% stopping "only" 10 of 15 shots, but I reallyfeel you should only attribute two of the Penguin goals either fully or partially to Olie. At the other end Dany Sanbourin stopped just 9 of 13 shots before being replaced by Ty Conklin early in the second period. Conklin stopped 16 of 17 shots he faced including several almost miraculous saves; if Conklin could bottle his "MOJO" right now, I think every oterh goalie in the NHL would sleep in line before the store that sold it opens tomarrow. Strangely, both goals I think Olie would like back are Evgini Malkin's two tallies. However, I only really, really feel he should have had Malkin's second one dead on. Malkin's first goal - the backhand, was just a great move and even though he wasn't screened it was an impossible move for Olie to anticpate and a hard stop for ANY goalie in the league.

Despite some heartstoppping momnets, including a two man advantage Penguin Power Play for 1:07 during Overtime, you had to like the game if you were a Caps fan. By the end of the game Ovechkin had the league goal scoring lead both in total goals and power play goals; Niklas Backstrom had done something no rookie has ever done - back to back games with 4 assists. The OT penalty killing and two blocked shots by Quntin Laing will surely make this week's highlight reels - and right on the heels of him being the # 6 best player most people have never heard of in the NHL .("If he from Kahzakstan, he would have medal" - Borat.) As far as the standings go at the begining of the evening the Caps were in 11th in the conference two points behind Atlanta and third in the Southeast Division 3 points back of Carolina and two back of Atlanta. At the end of the night they are 10th in the Conference tied in points with Atlanta at 49 but with two games in hand and still three (3) points back of Carolina who has 52 points after beating the NY Islanders, However, the Caps have three games in hand (48 games played) over the Hurricanes (51 games played). The Caps are also only three points back of the eigth place New York Islanders who have 52 points in 48 games.

Based on the top level statistics, the Caps outplayed the Pens outshooting them 30-15 and won 40 of 68 faceoffs, though the Pens had 2 fewer penalties, 3 fewer giveaways and 3 more takeaways then the Caps; the Caps gave up three (3) power play goals and the Pens yield two (2) power play goals. In the battle of the Russians, the Caps won but only by a slim margin and it didn't hur that in Alexander Semin we had one more (3) Russian Aces to the Penguin's two (Malkin & Sergie Gonchar) I think after watching the game there can be no doubt that Malkin is as formidible a force as both Kovalchuk and Ovie - all three have wild moves. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we have Ovie; with the fire in his belly I think if you can only have one of the three on your team you want number 8. But how great would it be to be the coach of the Russian National team and have Ovechkin, Victor Kozlov, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Gonchar and Ilya Bryzlagov on your team? As Napolean Dynamite would say - "SWEET".

The three stars of the game are dead nuts on and a tribute to the youth movements in both Pittsdburgh and Washington: 1) Ovechkin, 2) Malkin, and 3) Backstrom.

Runing Commentary and tidbits fromt the game:

First Period:

I hate it when I'm right about certain things - don't you? Okay, so at 4:39 into the game Green and Poti let Maxime Talbot walk up to the doorstep and slam a puck though Olie's 5 hole and appear surprised that 1) he did it and 2) that Nicklas Backstrom didn't figure a way to catch up with him.

Now less than a minute later the Caps look like they're asleep so Semin has to take a hooking penalty to prevent another waltz - this time by Evgini Malkin. Maybe the penalty kill will make the boys in Red, White and Blue wake up.

Well the Caps got through that penalty kill okay but the Pens are doing a great job clogging the passing lanes - it's 10 minutes into the first period and I'm not sure the Caps have put together two consecutive good passes yet. I do know I really HATE the current banal commentary from these VS announcers.

Fleischman just did a great second effort to tie it at one and now the Caps are awake - the game tied and things are starting to look up. Yet the very inane banter from the VS color analysts continues. I guess why talk about the game in process when you can talk about senseless, irrelavant stuff is the Versus motto or maybe it's just Joe Bennanti's way of auditioning to get out of DC and into some "hockey worthy place" like Toronto .

I missed the next two goals as the announcing so annoyed me I watched some of the Democratic Candidate Presidential debate from South Carolina on CNN - it wasn't any better than the Versus announcers. Now "blabbermouth" aka: Christine Simpson is interviewing Mike Green at the intermission. Though the two interview questions are kind of silly, personnaly if I were them after the way the first period ended I'd focus the story line on the competative nature of Malkin and Ovechkin, two off ice friends who almost got into a hockey fight at the end of the period.

Second Period:

The second period is wild! At the first real break where I can type instead of watching and it's 4-4. Ovie has scored two goals one on the first shift of the period on the power play and the second with an even strength snapshot at 7:29. The Pens have two power play goals - both on power plays from pretty weak calls (IMHO) - Malkin got his second with a good play, but the Sykora goal was textbook even without Sid the Kid in the lineup. The pace of this game has been awesome and the hitting is intese - this is just a sweet game to watch.

Now there's a break in the action while they do a repair to the "glass". After the Ovie's second goal, a 29 foot snapshot, the Pens pulled Sabourin and put in Ty Conklin - personally I don't know why they didn't have Conklin as the starter after the way he stoned so many Caps during the last game. At the end of two it's 4-4.

At the end of the second, Donald Brashear tried to lay a big hit on Jordsan Staal but Staal turned the tables and Brash ended up on his butt. The color guys are now talking about how good the young Caps are and how Nicklas Backstrom's back to back 3+ assist games are the first time a rookie has done that in 25 years.

Peter Sykora is the interview; and for over 30 minutes of hockey I haven't heard Crosby's name mentioned more than one or two times, maybe I can stand these guys after all. Or maybe it's just a really intensely good game so I stopped caring - if we're taking a poll I'd cote for the stopped caring answer.

They talked for a couple of seconds about Ovie's contract and nobody made a stupid comment that made no sense - I guess nobody on this team has a side job working for the Toronto or Ottawa Sun or New York Post. Clearly the switch to Ty Conklin was NOT a bad move by Therrien as so far he's played excellently. His aggrssive play during the Penguin's power plays has definately compicated the Capitals penaly killing assignments and efforts.

Here we go with Christine Simpson's interview. Peter Sykora's interview was pretty good, heavily accented but better than the inane questions that she ended the Green interview with.

The Caps are outshooting the Pens 19-11 after two period so I expect the Pens to come out for the thrid period flying. The Caps definately had the momentum at the end of the second. The Caps first line has been very productive so far this game with three of the four goals. It seems about time for the second line to get their second goal, Semin has been hustling and so has Fleischman and Gordon but they only have 5 of the 19 shots between the three of them so far. Here we go...

Third Period

So now we have two really hot teams, who are playing an intensely, pretty excellent game so far coming out and taking measure of each other.

The Caps have a goal disallowed because of what from the TV vantage point looks like a horrible (as in erroneous) penalty call on Matt Bradley. Then Gonnchar takes a good wrist shot through two screening Caps, one of whom, Malone deflects it in to the net. So on the penalty kill the Caps made two mistakes - nobody challenged Gonchar - why should they? He only beat them with an OT goal that looked erily similar last game; and they let two Pens camp in the low slot including the goal scorer Ryan Malone. I hate it when I'm right.

Now with 14:30 left the Caps are flying. Of course the Pens fans are stupidly chanting "Olie" like any of these goals were on him except for Malkin's second one.

Now the Caps have a power play - they were swarming and the Pens got nervous and had to take the penalty. Hopefully Conklin's "MOJO" won't hold. The penalty is on Malkin - he and Ovechkin are really mixing it up. Oh well, even through this penalty that was quickly followed by a Delay of Game on Conklin himself - Conklin's "MOJO" is indeed holding.

Olie Kolzig has been pretty cool to watch as well - he robbed Malkin on a 1-0 breakaway earlier.

Finally after killing off 2 penalties, Conklin and the Pens slip ever so slightly but it took a nother textbook setup by Backstrom and a solid shot through a small crack in Conklin's armor by Kozlov (his second goal and fourth in two games) at 15:29, and the game is tied again at 5-5. This game is starting to feel like the one in the hockey song.


Since we're in the world of Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell where they are working to ruin the game of hockey two basically sound plays by Tom Poti and John Erskine result in penalties to the Caps and give the Pens a 5-3 advantage. Erskine's hooking penalty was the seventh hooking call tonight and only two of those seven panalties were no doubt hooks that would have been called before the recent Betman era. Of course, I'm starting to feel like this is all just a "vast conspiracey" to make sure that the NHL gets Sidney into the playoffs. However now thanks to great shot blocking by Quintin Laing and two excellent saves by Kolzig the Caps and the Pens finish OT in a 5-5 tie and we go to the shootout.


LETS GO CAPS!!!! and I'd like to start a campaign to get physical play once again allowed in the NHL - the call on Poti was lame - the call on Erskine was even lamer. Frankly, the "tight officiating" (14 penalties through 65 minutes of hockey tonight) and this unsubstantiated belief that higher scoring games are found more enjoyable to watch is just bogus in my opinion. I don't care about the score a fast paced game is great and so is a lot of hitting, the thing that got this game going for fans on both sides was the attempted check by Ovechkin on Malkin at the end of the first period, not any of the ten (10) goals. The way games are being called these days really is getting excessively negative on physical play.

The Caps win the shootout 2-1 on good goals on good backhand moves by Ovecin and Semin, so the Caps stop the Penguin's streak over them at 6 and leave the Igloo with two points.

Truth be told other then the officiating which is just reflective of the stupidity of Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell the game was a great one to watch. As wierd as it sounds there was some awesome goaltending by both Olie Kolzig and Ty Conklin though their numbers won't properly reflect that level of play.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Caps Travel to the Igloo in Search of an Elusive Win vs. "Crosby-less" Pens

Tonight's Caps game against the Pittsburgh Penguins will be nationally televised on Versus. No doubt the talking heads will be disappointed in not being able to compare Crosby to Ovechkin for three hours. However, there will be a lot of exciting match ups to fixate on in any case.

How will Malkin stack up against Ovechkin and Semin? Who will play goal for the Caps - will it be Brent Johnson whose last outing in the Igloo saw him go down and out for several weeks in the first period or traditional #1 Olie Kolzig who is coming off several days rest? Will the Caps break a six game losing streak vs. the Penguins or will the Pens again find some way to thwart the surging Caps just as they did in the last meeting? Both teams are playing very well in spite of having several key players injured.

I was pleased to see the Pens put Sidney Crosby on IR - not because I don't like him but because I do. Now he might have the time to see that high ankle sprain heal to 100% before returning to the Pens lineup. One note to the Caps defense for tonight's game - in case you need any refresher in basics - Please Clear the Slot - ESPECIALLY the Low Slot - stats like THIS don't lie. Here's where the Caps got beat the on Saturday when they played the Panthers; and Thursday night by the Oilers. Notice anything? The last several games opponents have gotten the better of the Caps from that area of the Defensive zone that guys like Tom Poti, Jeff Schultz, Milan Jurcina and John Erskine get paid to turn in to "No Man's Land". Clearing the slot has to become not just a priority but an imperative for the Caps, especially when Penalty Killing. I'm not suggesting getting tied up in the corners with foolish two and three on one checks that let guys roam free in the Caps zone. I'm suggesting what everyone who has played hockey from mites on ice knows - setup the box then collapse one awesome D-Man to the low slot to tie up the inevitable opposing forward whose camped out on the doorstep. Of course, in this era of Gary Bettman, lets turn in basketball and football scores era, the rules work against that, but frankly these stats show the more things change the more they stay the same. Just to make a point here's where the Pens scored from in their last game, which they won without Sid the Kid in the lineup. Jeff Taffe scored a wrister in the first period from? You guessed right if you said low slot in the first, Danny Sabourin made 31 saves to shutout the Canadiens and Evgeni Malkin iced it with an empty netter in the third period. The Pens showed no lack of confidence against the Habs on Saturday and killed 4 of 4 penalties though their own power play was 0 for 3 without Crosby.

If the Caps play the Pens with the same intensity they played them the last game between the two - a 4-3 OT loss for the Caps at the Igloo on 12/27/2007, the Caps should win. In that last game, the Pens needed 2 assists by Crosby on 25 shifts and 24:43 of ice time; along with an awesome OT goal by Sergi Gonchar and 22 solid saves including a couple of amazing ones by Alaskan born veteran Ty Conklin who has had an amazing season so far. The best part of tonight's game is that without continual banter comparing Ovie and Sid the Kid; the TV folks might talk about the bigger stories like the great play by both teams since Thanksgiving or maybe the coming of age of Evgeni Malkin and/or Mike Green or Alexander Semin. One thing for certain is that if this game is like the recent contests between these two team it'll be a good one. LETS GO CAPS!!!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Caps 5 - Panthers 3; Caps Are 7-2-1 in Last 10 Games

It's an awesome evening - because of the weather and other commitments I watched tonight's Caps game on TV from home so can only comment from the vantage point one gets via Comcast.

Tonight's game was exciting to watch and I'm not sure that was such a good thing. When the Panthers scored their third goal of the evening I felt exactly like Coach Boudreau and if my lip reading skills are any good - we said the same thing too. But this isn't the same team it was in early November so instead of folding the Caps came back to take the lead 4-3 on another beautiful goal by Alexander Semin on a rebound off an AO wrist shot after a great setup pass by Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps were dominate except for the first 10 minutes of the second period, and how the Panthers got back in to the game during that time is a testament to their offensive capabilities. The Caps ended the first period leading 3-0; at the end of two it was 4-3 and of course at the final horn it was 5-3 Caps. For the evening Victor Kozlov had two goals on 4 shots; Ovechkin had goal and an assist on 9 shots; Backstom had 4 assists and 3 shots, 3 takeaways and won 9 of 20 face offs - the four assists tied a Caps rookie record according to Laughlin and Bennati; and Semin had a goal on two shots and put on two stick handling clinics for the Panthers defense. Brent Johnson had a solid night between the pipes for the Caps turning back 25 of 28 shots. Collectively the Washington pucksters out shot their Florida foes 35 - 28, won 61% of the face offs, killed 4 of 6 penalties (66.6%) and scored 3 power play goals on 5 chances (60%). Tom Poti logged 29:27 of ice time and according to super stats had a hit. I didn't see the hit and didn't see him finish a check all evening. From what I saw this wasn't number 3's best game, though he did end up +/- +2 for the night and he led the Caps in ice time by more than 4:00 on a night where they got a two goal win. Mike Green logged 25:10 of ice time had 2 assists but was +/- -1 for the evening since for the statistics he was on the ice for 1 Panthers goal at even strength and all three Caps power play goals. One of two pleasant surprise of the night was John Erskine's play. Erskine logged 18:31 of ice time on 30 shifts, scored a goal, and was +/- +2 for the night. Additionally Erskine did a good job playing a physical game and holding his own. The pleasant surprise was Jeff Schultz's play and his willingness to mix it up when the Panthers started taking liberties with Brent Johnson. The sixth defenseman tonight was Milan Jurcina (vice Steve Eminger); Jurcina had a decent night logging 15:16 of ice time on 21 shifts, 3 hits and a blocked shot.

Tonight's win means the Caps have played 0.654 hockey (a 107 point pace) since the coaching change; and when they wake up tomorrow, they will wake up in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with 47 points one point ahead of both the Florida Panthers and the Buffalo Sabres who both lost tonight. They will also be two points out of the playoffs, behind the eighth place Boston Bruins, the ninth place ninth place New York Rangers and the tenth place Atlanta Thrashers, all of whom have 49 points. They also now find themselves only three points behind the Southeast Division leading Carolina Hurricanes; however the Hurricanes have played 50 games so far this season, and Atlanta 49 games while the Caps have only played 47.

Things are getting interesting around the "Phone Booth" and they are also getting more fun to watch every game. If you were counting the Caps went 4-1 during this home stand and they are 6-1-1 versus Southeastern Division opponents and 13-7-3 against Eastern Conference opponents. Even more promising, if you are looking to be optimistic is the fact that of the 35 remaining games, the Caps will play Eastern Conference Teams 30 times (none of which will be against the best team in the east, the Ottawa Senators who the Caps beat 4-0 in this years series.) Additionally of the 35 remaining games, the Caps play Southeast Division opponents 13 more times (Atlanta: 4 times - 2 home, 2 away; Carolina: 3 times - 1 home - 2 away; Florida: 3 times - 1 home, 2 away; and Tampa Bay: 3 times - 1 home, 2 away) . Finally should the Caps find themselves really surging to solidify a playoff berth or the Southeast Division lead they finish the season with a three game home stand at Verizon Center against Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida during the first week of April. Given the fact that this season they are 9-8-2 overall against Southeast Division rivals (even including the horrible month of November where they went 1-7-2 against SE foes), you have to at feel the Caps a realistic chance of making the playoffs.

Next up: Pittsburgh (without injured Sidney Crosby) in the Igloo in Steeltown on Monday; then a home & home against the Toronto Maple Leafs who have won their last three on Wednesday and Thursday. The next home game is Esskay dollar dog night on Thursday against the Maple Leafs. It's all good - LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,

Friday, January 18, 2008

Caps Beat Oilers 5-4 in Shootout; Record: 14-7-4 Since Coaching Change

The Caps are 14-7-4 since the coaching change; if they had played this way for the entire season they'd be on pace for a 100 point season (0.640 hockey) - not too shabby. As it is they are once are in the best place they've been relative to playoff chances since about game 6 or 7 of the season. After Glen Hanlon's tenure ended on November 22nd, I figured it would take the Caps until February at best to truly be in the hint for a playoff spot. Thanks to excellent play by the Caps and the tremendous parity of the Eastern Conference (12 points separating the second best record in the Conference from the team in 14th place), the Caps find themselves out of the League Cellar and in 11th in the Conference, only 5 points out of both the Eighth spot Boston Bruins and the SE Division Leaders (Atlanta Thrashers). Additionally, the Caps have locked up their star player Alex Ovechkin (stats so far this year: 35 goals, 22 assists, 57 points in 46 games played +/- +8, shooting 14.4% as well as averaging over 23 minutes per game of ice time) for the next 13 years in the richest contract in the NHL to date.

Since Thanksgiving both the Team and Management have made major strides in proving to both their NHL colleagues and their fan base they are dedicated to achieving a winning record and a playoff spot - this year. The Caps have fought through numerous injuries and consistently demonstrated they can play with any team in the league since the coaching change. Players, Coaches, Management and Fans all seem to be enjoying the turn-around and having fun.

Throughout this season it has oft times appeared that the quality of officiating I in the NHL has eroded. Last night's game was no exception, indeed I fully embraced the several derogatory cheers direct at the referee and linesmen's ineptitude. That said in the third period while looking out from my view in section 103, after another really bad/bonehead missed call, to what to my wondrous eyes should I see? An ice cream cone being hurled from section 109 on to the ice in the zone the Caps were attacking. I won't think about appealing for this behaviour never to be repeated based on manners, etc. - frankly why bother some of my more irate cheers occasionally draw looks from nearby fans - so that would likely be somewhat hypocritical. Rather I will suggest several good reasons to never repeat the act that are very self serving. 1Since it was obviously a Caps fan who tossed the scrumptious treat (I love mixed soft serve in the waffle cones at the Phone Booth don't you?) tossing something like that onto the ice in the zone your team is attacking can only hurt your team. Your forwards can only get slowed and/or trip or get hurt. Slow play generally favors the defenders as they have more time to react. So my plea is when you root for the Caps, who are a fast paced team don't throw things on the ice it slows them down and helps the other team.

On Saturday the Caps face the Thrashers who are the Southeast Division leaders. A win brings them two points closer to a playoff spot. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Caps 4 Senators 2 as Caps Sweep Season Series with "Beast of the East" 4-0

As has already been well reported elsewhere, in the blogsphere and mainstream media, the Caps completed a 4-0 season series sweep of the Eastern Conference leading Ottawa Senators with a well executed game plan last evening that resulted in a 4-2 victory. The Senators Game was one of the games where season ticket holders got to exchange unused tickets for seats, as such I attended with seven of my United States Merchant Marine Academy Class of 1982 classmates. We had a few bites to eat and liquid refreshments at La Tasca on 7th Street before the game and then went to our seats in Section 118 (vice my usual vantage point in Section 103). Watching the game from 118 gives one a much different look at the Caps then watching from 103 since you are looking at the goal the Caps defend twice the goal that they shoot at. As such, we were in perfect position to watch some great saves by Caps Goalie Brent Johnson and two goal saving plays by Caps defensive stalwart Tom Poti. Whereas, we had to watch Mike Green's classic "Top Shelf" power play goal that started the game's scoring at 00:47 into the second period on the "jumbotron". After going up 2-1 at 15:03 of the second on a Wayne Redden wrist shot, the Senators tried to turn up the tempo and get 2 goals up on the Caps only to falter and find themselves deadlocked with the Caps 2-2 on a goal by Alexander Semin wrist shot just 23 seconds later at 15:26. The third period saw a power play goal by the Great Number Eight at 9:26 and another superb effort by Alexander Semin to net an insurance goal at 11:56. Following Semin's second goal the Senators were once again "buzzing" but the Caps repulsed several strong efforts and counter attacked. By the 15:00 mark Senator's Captain Daniel Alfredsson was clearly frustrated though the Caps nemesis Mike Fisher had two chances one was well played and broken up by Shoane Morrison and the other was thwarted by one of Brent Johnson's 26 saves in the game.

For me and my party the game was even better, getting 8 of my 220 college classmates together in one place, other than at our once every 5 year anniversary homecoming parties is a rare treat. Doing it and watching the Caps win is even sweeter. Following the game several of us who didn't have to be at work till later than 7AM this morning repatriated to Clyde's for a victory nightcap and to finish catching up on things relating to family, children, career and other mutual interests such as beer and scotch. As I reflect on the great friendships created during my time at my Alma Mater I really envy my son, who is a high school senior this year his upcoming four years. I'm also just very grateful for the life and fun career I've had so far even though my responsibilities at ICx Technologies required me to take a "Red Eye" back from San Diego, Monday Night/Tuesday morning to make our mini-reunion.
The victory last night means the Caps are still only 5 points out of the division leading Atlanta Thrashers and the faltering Carolina Hurricanes, however the Caps have played just 45 games while the Thrashers have completed 47 games and the 'Canes 48. The Caps next two games are at home - tomorrow against the 21-22-4 Edmonton Oilers and Saturday against the 20-22-4 Florida Panthers. Wins in both those games put the Caps right in the thick of the race for the Division lead and a playoff spot. The way they have been playing since Thanksgiving, you have to believe it is a possibility. For Caps fans this situation - contending for a playoff spot - seemed very hard to imagine just six weeks ago. Since the coaching change Coach Bruce Boudreau's team has captured 30 of a possible 48 points (62.5%) and have a 13-7-4 record - these guys are for real. Alexander Semin has 5 goals in the last 10 games (including his two last night) and seems to have either recovered fully, or more likely just come to terms with playing with an aching ankle. Ovie has 9 goals while Mike Green has tallied 5 times in the last 10 games as well. Additionally, the Caps have gotten goals in reasonable numbers from team members less frequently mentioned in that vein over the past 6 weeks and that has made all the difference in the world. The only two real disappointments since Thanksgiving were being shutout by the Boston Bruins 2-0 on January 3rd and loosing Center Michael Nylander for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury and surgery that was announced today. On to and through the Oilers and the Panthers - LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My Grandkids Will Probably See Ovie Play As A Cap - YESSSSS!

Okay I won't go too long or hard on this since everybody in the sports world will be talking about it for some time to come - first Thank YOU! Ted and Lincoln Holdings - Ovie's 13 year contract is the signal we all were looking for (at least me, here in Bristow). Please renew my seats in Section 103 (the corner the Caps shoot at) for next year. Also many thanks for this one - the Backstrom signed Jersey WILL be proudly displayed in my office right next to the Jersey that Johnnie and Olie signed for me at the STH party last year - that's a "way cool gift for us season ticket holders - can't wait till it comes in! Maybe for next year's STH gift, I was think now since I plan on having it there a lot for sometime to come, would you consider sending someone over to get a mold on my butt to personalize the cushion - it would probably make the experience at the VC even better though I'm not sure, Thank You! Again - I'm pretty tickled with this Ovie signing and babbling as you can tell. My only son is just 17 and will graduate high school this fall, but in earlier posts I indicated it was my hope that my grandchildren when I had them, got to see Alex Ovechkin play as a Washington Capital; this contract makes that a distinct possibility - as Napoleon Dynamite would say - YESSSSSSSS.

Also thanks to the Caps and the Coaching Staff for the last 6 weeks - hope the karma continues - we could actually make the playoffs if it does. Since the coaching change the Caps are 12-6-0-4 and have captured 28 points our of a possible 40 (playing 0.700 hockey). Even better they are 5-1-0-1 versus Southeast Division opponents. Prior to the coaching change they had scored more than three (3) goals in only 3 games and allowed more than 3 in 8 of their contests. Since the coaching change they have scored more than 3 goals in 7 games and allowed more than three goals in eight (8) games including 3 wins, NY Rangers on December 12 (Caps won 5-4), Ottawa Senators on 12/29 (Caps won 8-6); Montreal Canadiens on 1/5 (Caps won 5-4). On 2other of those 8 occasions the Caps came away with a point and a one goal overtime loss: league leading Detroit in Joe Lois Arena on 12/17 (Red Wings 5 Caps 4 in a shootout loss), Penguins in Pittsburgh on 12/27 (PIT 4, Caps 3 in an OT loss).

This isn't the same team to watch it's a lot more fun and it's not just because they are winning; it's because they are playing with confidence and a lot of cool things to watch are going on. Last night, Donald Brashear scored his third goal of the year and Matt Bradley got 2/3rd of the way to a Gordie Howe hat trick (he had the fight - a pretty good one, and the assist, all he needed was the goal to "Cap" it off and he tried to get it too.) Jeff Schultz wasn't Jeff "The Anvil" Schultz; he's been playing a different more physical game since Thanksgiving; last night Schultz had 1 hit in the stats, and he also worked the corners with confidence and man-handled a couple of the Avs out of the low slot. At the end of the third, as has been well reported elsewhere by now it was Caps 2 - Avalanche 1 and my buddy Bob who came to the game with me (his first in over 20 years) thought it was a blast to watch. I have no doubt Bob would gladly come with me again and I'd love to have him.

Unfortunately, my tickets to the Flyers game will be used by others (good Hockey Fan kind of guys though) as I have to go to San Diego on ICx Technologies business with a Sunday afternoon flight for an early meeting Monday Morning. But for the Senators game on Tuesday the 15th I'll be there with a posse of 9 of my college classmates (USMMA Class of 1982) - thanks for ticket exchange nights Ted! That should be a blast. All the Caps - Senators games so far this season have been awesome to watch and I expect this one will be the same. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

1/1/2008 - A New Year and A Tale of Two Games

There were only four games in the NHL today.

The late game was the only Western Conference matchup in Los Angeles between the Chicago Blackhawks and the LA Kings. The Kings came into the matchup with the worst record in the league but a solid talent pipeline and hope for the future. The Blackhawks came into the game with 41 points and in the thick of the fight for a playoff spot in the Western Conference as the season approaches the halfway mark. In the Western Conference, similar to the Eastern Conference, the race is tight, only five points seperate the Blackhawks in 11th and the Wild in 5th with 46 points. That game ended with the Kings blowing out the Blackhawks 9-2 in a game that saw Chicago take 14 penalties and starting goalie Nickolai Khabibulin allow 4 goals on 9 shots before being pulled in favor of backup Patrick Lalime at 15:04 of the first period. In all the Kings scored 5 power play and 4 even strength goals in the game. Kings Left Winger Ladislav Nagy netted his third career hat trick with two at even strength and a power play goal. Welcome to the NHL's version of salary cap driven parity.

There were three Eastern Conference Matchups in the NHL today. The Toronto Maple Leafs played the Tampa Bay Lightning in front of 19, 347 at Maple Leaf Gardens. To most folks, except for Lightning, Maple Leaf and Washington Capital fans that game probably had little signfigance. Entering the game, the Lightning had the worst record in the East with 33 points and were 2-8-0 in their last 10 games; the Maple Leafs were 13th in the Conference and 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. Beleagured Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice "opened the second envelope" this week and annouced he is spreading the wealth around and reshuffling the lines to distribute the scoring and take some heat of the defense and goaltending as the Leafs headed into their matchup with the Lightning. With 112 goals for in 39 games coming in to tonight, the Leafs do have some offense to spread around, they have three players with more than 10 goals and seven others with 5 or more a piece. Maurice appeared determined to shake things up and get the storied Maple Leafs franchise back on track today, also announcing that 30-year old vetren backup goalie Scott Clemmesen would start tonight over Andrew Raycroft. For Tampa Bay whose coach John Totorella is also under the gun, as the Bolts with two of the top scorers in the NHL but currently sole occupants of the Conference cellar, none of what the other team does matters - he to is focused on getting his own team back on track as well. Tampa Bay has had goaltending issues and Finnish Rookie Kari Ramo called up two weeks ago from the AHL Norfolk Admirals will start. The rest of the Lightning story appears to be re-emphasizing the basics of their style of play that is anchored by aggressive forechecking. Over the past three seasons, the Bolts have a "post January record of surging into playoff contention with a combined record of 82-39-13, the game just underway will start to indicate whether once again Tortella's team responds as they did last year. Overall from the final scors and game summary - Leafs 4; Lightning 3 in a shootout it appears the Clemmesen decision was a smart one by Maurice and the 30 year old responded by holding Tampa's sharpshooting trio of Vinnie Lacavalier; Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis to 1 goal in the shootout. Tampa rookie goalie Karri Ramo was tagged for goals by Tomas Kaberle and Mats Sundin in the shootout; Sundin got the game winner.

Perhaps the real story of the day is a tale of two games, the so called Winter Classic played outdoors in Buffallo and the game here at Verizon Center. The Winter Classic was played in front of 71, 217 fans between the hometown Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins with NHL media darling Sidney "Sid the Kid" Crosby. The other game here in the nation's Capital between the hometown Washington Capitals with last week's NHL player of the week and one of the most exciting players to watch in the game today, Alexander Ovechkin and the Eastern Confernce leading Ottawa Senators was played in front of an announced attendance of just 14, 547. Adding insult to injury (the attendance figure on New Years Day at VC) for the Caps is the fact they have just completed playing their best month of hockey since 2003 finishing December 7-3-3, and they beat the Senators in Ottawa on Saturday night scoring 8 goals to the Senators 6. Why the Penguins-Buffallo matchup can draw over 70,000 people to an outdoor game in horrible, cold, snowy weather is probably testement to the novelty of the so called "Winter Classic". However, why after over thirty years of having an active viable franchise in place, and after the past three years of having the ability to regularly attend home games where they can witness one of the games current premier players work magic on the ice, only 14, 547 fans came to see Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals play the division leading Ottawa Senators, defies logic. It also defies logic why in a city with so many tech savey folks Ovechkin is currently fifth in voting for forards for the Eastern Conference All Star Team, also defies logic. Caps fans need to start coming out to more home games AND need to start voting early and often for Ovechkin; Kolzig and logging "write in" votes for Defenseman Mike Green so everyone can tell how much a hockey town DC really is.

The Caps have started winning and it's time for local fans and media to respond. While it's nice the Redskins have made the playoffs as a wild card and the Division they are in the NFC East, is once again one of the premier divisions in the league, what the Caps have done over the past month also deserves coverage AND support. The Caps with 40 games complete and 42 left to play in the season are now 5 points out of a playoff spot they have 37 points and the eighth place New York Islanders who have completed 38 games, have 42 points. More importantly the seventh place Flyers also are only 5 points up on the Caps with 42 points, after starting the season as on fire as the Caps started it ice cold. Right now there is only and eight point spread between the second place New Jersey Devils with 45 points and the 14th place Washington Capitals with 37 points. Additionally, over the past four days the Caps have proven to themselves and everyone else, they can play with any team in the league, having beaten the division leading Senators by a combined score of 14 - 9 (8-6 and 6-3). Projecting the Caps record since the coaching change over an 82 game season and they look like a 114 point team. That's an elite level of play, and should explain to the Caps Fans who've been coming to the games, why they've been so much fun to watch lately.

This afternoon's 6-3 victory over the Senators started out shakey. At 1:54 of the first period Ottawa Senator's number two tough guy, Chris Niel, who used his face to blodgen Donald Brashear's fist with eighteen unanswered hits when he "won" his fight against Brashear in the last meeting of thes two teams, scored on a wrist shot with a goal that was assisted by Christoph Schubert and Dean McAmmond. Subsequently, at 4:46 McAmmond was sprung on a slight breakaway and cut across the front of a net scoring on a backhander that put Ottawa up 2-0. In less than 5 minutes into the game it looked like Ottawa was destined to take revenge for their past two defeats at the hands of the Caps. However, since the coaching change in late November, the Caps have developed a level of self-confidence that has enabled them to make opponents fight for every point from them and they didn't hang their heads and give up. Instead, they responded with five unanswered tallies over the next 16:06 of play through the start of the second period to find themselves in firm control of the game with a 5-2 lead. The Caps first goal came on a beuatiful play set up by an Alex Ovechkin break pass to Nicklas Backstrom, who then stickhandled around two Senators and put a sweet pass onto the waiting stick of Victor Kozlov in the mid - high slot. Kozlov put the puck in the net, at 5:15 of the first, breaking his drought and the fans in the Verizon Center began to get into the game (the first few chants of Gerber being called and a lot more enthusiasm entering into the LETS GO CAPS cheers.) At 6:59, Michael Nylander netted his 10th goal of the season assisted by Jeff Schultz and Brooks Laich. Then, at 7:34 Caps Defenseman Mike Green went end to end and got his 9th goal of the season when he capped his rush off with a crisp wrist shot; apparently Senators coach John Paddock felt the shot by Green was one that starting goalie Martin Gerber should have saved as at this point he pulled him in favor of a cold Ray Emery. So before the midway point of the first period the Caps found themselves up 4-2 against the division leeading, visiting, Senators and proceeded to control the pace of play until at 15:45 of the first, in the midst of a melee in front of the Senators goal, Brooks Laich pulled the puck back away from Emery and scored on a wrist shot - while Laich was on his knees just to the right side of the low slot - in the move of the game. As the period wound down, Senators RW Shean Donovan was called for elbowing at 19:16 and the Caps power play found themselves with a one man advantage for the third time in the game; then at 19:36 Senators Defenseman Christoph Schubert was whistled off for slashing Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps ended the period with a two man advantage and having outshot the Senators 15-10 for the period. The only negative of the first period was Caps DMan Tom Poti an "Upper Body Injury" and was sidelined for the rest of the game.

Starting the second period up 4-2 on the scoreboard and with a two man advantage 5 on 3 power play on the ice, enabled the Caps to once again come out of the locker room flying. However it seemed to take them about the first 30 seconds of the period to get organized. After a couple of broken up rushes on the third setup of the period the Caps power play led by Ovechkin came into the Senators zone, passed the puck to Michael Nylander who then found Mike Green pinching in just to the left of the low slot. Green put a smooth snap shot into a pretty wide open left side of the net for his second goal of the game at 00:52 for what turned out to be the only score of the period. If Olie Kolzig had anything to atone for from the two goals he let in during the first period, he certainly did that during the second period when the Senators had 11 shots to the Caps 4 and Olie made several very good saves. The Senators tried to turn it on during the second period outshooting the Caps while Emery made a key save robbing "snakebitten" Matt Pettinger of what was his second good scoring chance of the game. However, each time the Sens tried to "kick it up a notch" the Caps responded, absorbed the Senators onslaught and responded back with an attack of their own. Though with a 5-2 lead the Caps seemed to be saving the puck for better scoring chances rather than throwing in soft shots at Emery. As the second period ended the Caps picked up a penalty for too many men on the ice at 19:06 and the Senators had a power play for the last minute of the period. Again during the second period the Caps lost the services of one of their leading players when Alexander Semin went down early with a "tail bone" injury and did not return.

The third period started with the Senators on the power play for the first 1:04 of the period. The Senators came out flying but didn't convert on the powerplay. However at 1:10, Senators Defenseman Andrej Meszaros scored on a snapshot on a play that virtually mirrored Mike Green's second goal, assists on the Senators third red light of the night were awarded to Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredssonn. For the rest of the period the play was fast and exciting but the Caps generally held off the Senators and made some very good rushes and setup plays of their own in the Senators end of the ice. At about 17:30 Paddock pulled Emery in favor of an extra skater; subsequently about a half minute later the Caps gained control of the puck and Boyd Gordon netted his third goal of the season on an empty netter from Matt Bradley and Mike Green. This closed out the games scoring at 6-3 leaving the Caps fans in attendance jubulantly thinking about the free wings they'll be eating tomarrow at Austin's Grill.

Overall the quality of play for the game by the Caps was very good and after the Senators settled in following the end of the first period they delivered a solid 40 minutes of good hockey. The only folks on the ice that consistantly under performed were the officials. Several offisides calls were missed, several were late and several just blown. However, the linesman's performance was nothing compared to the referees poor officiating throughout the game. The play that resulted in Semin's injury came from a crush check, push down, old and general mugging by frustrated Senator Captain Daniel Alfredsonn early in the second. While slightly behind the play the whole purpose of having a second ref is to catch calls like this penalty should have been. Also, unless there has been some sort of rule change that pplies only to teams who are based in the capital city of the country where the sport of ice hockey was concieved (i.e. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) there were numeorus missed calls for elbowing, a totally blown lack of a call for delay of game, and a blatent slash in addition to Alfredsonn's mugging of Semin. Finally, I know it's not specifically pointed out in the rules but when a guy uses the hometown press to basically call out an opposing player - don't you think that should qualify him for the two minute instigating penalty? I think the instigator rule is a farce and the lack of application of it on Brian McGratten for the fight with Donald Brashear proves it. Come on, ref...

For 2008 the Caps are playing 1.000 hockey - LETS GO CAPS!!!!! Perhaps the Caps should play the Senators every night for the rest of the season. Despite totally dominating the Senators in their last three meetings, Ottawa's hockey press still seems to regard the Capitals as really not worthy to be on the same rink with their revered Senators. Don Brennan slammed Jeff Schultz in one post game story and couldn't tell the difference between Boyd Gordon and Mike Green in his second post game story. Of course the overly partisan Brennan failed to mention that in the Caps 6-3 win over the Senators, while Schultz was indeed victimized by Chris Niel for the Senators first goal of the game, he played 23:34 due to Poti's injury in the first and finished the game +/- +1 with an assist. Nor did Brennan mention that in Saturday's 8-6 win over the Senators Schultz logged 14:17 of ice time, finished +2 and had an assist. Of course I'm sure if league officials are as confused about who scored one goal and who scored two for the Caps Boyd Gordon would gladly take the extra score and Mike Green wouldn't object as long as they didn't decrement his total so far this season from 10 back down to 9. Of course had Brennan gotten that fact correct he might have felt compelled to include the fact that Green also scored two assists on Saturday evening in Ottawa as well. That fact along with Michael Nylanders two goals on Saturday and one goal today along with the goals by the five other Caps who contributed to the 14 goals they scored in the last four days against his revered, division leading, home team Senators might have clouded his perspective that the Caps won ONLY because 1) Ovie played very well (which he did - both nights) and 2) the Senators were I dunno tired after so much rest or ruty/lulled into blase' by their prior 4-1 loss to the Caps in November??? When you figure out what Brennan is thinking or even what planet he's on please comment and let me know.

Well enough rambling for now time to go get ready for work - LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!