Sunday, March 30, 2008

Who would've thought?!?!

Well as you digested the last vestiges of your Thanksgiving turkey dinner back in November, what professional hockey fan could have imagined the events we no see unfolding during this last week of the NHL season. Back in late November could you have imagined Washington's own Capitals as the hottest team in the NHL as they enter the last week of the season. Before you hindsight is 20-20 guys chime in, remember on November 22nd the Caps were 6-14-1 on the season and had a 5 game losing streak going. Of course on Thanksgiving Day, the Caps ownership decided to make a coaching change. They "sat" Glen Hanlon down and brought up the coach of their minor league affiliate Hershey Bears - Bruce Boudreau. Initially, the choice of Boudreau wasn't universally acknowledged as a good decision. Today, Caps Fans are virtually unanimous in their praise for the results achieved, and the fun exciting to watch game and system that Boudreau has put in place. Changes to the Caps away from "the trap" to a fast paced, in your face, forecheck, forecheck, forecheck style has them on pace to end the season with over 90 points and on a 105 point pace since he took over. The Caps went 10-4-0 in March, 6-4-3 in February, 9-4-0 in January and 7-3-3 in the month of December; since the coaching change they are 18-8-3 at home and 16-9-4 on the road.

Who do you think the Montreal Canadeans or Pittsburgh Penguins would rather face in the first round of the playoffs - 9th place Washington (8-2-0 in their last 10 games) or the 8th place Boston Bruins (4-3-3) in their last 10 games. If the Caps do manage to squeak into the playoffs under the wire and end up facing Montreal, what's the chance a team coached by a guy with an attitude and confidence like this, led by this guy, and backstopped by this guy who wants to show all the fans here - it wasn't yet time to pass the reigns to this guy, doesn't make it really tough for the Canadeans with whom they split their season series 2-2?

Unfortunately for Washington DC area hockey fans another difficult to imagine story has unfolded since Thanksgiving. The Eastern Conference is likely to have a higher point cutoff for playoff eligibility than it's Western counterpart. Back in late November and even as short as 4 days ago some pundits were of the mind it might take as many as 3 points more for a Western Conference team to make the playoffs than those in the East. Now it seems that it will take 2 or more in the East than the West. In any case, teams from the so called "weaker" Southeastern Division have all raised their level of play since Thanksgiving, though none as much as the Washington Capitals. Additionally, Washington area hockey fans have also responded and as one would expect home game attendance is up. Games are usually a joy to watch, though there is that "rare exception"; there are also nights where fans can only marvel at the talent the Capitals now put on the ice. It'll be a hard push for the Caps to make it into the playoffs, but at this rate, few if any, are counting them out - LETS GO CAPS.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Way To Go Caps - Caps 3 - Panthers 0; Huet Shutout; Great Road Trip

Well I've been swamped finishing out a big proposal that hits a submission deadline Monday so I haven't seen any of the last 3 games. However, I just wrapped up work for today and looked at the Game Summary - "most excellent, dudes!" Huet - 32 Saves; Save % 100%; Ovechkin Goal Number 62; Green goal Number 18; Poti - 2 Assists...and the hits just keep coming. Now if Tamp Bay just keeps it up and vanquishes those pesky Hurricanes, our Caps will be able to tie it up for the Southeast Division lead on Tuesday, here at Verizon Center. LETS GO CAPS!!!!

Sorry for the brevity and the intermittent posts this past week but I haven't gotten home before 10PM all week and tonight is no different.

Monday, March 24, 2008

No Help Last Night - Flyers 4, Islanders 1

The Flyers bested the Islanders last night 4-1 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. The loss eliminated the Islanders from the possibility of making the playoffs. However without their starting goalie, Rick DiPietro for the rest of the season, that was all but a foregone conclusion for the Islanders. The win puts the Flyers 4 points up on the Capitals, in sole possession of 7th place in the Eastern Conference. There isn't much to watch in the tight Eastern Conference playoff fight tonight - like Washington, both the Flyers, Hurricanes, Sabres, Panthers and the Bruins are idle. There are two games that will figure in the Western Conference tonight - Colorado vs. Calgary and Minnesota vs. Edmonton; if you want to be a rabid NHL scoreboard watcher.

There's a lot of conversation in the blogsphere about the likely and deserving Hart and Calder Trophy candidates. Many are debating the merits of considering Alexander Ovechkin for the Hart Trophy if the Capitals don't make the playoffs. This is confusing and makes little sense, the Hart Trophy is for the individual who is most valuable to his team. While the Great 8 isn't the only player worthy of consideration for the Hart this year, whether the Capitals make the playoffs or not shouldn't be a consideration on whether sportswriters vote for him. When you consider the criteria, even if you want to look at the Caps record, you need to look at the record of two teams the one coached by Bruce Boudreau and the one that started the season under Glen Hanlon. Since their coaching change, the Caps have played on pace to garner 102 points. After having been swept by the Caps 4 games to 0 this season, the Ottawa Senators will gladly face somebody else in the first round. Assuming the Montreal Canadeans hold onto their current pace and win the conference, there is no doubt they'd rather face the Bruins or Flyers (both of whom they blanked this season), and probably the Rangers (1-2-1) in the first round. The Canadeans went 2-2 against the Caps this season - and that was before the Caps picked up a goalie who knows their playbook - but that's another story. The point is the Caps are a competitive team that can and has played toe to toe with any other team in the NHL. There is no doubt other players, like Nicklas Lidstrom at Detroit; Martin Brodeur in New Jersey among them, should be considered for the Hart Trophy. Last year (2007) the Hart Trophy was awarded to Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Penguins made the playoffs finishing the season seeded 5th with 47 wins and 107 points, but were bested in the first round by the Ottawa Senators 4 games to 1, winning the Stanley Cup has never been a prerequisite to winning the Hart - that's why there's a Conn Smythe Trophy.

Each year the Hart Trophy is to the NHL player to the player who was the most valuable to his team during the regular season as voted by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The voting is conducted at the end of the regular season by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and each individual voter ranks their top five candidates on a 10-7-5-3-1 points system. Ties are broken based on who has the most first place votes. The closest the voting for the Hart Trophy has ever come was in the 2001–02 season, when José Théodore and Jarome Iginla tied in the total voting. The tiebreaker for choosing the Hart Trophy winner in such a case is number of first-place votes: Théodore, who had 86 first-place votes to Iginla's 82, claimed it. Given the basic tenet: the award is given to the player who was the most valuable to HIS TEAM during the regular season; it seems very likely that Alexander Ovechkin, the first player to score more than 60 regular season goals in over a decade, will be one of the three finalists for the award. Whether he'll win or not will depend on the how the members of the PHWA vote - but it wouldn't surprise many if he does win regardless of whether or not the Capitals make the playoffs. If Ovechkin does win and the Caps haven't made the playoffs, don't be surprised if he indicates he'd trade it for a playoff win in a minute during his acceptance speech. If AO doesn't win, don't be surprised to see him deflect questions on the subject with positive comments about the winner, regardless of whether or not the Caps made the playoffs. Ovechkin has proven time and time again, despite still improving on his English skills, to be "a class act".

As per wikipedia - the Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given "to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League." The award has been awarded 70 times since its beginnings in 1937. The voting is conducted by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association at the conclusion of each regular season to determine the winner. The voting is conducted at the end of the regular season by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and each individual voter ranks their top five candidates on a 10-7-5-3-1 points system. Three finalists are named and the trophy is awarded at the NHL Awards ceremony after the playoffs. Obviously, looking at the definition of the purpose of the award, all the names being bandied about - Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Nicklas Backstrom, etc are worthy of consideration. All the rookies being talked about have put up numbers that substantiate their proficiency in their first year of competition. Again, whether Backstrom wins or not look for him to indicate he'd trade the trophy for a playoff win and to compliment whoever wins, if he's not on the dais with the trophy in June. The young Swede continues to impress with his maturity on and off the ice every day.

Enough about individual honors during a playoff race, back to focusing on what really matters. Next up Southeast Division leading Carolina, in Raleigh, tomorrow night. LETS GO CAPS!!!!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Caps are Off Today So It's Let's Go Islanders !?! Time In Bristow

Happy Easter!

With the Caps off till their Tuesday matchup with the Hurricanes in Carolina and the Boston - Montreal game yesterday in the rear view mirror, Caps fans find ourselves rooting for the Islanders tonight as they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers. Yesterday the Bruins escaped with a point out of one of their two games in hand on the Caps. The eigth place Flyers who are 4-3-3 in their last 10, face an injury depleted Islanders team at home in Philly today. For the Flyers it will be the first time this season they face an Islanders' netminder other than Rick DiPietro who had hip surgery on Wednesday and is out for the rest of the season. The Caps are also two points back of the Flyers who also now have only one game in hand on the Caps.

With Friday evening's 5-3 comeback win over the Atlanta Thrashers, the Caps are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. That makes them one of the four hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, Pittsburgh is also 7-3-0 in their last 10 games; unfortunately the hottest team in the Eastern Conference is those same pesky Carolina Hurricanes the Caps will meet in Raleigh at the RBC center on Tuesday evening. The only other team with a better record in their last 10 games in the Eastern Conference than the Caps - you guessed right if said those pesky Florida Panthers, the Panthers are 8-1-1 and nipping at the Caps heels, just one point behind Washington. So much for the Southeast division being weaklings and lightweights. The way things are going now in Boston, Philadelphia, Florida and Washington - if Florida and Washington can get past the Hurricanes and each other (Washington plays Florida and Carolina twice in the next two weeks and and in addition to facing Washington twice in their last 6 games, Florida plays Carolina one more time), then they might all find themselves in the playoffs with the Flyers and the Bruins on the outside looking in.

The Bruins next two games are a home and home with the Maple Leafs (who are also 7-3-0 in the last 10) who with two wins in regulation would be tied with Boston. They then play the Senators and Sabres twice each and the Devils once to close out the season - not an easy road by any measure. The Flyers, after finishing their game against the Islanders tonight have six games remaining one more against the Rangers and Islander and 2 each against New Jersey and Pittsburgh. With the match-ups the way they are and the standings as tight as they are (4 points separate seventh place Boston (84 points) and twelfth place Toronto (80 points), pretty much "anything" could happen to the Caps who with 82 points sit "smack dab" in the middle of it all. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!! and for today's game against the Flyers - Lets Go Islanders.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Shame On You: Lisa Hillary and Comcast Commentators

After last night's game, Comcast sportscaster Lisa Hillary commented that the Washington Capitals had been outplayed by the Atlanta Thrashers for the first two periods before they came alive and won the game. In so doing Ms. Hillary seemed to imply the Caps had stolen a victory and two points during their trip to Atlanta. Facts and figures are quite contrary to the statement and the implication is wrongheaded to the point of being simply reprehensible. If anything, the contrary is true - Kari Lehtonen, Atlanta's 24 year old Finnish born netminder almost stole the game for his team in front of the home crowd.

Here's the facts -
shots on goal (SOG) period by period:
1st period SOG: Caps - 8; Thrashers - 6; Score at the end of the 1st: Caps 1, Thrashers 0
2nd period SOG: Caps - 14; Thrashers - 9; Score at the end of 2: Caps 1, Thrashers 3
3rd period SOG: Caps - 23; Thrashers - 2; Final Score: Caps 5 - Thrashers 3.

faceoffs won: (25 - 25 overall)
1st - Caps 4, Thrashers 5
2nd - Caps 12, Thrashers 9
3rd - Caps 9, Thrashers 11

hits - one of two tracked statistical categories Atlanta won for the overall game
1st - Caps 4, Atlanta 5
2nd -Caps 4, Atlanta 4
3rd -Caps 3; Atlanta 7 (relevant side note: the Caps were too busy shooting and forechecking to hit for 15 minutes of this 20 minute period).

The other statistical category Atlanta bested the Caps was takeaways (Atlanta 8 - Caps 7); however this is offset by the fact the Caps had four less penalty minutes for the game. Of particular note that is contrary to Ms. Hillary's ignorant comment are two key facts - 1) the first period ended with the Caps up in the most important category 1-0 and ahead or even in two of three categories that reflect the level of hustle and play for a team; 2) when the horn sounded to end the second period the Caps were behind 3-1 even though they were ahead in every tracked statical team category - the one they were behind for the period Save % is an individual statistic and when you look at the shot chart for the second period you can see that this period was Christobel Huet's worst as a Cap. The last statement is not an aspersion on Huet for being a human being for 2o minutes - if the Caps can resign him, they definitely should do so.

The source data for this analysis came from and is available on

Visitors to the Washington Capitals website know that Ms. Hillary is now advertising for the Caps. Lisa Hillary is a Canadian and does know something about hockey. But since she either doesn't have the work ethic to the game to properly research her commentary; or she's not really a Caps fan; or like most mainstream media personages she's just trying to pass through so she get a bigger better gig by creating controversy - I say "Off With Her Head" (figuratively that is, after all she is generally better than average for a local cable newscaster). I urge all my readers to post a comment on Caps Majority Owner Ted Leonsis' blog or email him telling him to pull Ms. Hillary's advertisement and replace it ASAP. I also urge readers to write Comcast and ask that they hold their sportscasters more accountable to better research their reporting. At the very least, Ms. Hillary should be required to attend the Caps' Hockey and Heels night wearing a dunce cap.

Congratulations to Alexander Ovechkin on numbers 59 and 60 in a much needed win. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Happy Friday In Bristow

As I settled in to watch the Caps hopefully rebound from Wednesday's loss to Chicago with a victory over Atlanta, a busy but exciting and pleasing week came to a close. Since my son Chris didn't know where he wanted to go and didn't apply to any colleges early admission or early decision, we are just starting to hear from colleges. So far, he's gotten acceptances from his proud father's Alma Mater - the United States Merchant Marine Academy, and George Mason University. Still to be heard from are James Madison University and the University of Virginia, though we'll hear about those two in the next 10 days. In any case, he now has a choice that includes an excellent education for free with a "study abroad" year second to none. Additionally, at Kings Point (aka USMMA), he might also get the chance to continue playing Lacrosse, a sport he's come to love and that now plays varsity goalie for his high school - the Battlefield Bobcats.

Work has been hectic, in addition to working closely with several of my ICx Technologies colleagues on a proposal for a large program I spent three hours yesterday in NY meeting with a representative from a company we are hoping to partner with on some other new ventures. Currently, we have so much going on in regards to chasing new business and it's all really exciting stuff. While it's disappointing how bearish the stock market seems to have become about ours and others prospects, I have no doubt that long term we'll be a successful venture. I'm also very excited about the new products and new features to products we'll have and be announcing at the upcoming Security Industry soiree - ISC West - in Las Vegas April 2-4th.

Putting the cherry on the sundae that was today was the Caps 5-3 comeback victory over hapless Atlanta AND Alexander Ovechkin's 59th and 60th goals of the season. Tonight's Caps victory kept Washington's playoff hopes alive. The win was even more important given the Philadelphia Flyers shootout victory over the Rangers, since it keeps the Caps just two points behind the 8th place Flyers. Throughout much of the game it looked like Atlanta netminder Kari Lehtonen was going to steal one from the Capitals. Throughout the season the Caps and Alexander Ovechkin have generally dominated Lehtonen. The first period started atypically for an Atlanta - Washington game and was a "cat and mouse" battle until Ovechkin netted his 59th goal of the season at 15:18 of the first period. However, throughout the first five minutes of the game and often during period two the Caps looked a little pensive and Atlanta always attempted to pounce. At time the Thrasher's pushes during the second period succeeded and they rose to the opportunities given them, especially Jim Slater who scored both a "shortie" and an even strength goal in the second period. Even though the Capitals out shot the Thrashers in the second period 14 - 10, they were outscored 0-3 and during two power plays Atlanta controlled the pace of play. That said the Caps weren't playing flat at any point in the game after Ovechkin's first goal, Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen just did a "human wall" impression. The third period was a different story, it was "ALL CAPS, ALL THE TIME", but for the first ten minutes Lehotnian was again a human wall. Then at 11:30 of the third, Ovechkin scored number 60 top shelf, right side over Lehtonen's shoulder, on a pretty feed from Mike Green at 11:30. The goal by Ovie breathed life and hope to a Caps team that had failed to be able to come back after being down at the start of the third period the last 50 times they found themselves in that position. Coach Bruce Boudreau double shifted the first line (Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov) giving them over 10 minutes of ice time in the third period, and they responded. After the Ovechkin goal, Lehtonen kept the Thrashers in the lead for another four and half minutes despite the Thrashers allowing the Caps to completely dominate them with a forechecking and passing clinic and basically shell their 24 year old Finnish goalie. The Caps continued to press hard and double shift line 1 until at 16:00 Nicklas Backstrom was setup by another great play from Mike Green and scored his 13th goal of the season. Thirty-two seconds later at 16:32, Backstrom scored his second goal of the night, he scored his second of the night on a design play that could only be a design play for a team with a left wing named Alexander Ovechkin on their roster. With the Caps now up 4-3, Lehtonen became visibly frustrated and threw his stick down, who could blame him for being angry, his team hadn't played in a way that kept up with the Caps for over 15 minutes. Goalie Christobel Huet got a point with a secondary assist on the first Backstrom goal. The Caps kept pressing even though the Thrashers did try and make a game of it during the final three minutes. At about 18:15 the Thrashers pulled, put on a sixth skater but the Caps and Huet stood tall; center Boyd Gordon scored an empty-netter, his sixth goal of the season to ice the victory at 19:52. Overall during the third period, the Caps out shot the Thrashers 23 - 2, yes that 2. Despite letting 4 goals get by, Kari Lehtonen had a save percentage of 90.9%. Final score Caps 5 - Thrashers 3. It was a Happy Day/Evening in Bristow. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wednsday Night Is Hockey Night In Bristow Too!

As a break to another hectic day in a hectic week, we simple Bristow, VA residents settled down to watch the Washington Capitals vs the Chicago Blackhawks on Comcast+, turning on the TV a little early, I was rewarded with the beginning of "The Core" on F/X and once again realized it's on so much because it's a FUN movie. It's an even better movie when you're getting ready to watch some the Caps try and make it two in a row on the road. The great movie line of the night before the game was: "Okay, IF I agree to do this, I'm gonna need an unlimited supply of Xena tapes and Hot Pockets." At least for me it was the perfect mood setting line before watching a Caps Game. LETS GO CAPS! Time to "Unleash The Fury".

It was Tony Esposito night and a sellout in Chicago and the Blackhawks came out flying. Before four minutes had 8 shots on Olie Kolzig and two goals - an even strength goal at 1:27 by Jason Williams and a power play score by Johnathan Toews at 3:19 while Sami Lepisto was in the penalty box for an Interference call. It wasn't so much that the Caps came out flat, it was indeed just that the Hawks' intensity was mind-boggling. Perhaps Chicago watched a tape of last night's game in Nashville and wanted to make sure the Caps didn't catch them on the backs of their heels. Just as the Caps seemed to be picking up the pace the Caps got caught up ice. The Blackhawks got a 3 on 2 breakaway the Yannick Perreault put a rocket wrist shot through a partial screen over the left shoulder (glove side) into the top corner of the net behind Kolzig, making it 3-0 at 9:14. At 10:00 the Caps got their first power play of the night on tripping call on Dustin Byfuglien, but they didn't get a shot on net due to the Blackhawks' awesome PK unit. At 17:56 Patrick Sharp made it 4-0 after they looked like they had a shooting drill going on Olie Kolzig - not one of the Caps on the ice looked good on that one. The Blackhawks had Kolzig "surrounded" and for some reason none of the Caps could clear the low slot or the corners of the crease; and for some reason Olie couldn't smoother any of the first three shots he stopped before Sharp scored his 35th goal of the year. At 18:27 the Caps got their second power play of the night and applied pretty good pressure before the end of the period. However, Nickolai Khabiboulan made two really nice stops and the period ended with the Caps trailing 4-0. First period summary for the Caps - lots of Hot Pockets; unleashed fury? not so much.

The second started with the Capitals on the power play for a little under the first half minute. Alexander Ovechkin came out "banging" making two solid hits in his first shift of the period. The Caps worked hard at the start of the period to change the games momentum. However, after keeping things pretty even for 10:19 the Rene Bourque a 1-0 breakaway on a nice outlet pass from Williams, and Bourque put it through Kolzigs "five hole" to make it 5-0 Blackhawks with just over a half game played. Following Bourgue's goal, the game see-sawed though the Caps could never get anything going because Khabiboulan was super when he needed to be.

During the third period the Caps played their best hockey of the night but again came up short. For the period the score ended 0-0 after Khabiboulan robbed Alexander Semin with a diving save to preserve his shutout with 2:58 left in the game. Even during the third period the Caps were outshot by the Blackhawks 11-13. Overall on the night the Caps were outshot 42 - 12, and veteran goalie Olie Kolzig must have felt "naked" at times. Despite being on the loosing end of a 5-0 shutout, Kolzig's save percentage was 88.095 for the game; his NHL career average was is 90.6% and he is on track to finish this season with an 89.3% save percentage, so he pretty much played what for him has become an average game. While Kolzig's performance wasn't up to the same level he had been playing the past three games, he has been gone 3-0-0 and had a SV% of 94.2% in his last four games played, tonight's loss isn't on his shoulders, allowing 43 shots on goal, including multiple breakaways, the Caps clearly weren't the team they have proven they can be. A disappointing loss, in front of over 20,000 Chicago fans, tonight's game is even harder for Caps fans to stomach since Carolina won and is once again 5 points ahead of the Caps for, in the race for the Southeast Division title. Now, despite having their last seven games against Southeast Division opponents including two against the Hurricanes, the Caps best hopes for a playoff berth is clearly to overtake the Eastern Conference 8th place Philadelphia Flyers who they remain two points behind.

Next up, the Thrashers (who lost to Carolina tonight and are now 2-6-2 in their last 10 games) in Atlanta. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesday Night Is Hockey Night In Bristow

As a break to a hectic day in a hectic week, we simple Bristow, VA residents settled down to watch the Washington Capitals vs the Nashville Predators on Comcast, turning on the TV a little early, I was rewarded with the tail end of Gladiator on one of the Cinemax Channels and once again realized it's on so much because it's a great movie. It's an even better movie when you're getting ready to watch some NHL gladiators. The great movie line of the night before the game was: "He was a soldier of Rome - - - Honor him." At least for me it was the perfect mood setting line before watching a hockey game.

The first period was barely half over and the Caps were up 2-0. One of Craig Laughlin's better comments of the season or at least of late is noting how the Predators defenseman are all having a hard time just understanding how fast Alexander Ovechkin plays this game. The intensity of the Caps forced the play and the Predators were just either stymied or forced to commit penalties. Alexander Ovechkin had two assists already and his setup pass to Nicklas Backstrom for the second goal of the period was just pure mastery. When Ovechkin retires in about 15 or more years the highlight reel will be movie length and require an intermission the way this guy plays the game. Perhaps taking a cue from Overchkin - Brooks Laich also made a highlight reel setup pass to a wide open Matt Bradley who banged it home for a 3-0 lead at 14:40, and the Predators changed goalies. Chris Mason was put in for Dan Ellis who was victimized for 3 goals in 8 shots. At the other end through the first period Christobel Huet stopped all 7 of the Predators shot including two really awesome saves; Huet also could just have easily gotten a secondary assist on the Bradley goal. At the end of the first period, Sami Lepisto was in the box and The Great Eight was limping after getting hit in the right boot from a shot on his last shift of the period but the Caps were up 3-0. The first period was as they say "All Caps - All the Time"; Ovechkin had two assists one on Semin's power play goal at 6:49 and one on Nicklas Backstrom's 12th goal of the season at 9:59. Those assists were Ovechkin's 100th and 101st points of the season.

The second period started with Nashville on the power play. Caps fans had to be relieved when they saw Alexander Ovechkin out skating again, even though right after the Lepisto penalty was killed Tom Poti was called for cross-checking. The quick penalty on Poti meant the Caps were shorthanded for (time of goal less 37 seconds) of the period before the Predators' J.P. Dumont made it 3-1 with a power play goal, his 28th of the season at 4:09. Dumont's goal energized the Nashville team for the next six minutes or so, putting on their own forechecking exhibition and manufacturing several good scoring chances. However, Christobel Huet made a couple of excellent saves and the Caps regrouped and resumed the relentless forechecking that has become their style of play since Thanksgiving. Once the Caps had regrouped the pace of play became "blistering" with end to end hockey, and the Predators were every bit as intense as the Capitals had been in the first period. Unlike the first period where the Predators seemed like they couldn't keep up with any of the Capitals, the only line they seemed to be perplexed by in the second was the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov line and Chris Mason kept the Capital's sharpshooters "out of the net". During the second period Huet, like Ovechkin in the first, was a one man highlight reel stopping everything thrown at him, including a 1 on 0 breakaway by Dumont during 4 on 4 play while Eric Fehr and Scott Nichol were in the "sin bin". The Predators seemed to have made some clear adjustments between the first and second periods. The biggest three were a) how they played Mike Green - check him, check him and check him some more every time he got the puck; 2) how they played Ovechkin - as tight as mere mortals could possibly do so, even if that meant giving more room to Kozlov or Backstrom; and 3) forecheck as intensely and relentlessly as they saw the Caps do during the first period. Following the Dumont goal the Predators clearly outplayed the boys from DC however, Christobel Huet stole the period for the Caps. During the second period Nashville outshot the Washington 9-4 and had solid scoring chances, they also often bottled the Caps up in their own end for much of the period.

The third period was a back and forth match with some really fun hockey to watch for fans of both teams. The Capitals first line clearly caused lots of issues for the Predators, though the "Preds" were not without their own scoring chances; and an awesome center ice hit on Alexander Semin certainly got the Nashville crowd into the game for a while. After s lot of back and forth play the Predators scored during a 6-5 while the Caps had a delayed penalty call and Mason was on the bench. The Caps seemed to sit back, the Preds came down the ice and Jason Arnott scored on a wristshot through a partially screened Huet. Then right after that at 13:23 Matt Cooke was whistled off for tripping and the Predators swarmed. The attack was relentless and intense and at 14:19 they actually took Huet's mask off with a shot. After Huet's mask was taken off the rest of the Caps team seemed to realize they needed to play the final five minutes of the game. The Predators pulled Chris Mason at 18:25 and played like a team possessed. The Capitals responded playing unselfish defense and the crowd was on the edge of their seats or on their feet until at 19:56 Ovechkin with an unselfish clear off the boards netted the empty net insurance goal to "seal the deal" for Washington.

The Predators played a much more physical game in the second and third periods and that changed the whole "demeanor" of the game. During the first period the Predators repeatedly gave the Capitals shots on goal inside the slot. In the final two periods, the Predators got on the Caps forwards much earlier as they came in to the offensive zone. This single adjustment by the Predators changed the game and at times it seemd they were able to physically stifle the Caps. Six of the seven shots (including their three early goals) from the low slot were allowed by the predators in the first period. Overall though the game was pretty even - statistically. Through the 60 minutes of regulation the comparisons look like this: a) Shots on Goal: Caps 21, Predators 26; b) PIM: Capitals 12, Preds; 6; c) Hits: Caps 23, Preds 17; d) Giveaways: Caps 4, Preds 9; e) Takeaways: Caps 8, Preds 6; f) Faceoffs: Caps 28, Predators 36. The difference that tipped the scales in the Capitals favor were the shoulders of two players: Ovechkin who had 3 points (1G & 2A), 4 SOG, 2 Hits, and 3 Blocked Shots on 20 shifts and 20:54 of ice time and Christobel Huet with 24 saves and a save percentage of 92.308. Overall the Caps walked away with the first period; were severely outplayed in the second but kept in the lead by Huet; and in the third period it was basically a draw though in the end the Caps pulled the period out with Ovechkin's empty netter - his 58th goal of the season. The game was crucial for both teams but in many respects the Capitals needed it more and got it. Tonight's game was one of two games in hand the Caps have on the division leading Carolina Hurricanes and the win pulls them within three points of the rival 'Canes. Additionally, if you were scoreboard watching the Caps got no help tonight in the quest for 8th place in the Eastern Conference as the 8th place Philadelphia Flyers also won tonight.

In any case it was "a two point night". Next up - the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow night at United Center. The Blackhawks are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games and 18-16-2 overall at home; additionally, the Hawks have a couple of injuries they are working though so there is another possible road win against a Western Conference opponent. However, it is Tony Esposito night and the sellout crowd will be looking to see why their rookie phenom, RW Patrick Kane (17 G, 45 A for 62 points) should be the Calder Cup winner over Caps rookie Center Nicklas Backstrom (12 G, 49A for 61 points) and rooting for their rebuilding 'Hawks to spoil the Caps drive for the playoffs. Players to watch? For the Caps: Backstrom, Ovechkin (wouldn't he like to get goals 59, 60, and 61 in "an original 6 city") and Kolzig (wouldn't he like to get win 302 on "Tony Esposito Night" and match or best Huet's 92.3% save percentage tonight). For the Blackhawks: Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews. The 19 year old Toews has played 55 games this season and has 20 goals - he is the "other Alex" to Kane's "Ovechkin".

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Short Tribute and Summary Facts - Olaf Kolzig's 301 Career Wins

The Caps traveled to Nashville today in preparation for their match-up Tuesday evening with the Western Conference's 9th place Predators today. Taking time to go over a tribute and some facts about "Olie the Goalie's" 18 year and counting professional ice hockey career and his 301 and counting NHL wins seems like a good use of the time at hand. After all it is an "intermission" between yesterday's "most important game of the season for the Caps" and tomorrow's "most important game of the season for the Caps". Much of what will be covered here has been covered in bits and pieces elsewhere since "Godzilla" notched his 300th NHL win on Wednesday night against the Calgary Flames at Verizon Center. However, since Mr. Kolzig is only the 23rd Goalie in the 104 year history of the professional hockey in North America to collect 300 or more wins and only the fifth person to do it with a single team, repeating the facts, figures and notations in one place doesn't seem too effusive.

Most accounts of Olaf Kolzig's professional hockey career indicate it started in 1989 when he was drafted in the first round (19th overall) by the Washington Capitals. In truth Kolzig's career started two years prior during the 1987-1988 season when the then 17 year old Kolzig joined North Westminster of the Western Hockey League and played 15 games. For the 1988-89 Season, Olie then went to the Western Hockey League Tri-City Americans who he also played with immediately after being drafted by the Capitals in the 1989 - 1990 season. Today, Olie Kolzig co-owns those same Tri-City Americans with Stu Barnes who played with Olie in Tri-City and Dennis Loman and Bob Tory. At 6-3 and 220 pounds, Olie was big for a goalie when he was drafted and it took him a while to grow into his stature both physically and as a first round pick. He played two unspectacular games for the Caps in the 1989-1990 season and did not earn a victory while compiling a GAA of 6.00 and a save percentage of 0.810. He spent much of the next 3 1/2 seasons in the minors and matured. During the 1993-94 season he was the AHL's Calder Cup MVP (Jack Butterfield Trophy) while he led the Portland Pirates to their first Calder Cup and earned himself a spot in the Pirates Hall of Fame. The following season 1994-95, Olie the Goalie, split his time between the NHL Washington Capitals and Portland. For the 94-95 campaign, Kolzig played 14 games in the NHL and recorded a record of 2-8-2 with a save % of 0.902 and a GAA of 2.49 (fourth among NHL Rookies). Olie's first NHL victory came on 1/27/1995 against the New York Islanders; his second victory came in a 36 save performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins on 5/2/1995. He also made his NHL playoff debut, earning a 1-0 record in two appearances.

Kolzig spent the next two seasons as Washington's backup goaltender where he needed to work through some focus and temper issues before becoming the Capital's number 1 goalie in the 1997-1998 season. During the next two season's Kolzig's maturation as a number one goalie continued and in fact he posted 33 wins and a 0.920 save percentage in 64 games played in the 97-98 season and a 26 win, 0.900 save percentage in the 98-99 season. His career progress was such that after the 1997-1998 season when in addition to an excellent regular season record he led the Caps through 21 playoff games with a 12-9 record as well as a GAA of 1.95 and a Save % of 0.944 he was talked about as a clearly top tier net minder. He had some regression in the 98-99 season as the pressure of being a star settled in but in the 1999-2000 season he put together, what is arguably, clearly the best year of his career. That season he won the Vezina Trophy the NHL's highest honor for a goaltender, he was the Caps' iron-man playing 73 games and earning a record of 41-20-11 witrh a GAA of 2.24 and a SV% of 0.917.

Kolzig has played a total of 710 games in his career and has an overall record of 301-292-86 with a career GAA of 2.70 and a SV% of 0.906. He reached the 100 win plateau early in the 1999-2000 season on his way to being the NHL's best net minder that year. He reached 200 wins during the 2001-2002 NHL Playoffs. Win number 300 came on March 12, 2008 in a 3-2 victory against the Calgary Flames at home in Verizon Center, a team that played in Atlanta when he entered the league in a building that didn't exist when he entered the league. On that night "Godzilla" was fittingly awarded the game's number 1 star after a 24 save/SV% of 0.923 performance. The game's number 2 star, league leading scorer Alexander Ovechkin, was 4 years old when Olie Kolzig was drafted and 8 years old when he recorded his first NHL victory. The only current playing goalie with similar tenure with his current team, like Kolzig, is another future Hall of Famer, Martin Brodeur.

To keep things in perspectives non-hockey minded sports fans can relate to, Olie Kolzig's career and impact with the Capitals rivals analogous efforts in Pro Football like Brett Farve and Darrel Green's careers with the Green Bay Packers and the Redskins. The off-ice and off-field persons of these three gentlemen also has parallels in that all three have been very active in supporting charitable causes and philanthropic activities, especially in their local communities. Olaf Kolzig and his wife Christin have been exceptionally generous and dedicated towards the cause of both Autism Awareness and finding a cure for the disease from which one of their three children, Carson, suffers.

For another great biography and perspective on Olaf Kolzig check out this post on James Mirtle's blog.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How Much Does an NHL Ref Cost - Ask the Bruins, They Must Know

Okay, pardon the rudeness of the headline but I gotta say it. Come on, how can you mess up a hockey game up so badly and still be an NHL official? Greg Kimmerly and Marc Joannette called the most one sided game in regulation today - it was simply pathetic. Three times at critical junctures they simply made totally bad, erroneous calls. Observers can only conclude one of either two things about these two "unbiased officials" - a) they either were rooting for the Bruins or b) they are totally incompetent. The offensive issues/blown calls in case you missed today's game were as follow. 1) At the tail end of the second period while trying to get from the penalty box to the bench after serving a 2:00 minute minor for hooking, Milan Jurcina had a collision with a streaking Bruin, had an incidental high stick and was called for a DOUBLE minor. In this case Jurcina should have been called for only a single minor but instead was whistled off for 4:00. 2) Then during the ensuing power play, Caps penalty killer Boyd Gordon was clearly interfered with when trying to get back on the play that led to the Bruins goal, but no call was made when it clearly should have been. 3) In the third period after he was clearly tripped while going full speed by Bruin Mark Stuart, Alexander Ovechkin was called for Unsportsmanlike Conduct (Diving). There was no way Ovie dove, and no way from any angle you could confuse what happened - him being clearly tripped - with a dive. So instead of a 5-4 man advantage the Caps and Bruins played 4-4 for two minutes. All three of these critical calls went against the Caps, rarely does that happen in an NHL game - usually the officiating missed and/or blown calls are pretty evenly distributed. Not this afternoon, regulation ends tied 1-1 both Huet in net for the Caps and Auld for the Bruins played superbly. Fortunately, the Caps won the shootout and took two points as they leave Verizon Center for a six game road trip. Even the offsides calls seemed one sided but that's probably just "homerism" on my part.

Clearly the first star of today's game for the Caps was Christobel Huet who stopped 39 of the 40 shots he faced. On the other side of the ice, Alexander Auld played very well as well and many of the 32 stops he had on the 33 shots he faced in regulation and overtime just robbed the likes of excellent offensive players like Ovechkin and Mike Green and he deserved the second star of the game. The third star of the game was awarded to Alexander Semin, the "other Alex" logged 19:15 of ice time on 20 shifts, he had 4 shots, 1 attempt blocked, 4 missed shots, 1 give away, and 2 take aways in the first three periods and overtime. Semin didn't log any points and was +/- 0 for the game but it seemed like he was everywhere and flying to get there. He also scored the first shootout goal for the Caps. Despite the downer of giving the Bruins a point, the two points were sourly needed by the Caps and the energy level of the team was very evident.

Trade deadline deals and "rental players" are oft scrutinized and in hindsight often not worth the effort. The Capitals General Manager, George McPhee, however has to be happy with the results of the pickups he made at the trade deadline, especially while watching today's game. By way of review, at the deadline the Caps picked up 1) veteran center Sergei Federov from the Columbus Blue Jackets for 19 year old prospect defenseman Ted Ruth; 2) goaltender Christobel Huet from the Montreal Canadiens for a second round draft pick in the 2009 draft; and 3) forward Matt Cooke from the Vancouver Canucks for forward Matt Pettinger. Federov has centered a rejuvenated second line between Alexander Semin and Cooke; been part of an energized power play unit and along with Cooke been a solid penalty killer. Today, Federov got his first goal as a Capital. Huet has been very solid between the pipes including today's performance where he had a save percentage of 0.975. Prior to today's game, Matt Cooke was +3 with 2 goals (including a short handed goal last game) and 3 assists for 5 points in 7 games since joining the Capitals. (Interestingly, Matt Pettinger, who was traded to the Canucks for Cooke, has also been showing much more of his "old self" since joining Vancouver - Petty has 2 goals, 2 assists, and is +1 in 10 games played.)

From a push to the playoffs perspective giving the Bruins a point they didn't deserve was unfortunate. The 10th place Caps could have used making up two, vice one point on the 7th place Bruins. Even worse, in the race for the Southeast Division Championship the Caps got no help in the standings from the Ottawa Senators who fell to the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 in Carolina today. On the positive side, the once again "Crosby-less Penguins" denied the skidding 8th place Philadelphia Flyers any points, embarrassing them with a 7-1 defeat at Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena. For the day, the Caps made up two points on the Flyers and are now just one point behind the 9th place Buffalo Sabres and two points behind the 8th place Flyers; all three teams have played 73 games thus far in the season. The Caps have 9 games left in the season to make up either two points on the Flyers, five points on the 7th palce Bruins and the 6th place New York Rangers, or five points on the Southeast Division leading Carolina Hurricanes. The 9 remaining games include 6 road games before the Caps finish the season out with a 3 game home stand. Of the 9 remaining games, 7 are against Southeast Division rivals including two against the Hurricanes. The Capitals' playoff prospects aren't dead yet, and they sure are fun to watch these days. LETS GO CAPS!!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Got my First Hockey Fix in a Week

Well it's been a busy couple of weeks at work, very hectic time at ICx Technologies since it seems like every prospective customer we've been talking to and every federal program we've been tracking/pursuing all need active follow-up. In any case I haven't had the time to blog or really follow the Caps as closely as I would like and certainly had no time to really do any research in the days leading up to tonight's match up between the Flames and "our Washington Capitals". As has been the case the past two weeks I got home late and when I turned the game on at about 8:20PM there was 10 minutes left in second period, the Caps were down 2-1 and for the next 6 minutes or so of play it seemed as if Mikka Kiprusoff was going to be impenetrable for the entire evening. Even in the short time I watched the Flames gave the Caps the man advantage twice and Kiprusoff stoned them. As the period was winding down, once again the Caps gained a man advantage when at 17:21 Kristian Huselius was called for hooking. Once again it seemed like the Flames netminder would be up to the challenge. However after Kiprusoff foiled the Caps first scoring chance of the power play, he yielded a rebound on an solid shot from Alexander Semin and the Great Number 8 - Ovechkin was able to fielded the bounce and netted a slick wrist shot from 9 feet for his 55th goal of the season tying the game at 2 -2.

After the intermission the Caps came out for the third period and dominated the Flames, out shooting them 8-2 for the period. Once again, Kiprusoff kept his team "in the hunt". The Caps had six solid scoring chances where the only thing between them and the lead was the play of the Flames netminder. They played very solid hockey forechecking relentlessly and when it was required applying the same ferocity when backchecking. Ultimately the Flames yielded two more power plays to the Caps in the third period and after Ireland's own, Owen Nolan ,was whistled off and sent to the "sin bin" for hi-sticking at 16:31. The Caps responded to the opportunity, "swarmed" and just controlled the play until at 18:06, Alex Ovechkin took his 11th shot of the night, a blistering 57foot slapshot from the right point and scored his second goal of the night (Ovie's league leading 56th on the season) to put the Caps up 3-2. The final excitement when Ovechkin looked like he might get his hat trick with an empty netter but fanned and had the attempt blocked.

All in all a fun "2 point night" for Caps fans. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear the Caps will gain much ground tonight in their quest for the playoffs as Carolina seems well on the way to beating the Chicago Blackhawks, though they did gain two points on the Eastern Conference eighth place Flyers who lost to the Maple Leafs 3-2. Next up, Southeast Division rivals Atlanta Thrashers, Friday Night home at the Verizon Center. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Looking Ahead to Tonight's Matchup in Buffalo

The Caps are in Buffalo tonight to take on the Sabres at HSBC Arena. The Sabres come into the game off a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers last night in Philadelphia, where despite a total of 18 non-off-setting minor penalties, neither team scored a power play goal. That says a lot about the state of affairs of special teams for both the Flyers and Sabres, though what exactly it says might not make a lot of sense. The Caps come into the game off a 10-2 one-sided victory over the Boston Bruins at home on Monday evening. So far this season Buffalo, currently sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 73 points, is 17-12-4 at home. Washington, currently in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with 70 points, is 14-14-5 in away games. The Sabres own a 3-0 advantage on the season series far though the last time these two teams met was December 14th in Washington when the Sabres won 5-3.

Players to watch - Buffalo's Thomas Vanek (LW) was the NHL's number 3 star for the month of February; Maxim Afinogenov (RW) and team captain Jason Pomville (RW) both of whom had two goals last evening against the Flyers are also hot right now. On the Caps side pick any number of players who had a big game Monday against the Bruins including the leagues number 1 scorer - Alexander Ovechkin (LW); the leading Rookie scorer Nicklas Backstrom (C); or the leagues leading goal scoring Defenseman - Mike Green; or number two sharpshooter Alexander Semin (LW). Ovechkin and Backstrom are both coming off stellar performances in Monday Night's blowout while Semin and Green were solid but didn't light up the scoreboard for multi-point performances. All that said the biggest keys to the game will likely be goalies Olie Kolzig for the Caps and Ryan Miller for the Sabres. The Sabres have kept Kolzig relatively snake-bitten so far this season.

Prognostication: The Caps want and need it more, have played very tough against good teams lately and don't want to be shutout by anybody - Caps take this game 4-3 in regulation. LETS GO CAPS!!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Capitals 10 - Bruins 2 - YES, You Read the Score Right

The Capitals, disappointed with the result of their last game, a 3-2 loss in regulation to the Toronto Maple Leafs, came out of the locker room flying for their game against the Boston Bruins. Thirty-two seconds into the game, recent trade deadline pickup Matt Cooke scored his first goal as a Washington Capital. The Capitals early surge of energy carried through into solid play and the Caps overpowered the Boston Bruins for the entire first period. For the first twenty minutes, the Capitals scored 6 unanswered goals, ensuring their happy fans received free wings before the end of the first period. Adding to the euphoria, Washington’s sharpshooter, Alexander Ovechkin, tallied a hat trick before the period was over notching goal numbers 50, 51, and 52 on the season during the period. But perhaps Ovie’s best play was the assist he got setting up his playmaking center Nicklas Backstrom for the rookie’s 10th goal of the season in the second period. The Great Eight also had an assist on a power play tally by Brooks Laich early in the third period. With his three goals and two assists on the night, Ovechkin extended his goals scoring lead over countryman Ilya Kovalchuck and regains the point scoring lead over countryman Evgeni Malkin.

The Caps scored 6 goals in the first period, three from the NHL’s leading scorer and three from a portion of the game the Capitals haven’t always seen this season, “secondary scoring”. Trade deadline pickups have apparently allowed Coach Bruce Boudreau to put together a number of third and fourth line mixes that have some offensive punch in addition to the solid defensive play they’ve exhibited most of the season. The keys to these changes, in the game against the Bruins, were Sergei Federov AND Matt Cooke. In Federov, the Capitals have retained the services of a solid veteran center, replacing the injured Michael Nylander in the lineup, who can match-up with and shut down an opposing team’s number one center. Federov also brings the mindset of a champion and the experience of a superstar who’s been there, done that to steady the Capital’s “Young Guns” down the stretch. In Cooke, the Capitals seem to have gotten the player they had hoped the traded Matt Pettinger would be for them. (Since the trade “Petty” though scoreless is +/- 0 and is clearly also energized getting his shots and “mixing it up” for his “hometown” Vancouver Canucks so things might work out for both teams on this deal.) Since joining the Caps Matt Cooke has logged an average of 11:21 TOI and against the Bruins he was +/- +2 and had three (3) points with 1 goal and 2 assists. Even though Cooke only logged 18 shifts and 10:21 of ice time against the Bruins, he led the Caps in Hits with 4 and seemed to provide a spark and raise the energy level every shift he was on the ice. Matt Bradley certainly enjoyed his shifts with Cooke as Bradley was also +2 on the night with three (3) points: 2 goals (both assisted by Cooke) and 1 assist (on the goal scored by Cooke). Could this be a start of something new – “the Matts”? In any case, the juggled lineup with “the new pickups” have been super in two out of three games and solid, though outplayed in the loss to Toronto.

A game like the one against the Bruins is hard to write about succinctly because simply too much happened. In addition to all the scoring, basically everyone played and I mean everyone – all four Goalies who dressed saw ice time. In what would be the only low point for Washington, Christobel Huet did not return to the ice for the third period. After stopping 20 of 22 shots in the first two periods, Huet was apparently injured and the Caps staff opted to play Olaf Kolzig for the third period. Versus reported Huet had back spasms and back pain at the tail end of the second period. While Kolzig played well during the third period, and the Caps have a third, solid Goalie in Brent Johnson; Washington’s stretch run will likely go easier if Huet’s pains reside and he is available for continued duty. Duty in between the pipes was a “rotational affair,” Tim Thomas started the game but was pulled after the Caps went up 4-0 in favor of Alexander Auld. Thomas, who last week had a GAA of less than 1.00 and went 3-0, returned to the net for the second period when the Caps were up 6-0. Boston’s All Star Goalie then played the entire second period yielding 2 more goals to the Caps, came out for the third period gave up another tally when he didn’t squeeze his “5 hole” shut tight enough for the second time in the evening. In all Thomas played a total of 36:30, gave up seven goals in 24 shots against before being replaced Auld for a second time. Auld finished out the game and gave up just one final goal to Matt Bradley on a beautiful setup from Mike Green on a power play that would have taken divine intervention to stop.

Another highlight for DC’s pucksters against the Bruins was their “special teams” play. Washington scored four power play goals in 7 tries, while the penalty killing unit allowed the Bruins to score just one in 7 tries by the Bruins. As you would expect during a 10-2 victory, the Capitals fared well in the +/- stats category, the only Caps not on the positive side of the ledger were Sergei Federov, Alexander Semin, and Brooks Laich since all the Caps goals they were on the ice for were power play scores but were all on the ice for the one even strength score by the Bruins. Another area the Caps excelled in during the game was shooting percentage, not coincidently 8 of the Caps 10 goals came from shots taken “in the slot” and the majority of shots were from high percentage areas. If there can be any down-side to a game like this for the victor, it can only be that the two teams will meet again Saturday evening in Boston, and the Bruins will certainly be highly motivated to “even the score”. The statistics from this game, basically speak for themselves – the three stars of the game were: 1)Alexander Ovechkin (3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points, +3); 2)Nicklas Backstrom (1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points, +3) and 3)Matt Cooke whose play was as previously described. Next up: the Sabres in Buffalo on Wednsday – LETS GO CAPS!!!!

Monday, March 3, 2008

What a night so far! Caps 6 - Bruins 0 After 1

I feel like a valley girl, all I can think to say is OMG!!!! I could never, never have predicated or conceived of what I've just watched, I sat down to dinner and watched the first period of the Caps-Bruins game. The Caps have scored so much and so fast, I'm actually very happy for replay tonight. Ovie actually has a hat trick already tonight and now has 52 goals on the season. Nicklas Backstrom continued his wizardry at play making. Now it's time to watch the game before I miss anything else since it's already 6-1 as the Bruins' Denis Wideman just scored before a minute has passed in the second period.

Will the Caps Stop the Bruins at 6?

As the Caps and Bruins head into tonight's game at Verizon Center (7PM on Versus Network) the Bruins come into "the Phone Booth" looking to extend a 6 game winning streak, are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and sit in 6th place in the Eastern Conference with 76 points and at least two (2) games in hand on anybody else in the conference. The Bruins are hot right now and all aspects of their game are "clicking". The Caps enter the game 4-4-2 in their last 10 games with 68 points and sit in 11th place in the Conference. The Caps are now second in the Southeast division 5 points in back of Carolina but they also have two games in hand. Tonight's game against the Bruins is one of those "in hand" games as Carolina is off until Wednesday when they play the Atlanta Thrashers in Atlanta. For the Caps to ensure a victory the team that played the New Jersey Devils last Friday needs to be the team that takes the ice at Verizon tonight. The Caps will need to play hard and well as the Bruins are at the beginning of a gruelling portion of their season schedule and will come out gunning.

Often in Washington, DC, Capitals fans bemoan the lack of solid main stream media coverage for their local pucksters. Perhaps DC isn't such a backwater for NHL fans after all, with the Bruins on a six game winning streak, and the Celtics on a stretch run and several local college teams chasing "March Madness", can you guess what the lead sports story in today's Boston Herald is? If you guessed a really inane story about Hank Steinbrenner and the Red Sox - Yankee rivalry you'd be a winner. At least when the Washington Post and Washington Times don't give any space to the Capitals, the writing and the subjects aren't just plain, well, stupid. Hopefully after tonight's nationally televised game on Versus (is that like ESPN 8 - "the Ocho"?) both Boston and Washington's mainstream media will have more to write about than Grapefruit League rumours and drivel. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday NHL on NBC and Other Musings

Final score Rangers 5, Flyers 4 (SO). Those expecting a defensive, goalie duel were disappointed during the first period but after both teams changed goalies at the start of the second period. The Flyers started the first period with Antero Nittymaki in net, the Ragners started their "ironman" Henrik Lundqvist. After both netminders allowed their opponents to score three goals in the first, each coach clearly had concerns about the stability of their netminders. The Rangers started period 2 with their back-up Stephan Valiquette in net. The Flyers replaced Nittymaki with their number 1 Martin Brion after the Rangers scored their fourth goal of the game 1:51 into the second period. For the remainder of the game it was the defensive battle most expected and ended with a 4-4 tie in regulation. Despite the Flyers dominating the 4-4 overtime, it remained scoreless, primarily through Valiquette's heroics and key saves. The Rangers won the shootout 2-0 scoring on their first two attempts while the Flyers were unable to capitalize. The results mean the Rangers are remain in 7th in the Conference tied at 76 points with the Bruins, though the Bruins have two games in hand on the Boys from Broadway, including tomorrow night's game against the Capitals here in DC. The Flyers remain in eighth place with 73 points. The Caps have 16 games left and by general consensus opinons probably need 24 points to ensure a trip to the playoffs, that's a pretty tall order - 0.750 hockey. Though the Caps ought to be able to win the Southeast Division with something less than 92 points (probably 88) and could get in playing 0.625 hockey.

Other musings around the NHL - per the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch (always a suspect source when talking "aboot" things to do with the Washington Capitals), Caps GM George McPhee might be on his way out. Apparently the San Jose Shark's # Goalie Evgeni Nabakov is glad to have some backup help in the form of Brian Boucher on board for the race to the cup. The thirty-one year old Boucher and the Sharks shut out the Saint Louis Blues in Boucher's first NHL game of the season after being acquired from the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms. The Nashville Preditors and former Dallas Stars netminder Dan Ellis beat the Stars in Dallas 3-1 and apparently Ellis enjoyed his homecoming. All in all cruising the web and looking over the local papers most of the deadline day trades seem to be helping their new teams, and the fan bases and main stream media in their new cities are glad they have the help.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Disappointing Night at the Verizon Center

Final Score Maple Leafs 3, Caps 2

The Caps "won" the first period but only scored one; the Maple Leafs won the second period in fairly dominant fashion out shooting the Caps 12-5 and out scoring them 2-0; the Caps dominated the third period out shooting the Leafs 11-3 but the Leafs tied them in goals 1-1 so in the end - the Caps came away with a "no point night". Olie Kolzig wasn't too bad but he wasn't great either (save percentage of 0.880). However the Maple Leafs won this game on the outstanding goaltending of Vesla Toskla who stoned the Caps in the third period and had an overall save percentage of 0.929 on the night including robbing several Caps. The only "high point" for the Caps was that Alexander Ovechkin broke his "slump" when he put the Caps up 1-0 with the first goal of the game.

Next up: The Boston Bruins at Verizon Center in what will be Christobel Huet's home ice debut against a team he has pretty much owned so far this season while in Montreal. We'll all be rooting for a great win and it would be even sweeter if we all get to see an Alex Ovechkin hat trick that puts him back on track for a 60+ goal season. LETS GO CAPS!!!!