[Editor's Note: Sorry for the big gap in posts, work has been hectic and I was on the West Coast working for the period September 23rd until returning via a "red eye" yesterday morning. As those of you who follow ICx Technologies know, it's been a great time for us during these past few weeks with some great contract wins. Additionally, on Thursday night, just after finishing watching the Vice Presidential debate while waiting for my last flight of the trip home from Sea-Tac to Dulles, I was subjected to a new random search during which the TSA personnel used an ICx Technologies' Fido PaxPoint. The random gate check and the subsequent utilization of ICx's product to check the plane was, like our contract wins over the last two weeks, another milestone as it means TSA is evolving it's protocols to capitalize on the instruments key features. So while having my personal life somewhat "hijacked" over the past couple of months hasn't been all that great, overall it's been worth it and I wouldn't change a thing. Last night's Caps-Flyers game was the first preseason game I've been able to attend this year and after a red-eye back to Dulles that arrived at 6AM, I watched the game through a couple of slightly bleary eyes so I don't expect this next post will be my best ever. Final note - this year I am splitting my tickets with a USMMA Class of 1982 classmate of mine so will only be in attendance at the "Phone Booth" for half of the home games blog posts for the others will be based on the perspective that we all get watching on TV. That said, hopefully, with the regular season getting ready to start, I'll be able to resume and continue worthwhile, meaningful blog posts here.]
Last night's Caps-Flyers game was another testament to how far the Capitals have come and how successful the now concluded "rebuild" has been. The richness and depth of the Capitals talent bank was readily apparent all night long and in all perspectives. The game ended in a 5-1 victory for the Capitals and they are now 5-1-0 on the preseason, fully rebounding from the 2-1 loss to the Flyers on Wednesday night.
The Caps outplayed the Flyers all night long. While only leading 1-0 at the end of the first period, the Caps outshot the Flyers 8-3 despite taking 4 penalties to the Flyers 2 during the game's first stanza. During the Flyers second power play (while Jay Beagle was in the "sin bin" for hooking), Alex Ovechkin scored his second shorthanded goal of the preseason. Ovechkin faked a slapshot, threaded the needle with a pretty "wrister" between now-Flyer Steve Eminger's legs, and put it through goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin's "5-hole" to put the Capitals up 1-0 at 15:00 of the first period. It was an awesome move and goal, the kind of goal Caps fans have come to expect from our hero and it brought the crowd, and seemingly the Capitals to life. The other highlights of the period were Jay Beagle and Chris Bourque's solid and energetic play as they both fight to show Bruce Boudreau and the rest of the coaching staff they deserve a spot on the big team's roster.
The second period started with the Caps (again) shorthanded and on the penalty kill. The Caps went up 2-0 on a very "Chris Clark-like" goal by Chris Clark on the power play. Clark took a pass from Ovechkin, took the first shot then followed up and "banged in" his own rebound at 3:50 of the period. At 8:50 into the period, while both teams were at full strength, Nicklas Backstrom made it 3-0 on a goal assisted by Brooks Laich and Ovechkin. It was a nice "old time hickey" goal made possible by Laich's usual scrappy play in front of the net. During the second period while Caps Goalie Jose Theodore didn't see much action (the Flyers had 7 shots during the second period) he was tested several times and met those tests every time and came up big twice. Theodore's play throughout the night was better than solid and he proved he's the real deal. Caps fans should have fun comparing Theodore to Christobel Huet next Saturday in the Cap's home opener against the Blackhawks. This author predicts more then a few "Jose, Jose, JOSE!!" chants if Theodore's play then matches his play last night.
The third period started with a lot of action. Chris Clark took an interference penalty and went to the penalty box at 3:50 of the period. The Flyers capitalized on the man advantage at 5:18 when Daniel Briere tallied with assists from Mike Knuble and Mike Richards. Briere, Philadelphia's $6.5 million per year, diminutive man followed up his power play goal with what was his worst shift of the night and probably the worst shift he's had in a long time. The Cap's fourth goal of the night came at 8:19 of the third period and ended a shift where "Little Danny" aka "Danny the Diver" aka "Dan The Man Caps Fans Love to Hate" had 2 giveaways and went -1. For the record despite his documented clip of Shoanne Morrisson, Briere's overall stats for the night were an inauspicious 1 goal, no assists, -3 on the night. Throughout the night, Briere was consistently "boo-ed" by the fans at Verizon Center. Personally, this author thinks the most hospitable, polite fans in hockey - Washington routinely is hospitable to fans of other teams who come to games - showed their usual well mannered restraint. We probably should however request that Caps and Verizon Center management ban the wearing of Daniel Briere Flyer jerseys, and for that matter any hockey jersey ever worn by Jaromir Jagr by attendees to Caps games. It just seems the right thing to do. The goal that ended Briere's worst shift of the game came off the stick of Thomas "Flash" Fleischman and was assisted by Chris Bourque and Sergei Federov. The final score of the game came at 14:03 when Eric Fehr banged home another "old time hockey" goal, following through and jamming the puck through and under Flyer goalie Martin Biron. Fehr's goal, the Capitals fifth of the night was assisted by Jeff Schultz and his defensive partner Sergei Federov.
Overall the Caps looked very good and played disciplined hockey. Shift changes though still not up to regular season standards went relatively smoothly. Average shift lengths were reasonable for everyone on the roster. Ovechkin and Mike Green had the longest average shift times at an acceptable 0:56/shift. As has been mentioned, Jay Beagle, called up from Hershey in recognition for his play last Wednesday in Philadelphia, made an impact in just about all 15 of his shifts including stepping into the fray between Scott Hartnell and Ovechkin in the third period to make sure the Caps star didn't need to get into a fight. Chris Bourque played with an abandon and style that he didn't display when he was called up to the big club last season. When he was paired with Ovechkin and Backstrom he played with the speed and skill needed to round out the talents of his line-mates and was the first guy in that pairing/line to really add to their speed. When he played with the other's fighting for a roster spot, he displayed a physical aspect to his game that not many 5'7" guys could at the NHL level. Bourque's stats were 3 shots, 1 assist, +1, and 1 hit in 17 shits and 12:08 of ice time. Mike Green led the Caps in ice time (24 shifts and 22:35), Alexander Ovechkin was second (21 shifts, 19:42) and "steady eddy" Tom Poti was third (25 shifts, 18:50). Karl Alzner had a solid night 1 blocked shot, 17:33 TOI in 23 shifts.
The Caps last preseason game is tomorrow at Verizon Center at 5PM, I've given our seats to Jason from our office, even though he grew up in Pittsburgh and indicates he's a Penguins fan. The Caps open their season on the road, Friday night, in Atlanta and then the home opener is on Saturday against the Blackhawks when they will raise their 2007-2008 Southeast Division championship banner to the rafters of the VC. Personally I can't wait till next Saturday. I hoping to watch Jose Theodore notch a shutout and the Great Eight have another four (4) goal night against Christobel Huet. That might be enough to stop others from wondering if the Caps have the right team to go all the way and it would be just deserts for Huet who left a sure contender when he opted for the free agency route he went for. The game should be even better since my favorite wing man will be there with me.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!