Thursday, October 29, 2009

Caps 4 - Thrashers 3 (corrected), a Two Point Night...

The Capitals won 4 -3 tonight over the Atlanta Thrashers keeping their winning streak alive at 6. The first period and a half the Capitals dominated. Then for the last half of the game the Thrashers showed resilience and outworked the Caps; however Semyon Varlamov had a good night and kept Atlanta out of the net most of the rest of the way. To put things in context about how hard the Thrashers worked the second half of the night, their third goal, Zach Bogisian's second of the evening came at the 19:59 mark of the third period .....

I'll post more about the Caps game later but now it's over to the World Series Game - Lets' Go Phillies...

A Look Ahead To Tonight's Game vs. Atlanta & What About That Secondary Scoring Stuff?

Tonight the Capitals travel to Atlanta to take on the Atlanta Thrashers at Phillips Arena. They'll be facing a team that they needed to hold off from a come back to win 5-4 last week. However, this will be Atlanta's first game without star, leading scorer and Captain Ilya Kovalchuk who broke his foot since the last game with the Capitals. The Thrashers will likely come out flying and "loaded for bear" since they'll want to prove they aren't a "one trick pony". While the Thrashers are no longer a "one trick pony" in the end if the Capitals play their game plan and play like they did the first two periods of last week's game and stay focused, they'll win their sixth game in a row before returning to DC to take on the Islanders tomorrow night at the Phone Booth. However, the Capitals have been juggling their own line-up to accommodate the ever changing "sick & injured" reports so it won't be a cake walk. The Caps will need to ensure that neither Nik Antropov, Bryan Little, or Slava Kozlov are allowed to make up for the lost production Kovalchuk's absence from the Atlanta lineup creates.

Prediction: Caps 4 - Thrashers 2.

There has been an increasing buzz here in the Caps blogsphere about a lack of secondary scoring, as well as the definition of it. I figured I'd take a look around the league and compare the other teams and their secondary scoring vs. the Capitals. After Tuesday night's game against the Flyers only 10 of their 41 goals (24.3%) have come from someone who is not a forward on the top two lines, if you take Mike Green's 2 tallies out of that mix it's 8 of the 41 (19.5%). So I figured I'd look at the other teams in the top of the league both in points and goals scored and compare their sources of production compared to the Capitals. Aside from the Capitals I figured I'd look at the other leading teams in the Eastern Conference, as well as the Western Conference teams with 40 or more goals scored to date for comparisons.

First let's characterize the Capitals offensive production not counting the top six forwards - 10 goals from seven (7) different players including 3 from Matt Bradley and 2 from Mike Green. Only one Capital other than "the big six" has a Game Winning Goal (GWG) thus far. However, the Capitals total offensive production of 41 goals in 11 games; 24.3% from "secondary scoring" - goals from sources other than their top two lines.

Other Eastern Conference teams who are currently in the top eight in the standings:

1) Pittsburgh Penguins - 20 points in 12 games; 43 goals scored. Of their 43 goals, 23 (53.4%) have come off of sticks that belong to players not part of their top two forward lines; 2 players other then their top 6 forwards (Sergei Gonchar and Tyler Kennedy) have scored 4 game winning goals.

2) New York Rangers - 17 points in 13 games; 47 goals scored. Of their 47 goals, 22 (46.8%) have come from secondary scoring including 11 off the sticks of their blue line corps. Of those 22 goals from secondary scorers, 5 have been game winners.

3) Philadelphia Flyers - 11 points in 1o games; 33 goals scored. Of their 33 goals, 11 (33.3%) have come from secondary scoring, however no one other than their top six have scored a game winning goal to date.

4) Buffalo Sabres - 15 points in 9 games, 30 goals scored. Of their 30 goals, 10 (33%) have come from secondary scoring, including 3 from veteran off season pick-up Mike Grier. Secondary scorers have scored 4 of their 6 game winners to date.

5) Ottawa Senators - 14 points in 10 games; 34 goals scored. Of their 34 goals scored, 16 (67.6%) have come from secondary scoring (good thing too since Jonathan Cheechoo and Jason Spezza are both yet to score their first goal of the season.) However only one (1) of their six (6) GWG's to date have come off the stick of a secondary scorer.

6) Montreal Canadeans - 12 points in 12 games; 31 goals scored. Twelve (12) of their 31 goals(38.7%) scored to date including 3 of 5 GWG have come off the sticks of secondary scorers.

7) New Jersey Devils - 12 points in 10 games; 27 goals scored. Eight (8) of their 27 goals (29.6%) have been scored by other then their top five scorers, their top "stud", Patrik Elias, has yet to play this season as he is on IR. However 3 of the 4 GWG recorded to date have been by secondary scorers.

Western Conference Teams with 40 or more goals scored to date:

1) Colorado Avalanche - 22 points in 13 games; 44 goals scored. Seventeen (17) of their goals to date (40.9%) have come from secondary scoring including 5 of their 9 GWG.

2) Los Angeles Kings - 16 points in 12 games; 44 goals scored (doesn't include goals or points from last night's late game against the San Jose Sharks). Twelve (12) of their 44 goals (27.3%) of their total production has come from secondary scoring including 4 of 8 GWG.

3) Dallas Stars - 16 points in 12 games; 41 goals scored. Fourteen (14) of their 41 goals (34.1%) have been the result of secondary scoring including three (3) of their six (6) GWG.

4) Calgary Flames - 15 points in 11 games; 43 goals scored. The Flames may be the poster children of secondary scoring this season. Twenty Two (22) of their 43 goals (51.2%), a total of seventeen (17) different Flames have scored goals so far this season. Leading the secondary scoring parade is defenseman Dion Phaneuf with five goals so far this season. Five (5) of Calgary's six (6) GWG to date have come from other than top six forwards as well.

5) San Jose Sharks - 15 points in 12 games; 42 goals scored (doesn't include numbers from last night's late game with the Kings). Fourteen (14) of their 42 goals (33.33%) scored so far this season have been the result of secondary scoring. Two (2) of seven (7) GWG have been from secondary scorers.

So while I've been asking how many other leading teams have at least 10 goals from secondary scoring so far this season, the answer is - 10 of them. That said the Caps 10 goals from secondary scoring while fewer than any of those other 11 teams except the New Jersey Devils, it is basically a respectable absolute number since the range is 8 (the Devils) to 23 (Pittsburgh). However only five teams have 15 or more goals as a result of secondary scoring: Pittsburgh, Calgary, the Rangers, Colorado, and Ottawa. Some of the reason for the Caps being somewhat off the pace (24% vs 33%) on secondary scoring so far this season may well be the fact they really haven't had a big need for it so far this season, though it would be nice to know if they needed it, it was there. There's really no reason it should be off since the current Caps lineup has more then enough firepower both on the third and fourth lines as well as on the blueline, this season.

Now on to Atlanta ...


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Believed You Jose

The quote of the night last night after the Caps 4 - 2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers came from Jose Theodore who stopped 41 of 43 shots on goal, including all 20 he faced in the third period. Theodore told the media:

"I said during training camp that this is the best I've felt since the lockout, and sooner or later people are going to realize that I wasn't just saying that for fun."

As regular readers of this blog will attest I've always been happy that the Capitals choose to sign Theodore as a Free Agent in 2008 and I've always been rooting for him. As I watched last night's game from my seat in Section 103 I couldn't help but think how underrated and over-critiqued I feel both Theodore and Flyers goaltender Ray Emery are at this juncture of their careers. Both had early successes and then a series of let downs. Yet this season both seem to be on track and recovering their flair and getting solid results from their intensity. Last night to be sure Jose Theodore out dueled Ray Emery, hands down. However, Emery isn't the reason the Flyers lost, in fact the Flyers did not loose the game. Flyers fans and bloggers in fact have been quoted as saying they feel their team won 55 of the 60 minutes. To be sure it didn't look that way from my seat. The first period ended in a tie game 0-0; I didn't feel either team overwhelmed or won that period by any significan margin. The second period - the Flyers won the first 15 minutes of it 2-0 then the Caps won the last 5 minutes 2-0 as well causing the game to be knotted 2-2 at the end of two. So using Buffalo scoring at the end of two period the game is still tied after two periods.

The third period the Caps scored two goals, the Flyers 0, the Caps sure weren't outplayed by much in that period, yes they were outshot 20 - 10, but given the Caps went up by a score 3-2 at the 5:24 mark of the period, and the Caps took two penalties to the Flyers 0 in the period, is that all too surprising? No doubt about it, Jose Theodore was "lights out" all night long so if you want to conclude that Theo stole a game from the Flyers I'd be hard pressed to argu. However, the Caps also had 36 SOG for the night, so it's not like the Flyers shut the Capitals offense down all night, or even 55 minutes of it, IMO.

This was a well played game by both teams. On the defensive side of the ice Theodore had a 0.953 SV% while the Capitals had 20 blocked shots, 7 takeaways and 24 hits. Emery posted a 0.914 SV% while the Flyers had 13 blocked shots, 4 takeaways and 19 hits. In the Faceoff Circle, the Caps won 59% of the 69 draws. So even discounting the Capitals stats by some percentage for some sort of home team bias, the Capitals sure seem to have played a lot more of last night's game to better than a draw for more than 5 minutes of it. However, if you are predisposed to decide that Jose Theodore stole the game from the Flyers for the Capitals, as I said I'm more than fine with that, he deserved the game's first star of the night, and I actually like the idea of knowing he still has the ability to do that (steal a game). I've been intimating it for some time now, and I definitely felt that last night I got to see the guy who won the Hart, Vezina, and Crozier Trophies in 2001 - 2002 play at his highest level. Like I said last night Theodore was "lights out'. Yes I know the Flyers hit the post three times, but good goaltenders have a way of making good forwards do that, the fact that the Flyers had 43 SOG, 20 attempts blocked and 19 misses while Theodore allowed only 2 goals against ought to tell you just how good he was last night. From 2000 through 2004 Theodore averaged 62+ games played per season and had a combined SV% of 0.924 for those 4 seasons - my point - when he's in the zone, fit and healthy, he's capable of being a real workhorse AND he's scary good! A few more games like last night and I'm thinking I won't be the only guy in the "blogsphere" who is a big fan of his and a believer.


Sometimes, Though Not Always Patience Is Rewarded: Caps 4 - Flyers 2

The answer is in - the Caps can raise their level of play as much to meet the level of an opposing team as they can lower it. Tonight at Verizon Center an excellent game of ice hockey was played by both the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals. At the end of the game the scoreboard read Capitals 4 - Flyers 2 - in short a two point night for the boys in red and a no point night for their opponents.

However, some folks are this joint are still not happy common complaints include:

a) no secondary scoring;

b) allowed the Flyers too many shots on goal;

c) didn't smile when they pirouetted during the swimsuit portion of the competition;

d) didn't score on the 5 on 3 even though Flyers Goaltender Ray Emery clearly was rooting for them [NOT];

e) and the list could go on.

To all those concerns I say - nothing wrong with Coach Boudreau and these highly paid professional athletes striving for perfection but we fans should step back and enjoy the game and the victory just a tad don't you think?

The following Washinton Capitals had really good nights:

1) Jose Theodore - stopped 41 of 43 Flyers Shots on Goal including 20 in the third period.

2) the SOB (Semin-Ovechkin-Backstrom) line was super with a combined 4 goals and 9 points.

3) Mike Gren and Shoane Morrison had good nights as well.

4) Tom Poti has had bettter games but his 5 blocked shots tied Mike Green for tonight's team lead.
The three stars of the game were: 1) Jose Theodore; 2) Nicklas Backstom (goal, 3 assists, and a + 3 on the night); 3) Alexander Ovechkin (2 goals, + 3 on the night) - Honorable Mention: Alexander Semin (1 goal, 2 assists, +3 on the night).

Next up - the Thrashers in Atlanta on Thursday evening.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Waiting ...That's...the Hardest Part....

The following quote is attributed to former Philadelphia Flyers Coaching legend Fred Shero:

"We know that hockey is where we live, where we can best meet and overcome pain and wrong and death. Life is just a place where we spend time between games."

Tonight after waiting a couple of days we, Caps fans, get to see if our favorite hockey team is as capable of "playing up" to the level of their opponents as some folks have recently accused them of playing down to other opponent's levels. Tonight, the Caps faceoff against the Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center for the second of four 2009-2010 regular season contests. The first meeting was a high flying affair (no pun intended - well maybe a small pun but that's a horse of a different color.) Back just three weeks ago the Flyers handed the Caps an overtime loss that started a 4 game loosing streak, now the Caps meet again and they are going for their fifth win in a row and on the longest current winning streak in the league (not that that is all that special right now given it's only four games).

However, right now when the two teams meet the Caps have two things they need to fix to ensure they win number five tonight at Verizon - a) the Power Play - the Caps need to get their power play unit on track, on track means from this point forward scoring around 25% of the time they are on the man advantage; the other thing the Caps need to do is b) shut down and frustrate the Flyers offense, draw not take penalties. Of course all the other stuff that is currently working right for the Capitals needs to continue to do so.

Anyway two more hours till the focus of life, per Fred Shero, resumes at Verizon Center - I'll be Rockin' the Red over in Section 103 ... how about y'all?


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wow - Caps Are One of 5 Teams Off To a 0.700 or Better Start ...

Wow - The Caps Are One of Only 5 Teams Off To a 0.700 or Better Start ...
Why Don't Things Feel Better?

As of the completion of tonight's games there are only 5 teams in the league playing 0.700 hockey or better - the Washington Capitals with 14 points in 10 games just clear that bar. The other teams who are 0.700 or better are: the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche each of whom have 18 points in 11 games (0.818); the Buffalo Sabres with 13 points in 8 games (0.813); and the Calgary Flames with 15 points in 10 games (0.750).

The Capitals current winning streak at four (4) games is also the longest in process streak in the league today. So why don't all of us fans feel more relaxed and confident? Well ... because. Because the team hasn't been winning the way we all thought they'd be winning. The last two wins weren't pretty wins. Of course maybe we're all starting to expect too much. Look at the October schedule...thirteen (13) games, seven home games, six away games, one night of back to backs; eight of thirteen games against 2009 playoff teams. So lets look at things in perspective. To get to 100 points in a season a team has to play 0.609 hockey, the Capitals have been playing 9.1% better than that so far this season and they've done it while playing seven (7) of their ten (10) games thus far against playoff teams. Their record against playoff teams so far this season is 3-2-2 (0.572); against the three non-playoff teams they've faced so far this season and from a record perspective the Caps are a perfect 3-0-0. As far as being competitive against playoff teams, 0.572 isn't too shabby, play that way against those foes come April 2010 and you'll win your fair share seven game of playoff series.

So while it's true that the Caps haven't really blown out the lesser opponents they've faced so far they have won two of those three games in regulation, and in two of the three games, the Caps went out fast and held on. Against the ever pesky (at least for the Capitals) Islanders, the Caps came back from two goals down and pulled out an OT win. Losses against last season playoff teams were generally tight games as well. The Caps lost in OT against the Flyers in Philly - a game where the Caps took 9 minor penalties to the Flyers 6 - including six penalties to the Flyers one during the second period. The Capitals lost to Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers 4-3 (a one goal game) at Verizon Center on 10/8, then traveled to Detroit and lost 3-2 to the Red Wings at the Joe on 10/10. The Caps returned home and battled the Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils to a 3-2 shoot out loss at Verizon Center on 10/12. Since then the Caps have had some less then "beautiful" wins but they've been a perfect 4-0-0 including taking down the San Jose Sharks 4-1.

So yes it's a long season, but so far, after sputtering a little out of the gate during the second week of this month, the Caps have gotten things back on track. The Caps host the Flyers on Tuesday night, the Flyers lost tonight to the Sharks 4-1 in Philly. Yes, those same San Jose Sharks who lost to the Caps 4-1 on the first game of a two week East Coast road trip, beat the Flyers 4-1 on the last game of that same road trip. Now the Flyers are 5-3-1 and off to a reasonably good start to the season themselves, though they are just 2-3-1 since they beat the Caps in OT at home two weeks ago. With a little luck Alexander Semin will be healthy and back in the lineup so there's even more firepower in the lineup and to spark the power play unit. Also with a little "luck," if the Caps are in need of some grit, they'll find it in abundance in the lineup starting with summer free agent pickup Mike Knuble looking to make his mark on his former team. One thing for sure, as always it'll be a good game. And, with a little luck the Caps will win it in regulation and everyone else will come to the realization I'm coming to, which is this team isn't going to win every game they win to what will likely be their highest point total ever, with pretty wins. They'll capture a few more two point nights with ugly wins to, but shortly thereafter, when you look at the standings they'll still be in the W column and good for two points.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another Not Very Pretty Two Point Night for The Capitals ...

The Capitals escaped from the Nassau County Veterans Coliseum tonight with two points. To be fair it wasn't too ugly a game but it wasn't pretty either - kinda like the picture i posted in it's honor. There were only three things that made the game a little ugly for the Capitals:

1) Faceoffs - the Capitals only won 30% of the faceoffs and there were a lot of them - 66 to be exact with the Capitals winning 20 and loosing 46 for the evening.

2) The powerplay was again toothless going 0-4 and once again gave up a short handed goal, a goal which for a long portion of the evening looked like it would be enough to get the Islanders their first regulation win of the season.

3) The Capitals were out played a lot of the time during the game, thankfully Jose Theodore, was solid in his return to the lineup.

During the first period the Caps were out shot by the Islanders 10 - 5; though the Caps did out shoot the Isles 10-4 in the second period, it sure didn't feel that way and at the second intermission the Islanders were still leading 1-0 on Radek Marinek's first period shorthanded tally. The the Islanders went up 2-0 on a nice tip-in by Jeff Tambellini at 3:44 of the third period, after the Islanders started the third period with an energy level that seemed to be directed at dispelling their own third period let down demons this season.

The reason I say the game wasn't very pretty vice being an "ugly" win is that the Caps, though clearly oft frustrated by the defensive style of play the Islanders played tonight, played their own disciplined game and stuck to the game plan. Ultimately things started to come into focus for the Capitals. First at the 6:02 mark Mike Green scored his second goal of the season - it was a nice slap shot and a goal scorer's goal. Then at the 13:08 mark an unlikely line combo and trio combined to tie the game at 2-2 when Kieth Aucoin scored his first goal of the season on a wrap around off an Islanders' skate assisted by Alexander Ovechkin and Jeff Schultz. The game picked up considerably and both teams had a couple more chances however the goaltenders - Jose Theodre and Dwayne Roloson rose to the occassion to ensure that each team came away from the game with at least a point. Then in overtime Brooks Laich got a tip in goal off a beautiful setup from Mike Green and Shoane Morrisonn. So lots to work on given the Islanders are currently 27th in the league overall standings. But, hey what's new - the Caps go to Uniondale and need Overtime to get two points, that was the story last year as well.

Also not sure if it's just my mood tonight or what but am I the only guy around who hates listening to Locker and Kokin call a game - like tonight when they talked about everything but the game which was in play for long periods of time during the second period....Oh and big news from HNIC (Hockey Night In Canada) surprisingly Don Cherry once again called out Alexander Ovechkin - since I haven't said it lately - I think Cherry is a joke and schmuck.

Next up the Flyers, Tuesday evening at Verizon Center. To be sure the Capitals will have to raise their level of play from where it's been the past couple of games. However, the Caps are now 6-2-2 since the season opener and have won their last 4 games. That's 0.700 hockey to start the season, and with a little luck Tuesday evening will see Alexander Semin's return to the lineup, and it seems that Mike Green is finding his game, and we're starting to see at least a little secondary scoring. Now if they can just settle down in the faceoff circle and get their power play at least halfway back on track, we'll be ready for the Flyers. The Flyers beat the Panthers 5-1 in Philly tonight and there will be some controversy surrounding the Mike Richards hit on David Booth from that game; they also face the San Jose Sharks tomorrow evening at home before having a day off between that game and coming to DC to take the Caps on at Verizon Center.

One last thing to note since I recently mused on the Jose Theodore vs. Christobel Huet discussion that dates back to the summer of 2008 - Huet blanked the Nashville Predators tonight at Chicago's United Center for his first shutout of the season. Chicago fans got their first real display of why Caps fans fell in love with him and why the Blackhawks are paying him $5.625M this year. He was pretty spectacular a couple of times during the third period which I watched on NHL Center Ice.

Well until the next time I get the urge to muse...


Update Decision 2008 Results Tracking: Theodore vs. Huet 2010

I've admitted it before I'm a guy who won't let some things go ... But like I've said, when I as part of a fan base, indeed a city's metropolitan area embrace a guy and he spurns us when our team, yes I'm a little bitter. I understand that in the end Christobel Huet ended up with basically $11 million reasons to make the decision he did, so I don't really have any bitterness towards him on a personal level. I mean it's not the Jaromir Jagr thing where the Caps had to pay him to play for the Blueshirts. No at this juncture, I really bring this subject up regularly because there seem to be people here in the DC fan base who still haven't "cottoned" to Theo. I on the other hand have liked and been rooting for him since he arrived. For two reasons I think he's a good player and I think the deal made for him was the absolute right one given the decision confronting Dick Patrick, GMGM, BB and the rest of the Capitals Hockey Operations staff at the time. So I track the results and play of both players since the deal. I've been thinking of adding tracking of Nickolai Khabibulin's performance this season to this whole set of data but since I'm trying to not make this a personal thing, I decided that would just be rubbing it in to Chicago fans. [Khabibulin is in the first year of a 4 year $3.75M/year deal at Edmonton after being basically let go by the Blackhawks in favor of Huet who is now in year 2 of a 4 year $5.625M/year deal in Chicago, last off season.] In any case since some of the Caps fan base continues to wonder if we made the right choice; I continue feel a need to present the facts at hand, and ensure the record on the matter is straight.

Through the first 9 games of the season:

Capitals & Theodore:
Team Record: 5-2-2; GF: 34; GA: 28 (+6)
Jose Theodore's Numbers: GP:6, Record: 1-2-2, 13 GA; GAA: 2.67, SV% 0.910
Salary & Cap Hit 2009-2010:
Next Season: UFA
Theo's Career NHL Regular Season Numbers: 507 GP; GAA: 2.67, SV% 0.908

Blackhawks & Huet:
Team Record: 5-3-1; GF: 31; GA: 26 (+7)
Christobel Huet's Numbers: GP: 6, Record: 2-2-1, 17 GA; GAA: 3.25, SV% 0.844
Salary & Cap Hit 2009-2010: $5.625M
Next Season: $5.625M 2010-2011; $5.625M 2011-2012
Huet's Career NHL Regular Season Numbers: 230 GP; GAA: 2.47, SV% 0.914.

So as relatively quiet as Theo's season start has been the numbers still point to the fact the Caps made the right choice summer before last. Theo, though out for a couple of games with injury and a solid but unspectacular record to date this season, is playing on par with his career numbers and on par or better then the numbers he put up the season before the Caps signed him to his $4.5M/year deal as a free agent. My feeling is the basis for deciding a player was worth the salary you offered them in free agency being three things: 1) their career historical performance; 2) their performance the prior season or two, and 3) the size of the available free agent pool at their position that particular off-season and the comparative numbers of the others in the pool. So I feel that when you look at Theo's or Huet's current performance vs. Salary and Cap hit it's fair to look at those things. Comparatively, Huet at $5.65M per year through 2011-2012 is looking like a worse and worse deal for the Blackhawks. so far this season Huet is playing significantly below his career GAA and SV% numbers, as well as his numbers during 2006-2007 in Montreal and 2007-2008 in Montreal and Washington. Apparently lots of folks around the Blackhawks agree as there is a growing "goalie controversy" there while there seems to be a subsiding one here in DC.

Just my thoughts on the subject - apparently we'll have an additional data point of sort on both these guys after tonight's games though.

I'm not rooting for or against Christobel Huet, unless he's facing off against the Capitals or a couple other teams from around the league I adopt now and then; I am rooting for Jose Theodore to be sure, though...

THE - O! ... THE - O!! ... THE - O!!! [Just Rockin' Some More Red]


A Quick Look At The Caps Scoring Machine As We All Get Ready For the Islanders Tonight...

Tonight the Caps take on the NY Islanders in Uniondale, NY. The Caps can't take things likely and it would really be "good" if they play all sixty (60) minutes tonight. True, on Thursday night the Caps left Atlanta with two points and gave the Thrashers none, and a win is a win... However, there were several areas where I'd bet everyone would like to see the Caps improve on things tonight. I suspect Jose Theodore will get the nod in goal for his first game back after being out injured. Whether Alexander Semin and/or Boyd Gordon return to the line-up remains to be seen as well. It's also unlikely the Isles will shut down either the Caps first line, Alexander Ovechkin, or the Caps power play unit if they give the Caps seven chances. However, the Caps will need to stay on their toes when they are on the man-advantage as the Isles have been known to score a "shorty" every now and then. To be sure, I don't think the Isles are as weak a team as their current record would otherwise suggest. Also, in today's NHL, even the worst team having a very good night can beat the best team having an off night. It probably would have been worth a ride up to NY to catch the game as looking at the attendance figures for the Isles first four home games so far this season, it looks like what the Caps used to get 4 years ago and good seats are probably still available and it's only a five hour drive. A solid contingent of loud Caps fans at the game might help keep the team focused and in the game all three periods - something that seemed to be an issue during the third period in Atlanta.

In light of Thursday's game in Atlanta, a lot of discussion about secondary scoring is being had by Caps fans and around the Caps "blogsphere". Secondary scoring has many definitions and the general consensus focus in the blogsphere is scoring by other than a team's top six forwards. I look at things a little differently - first I look at goals, not points; second I look at overall offensive strength - does a team have enough weapons so if an opponent focuses on shutting down a star or two a team still has enough weapons to really hurt them and still win. On both counts I respectfully submit, the Caps have not had a problem or issue at all this season. Thursday's game just proved that beyond a doubt.

Looking at the Capitals' "goal scoring machine" this is what you see:
1) Alexander Ovechkin on pace for an 82 goal season
2) Alexander Semin on pace for a 54 goal season
3) Brooks Laich on pace for 27 goals
4) Brendan Morrison on pace for 27 goals
5) Matt Bradley on pace for 27 goals
6) Mike Knuble on pace for 18+ goals but likely to get 20+
7) Nicklas Backstrom also 18+ goals but likely to get 20+

Five other players have also scored including Mike Green somewhat off his pace from last season but looking more and more ready to break out, as is Eric Fehr who after getting a late start to this season has looked great the past two games. The fact is that when teams other than the absolute elite like Pittsburgh or Detroit focus too much energy at shutting down the Caps first line, there are lots of guys on the roster capable of putting the "biscuit in the basket" with a goal scorers touch and with Knuble, Laich, Fehr and team Captain Chris Clark all exuberantly crashing the net there are at least four guys who don't mind putting up numbers by "taking out the garbage." Also we still haven't seen if this will be the year that Tomas Fleischmann breaks the 20 goal mark after he returns to the line-up, but he sure got close last season. Assuming Green also flirts with at least 20 goals that means the Capitals could easily have 8 - 10 guys with 20 plus goals this season. They were also on that same sort of pace on Thursday morning - scoring, especially the "lack of secondary scoring" isn't any sort of Achilles' Heel for the Caps. The thing that gets me excited is when they play as well as they can, they shut down opponents, to me the Achilles' Heel is they don't do that consistently.

Well I won't be driving up to Long Island later this morning - tempting as it may be. I'll be watching from my perch in the den here in scenic Bristow, VA...


Wow Pittsburgh, Colorado, the Rangers, and Phoenix ...

Pittsburgh, Colorado, the Rangers, Phoenix and Edmonton - those are the teams that are playing 0.700 or better hockey at the start of this new season. Those will be the teams the Caps will join company with should they stay focused and leave Nassau Coliseum with two points...

Pittsburgh is playing 0.900 hockey after coming back and getting a SO victory over the Panthers last night.

The Avalanche held on for a 5-4 win over Carolina and took their record to 7-1-2.

The Rangers and Coyotes were idle tonight. The Rangers are 7-3-0 while Phoenix has come out of nowhere to start the season 6-2-0. Edmonton is 6-2-1.

To be sure it's early and the season is just barely 10% complete, however Pittsburgh already has a 4 point lead in their division race over the otherwise top-tier NY Rangers. While out west the Conference leading Avalanche are three points ahead of the division rival Oilers, though Edmonton has a game in hand. In the Southeast division the Capitals have three points on the second place Atlanta Thrashers though the Thrashers have two games in hand. The division standings and races in the Northeast, Central, and Pacific division are all tight. In the Pacific the Los Angeles Kings are tied with the Coyotes with 12 points, though Phoenix has two games in hand. In the Central Division the Columbus Blue Jackets are just one point "in back of" the Chicago Blackhawks, though Columbus has a game in hand. In the Northeast Division Ottawa is tied with Buffalo - each have 11 points, though Buffalo has a game in hand.

Yes to be sure we are only just barely in to the first Chapter of this season, but already some interesting stories are developing. Who of the surprises are in the playoffs and who of the unexpected under-performers are not still on the ice playing in late April clearly remains to be seen. But if things keep going the way they have been, every one of us Hockey fans will be on a pretty wild ride until then.

Now about those Islanders -


Friday, October 23, 2009

How Can You Help But Root For Things To Work Out For This Guy?

The latest main stream media news re: Michael Nylander from the Grand Rapids Press is found at this link. Hey, I'm a Caps fan and one of the first guys to point out that he doesn't fit in the Caps System these days. I'll also point out that if GMGM offered him the contract he has now tomorrow I'd be really, really disappointed. But I've always pointed out that I think at the time Michael Nylander was brought to DC, I don't think either of those things were even close to true.

Finally, even though I have mentioned this before, I can't help but do it again. If you check out the article and his quotes, you absolutely have to be impressed with the guy's class and demeanor. A total pro, and a nice guy, you have to be rooting for things to work out for him. This is an awkward situation for sure but so far both sides have been pretty classy and things haven't gotten unprofessional or snarky as oft seems to happen.

Hopefully, there is light at the end of this tunnel and it works out for all concerned.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Caps 5 - Thrashers 4 Despite Sub-optimal Special Teams Play

A two point night, and the Caps remain firmly in first place in the Southeast Division.

The Good:

1) Two Points & Three Points Up On the Thrashers

2) Secondary Scoring All Around By The Caps

3) Jeff Schultz 3 points - 1 goal, 2 assists, +3 and 2 hits - who is this guy?

4) Shoane Morrison a game time decision - +1, 2 takeaways, 16:00 TOI

5) Apparently No One Got Hurt

The Bad:

1) Seven power play chances = zero goals scored, one goal yielded.

2) Took eight (8) minor penalties and yielded two (2) power play goals.

3) Yielded a couple of softies.

4) Barely out shot the Thrashers.

The Weirdest:

*** Jeff Schultz' goal, nice assist, Varly***

The Best:

****Survived, Got Two Points**** Bringing overall record to equal to playing 0.667 hockey...

Next up: The New York Islanders at Nassau County Veterans Coliseum in Uniondale, NY on Saturday Evening.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How, After A Four Day Layoff, and Only the 9th Game Are The Caps the Walking Wounded?

How, After A Four Day Layoff, and Only the 9th Game Are The Caps the Walking Wounded?

As we look ahead to tomorrow night's game that has to be the question. Also before anyone dismisses the Thrashers look closer at the second place team in the Southeast Division - they are playing 0.750 hockey through their first 6 games this season, are just one point back of the Caps and will take a one point lead in the division if they manage to get a victory in regulation over the visiting Capitals. The Atlanta team web site bills Thursday's game as "Kovalchuk vs. Ovechkin" but the game is of course a bigger contest than the match up between the two team's scoring aces. The Thrashers have started hot, and now have 21 goals for and just 15 against in 6 games; that's an average of 3.5 GF and 2.5 GA a differential of +1.00; the Caps have 29 GF and 24 GA in 8 games - 3.625 GF and 3.0 GA and a differential of 0.625. Of the Thrashers first six games though only one has been against a 2009 playoff team; while seven of the Capitals first eight contests have been against 2009 playoff teams so what happens in this first contest between these two division rivals remains to be seen. This is not however the same Atlanta team that took to the ice last season and if the Thrashers goaltending holds up, they will continue to do well.

I've pointed this out before and I'll say it again, last season the Caps ran hot or cold against the Thrashers going 4-2-0, but the two losses were pretty embarrassing outings and occurred when the Caps traveled to Atlanta. Atlanta is 2-1-0 so far this season. The key for the Caps will be to play solid, smart hockey and throw rubber at the Thrashers netminder, on target, get shots through, and not let the Thrashers guns loose or make it easy for them to break out of their zone. If they do that this will be a two point night for the Caps. Eleven (11) of the Thrashers twenty-one goals have come off the sticks of Ilya Kovalchuk (7) and Rich Peverly (4) - that's 52.4% of their overall production. While the Caps are similarly lopsided in their production with 15 of their 29 goals (51.7%) of their offense coming off the sticks of two players Ovechkin and Semin, and Semin is a doubtful for tonight's game, the presence on five other multi-goal scorers for the Caps versus one (Evander Kane) for Atlanta gives an edge to the Capitals for roster depth. it also means that the Washington game plan can be relatively straight-forward in spite of the fact that Atlanta coach John Anderson has the last change, it shouldn't be too hard for Caps coach Bruce Boudreau to get the matchups he wants as well as keep some separation between the tow teams aces if that's what he wants to do. However, the Thrashers are hot and that's also why as they say, they play the game on the ice - you just never know. The other thing the Caps need to do is "come out swinging" so to speak - playing aggressive, heads up hockey, drawing penalties not taking them, etc.

Predictions and prognostications politely refused today because of the injury report. However I will say this - I want our guys to have a two point night and:


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another Crazy Week At Work But I've Managed To Squeeze In Some Time For the Caps...

It's been another crazy week last week at work but I did manage to attend the Devils Game on Monday and the Sharks game on Thursday. Last night's game wasn't mine, it was one of my STH partners' games. Overall, the Caps have accomplished what they needed to do to get things back on track. As of now the Caps have played 8 games - 7 against 2009 playoff teams and they have 10 points - that's 0.625 hockey and on pace for 103 points. Being on pace to break 103 points while playing against the better teams in the league, "ain't too shabby," as they say.

Last week, I figured the Caps needed 11 of 16 points during the final 8 games in the month of October. This past week, they've captured 5 of the 11 points and now need to capture at least 6 points of the possible 10 available. Through their first 8 games of the season, the Caps have been playing 0.625 hockey and if they at least stay on that track they'll capture 7 points which would give them 17 points for the month. However, given the strength of schedule it's entirely feasible for the Caps to capture 8 or even run the table and get all 10. Even more important than the recent results is the fact the Capitals are doing what they need to do to ensure they get two points in every game.

Prior to the game against the Devils, I thought to win the Caps needed to stay out of the box and take what the Devils give them, the Caps also needed to out shoot the Devils in all three periods and out score them in at least two of the three periods. Finally I said "the Caps can't give up any softies and play all 60 minutes." The Caps didn't stay out of the box - taking 5 minor penalties; out shot the Devils in only one of the three periods in regulation, and outscored the Devils in only one of the three periods of the game - the result, they managed to come away with just one point in a shootout loss; but it wasn't for lack of trying as Martin Brodeur had to lasso some real good scoring chances so the Devils could "win" the second period.

Prior to the game against the San Jose Sharks, I felt the Caps needed to contain Dany Heatley and play smart hockey. My conclusion was "San Jose won't beat themselves, the Caps need to beat them." The Caps did all that, the line of Semin - Backstrom - Laich kept Heatley - Thorton - Setoguchi bottled up all evening. Heatley finished the game -1, 3 SOG, 1 miss and 2 takeaways in 20:27 TOI; Thorton -1, 1 attempt that missed the net, 1 blocked shot, 12 of 21 in the faceoff circle in 20:02 TOI; Setoguchi 2 SOG, 2 attempts blocked, one hit, +/- even in 16:36 TOI. After taking 5 minor penalties in the first period, the Sharks settled down and did not beat themselves. Further in spite of giving the Caps 5 power plays in the first and yielding a power play goal to the Caps, the first period ended tied 1-1. The Sharks still made the Caps work to beat them in the second and third periods. The Caps responded as needed and won both periods and the game. The end result Caps Win 4-1 and get two points.

Looking ahead to last night's game against the Predators, I forecasted "It'll be important for the Caps to strike first, keep the home crowd in it and outwork the Preds, it'll also be important for the Caps to stay focused on hockey and that can be hard during an extended home stand like this coming week will be." The Caps held to the plan and script out working and out shooting the Preds until Pred Goalie Dan Ellis decided to become a stonewall in the second period and Caps phenom Semyon Varlamov had a minor lapse and gave up two goals, at least one of which he'd want back every time. In the end though this hard fought tight game ended in a shoot out victory for Caps when Varly came through stopping all three Preds shooters while Alexander Ovechkin got a gimmick hat trick. The result two points Caps, one point Nashville.

Overall last week I said "Five of the six available points from these next three opponents - all 2009 playoff teams - would go a long, long way to getting back on track but it's probably too much to ask, " - well all I can say is thank you hockey gods; thank you Caps! If I had an Aircraft Carrier around I'd be tempted to post a banner saying "Mission Accomplished", nah probably premature on that eh given it's only October - though being premature never seemed to be an issue with posting such banners on warships around this town before. Now a four day break before taking on the resurgent Atlanta Thrashers who are just two points behind the Capitals and are playing 0.800 hockey having started the season 4-1-0. Should be a good SE Division opener for the Capitals as it will be the first of two meetings against the Bluebirds this month.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's Been A Crazy Week at Work So No Time To Post Though

I haven't had time to post anything this week though I did get to the rangers Game and Caught most of the Red Wings game; I also watched the Rangers - Anaheim game today thanks to the NHL Center Ice free preview on Comcast Cable. To be sure, I'm glad to be busy at work, it's been a frustrating week to be a Caps fan, or based on his blog apparently a Caps Majority Owner. In any case there's been a lot written on a number of frustrating losses of late - in fact three in a row. To be sure everyone seems to be noting the issues.

After the loss to the Rangers, Alexander Semin was quoted over at Alex Ovetjkin as having said: "Some ragged game is going on for Washington," said Semin. "We play great and then all of us stop playing. I myself don't understand why... I hope we'll get into the playoffs. But if we'll show there such kind of hockey, we won't go too far. However, this is just the beginning of the season. I want to believe that our game will improve soon." after last night's game.

After last night's loos to the Red Wings in which Detroit poured it on in the third, out shooting the Caps 11-4, and with Mike Green in the box for the second time on the evening, Holmstrom put the Wings ahead for good with 6:53 left in regulation:

Ted Leonsis says in his blog: "When you play Detroit - in Detroit - you can’t give them 5 power plays with stick based penalties. Everyone knows that. Read this blog post to see some good notes from the game.

Detroit scored twice on the power play, one with 6 minutes left to take the lead and then they do what great and experienced teams do, they put the sleeper hold on us and just won like it was a playoff game 3-2. Boring and hyper efficient."

Others noted that it was a good thing goaltender Jose Theodore was on his game last night because the Caps allowed 37 shots on goal. They also had another 31 attempted shots - the Caps blocked 20 shots from the Red Wings and Detroit missed everything 11 times.

Some more thoughts by others following the Red Wing game from around the blogsphere:

First this beauty from Peerless: - Alex Ovechkin had an assist tonight, giving him five on the year. Sidney Crosby has only one. Can we now call Sidney Crosby a “puck hog?”

I couldn't agree more with this comment over at Japer's Rink from DMG: "If the Capitals didn't have Mike Knuble or Brooks Laich, would they set Tom Poti up in front of the net on the power play? He's been awfully good at screening goaltenders lately. "

So I'd figure I'd focus on what I think the Caps need to do the rest of the month to get back on track vice lament the recent faux paux. The Caps have a total of 13 games in the enitire month of October. They play 8 of those 13 games against 2009 playoff teams and 5 against teams that didn't make the playoffs last season, additionally all 5 games against non-playoff teams are against Eastern Conference foes, including 2 against SE division opponents. In my opinion, to ensure they are well positioned as a leauge leader the Capitals need to finish October with at least 0.550 versus playoff teams and 0.750 against non-playoff confernce opponents. That means they need to finish October with a total of at least 16 points. The Caps now have 5 points, they have 8 games left this month - 16 possible points and they've dug themselves a minor hole they need to climb out of since they need to capture 11 of those 16 points. That means they need to play 0.688 hockey the rest of the month.

To capture those 11 points the Caps don't have to be super-human, but they have to stop playing less then smart hockey. They have to get their power play back on track, stop taking "bad" penalties, and stop the foolish move giveaways. When they get a lead, they have to finish off the opponent rather than let up and letting them back into a game. Let's look at those remaining games in October and highlight the keys to Caps victory in each.

Tomorrow night at Verizon - The New Jersey Devils. Well over last season the Caps went 3-0-1 against the Devils so there's no doubt the Devils will be ready and take the Caps seriously. For the Caps need to stay out of the box and take what the Devils give them, the Caps also need to out shoot the Devils in all three periods and out score them in at least two of the three periods. Finally the Caps can't give up any softies and play all 60 minutes.

Thursday night at Verizon - The San Jose Sharks. Last season the Caps lost to the Sharks 7-2 in San Jose. To win the Caps will need to contain Dany Heatley and they need to play smart hockey. San Jose won't beat themselves, the Caps need to beat them.

Saturday, 10/17 at Verizon - The Nashville Predators. Last season, the beat the Preds twice - both in overtime. So far this season the Preds are 2-1-0 and have been involved in three low scoring, tight games, including their opener which was a shootout victory. This week they have three games before they play the Caps. Tomorrow night they play the Oilers at home then have a back to back on Wednesday and Thursday - Wed vs the Stars in Dallas and Thursday at home against the Blackhawks before they travel to DC for Saturday evening's game. It'll be important for the Caps to strike first, keep the home crowd in it and outwork the Preds, it'll also be important for the Caps to stay focused on hockey and that can be hard during an extended home stand like this coming week will be.

Basically the Caps need to win at least two of the three games they have on this coming week's home stand. Five of the six available points from these next three opponents - all 2009 playoff teams - would go a long, long way to getting back on track but it's probably too much to ask, 4 of those 6 points is 0.667 hockey against the stronger opponents in the 8 remaining games this month and will keep them on track to recovery though.

How the Capitals get a four day break during October in this season's compressed schedule is anybody's guess but they do. After playing Nashville the Capitals don't play a game until Thursday 10/22 when they take on Atlanta, in Atlanta.

Thursday 10/22 in Atlanta - the Thrashers at Phillips Center. Last year the Caps went 4-2-0, but the two losses were pretty embarrassing outings when the Caps traveled to Atlanta. Atlanta is 2-1-0 so far this season. They have a pretty reasonable schedule this year in October, they have three more games before they play the Caps - all of which are against Eastern Conference foes on the road. The key for the Caps will be to play solid, smart hockey and throw rubber at the Thrashers netminder, on target, get shots through, and not let the Thrashers guns loose or make it easy for them to break out of their zone. If they do that this will be a two point night for the Caps.

Saturday 10/24 in Uniondale, NY - the Islanders at Veteran's Coliseum. Simply put for the Caps to win, they need to play smart hockey, take what the Isles give them and don't beat themselves. Stay out of the penalty box, put rubber on net, out shoot the Islanders and don't let them get easy break outs. The Caps are a much more talented team then the Isles but the Isles will play with a chip on their shoulder as the Isles played the Caps to an 0-2-2 record last season, though both overtime games were played on Long Island.

Tuesday 10/27 at Verizon - the Philadelphia Flyers. The second meeting of this short season, earlier this month the Caps lost in Philly in OT 6-5. The Caps need to tighten things up against the Flyers this next meeting. The Flyers took what the Caps gave them and walked away with two points. It was an all out game for 60 minutes, but the Caps made a few too many mistakes. If they play Tom Poti and John Erskine have to make sure they play a very different game then the one they played in Philadelphia. In the end the Caps need to beat the Flyers by keeping it simple and playing solid two way defensive hockey as much or more than they need to play high flying offense and forechecking.

Thursday 10/29 in Atlanta - the Thrashers at Phillips Center. See 10/22, also it wouldn't hurt if we get a little out of the "Our Russians are better than your Russians" angle going, since this might be a game that Varly plays as the Caps have back to backs, their first of the season to close out the month.

Friday 10/30 - the New York Islanders here in DC at Verizon Center. Once again, the Caps need to ensure they don't beat themselves. They also need to keep the energy level up, the game will be the back side of a back to back for the Caps and the front side of a back to back for the Isles.

Basically during the last five games of the month, the Caps should make sure they finish the month strong with 7 or 8 of the 10 available points. If they do all that they can finish the month with 16 or 17 points though the month of October. They will have used the month to establish themselves as one of the beasts of the East and gotten themselves back on track. They will have played through the doldrums of the past three games, etc. they will have also figured out how to respond to others starting to figure them out. To do that they'll need it all. Maturity, discipline, a game plan with an effective response when others shut down Ovechkin by keying on him, and making sure that in at least 6 of the 8 remaining games they need to limit opponents to 27 or less shots and a GAA of 2.74 or less while staying on track with a GF average of 2.9 or more a game.

See you tomorrow at the Phone Booth..,


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Caps Fall To Flyers 6 - 5 in Overtime; New Beasts In The East?

Well it was a ONE POINT on Tuesday night in Philadelphia for the Washington Capitals. In a sign towards just how much things have changed since 3 years ago, the Caps and we their fans aren't satisfied. Even though the Caps have Captured 5 out of 6 available points in their first three games and started quickly out of the gates playing 0.833 hockey, we're not satisfied. We know we literally can not "win them all" but that is our objective.

The truth about Tuesday night is it was a pretty ugly second period sandwiched between a good first period and a respectable third period. But the second period was ugly for both teams. Just take a look at the statistics and the "game tape." During the 'eventful" second period the Caps gave up 4 goals on 15 shots, they also took 6 minor penalties, during which the Flyers scored 2 power play goals. Over the full game and overtime, the Caps gave up 6 goals on 41 shots, took 9 minor penalties, on which the Flyers capitalized three times. In the end their second period performance resulted in Semyon Varlamov being pulled at the midpoint of the second period after having been in what looked like it could have been a goaltender's duel with the Flyers Ray Emery through a scoreless first period during which he stopped 11 shots and Emery stopped 14.

The Flyers for their part have had better home opening games for sure as well. They took 6 minor penalties, yielded one power play goal and five goals in regulation on 36 shots. The Caps were outscored 4-3 in the second period but outscored the Flyers 2 - 1 in the third, while the first period was played to a 0-0 stalemate. That the Capitals were still in the game after allowing the Flyers to have the man advantage 9 times during regulation play is a testament to just how flawed this game was on both sides of the ice. In fact, the Flyers had to come from behind to tie the game at 5-5 with just 4:15 left in the Third Period.

However, if either of these two games deserved to win the game it was indeed the Flyers. They were the more disciplined team on the ice Tuesday night; that's probably the only thing the Flyers team is happy with, even though Mike Richards scored a hat trick. So while Flyers fans can point to Richards' hat trick and Caps fans can point to Oveckin and Semin's two goals apiece, the only consolation both teams can take away from this game is the Flyers captured 2 points and are 3-0 on the season; and the Capitals captured 1 point and are 2-0-1 on the season. The interesting thing is if I had to guess, I'd say I expect each of the three remaining between these two "Beasts of the East" to have similar stories. The other thing that is for certain is these two teams love to play all out against each other. The story when they get together is "Go Big or Go Home." Unfortunately for the Caps, on Tuesday night even though the Caps went big, the Flyers went slightly bigger. When that happens the difference is, as it was, just the "little things/differences." In Tuesday's case that was three less minor penalties and two more power play goals.

If you're wondering here's some interesting projections based on the first three games of the season for the Capitals:

  1. The Capitals have been playing 0.833 hockey with their 2-0-1 record, that puts them on pace for 132 points. That's not going to happen, but some projections are just fun. Oh if they win on Thursday they will be playing 0.875 hockey and on pace for 143 points and that isn't happening either.
  2. Alexander Ovechkin has now scored 5 goals and 9 points in 3 games. That puts him on pace for 136 goals and 246 points. Neither of those are probably going to happen either but that projection is why folks around the NHL are starting to murmmer about "50 in 50". Ovie is currently on pace for 83 goals in 50 games right now, so the possibility of 50 in 50, even with a slump in early season production seems plausable. The compressed season for the Olympics Break this year also may actually enhance his chances.
  3. Brooks Laich is on pace for 82 goals as he has scored 3 goals in 3 games. He has looked solid in all three games and clearly has an icreasingly better nose for the net, great hands and the drive to make this his first 30+ goal season.
  4. Alexander Semin, the his just keep coming eh? Sasha has 4 goals and 7 points in 3 games. That has him on pace for 109 goals and 191 points. Like Ovie's production and pace, that can't continue but this year could be his first 50 goal and/or 100 point season.
  5. Nicklas Backstrom has 8 points in 3 games, all assists. He is yet another Capital on pace for 218 points. That isn't likely to happen but he too could have a 100+ point season.

How's that for some fun season long projections. As amazing as those personal statistics could or would be, the way the Caps are all playing, it's clear they would all give them up so they could have a shot at Lord Stanley's Cup. That's what makes this team look like they might do it; it's also why they (and we) feel taking a point on the road against a good Philadelphia Flyer team, isn't good enough.

Next up, Thursday night, the NY Rangers, aka the Blueshirts, at Verizon Center. I expect we'll see Jose Theodore in the net for the Capitals and Henrik Lundqvist in the the net for the Rangers. Otherwise I expect the Capitals to be looking to improve their record to 3-0-1 and to rebound from Tuesday's game against the Flyers. The Rangers will be looking to improve their record to 3-1. I'll be Rockin' the Red in Section 103, hope to see y'all there.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Caps Take Home Opener vs Maple Leafs 6 - 4; 14 Other Games Played In NHL Yesterday As Well

Well the Washington Capitals came out flying vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, racing to a 6 - 1, lead before yielding 3 goals to the Leafs in the third period and winning the game 6 - 4. The game had a little of everything, more on that later, after a quick run down and recap of the other action around the NHL last yesterday and last evening.

Last night was a cornucopia for NHL fans to feast on and here's the results:

In the games in Europe yesterday: Chicago managed to turn things around and best the Florida Panthers 4 -0 in Helsinki, while the Detroit Red Wings were once again bested by the Saint Louis Blues 5 - 3 in Stockholm. For those of you following my thoughts with regard to Theo vs. Huet, please note, Huet did not play, the goaltender who earned the shutout for Chicago yesterday was Antti Niemi.

Here in North America:

  • The Colorado Avalanche took their record to 2 -0 -0 on a shutout by Craig Anderson when the Av's beat the Vancouver Canaucks 3 - 0.

  • The Boston Bruins rebounded from their home opener loss to the Capitals and bested the Carolina Hurricanes 7 - 2 in Carolina's home opener. Boston is now 1-1-0; the Hurricanes are now 0-2-0.

  • The Canadeans went to 2-0-0 with an overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres. The puts the Sabres record at 0-0-1.

  • Philadelphia beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 in the Devils home opener. My buddy Jim texted me from the game. he's been a Devils' STH since 1983 and indicated that it was one of the worst, if not the worst, performance by Martin Brodeur he's ever seen. If you can sense tone/mood in a set of texts, I sensed true pain. Sorry Jim, I offered to host him next week here at the VC, but alas Jim will be in sunny Rochester, NY for business when the Caps take on the Devils here. The win takes the Flyers to 2-0-0, while the Devils drop to 0-1-0.

  • The Islanders took the Pittsburgh Penguins to a shootout last night, but couldn't close it out and get both points so Pittsburgh earned a two points with a 4-3 win. The Penguins start the season 2-0-0 but they haven't looked as crisp as they did when they finished last season with the Cup in their outings against the Rangers and the Islanders. The Islanders start the season at 0-0-1 and are ahead of the Devils in their division as the season gets underway.

  • The Rangers bested the Ottawa Senators 5 - 2 in their home opener. Scotty has the dope on it here. The win takes the Rangers to 1-1-0; the Senators are now 0-1-0. If Ray Emery doesn't blow up in Philly this season, he alone might have more wins then the Senators, unless they figure out how to transform themselves into a team versus a "line" post Dany Heatley.

  • The Atlanta Thrashers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6 - 3 in a Southeast Division match up. It was the first game of the season for either team. While it's too early to tell anything, this could mean my prognostications on Atlanta and Tampa Bay will need to be revisited later this month as far as who finishes where in the SE Division. Of course last year the Thrashers beat the Caps and had 7 goals in their opener and where did that get them?

  • The Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in regulation. It was the seasons first action for both of these Western Conference clubs.

  • The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators played to a 2-2 tie in regulation before the Predators took the shootout victory 3-2. Once again this was the first 2009-2010 regular season action for either team.

  • The Calgary Flames beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in regulation in what was the second game of the evening for Hockey Night In Canada. I watched the end of this one after getting home from the Caps game and it seemed like it was probably a fun one to watch. Calgary is loaded this season but the Oilers hung in there and as always watching Sheldon Sorouy tee it up is pretty cool. The victory takes the Flames record to 2-0-0 while the Oilers open the season 0-1-0 with their first loss in this season's Battle for Alberta.

  • The San Jose Sharks apparently took it to the Anaheim Ducks and came away with a 4-1 victory. Here's the Couch Tarts' take on the game. San Jose's record is now 1-1-0; it was Anaheim's first game of the season.

  • The totally focused on hockey, no outside distractions Pheonix Coyotes' handed their new coach a 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings in their season opener in XXX. How about them apples?

So there you go thirty teams (the entire NHL), fifteen games, in action in four countries on two continents - a pretty awesome day to be an NHL fan, at least I think. Not much worth concluding from the start of the season except for perhaps two things looking at these scores. In the Eastern Conference, if you're playing the leading teams and want to win, you need to come out as fast as they will/do, take it to them in their end, and hold them in your own end. In the Western Conference, while it is highly unlikely Craig Anderson can hold his current SV% 0.973 for much of the rest of the season, the Avalanche are a different team this season than last and will likely be in the playoff mix if the former Florida Panther stays healthy.

Now..."about last night"...

It was a fun night to be a Caps fan, my wife and I got to the VC a little late as she worked yesterday. We saw OV score the first goal on the screen behind the guy who sells programs at the F street entrance as we walked in. A minute seventeen into the game Caps 1 - Leafs 0. Per the box score Ovechkin';s goal was assisted by Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. By the middle of the first period it's Washington 3 - Leafs 0 after Mike Knuble gets his first regular season goal as a Cap on the power play at 9:12 (assists by Chris Clark and OV); and Brooks Laich nets his third goal of the season, an even strength tally, at the 13:53 mark of the period (assists by Milan Jurcina and Brendan Morrison). Caps go to the dressing room with a 3-0.

The second period started with the Maple Leafs trying to get things going, first they replaced Vesla Toskla with rookie Jonas Gustavsson and they all stepped up their energy level. The result was Lee Stempniak of the Leafs got his first goal of the season at the 4:23 mark of the stanza. It wasn't a pretty goal the Caps allowed the Leafs to overload that side of the net and Varly committed too early, and Stempniak took what was given him. It was the result of smart, energetic play by the Leafs However, after that the Caps responded; first not letting things get away from them, and then reasserting control. The next three goals were all Caps and were all pretty demonstrative of the talent level the Washington team now possesses. At the 5:27 mark, just over a minute after the Leafs scored, John Erskine threaded a long breakout pass to Alexander Semin to spring him on a breakaway. Semin played it masterfully, score Caps 4 - Leafs 1; welcome #1 to the NHL for "Monster". Next Brendan Morrison netted his first goal as a Capital at the 10:42 mark, assisted by Mike Green and Brooks Laich. Then Alexander Semin got his second goal of the night at 16:02, a backhand in close over a pileup around Monster, the assists went to Ovechkin and Backstrom, If anything the surpirse here isn't that Semin scored twice last night, it was the nature of this second goal by the first line, it wasn't a pretty goal, it was a "greasy" battle it out in front of the net goal, and all three of these "young guns" seemed more than willing to mix it up to get the score. While over the past three seasons we Caps fans have routinely seen the strength of Ovechkin; both Backstrom and Semin have "muscled-up" over these past two seasons as well and this line isn't going to be pushed around or off the puck by anybody. Mike Green went to the box for interference late in the period (called at 17:57); it wasn't a horribly obvious move by #52, but when your team is up by 5 goals, any move using your leg to impede the progress of a breaking opposing skater is likely to get called and it was. The Caps killed off the penalty and went into intermission up 6-1.

The Leafs returned from intermission, once again determined not to be embarrassed by the Capitals. They also started to display that "gritty nature" that is often the hallmark of hockey teams built by Brian Burke. If the referees hadn't put the whistles away for the third period, and there were several calls they should have made IMHO, the Caps would have gotten at least 3 more power play chances then the 1 they were given in the third period. But again when you're up 6-1, you can't expect any breaks, and you have to stay focused and intense. Unfortunately while the Caps didn't breakdown during the third period last night, for the first about 7 minutes they didn't play "inspired hockey" either. The result? At the 2:04 mark Alexei Ponikarovsky got a goal from a wrister in close off of Semeyon Varlamov, though Varly didn't get the help he should have from his teammates and I'm pretty sure from the expressions on their faces on the jumbotron, both Mike Green and Varly would like to have that one to play over. At the 4:36 mark, Gustavsson and the Leafs got a break when, Alexander Semin opted correctly to NOT go for his hat trick and instead passed it over to Ovechkin who fired a blistering snapshot from about 30-40 feet OVER the left side of the net which was wide open. The pass and play said it all to me about this year's Washington Capitals. First Semin opting to pass corss ice to Ovechkin who had a 90% shot when he himself had a 45+% shot and second the way the first and second lines played all night. In fact all four of the Caps forward lines played well and took good shots on net last night, passing often enough to have solid puck movement without "getting too quite" much at all. In the end, this was a bullet dodged by the Leafs, at this point the game should have been 7-2, instead it was still 6-2. To their credit, the Leafs took advantage of the miss and came back with a tip in goal by Mikhail Grabovski off a shot by Luke Schenn and a secondary assist from Alexei Ponikarovsky at the 5:18 mark. Score Caps 6 - Leafs 2.

The Leafs third goal seemed to jostle the Caps heads back into the game, after that Washington responded, but so too did Gustavsson. In the third period the rookie Swede goaltender stopped all seven shots on goal the Capitals threw his way, after yielding 3 goals to the Caps on the twelve shots on goal the Caps had in the second period. That's probably cause for some optimism by the Leafs though his overall Save Percentage on the night was just 0.842 had had Ovies timing and accuracy been on for the snapshot he put over the empty net, he would have yield 4 goals on twenty shots for a SV percentage of 0.750 and a GAA of 6.00 in his NHL debut. That said the guy is huge and with just a little acclimation to the speed of the NHL game, I believe he'll be a star. The rest of the period went along with the Leafs getting away with a lot of things I felt should have been called but weren't and the Caps getting little releif in anyway from the referees. While I'll admit my angle was less than ideal it sure seemed to me that the hooking call on Ovechkin at the 10:12 mark of the period was a bad call and he was lifting Luke Schenn's stick, not hooking him. I feel the timeout that Gabby called at that time was a perfect thing to do to calm things down, and get the right matchups out there for the PK unit.

From the 17:00 mark on, Toronto played like a team possessed, you have to give them credit. The result was that at 17:57, the Leafs' Niklas Hagman scored on a ~20 foot wristshot, assisted by Mikhail Grabovski and Tomas Kaberle. In the end the final surge by the Leafs was thankfully to no avail and how the Caps did not score a seventh goal when the Leafs were playing empty net with six skaters from the 18:13 mark on, I really don't know. But in the end it was a 2 point night and the Caps start the season 2-0-0, once again atop the Southeast Division and in the running for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Caps special teams again played well; the PK unit was perfect and the power play went 1 for 3.

The three stars of the game were 1) Alexander Semin with two goals and an assist (+1, 19:50 TOI including 0:50 on the PK); 2) Alex Ovechkin with a goal and 2 assists (+2, 22:12 TOI); 3) Brooks Laich with one goal, and one assist (+1, 16:27 TOI including 2:39 on the PK). It wasn't Varly's best night as a Capital but his play was far better than his stats would indicate and he didn't let up a goal until the Caps were up 3-0, and he didn't let one up you might want back until they were up 6-1. Further when the second and third goals the Leafs got, the entire Caps team was playing pretty uninspired hockey.

The crowd at the Phone Booth last evening was great, it was of course a sellout, and a sea of RED everywhere. In section 103 we had the privelage of hosting Quintin Laing's wife and kids and I've gotta say I don't know who is more courageous, the shot blocking "Q"; or his wife who brings a 1 year old to a game and stays the entire evening. Seriously though, you can see the family resemblence in the faces of "Q" and his son Hunter, especially when the father decides to finish his shift after he looses his helmet. Be careful out there Quintin, we need you.

Next up will be the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday evening in Philadelphia. It'll be Mike Knuble's first game back against his former team and it should be a good one. Here's rooting that Knuble gets his second AND third goal as a Capital in Phildelphia AND the Caps are the team that remains unbeaten on Wednsday morning.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Day 2 of the NHL Season Is Complete - Day 3 Brings Us The Capitals Home Opener - SWEET!

Last night there were three games in the NHL:

1) The Penguins beat the Rangers in Pittsburgh's last home opener at the Igloo 3 - 2 in regulation (more on this one later in this post).

2) The Florida Panthers bested the Chicago Blackhawks 4 - 3 in Helsinki, FIN. I covered this in an earl er brain dead post when I thought it was played on Thursday in Chicago. The rest of my comments do remain my opinion and valid in my opinion.

3) Carolina lost their home opener to Philadelphia 2 - 0. Apparently from the highlights and games stars it appears the Flyers outplayed the 'Canes, though statistically the 'Canes bested the Flyers in most categories. Philadelphia took eight penalties, they were able to kill them all. The Hurricanes took six minor penalties including a double minor top Sergei Samsonov at the end of the first period which proved to be the catalyst for the Flyers two power play tallies within the first minute of the second period. Ray Emery's return to the NHL was also apparently a solid one, the 27 year old stopped all 28 shots on goal Carolina threw at him and earned his third straight shutout against the Hurricanes. In the end the two goals by the Flyers' extra man unit proved to be one more than enough for the Flyers to earn their first two points on the road this season.

4) The Saint Louis Blues bested the Detroit Red Wings 4 - 3 in regulation in Stockholm, SWE. The Blues 34 year old left wing, Paul Kariya, scored two goals and earned the games first star. Blues goalie Chris Mason stopped 31 of the 34 shots the Red Wings threw at him to earn the games second star and the victory. Kirk Maltby of the Wings had a goal and an assist to earn the third star of the game. From the recap, it looks like the game had its ups and downs and it's ugly patches but would have been a fun one to watch.

The Penguins - Rangers game last evening was a fun one to watch and I did on NHLN-US. Both Marc-Andre Fluery and Henrik Lundqvist made some super-human saves each of which were worth the price of admission. In the end the Penguins power up front was just too much for the Rangers though they were well prepared for the game and looked like they were intent on spoiling the Penguins Stamley Cup banner raising night on several occassions. The other thing I noted is that it sure seems that once Marian Gaboriak gets fully assimilated into the Rangers lineup they will be even more solid then they were last night - his timing was a little off on two chances he had that I think later in the season - he nets at least one of them. Donald Brashear played his first game as a Ranger and had his first fight as a Blueshirt versus Eric Godard - you can check it out at here. My only question is why the three stars of the game are 1) Crosby; 2) Kennedy; 3) Goligoski? Oh year those are determined by the Pittsburgh press since they are the majority of the media in attendance. Me I'd have scored it: 1) Kennedy; 2) Crosby; and 3) Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers.

Today is a big one for NHL fans. There will be 15 games, involving all 30 teams in the league, with games being played in four nations: the United States, Canada, Finland and Sweden. It should be a hockey blockbuster. For Caps fans the place to be though is Verizon Center at 7PM for the Caps home opener against the updated/upgraded Toronto Maple Leafs. Both the Maple Leafs and the Caps will be playing in their second game of the regular season. Toronto will be coming into the game 0-0-1 having lost in overtime to their arch rivals - the Canadeans on Thursday in Toronto. The Caps come into the game 1-0-0.

One final thing before turning the attention to tonight's game at the VC. Rumours are that both Flash and Fehr are getting better. Rumblings are that folks think Fehr could be back soon and Fleischmann will get cleared for full practice soon as well. If the top six forwards/top two lines keep playing like they did on Thursday, I hope that only means moving things around with the third and fourth lines and though it's only one game even that isn't a given to me.

It looks like the only change to the Capitals lineup from Thursday will be that tonight will be that Semyon Varlamov will get the start in goal. From the notes by Tarik and Corey it appears the three healthy scratches will again be: Tyler Sloan, Jeff Schultz, and Michael Nylander. Sure makes me wonder how many other teams in the NHL have $6.23M of salary cap hit sitting in the press box, how about you? How long can this go on?

Here's the lineup projected by the Washington Times' Corey Masisak:




Toronto looked pretty good on Thursday against the Canadeans but the Capitals looked even better against the Bruins. Like others I expect the Leafs to try and counter the Caps skill with "physicality" and intimidation. As long as the Caps display the maturity they had on Thursday again st the "B"s that won't work. I look for a Caps 4 - 2 victory in regulation. I expect big nights from Semeyon Varlamov, Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble and Matt Bradley. I also expect points on assists from Ovechkin, Backstrom, B-Mo, Mike Green, and Brooks Laich. All in all I expect the Caps to come out flying and the Leafs to try and counter-punch unsuccessfully in the first period, then things will likely settle down some.

My wife and I will be Rockin' the Red in our seats in Section 103 - loving life.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Tracking The Results Of the Big Decision Of the 2008 Summer ... Signing Theodore vs. Huet

Call me a guy who won't let some things go ... I know you're right and it's true. But hey, when I as part of a fan base, indeed a city's metropolitan area embrace a guy and he spurns us when our team's management gives him basically what he originally said he wanted, yes I'm a little bitter. So when that drives us to a choice and an alternative presents itself, wants to come play for "our team" and then shows up and basically delivers, yet the fan base continues to wonder if we made the right choice; I feel a need to present the facts at hand, and ensure the record is straight on the matter.

Last year, through the regular season here's how Jose Theodore did:

He finished the regular season with a record of: 32 Wins, 17 Losses and 5 Overtime Losses. He appeared in 57 games, had a GAA of 2.87 and a Save Percentage of 0.900. Throughout his 15 year career in professional hockey, Theodore has played in 501 games through last season. His overall record is 215 wins, 214 losses, 30 ties and 15 Overtimes with a GAA of 2.67 and a save percentage of 0.908. In the season prior to the Caps signing him Theodore played in 53 games, went 28-21-3, and had a GAA of 2.44 with a Save Percentage of 0.910. If you look at Jose Theodore's play since the lockout ended you'll see his Save Percentage hadn't been over 0.900 except for the 2007 - 2008 season before the Caps signed him. So if you compare what he did last year to his career stats, etc.; you'd have to say that Theodore had to have delivered on what the management that signed him should have expected. In face he may well have exceeded those expectations. From my perspective I like the guy, thought it was a good signing then and still do. Here's why - the Caps management didn't go for Huet because they didn't want to lock in their goaltending to him for three years. The fact that Theodore was a million dollars a year cheaper didn't seem to mean a lot to most of us during the summer of 2009 but is sure does now. eh? Further take a look at what we would have gotten. Sure, Gabby opted to stay with phenom Semeyon Varlamov once he pulled Theo in the playoffs, but that was indeed a coach sticking with a hot handed goaltender. In the end Theo was forced to replace Varly for in the final game of the Ranger's series to no avail anyhow.

Last season here's what the Chicago Blackhawks got for the $5.5M they paid Christobel Huet. Huet played in 41 games last regular season and went 20-15-4 in the regular season; his GAA was 2.53 and his save percentage was 0.909. Overall in his career Huet has played in 224 NHL games in his 8 year career prior to this season; he has an overall GAA of 2.45 and a a Save Percentage of 0.916. In the four post lockout seasons prior to signing with the Blackhawks, Huet's save percentage had ranged between 0.916 and 0.936; during those four seasons. Yet last season, after signing a three year deal for $5.5M/season, his GAA and Save Percentage fell off. Huet also didn't play much in the post season appearing in just three fgames and going 1 -2 while the goaltended the Blackhawks had when they acquired Huet, Nickolai Khabibuhin, appeared in 15 playoff games and went 8 - 6. So it would seem that Huet probably under-delivered last season, perhaps that's why the Blackhawks team active roster still shows three goaltenders?

Now what about this season's opening night performances you might ask. Well lets start with the obvious, Theodore and the Capitals notched a Win while the Balckhawks with Huet in the net played the Florida Panthers to a shootout in front of a Chicago home crowd before loosing the shootout two goals to one when Huet failed to stop either of of the two Panthers - Center Steven Reinprecht or Defenseman Ville Koistinen while Panthers Goatender Tomas Vokoun stopped 2 of the 3 Blackhawks whiz kids. Jose Theodore faced 20 shots from the Boston Bruins, a team that many pick to return to the playoffs this year, and stopped 19 of them for a SV% of 0.950 and a GAA of 1.00. Christobel Huet stopped 24 of 27 shots and finished the night with a Save percentage of 0.875 with a GAA of 2.77. So basically, Huet is starting this season off just the way he finished last season, while Theo showed signs that he will do as well or better than last season and he wants to be the netminder who takes the Capitals to the promised land in the playoffs.

I don't think Theodore is the greatest goaltender that ever lived. I do think he is good and can be very, very good. I also think the above set of facts on the record since June 2009 show two things though, and they show them clearly. First, Caps management clearly made the right choice when they were confronted with it in June 2008. Second, there is no reason to get down on Jose Theodore, in fact, we should get firmly behind him, he's basically done what's been asked of him all the time and he's played at a level consistent with both his career average and within tolerance of his performance with the Colorado Avalanche the last season before he came to Washington.

I can't wait for tomorrow night's home opener to Rock the Red. What about you?


Well Two More Games Tonigth ...Thinking About Saturday Night at the Phone Booth...

Well the 2009 - 2010 NHL Season Continues tonight with the NY Rangers taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh tonight. Tonight should be an emotional game for the Penguins and their fans, the game will be the season opener for the Pens and this should be the first game of the last season to be played in Mellon Arena (aka The Igloo). Pittsburgh's arena is currently the oldest one in use in the NHL; it was completed in 1961. Next season (2010 -2011) should be the first the Penguins play in the new "Consol Energy Center. Adding to that emotional point is the fact the Penguins will be raising their third Stanley Cup banner to the Igloo's rafters tonight. It sure seems the only way the Rangers are likely to overcome that wave of good Penguin karma would be a stellar night by Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist aka King Henrik. Stranger things have happened but I don't think they will tonight. It still should be a good one to watch.

The other game in the NHL tonight has the Philadelphia Flyers traveling to North Carolina and taking on the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center. This should be a good, hard fought season opener. The Flyers will be looking to validate things for all those folks picking them to get to the Stanley Cup finals, while the Hurricanes will be looking to show everyone they like their division rival Capitals are "the real deal" once again this season.

Both these match ups have the potential for being solid, fun games to watch. The Penguins - Rangers game is available nationwide on the NHL Network both here in the US and in Canada.

A lot is being written in the blogsphere about last night's Capitals - Bruins game. It ranges across the spectrum in tone and tenor. For my two cents, it's 2 points, one game down and 81 to go to get to the playoffs. Really, nothing more, noting less. Solid efforts by the entire Capitals team, but hey there are indeed 81 more games left in the regular season, no need to get too high or low about anything.

Looking ahead to tomorrow evening's home opener for the Capitals leads me to point out the obvious. Our team's foe - the Toronto Maple Leafs are not the same team we played last year. They could end up being one of the most improved teams in the league though last night they failed to finish out the game with a win in regulation and then the totally revamped Canadeans won in overtime. The Maple Leafs have, in a relatively quiet fashion, revamped their team and gave the Canadeans a "run for their money" last evening. Now they will be looking to come in to Washington and take two points from the Capitals. That probably won't happen, but this leaf's team has the talent to do just that so our Capitals will need to "ring their "A" game.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Caps Win Season Opener - Best Bruins In Beantown 4 - 1

The Caps traveled to Boston's TDNorth Garden to open their 2009 - 2010 regular season tonight. To say they opened the season with style, might actually be understatement.

The Capitals outplayed the 2008 - 2009 Eastern Conference leading point getters pretty much outplayed the Bruins in every category tonight. While the official game report shows the Bruins out hit the Capitals 32 - 14 and had 16 blocked shots to the Capitals 14; the Capitals "won" every period and had a 4 - 0 lead before the Bruins got on the scoreboard at the 7:56 mark of the third period. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect performance by Capitals #1 goalie Jose Theodore coming on what was basically a short-handed breakaway by Patrice Bergeron, that Theo almost saved but for a mildly errant rebound and great effort by the Bruins 24 year old Alternate Captain and Center. Other than that goal, Theodore stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced turning in a solid night with a 0.950 save percentage. Given eight (8) of the Bruins twenty shots on goal were from the low slot and another 4 were from good angles and within 35 feet of the goal Jose Theodore earned his money tonight against the Bruins. He also opened the season by "out-dueling" the 2008 - 2009 Vezina Trophy winner - Tim Thomas.

Thomas ended the night with a save percentage of 0.882 on the 34 shots he faced, and while he wasn't the reason the Bruins lost, he was outplayed by Theodore. All in all, it's a situation this writer is happy about, I'm not rooting against either of the Capitals two young goaltenders, I just think that for the Caps to go all the way this season, they need an experienced guy in the net. The only one on the team that fits that bill is Jose Theodore. The fact that he seems like a nice guy, hasn't jerked management around (like that guy who plays for the Blackhawks now), delivered 32 regular season wins and a 0.900 save percentage last year, and seems like a good guy, all make rooting for him pretty easy too.

The first period ended with the Caps up 1 - 0 and each team having 10 shots on goal. The only goal of the period came when Brooks Laich scored a power play goal on an excellent setup from Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Laich netted his first tally of the season on a snapshot from just outside the crease at 17:15 of an otherwise scoreless period. It sure seemed as the first period buzzer ended that this would be another of what has become typical of the Caps - Bruins games over the past three seasons, a tightly played nail-biter.

The second period opened with more of the same from the first period. The second period ended with the score Capitals 2 - Bruins 0 after the 2008 -2009 Rocket Richard winner, Alexander Ovechin, notched his first goal of the season. The Capitals first line tonight consisted of Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. Ovechkin's first goal was a pretty one, Backstrom brought the puck into the zone, didn't have a good shot so passed it to Semin, who was tied up in front off the net so he made a beautiful drop pass to Ovechkin who rocketed a 29 foot wrist shot into the net behind Tim Thomas for his first even strength goal of the season at the 9:31 mark of the period. The period ended with a Bruins penalty when Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara took exception to a legal check Ovechkin laid on Mark Recchi and cross checked Ovie at the 20:00 mark of the period.

The Capitals went up 3 - 0, sixteen seconds into the third period when Brooks Laich scored his second power play goal of the night on another nice wrister on the doorstep. Then shortly thereafter at the 01:57 mark, the Great Eight scored his second of the season, at even strength to put the Capitals ahead 4 - 0. Ovechkin's second goal came on a 17 foot snapshot on a great feed from Tom Poti who took a pass from Brooks Laich, joined the rush and brought the puck in deep behind the Bruins goal line. The setup gave OV a pretty wide open left side of the net to bang the goal home. Theodore's bid for a shutout ended at the 7:56 mark of the period when the Caps allowed Patrice Bergeron to get loose on a breakaway while the Bruins were killing off their fourth and final minor penalty of the evening. The last bit of excitement in the period came in the form of a solid hockey fight between John Erskine and Shawn Thorton at the 9:43 mark of the stanza. Thorton was clearly trying to spark the Bruins and the home crowd but the Capitals also responded and kept control of the game bringing home their first regulation two point win in Boston since December 2, 2000.

Overall it was a great night for the Capitals, the only Capitals to finish the night +/- minus were Pothier, Erskine, Steckel, Laing and Clark, all of whom finished -1. However, they all had good nights as well in other respects. John Erskine had what were probably his two best scoring chances in the last two seasons and if not for a great reaction and save by Tim Thomas would have had his first goal since the 2007 - 2008 season. Brian Pothier had 16:15 TOI including 0:54 on the penalty kill, notched 2 hits and 2 blocked shots. Dave Steckel was 11 for 18 in the faceoff circle (61%) made 3 hits and had 2 takeaways. Quintin Laing had two blocked shots and Chris Clark played solidly in his 14 shifts. The Capitals great players, they played great. Led by Brooks Laich, Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, each of whom had three point nights; as well as Alexander Semin - 2 assists, +1 and Tom Poti - 1 assist, +2 on the night. The penalty killing unit for the Capitals went 100% killing all 5 minor penalties they took while the Bruins enjoyed a man advantage for 8:25 of the game. The power play unit went 0.500 scoring on two of four times the Caps were given a man advantage on the Bruins. The three stars for the game were all Washington Capitals:
1) Alexander Ovechkin
2) Brooks Laich
3) Nicklas Backstrom.

Well hockey is back and boy is it still fun to watch. I can't wait for the home opener on Saturday night. I'll be at the phone booth Rockin' The Red in Section 103 ...