Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sorry for the Gaps Between Posts...

Lots and lots going on around these parts, though I hope to at least have some nice pics to post from this evening's Caps-Bruins game....


Friday, October 15, 2010

On The Road Again...

Sorry for the lull in posts but I've been travelling since Tuesday Morning... whould be back to blogging when I get back to a normal life on this coming Tuesday...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What A Differance A Day (and a season) Make... Caps 7 - Devils 2

Well I'm not sure I watched the same team in the live game I attended last night at Verizon as I watched sitting here in Bristow on CSN HD play in Atlanta on Friday evening. No I'm not talking about the minor change of Boyd Gordon in the line-up last night with David Steckel in the press box, either. I'm talking about the fact that last night at Verizon Center I and 18,276 other Washington Capitals fans watched a team that didn't abandon their game plan and didn't get flustered or frustrated despite being down 2-1 through the first period and being out shot throughout the game by the New Jersey Devils last evening.

Last night after the first period, instead of getting frustrated and trying to get too fancy and play outside their own very considerable abilities and talents, the Capitals came out ready to play in the second period. The adjustments and changes between the first and second period, were simple and straight-forward from what I could see, they resolved to not get out-worked and they simplified their game. The result was that just 1:59 into the second stanza, Tomas Fleischmann tied it up, and the battle was on. To be clear, this game was two separate games to me - the first game was from the opening face off through the 14:31 mark of the second period to put the Capitals up for good. Once the Great Eight scored his first goal of the game and the Capitals took the lead, frankly in something very uncommon for playing the Devils - they really never looked back. While the Devils continue to out shoot the Capitals, Michal Neuvirth played very well and he did get help from his blueline corps clearing out the front of the net - to the extent that is possible in "the new NHL" without getting penalized too often so the Caps responded. At the other end the Devils --- well, not so much. Through two periods Devils starter and future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur had a 0.750 SV%, yes you read that correctly. During the last 5:30 of the second period Brodeur allowed 3 pucks to find the back of the net, including loosing a penalty shot duel with Capitals Captain Alexander Ovechkin with just 48 seconds left in the period. Ovechkin's second goal of the game put the Capitals up 5-2 and set the stage for the Devils to replace Brodeur with back-up Johan Hedberg for the final 20 minutes of the game. When was the last time that happened, you know he of 110 career shutouts getting pulled from a game? Of course when was the last time that Glory Days had to fork over free wings for us Caps fans when we played Marty and the Devils? (I'm honestly asking that question since I'm not going to research that one, rather I'll just enjoy my wings compliments of the Devils.)

Well the third period was another instance of "what a difference a ... this time: season ... makes. The Capitals really did not let up at all. The game started to get a little "scrappy" right off the bat and as a result, the Capitals ended up with a Too Many Men on the Ice penalty at the 2:16 mark into the third period. The Devils tried to mount some pressure and get at least one of the three goals they were down back but the Capitals were doing a pretty good job on the Penalty Kill. Then at the 3:07 mark the Caps cleared the puck the length of the ice and Hedberg decided he'd come out of the net, play the puck and try and tack advantage of the Capitals new more aggressive penalty killing style since the forwards on the PK unit were pursuing the two NJ defenders coming back for the puck, you know ala Marty Turco style. However since Hedberg is decidedly NOT Marty Turco or Marty Brodeur when it comes to puck handling skills, when he totally flubbed the clearing attempt, Brooks Laich had virtually no choice but to put the puck into the basically empty net afforded him - Caps 6, Devils 2.

After scoring their sixth goal of the evening, the Capitals did seem to try and change their style of play a little to be more of a safe, defensive game. However, for whatever reason, the Devils seemed determined to try and turn thins around, or maybe they we a little embarrassed or insulted by this because from that point of the game on, the Devils really seemed to be trying to get something, anything going; however they certainly weren't playing any sort of disciplined hockey. First I think to both try and spark his team and to finish up a side battle that had been going on at some level all evening Devils heavyweight and designated agitator in front of the net David Clarkson and the guy I'd say is as close to him in role for the Capitals - Jason Chimera dropped the gloves and went at it, earning coincidental fighting majors at the 4:03 mark of the third period. That fight really didn't do much to change the tenor of the game or get the Devils fired up, and what little it did was squished when at the 8:34 mark of the period Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblonde got his first of 2 minutes of 21 penalty minutes (more on that in a few sentences) of the game, and Eric Fehr scored the Capitals seventh goal of the evening at the 10:27 mark of the period just as the power play was getting ready to end. That said with the score now 7-2 in favor of the Capitals, why did we need to "Unleash The Fury" - I mean that cheer works so well in close games at this juncture but did it really fit the moment when it was played last night?

At this point one might have thought that the last nine minutes of the game should be allowed to expire uneventfully and these two beasts of the East go on to regroup for their next opponents. However, that was not to be. I have to say of all the things I didn't expect to see and that surprised me last night up until the 15:43 mark of the third period it would have been the simple legend on the scoreboard - Capitals 7 - Devils 2. Then at the 15:43 mark just when I thought I'd seen it all in this game, Ilya Kovalchuck of the Devils and Mike Green of the Capitals decide to "go at it" - no simple quick get into hockey fight for these two, why should it be - when you fight as seldom as these two, you may as well "do it right." By that I mean - stop, put down your stick, drop your gloves, and remove your helmet and visor, then square off and go for it. Really but the surprises were through yet, while I'm inclined to call it a draw, if I had to pick a winner I'd go with Mike Green even though he's 2" shorter and 25# lighter than Kovy - it really just wasn't the Devils' night now was it?

Of course now here's where stories like this either end or get REALLY bizarre and ... well this one got really bizarre. After Green and Kovy were sent to the dressing room, just 4 seconds later Rod Pelley and Matt Hendricks decided to drop the gloves, a nice simple enough hockey fight that I'll again say was one where both guys got in a few good "licks" and went to the dressing room at the 15:47 mark. Are we done yet? Short answer no, just another two seconds and at the 15:49 mark Matt Bradley takes exception to something David Clarkson did or said, so Clarkson has his second fight of the evening and Bradley his first. Again this is a fight that if you were handicapping it before it happened you'd bet on Clarkson, but maybe his arms were tired from his scuffle with Chimera, I don't know but Brads got in two really good shots including an upper cut that appeared to "rock" Clarkson before they wrestled each other to the ice to end the fourth bout on the evening's "card".

Are we through yet? We should have been, I mean at this point I can't believe the referees didn't tell the two Captains - Alex Ovechkin and Jamie Langenbrunner - "Enough!, play hockey or else..." and maybe they did and Pierre-Luc Letourneu-Leblonde decided he didn't get the word or something. Because just off the next faceoff, just 4 seconds after the resumption of play, Leblonde basically mugged Marcus Johansson from behind with a move that looked like he was trying to rip his helmet off. At this point, John "Captain America" Carlson decided to finish off his night by translating his one goal and two assists into a Gordie Howe hat trick, so he came to the aide of the young Swede as Johansson was trying to figure out "where did that come from?" The basic melee that ensued took a couple of minutes to sort out and when the dust settled the penalty tally was:

- for Letourneau-Leblonde: 2 minutes Instigator; 2 minutes Slashing, 5 minutes Fighting, and 10 minutes Game Misconduct ...
- for Carlson: 2 minutes roughing; 10 minutes Game Misconduct.

Okay, so Carlson didn't get a 5 minute fighting penalty I'm still saying it was a Gordie Howe hat trick, I was there and I think he deserves it. Anybody else who was there that is reading this is free to chime in since I'm not sure what was and was not shown on TV. I'm also going to say that I think the league should review the action by PL Letourneau-Leblonde, IF the on ice officials had spoken to the Team Captains about how it was time to play hockey vice continue fighting, and if so Leblonde would get a couple games suspension. That's just my gut reaction, I haven't thought about what in place rules do and do not apply here.

I felt there were lots of good takeaways from last night's game:
#1 - Michal Neuvirth's goal tending was very good. He came up with several big saves when he had to and he played a very "tight" game right from the opening face-off..
#2 - Lots of "grit" and lots of simple, straight forward hockey. The reason the Capitals played better than New Jersey last night wasn't because they "out-finessed" them. It was because they played within themselves, didn't get frustrated and they out worked the Devils, and from where I sat it seemed like they did that for a full 60 minutes.
#3 - During the first two periods there were only five (5) minor penalties 3 for the Capitals and 2 for the Devils. Even though two of the three Caps minors were on Alexander Semin, I didn't feel like any of the three (Semin's two or Chimeria's) were "dumb" penalties. In fact I'm still trying to see why Semin was called for Interference the first Caps Penalty, but hey that's just me.
#4 - Scoring by lots of different Capitals
#5 - As a complete opposite to Friday night, virtually all the Defensive Pairings worked, actually from what I saw and can tell now, all of them did, there was no virtually about it#6 - ALL the young guns showed up and played well.
#7 - Alex Ovechkin actually makes a big lateral move on his penalty shot and then puts the puck in the net with a perfect shot past Marty Brodeur that only about 5% of the players in the NHL could make.
#8 - John Carlson: 'Nuff said.
#9 - Mike Green playing what I thought was a totally responsible game and ending up +2 on the night with 6 hits and 3 blocked shots.
#10 - Anton Volchenkov skating off the ice under his own power after taking a shot to the choppers. Never like to see something like that but glad that it looks like he'll be okay

Honorable Mention - For a crazy game with a total of 21 penalties called, I'd have to say the officiating was good, fair and balanced.

Sure it's easy to be happy when "your team" wins by a score of 7-2 in an Ice Hockey game, but this game was close and hard fought for the entire first period and the first 15:00 of the second period, and even thorough that first game within a game, the Capitals ended up leading by a score of 3-2.

Yesterday was a beautiful day so I took a couple of pictures on the way to the game and I had a few other images from the game that follow this post.

Next up: The Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center tomorrow -


On the way to the game - what a nice afternoon.

A bizzare sight, the "Red Dress Run"... on H Street Just Before the Game...

Most of these people were in an even better mood as they left Verizon Center since the majority are Capitals Fans... LETS GO CAPS!!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saturday Morning Musings ... #1) Best Wishes Go Out To Ondrej Pavelec

Having worked for extensive periods of time in foreign lands away from my friends and family, I'd be extremely self-centered, let alone remiss, if I failed to make my first thoughts on hockey this morning about sending positive thoughts out to Ondrej Pavelec. And of course to his friends and family, one or two of whom at this very moment may well be sitting on an airplane, worrying as they fly over the Atlantic. Hopefully for them all, the hardest days will only be these next few while they are worrying about what happened to Ondrej that caused him to collapse and be unconscious for what seems like is probably well over 30 minutes, and that when his doctors figure out what it is/was he can get better and resume his playing career and life in a manner that is relatively close to the promising career and future he had before last night's episode and ensuing drama. Obviously I don't know him or his family but I share the thoughts and words of his teammates Chris Mason and Dustin Byfuglien, as reported over on Peerless' game recap:

“It was awful. You imagine his family across the sea, they are probably following the game and something like that happens. It must be a helpless feeling. It was tough. To be honest, I had trouble focusing when I first got in there. I couldn’t stop thinking about him.”

“It’s something where you step up and play hard. He wouldn’t have quit working if it happened to someone else. We can’t do the same. We felt bad for him. As a team we had to come together and get the victory for him.”

So as someone who found suffering through a week of a tremendously epic stomach virus while working in a foreign country trying, I can only say that being ill away from home has so many additional reasons to be emotionally as well as physically trying, I will keep Pavlec and his family in my prayers until I hear he is well on the way to recovery. As of this morning the 23 year old Czech is awake and in stable condition in the Atlanta Hospital where he was taken.

As for my other hockey related musings this morning, I find my excitement at going to this evening's Capitals Home Opener decidedly muted by reflections on their performance in Atlanta last night. While I'm probably less critical than some of the other bloggers and blogs on the subject of recapping last night's "No Points Night" in Atlanta, there wasn't much at all to cheer about if you're a Capitals fan. Other than the two Capitals goals and a minute or so on either side of them, I have to agree it was not an enthusiastic return to NHL Regular Season Play, that "our" much loved Capitals brought out to the ice last night. The reason I'm a little less critical than others is that I did see a well coached team, stick to and execute their game plan pretty well last night, the problem for the Capitals is that team was wearing Atlanta Thrasher uniforms. The Thrashers made many moves this past summer, all of which will likely improve the team's performance on the ice for the entire season, not just last night. However, I think the one whose impact was most noticeable last night was bringing in Craig Ramsey as their new head coach. If you watched the game on CSN last night you heard enough about this from Caps color analyst Craig Laughlin, but I do agree with Laughlin that Ramsey's style and approach was very obvious last night and it made a difference in the game. The other thing the Thrashers did last night is they played "team hockey", and IMO they got the benefit of at least one iffy call - I still don't understand how you make the call that resulted in Evander Kane getting that penalty shot, but since you can't tell otherwise from TV angles it's also hard to definitely say the on ice official didn't see something we at home couldn't.

To me, as a Caps fan, the most frustrating thing is that I felt Michal Neuvirth played a very solid game. The problem is I'm not sure the Caps are done with the pre-season yet. Isn't six pre-season games enough to sort out the Defense Pairings and to get the lines settled and some of their timing right? You're probably asking that this morning as you shake your head looking at a box score that reads Atlanta 4 - Washington 2, it's my initial reaction for sure. However, as I reflect and muse on things, I remember that this is really the first game of the year where the Capitals have a settled line-up, so to some degree it's the first time guys can really focus on that, with the possible exception of the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble line. However, even there Backstrom didn't play much in the last week or so of the preseason. So while the Caps went 5-1 in the preseason and Atlanta went 0 and whatever, the Caps success was fueled primarily by the bottom of the depth chart playing hard for roster slots, while the Thrashers lack of success was primarily fueled (IMHO) by them making changes to their "system." So I'm sincere when I say, I'm not sure the Caps are done playing "pre-season" hockey - i.e. experimenting with Defense Pairings and line combinations, etc.

The good news for me is as I muse about tonight's home opener, I feel the same way about where the New Jersey Devils are as a team coming out of the preseason and into the regular season as I do about the Capitals. Because of their own last minute roster manipulations to get under the salary cap, the Devils lineup wasn't finalized and stabilized until a day after the Capitals was. How the Devils managed to take a point away from their game with Dallas in Newark, at "The Rock", last night with all the distractions and weirdness to their roster right now, is beyond me, but they did. So the Deils come into tonight's game 0-0-1 while the Caps come into it 0-1-0. I expect both teams will get up for the game, as both ended the playoffs at about the same time last spring and both weren't happy with how that happened. I'm actually hoping that the Capitals go with the exact same lineup tonight as they did last night in Atlanta. I think if you throw in an ounce or two of energy to that lineup, it will match up very well against this year's Devils team.

As has been noted elsewhere, this year the New Jersey Devils seem to be modifying their "formula" for success in some significant ways. I think that means that this year the Devils won't just be good, they'll also be a fun team to watch play. Whether the changes will also result in them being able to climb further up and/or to the pinnacle of NHL Hockey, remains to be seen. The same can and is said about our Capitals, at least - the NHL Power Rankings have both the Caps and the Devils ranked pretty high right now. Of course the interesting thing to note is that after the first two days of the regular season, Carolina is leading both the League and the Eastern Conference with a 2-0 record.

Speaking of Carolina leading the Eastern Conference in the standings and the Caps loosing last night to the Thrashers, to me the good thing is that I believe that means there are at least 4 good teams out of the 5 in the Southeast Division. That means that the games the Caps have against those SE division opponents will be competitive games to watch. That also means the Capitals are less likely to run away with the Division, let alone the Eastern Conference this season - and that means, to me, the Caps will be better prepared for the playoffs - IF - they make them. Mind you the Caps should make the playoffs this year, but they need to approach the rest of the regular season - all 81 games remaining - like they count, because they do indeed count and the playoffs don't start until AFTER you get into them. We certainly don't want to finish the season in any manner close to what these current bizarre standings look like now do we?

There's no need at all to react to last night's game. I only posted the above image because of how eerily different it is from where my hopes, dreams and expectations were. There is a need to focus on tonight's game and play hard, good, solid hockey. Also if it's not too much to ask, can we see a game that's fun to watch - I mean with the Caps and Devils rosters, it seems like it should also be able to deliver that. I'm thinking the Capitals are more than capable of playing and winning a game that is "all that", this evening.


Friday, October 8, 2010

It's Time ... Hockey Time ... Caps Hockey Time Specifically!

It's here - opening day of the 2010-2011 season for "our" Washington Capitals, yep that's what today is. October 8, 2010 - mark it on your calender or something like that, anyway. In addition to going down in History for future generations as the day the Washington Capitals started the 2010-2011 NHL Regular season, a lot of people also remember this day because it's the day that:

The Great Chicago Fire erupted. No we're not talking about the big "fire sale" that the Blackhawks have had this summer to clear salary cap space. We're talking about the real Great Chicago Fire that happened in 1871. The blaze destroyed four square miles of the city, killing about 250 people and leaving some 90,000 homeless, so it's really almost as significant as if something happened to Da Bears to Chicago sports fans (i.e. way more significant than the shuffling to the Blackhawks' roster.)

Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States, died in Concord, N.H., at age 64, on this day in 1869.

American Army Sgt. Alvin York almost single-handily killed 25 German soldiers and captured 132 in the Argonne Forest in France, on this day in 1918.

And perhaps one of the greatest moments in sports history occurred when Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in a World Series as the New York Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 2-0 in Game 5, on this day in 1956.

While tonight's Capitals-Thrashers season opening game in Atlanta won't rise to those levels of significant events, it... well it really just won't, but it will be fun to have NHL hockey back in our lives as Caps Fans.

Peerless has a great prognostication and preview on the game already up. I'm not sure I'm as optimistic about the score but I agree with his keys to the game and that the Capitals cannot "sleepwalk" their way through this game. I also agree that on the Caps roster one of the key guys we'll be watching will be Tomas Fleischmann as he starts the season on the second line in the Center's position. After all the resolution of the quandary on who the second line center should be for the Caps is probably one of two or three keys to the Caps season this year, not just tonight's game.

The Capitals have apparently been in Atlanta since yesterday afternoon so they should be focused and ready to play.

The lineups for tonight's game that I have are as follow:

So I'm thinking the Caps Lines and Pairings tonight will be:
Ovechkin - Backstrom - Knuble
Laich - Fleischmann - Semin
Chimera - Johansson - Fehr
Hendricks - Steckel - Bradley
Neuvirth though I wouldn't be surprised to see Dany Sabourin get the nod so Neuvy is in net tomorrow for the home opener.

In any case - it's Hockey Time and hockey time is time to get psych'ed.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Happy Hockey - Oh and Penguins 2 - Flyers 3 in Penguins Home Opener In Their New Arena ...

It's Time ... Yes the NHL 2010-2011 Regular season officially opened earlier today in Europe and then here in North America. Games are still on-going but ... I just want say I'm happy for Flyers "Rookie" - at least NHL Rookie - Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was able to notch a W in his debut in Pittsburgh. Bobrovsky played excellently and robbed the Penguins several times tonight, including one masterful save in the third period on Sidney Crosby that made me shake my hand. It's hard to call a 3-2 game a goaltender's duel but this one sure felt like it for most of the evening. Great game to watch and even more fun since the team I was rooting for won.

I can't wait to watch tomorrow's Capital's season opener when they travel to Atlanta -


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Caps Roster Taking Shape Now ... Assign Four To Hershey

Well earlier today the Washington Capitals assigned Jay Beagle and Matheiu Perrault to the Hershey Bears of the AHL this afternoon. They also placed Patrick McNeill, Steve Pinnizotto, Andrew Gordon and Brian Fahey on waivers apparently with the intent of assigning Gordon and Fahey to the Bears if they clear waivers; no reports on what they intend for McNeill and Pinnizotto but I suspect they too will be assigned to Hershey as both McNeill is 23 and Pinnizotto is 26, though right now McNeill is currently listed as sidelined indefinitely with an injured shoulder. Andrew Gordon and Brian Fahey must clear waivers until noon tomorrow, Beagle and Perrault do not have to clear waivers. As of right now it's unclear whether Semyon Varlamov will be able to play yet this weekend and until he does, it's likely that Dany Sabourin will remain here in DC. By my count that leaves the Caps at 23 assuming that John Carlson is also still likely to be on injured reserve at noon tomorrow. The Capitals are already below the Salary Cap so no issues or changes will be driven by that requirement. By my count/thinking here's what the Capitals Roster will likely look like on Friday Evening for their season opener against the Thrashers in Atlanta;
Reserves: Boyd Gordon, DJ King,
Reserve: Carlson if he's not on IR...or skating with Poti or Erskine if he plays instead of Sloan.

If Varly is on IR then Neuvy will definitely start with Sabourin on the bench as backup.

So we start the season with some interesting differences than I thought we would and I have to say based on what we've seen during the pre-season I like all the decisions that have been made. The only one that I might have gone in a different direction is I might have gone with Brian Fahey over Tyler Sloan but that's really a nit and a toss-up. Based on what I saw the last two pre-season games at Verizon, I have to say I agree with going with Marcus Johansson over Matheiu Perrault. Perrault is a budle of energy on the ice but I like the upside on Johansson better. Heck if Johansson can just figure out how to consistently win 35-40% of his faceoffs he'll be a notch or tow better as an overall player and his skating and instincts are really good. As for the changes required to have D.J. King and Matt Hendricks in the lineup, I'm very comfortable with both of them and feel they really add a good deal of grit and defensive posture to the lineup. The one I think who is on a short leash here has to be Fleischmann as the second line center - there are a bunch of other options if "Flash" doesn't prove up to the role of second line center he can be moved back to Left Wing and there are a bunch of other options available to the Capitals coaching staff to try in that position.

In any case these moves mean we can now speculate on what the final opening night roster will achieve during the first 20 games of the season....


Monday, October 4, 2010

Well No Official Changes to The Caps Roster Today But One Former Capital Finds A Home (Again)...

Well as of 21:30 this evening there appear to be no announcements about the pending roster cuts to bring the Capitals down from 29 to 23...

However it didn't take former Capital Brendan Morrison long to find a team and sign a contract after being released by the Vancouver Canucks. B-Mo inked a one-year $725K deal one-way contract with Calgary today.
Well looks like more waiting until tomorrow to see who the Capitals send to Hershey and what sort of moves they make to pare the roster down. I guess that means another night of fitful sleep for the guys "on the bubble" - if fans like me feel the suspense, I can't imagine what they are going through. It's a bizarre thing to say but I wish them all good luck.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sullen Sunday: Caps - 0, Predators - 3; Ugly Hockey In DC Today ...

It was an ugly day and the sign on the right speaks for itself. In their final preseason game of this year, first the Predators lulled the Capitals to sleep and then they pounced on their miscues. It was in all senses of the word a typical Barry Trotz choreographed execution of a defensively scripted game. It was exactly the kind of game the Capitals need to be able to win in the playoffs, but this isn't the playoffs and boy could you tell.

After the last preseason game Caps coach Bruce Boudreau intimated that the team was ready for the regular season and they were tired of the pre-season. Well, let's hope that was the issue today. Very few in Red Caps Sweaters had good, let alone noteworthy games. Nicklas Backstrom did not play and that meant that Matheiu Perrault got a lot of ice time between Ovechkin and Knuble, he was not able use it to his advantage in making a case for why he should be the second or third line center. Fortunately for Perrault, and unfortunately for us Caps fans, Tomas Fleischmann who played most of the game as the the second line center, put on an even less compelling display of hockey abilities today. I was hoping that because of the mediocre play by the first and second line centers, I might get to see a shift or two with David Steckel as the pivot between Ovechkin and Knuble but that was not to be. The energy line of King-Boyd Gordon-Bradley along with Ovechkin and Laich were really the only guys that didn't have mediocre or poor games. I hope that Mike Green and Jeff Schultz were using the last pre-season game to work on something, what I don't know but something; both made a couple of glaring faux paux.

Well after that game, I expect we'll see the final roster cuts by Tuesday at noon, along with some indication as to the health status of Varlamov, Carlson, and the rest of the roster.

Next up, the season opener in Atlanta on Friday Evening, followed by the Home Opener against the higher octane than last season Devils on Saturday.

I'm so glad that hockey is back in season.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Satisfied Saturday Following the Caps 5 - BlueJackets 3 Preseason Game

Well last night's preseason match up at Verizon Center with the Columbus BlueJackets was the most physical game I've seen the Capitals play in the past four seasons. The game featured a fight between Tyler Sloan and Nathan Guenin at 2:00 of the first period, then later in the game there were several "dust-ups" between the two teams that did not end up with fighting majors being issued but with coincidental minors and other penalties being issued. Interestingly, despite being actively involved in the game and having making his presence felt, the Capitals designated "muscle" DJ King finished the evening without any penalty minutes; and in an even stranger coincidence Tyler Sloan finished the evening with 3 minors and a major for 11:00 of penalty minutes, while Capitals Captain Alexander Ovechkin finished with 2 minors and 4:00 of penalty time in the "sin bin". Overall the Caps received 10:00 penalties and the Blue Jackets 7, though to be fair there were at least 2 blatant penalties committed by Columbus that went unnoticed by the Referees - it's preseason for everyone... As to the scoring 2 of the 3 goals for Columbus came off of the sticks of former Capitals properties - one each for Chris Clark and Kyle Wilson. All of Washington's scoring came off the sticks of players who were regular members of the Capitals last season. The only involvement in scoring by those players on the Caps Roster Bubble came in the form of assists by Marcus Johansson and Matheiu Perrault, each of whom had one (1) assist on the night.

Even though the "bubble guys" only had two assists for the evening, I felt they all played well and nobody had a bad game. Despite being on the ice and participating in the scoring of one of the Capitals regular strength goals, Perrault was also on the ice for one of Columbus' regular strength tallies so he finished the night even in the plus/minus category; the diminutive centerman skated between a variety of different line-mates during his 17 shifts and generally looked comfortable with them all including a couple of shifts between Mike Knuble and Alex Ovechkin. Number 85 also had a good night in the face-off circle going 67% and winning 8 of the 12 draws he had. Nineteen year-old Marcus Johansson also had a solid night last evening as well. Johansson, wearing the Capitals Number 90 Sweater, played 14:26 on 22 shifts during which he tallied an assist, ended the evening at +2, and had a takeaway. However, the young Swede's troubles in the faceoff circle continued and he was 0 for 10 in draws on the evening. As I noted after the last pre-season game, he really needs to improve this area of his game and the AHL is probably the best place for him to do that, even if that's not what he wants to hear. The other areas of his game are quite good and his role in Eric Fehr's first score of the evening was nothing but impressive. Jay Beagle and Andrew Gordon both had solid, though generally unremarkable evenings. In both Beagle and A.Gordon's cases even though they didn't make any game changing plays, they did play consistently strong hockey and played very responsible games. Beagle had 14:10 TOI (including 4:20 on the PK) in 18 shifts while A. Gordon had 12:10 TOI in 15 shifts. The final person I consider "on the bubble" who dressed last evening was Matt Hendricks, whose night was cut short - 1 shift, 00:16 TOI by a totally cheap hit, that in my opinion should be reviewed by the league, from Nate Guenin. Guenin's hit on Hendricks is what led Tyler Sloan to drop the gloves with him and I say kudos to Sloan for that. Sloan and Guenin "duked it out" while Hendricks lay on the ice. From where I sit, it looked to me like Guenin at least three quarters clothes-lined Hendricks instead of missing an open ice hit that he did not properly set-up. I also didn't see the meeting between these two teams but noted when I checked that Guenin did not play in that game so he probably just trying to send a message that the Blue Jackets had no intention of letting Hendricks skate freely and light them up for another hat trick. That said, it was a hit that should have been penalized and wasn't and it should get reviewed as it was either a hit to the head or as close as you can get without doing so. So ranking last night's performances by the bubble guys I show: 1) Marcus Johansson; 2) Jay Beagle; 3) Matheiu Perrault; 4) Andrew Gordon; INCOMPLETE) Matt Hendricks. I put Beagle # 2 because he basically was played in a manner as I see him actually being used in the regular season if he makes the roster and he played 4:20 on the Penalty Kill Unit without being on the ice for a Columbus goal - in fact last evening the penalty killing unit for the Capitals looked very strong. I'm a big Perrault fan however last evening he was on the ice for two of the three Columbus goals including the shorthanded tally by Kyle Wilson. During Wilson's goal it sure seemed like he knew both Perrault and Michal Neuvirth's Achilles heels which isn't surprising since he spent the last two seasons playing with them in Hershey. I suspect we'll see Hendricks again in Sunday's contest as he is now said to be fine, according to the game recap on the Caps site: "Hendricks did not return to the game, but he is said to be fine. Boudreau said afterwards that had it been a regular season contest, Hendricks would have returned to action."

As for the Caps regulars, last night I noticed starting in warm-ups these were guys with a purpose. I'm not saying they aren't having fun, it's clear when they play they are having fun, but they all have very intense looks on their faces - right now they are 5-0 on the preseason with one more preseason game to play; the looks on their faces during warm-ups and during the games say that even if they played a perfect 103 - 0 between now and June 2011, they won't be really happy until they win their 104th game in a row and get to raise a Stanley Cup. No I'm not saying I expect them to do that, what I am saying is this team has a look of a team with a purpose and that purpose is to win the league championship. It's something that really makes me as a Caps fan happy, especially with folks around town talking like the playoffs are obviously just going to happen. The team I saw play last night doesn't look like a group of guys who are taking anything for granted this season. Everyone who played last evening was clearly ready for the regular season, and they all understand that there are no "gimme points" in the NHL. As I mentioned last nights was a physical game and even two time MVP and team Captain Alex Ovechkin got into it. Ovechkin intervened on behalf of Mike Knuble when the Caps’ captain perceived that his linemate had been the victim of a borderline hit from Columbus defenseman Nick Holden. Ovechkin’s efforts earned him a double-minor for roughing. The only half smile I saw all game came when Mike Green stepped between DJ King and former Capitals Captain Chris Clark early in the third period. Green had a wry grin as he said something to his former Captain which I imagine was some variant of: "Hey Chris since we're still sort of friends, trust me you don't want any of that, especially in a preseason game."

Of the guys who didn't play last evening I expect we'll see Tomas Fleischmann on the ice Sunday along with a few others who didn't play against Columbus including Semyon Varlamov, Matt Bradley, Brian Fahey, David Steckel and if he's at full strength Matt Hendricks. The following Capitals did not skate at this morning's practice: Backstrom, Carlson, Green, Varlamov and Hendricks.

In other news around the league, former Capitals goaltender, and 2010 Masterson Trophy winner, Jose Theodore has signed a 1 year $1.1M contract with the Minnesota Wild. To me that's happy news, I'm still rooting for Theodore who I fell has a couple more good seasons left in him and is a really good human being.

Well next up the final Capitals pre-season tomorrow afternoon at Verizon Center against the Nashville Predators. I am truly wondering what the lineup will look like as it appears as of this evening the Capitals are still carrying 29 players on the roster.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Fun Flailings

Well tonight I'm off to Verizon Center to catch my first live NHL game in months. I'll be watching the Capitals take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, I still haven't seen any postings about tonight's Caps roster and it looks to me like they are still carrying 29 players on it. I don't see them necessarily getting down to 23 with their final 6 reassignments until they absolutely have to given the way ALL the guys on the bubble seem to be working to impress the coaching staff during camp & the pre-season. That said it wouldn't surprise me to see the entire first line of Ovechkin - Backstrom - Knuble playing together tonight and on Sunday to get their timing and situational awareness together down pat before the season opener and the second game/home opener against the now even higher octane New Jersey Devils. But we'll see since other than Mike Green apparently indicating he expects to play tonight, there's really be no news on the line-up.

Yesterday, the Caps assigned Cody Eakin to his junior club, the WHL's Swift Current Broncos, while Braden Holtby and Lawrence Nycholat were sent to Hershey. The following forwards are still in camp and are presumably fighting for the last couple of available roster slot(s): Jay Beagle, Andrew Gordon, Matt Hendricks, Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perrault, and Steve Pinizzotto. It also seems given there are still nine (9) defensemen on the roster theres at least some possibility that there is a bit of a battle for the seventh d-man slot on the roster between: Tyler Sloan, Brian Fahey and Patrick McNeill. Finally in this area (the Caps Roster) from what I can tell all the Caps who had to clear waivers to be assigned to Hershey (Kyle Greentree, Brian Willsie, Keith Aucoin and Andrew Joudrey) have done so.

Only two more pre-season games until the season open in Atlanta next week, fall and hockey are definitely in the air today in the DC Metro, at least here in Bucolic Bristow they are. Several trees behind our abode have turned; the temperature this morning was barely over 60 degrees Fahrenheit; and I find myself planning my day so it ends with enough time to get to Verizon and grab a hot dog before a Capitals game... It's already a great day to be me and it's not even 8:00 AM yet.