Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Capitals Top Sabres, But Loose Ovechkin in Third

By: Justin Creech

Washington, DC-- The Washington Capitals ended their three game losing streak with one of their most solid effort of the season Wednesday night against the visiting Buffalo Sabres.

The Capitals got an early goal from Alex Ovechkin, then rode the play of their defense and goaltender Semyon Varlamov (25 saves) until Eric Fehr put the game away with his fourth goal of the season at 13:38 of the third for a 2-0 win in front of 18, 277 at Verizon Center.

The shutout was Varlamov's first career regular season shutout and first since Game 5 of last season's Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers.

Ovechkin's goal was his 17th of the season and third in five games since returning from a two week absence because of an upper body injury, but his solid play was overshadowed by a hit early in the third period.

Ovechkin was ejected at 3:38 of the third period after receiving a five minutes game misconduct for boarding Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta face first into the far boards. Kaleta stayed on his hands and knees briefly before skating to the bench. He was checked by the Sabres trainer for what appeared to be facial cuts.

"I just go take a hit," said Ovechkin of the hit. "He is turned and he just fell into boards. If ref say it's a penalty it's a penalty."

Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau disagreed with the ejection saying Kaleta saw Oveckin coming.

"We just watched it a half dozen times and he hits him in the shoulder," said Boudreau. "It might have warrented a two minute minor but nothing more then that."

Kaleta has a bit of history with the Capitals and dirty hits. He caused former Capitals forward Chris Bourgue to miss most of the pre-season with a concussion after a hit in the team's matchup on Sept 17. Boudreau, however, didn't feel Ovechkin's hit had anything to do with that incident.

The Capitals were left with having to kill off a five minute Sabres power play after Ovechkin's ejection. They received some help after defenseman Craig Rivet received two minutes for tripping 45 seconds into the power play.

Washington allowed just three shots on the power play which Capitals' defenseman Brian Pothier felt was the key moment of the game.

"We loss the most prolific scorer in the game league and on top of that get a five minute penalty kill," said Pothier. "Plus we are down a couple of our key penalty killers in [Shaone] Morrison and [Tom] Poti and [Varlamov] really made the saves when he needed to."

Pothier also played a key part in a Capitals defense that allowed just 25 shots, 14 over the final two periods. Pothier through a hip check on Buffalo's Clarke MaCarthur just inside the Sabres blue line then cut off Drew Stafford as he tried to cut to the net midway through the third period.

Pothier said just playing the system has allowed the Capitals to become more consistent on defense in recent games.

"Our forwards have done a pretty good job of back checking and that allows us to be more aggressive as a defensive core," said Pothier. "When we play our system we are very good [because] we do a good job clogging up the middle and making [teams] make plays that are risky."

After Varlamov made several saves early in the first period, Jeff Schultz pushed the puck to Ovechkin who skated to the right in front of Sabres rookie defensman Tyler Myers just inside the blue line before unleashing a snap shot from the top of the left circle that beat Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller at 6:24.

The Capitals had several chances in the second period to get on the board, but were either stoned by Miller or were unable to get a quality shot off.

Fehr put the game away after putting home a pass from Brendan Morrison. After the Capitals won the offensive zone faceoff, Mike Green sent the puck behind the net where Morrison picked it up, skated to the left of Miller and found Fehr who was covered by Buffalo's Tim Kennedy.

Miller made 22 stops.

3rd period update

The Capitals were just dealt a huge blow as Alex Ovechkin was just giving a five minute game misconduct penalty for boarding. The hit happened r ight in front of the scorers box.

Second Period Update

The Capitals just turned in a solid second period in which they outshot the Sabres 9-6. Brian Pothier by far had the best Capital in the period with several solid checks in the defensive zone. Pothier took out Sabres forward Clarke MaCarthur just inside the Sabres blue line with a hip check, then cut off Drew Stafford as he was cutting to the Capitals' net several minutes later.

Mike Green flashed his defensive skills with about six minutes left in the period with a diving poke check on Thomas Vanek who also was cutting to the Capitals' net.

Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals' forwards had several quality opporutities to score goals, none better then Nicklas Backstrom. With 1:30 left in the period, Ovechkin sent a pass to Backstrom who was coming through the slot, but Backstrom was never able to get a full stick on the puck thanks to a back checking Buffalo defender, and pushed the puck wide of the net.

Update

Alex Ovechkin has just gotten the Capitals on the scoreboard first with a snap shot from the top of the left circle that beat Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller at 6:24. Ovechkin skated into the zone and cut right eluding Sabres rookie defenseman Tyler Myers before firing the snap shot. The goal came on the Capitals first shot and is Ovechkin's 17th of the season.

Pre-Game Update

Brendan Morrison, Erick Fehr and Brooks Laich will start for the Capitals tonight. Karl Alzner will makes his first appearance with the Capitals this season starting beside Milan Jurcina who is returning from injury.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Shorthanded Caps Fall to Canadiens

By: Justin Creech

Washington, DC—The Washington Capitals saved their biggest push for the last two minutes of Friday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. Unfortunately for the Capitals it was 58 minutes too late.
Brendan Morrison scored with 2:32 to go to pull the Capitals within one and a hooking call on the Canadiens Maxim Lapierre with 1:54 remaining gave the Capitals a 6 on 4 power play. However, it proved too little to late as the Capitals were unable to take advantage of their late fortune falling to the Canadiens, 3-2, at Verizon Center.
The Capitals struggled at times to put consistent pressure on Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and seldom got more than one shot on price at a time.
“We had some good scoring chances in spurts,” said Morrison, who’s goal was his seventh of the season. “We turned it on at the end but it was too little, too late. We ran out of time.”
The Canadiens entered the game 10 points behind the Capitals in the Eastern Conference standings.
“They played a really smart game,” said Boudreau. “It’s easy to rip on your players when you lose to a team that’s below you in the standings, but I thought Montreal played a strong game.”
After Morrison’s goal and the penalty on Lapierre, the Capitals pushed with an urgency they lacked throughout most of the game. Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin were able to get clear shots on Price with one of Green’s hitting the right post. None, however, found the back of the net.
Boudreau blamed his team not coming out with a sense of urgency to start the game as a prime factor in the game’s outcome.
“I didn’t think we were ready at the start of the game,” said Boudreau. “I think we thought we [are] the Washington Capitals and we’re going to go out there and it’s going to be an easy win. When we got the sense of urgency like we had in the last two periods, sometimes it is too late when the other goaltender is on the top of his game.”
The game came with yet another injury as defenseman Tom Poti left the game about four minutes into the second period and did not return. Boudreau said after the game that Poti is day to day with an upper body injury.
Poti would be the seventh player absent from the opening night roster if he is unable to play tomorrow night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Boudreau, though, says it’s a only a problem is the Capitals let it become one.
“It is what it is,” said Boudreau. “If you have your best players they get most of the ice time anyway, so it should work in [our] favor. We’ll see.”
The loss also spoiled what was a solid debut for Capitals defenseman John Carlson. Carlson was called up from the Capitals minor league affiliate Hershey Bears to fill in for the injured Milan Jurcina, who is out with a muscle pull in his leg. Carlson hit the post early in the second period on a shot from the point that would’ve given the Capitals a 2-0 lead. He finished with 17:24 of ice time.
“I thought he played with a lot of poise,” said Boudreau. “In his first game he hit a post. I thought his shots from the point were accurate. He’s going to be a good player in this league for a long time.”
Said Carlson, “It’s unbelievable. To have my parents and my brother who flew in from Boston. The only thing that could’ve been better was if we won.”
Despite the slow start, the Capitals did manage to score the game’s first goal for the 17th time in 22 games. Eric Fehr beat Price over his left shoulder on a wrist shot from the right circle at 11:52. Mathieu Perreault set up Fehr’s tally after digging the puck out of the corner and finding Fehr open in the circle.
Montreal didn’t wait long in the second period to get the game turned in their favor. Travis Moen beat Capitals goaltender Michael Neuvirth on a shot from the point at 3:59 to tie the game. Two minutes 47 seconds later the Canadiens had the lead on a goal by Tomas Plekanec that was deflected by Brendan Morrison through Neuvirth’s five hole.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Caps set for second week without Ovechkin

The Washington Capitals begin their second week of games without two-time MVP Alex Ovechkin tomorrow night when they take on the New York Islanders at Verizon Center. The Capitals have gone 2-1-0 since Ovechkin suffered an upper body injury Nov 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

After practice Monday morning at Kettler Capitals IcePlex, Ovechkin said he would not be able to play against the Islanders, but did not rule himself out for this weekend. The Capitals host the Minnesota Wild on Friday night then travel to New Jersey for their third meeting of the season with the New Jersey Devils.

The Capitals lost to the Devils Nov 3 at Prudential Center, 3-2, in their first game after Ovechkin's injury allowing two third period power play goals.

However, the Capitals looked much better in their next two games, both against the Florida Panthers. Washington defeated the Panthers 4-1 on Friday night in Sunrise, Florida, then used a five goal third period to overcome a one goal deficit in a 7-4 win Saturday night at Verizon Center.

Tomas Fleischmann led the way on Saturday scoring two of the teams' five third period goals. Fleischmann also tallied late in the 3-2 loss to New Jersey and scored twice in the second period of the Capitals 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders at Verizon Center on Oct 30.

Continued solid play by Fleischmann will be key for the Capitals until Ovechkin is able to return.

Two players who have been quiet since Ovechkin's injury are star forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. Though Backstrom does have three assists in the three games Ovechkin has missed, he has no goals.

Semin has been completely non-existent in Ovechkin's absence. Semin has zero points in the last three games, and needs to prove he can be productive without Ovechkin in the line-up especially since Semin is seeking a contract extension.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

End of Cap Centre?



Like its namesake, is Cap Centre doomed to become a strip mall?

Not quite.

As you may have noticed, this site's been kind of quiet at Cap Centre over the last couple days, with good reason. Last week, I took a job with the Washington Times to help run their web site, and am going to step back from the blog to avoid a conflict with the Times.

Rest assured, there will be a new blogger for the site, someone who was looking to start his own site, and it was a nice fit and a good stroke of timing.

I'd like to thank the Caps' excellent PR staff for their tireless work and tremendous help, from Kelly Murray, Nate Ewell, Paul Rovnak and last but not least, Kurt Kehl.

Also wanted to give a thanks to several of my fellow bloggers who always do a terrific job from Rob Yunich, Ed Frankovic, John Michael Keeley as well as former FanHouse colleagues Eric McErlain and Greg Wyshinski, among many others.

Thanks also to the readers of Cap Centre, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did putting it together.

Stay tuned, and please claim a blue seat from the 100s on your way out before the remodeling.