Monday, February 22, 2010

Capitals Practice Update

The Washington Capitals non-Olympians return to practice at Kettler Capitals Ice Plex on Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m., shortly after the mandatory hiatus is lifted.

The Capitals will practice at 10:30 a.m. Thursday through next Tuesday in preparation for their March 3rd game in Buffalo against the Sabres and current Team USA goaltender and possible Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Miller.

The Capitals could be facing a gold medal winning Miller as the gold medal game is just three days prior.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pre-Game Update

The Washington Capitals will go for their 15th straight victory in a little under two hours at Bell Centre against the Montreal Canadiens.

According to Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post via his blog, Michael Neuvirth will start tonight for the Capitals against the Canadiens Carey Price.

Another note of importance is the absence of Jason Chimera at this morning's practice. The speculation is that Chimera may have a groin-muscle strain, so look for Matt Bradley to move from the fourth line to the third line, and Quitin Laing to step in for Bradley on the fourth line with Boyd Gordon and David Steckel.

With a win tonight, the Capitals will tie the 1981-82 New York Islanders for the second longest regular season winning streak is NHL history.

Here are five more notes to keep in mind while you watch tonight's game:

About the streak – Washington’s winning streak has seen the Caps outscore opponents 67-33 (not including the goal awarded for winning a shootout in the first game of the streak). Also in the streak the Caps:
- have set a club record for longest home winning streak (11 games)
- have gained 19 standings points in the Eastern Conference (from trailing by five to leading by 14)
- have been held to three goals just twice and allowed as many as three goals just five times
- have had power-play goals in all but two games in the streak
- have gotten goals from 18 players –including every skater who has played at least 10 GP
- have outscored opponents 30-6 in the third period
- have a 14.9% shooting percentage (.851 save percentage for opposing goalies)
- had goaltenders post a 2.33 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage
Road warriors – The Capitals have won five straight road games, one shy of the franchise record set in 1983-84. Washington’s 18-9-3 road record is the best in the Eastern Conference and their 113 goals on the road lead the league.
Lead the way – Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals (42), points (86), plus/minus (+41), shots (266), goals per game (0.82) and points per game (1.69), despite missing eight games.
Multiples, tabled – The Capitals were the 24th team in the NHL to record a hat trick this season when Alex Ovechkin scored three goals Sunday against Pittsburgh. It took that long despite the fact that it was Washington’s 40th multiple-goal game, far and away the most in the league – the other 29 teams average 15.3 multiple-goal games. In fact, Capitals players have scored two goals in a period 19 times; 25 teams have had 19 or fewer multiple-goal games. Despite their success with multiple-goal games the Capitals are one of six teams without a hat trick this season.
K Street – Mike Knuble has 11 goals in the last 13 games and 14 goals in the last 17 games. He is enjoying his seventh consecutive 20-goal season joining Ilya Kovalchuk and Jarome Iginla as the only players with 20-plus goals in each of those seasons (others could join them). With 21 goals – despite missing 12 games with a broken finger – Knuble, at 37, leads all players 33 and older in goals

With Olympic Break Looming, Capitals Remain Focused

By: Justin Creech
The Washington Capitals returned to practice Tuesday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex fresh off their scintillating, 5-4, come from behind overtime win against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center.
With their winning streak now at 14 games and with just three games remaining until the Olympic break, the Capitals will attempt to inch closer to tying the NHL record for consecutive regular season wins, which is 17 set by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins, tomorrow night at Bell Centre against the Montreal Canadiens.
A win over the Canadiens, coupled with a win over the Ottawa Senators Thursday night in Ottawa would put the Capitals in position to tie the Penguins record Saturday night, in St. Louis at Scottrade Center, against the Blues.
With the players set to go on a two week hiatus due to the upcoming Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, the potential for the Capitals to look past these next three games to their two week vacation is possible.
But, not according to them.
“I think it’ll be alright for us,” said Capitals right wing Eric Fehr. “We know the break is going to be there, so, we’ve just got to stay focused for a week and hopefully get some wins and get rewarded.”
Wins, obviously, have not been a problem for the Capitals lately, which is why some observers say the Olympic break is coming at such an inopportune time. With the potential to tie and possibly set an NHL record, a break of the Capitals momentum could halt those possibilities.
“I think in an ideal world, when you’re playing well you want to keep playing, and obviously we’ve been playing well lately,” said center Brendan Morrison. “But, you can only control the things you can control, and we can’t control [the Olympic break]. So, we can’t sit here and worry about what’s going to happen. We’ve got to worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow night.”
The Capitals ability to stay focused and handle adversity has been key during their current winning streak. Twice during their current streak, the Capitals have overcome 4-1 deficits; the first coming against the Florida Panthers on January 13, and again on Sunday against the Penguins.
Their ability to handle less than ideal circumstances is one reason the Capitals are not worried about the Olympic break.
“Streaks don’t come around that often because they are really tough to maintain,” said the Capitals’ Brooks Laich. “They’re tough physically with a lot of hockey, and mentally they are tough because every night you have to be your sharpest and be your best. There have been nights when we haven’t been, and you can see that maybe it’s wearing on us a little bit, but somehow we find a way to pull through it. So, for a lot of our guys who have played a lot of hockey, I think the break will be nice for them to get some rest.”
Familiarity with the situation is another factor the Capitals feel will help them deal with the two week layoff as many of the players have dealt with the upcoming break on one or more occasions.
Morrison, Tom Poti, Brian Pothier, Jose Theodore, Matt Bradley and Mike Knuble have dealt with the Olympic interruption in 2002 and 2006 while players such as Laich, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Tomas Fleischmann and Jeff Schultz are experiencing the break for the second, or even first time.
“It’s a different situation for a lot of guys having 10 or 12 days off to basically do nothing,” said Poti. “You’ve got to be able to get away from it and forget about hockey for a while, but when you come back you’ve got to be able to flip that switch and get right back at it the way we were before.”
Said Laich. “When I was here in [2006] I wasn’t a full-time NHLer yet, so I didn’t find out until the day before the Olympic break that I was going to have it off. This year I know I have it off, so it’s a little different. I can actually plan. I’ve been planning to go home and see some family, and my niece is getting baptized, so it should be fun.”
Even with the two week layoff, the Capitals don’t feel they will lose any momentum before, or after the break.
“I think for most of us it will be nice to have that two weeks off to refresh and regenerate our bodies,” said Poti. “Then [we’ll] make another push after the break.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Practice Update

Semyon Varlamov is in the ice and practicing with the Capitals as I'm typing. Varlamov, who has been out since early December with groin and knee ailments, has not been allowed to practice with the Capitals because he was still officially on the Hershey Bears roster.

His being on the ice this morning means he has been put back on the Capitals roster, and I would look for Varlamov to start one of the Capitals final three games before the Olympic break.

Practice Update

Mike Green just walked on to the bench and out on the ice. He doesn't appear to be injured or anything of that nature.

Practice Update

The Washington Capitals are on the ice right now at Kettler Capitals Iceplex as they prepare for tomorrow night's game against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

All the Capitals except for Mike Green are currently on the ice. Green just walked by the media room in tights and a shirt, but did not have his skates on.

Monday, February 1, 2010

With a Chance to make History, Capitals say commitment to defense has been a big key

By: Justin Creech
The Washington Capitals have a chance to make history tomorrow night against the Boston Bruins. With a win at TD Banknorth Garden, the Capitals will set a new franchise record for consecutive regular season wins, with 11.
“We feel great,” said Capitals right wing, Eric Fehr. “We’ve been playing pretty good during the streak, and now we have a chance to put a stamp on this organization. So, we definitely want to go out and do it.”
The Capitals, who earned their franchise record tying 10th straight victory with a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center, have put themselves in their current position due to improved play in their defensive zone as well as on the penalty kill.
During the current 10 game streak, the Capitals are allowing just 2.1 goals per game, and have killed off 38 of 44 short-handed situations; an 86.3 percent kill rate that is 6.1 percent higher than their season average of 80.5 percent.
“Bruce [Boudreau] has definitely been all over us this year just to make sure that we are strong defensively, we bear down on chances to get the pucks out, and just make sure we are a little more responsible,” said Fehr. “He said we are going to score goals and so far that’s what we have been doing, and hopefully the guys can learn from that and we can continue to play good defense.”
The Capitals have made their reputation the last several season’s as a team that can score goals in bunches because of the explosive offensive capabilities forwards Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom. However, the Capitals and there trio of star forwards have also built a reputation as a team that cannot play consistent defense, especially late in games when trying to hold leads.
Over the last 10 games, however, that has not been the case. The Capitals have suffocated opponents in the third period over the last 10 games, outscoring their opposition 20-5. The Capitals scored multiple goals in the third period of the first five games of the streak, and in seven of the 10 overall.
The Capitals two goals in the third period on January 19 allowed them to erase a late one goal deficit in their 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings; then scored three goals in the third period two nights later in their 6-3 win in Pittsburgh over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins.
“I think there definitely is a learning process for young guys, and I think this core group of guys has learned a lot the past couple of years playing in the playoffs,” said Capitals’ Center Brendan Morrison. “Guys understand come playoff time, you’re not going to score 4, 5, 6 goals a night. You have to adapt and you have to learn how to play different styles, and guys are buying into that. If we play better defensively we’ll have the puck more, therefore we should be able to create more offense, so they kind of go hand in hand.”
Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said it is tough sometimes for talented young forwards to learn to play defensive hockey when their offensive talent is what got them into the NHL in the first place. However, he is proud that his young forwards have finally learned that lesson.
“If Alex Ovechkin can learn [to play defense] then anybody can learn it,” said Boudreau. Nicky’s a natural at it and some guys have to push themselves, but they’re all getting better at it, so it’s good.”
The Capitals are well aware that they have an opportunity to make history tomorrow night, and are also aware it comes against a team that has lost seven straight overall and have not won a game in regulation since January 5.
Still, they are just trying to stay focused on taking a one game at a time approach.
“Just don’t really worry about the streak. Just worry about preparing and playing consistent, which we’ve been doing pretty much every game,” said Morrison. “The big thing is to just take care of the details. If we take care of what we’re supposed to be doing and we take care of the process, then the outcome is going to be there.”